Astrology has been around for about 5000 years, going back to the Sumerians. Ancient people watched the night sky and saw that against the fixed background of the Milky Way there were lights that followed a path across the sky. For some peoples, like the Mayans, these planets were gods and goddesses. Just as people began to connect the dots of the stars to draw the constellations, so they connected the dots of the planets’ movements with the dots of events on earth and astrology was born. As above, so below.
Astrology faded with the Enlightenment and came back alive in the late 1960s, when so much was up for experimentation. In the 1980s, astrology went more Jungian, more psychological, and moved away from its former role of dire predictor and moved toward mapping human development. The astrology chart, or natal chart, is a map of the planets in the sky when you were born. When I use the word planets I include the Sun and Moon. No one knows why this map can help describe a person or predict events in that person’s life. Jung said, in an introduction to a book on the I Ching, that the reason the I Ching works is that whatever happens in a moment represents that moment. That’s how I understand astrology – that when a person is born, that person represents the moment and so does a map of the planets. The chart is like a road map – in the same way a road map is not the earth itself, so a chart is not the person; it can only gives clues to what that person is like.
Astrology is a symbolic language, a language that uses the movements of real bodies in the sky. I think of the Sun in someone’s chart as representing the heroic journey that person is on -- like Odysseus, to come home – to come home to who one really is. The Moon is the boat that takes us on that journey – our needs and emotional responses. Mercury is the mind, the data-gatherer and decider. Venus is what you want, how you love, the artist in you. Mars is what you generate energy for, how you do anger and compete. Jupiter is the energy of expansion, the optimist and goal-setter. Saturn is discipline, focus, maturity, the energy of being tested. Uranus is the Trickster, the nonconformist, the part of us that can say “Hell no.” Neptune is the great dissolver of ego, the energy of letting go and having faith. Pluto is the energy of death/rebirth, “the evolutionary journey of the soul.” And soul didn’t arrive here to take it easy and make life a Bud Light commercial. James Hillman, a Jungian who had long studied astrology, said in The Soul’s Code, “Experience is the one and only nourishment of soul.” The ego – what I call the bus driver who only wants to do the regular route – will have many opinions about difficult experiences and will wish them gone.
Each planet is in a sign. Imagine the sky as a pie divided into 12 slices. Aries is the first slice of that pie, Pisces the last.
Aries is a cardinal fire sign – cardinal means leadership, initiating energy, and fire means action, sometimes impulsive, heroic action with Aries. Taurus is a fixed earth sign – fixed means stubborn and earth means of the real world, of the body - the pleasure of the senses. Gemini is a mutable air sign – mutable means flexible and air means a thinker - a charming thinker. Cancer is a cardinal water sign – again, leadership qualities in creating family or a nest, and water means emotional. Leo is a fixed fire sign – again, stubborn, and fire – the action of creativity. Virgo is a mutable earth sign – flexible and of the real world, quality is a key word, gentle healers. Libra is a cardinal air sign – leadership qualities in a thinker, a communicator, a harmonizer. Scorpio is a fixed water sign – stubborn and loyal in feeling, magician of the zodiac. Sagittarius is a mutable fire sign – flexible, on fire with knowing, the philosopher cowboy or cowgirl. Capricorn is a cardinal earth sign – leadership, really the boss, in the material world. I made up a saying about the earth signs – “The earth signs can save our nest – Taurus because it loves the earth, Virgo will figure out what to do, and Capricorn will oversee the project.” Aquarius is a fixed air sign – stubborn thinker, willing to be broadly political, eccentric, innovative. Pisces is a mutable water sign – flexible feeler, feeling everything, the empath. I once heard a joke about Pisces that they’re willing to walk a mile to get their feelings hurt. (I’m a Pisces so I can tell that joke.)
If you are an earth or water sign – the feminine signs - especially a Cancer or Virgo, you have to be careful reading about yourself in astrology. Cancer and Virgo were once the most loved signs (Cancer is ruled by the great Moon Goddess herself) but astrology was rewritten in the Middle Ages to get rid of the old Goddess worship. And so the signs representing the beloved goddesses concerned with fertility and feeding the people and storing the harvest for winter ended up on the bottom.
The houses of a chart are determined by the time and place of your birth. The Ascendant or rising sign is determined by what sign was on the horizon of the earth at the time you were born. The houses lay out a pattern of development. I think of the first house being like one-year-old – its all about me. Second house – the two-year-old who says “That’s mine.” “I want that.” The third house – the three-year-old curious and learning to speak. The fourth house – the four-year-old who says “I live here. This is my family.” The fifth house – the five-year-old who goes out to play. The sixth house – first job, how one works. Seventh house – first relationship and community life. Eighth house – first intimacy, the underworld when the relationship ends. Ninth house – off to college, off to travel. Tenth house – first career, place in the world (includes motherhood). Eleventh house – career isn’t enough, one needs change and experience. Twelfth house – one needs to withdraw into solitude to nourish spirituality and imagination.
* * *