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Western astrology

Western astrology is the system of astrology most popular in Western countries. Western astrology originated in Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium BC, from where it spread to much of the world. After spreading to Egypt, where further developments occurred, it then arrived into Greek or Hellenistic culture, where the Greek astronomer and astrologer Ptolemy in his work Tetrabiblos laid the foundations of the Western tradition. Western astrology is largely horoscopic, that is, it is largely based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment in time, such as a person's birth, in which various cosmic bodies are said to have an influence. In modern Western sun sign astrology, only the location of the Sun is considered.

During the Dark Ages in Europe knowledge of astrology was lost along with much other learning. It was revived and extended by Arab and Persian scholars and reimported into Europe in the Middle Ages. In medieval Europe, important political and military decisions were often made in consultation with astrologers. Nowadays, believers in astrology use it primarily for making personal decisions or attaining information about an individual through natal astrology. Today, astrology has become distinct from astronomy and mainstream scientists in general dismiss astrology as a form of pseudoscience.

The Zodiac

The zodiac is the belt or band of constellations through which the Sun, Moon, and planets move on their journey across the sky. Astrologers noted these constellations and so attached a particular significance to them. Over time they developed the system of twelve signs of the zodiac, based on twelve of the constellations they considered to be particularly important. Most western astrologers use the tropical zodiac beginning with the sign of Aries at the Northern hemisphere Vernal Equinox always on or around March 21 of each year. Due to a phenomenon called precession of the equinoxes , (whereby the map of the night sky has changed over time), the portion of sky occupied by each of the zodiac signs no longer corresponds to that of the constellations. For this reason some Western astrologers use the Sidereal zodiac which still uses the actual star positions.

The twelve signs

In modern Western astrology the signs of the zodiac are believed to represent twelve basic personality types or characteristic modes of expression. The twelve signs are divided into four elements fire, earth, air and water. They are also divided into three qualities, cardinal, mutable and fixed. The personality traits of the twelve signs are as follows:

  • - Aries (The Ram) (fire, cardinal, personal): Keyword: "I am". Freedom-loving, assertive, individualistic, independent, intellectual, pioneering, leader, action-oriented, fiery, straightforward, passionate, powerful. Can be extreme, arrogant, intemperate, violent, headstrong, impulsive. From dates March 21 to April 19.
  • - Taurus (The Bull) (earth, fixed, personal): Keyword: "I have". Resourceful, thorough, devoted, patient, sensual, affectionate, cautious, musical, artistic, solid, earthy, strong, sturdy, kind. Can be slow, possessive, stubborn, acquisitive, indulgent. From dates April 20 to May 20.
  • - Gemini (The Twins) (air, mutable, personal): Keyword: "I think". Logical, inquisitive, lively, active, curious, multi-tasking, talkative, sociable, duality, mercurial, whimsical. Can be superficial, two-faced, inconstant, restless, impulsive, headstrong, stubborn. From dates May 21 to June 21.
  • - Cancer (The Crab) (water, cardinal, personal): Keyword: "I feel". Protective, sensitive, tenacious, family and home oriented, helpful, nurturing, watery, emotional, loving. Can be crabby, clinging, moody, worrying, pessimistic. From dates June 22 to July 22.
  • - Leo (The Lion) (fire, fixed, social): Keyword: "I will". Generous, proud, theatrical, passionate, sunny, bright, kingly, powerful, loves attention, dramatic, independent, noble, creative, leader. Can be arrogant, bossy, boastful, egotistic, snobbish. From dates July 23 to August 22.
  • - Virgo (The Virgin) (earth, mutable, social): Keyword: "I analyze". Practical, imaginative, creative, efficient, critical, work and service oriented, common sense, modest, health conscious, mentally active, helpful, flexible. Can be pedantic, fussy, over-critical, worrying, over fastidious. From August 23 to September 22.
  • - Libra (The Scales) (air, cardinal, social): Keyword: "I balance". Co-operative, diplomatic, urbane, fair, needs partnerships, refined, balanced, graceful, charming, debative, just, open-minded, social. Can be lazy, indecisive, dull, rationalizing. From dates September 23 to October 23.
  • - Scorpio (The Scorpion) (water, fixed, social): Keyword: "I desire". Passionate, secretive, powerful, keenly perceptive, deep, complex, analytical, inquisitive, resourceful, magnetic, intense, hypnotic, sexual, perspicacious, creative, vigorous, untameable, ambitious. Can be jealous, controlling, possessive, aggressive, cunning, cruel. From dates October 24 to November 22.
  • - Sagittarius (The Archer) (fire, mutable, universal): Keyword: "I perceive". Freedom loving, straightforward, extrovert, philosophical, intellectual, fun-loving, arrogant, adventurous, expansive, optimistic. Can be blundering, scattered, careless, jealous, too-serious, tactless. From November 23 to December 21.
  • - Capricorn (The Sea-goat) (earth, cardinal, universal): Keyword: "I use". Prudent, cautious, patient, methodical, practical, reserved, ambitious, authoritative, competent. Can be saturnine, suspicious, rigid, cunning, over-cautious, pessimistic. From dates December 22 to January 19.
  • - Aquarius (The Water Carrier) (air, fixed, universal): Keyword: "I know". Democratic, unconventional, detached, friendship oriented, humanitarian, cause-oriented, believes in the group/society, progressive, sophisticated, trend setting, magnetic, independent, objective, opinionated, devoted to goals, outspoken. Can be eccentric, elitist, dogmatic, aloof. From dates January 20 to February 18.
  • - Pisces (The Fishes) (water, mutable, universal): Keyword: "I believe". Imaginative, sensitive, compassionate, feeling, idealistic, spiritual, accepting, undiscriminating, creative, mystic, self-sacrificing, artistic. Can be impractical, neglectful, escapist, lazy, distracted. From February 19 to March 20.

How important a zodiac sign is for an individual depends on the placement of planets and the ascendant in that sign. If a person has nothing placed in a particular sign, that sign will play no active role in their personality. On the other hand a person with, for example, both the sun and moon in Cancer, will strongly display the characteristics of that sign in their make up.

Sun-sign astrology

Newspapers often print astrology columns which purport to provide guidance on what might occur in a day in relation to the sign of the zodiac that included the sun when the person was born. Astrologers refer to this as the "sun sign", but it is often commonly called the "star sign". These predictions are vague or general; so much so that even practising astrologers consider them of little to no value. Experiments have shown that when people are shown a newspaper horoscope for their own sign along with a newspaper horoscope for a different sign, they judge them to be equally accurate on the average. Professional astrologers claim that a more complete, personalized horoscope is more effective, but critics claim that this is not the case (see external link to "The AstroTest" below).

Western sidereal astrology

There are two camps of thought among western astrologers about the "starting point", 0 degrees Aries, in the zodiac. Sidereal astrology believes that the starting point is at a particular fixed position in the background of stars, while tropical astrology (which is adopted by the majority of Western astrologers) believes that the starting point is when the position of the Sun against the background of stars coincides with the Northern hemisphere vernal equinox (i.e. when the Sun position against the heavens crosses over from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere) each year. In effect, in most Western astrology the link between the zodiac sign and the sky constellation from which it takes its name has been broken, whereas in Sidereal astrology it remains of paramount importance.

As the Earth spins on its axis, it "wobbles" like a top, causing the vernal equinox to move gradually backwards against the star background, (a phenomenon known as the Precession of the equinoxes) at a rate of about 30 degrees (one Zodiacal sign length) every 2,160 years. Thus the two zodiacs would be aligned only once every 26,000 years and were aligned about 2,000 years ago when the zodiac was originally established.

This phenomenon gives us the conceptual basis for the Age of Aquarius, whose "dawning" coincides with the movement of the vernal equinox across the cusp from Pisces to Aquarius in the star background.

The planets

In modern Western astrology the planets represent basic drives or impulses in the human psyche. These planets differ from the definition of a planet in astronomy in that the sun, moon, and recently, Pluto and Ceres (considered as dwarf planets in astronomy), are all considered to be planets for the purposes of astrology. Each planet is also said to be the ruler of one or two zodiac signs, on the basis of a similarity or sympathy between planet and sign. The three modern planets have each been assigned rulership of a zodiac sign by astrologers and Ceres has been suggested as the ruler of Virgo. The eleven planets used in astrology are as follows:

Classical planets

These are the seven heavenly bodies known to the ancients and are believed to represent the seven basic drives in every individual (the sun and moon, also known as 'the lights', are included in this assessment alongside the planets). Astrologers call Mercury, Venus and Mars the 'personal planets', as they represent the most immediate drives. The 'lights' symbolise respectively the existential and sensitive fundamentals of the individuality. Jupiter and Saturn, until very recently the two furthest planets, represent aspects of the individual functioning as part of society.

  • - Sun: Personal strength, vitality and achievement, leadership qualities, power and authority; the need to express oneself; creativity, parenthood, (especially fatherhood), the need for recognition, esteem and personal pride. Ruler of the zodiac sign Leo
  • - Moon: Inner feeling, moods, habits, the unconscious, nurturing and parenthood (especially motherhood), home and family life in general, instinctive reactions to life, need for emotional security and safety. Ruler of the zodiac sign Cancer.
  • - Mercury: Mentality, communication, (especially for short distances), thought processes, teaching, schooling and basic education, literary pursuits, the immediate environment or neighborhood, capacity to be logical, detached and rational. Ruler of the zodiac signs Gemini and Virgo.
  • - Venus: Relationships and partnerships of all kinds, romantic love, desire for beauty, harmony and co-operation, personal comforts and possessions, the arts, fashions and social life. Ruler of the zodiac signs Taurus and Libra.
  • - Mars: Urge for action, personal energy and drive, assertiveness and aggression, sexuality and passions. Sport, physical activity and competition. Ruler of the zodiac sign Aries and traditional ruler of the zodiac sign Scorpio.
  • - Jupiter: Personal growth and expansion, aspirations, desire for freedom, sense of justice and morality, religion, philosophy, higher education, the law, long distance communication, enterprise, risk taking and gambling. Ruler of the zodiac sign Sagittarius and traditional ruler of the zodiac sign Pisces.
  • - Saturn: Personal limitations and structure, sense of responsibility, ambition, career, authority and hierarchy, serious thought, concern for hard realities of life, capacity for hard work, discipline of self and others, tenacity and trustworthiness, capacity to deal with sickness and difficulties in life. Ruler of the zodiac sign Capricorn and traditional ruler of the zodiac sign Aquarius.

Modern planets

These are the planets discovered in modern times, which have since been assigned meanings by Western astrologers. Except Ceres, which is considered to be a 'personal' planet because of its rotation and proximity, the other three are considered to be 'impersonal' planets, representing broad trends and impulses in society rather than in the individual.

  • - Uranus: Rebellion and unconventionality, breaking down of old structures, new ways of thinking and acting, innovation and invention, idealism and progressive thought, clubs, societies, humanitarian organizations, political movements, need to be unique, unusual, desire for individual self expression and independence. Ruler of the zodiac sign Aquarius.
  • - Neptune: Mysticism, transcendence, psychic impulses, feelings of sensitivity and empathy, care of the sick, the mentally ill, animals, charities, religious institutions, hospitals, prisons, retreat from society, artistic inspiration, spirituality, vulnerability to drugs. Ruler of the zodiac sign Pisces.
  • or - Pluto: Transformation and regeneration of person's life, beginnings and endings of phases of life, sex, death, issues of power and control, revealing hidden secrets, big business, police, detective and secret services, surgery, mining, extremes of wealth and poverty. Ruler of the zodiac sign Scorpio.
  • - Ceres: Women's independence, climactic changes, native needs to feel loved and nurtured, the reproductive issues of an adult woman, pregnancy and gestation, family bonds and relationships. For some astrologers is the ruler of the zodiac sign Virgo.

The moon's nodes

Also important in astrology are the moon's nodes. The nodes are where the moon's path crosses the ecliptic. The North node marks the place where the moon crosses from South to North (or ascends), while the South node marks where the moon crosses from North to South (or descends). While they are not considered by Western astrologers to be as important a factor as each of the planets, they are thought to mark sensitive areas that are worth taking into account.

  • - North or ascending Node: The North node tends to be beneficial in its effects, not unlike the planet Jupiter, and a possible source from which to derive some advantage.
  • - South or descending Node: The South node tends to be somewhat adverse in its effects, not unlike the planet Saturn, and a possible source of the draining of energy from the person. It may indicate effort or even sacrifice is required.

The horoscope

Western astrology is based mainly upon the construction of a horoscope , which is a map or chart of the heavens at a particular moment in time. The moment chosen is the beginning of the existence of the subject of the horoscope, as it is believed that the subject will carry with it the pattern of the heavens from that moment throughout its life. The most common form of horoscope is the natal chart based on the moment of a person's birth; though in theory a horoscope can be drawn up for the beginning of anything, from a business enterprise to the foundation of a nation state.

Interpretation

In Western horoscopic astrology the interpretation of a horoscope is governed by:

Some astrologers also use the position of various mathematical points such as the Arabic parts.

The primary angles

There are four primary angles in the horoscope (though the cusps of the houses are often included as important angles by some astrologers).

  • - The ascendant or rising sign is the eastern point where the ecliptic and horizon intersect. During the course of a day, because of the Earth's rotation, the entire circle of the ecliptic will pass through the ascendant and will be advanced by about 1°. This provides us with the term rising sign', which is the sign of the zodiac that was rising in the east at the exact time that the horoscope or natal chart is calculated. In creating a horoscope the ascendant is traditionally placed as the left-hand side point of the chart. In most house systems the ascendant lies on the cusp of the 1st house of the horoscope.

The ascendant is generally considered the most important and personalized angle in the horoscope by the vast majority of astrologers. It signifies a person's awakening consciousness, in the same way that the Sun's appearance on the eastern horizon signifies the dawn of a new day. Due to the fact that the ascendant is specific to a particular time and place, it signifies the individual environment and conditioning that a person receives during their upbringing, and also the circumstances of their childhood. For this reason, the ascendant is also concerned with how a person has learned to present him or herself to the world, especially in public and in impersonal situations.

The opposite point to the ascendant in the west is the descendant , which denotes how a person reacts in their relationships with others. It also show the kind of person we are likely to be attracted to, and our ability to form romantic attachments. In most house systems the descendant lies on the cusp of the 7th house of the horoscope.

  • - The midheaven or medium coeli is the point on the ecliptic that is furthest above the plane of the horizon. For events occurring where the planes of the ecliptic and the horizon coincide, the limiting position for these points is located 90° from the ascendant. For astrologers, the midheaven traditionally indicates a person's career, status, aim in life, aspirations, public reputation, and life goal. In quadrant house systems the midheaven lies on the cusp of the 10th house of the horoscope.

The opposite point to the midheaven is known as the imum coeli. For astrologers the nadir or IC traditionally indicates the circumstances at the beginning and end of a person's life, their parents and the parental home, and their own domestic life. In quadrant house systems it lies on the cusp of the 4th house of the horoscope.

The houses

The horoscope is divided by astrologers into twelve portions called the houses. The houses of the horoscope are interpreted as being twelve different spheres of life or activity. There are various ways of calculating the houses in the horoscope or birth chart. However, there is no dispute about their meanings, and the twelve houses are usually interpreted as follows:

1st House: The self, one's appearance, the body, physical characteristic etc. The Ego. The start of anything.

2nd House: Money and Possessions, values and priorities. Growth of anything.

3rd House: Communications, siblings, neighbors and neighborhood matters, local travel and transport, education, everyday matters.

4th House: The home and family, the mother or mother figure, caring for someone or something. Conservation. The beginning and end of life.

5th House: Pleasures and leisure, holidays, games and gambling. Children. Creativity. Love affairs and sex for fun rather than a deep relationship.

6th House: Work, duties and chores. Employers, employees and one's job. Health and well-being.

7th House: Relationships, marriage and business partnerships. Agreements and treaties. Also open enemies and war.

8th House: Birth, death, beginnings and endings. Sexual relationships and deeply committed relationships of all kinds. Joint monies, taxes, legacies, and corporate finances. The occult and psychic matters.

9th House: Foreign travel and foreign countries and cultures. Religion, the law and higher education. All things which seek to expand one's experience. Freedom.

10th House: Aims and ambitions, direction in life. Your status in society, your career. The house of celebrity.

11th House: Detached relationships such as friends and acquaintances. Groups, clubs and societies, especially with a charitable or humane aim.

12th House: Mysticism, the occult, psychic matters. Places of seclusion such as hospitals, prisons and institutions. Retreat and reflection and self-sacrifice.

Many modern astrologers assume that the houses relate to their corresponding signs, i.e. that the first house has a natural affinity with the first sign, Aries, and so on.

Aspects

The aspects are the angles the planets make to each other in the horoscope, and also to the ascendant, midheaven, descendant and nadir. The aspects are measured by the angular distance along the ecliptic in degrees and minutes of celestial longitude between two points, as viewed from the earth. They indicate focal points in the horoscope where the energies involved are given extra emphasis. The more exact the angle, the more powerful the aspect, although an allowance of a few degrees each side of the aspect called an orb is allowed for interpretation. The following are the aspects in order of importance

  • - Conjunction 0° (orb ±8°). The conjunction is a major point in the chart, giving strong emphasis to the planets involved. The planets will act together to outside stimulus and act on each other.
  • - Opposition 180° (orb ±8°). The opposition is indicative of tension, conflict and confrontation, due to the polarity between the two elements involved. Stress arises when one is used over the other, causing an imbalance; but the opposition can work well if the two parts of the aspect are made to complement each other in a synthesis.
  • - Trine 120°(orb ±8°). The trine indicates harmony, and ease of expression, with the two elements reinforcing each other. The trine is a source of artistic and creative talent, but can be a 'line of least resistance' to a person of weak character.
  • - Square 90°(orb ±8°). The square indicates frustration, inhibitions, disruption and inner conflict, but can become a source of energy and activation to a person determined to overcome limitations.
  • - Sextile 60°(orb ±6°). The sextile is similar to the trine, but of less significance. It indicates ease of communication between the two elements involved, with compatibility and harmony between them.
  • - Quincunx 150°(orb ±3°). The quincunx indicates difficulty and stress, due to incompatible elements being forced together. It can mean an area of self neglect in a person's life (especially health), or obligations being forced on a person. The quincunx can vary from minor to quite major in impact.
  • - Semisextile 30° (orb ±2°). Slight in effect. Indicates an area of life where a conscious effort to be positive will have to be made.
  • - Semisquare 45°(orb ±2°). Indicates somewhat difficult circumstance. Similar in effect to semisextile.
  • - Sesquiquadrate 135°(orb ±2°). Indicates somewhat stressful conditions. Similar to semisextile.
  • - Quintile 72° (orb ±2°). Slight in effect. Indicates talent and vaguely fortunate circumstances.
  • - Biquintile 144° (orb ±2°). Slight in effect. Indicates talent and vaguely fortunate circumstances.
  • - Retrograde: A planet is retrograde when it appears to move backwards across the sky when seen from the earth, due to one planet moving more quickly relative to the other. Although it is not an aspect, some astrologers believe that it should be included for consideration in the chart. Planets which are retrograde in the natal chart are considered by them to be potential weak points.

References

See also

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