Astrology Basics

by Candy Hillenbrand

My introduction to astrology changed my life, so I guess you could say I’m a bit of a born-again astrologer. When I first had my chart interpreted, I suddenly felt my awareness expand and my understanding of myself deepen. It was a wonderful feeling. I’d struggled for many years with a number of inner conflicts that I was unable to resolve, and in a flash, astrology explained to me why I am like I am. It did not tell me anything I didn’t already know about myself deep down, but it simply put a name on what I already knew. It also helped me to move from an agnostic world view to a more spiritual perspective, to a belief that there is a purpose to life, or (as the Bible says), a purpose to everything under the Heavens.

Learning astrology is like learning a new language. There are strange symbols and  strange words like Capricorn, Jupiter, 10th house, trine, sesquiquadrate, and so on. To learn astrology, we need to learn the letters of  this new alphabet. We need to learn how to put them together into words, phrases and sentences. And when we can look at a birth chart and see lots of sentences joining together, then we are beginning to understand that birth chart as a whole.

 

What is Astrology?

Simply put, astrology is a symbolic language. The word astrology is derived from the Greek words astron meaning ‘star’ and logos which means  ‘word’.  Astrology therefore, literally means the “language of the stars”. Astrology is based on an ancient law known as  ‘AS ABOVE, SO BELOW’, otherwise known as the Law of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm. The Macrocosm is the universe, symbolised by the sky, or the starry dome which we can see from Earth.  The Microcosm is us: man or woman, the human, the individual here on Earth.

So, astrology says that the same laws that guide the universe also guide humanity. We are not separate from the universe – we are a part of it. Its energies are our energies, and we must therefore work in the same way that it works. It is an astrological assumption  that  if we learn to look above for understanding, we will come to understand more about ourselves.

The Sun,  Moon and planets all follow exact patterns of movement. You probably already know that the motions of the planets in our solar system can be measured precisely by astronomers. So, it is an astrological belief that the same laws which apply to the movements of the heavenly bodies also operate in our personal lives. The basic idea is that all the individual parts of the universe, from planets to people, cooperate with each other and work together in harmony.

REFERENCE: For a wonderfully simplified and easy-to-understand treatment of astrology, see High School Astrology, by Maud Reinertsen.

 

The Birth Chart

So what is a birth chart, or a ‘horoscope’ as it is sometimes called? The birth chart is a map of the heavens at the precise moment and place of our birth. It is important to understand that astrologers have simplified their representation of the heavens to only include the sun, the moon and the other planets in our solar system. This does not invalidate astrology, as some have claimed. We can add other asteroids and stars into the picture if we want. However, for the purposes of simplicity, it is best to stick with the planets in our solar system. The subject is complex enough without adding too many extra celestial bodies. The birth chart is based on the principle that whatever is born in a moment of time possesses the qualities of that moment of time. It can be described as our astrological portrait, a symbolic representation of the human psyche, or a map or a blueprint of our potential. It is like our own personal mandala, symbol of our highest potential.

 

Philosophical Issues

This is where we must take a look at some philosophical issues. It is important that we examine our beliefs in relation to astrology. Your own world view or personal philosophy will condition your perception of astrology, and how you use it. This might be something that you will give more thought to, as time goes on.

There are various approaches to astrology, but for now I will take a brief look at two very opposite types of astrology. One is a very medieval, fate-oriented approach. In this approach, everything is seen as predestined, and the underlying belief is that we have no freedom to choose and direct our own lives. Astrologers who practice this approach, and there are many, see humans as puppets manipulated by cosmic forces outside their control. This is the type of astrologer who is into predicting specific events, telling you what is going to happen when, and advising you the best thing to do with your life.

The other approach is a more modern, choice-centered  one, and this is the approach that I use. This type of astrology is sometimes called humanistic astrology.  Here, the belief is that there is a creative force within each of us which seeks to be expressed. In this world view, we are seen as co-creators in our own destiny. It is not free will versus destiny, but free will and destiny.  The birth chart is viewed as a tool which can help us to better know ourselves, to identify our personality traits, both ‘positive’ and ‘challenging’, and ultimately to choose to transform our conflicts into harmony. Using this approach, we can to some degree at least, choose to be free from that which limits us. In this view, character is destiny, which means that when we change our character, we change our destiny.

Humanistic astrologers believe that the purpose of the birth chart is to use it as a tool for self knowledge so that we can learn to increasingly identify and express our highest potential. We need to work  with the problem areas identified by the chart until they are transcended. This means that we do not accept our problems as fate, but we use our awareness of them to overcome them and to learn from them. The idea is that the more aware we are of ourselves and our purpose in life, and the more we are consciously in tune with the energies which govern our planet, the more our destiny is in our own hands. A Humanistic astrology focusses on awakening our realization of our gifts, our purpose and our creative potential.

Some humanistic astrologers also believe in the concept of karma and reincarnation. The philosophy of reincarnation says  that we all possess a spiritual essence or soul which continues on after death, and incarnates in different physical bodies in different lives. The purpose is to learn different lessons through experience, and to gradually walk the path  towards perfection or wholeness. The philosophy of karma says that we are responsible for our own actions. We sow what we reap,  or for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You make your bed and you lie in it. All of these sayings are describing this ancient doctrine of karma. It is, however, not at all necessary to believe in karma or reincarnation. The same concept can be explained through biological inheritance or genetic predisposition.

 

A Poem by Astrologer Tracy Marks

Here is a poem written by an American Astrologer called Tracy Marks. For me, it sums up beautifully what a birth chart is and is not. It succinctly conveys the notion  that we can choose the paths we travel.

And then the chart spoke….
I am a map, it said,
but not a compass.
A guidebook,
but not a guide.
In broad lines I sketch for you
a dozen aspects, roads
which you may travel
but you alone must choose
which one to follow,
must fill out its form
with the footsteps of your own
experience.

 

The Astrological Alphabet

 

The Zodiac Signs

The Twelve Human Archetypes or Universal Qualities
– The Script

ARIES  –  The Initiator,  Pioneer, Warrior
TAURUS  –  The Earth Spirit, Manifester, Builder
GEMINI  –  The Communicator, Networker, Student
CANCER –  The Nurturer,  Mother, Water Child
LEO  –  The Leader,  Golden Child, Performer
VIRGO  –  The  Server,  Healer,  Worker, Humble One
LIBRA  –  The Harmoniser,  Diplomat, Relater
SCORPIO  –  The Transformer,  Seeker, Psychologist
SAGITTARIUS  –  The Philosopher, Explorer, Wise Teacher
CAPRICORN  –  The Purposeful One, Father, Time Lord
AQUARIUS  –  The Humanitarian,  Reformer, Global One
PISCES  –  The Compassionate One,  Mystic, Dreamer

 

The Planets

Psychological Urges & Needs or Aspects of the Personality
The Actors

THE SUN – Creative potential, Personal Identity – the urge to create and to be
THE MOON – The Past, Nurturing, Receptivity – the urge to nurture, respond and feel
MERCURY – Thinking, Analysing, Networking – the urge to know, to think and to communicate
VENUS – Relating, Love and Beauty, Sense of Values – the urge to love, appreciate and relate
MARS – Energy, Aspiration, Motivation, Sexuality – the urge to act and motivate
JUPITER – Expanding, Philosophising, Searching for Meaning – the urge for growth and meaning
SATURN – Boundaries, Limitations, Concretisation – the urge to build structure and stability
CHIRON – Healing, Integrating, Wholemaking, Teaching, Mentoring – the urge to be healed, to heal, teach and mentor others
URANUS – Collective Mind, Illumination, Awakening – the humanitarian urge
NEPTUNE – Collective Feeling, Universal Love, Imagining – the spiritual urge and the need for unity
PLUTO – Transformation, Purpose, Regeneration – the urge for evolutionary growth
NORTH NODE – The Path of Future Growth
SOUTH NODE – The Past, Karma, Inherited Potential

 

The 12 Houses

The 12 Universal Departments of Life or Fields of Experience
– The Stage

1st – Self Awareness, Self Discovery, Persona
2nd – Personal Resources, Values, Skills
3rd – Communication, Mental Activity, Learning
4th – The Hearth, Feeling at home, Inner Security
5th – Creative Extensions of the Self, Children
6th – Self Improvement, Daily Life, Work, Health
7th – Awareness of Others, Relationships
8th – Depth Interactions, Sharing, Letting Go
9th – Awareness of the Cosmos, Religion, Travel
10th – Vocational Purpose, Taking Power, Career
11th – Group Contribution, Collectives, Friends
12th – Transcendence, Spiritual Path, Solitude

 

House Polarities

1st – Awareness of Self; 7th – Awareness of Others
2nd – Personal Resources; 8th – Shared Resources
3rd – Immediate Environment; 9th – Expanded Horizons
4th – Inner World (Home); 10th – Outer World (Vocation)
5th – Personal Creativity; 11th – Group Creativity or Contribution
6th – Daily Life; 12th – Spiritual Life

The Four Angles of the Cross of Matter

ASCENDANT – ASC – cusp (beginning) of 1st house – The degree of the zodiac rising on the Eastern horizon at the moment of our birth. The point of Self Awareness. “I am”.
THE NADIR – IC – cusp of 4th house – The degree of the zodiac directly below us at the moment of birth. The most private and deepest parts of ourselves. The Inner Self. “My Roots”.
THE DESCENDANT – DESC – cusp of the 7th house – The degree of the zodiac rising on the western horizon at the moment of birth. The point of Awareness of Others. “I Relate to An Other”.
THE MIDHEAVEN – MC – The cusp of the 10th house – The degree of the zodiac directly above us at the moment of birth. The most public and outer part of ourselves. “I Function in the World”.

 

The Elements

– Patterns of Energy – The Four Temperaments

Fire – The path to LOVE (Focused on Identity) – Choleric
Earth – The path to SERVICE (Focused on Materialism) – Melancholic
Air – The path to BROTHERHOOD (Focused on Mental and Social Interactions) – Sanguine
Water – The path to PEACE (Focused on Emotional & Feeling Realm) – Phlegmatic

 

Signs and Elemental Polarities

Yang – outgoing, active, freedom oriented – Fire and Air signs
Yin – ingoing, reflective, security oriented – Earth and Water Signs

 

The Modalities

– Energy Movement

Cardinal – Initiating Action
Fixed – Manifestation of Purpose
Mutable – Adapting to Change

 

The Sun-Moon-Ascendant Triad

THE SUN – Depicting the Yearly cycle of the seasons – our essence, core self, conscious purpose and sense of identity, creative potential. The Integrated Personality. The Present.
THE MOON – Depicting the Monthly cycle of the Moon’s Phases – the innermost core of our being, private feelings, subconscious habits. Karma. The Past.
THE ASCENDANT – Depicting the Daily cycle of the Earth’s rotation on its axis – our outer self, how others see us, our persona, the filter through which all the planets are expressed. The Soul’s Purpose. The Future.

 

The 12 Letter Astrological Alphabet

 

Table of House – Planet – Sign Combinations

we are currently updating the table. Please check again soon

 

 

Planetary Aspects

 

* Aspects are the angular relationships between the planets.
* They describe pathways of energy.
* The meaning of a planet in the birth chart is determined by its position in a particular sign and house, and is further modified by its relationships to all the other planets (the aspects).
* The interpretation of a birth chart is the art of synthesizing all of these individual factors into a whole.

The Conjunction – 0 degrees.   A powerful concentration or marriage of the planetary energies. The potential for Strength through Unification and Subjectivity.

The Sextile – 60 degrees.  An aspect of opportunity and productivity calling for the practical application of one’s understanding and experience. The potential for Realizing One’s Goals through Building New Talents, Skills and Techniques and Making New Connections.

The Square – 90 degrees.  An aspect of confrontation, challenge, internal tension, construction, strength  and motivation. The potential for Action, Productivity and Achievement through the Mobilization and Focus of Energy.

The Trine  – 120 degrees.  An aspect of harmony, co-operation, creativity, growth, vision, flow and ease. The potential for Creative Expression.

The Quincunx – 150 degrees.  An aspect of contradiction and paradox. The need for adjustment between the real and the ideal. The potential for Transformation, Focus, Maturity and Clarification through Adjustment.

The Opposition – 180 degrees.  An aspect of conflict between opposing energies, calling for awareness, cooperation and compromise. The potential for Integration and Objectivity through Balance.
CREDIT:  The ‘Potential’ Keywords have been adapted from the work of Demetra George and Douglas Bloch in ‘Astrology for Yourself’, A Workbook for Personal Transformation, p. 163.