On Monday, November 11, the planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, beginning at 7:35 AM EST and lasting five-and-a-half hours. It will be visible during daylight hours throughout the Americas and seen as a small dot on the sun’s surface, with viewing through solar-filtered telescopes and binoculars recommended.*
Meanwhile, the October 28, 2019 issue of The New Yorker magazine includes an article about the resurgence of interest in astrology. Titled “Starstruck: Why we’re crazy for astrology,” by Christine Smallwood, the article claims that interest in this ancient discipline petered out after the 1970s but has made a comeback in recent years, especially among millennials. The current trend employs all the panache of modern technology, from pod-casts to computer apps and on-line chat rooms. There are on-line classes. There are zodiac-themed products like clothes and lingerie. It has become a booming business, complete with all the glitz of modern commercialization.
The astrologers interviewed in the article highlight astrology’s ability to describe character in non-judgmental terms. They downplay predictions, and emphasize timing. In short, it appears that this new appreciation reaches a deeper level than I remember from the 1970s and 1980s.
I have studied astrology for over 35 years, and still keep an ephemeris (a table of planetary movements) beside my reading chair. I still have the tape recording from my introductory horoscope reading. I was so impressed with the astrologer’s ability to “see my soul,” that I bought the classic beginner’s guide, Isabel Hickey’s Astrology: a Cosmic Science, that day. For several years, I was possibly obsessed and collected two full notebooks of horoscopes on everyone I met. I joined the American Federation of Astrologers, attended conferences, hobnobbed with other astrologers, and shared the language, which sounds like a secret code to the uninitiated.
I soon learned to downplay my interest, and finally, not to mention it, because people were simply not interested, scornful, or even threatened. But I found the astrological approach consistently provides a comprehensive framework for understanding human character. My natal chart highlighted potentials that soon prompted me to take the science pre-requisites to enter, then attend, medical school. I followed up with a psychiatry residency but was astonished to learn that astrology far surpassed psychiatry in its grasp of the totality of the human psyche.
Fundamentally, psychiatry—and possibly all Western medicine—focuses only on the negative, on abnormalities, disorders, or illnesses. Astrology offers balance.
There are many ideas about whether, why, or how astrology works. After all these years, I’m still skeptical, even though it has greatly contributed to my philosophy of life. In the early days, I felt in touch with the ages, knowing I was studying a system that in one form or another has evolved over 6000 years (at least), in every known culture. It corresponds to the “archetypes” that Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described. Jung himself was a student of astrology and alchemy, for their spiritual aspects.
Fundamentally, it is based on geometry and is the parent of astronomy. Long before we had religions or governments, we had the sun, moon, and stars. Early man looked to the heavenly bodies for guidance and learned to predict the coming of the seasons by the gradual lengthening and shortening of days. The moon’s cycles, too, became associated with certain kinds of earthly events. Over time, and over cultures, the visible planets (“planet” means “wanderer”) were noted to move against a background of stars that formed patterns of constellations in a ring around the earth. In Western astrology, some of these patterns became the twelve constellations of the zodiac.
It’s important to note that a horoscope is completely impersonal in that it is a symbolic map of of the skies as seen at a specific moment in a specific place. That’s why an astrologer can cast a horoscope for anything, such as the time a question is asked (horary astrology), the signing of a contract, or the birth of a nation. The natal horoscope, then, pinpoints a time and place, and an individual’s birth is an event that occurs then and there. The individual then embodies all the potential of the moment. As the child grows, the moment becomes personified through the individual’s experiences, choices, and reactions.
Given that we are, so far, earthbound beings, it’s understandable that astrology would take a geocentric perspective. At birth, the individual is stamped with the cosmic pattern of that time and place. I like to think in terms of electromagnetic frequencies, with each planet (as well as the sun and moon) having its own electromagnetic character. As they move through time in their various cycles, and with respect to each other, the patterns change, as with a kaleidoscope, and either influence or reflect the meaning behind happenings in an individual’s life.
To understand the concept behind astrology, it’s convenient to think of a natal horoscope as a coded depiction of that person’s life drama. The individual is the star of her own play. In Western astrology, the planets–with the personalities of the Roman gods for which they are named–are the supporting actors; the signs are the filters or lights that they operate through; and the houses the props and stage.
As the sun, moon, and planets continue their cycles through a person’s life, they make angles (called “aspects”) to their natal positions, with each moving at its own pace.
Common questions about astrology have to do with whether it is presumed to “control” people’s lives. My answer is a different question. “Does the clock control your life?” No, but it makes sense to go to the grocery store when it is open, if you want to buy food.
“Shouldn’t a life be timed from the moment of conception?” is another common question. I respond that until birth, by whatever means, an infant is shielded from external cosmic influences by its mother’s protective vibrational field.
I once asked a fellow astrologer what she valued most about the study of astrology. “Tolerance,” she said. I had reached the same understanding on my own, and I still find that to be the case. There are no “good” or “bad” moments, and each moment is unique in its opportunities and challenges. Considering the infinite possibilities inherent under the cosmic clock that astrology reveals, the potential to deepen and bring that moment to fruition in a “meaningful” life becomes a horoscope’s greatest gift and challenge.
*For the astrologically literate, on November 11, Mercury will be retrograde and conjunct the sun at 18-19 degrees of Scorpio. This conjunction will square my natal Mercury in Leo from 2nd to 9th houses, perhaps inspiring this blog post.**
**Added November 13, 2019: Haha. The joke’s on me. I was doing something else when I suddenly realized the conjunction noted above occurred in Scorpio, not Sagittarius, thus squaring my natal Mercury in Leo and triggering my grand square in fixed signs. The full moon in Taurus on the next day (November 12) was involved, too, with the moon conjunct my natal Jupiter at 19 degrees Taurus that day. This is an embarrassing error, but is consistent with other features of my horoscope that indicate public embarrassment. It challenges me to admit error, and apologize to anyone I might have led astray.
As my mother would say, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Interesting article, Katharine. I’ve always been fascinated by astrology and the signs of the Zodiac.
The Catholic Church doesn’t like it, supposedly, but I’ve been told the Vatican library has the most extensive collection of books on astrology in the world.
Nothing like having your own chart done, if you know the time and place. I’m sure California is loaded with good astrologers.
Thanks for reading and the compliment.
How is astrology parent of astronomy?
Astrology came first. Various forms of it have been around for thousands of years. In comparison, astronomy as we know it, arose with the invention of the telescope by Galileo in the 1600s.
There’s a lot of correspondence between astrology and astronomy, such as the symbols used for the planets, the zodiac, and the regular cycles of planets, the sun, and the moon. Eclipses. The equinoxes and the solstices. The difference is that the astrologers ascribe psychological meaning to these events, while astronomers do not.
It could be said that astrology predated religion, in the sense that the heavens directed man’s activities by the regularity of day and night, the lunar cycle, and the seasons.
You are right: there is a lot of disinterest, scorn, and even perception of threat, due to misunderstanding, to go along with astrology. I think if more people could understand how to be ‘astrologically literate,’ there would be less of those disinterest, scorn, and the perception of threat. What interests me is the possibility that my birthplace and time defines ‘me’ and it has been and will be the same no matter how many times I live this life.
Good to hear from you. Lately, I’ve been watching transits (the movement of planets in the sky now) closely, and paying close attention to how they relate to my life and the current world trends. I don’t believe in making predictions, because that puts binders on the future. People become invested in being right, even if they are predicting negatives, and then overlook alternatives. It’s amazing how many people and institutions are trying to predict, though. It’s especially evident with this coronavirus scare.