The best-known astrology nowadays is natal astrology. Its simplest form is the Sun-sign personality descriptions you’re probably familiar with. In its “unabridged” form, a professional astrologer creates a chart for the moment and place of your birth which can be used for insights into your life and personality, and is the basis for any predictive work the astrologer might offer. But natal astrology for the masses is fairly new, really coming into its own in the 20th and 21st centuries. For most of its history, astrology has been put to other, less individualized, uses. Electional astrology is used to choose the most auspicious time for an event. Mundane astrology is the study of world events, often based on the natal charts of nations and world leaders. And then there’s horary astrology: astrology as divination.
Horary astrology was my introduction to traditional astrology and its more events-oriented outlook. I had heard that traditional astrology saw everything in black-and-white, making no allowances for free will or personal growth. Stuff in a chart was either Good or Bad, and if too much of it was Bad, you were doomed. It turned out that where horary is concerned, most of those accusations are meaningless. See, when you’re doing natal astrology, you’re dealing with human beings who can choose actions, analyze their situations, learn and grow, or refuse to change, all over the course of a lifetime. But if you’re trying to find the keys you lost, they aren’t likely to express a lot of free will in the matter, you probably want to find them in less time than your entire life, and if they’re beyond recovery, you probably want to know that too. I could leave the debate between the concrete view and the psychological view for another time, and just focus on learning this radically different way to use astrology.
The horoscope of a question
So what is horary? Basically, instead of interpreting the birth chart of a person, you’re interpreting the birth chart of a question. The querent asks their question, and a chart is erected for the time and place of the question. Drawing on a body of “rules” that simply don’t apply to natal astrology, you work out which planets represent the various parts of the question. Then you interpret the relationship between those planets and look at their movements to get your answer.
An example: years ago, the dry cleaners lost the belt to a coat I had brought in to be cleaned. They thought it had gotten mixed in with someone else’s order and would be returned. I asked Will the dry cleaners find my belt?
Either Venus or Saturn could represent me. Venus was in Aries, a sign that it’s essentially incompatible with. Saturn in Gemini was doing better sign-wise, but it was in the eighth house of death and was also close to the star Alcyone, part of the Pleiades star cluster. As Anthony Louis writes in Horary Astrology Plain & Simple, “the weeping sisters give you something to cry about,” and Vivian Robson observes that the combination of Saturn and the Pleiades means “many losses.” I hadn’t even gotten to the planet for the belt yet, and already this wasn’t looking good. The dry cleaners? They were Jupiter in Gemini. Jupiter doesn’t like being in Gemini any better than Venus likes being in Aries: in plain English, the dry cleaners weren’t going to be of much help to me. The planet for the belt was Mars in Sagittarius in the third house. Mars is generally fine in Sagittarius, and the third house shows one’s local neighborhood—glad to know the belt was likely still in town!—but Mars was between the South Node (symbolizing loss) and Pluto (symbolizing death). As for the relationship between Mars and the planets representing me and the dry cleaners, there wasn’t one. Mars had already moved past its most recent connections with Venus, Jupiter and Saturn—we’d each of us had the belt in the past, but now it was leaving. It was headed towards another connection with Venus, but wouldn’t manage it before leaving Sagittarius, and so that wouldn’t count.
How did this play out in real life? I never saw the belt again. The dry cleaners (the people who weren’t able to help much) did pay for someone to make a new belt, but she couldn’t make it look like it had been meant to go with the coat. The coat didn’t work well without a belt and it looked odd with the new one. I wore it for a few more years, but never really liked it again. Something to cry about, indeed!