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.