20 March 2019

When is an Equinox not an "equi"-"nox"?

Image Public Domain
Most folks know that the word equinox comes from Latin, meaning "equal (equi) night (nox)." We talk about it as one of the two days of the year when there is an equal amount of daylight and darkness over the whole Earth. We're taught that the Sun spends exactly twelve hours above the horizon, from its time of rising in the east, to its setting in the west.
However, that's not really true. In my location in middle New England, the day and night were equal about four days ago. In more southerly regions, it might have been between 5-7 days ago.
How can this be? The discrepancy is due to the fact that we measure the Sun in a couple of different ways. The Sun takes up about one degree on the sphere of the sky, and we measure its location at the center of the Sun's disk. But the upper edge of the Sun will come over the horizon about two minutes before the center of the disk aligns with it. And because light curves around the horizon, it will appear that the Sun is starting to rise a few minutes before that. And we don't consider the Sun as having fully set until the entire disk drops below the western horizon, again a few minutes after the center of it aligns with the horizon line.
Of course, some of these factors will change depending on what your local horizon looks like. If you live in a valley, or have thick bushes or trees on the eastern or western horizon, then the rising will be delayed somewhat and/or the setting will happen a bit earlier.
But the good news for all you Sun worshipers out there is that the days are already more than half light than darkness. Here in the foothills of the Berkshires, there is still some snow on the ground, and we are expecting one or two more snowfalls of an inch or two in the next couple of weeks. But the daffodils and crocuses are insisting that Spring has indeed arrived!

25 September 2018

Day and night are not really equal on the equinox, which occurred here on the east coast of USA on Saturday 21:54. Daytime starts when sun's orb begins to come over horizon and ends when it disappears. Also, sunlight is refracted over horizon.
That means on fall equinox, day is still longer than night. A few days after fall equinox, and a few days before spring equinox, day/night is actually pretty equal. Today, daylight will be ~2 minutes longer than dark and tomorrow, ~1 less.

24 November 2012

Current Eclipses Affecting Natal Charts

I had a private question about how a Lunar Eclipse can affect one when it falls on the birthday. Here was my response:

Well, it's happened to me (solar eclipse). It all depends on a number of things. But a few guidelines:

  • Eclipses are like shining a big spotlight onto an area of your life. They usually bring turmoil in that area. Lunar eclipses less so than Solar ones.
  • Eclipse effects are usually not felt on any given day, so don't expect big things on your birthday. The effects often start a bit before the eclipse and last for about 6 months (lunar) or a year (solar).
  • The Solar Return is the chart for the exact moment that the Sun gets back to the degree in the zodiac where it was when you were born. This happens within a day of your birthday each year and the chart cast for that exact moment is a type of snapshot of the year to come. So any eclipse happening on your birthday will likely be part of your Solar Return chart, and "in effect" for the whole year (even a Lunar eclipse).
  • To determine which areas of life will be most affected, look to see what sign the eclipse is in. Wherever that sign is on your birth chart will indicate the area of life to look for effects. (E.g., first house, health & happiness; second house, money; etc.)
  • Since this is happening in the Solar Return chart, also look to the house in the Solar Return chart where the eclipse is happening; this area will also be affected in a major way.
  • Since the Moon is in Gemini for this eclipse, look to where Gemini falls in your birth chart and in the Solar Return chart.

This is not exhaustive, but give you an idea of how complex delineating any kind of astro-event.

13 March 2012

Mercury Retro Series (a.k.a. the Mercury Retrograde Survival Kit)

Since I find myself often writing to correct lots of misperceptions about retrograde planets in general, and Mercury retrogrades in particular, I've decided to assemble all of the links to previous posts on the topic in one blog post, so that I can easily refer to them in the future.

So here they are in (almost) chronological order, and are probably best read in this order.

1. Retrograde Schmetrograde 
2. Retrograde Planets
3. Retrograde Planets: What to do?
4. Not Again With This Retrograde Thing! (Not Really, Read On...)
5. Mercury Retrograde - Again
6. Here We Go Again
7. Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow"
8. Harping on Mercury

Harping on Mercury

Yes, that's me harping. It seems that every time Mercury goes retrograde, I write a flurry of blog posts on the matter. You'd think that it was a big deal with me (Mercury retrograde); in fact, it's quite the opposite. Whenever Mercury goes retrograde, the internet is flooded with Stupid Astrology. And so here I am, harping on the matter once again.

Let me be clear about what I mean by "Stupid Astrology." I am first of all, not blaming non-astrologers for posting or re-posting spurious information about astrology (unless of course, they are non-astrologers claiming to be actual astrologers). But most of this false information comes from two main sources: 1. modern astrological publications, and by extension, modern astrologers themselves, and 2. the insipid custom in modern astrology to free-associate and then make astrological pronouncements based on their "conclusions."

For more detail on some illegitimate modern astrological associations, see this post

No, really, go read it first, and then come back to continue with this one. 

OK, see what I mean? Most modern astrologers aren't even working quite within the astrological tradition, as we traditional astrologers have understood it for over 2,000 years. 

I'll refer you to two other posts of mine on Retrogrades (specifically Mercury retros), so that I don't have to re-write them here.
Retrograde Planets: What to do?
Retrograde Schmetrograde

(Note that for most of the astrological tradition, nothing was said about the general effects of a planet going retrograde; these things were delineated always in the context of a specific astrological chart.)

What I want to focus on today is the timing of the Mercury retrograde cycles. 

I wrote about this in my post Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow." It's a short post, and I recommend reading it before the rest of this one.

Building on what I wrote there, I want to direct your attention to a chart that I found online last year. I've been saving it for just this occasion. This was last year's Mercury cycle laid out. When any planet goes retrograde, it slows down in its apparent motion through the zodiac, or against the background of the ecliptic. This has to do with a number of factors, including things like the fact that the orbits are not perfectly circular, but elliptical; and the fact that some of the planets are between the Earth and the Sun, while others orbit outside the orbit of the Earth. 

When a planet gets to the degree where it is going to turn backwards, or forwards, it is considered "Stationary." It may continue to move a bit, but it will not go past the limits of that degree. Traditionally, the Station is the practical beginning of the retrograde or direct period. That is, when a planet like Mercury is "stationary retrograde," it may still be inching forward, but the effects of the retrograde are already beginning, since it is now in the degree where the "turnaround" will happen. Likewise, when Mercury is "stationary direct," the retrograde period is, for practical purposes, at an end.

However, in modern astrological mythology, there is this idea of a "shadow" period, and the corresponding idea that the planet has to totally clear any territory that it covered during the retrograde period, before it is "free and clear," so to speak of ill effects.

For example, if Mercury goes retrograde at 5 Capricorn, and is going to go back to 19 Sagittarius (as in the first line of the table below), then even before Mercury goes retrograde, the ill effects are supposedly felt from the time that Mercury hits 19 Sagittarius. Likewise, when Mercury goes direct at 19 Sag, it is said to have to go past the point where it originally went retrograde (5 Capricorn) before its effects are "normal" again. While one must admit that right before and after a retrograde period, the fact that a normally-fast moving planet is moving very slowly will bring some hindrances still, this whole "shadow" effect is a thoroughly modern concept. 

What fascinated me about this table is the totals in the last column. An individual Mercury retrograde lasts, on average, for about 22+ days each time (just over 3 weeks). If one adds up the "shadow" and "release" periods as well, as the table below does, one sees that the effects of poor little Mercury retrograde last for (on average) 190 days each year. 
Mercury Retrograde 2011
Retro Station
Direct Station
19 Sagittarius 37
Mon, Nov 22, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Fri, Dec 10. 2010
19 Sagittarius 37
Thu, Dec 30, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
12 Aries 54
Thu, Mar 17
24 Aries 19
Wed, Mar 30
12 Aries 54
Sat, Apr 23
24 Aries 19
Wed, May 11
18 Leo 45
Fri, Jul 15
01 Virgo 12
Wed, Aug 3
18 Leo 41
Fri, Aug 26
01 Virgo 12
Fri, Sep 9
03 Sagittarius 51
Sat, Nov 5, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Thu, Nov 24, 2011
03 Sagittarius 51
Wed, Dec 14, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Sun, Jan 1, 2012
18 (til Nov 22)

Yes, read that again. 190 days. For the non-mathematically inclined among us, that's more than 50% of the year. In other posts I've mentioned that due, in part, to the complete unwillingness of modern astrologers to acknowledge the presence of malefics in astrology (usually Saturn, Mars, and a few others), they need to squeeze all-that-is-bad into one thing: Mercury retrograde. As if Mercury were the most important planet in the Solar System or in anyone's birth chart. And as if going retrograde were the only thing (or the worst) that could affect Mercury.

So here, we see the modern solution: declare the negative effects of one planet to last for over six months of the year, and then we can blame it for everything!

06 March 2012

Astrology and Mythology

I was reading a blog recently by a non-astrologer, who made some musings about the current Mars retrograde. One of the things that struck me (amongst some otherwise good ideas) was the idea that Mars is the active, aggressive part of sexuality. This is, indeed, the understanding of many modern astrologers, and it is certainly from these modern, pop-astrologers that the blog writer, along with many others, gets his information about astrology. 

Traditionally, Venus is all things having to do with love and sex. This runs the gamut from love to lust; from passive to not only active, but even aggressive; from demure to whore; etc. There is no need for Mars to be invoked here in order to explain aggressive love. This brings out an important point that seems to have been introduced into modern understanding, which is quite incorrect. To wit: 


It is certain that the tradition of watching the classical planets in the night sky and even using them for omens and auguries predates the more recent cast of characters in any particular culture's mythological pantheon. The planet Mars, for example, was known by many cultures and by many names before the Greeks started referring to it as the "star of Ares," or the Romans called it "Mars." The ancients of many cultures considered these planets, and the angels/spirits that inhabit them and which they embody, as divinities; each culture took it's turn (and still does) at naming their divinities, including planetary ones. However, these planetary divinities predate and precede any one culture's mythology. In other words, planet Mars preexisted the Roman god of war.

This idea was brought home to me when I was speaking on astrology and magic last summer, and someone asked about how one approaches this matter if your primary pantheon is something like Celtic. It hadn't even really occurred to me at the time, but the fact that these planets bear the names (mostly) of Roman gods and goddesses does not mean that they are one and the same with this band of characters. So in fact, you may call these planets whatever names, from whatever cultures, speak most loudly to you. Don't get stuck into thinking that astrology is subject to one culture's way of understanding that name. Planetary gods and goddesses are far greater than more culturally-limited figures that may bear the same names.

For example, in Roman mythology, Jupiter is always turning himself into some creature in order to disguise himself and go screw the wood nymphs. This also has him perpetually in trouble with his wife. This has absolutely nothing to do with the astrological Jupiter. Also, Mars and Venus are coupled in Roman mythology, while in astro-theology, there is no sense that Venus "needs" Mars for sex to happen. Venus is fine bringing this about all by herself.

This brings me back to where I began. Astrologically, sex is NOT a function of Mars. Venus can handle this by herself, thank-you-very-much. She is perfectly capable of being aggressive and even rough. But she is not Mars. Mars is only "needed" here if the issue is one of rape, which is functionally about violence, not about sex. One may also argue that astrologically a very well-functioning Mars might act as a protector for Venus, and there may be some legitimacy to that, but still, this is removed from the arena of sexual contact. 

By taking the active functions of sex away from Venus, we have removed an important piece of the divine feminine, and while trying to be feminist about all this, have essentially disempowered Venus completely and relegated her to a totally passive role in sexual matters. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Venus (and by extension women and their sexuality). By allowing only Mars to be aggressively sexual, we disempower women. This, in and of itself, amounts to a rape of sorts: a violent imposition of Mars and a stealing of that which properly belongs to Venus.

Any proper understanding of Venus and Mars, and astrological planets at all, must separate itself from any one particular culture's mythology and deal with astro-theology on its own terms.
And you're gonna like it!

06 January 2012

That's Not Astrology

One of my complaints about many modern astrologers is that what they are doing simply isn't astrology. They employ astrology to give what they are saying a veneer of respectability. One might question whether astrology can really lend anything a sense of respectability, given how it is perceived by the mainstream media. But the public is generally more accepting of it than we might at first think. But the public is also misinformed about astrology. Folks generally don't know much more about it than their Sun sign, and maybe a bit of what that supposedly means.

But my complaint isn't with the general public. After all, I don't expect non-experts to know expert-level information in any field. My complaint is with those who are passing themselves off as astrologers, while doing something completely other than astrology. For example, I see on Facebook a weekly video that some of my friends post (some of them being modern style astrologers). This is a very popular video series by someone purporting to be giving an astrological "forecast" for the week. Aside from my issues with the modern astrological perspective in these updates, what this person is doing is simply laying out a "metaphysical" set of desires or goals, and then using current astrological placements to justify them.

While goals such as being at peace, seizing the moment, becoming one's best self, etc., may be admirable, that's not what current astrological transits are always telling us to do, necessarily. The presenter gives it away in saying: "These are the astrological underpinnings of what I want to say to you today." So admittedly, the goal isn't really an astrological forecast, rather the goal is to preach about something and then use current astrology to back it up. This is quite similar to what preachers do in churches; they will cherry-pick biblical passages or lines within a prescribed passage to make whatever point they want to make, rather than letting the text (or the planets and stars) actually speak for themselves.

I have often said that if I were a client, I wouldn't really care where or how my astrologer or psychic was getting their information, as long as it was correct and they were able to accurately predict most things. But as a student of astrology, I do care where the information comes from. As an astrologer, the predictions made should be reproducible by another astrologer using similar techniques (or close to the same prediction). And as a teacher of astrology, these techniques, when passed on, should also result in similar delineations and predictions.

So when you hear astrologers going on about all sorts of fluffy, pie-in-the-sky goals, without really being able to say very directly: "this is what the aspect is, and this is precisely what it means," you should beware.

05 January 2012

Comments and Comments...

I received a comment a few weeks ago about my post on how the traditional meanings of the planets have been corrupted by modern astrological free association (Venus Rules What???!!!). As so often happens when someone criticizes a post, the critic posted the comment anonymously, and the critique is full of inaccuracies, both historical and astrological (vis-a-vis Traditional Western or Medieval Astrology, as indicated by the title of my blog). 

First of all, the person is coming from a Vedic (Indian/Hindu/Jyotish) astrological perspective, not a Western one. Now while the East and the West use the same basic set of symbols, there are some differences. I am not an expert on Eastern Astrology, so I will not presume to speak definitively for what these symbols mean in Jyotish. My critic is clearly not an expert on Traditional Western Astrology, but for some reason that did not stop him/her from taking me to task over my post. 

The example in the previous post that I gave was the erroneous association of Venus with "finances" and "money." This error stems from a false equation of the second house of the chart (movable wealth) with the second sign of the zodiac (Taurus) and its ruler (Venus), using a technique known as the 12-letter alphabet. I gave a short list of other false associations based on the same technique, but my critic focused on the title example. (In summary, no one sign equals any one house of the chart; they are different components that are overlaid in each chart, thereby engendering the infinite variety of events and characteristics of things here on Earth.)

Here are a few quotes from the comment (in brown) and my response to them.
"I don't understand what traditionalsm actually you are talking about. Perhaps you sincerely lack a global idea of astrological principles and practices around the world basically in the east."
Let me say first of all that I was not commenting upon "eastern" astrology. I was commenting on Traditional Western (pre-1700) Astrology. The rest of the critique is based upon an assumption that we are discussing (or should be discussing) Eastern Astrology. But I'm not. 
"The Indian Traditional Astrology which is far elder than the erroneous western tropical astrology..."
I understand that many who practice Indian Astrology belief, as a matter of faith, that it is older than Tropical (Western) Astrology. However, all documented evidence points to the contrary. For example:
"The documented history of Hindu astrology begins with the interaction of Indian and Hellenistic cultures in the Indo-Greek period. The oldest surviving treatises, such as the Yavanajataka or the Brihat-Samhita, date to the early centuries CE. The Yavanajataka ("Sayings of the Greeks") was translated from Greek to Sanskrit by Yavanesvara during the 2nd century CE, under the patronage of the Western Satrap Saka king Rudradaman I, and is considered the first Indian astrological treatise in the Sanskrit language."   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_astrology#History,    
see also on the English name:
Both Sidereal (Eastern) and Tropical (Western) Astrology came from the same roots, and diverged at a later time. Many devout Hindus believe that the Vedas themselves go back much farther than they have been historically proven to; this may be akin to Christian fundamentalists believing that the Bible is treating the chronology of the world in literal terms.

"...always considered the equal house division to be exact in which the sign is synonymous with the house or vice versa."

Hellenistic Astrology also considered that one full sign occupied one full house. That is, if one's rising degree is 15 Sagittarius, the first house would still be 0-30 Sagittarius, and the Asc would be in the middle of the first house. It is only later that the Ascendant (Rising Sign and degree) starts to be considered the beginning  of the first house. Throughout the Tradition (and amongst Traditional astrologers of all stripes today), there is ample evidence that this Whole Sign House system was and is used alongside the quadrant house system (Placidus, Alchabitius, Koch, Regiomontanus, etc.). But there is not (in the West, at least) the idea that the first house in anyone's chart is always equivalent to the first sign of the zodiac (Aries). The only place that this shows up is in medical astrology, where one needs multiple ways to identify parts of the body. So the first house represents the head, and the sign Aries also represents the head. But that does not mean that the first house equals Aries.
"Besides, it seems your bankrupcy in astrological interpretation as a mytho-symbological art is unprecedented."
Wow. I'll merely point out here that there is no one-to-one correspondence between astrology and mythology. While certain planets and constellations have a vague similarity with their mythological equivalents, it is dangerous to assume that they are the same thing. For example, the mythological figure of Jupiter was often disguising himself in order to deceive the nymphs and take advantage of them sexually. This has no bearing at all upon the astrological meanings of Jupiter.
"You do not know that Jupiter rules spiritual wealth where as Venus rules material wealth."
And where is the documentation of this? There are a few references in the Tradition to Venus and wealth. They are all part of the idea that Venus rules leisure and luxury. It is not until the modern era that Western Astrology associates Venus and material wealth. In my scan through some of the Indian Astrology books that I own. (http://goo.gl/snhgmhttp://goo.gl/iXVgShttp://goo.gl/jcF1bhttp://goo.gl/Hjan4) the Venus and wealth association seems to be the same as in the Traditional West. That is, while she can indicate a wealth of luxury and a certain amount of abundance, it's from the perspective of pleasure, which she rules. Jupiter is more clearly the ruler of material wealth, as well as spiritual wealth. But in the West, the clear place to look for "finances" or "money" is the 2nd house. There are a couple of other houses that may also indicate money (11th, e.g.), but let me return to my point: Venus does not rule "finances" based upon a false "natural" connection to the second house.

"Inheritance is a matter of 8th house, in that case the 8th from 9th which is the house of father in Indian Astrology"
My understanding (Braha. Art & Practice p185) is that this is true in Southern India, but in Northern India, the 10th house governs the father.

"Jupiter rules "ethics" not "modern law" - and perhaps you don't know "law" is not about "opponence" but "justice", the "balance" which principle is approriately symbolized by the scale of Libra. Please go deeper in your understanding that in true awareness there is no compulsory division in between 'tradition' and 'modernity'."
So is there a difference between "modern law" and "ancient law"? The principle here is "law." That does not necessarily mean "lawsuit." But in Lee Lehman's The Book of Rulerships, her research reveals nothing amongst nine giants of Western Traditional Astrology indicating a connection between Libra and Law. Mythologically, the Scales were, in fact, associated with ideas of law, fairness, and civility; but astrologically, no one (traditionally) seems to have used Libra to represent Law.
This actually reveals another flaw in modern Western Astrology: the assumption that all of the mythological associations of a planet or sign are also astrological associations. This is simply not true. And this one of the reasons why modern style astrologers have such an impossible time trying to predict (when they even do so).

To conclude, I propose that my critic study the Western Astrological Tradition before criticizing it (or its proponents). My suspicion is that he/she is not quite fully grounded in the Eastern Tradition either, but of course, I have not proof.

So let's make a deal: You don't criticize what you don't understand in the West, and I won't criticize what I don't understand about the East.

One final comment. I have changed the settings on this blog not to allow anonymous comments. The comments are already moderated, since I don't need ill-considered, insulting comments appearing here (I have received a number of such comments). As always, one need not agree with me for me to allow the  comment to post. However, one must 1-be respectful and 2-address the information in the original post.
In addition to that, you may no longer comment anonymously. The ability to comment anonymously encourages people neither to be respectful, nor to address the post directly, and allows for rants and ad hominem arguments that are unwelcome.