Lost and gone forever

It is satisfying as all get-out to interpret a Lenormand reading and/or a horary chart that accurately describes the location of a lost item, and then find the item. But sometimes a lost item stays lost. So when you ask where a lost item is, are you asking only for a description of its location? Or are you also asking if you’ll find it, even if you don’t say that in so many words? A reading I did a few months ago suggests the latter.

My friend J. has a friend who had lost a set of keys to a home safe. J. asked me about the keys on her friend’s behalf. The Lenormand reading and the horary chart both gave meaningful answers, but as of this writing, the keys haven’t been found. And even if they do turn up someday, for all practical purposes, it’ll be too late. J’s friend was going to have new keys made. Once that was done, the original keys may as well stay lost.

The Lenormand reading

I took my “usual” approach to doing a lost items reading. (“Usual” meaning I’ve done this maybe three or four times now: so much experience!) I choose a card ahead of time as the significator of the lost item, shuffle the deck, look for it in the deck, and lay out the card before it, the significator itself, and the two cards after it. The one card before would show the past; it’s the equivalent of “When did you last see the keys?” The two cards afterwards should show the present/future location of the lost item. Choosing the significator was easy: lost keys cry out to be represented by 33-Key.

It never occurred to me that the Key might be the last card in the deck. Which it was.

Garden and Key Lenormand cards

Here’s that issue I was talking about. I’d asked where the keys were. The most straightforward reading of this was that the keys had no present or future location. (The past location, 20-Garden, which suggested they might’ve been in the garden or at a gathering, didn’t help any.) It was possible that the keys had been destroyed, and that would answer the explicit question Where can she find her missing safe keys?. But the keys only needed to be permanently lost, nothing as dramatic as utterly obliterated, if the reading was answering the implicit question Will she find her lost keys? No “future” for the keys: the answer is No.

I admit I didn’t trust my intuition. And I hadn’t realized that there were two questions involved; I was only thinking of the explicit one. Since it seemed unlikely that the keys had been destroyed, they should be somewhere, so I took the first two cards from the top of the deck to find out what that somewhere was. The first card was 23-Mice. One interpretation of the Mice is that the keys had been stolen; another was that they were permanently lost.

Garden, Key, Mice, and Fish Lenormand cards

Eventually, I do figure these things out. Especially when the cards are practically hitting me over the head with an answer. 🙄

The second card was 34-Fish. It suggests the keys were near J’s friend’s financial materials, which makes sense given that they were the keys to one of her home safes. But as they do seem to be permanently lost, we’ll never know. The Mice may have been the absolute end of the reading (“Look,” the cards grumbled, “we told you they had no future, and then we told you—again—that they were lost. How much more of an answer do you need?!”), and it wouldn’t matter what the next card was.

The horary chart

To make this post easier to read, I’ve separated the Lenormand reading from the horary chart reading. But at the time, I was going back and forth between them, so I hadn’t reached that conclusion about the Lenormand reading before I’d started working on the horary chart.

Astrological chart.
“Where can [J’s friend] find her missing safe keys?”

Choosing the significator

This was one of the times I went with intuition when choosing the significator. I could have used derivative houses, but it was turning into a long chain. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the best I can say here is that it didn’t feel right. Mercury is the natural ruler of keys, and like choosing 33-Key in the Lenormand, it seemed much more reasonable to use it as the significator of these keys.

The considerations before judgment

First off, let’s see the general condition of the chart:

  1. Radical Ascendant? Check.
  2. Void-of-course Moon? Yes. Hmm.
  3. Saturn in the 7th house and/or the ruler of the 7th house afflicted? Yes to the latter: Mars is the ruler, and isn’t comfortable in Taurus.
  4. Moon in the Via Combusta? No.

Void-of-course means that the Moon (or a planet) will not make an exact aspect with any other planet before it moves into the next sign. It may still be in aspect to one or more planets, approaching and separating, but nothing else will match it exactly before it goes into the next sign. The tag line for the void-of-course Moon is “nothing will come of it.” Whether that’s helpful or not depends on the question asked. I wouldn’t say it’s all that encouraging in a lost items question, not unless you wanted the item to stay lost.

Among other things, the 7th house represents the astrologer who’s interpreting the horary chart. (That’s me.) Saturn in the 7th house or an afflicted ruler of the 7th suggests the astrologer will have problems with the chart or suffer a delay in understanding it. Or, in my case, be a bit oblivious to her own intuition.

And the chart says…

Mercury is at 29° 49′ Aries. That’s right at the end of Aries (each sign has 30º), and horary texts have explanations for significators that are right at the end of signs and what that means for lost items. But in this chart, Mercury is also void-of-course. See everything above about about the VOC Moon, and apply it to the keys themselves. Mercury isn’t connected to anything, symbolically, so the keys aren’t connected to anything or anyone, including J’s friend. They’re in a void somewhere, not to be found.


No keys. No future for them, according to the Lenormand reading. No ties between them and anything else according to the horary chart. It’s good to know that these readings can tell you if you’re ever going to find a lost item, but I wish the problem had had a happier answer.

Finding Mouse the Elder

Every now and then, my friend Suncat will send along a lost item question. I get to practice horary, and there’s always the hope that the answer will help Suncat find the missing item. Since she and her husband have two cats, often what’s missing is a cat toy. This was true this past summer, when Gray Princess lost a toy mouse. There are several toy mice in the household, but “Mouse the Elder,” an unusually durable toy, had earned his name by having lasted for decades. Looking around the house for MtE wasn’t working. Suncat reported that he’d last been seen in the living room, but that was weeks earlier, and he hadn’t been found. Meanwhile, Princess wanted her favorite toy back. It was time for divination.

So Suncat asked, “Where is Mouse the Elder?” and I cast the chart for the time when I received and understood the question.But I’d also heard that you can use Lenormand cards to look for lost items, and this seemed like a good time to try that. And since it’s faster for me to look over a few cards than to interpret a horary chart, I looked at the cards first.

The Lenormand reading

I didn’t have much experience at using the Lenormand this way, so I kept things simple. I decided to choose a card to represent MtE, then find the card in the deck and read a few cards around it to see what was going on. At least choosing the significator was easy: when you’re looking for a toy mouse called Mouse the Elder, what better card could there be than 23-Mice? When I found the Mice in the deck, I laid it out along with the card before it and the two cards that followed it.Four Lenormand cards: Child, Mouse, Book, CoffinThe Child “jumped out” at me as a card to pay attention to. Generally, the pictures on Lenormand cards aren’t all that meaningful in themselves. They’re mainly there to identify the card. But in this deck, 13-Child shows a child playing with a toy—in most of my decks, the Child is simply a picture of a child. This felt significant. I looked up the Child in Caitlín Matthews’s book, the only one I know of that talks about using the Lenormand to find lost items, and read, “your child has it; used for play; in a new place you’ve not looked yet!” (emphasis mine).

Since Child + Mouse was an accurate description of MtE—a toy (Child) mouse (Mice)—I hoped that the next two cards, the Book and the Coffin, would be an accurate description of its situation. Quoting again from Matthews:

  • 26-Book: in the library, school, or training place; in a book or folder
  • 8-Coffin: in a box, drawer, or cupboard; forgotten and left behind

Putting those together, I thought that MtE had been left in a box, drawer, or cupboard near Suncat’s books. By extension, that could mean an enclosed space, like between two groups of books or something like that, the sort of place a cat could knock a toy into and not be able to retrieve it. And it was likely that Princess had forgotten where MtE was and left it behind.

The horary chart

So, was the chart going to support the Lenormand reading or give a different answer entirely?

astrology chart for lost mouse toy horary
Where is Mouse the Elder?

The considerations before judgment weren’t significant, so I moved on to finding the significators, the most important one being the one for Mouse the Elder:

  1. Suncat asked the question, so her significator is the ruler of the 1st house: Mercury.
  2. The 6th house is associated with small animals. Aquarius is on the cusp, so Saturn is Princess’s significator.
  3. Mouse the Elder is a possession, and possessions are associated with the 2nd house. If I were looking for something Suncat had lost, I’d look at the ruler of the 2nd house. But MtE is Princess’s toy, not Suncat’s, so we need to look at Princess’s 2nd house. Having just said that Princess is represented by the ruler of the 6th house, it’s like the 6th house is Princess’s 1st house. So the 7th house is like her 2nd house. Pisces is on the cusp of the 7th house, so Jupiter represents Mouse the Elder.

Does the significator fit? On its own, Jupiter seems a bit grandiose for a decades-old cat toy. But Suncat had told me that MtE was of better quality than many modern cat toys, larger and plumper than your run-of-the-mill toy mouse. And Jupiter is in Virgo, the sign of its detriment. Being in detriment suggests that the planet isn’t at its best. I figured, after years of kitty love, MtE was probably starting to look a little worn, even if generally it was a sturdy toy. (And although I’m using 23-Mice to represent MtE because, well, mice, the usual meaning of this card is slow destruction and deterioration; the illustration often shows mice gnawing on something.)

Incidentally, there’s another possible significator for MtE: Venus, the natural ruler of toys. In this chart, Venus conjuncts Jupiter, so it’s also in Virgo and the 1st house. Venus is in fall in Virgo, so like Jupiter, it’s not at its best. Basically, it’s pretty much the same interpretation whether you use Jupiter or Venus. Cool.

So whether the significator is Jupiter or Venus, Virgo and the 1st house should describe where MtE is. Virgo indicates that the lost object may be “inside something like a pocket or container…closets, desks, cabinets, where things are filed and stored, home offices, studies…” (Anthony Louis). Which sounds like what the Lenormand reading is saying: MtE was inside something. Virgo is an earth sign, which suggests that MtE is on the ground or near the floor. The 1st house is an angular house, which traditionally means that the object should be easy to find. (I’ve wondered about that—if the object is so easy to find, why hasn’t it been found already?) The 1st house also suggests that the lost object is where the querent spends the most time. I wasn’t sure if that meant Suncat or Princess in this case.


A shipping box had been left in the living room for the cats to play with, and Mouse the Elder was inside it. The box was close to a bookcase. So there were the Lenormand elements: the toy mouse inside a box near books. As for the horary chart, MtE was inside something near where things are filed and stored (books), and the box was on the ground. I don’t know if either Suncat or Princess spends most of their time in the living room, but Suncat said that she’d only ever seen Princess playing with MtE in the living room, so that’s where she started her search.

Of course, the most important bit is that Princess has her favorite toy back. 😀 But I’m also fascinated with how both the Lenormand and horary answered the question.


  • The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook by Caitlín Matthews
  • Horary Astrology Plain & Simple: Fast & Accurate Answers to Real World Questions by Anthony Lewis

20/20 hindsight: a horary about a missing ring

Earlier this week, I misplaced the ring I’d been wearing. (SPOILER: I found it two days later.) I looked in all the obvious places and didn’t find it, so I cast a horary chart. I still didn’t find the ring. There was no indication that the chart was incorrect, but it can be mighty difficult to interpret one correctly. As it turned out, this chart was correct, but I’m not sure I’d have ever figured it out if I hadn’t found the ring and was able to work my way back to the chart interpretation.

Horary chart for missing ring
Where is my silver Celtic trinity knot ring?

The considerations before judgment

The first step was to review the considerations before judgment and see if the chart was even likely to work. The Ascendant is neither in the first three degrees nor the last three degrees of its sign, so it was neither too early nor too late to do anything. The Moon is not in the Via Combusta (the span of the zodiac between 15° Libra and 15° Scorpio), nor is it void-of-course.

The fourth consideration is if Saturn is in the 7th house, or the cusp of the 7th house or its ruler is afflicted which would show that your astrologer (the professional you’re consulting, represented by the 7th house) will have difficulty answering the question. I’m asking my own question, so the consideration is if Saturn is in the 1st house or if the Ascendant or its ruler are afflicted. Saturn isn’t there, and the Ascendant looks fine. However, Mars, ruler of the 1st, is close to (conjunct) Saturn and squares Neptune. The former suggests blockages, the latter, confusion. And obviously I was having trouble interpreting this chart. Hmm.

But generally, there’s nothing in the considerations before judgment that say that the chart is a dud. So on to interpreting it!

Identifying the significator

The next step was to figure out which planet symbolized the ring. The usual suspects are the ruler of the 2nd house (movable possessions) or the ruler of the 4th house (buried treasure). But neither of these felt right. The ruler of the 2nd house is Jupiter. Now if my ring had been expensive and/or ornate, I would’ve gone with Jupiter, but this was a simple silver band with a knotwork design. It wasn’t expensive, and it didn’t have large stones or really intricate metalwork or anything that sounded as grand as Jupiter. The ruler of the 4th house is Saturn. I’ve never had a lost item horary chart where the ruler of the 4th house was the correct significator, perhaps because none of the items were really buried treasure. In this case, even if Saturn had been ruler of the 2nd house, I’d have hesitated to use it because Saturn doesn’t describe this ring. It’s not a burden or an obligation, it’s not ugly, it’s not made out of lead (!)—there’s nothing Saturnian about it.

There were two other options: Venus and the Moon. Venus is the natural ruler of jewelry. The Moon is the secondary ruler of lost items. I chose Venus, and this is where I went wrong. Since the Moon is the secondary significator of lost items in all lost item charts, I overlooked the fact that if it was the best planet to describe my ring, then it was probably the main significator in this chart. Or to put it another way, I’d gotten used to thinking of it as the option of last resort, if absolutely nothing else described the lost item at all, and since Venus did, albeit in a general way, I went with Venus. In practice, this wasn’t all that much different than if I’d gone with Jupiter. Both planets are in Virgo. Venus is in the 10th house, within 5° of the 11th house cusp, which could count as being in the 11th house; Jupiter was squarely in the 11th house. Briefly, from this I got that the ring would be in my home office (10th house) or guest room (11th house), which are the same room in my apartment. In Virgo, the ring would be close to or on the floor, or perhaps it had fallen into a box or drawer (entirely possible, given the state of my home office). And of course, it wasn’t.

The Moon did the best job of describing the ring, so it was the proper significator. It’s a silver ring, and the Moon rules silver. It has a trinity knot design, and the Moon has several associations with threes, such as its three visible phases (waxing, full, waning) and the Triple Goddess. This is still a general description, but it’s more specific than Venus’s rulership of all jewelry.

The Moon is in Aquarius in the 4th house. When you’re assigning chart houses to areas of a home, the 4th house represents the cellar or the basement. The Moon conjuncts the 4th house cusp, suggesting that the ring is close to the door. Aquarius is an air sign, which shows that the missing object is “high up, maybe on a shelf or hook.”* The last aspect the Moon had made was to Saturn, which is not only the ruler of the 4th house, but also of the 3rd house of neighbors. Because the contact between the Moon and Saturn had already happened before I asked the question, and the planets were separating from each other, a neighbor had already found the ring.

Finding the ring

Where was the ring? This apartment building doesn’t have a true basement (4th house), but the ground floor is two-thirds below ground level. The laundry room is the only room on the ground floor that I have access to, and I’d done laundry that morning. The ring was in the laundry room, hanging from a pushpin (Aquarius) on a bulletin board that’s just inside the laundry room by the door (Moon conjunct the 4th house cusp). A neighbor (Saturn) must have found it and pinned it up there. The previous aspect between the Moon and Saturn had been a flowing, easy aspect. Had it been a difficult aspect, it could have meant the neighbor had kept the ring. But then, I’d have never found it and we’d never know for certain.

Okay, even if I couldn’t find the ring by using the chart, it would have been nice—and less stressful!—to have known that I’d find it eventually.** Horary charts can tell you this, but technically, I’d asked where the ring was, not if I’d find it, so it wasn’t as strongly indicated in the chart. The best indicator I have, which I only learned after I’d found the ring, is Frawley’s observation that if the item’s significator conjuncts an angle, that increases the chances that you’ll get it back. And like I said, the Moon conjuncts the IC, one of the angles of the chart.

The ring is back, and there was a happy ending. And it was a learning experience. Here’s hoping I’ll have more success with future charts!

*John Frawley, The Horary Textbook (revised edition), p.174.

**I found the ring after a friend suggested checking the laundry room again, and it finally occurred to me to look at the bulletin board since other small items have been pinned there in the past.

Wanting the best of both

Okay, I admit it: I cannot commit myself to taking either an exclusively traditional or an exclusively modern approach to astrology and divination. Each has strengths that the other doesn’t.

Modern (psychological)

In both astrology and tarot, this is what I first learned. I love how this approach cuts straight to the heart of a psychological issue and lays it out in a way that I can understand consciously. While I could figure out something through intuition and feeling alone, understanding it intellectually—which is what the modern interpretations are good for—is how I can share what I’ve learned with others, take notes on it, or whatever.

I also like the hopeful outlook. Traditional astrology, especially, is often criticized for a fatalistic attitude. I disagree with that depiction, but it’s clear that the modern way of interpretation stresses the human capacity to change what we don’t like, be it a personality quirk or an unhappy job situation. The outcome card in a tarot reading is rarely seen as a conclusion fixed in stone. The natal chart is seen as a map of human potential.


So why do I even bother with a traditional approach? Because it validates my feelings and it’s practical.

I usually do a reading because something in my life isn’t working. Not surprisingly, the reading won’t be all roses and rainbows: I’ll get the scarier cards or the I Ching lines will describe scenarios of chaos. Now maybe the outcome will be positive and maybe it won’t, but here’s the important point: the reading is saying, Yes, you’re right. The situation sucks. No matter how grim the reading, it helps to know that my perceptions were on target. Yes, I just said that I appreciated the optimism of the modern approach. But that does me more good with the outcome and with what I can do in the future. For an assessment of the past and present, if something is wrong, I don’t want to be told This is a learning experience. It’s like saying that my negative feelings are wrong and should be denied.

Astrology? The situation is even worse. Look, there are parts of my chart that just don’t work as well for me as other parts—and this is normal for everyone’s chart. I’m tired of modern interpretations that depict difficult configurations in a rosy glow (more of those “learning experiences” that build character) while implying that positive ones will handicap you because they don’t challenge you. No, a difficult chart is not an excuse for poor behavior in whatever form that might take. But the first step to working with a problem is acknowledging that there is, in fact, a problem.

Because the traditional approach is usually focused on the everyday world, it’s wonderfully practical. Not that psychological insight isn’t useful. But when I understand a lost items horary chart enough to find the item, well, I can get it back. The I Ching reading that gives me advice on getting through a difficult conversation with my supervisor has been a good use of my time. The astrological reading that tells me which areas of my life may prove problematic has given me a timely heads-up.


I figure pursuing either a modern or traditional approach exclusively must let people learn their chosen method faster. They’re probably learning it more thoroughly as well. But every time I think I should just choose one, I remember all the good things that the other can do. We’re lucky enough to live in a world where there are resources for both—I’m not going to waste the opportunity.

Z is for zodiac

Having started the Pagan Blog Project with “A is for astrology,” I finish it off with a post on the zodiac. Really, what else could be more appropriate?

Along with the planets and the houses, the twelve signs of the zodiac are a basic component of Western astrology. The word “zodiac” comes from the Greek ζῳδιακός (zōidiakos), meaning “circle of animals.” Only eight* of the twelve signs are animals, though: Aries (ram), Taurus (bull), Cancer (crab), Leo (lion), Scorpio (scorpion), Sagittarius (centaur), Capricorn (goat or sea-goat), and Pisces (fishes). That leaves three human signs (Gemini, Virgo, Aquarius) and an inanimate object (Libra: scales). Unlike the Western zodiac, the Chinese zodiac (Chinese: 生肖, Shēngxiào) is composed of twelve animals. Calling it the Chinese “zodiac” is a translation of convenience for us Westerners, though. Shēngxiào comes from words meaning “year of birth” and “appearance,” and has nothing to do with either circles or animals.

Zodiac Clock
The clockface on the Torre dell’Orologio in the Piazza San Marco, Venice.

You’ll note, by the way, that I’ve been talking about the signs of the zodiac, not the constellations. It’s easy to think they mean the same thing since they have the same names. The constellations are what we’ve been taught they were: groupings of stars. The twelve zodiacal constellations are the ones that lie on the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the sun through the sky. As we’ve just seen, most of the twelve represent animals, the ecliptic is a circle: voila! A circle of animals. Since the constellations vary in size, the amount of the ecliptic each constellation takes up varies as well. The signs are more of an abstract concept: the division of the ecliptic into twelve equal segments.

Just to complicate things further, even excluding the Chinese zodiac, there are still two zodiacs: the tropical and the sidereal. The starting point for both is 0º Aries; the difference is in where that point is said to be.  In the tropical zodiac, 0º Aries is the sun’s position at the moment of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. In the sidereal zodiac, 0º Aries is the beginning of the constellation of Aries. The two systems coordinated about 1,700 years ago, but since the tropical zodiac moves slightly each year in relationship to the constellations via the precession of the equinoxes, they’re now about 24º off. While many people think that their Sun sign is the constellation the sun was in when they were born, most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. As a rough approximation, unless you were born in the last week that the sun was in your Sun sign, your sidereal Sun sign is probably the one before the one you’re used to. Most people born in tropical Aries are sidereal Pisces. Two-thirds of tropical Virgos are sidereal Leos. Vedic astrologers use the sidereal zodiac, but my understanding is that Vedic astrology is different enough from Western astrology that this doesn’t change things as much as it sounds like it would.

Every few years, someone realizes that the constellation of Ophiuchus the Serpent-Bearer crosses the ecliptic as well and announces that there’s a thirteenth sign of the zodiac. The media goes wild: Oh, here are all these astrologers claiming that the stars and planets determine your fate, but they don’t even know how many signs there are, and hey baby, are you an Ophiuchus? Yes, using the constellation boundaries set by the International Astronomical Union in 1930, Ophiuchus crosses the ecliptic. But since the signs of the zodiac are twelve equal sections of 30º each, which do have the names of twelve constellations but are not constellations themselves, Ophiuchus is irrelevant.

Yes, but what do the signs actually do in astrology? Like adjectives and adverbs in language, signs modify the planets and houses. For instance, by itself, Mars shows how you get angry. Mars in talkative, communicative Gemini expresses anger with cutting words, a verbal slice-n-dice. Mars in Scorpio, a quieter, emotional sign, holds grudges and may not act for a long time. A more involved astrological interpretation will use the signs to determine where in a chart the planets have the most influence. Without the planets and houses, the signs are simply a coordinate system and a collection of personality traits. With them, they are astrology.

(Done! Made it all the way through the Pagan Blog Project! Yay!)


*A centaur is half human though, so we may be down to 7½ animals.

Photo: Marcelo Teson [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The astrology of Doctor Who

Way back when, in the first round of my love of Doctor Who, I did an event chart for the program. I do that for my most favorite shows because I have this theory that the chart for the program works as a natal chart for the best-known character on the show. With Doctor Who, the chart should describe the essential characteristics that all the Doctors share. Even though the new Doctors renewed my love for the show, I didn’t think about that chart again until recently. What with this being the 50th anniversary of the premiere, people have been writing about that first episode, giving the time and date of that first broadcast. Combined with location—the BBC is headquartered in London—and there’s enough to cast an astrological chart. For old times’ sake, I decided to cast the chart again and have a quick look at it.

Doctor Who astrological chart


The strongest elements in the chart are fire and air. The fire planets, in red, are easy to see in the chart. Someone with a lot of fire in their chart (like the Doctor) is often intense, enthusiastic, optimistic, and idealistic. Strong fire can also symbolize a dominating personality, someone who can ride over others with the sheer force of their personality. At first glance, air (shown in yellow) doesn’t seem to be all that prominent in this chart. However, it includes the Moon and the Ascendant, two of the three most important parts of a chart. This much air suggests that the Doctor takes a rational, logical approach to life. He’s talkative and loves to socialize, although at the same time, he is somewhat detached and distant.

The emphasis on fire and air means that earth (green) and water (blue) are comparatively weak. Neither element is absent, but the earth and water planets in this chart are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and the sign placements of the outer planets show the tendencies of a generation rather than an individual. The Doctor’s weakest element is water. Now obviously, he’s not an uncaring soul. How many episodes show how much he loves Earth, the human race, and/or other species? But he doesn’t like to express his feelings directly, and he’s been known to try to avoid painful situations. Likewise, low earth doesn’t mean the Doctor is wholly impractical, but thanks to this being a science fiction program, he can be depicted as literally ungrounded: not staying long on any planet or time.

The modes are also not very balanced. Not surprisingly, the Doctor is strongly mutable, with six of nine planets plus the Ascendant in mutable signs. The mutable mode is restless, variable, and changeable (this is someone who changes his entire body and personality: the epitome of mutability!). It’s versatile—the Doctor seems to know at least something about almost any topic imaginable and has an almost unimaginable range of skills—but isn’t goal-oriented. There’s only one planet in this chart in a cardinal sign, the mode that initiates action. This fits the Doctor: mostly content to just observe life and drift along. Luckily the writers keep dropping him into unstable situations that force him to act or the show would probably have been cancelled in its first season.

The Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendant

In a birth chart, the Sun represents the sense of self, the ego; it’s the center of the personality the way the physical Sun is the center of the solar system. With his Sun in Sagittarius, the Doctor is optimistic, adventurous, a lover of truth and freedom, with a philosophical bent and a love of travel. He is also undisciplined and outspoken, which can annoy both friends and enemies at times.

The Moon represents feelings, emotions, habits, and security needs. Remember how the Doctor is strong in air and weak in water? This repeats that theme. Having the Moon in Aquarius shows that the Doctor is sociable, idealistic, and a humanitarian, but he’s probably not comfortable with open displays of emotion. He finds it easier to care for entire species than individuals, and he needs his freedom and a certain amount of detachment.

The Ascendant is the sign that was on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth (or broadcast, in this case). It represents outer appearance, the persona we use to deal with others, and the first impression we give others. The Doctor’s Ascendant is in Gemini. Gemini rising is talkative, clever, changeable, and adaptable. No matter which actor has played the Doctor, most of the eleven incarnations have been, ah, loquacious. Villains, and sometimes companions, probably wish he’d shut up for a few minutes—and start to worry if he actually did so. Changeable? The Doctor changes his appearance and personality more thoroughly than most other characters except maybe Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I think individual Doctors would be better described with different Ascendants: perhaps Capricorn for the First Doctor (Hartnell), Libra for the Third Doctor (Pertwee), Scorpio for the Ninth Doctor (Eccleston), and so on. But for the Doctor as a whole: ever-changing, talkative, knowledgeable about practically everything in the universe, Gemini Rising is oh so appropriate.


Okay, that’s not a complete natal analysis by any means: a thorough exploration of a natal chart could go on for pages and wouldn’t easily fit in a blog post. But this is enough to highlight major themes of the chart. I’m kind of amazed that despite so many different actors, writers, and directors over the years, the core character of the Doctor has remained essentially the same, and I love how the chart of the TV show mirrors that core. But then, stuff like that is a great part of why I love astrology in the first place.

V is for Vesta

When I was writing about Juno, I mentioned how astrologers often use mythology to figure out what a newly discovered asteroid or other body might symbolize. But unlike the other Olympians, the few myths featuring Hestia don’t have much of a storyline. Over the years, I’ve read that Hestia was the first-born of Kronos and Rhea, making her the first swallowed and the last regurgitated. She had a throne on Mount Olympus, but when Dionysus came and there weren’t enough thrones to go around, she voluntarily surrendered hers, saying that she was content to sit by the hearth. I’ve read that Apollo and Poseidon wanted to marry her, but she turned them down, vowing to remain eternally a virgin. (What myths might have been told had she accepted one of those proposals?) The Roman poet Ovid tells a myth of Vesta, in which the goddess was almost attacked by Priapus as she slept, and was saved only because a nearby mule brayed loud enough to wake her. (He also describes her as Saturn and Ops’ youngest daughter—mythology is rarely consistent about details.)

Vesta. (Photo credit: nasa.gov)

Looking over Vesta’s rulerships, I started wondering how many of them came directly from the mythology of the goddess and how many came more from what we know of her Roman priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. Now one way or another, every planet and asteroid has something to say about your sexuality, but issues involving virginity, celibacy, sublimation, and so on tend to be Vesta’s territory. Certainly Hestia was a virgin goddess, but when writers describe her, they usually start with “goddess of the hearth” and get to her virginity later. But the very title of the Vestal Virgins puts their virginity front and center, as do the descriptions of the priestesses’ lives and their roles in Roman society. By comparison, Athena is also a virgin goddess, but I haven’t read much about virginity in descriptions of the asteroid Pallas except for occasional references to sexuality sublimated into creativity.* Whether it’s from mythology or archeology, Vesta’s astrological meanings often have a sense of the spiritual threading through them: dedication, devotion, solitude, sublimation of sexual energy into spiritual practice.. Vesta is perhaps most often summed up as “focus,” which comes from her principal role as goddess of the hearth: the Latin word for hearth is focus.

The astrological glyph for Vesta.
The astrological glyph for Vesta.

I’ve only recently started understanding how Vesta may work in charts. It’s one thing to read about focus, dedication, and self-integration, or Vesta’s downsides of alienation, burnout, and inhibition. It’s another to try to see how that plays out in real people’s lives, including my own. My Vesta conjuncts my Midheaven, but it took me the longest time to realize that that might mean that I needed solitude and opportunities for single-minded focus in my career, not that I should be considering becoming a nun. In general, I think Vesta’s house location shows areas of life in which we need to be alone periodically, areas in which we commit ourselves without reservation to what we’re doing, in single-minded focus. Vesta’s sign has been harder for me to understand in charts. My Vesta is in Scorpio, and various astrological writers have said that means focusing on discovering secrets. Sure, I’ve been known to try to ferret out secrets; I’m sure many people have, regardless of how many planets they have in Scorpio. And I’m also capable of focusing on my knitting—which isn’t a specifically Scorpionic activity—as well as many other things in life. So I have a ways to go yet in understanding the astrological Vesta, but I figure at this point, it’s a matter of quietly paying attention and watching for the insights. Which sounds completely appropriate to Vesta.

*I don’t know enough about the minor asteroids to know if Artemis’ virginity has anything to do with the asteroid Diana’s astrological meanings.

R is for retrogrades

Coming into the Pagan Blog Project, I thought there would be a few letters that would be a challenge to write for. The obvious ones were Q, X, and Z. (Indeed, any letter with a high value in Scrabble is a candidate for being challenging.) As it has turned out though, I thought of something right away for Q, and I have something lined up for Z, although X is still a vacuum as I write this. Meanwhile, it was letters like F and N that have thrown me. For this week, my mind got stuck on R (a letter with a value of 1 in Scrabble—it should have been easy!). I could think of nothing to add beyond what others had posted on the Rede or ritual, nor did I have anything to say on the topic of reincarnation. I was wrestling with a potential post on rulerships which just wasn’t working, when I realized that retrograde starts with R also. And so here we are.

A planet is retrograde when it appears to be moving backward in the sky. While this happens to all the planets, I pay the most attention to the retrograde periods of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The other planets from Jupiter on out stay retrograde for longer periods of time. I think we get used to that, and it’s harder to see differences between their direct and retrograde periods. With these three faster planets, there’s more contrast.

As with many other topics in astrology, there are different opinions about what it means when a planet is retrograde. In traditional astrology, being retrograde is one of the debilities, a condition that makes a malefic planet nastier or a benefic planet less helpful. A retrograde planet may be considered weaker in Western astrology, but I’ve heard that in Vedic astrology, retrograde planets are said to be stronger because this is when they’re closest to Earth. Modern psychological astrology tries to avoid dualistic “good/bad” language: the energy of a retrograde planet is seen as turning inward and being less noticeable as a result. Personally, I’ve found that the psychological interpretation works best when describing natal planets that are retrograde. When we’re talking about the effects of a transiting retrograde planet, often the conversation turns to what’s been happening in our lives, and lots of the time, what we’re talking about is what has gone wrong—the traditional descriptions still seem to work for events. (And often I’ve noticed that the problem started well before the retrograde period, sometimes months or years earlier, but it comes to light when the planet goes retrograde.)

Mercury rules communication and perception, so when it goes retrograde, we tend to notice right away. Its retrograde cycle is fairly even, lasting about three weeks every three months, each period falling a few days earlier than it did the year before. Entire books (plural) have been written about Mercury retrograde, the best known of the retrograde planets. In terms of events, this is a period famous for delayed travel, glitching computers, misunderstandings, and having to redo and revise a lot.

Venus’ retrograde periods last about 40 days; Venus goes retrograde about every 18 months. The most dramatic case of Venus retrograde I’ve encountered involved two of Venus’ traditional rulerships: relationships and beautiful things. A person had surgery and their coworkers started their customary collection to buy flowers for them. As it turned out, this person had alienated so many of their colleagues that not enough money was collected to buy even the smallest flower arrangement. After more money was secured, the coworkers ordered an arrangement to be sent to the person’s home. It was misdelivered to a neighbor who wasn’t on good terms with this person and refused to hand over the flowers. (The florist accepted responsibility for the delivery error and replaced the flowers.)

Like Venus, Mars doesn’t go retrograde every year. Its retrograde periods are about 2 to 2½ months. When I first decided to watch Mars retrograde, I wasn’t sure what to look for. Would wars go badly? Wars tend to go badly for someone even when they’re going well—that wasn’t going to work. In a list of traditional astrological factors to take into consideration when timing elective surgery, avoiding Mars retrograde periods was one suggestion. That made sense: Mars traditionally rules iron and steel, as well as weapons. Surgeons, who use steel scalpels and knives to inflict controlled wounds (which is what surgery is) are Mars’ by association—and you wouldn’t want anything glitching during surgery if at all possible. And its Mars’ rulership of iron and steel that I’ve noticed the most when Mars is retrograde. I had a computer die abruptly when Mars was retrograde: the hard drive fried. Along the same lines, a friend had severe car problems stemming from rust during Mars retrograde.

And if you want to do some observing of your own:

2013-2014 Retrograde Periods

Planet Goes Retrograde Goes Direct
Mercury October 21, 2013 November 10, 2013
February 6, 2014 February 28, 2014
June 7, 2014 July 1, 2014
October 4, 2014 October 25, 2014
Venus December 21, 2013 January 31, 2014
Mars March 1, 2014 May 20, 2014

P is for Pallas (Athene)

In many ways, astrology is a process of refinement. Start with the Sun, which symbolizes your identity and your sense of self. Modify that with the characteristics of the Sign that the Sun is in, and the description you have of yourself probably isn’t wrong, it’s just vague and limited. You could stop there, or you could add in another factor: perhaps the house that your Sun is in, or maybe your Moon sign, which describes your emotional response and instincts. With each addition, the profile you’re creating is more specific, richer, and more clearly you. By the time you’ve considered the seven classical planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, plus some astrological points, the description can be quite detailed.

2 Pallas
Pallas’ location makes it hard to get photos of it, so here’s an artists’ conception of it.

Like the planets, the asteroids symbolize parts of your psyche. But while the planets got “big” parts (identity, emotions, etc.), the asteroids are pretty specific. Indeed, they seem to overlap with the planets, taking one facet of a planet’s rulerships and focusing on it. As I had trouble figuring out what Juno governed that wasn’t already covered by Venus (marriage vs. love and relationships), or what Ceres did that was different from the Moon (nurturing vs. well, more nurturing—yeah, still can’t explain that one all that well), I had so much trouble differentiating the asteroid Pallas* from Mercury that I couldn’t use it. Mercury rules communication and perception, and can often be identified with the conscious mind. Pallas, I read, signified things like creative intelligence, mental creativity, pattern recognition, and the ability to solve problems. I wasn’t sure what creative intelligence was, exactly, although it was probably similar to mental creativity, but then, most mental stuff was Mercury’s domain, so I wanted to know what about this made it specifically Pallas’. Pattern recognition is a form of perception, so how was that any different than the perception symbolized by Mercury? And so on.

The astrological glyph for Pallas.
The astrological glyph for Pallas.

When I decided to write about the asteroids for Pagan Blog Project, I knew I was giving myself a deadline. Thanks to alphabetical order, I got to start with Ceres, the one asteroid I understood, but eventually J, P, and V were going to come up. But over the past 20 years, people very helpfully invented the Internet and astrologers put their observations and theories about Pallas out on the web where I could find them. Also, life experience must count for something, because now that I’ve found these other definitions for Pallas, I realize they’re not all that different from those first ones I read that I didn’t understand, yet they make sense. Those first definitions haven’t changed any, so it must be me who has changed enough to understand them now. And finally, I’ve thought about the gods themselves, Hermes and Athena. Hermes is the herald of the gods, known for his quick wits, cunning, and somewhat amoral. This is a good match for Mercury, a planet symbolizing the conscious mind, which communicates through words and can rationalize even immoral behavior. Athena is not a goddess of war, yet she is a master of strategy, and in like manner, Pallas depicts how you strategize. This asteroid also has to do with pattern recognition, and perhaps I was using my Pallas when all these descriptions came together and finally clicked for me. So I’m working with Pallas as a significator of strategy, pattern recognition, and problem solving. Pallas’ sign shows how you approach these; Pallas’ house shows in which areas of your life you’re most likely to do them.

It’s exciting having a “new” astrological factor. Maybe I’ll get some insights from studying Pallas, and maybe I won’t, but the joy of the study itself is what drew me to astrology in the first place.

*Many astrology books refer to this asteroid as Pallas Athene. It wasn’t until I started researching the asteroids for the Pagan Blog Project that I learned that its official name is 2 Pallas.

Photo credit: UCLA, B. E. Schmidt and S. C. Radcliffe, found at nasa.gov.

M is for modes

And with this post, I reach the halfway point of the Pagan Blog Project. (Wow.) Admittedly, anyone who has been reading my past entries might be thinking I was participating in something called the Astrological Blog Project. I didn’t set out to write on so many astrological topics to the exclusion of others—and yeah, there are more to come—but I was doing astrology years before I’d ever heard of Wicca or Paganism, and I find the two just fit so well together. Think about it. The planets bear the names of gods. The signs correspond to the four elements. The signs are also divided into three modes, which have a strong seasonal association, which in turn leads me to make a connection between the “circle of animals” (zōdiacus) and the Wheel of the Year. Although unlike planets, signs, and elements, chances are that unless you’ve studied astrology, you haven’t heard of the modes.

Short version: the modes describe energy, how it moves and where it’s directed. The three modes are usually called cardinal, fixed, and mutable nowadays, although there are older names for them as well. While signs that share an element are inherently compatible, signs that share a mode clash (actually, that’s also because their elements are usually incompatible: for example, fire and water will be at odds regardless if they’re both cardinal, fixed, or mutable).

The astrological signs with their modes and elements.
The astrological signs with their modes and elements.

Cardinal energy begins things and takes action. The cardinal mode directs energy outwards, making its mark in the everyday world; leadership is often associated with cardinal traits. Traditionally, the cardinal mode has been considered the strongest of the three, but I don’t think that’s because it really is stronger but because it’s the easiest to see. Especially in the West, we’ve favored an outgoing, extroverted approach to life, one that deals with the mundane realities of life. So planets in cardinal signs in horary charts may indeed gain strength from those placements because so many horary questions are about the physical world that cardinal energy is focused on. In natal charts, where we’re looking at a person’s mental, emotional, and spiritual makeup as well as how they function in the world, saying that one mode is stronger than another can be misleading. The drawback to the cardinal mode is its lack of follow-through: people strong in cardinal energy may leave things unfinished, always running off to start something new.

Fixed energy is pretty much what it sounds like: resistant to change. The four signs of the fixed mode continue, maintain, and persevere. Despite the term “fixed,” it’s not that the fixed mode is always petrified. If something is already in motion, the fixed mode will keep it that way, because stopping would involve change. Whereas the cardinal mode moves outward, fixed energy moves inward. The fixed mode has been seen as weaker than the cardinal mode, but stronger than the mutable mode. Although fixed energy turns inwards and doesn’t impact the world the way cardinal energy does, we see its sheer immovability as strength in its own right (think the Rock of Gibraltar). As you may guess, the downside to the fixed mode is its tendency to get stuck in a rut, often persisting in situations where change is desperately needed.

Mutable energy is adaptable and flexible, pliable and unsettled. Lacking the force of cardinal energy and the solidity of fixed energy, mutable energy has usually been viewed as the weakest of the modes. Today, we think of this as mental/psychological energy, not weaker, just not as obvious. Mutable energy has neither an inward nor an outward focus, but swirls around in all directions. While this flexibility is often a gift, the mutable mode can indecisive, scattered, and unable to commit to anything.

As for the Wheel of the Year, the modes are closely associated with the seasons. At the solstices and equinoxes, the Sun moves into the cardinal signs, 0º of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The cardinal energy matches the “beginning” feeling of the seasons, the urge to get going, do something (seasonally appropriate, perhaps). The middle of the seasons correspond to the fixed signs, and if the cross-quarters hadn’t gotten thrown off a bit by calendar changes, they’d fall at the exact middle of the fixed signs, when the Sun reaches 15º of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. At this point, the seasons have settled into a consistent rhythm, with their beginnings fading into memory, and the transition to the next season not yet real enough to think about. Since there are eight sabbats, but twelve signs, the Wheel of the Year doesn’t map to the mutable signs (to fit the pattern, there would have to be another four sabbats when the Sun reaches 29º of the mutable signs, which would be only hours before it moved to 0º of the cardinal signs, starting the cycle over again). But even without official holidays to mark them, as the Sun moves into Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces, there’s a feeling of imminent change, as the fixed pattern of the current season begins to break up and we see hints of the season to come.

Although there is a lot about the elements in both the astrological and Pagan literature, I’ve seen almost nothing about the modes in Pagan writings. In Castings: The Creation of Sacred Space, Ivo Domínguez, Jr. devotes a chapter to the modes and how to combine them with the elements when casting circles: a cardinal circle, for instance, or a mutable one. The modes seem like something you could use in magic, although since I almost never practice magic, this is just a hypothesis on my part. And even if the modes aren’t named as such, I figure their qualities are well-integrated into the Wheel of the Year, which is enough for me at the moment.