A is for astrology

While Greek mythology was the first Pagan influence in my life, astrology was the second. My obsession started in grade school, when I learned what the zodiac was and that everyone had their own Sun sign. At that age, my love came out in art: using fabric crayons and one of Dad’s old handkerchiefs to illustrate the circle of the zodiac, and making a sea-goat (Capricorn) in my pottery class. In junior high, though, I read my first book of real astrology. The book itself wasn’t all that great and I don’t remember it nearly as fondly as I do D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but it explained the basic concepts of natal astrology and best of all, it had instructions for drawing up an astrological chart that were simple enough for an eighth-grader to follow.

Astrological chartMy love still burns brightly today, although the tools have changed: ballpoint pens, compass, and ruler replaced first by photocopied chart blanks, then by computer-generated charts. I happily remain an amateur; being a professional astrologer has never appealed to me. Astrology has become both a hobby and a worldview for me. The hobby part is fairly self-explanatory: I just really like doing astrology. I enjoy learning about an astrological technique that’s new to me and trying it out on my chart and those of my friends. I devour several astrology books a year, and appreciate all those authors who keep writing them, so that I’m in no danger of running out. I love that moment when a chart comes up on the screen and I get my first look at it: always different from any other chart I’ve seen, and always intriguing. In this sense, astrology doesn’t discriminate: the nastiest people have charts just as intriguing as those of saints.

Astrology as a worldview is hard for me to describe. The astrology I learned is often combined with archetypal psychology so that most of the time I view the planets as archetypes, usually representing the concepts that the gods they’re named for do—and since archetypes are the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the gods, astrology is a form of spiritual practice for me. During the hard times, my astrological worldview sustains me because I know the situation cannot last forever. After all, the planets never truly stand still. Even an astrological configuration made up of the slowest planets will eventually break up, reflecting a change in the troubles it symbolized. An astrological worldview isn’t just chart interpretation, but learning to see the planets and signs mirrored in everyday life, from an individual’s various relationships to the fortunes of a nation.

For several years now, I’ve been attracted to two very different schools of astrology. What I’ve described above is loosely termed modern astrology. It may not always be explicitly archetypal, but it has a psychological emphasis for the most part and natal charts are often analyzed as personality profiles. It can be shallow as all get-out, but it can also produce profoundly insightful readings. But in recent years, I’ve also developed an interest in traditional astrology, broadly defined as astrology as practiced before the 18th century. As much as I value a good psychological interpretation—astrology with an inward focus—I also want an astrology attuned to the outer world, one that focuses on everyday concerns. I want to try to find a balance between the mundane and the archetypal, between what is fated and what we have free will in, and astrology is the best medium I’ve found to date.

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6 thoughts on “A is for astrology

  1. Urgh. Astrology! It’s so complicated! I am very happy for dedicated souls like you who are willing to do all the hard work and then report back to the rest of us with short attention spans. (Typical Aries comment, I know)

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    1. I am delighted to be living in an age with so much fantastic astrological software available. Interpretation is no easier than it ever was—what, I still have to think?—but it really helps not to have to do all the math to get the chart in the first place!

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  2. My mom’s an astrologer. As a teen, I used to steal her books and cast charts for boys. That was my main interest! Is this boy the right one for me, or is that one? I’ve always wanted to go back and learn properly, but I haven’t had the discipline.

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    1. Clearly it’s a matter of motivation (boys!). 🙂 But yeah, astrology has such a steep learning curve that it’s off-putting, and I’m still waiting for that magical moment when I’ll finally Understand It All. [sigh]

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  3. Agree with you about the quality of software available at the present time, use all the tools available we say. Not arguing with you in any way but just a couple of points from our own experiences; firstly, we know many people are put of by the complexity and the work required, but is that not part of the experience? Certainly teaches a student discipline and attention to detail! Secondly, we find that for us astrology is part science/part art. It’s not so much what is there in front of you but just as much what arises from your own subconscious. The astrological data becomes almost a focal point for divination rather than providing all the answers.

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    1. I agree with you about astrology’s complexity, and it follows that the student will have to put in serious work to get the most out of astrology. But I want those prospective students to know that you can get something out of astrology even when you’re just beginning to study it. My first chart interpretation was made up of sentences hand-copied from an astrological cookbook. I was 14 years old and I was thrilled to have done real astrology. And it was that sense of accomplishment and discovery that led me to do a friend’s chart, to read more books, to eventually take a class, and so on. So I hope that people are thinking of the beauty and the interesting bits as well as the complexity when they think of astrology.

      For your second point: yes, astrology is both art and science as far as I’m concerned. If someone is only doing natal astrology, I think it’s easier to get into a habit of relying on cookbooks—you’re guaranteed results, even if they’re generic, and intuition may seem unreliable by comparison. But horary astrology is divination, and you need intuition to make all its rules tell you anything useful. Have you read The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination by Geoffrey Cornelius?

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