When I first began writing about astrology I was feeling the pull to continue my studies in traditional methods. I started out thinking I’d blog about natal charts but once I got started, the ideas quickly broadened to include write-ups of horary questions, explanation of astro-fundamentals, and brief essays on the philosophies behind traditional methods.
For the past few months I’ve been transferring my body of work from a former BlogSpot site to this website. It’s been a fun process, re-reading old posts and looking at how my knowledge of astrology has developed over the years. Below is my very first post, from Dec 12, 2009.
Astrology, traditional and modern
Traditional is the term used to describe Western astrology as it was practiced before the modern era. Traditional astrology has a clarity and rigor that modern astrology lacks, yet relatively few people seem to know much about it.
I am trained in a traditional method called horary. Horary means “relating to the hours” and is pronounced ‘HOR-air-ee.' I have a tremendous respect for horary, thanks to my training: it really works! Most people I come in contact with, however, show little interest in horary, for reasons I continue to ponder. They still want to have their birth charts read! I will continue to promote horary, but I can no longer put aside the challenges of traditional natal work.
How it all started
I remember being about twelve and finding my birth certificate among some papers in my mother's closet. For some reason, I looked immediately at my time of birth and memorized it: 1:12 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time. That was my first encounter with astrology.
The next encounter was in 1986 during a major crisis. Looking for guidance and answers, I ordered my first birth chart analysis. Filling out the form was easy because I had known my birth data for years! The report was computer-generated. Some of the material rang true, but some didn’t, and the pieces didn't fit together well. Nevertheless, I knew that I had stumbled upon something great.
Two years later I had my chart read by an astrologer friend who had been trained at the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London. She recommended several books to get me started on my own. I read those, then many more. I studied my own chart over time with the help of additional reports, such as solar returns and yearly transits. I subscribed to The Mountain Astrologer. I analyzed charts for family and friends. Word spread, and I started to get some clients.
I loved astrology, but it would take me hours to complete a natal analysis. I used the typical ‘cookbook’ method and relied heavily on reference material, especially the work of Robert Hand. My readings were generally well received, but the process was too cumbersome. I knew there had to be a better way.
In June of 2000 I gave birth to my first and only child. What a blessing! And of course, everything changed. Absorbed in the work of caring for an infant, I couldn't wrap my brain around birth charts any longer. (They say that having a baby makes your brain like Swiss cheese, and frankly, I believe it!) After a few charts fell flat, I put the work aside. I wasn’t sure when or how I would return to it.
Modern astrology encompasses some wildly varying techniques. The student faces an array of confusing choices: Which zodiac to use, and why? Which of a dozen house systems to use for dividing up the sky? How many aspects (angles between planets) to consider? What about Chiron, asteroids, trans-neptunians?? Not to mention the biggest challenge: what does all of this actually mean?
I wondered how such disparate methods could all claim to be valid. It made no sense to me. I longed for a trustworthy method that would give me accurate results.
One summer's day in 2003 while my daughter romped in the local wading pool, I read an article in The Mountain Astrologer about traditional astrologer John Frawley. The article described horary astrology, a technique I had never heard of before. Horary wasn't natal astrology, but it appeared to be the method I was seeking!
Horary is the art of obtaining specific answers to specific questions by means of a chart. Horary requires no birth data, so it is accessible to anyone. It is designed to address a person’s concerns right here and now, providing accurate and verifiable information to assist them. How awesome!
Inspired, I enrolled in Frawley’s horary apprenticeship. The course was excellent; I am ever thankful to John for his wonderful teaching. Two years later I emerged full of enthusiasm and ready to practice. I am blessed to have served a number of clients using this method.
The current project
My intention in this blog is to analyze birth charts using what I already know and to write about my findings. I will study traditional methods using a few basics texts, including all of John Frawley's books as well as William Lilly's Christian Astrology, Book 3. Having this blog will keep me accountable to myself. If I reach a few people and teach a little in the process, I will be happy!
Here are some guidelines for traditional practice. Modern astrologers will recognize some significant differences. (My apologies to beginners, as this may be too technical for you.)
Outer planets. Traditional astrologers do not generally look at Uranus, Neptune and Pluto unless they are very close to the chart angles or one of the original seven planets. (The Moon and Sun are luminaries, not planets, but we refer to them as such for the sake of convenience.) In particular, outer planets do not rule signs. Therefore, Mars (not Pluto) rules Scorpio, Saturn (not Uranus) rules Aquarius, and Jupiter (not Neptune) rules Pisces.
Aspects. Traditional astrologers use only the five major aspects: conjunction (0 degrees), opposition (180 degrees), sextile (60 degrees), square (90 degrees) and trine (120 degrees). We will not be looking at the quintile, semisextile, septile, biseptile, sesquiquadrate, etc. etc.
Aspect orbs. We will look for applying aspects of a few degrees--three or four at most. Generally speaking, the tighter the aspect orb, the more powerful the aspect is. Personally I am very interested in partile aspects (meaning "in the same degree"). For example, a planet at 23.01 Virgo and one at 23.49 Sagittarius are in partile square).
Dignities determine planetary strengths and weaknesses. This, along with the basic nature of the planet, tells us whether a planet is benefic (helpful) or malefic (harmful) in its influence. Essential dignities are determined by sign placement, accidental dignities by house placement. NOTE: Dignities are paid very little attention in modern astrology, yet they are crucial in understanding any chart!
Antiscia (“shadows”) of planets and where these fall in the chart.
Fixed stars and their placements. We will look mostly at the major fixed stars: Aldebaran, Antares, Regulus, Fomalhaut, Spica, Algol and a few others, when they are in close aspect to important points or planets in the chart.
Temperament. The first step in traditional natal astrology is to determine the person's temperament. There are four temperaments: choleric (hot and dry), melancholic (cold and dry), sanguine (hot and moist) and phlegmatic (cold and moist). Each of us is a mix of all four to some degree, but one or two often dominate.
The journey begins
In this work I am both student and explorer. My hope is that you might accompany me in this exploration and share in the learning and enjoyment. Welcome aboard!
Postscript: I neglected to mention planetary receptions in this introduction. Along with dignities, receptions are ignored in modern astrology and are central to traditional methods.
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