27 December 2010

Mercury Retrograde - Again

So here we are again at the end of a Mercury retrograde cycle, and this one seems to have been particularly fierce for some. There are at least a  few reasons for this:

  • Mercury is retrograde
  • Mercury is in Sagittarius for most of this retrograde, where he is debilitated
  • Mercury was combust (as it always is during part of the retrograde)
  • Mercury squared Jupiter during this retrograde
Mercury retrograde is a debility, but traditionally, it is not nearly as bad as combustion, where a planet is within 7-8 degrees from the Sun. The idea here is that the Sun burns up the energy of whatever that planet is, making it pretty worthless. The exception to this is when the planet is only 17' of arc (about a quarter of a degree) from the heart of the Sun; no one seems to explain why, but I suspect that here the idea is that the Sun adds its energy to that of the planet, since they are in perfect alignment. This is considered a major dignity. Along with combustion is the designation "under the Sun's beams" which extends from about 8 degrees to about 15 degrees from the Sun. This is also a debility, as the planet is either moving toward or just moving out of combustion.
Though Mercury started the retrograde at 5 Capricorn, it has spent most of it in Sagittarius, which is opposite his own sign of Gemini. A planet opposite its own sign is like being in the enemy's territory and is considered a major debility.
Finally, for a few days, Mercury squared Jupiter, which is the planet that rules Sagittarius, the sign Mercury is in right now. While squaring Jupiter is not usually considered that difficult an aspect, Mercury and Jupiter are in many ways opposites. Mercury is cold and dry and is about distinguishing details, while Jupiter is warm and wet and is about growing and seeing the big picture. This is partly the reason why Mercury is debilitated in both of Jupiter's signs (Sagittarius and Pisces).
So there are a lot of factors this time making this a nasty cycle, but not for everyone. See my previous two posts for why this may be so. 1   2   

I also wrote last year on the "shadow" period that most modern astrologers buy into. As I point out, this is a completely modern invention with no basis in Traditional astrology. If there are any effects left after Mercury (or any other planet) goes direct, it has nothing to do with the "shadow" and is simply because of events that happened during the retrograde which may still be playing out (e.g. the photocopier broke but hasn't yet been fixed).
In this particular cycle, it's helpful to remember that Mercury is still in Sagittarius, where he is debilitated, until January 13. So while there may still be some Mercury issues going on, most of it is probably attributable to this, rather than any imagined shadow period. 

So chin up, all you victims of Mercury! The retrograde is coming to an end.

20 December 2010

Full Moon Solstice

So for the record, the height of the Full Moon is on Tuesday at 3:13 am ET. This is a Full Moon eclipse at the end of Gemini.

Immediately upon reaching this point, the Moon goes "void of course." This is an ancient term which simply means that from that moment until the Moon enters the next sign, it will make no classical aspects to any planet. That is, it will not conjunct, oppose, square, trine, or sextile any other planet. When the Moon is void, the traditional interpretation is that whatever is begun during that time will come to nothing. This is why, for those of you who follow my tweets (twitter/astroharp), you will see me usually encourage you not to begin any important projects during a Void of Course Moon.

(There are a few exceptions to this: the Moon is never void in Cancer or Taurus - the Moon's own signs of rulership and exaltation - or in Sagittarius or Pisces - Jupiter's signs.)

The Moon will enter Cancer just over an hour later at 4:22am ET. So if you are planning to do any Moon magic, you will need to complete it before 3:13 am, or wait until after 4:22. By then, however, the Moon will be waning. So if you have some powerful waning Moon magic to do, now would be the time. The Solstice occurs at 6:38pm ET, so that time from when the Moon enters Cancer through the rest of the afternoon is perfect for any sort of dark or releasing magic one is working. This would include binding, banishing, getting rid of bad habits, and so forth.

Again however, as I hinted in my previous two posts, I encourage you to essentially use the Full Moon eclipse and the Solstice as separate events, even though they occur very close together this year. The two energies may have the potential to charge up each other, creating a generally higher-energy time. However, because of the way that these fall, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to combine them into one sort of cosmic super-event. Work with the Moon's energy, or work with the Sun's (solstice), or work with them both separately. But don't try to create a cosmic goulash or jambalaya of this. It may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

18 December 2010

Solstice Eclipse of December 2010 - Part 2

Continuing from the previous post, let's look at the Solstice. As most people know, the Solstice marks the beginning of a new season, either the summer or the winter, depending on whether it's June or December, and whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. Tropical astrology, the kind of astrology practiced in much of the world other than in India, is linked to the relationship between the Sun and the Earth, and therefore to the seasons. So the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is also by definition the moment that the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn. It's also the moment when the Sun is lined up with the Tropic of Capricorn, which is about 23 degrees south of the equator.

Traditionally, when the Sun goes into one of the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) is the time to cast the chart for a country and make predictions based upon that chart. However, there were conditions here. The astrologer starts with casting the first chart of the year at Aries, the Spring equinox. Depending on which quadrant of the chart the Sun falls in, this might be enough for the whole year. For example, if the Sun falls in the bottom left quadrant of the chart, the main action will occur soon, and one would then need to cast a new chart at the Cancer Solstice. If the Sun appeared in the second quadrant (top left), then the chart was good for 6 months, and then one would cast the next chart for the Libra ingress (fall equinox). If the Sun fell in the right half of the chart (the third and/or fourth quadrants), then the major effects of the chart would either be spread over most of the year, or actually happen in the second half of the year (measuring the year from one spring equinox to the next).

For the Aries chart in 2010, in Washington DC, the Sun falls in the 3rd quadrant. It's up in the upper right side of the chart, indicating that the energy would last most of the year, or perhaps have a focus in the Fall. One might point to the elections and the subsequent scrambling by the lame-duck congress to pass as much legislation as they can before the power shift happens as evidence of this. However, it does point to the idea that we are just riding this energy out until the next Spring equinox chart. So we might not want to look to this Capricorn solstice chart to try to draw too many conclusions for the USA itself.

How might these two events fit together?
The eclipse happens at 29 degrees Gemini-Sagittarius, while the Solstice, by definition, happens at 0 degrees Capricorn. While in popular astrology, the idea is popular that if something is on the cusp, it picks up the energy of both signs, this is exactly contrary to the classical way of approaching things. For the ancient astrologers, there was something almost sacred about boundaries. Something is in either one sign or the other, not both. The boundary between signs is like a wall between rooms. One might open the door very briefly to move from one room to the next, but one cannot simultaneously be in both rooms.

There is, however, one idea to consider from classical astrology that may be important here. When planets or other points in a chart fall exactly equidistant from a solstice degree or an equinox degree, they are linked on some level. Here, the eclipse is on degree before the solstice, and the solstice itself of course, is in its own first degree. So we now take two seemingly unrelated energies and make them equivalent to a conjunction. However, nearly everything about Sagittarius/Gemini and Capricorn is different. Sag is a hot fire sign and Gemini a warm air sign, while Capricorn is a cold earth sign. They have precious little in common. So rather than combining these two energies, my sense is that they will just stack energy on top of energy and create a lot of buzz. In fact, one might not want to do anything to augment the energies of the eclipse, given that it's generally not the most favorable of astrological occurrences.

A word on magic and timing
For those who plan to try to harness or celebrate these energies on the 21st, there are a few things that you should be aware of. These types of astrological energies, and aspects in general, work somewhat like an orgasm, to be blunt. That is, the energy builds and builds, until the moment that it is at its height, and then it fades away very quickly. If one is attempting to work with the Full Moon/Eclipse, you should really do your work before the eclipse is at its fullest (or up to that point). After that, even if we can't see it, that energy will dissipate immediately. There may be a desire to wait until one is closest to the Solstice, but if you do that, you will lose any real power that might have been available. On the other hand, the Solstice marks the entrance of the Sun into a new sign. One does not want to anticipate this, since before the moment of the solstice, the Sun is actually still in Sagittarius.

So while the two events may have some important links, I encourage you to work with each one on its own terms, in order to make the most of each. While the temptation may be there to create some grand ritual that combines all of these, it may prove futile or powerless in the end.

Solstice Eclipse of December 2010 - Part 1

A number of friends have written to ask me my thoughts on the upcoming total Lunar eclipse which falls right before the Winter Solstice in a few days. I have also seen a number of comments about it by other astrologers come across my Facebook page in the last week or so. Let's talk about the two phenomena involved and then see if and how they might connect.

There are at least two Lunar eclipses every year, either partial or full. The degree to which an eclipse is full or not depends on how close the Moon comes to being in a straight line with the Sun and the Earth as it makes its monthly pass around the Earth. Each month the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. But only when it lines up exactly in a straight line does it come close enough for the Earth to block out some of the Sun's light, and create the shadow on the Moon. This happens on average 2-3 times per year, always within a couple of weeks of the two Solar eclipses that happen. So while eclipses happen fairly regularly, it's only once every three years or so that a Lunar eclipse will happen that is visible from the same place on the Earth, so they seem a bit more rare than they actually are.

In traditional astrology, eclipses were seen as fairly bad omens. On a spiritual and a physical level, the "light" is blocked and no longer gets to us. Solar eclipses, of course, are much more dramatic than Lunar eclipses, especially when seen, since a lot more light seems to be blocked; given that it needs to be day time to see a Solar eclipse, this makes sense. It's already fairly dark at night, so while a Lunar eclipse is very dramatic, it doesn't block nearly the amount of light that a Solar eclipse does.

Astrologically, this blocking of light is like a kink in the system. It prevents things from going smoothly. Traditionally, when delineating how an eclipse will affect the chart of an individual or a country, one must look primarily at the house within which the eclipse falls. So if an eclipse falls in one's first house, it will affect health and happiness, in the second house, money, etc. And since this blockage of light represents some sort of blockage in life, we should look for potential problems in those areas. These problems, especially with Lunar eclipses, are more likely to be underlying themes for a 6-12 month period, rather than a one-time, "sh** hits the fan" kind of explosion. But that doesn't mean that they are insignificant either.

This eclipse happens on Dec 21 at 29 Gemini (Moon's position) with the Sun at 29 Sagittarius, in the early hours before dawn here on the East coast of the USA. There are debates about whether the USA chart has Sagittarius or Gemini rising. In either case, since these are opposite signs, we are dealing with either the first house (health, happiness, physical body), or the seventh house (partners and relationships). So we are likely to see problems with the physical health of the USA (health care issues) or the happiness of the citizens (haven't we been grumpy lately), or problems with our foreign relationships and direct allies. I haven't investigated this Sag-Gem issue myself, so I'm not quite sure which is a more likely chart, and therefore, prefer to reserve judgment on making any hard predictions. But whether one is looking at the chart of an individual or a country, the house in which it falls will reveal where there needs to be some major adjustments this year.

See Part 2 for the Solstice and how these two events may relate to one another.

19 October 2010

Progress v Evolution: and the winner is...

When I explain to people that I practice an older form of astrology, one that is more predictive and less psychological, I often get the question: "But don't you think that people have evolved since the Middle Ages?"

The simple answer is No, I do not. Modern folk are all gung-ho on this idea of "evolution." In the 20th century, W.D. Hamilton proposed the idea of Social Evolution as a sub-category of Darwin's theory of the evolution of the species. The basic idea in Social Evolution is that certain choices lead to newly emerging social forms. Others  have posited (even before the 20th century) the idea of Spiritual Evolution. However, there are a few problems with these ideas.
  1. In Darwinian evolution, progress is made not by slow, almost imperceptible changes that occur over time, and less so with the conscious participation of the species in question. Rather, changes are made by radical leaps that happen occasionally. Also, evolution leads to a new species, not simply a more advanced form of the older one. Homo sapiens evolved from another species, and when evolution strikes again, the new species will not be homo sapiens. At that point, we will probably have to fight it out with the new species for resources, and likely only one of us will survive (as has happened before).
  2. Theories of Spiritual evolution, dating from the 19th century or so, are based on the idea that spiritual evolution is predetermined. Also, the idea applies to nature and human beings as a species more than as individuals. Here we see again the lack of conscious participation of the subject in its own evolution. (There are some theories that do posit participation, but not most.) But again, the evolution is not to some higher form of the same basic thing. The change is so radical that it leads to a new form of being.
Many today forget the quantum-leap nature of Darwinian evolution. Comments such as "So why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans if evolution is true?" portray a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory and the process of evolution. And as for spiritual evolution, most people today who believe in the concept imagine a personal journey that brings one to a higher level of awareness/consciousness while still in this lifetime. They certainly do not subscribe to the idea that the entire species, and indeed nature itself, is on a predetermined path within which we have few individual choices available.

The conclusion then, among many new age type thinkers or fans, is that what applied to humans 500 years ago must no longer be valid to today's human. Astrologically, the discoveries of Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, asteroids, comets, etc., are said to be "proof" that we've "evolved." These "new" planets and bodies, after all, are indicative of our spiritual change as a species, it is said. Now, even if I believed that these newer planets and planetoids had a significant role in astrology (which I don't), the assumption that they are #1. good things, and #2. signs of evolution, are stretches. Think about the keywords and meanings that most modern astrologers associate with Uranus and Pluto, and to a certain extent Neptune, and you will realize that these are mostly negative, difficult energies. (Most of these keywords were stolen from Mars and Saturn, after all.) They try to pretty them up, so that "revolution" becomes "opportunity for change" and so forth, but the basic meanings that have been around since the discoveries of these bodies are difficult. So they're not really so good, and if they represent any kind of "evolution," it must be one that moves in the direction of negativity and individualism, which is not what I think these proponents have in mind.

But the bottom line is that as humans, both individually and collectively, we are have the same basic concerns today as we have had for millennia: security (home, food, health, money [in modern societies]); sex, love and connection with others; survival of the species (the ability/right to bear and raise children); freedom from unnecessary or enforced restraint, and so forth. These are perpetual concerns. One could also argue that they go beyond our own species. Recent studies show that all primates share similar needs.
No one doubts the superiority of our intellect, but we have no basic wants or needs that are not also present in our close relatives. I interact on a daily basis with monkeys and apes, which just like us strive for power, enjoy sex, want security and affection, kill over territory, and value trust and cooperation. Yes, we use cell phones and fly airplanes, but our psychological make-up remains that of a social primate...
The whole reason people fill their homes with furry carnivores and not with, say, iguanas and turtles, is because mammals offer something no reptile ever will. They give affection, they want affection, and respond to our emotions the way we do to theirs.
Frans de Waal, NY Times, Oct 17, 2010
So not only do I believe that we have not "evolved," but the fact is that we are very closely related to our "lower" relatives. And even when we do evolve into some other species, the chances are very hight that we will continue to have the same basic concerns for a very long time: do I have enough food, do I have somewhere to lay my head at night, do I have someone to care for me and for whom I can care, is my health going to hold out? etc.
As my friend and teacher Robert Zoller is wont to say "Do not mistake progress for evolution." Have we progressed? Most certainly. As de Waal points out, we use cell phones and fly airplanes. And I would add to that that we have begun to learn to read the stars and do all sorts of other marvelous things. And progress is moving faster today than at most times in the past. But that doesn't change the fact that we are human; we are social animals with the same needs as our ancestors and as our children. We may satisfy those needs in somewhat different ways now than in the past, but the needs remain the same. To deny that is to deny our humanity.

26 August 2010

Thirteenth Sign?

I received an email with some questions about the so-called "thirteenth sign" of the zodiac that often confounds moderns. There is a constellation that touches the ecliptic - the apparent path of the Sun around the earth - from the north side. It is called Ophiuchus, or Serpentarius, the Serpent-Handler.  The 12 zodiacal constellations straddle the ecliptic.

Here are parts of the email (most of it) and my responses to it.

I have been trying to ascertain from Astrologers all over the US their opinions as to why so many who follow the classical model do not recognize Ophiuchus ... a recently popular but ever-present 13th constellation found along the Solar ecliptic like all the houses of the
Zodiac, which sits between Scorpio and Sagittarius.

Ophiuchus was never part of astrology, so there it makes no sense to include it if one is interested in returning astrology to its roots.

During Ptolemy's time it was an included as part of the horoscope while Libra was excluded,

That's not correct. Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos refers to Chelae, the claws of the Scorpion. This falls between Virgo and Scorpio, but was not actually considered a part of Scorpio (as evidenced by the fact that it has a separate entry). (See Ashmand's translation, p. 26). Chelae was eventually renamed Libra, but is essentially the same star group. Ophiuchus is on the other side, as you state, between Scorpio and Sagittarius. It is listed on p. 29 of Ashmand as "Serpentarius" (an earlier Latin name for it) as one of the Constellations north of the Zodiac. So Ptolemy clearly did not include it as part of the Zodiac constellations, and as far as the evidence we have, no one else did.
but apparently at some point in history which no one can pinpoint the "serpent-bearer" was removed (perhaps because of the serpent reference being interpreted as satanic?).

As I say, no one removed it. It was simply never part of the 12 zodiacal signs. The satanic reference is dubious, since Serpentarius/Ophiuchus is actually the serpent handler, not the serpent. Perhaps the reason is that the constellation doesn't really cross the ecliptic, rather it just barely touches it to the north, but that's just a guess on my part.
This constellation has always been there in the sky. It isn't as if is mysteriously just appeared... it's huge in comparison to its neighbor Scorpio, but astrologers seem to still pretend it isn't there.

It's not that we pretend that it's not there. Those of us who work with Traditional astrology work not only with the 12 zodiacal signs, but also the fixed stars in the other constellations as well. However, if it doesn't actually cross the ecliptic line, then the planets do not actually move through the constellation, they move above or below it.

 With the return of interest in sideareal systems which emphasize ACTUAL observation (i.e. taking our noses out of dusty old books and looking up for a change) it seems common sense to re-introduce it... it's right there for everyone to see after all.

There is really nothing to "reintroduce", since as I've said, it never formed part of the zodiac.

But let me be clear, those of us who are practicing traditional Western astrology are not practicing sidereal astrology. From the beginning, two systems emerged: sidereal and tropical. The sidereal system is based upon the relationship of the earth to the stars, specifically to the alpha star in the constellation of Aries. However, the constellations are not all composed of neat, 30 degree figures, and even sidereal astrologers use a stylized "12 signs x 30 degrees each" system. The tropical zodiac is based on the relationship between the earth and the sun, and consequently on the seasons. It's about life in our very own solar system, not all the rest of them. So neither system is based upon what one "actually" sees in the sky. From the very beginning, as I indicate above, astrology was stylized. There is an intimate connection between sacred geometry and sacred number. The number 12 is divisible by 3 modes and 4 elements. It's divisible easily by 2 polarities (masculine/feminine, diurnal/nocturnal, positive/negative, etc.). The theory of astrological aspects is tied to this. The number 13 may be sacred for other reasons, but it does not serve the purposes of astrology.

Finally, astrology has never been about exact physical observation alone. It has always been combined with the idea that there is a magic about it, and that the Hermetic law of "as above, so below" is the ideal. Those who insist on a purely scientific approach to astrology misunderstand it, and whether consciously or not, buy into the modern atheistic mindset (yes, even if they themselves are astrologers). That is not to say that astrological methods can't be tested and repeatable, but not everything can be explained in terms of billiard balls knocking against one another.

09 August 2010

An Aquarius by any other name...

One of my problems with modern astrology texts, and by extension, most modern astrologers, is the lack of critical thinking involved in the practice. Most people today read the modern texts off the shelf of Barnes and Noble, or order them from Amazon, and assume that what's in them is correct. In my first six months of studying astrology, years ago, this was the process that was available to me too. And the few classes that I took were taught by astrologers who were working from these same texts. We often assume today that if it's in print, then it must be true, or at the very least, written by an expert on the subject. With the arrival of easy internet access, this approach is even more pervasive today; even the light-weight, poorly-written texts take on the weight of authority, simply because they have made it into print, and aren't merely virtual (online) texts.

One example of this is the sign of Aquarius. Modern astrology erroneously ascribes "rulership" of Aquarius to the planet Uranus, while classically, the ruler is Saturn. I won't go into the crazy (really, crazy) reasons for this rulership in this post, but let's look at some examples of the repercussions of this. 

Surfing on over to astrology.com, their website says the following of Aquarius: 
"...these folks can be quite fixed in their opinions, in keeping with the Fixed Quality assigned to this sign."
"... which is why they focus much of their energy on our social institutions and how they work."
"If it's new, radical and rebellious, Aquarians are all over it. "
"Some might call their behavior eccentric."
"They are truly the trailblazers of the zodiac."

Over at astrologyweekly.com, we find:
"Aquarius' planetary ruler is actually a combination of Saturn and Uranus. The two together form a curious duality: Saturn's influence can be seen in an Aquarian's cool level-headedness, while Uranus' pull is in the need to be unique, modern, and unconventional."

"As a sign of the people, you refuse to be placed on a higher level than your friends, even though you may deserve it. You distrust and dislike hierarchies—you're a true democrat—so inequities of class and race fuel your ardor all the more... Despite your social passions, you're actually very solitary and independent more than people realize."

What seems to escape people who read this is that the whole idea of being Fixed is contrary to the idea of being radical and rebellious.  I'm not sure why people don't see this more clearly.* What's going on here is the "blending" (a term used often in modern astrology) of the traditional keywords for Aquarius (fixed, stubborn, opinionated, socially-focused, new-structure oriented, democratic, refusing hierarchy) with the invented keywords for Uranus (rebelliousness, individuality, radical change, solitude, uniqueness, unexpected actions and reversals). These are contrary energies. But most modern astrology texts mix them together, and the reader often swallows it with no further reflection.

Now for those who eschew the use of the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto), this confusion is even more problematic, since according to Traditional astrology, Uranus has no place in astrological delineation anyway. (The keywords used above and in general for Uranus were taken from their original associations with the Sun and Mars, despite Uranus' purported status as the "higher octave" of Mercury. See Lee Lehman's The Book of Rulerships for an excellent explanation of how this happened. See also Sue Ward's well-researched "Uranus, Neptune and Pluto: an investigation into the sources of their symbolism.")

Now here's the catch: Some Sun-sign Aquarians are independent, rebellious, and chaotic. However, this is not due to their Sun being in Aquarius. First of all, read my previous post, part of which is about how the Sun sign is not where one would look for personality, in traditional astrology. It's the Rising Sign that's more important here. So having the Sun in Aquarius, unless it is somehow accidentally configured to the personality and physical body/happiness, is completely irrelevant to whether a person is rebellious or not. In addition, as I've been arguing, it's not Aquarius that makes one rebellious anyway. If a person who has the Sun in Aquarius or Aquarius Rising is rebellious and independent, more than socially oriented, there is something else going on in their natal chart that is accounting for this. Every time I've had a Sun-Aquarius try to tell me how independent and brilliant they are, I have discovered that they have something like Mars conjunct or square the Ascendant, or the planet that rules the Ascendant. Of course, in many cases, these individuals are neither very independent nor brilliant, they just think that they are because they read it in an astrology book. What's amazing to me is that many of these people have themselves been professional, modern-style, astrologers. Overlooking Mars (or some other major factor) as the real indicator of their unique and chaos-loving selves. Hmm. If they couldn't even see that a planet like Mars was the culprit/reason, then it's no wonder that they haven't arrived at an accurate understanding of Aquarius. As my mother used to say, whenever we couldn't find something that was right in front of us, if this (Mars) had teeth, it would have bit them in the face.

Traditional (classical through medieval) authors don't give lists of "descriptions" of signs. Generally, they list the qualities, and then the things that the sign is associated with (professions, animals, places, stones, colors, etc.). For example, Aquarius is fixed, airy (therefore moist and warm), diurnal (as opposed to nocturnal), masculine, human (not bestial like Aries or Leo, etc.), vocal (it's not a mute animal like Pisces or Scorpio, etc.), the primary sign of Saturn, and so on. From these qualities, logical conclusions can be drawn, but they must all accord with these characteristics. So for example, Aquarius would be talkative (human and vocal), stubborn (fixed), intellectual (airy and human), structural (Saturn), and so on. While being a masculine, airy, human/intellectual sign will allow Aquarius to be more forward-looking than, say Capricorn (Saturn's other sign), this does not allow for a break from the Fixed, Saturnian nature of the sign, so it cannot be rebellious, independent, and prone to sudden and unexpected reversals.

One other example from personal experience. A friend has the Sun in Capricorn with Libra rising, and Saturn in Libra in the first house. This friend often refer's to his Capricorn nature (dark, strict, formal, etc). In reality, what he is experiencing is Saturn's influence in Libra. Saturn's exaltation in Libra allows him to be himself, but on his best behavior. Of course, having the ruler of the sun-sign (Saturn rules Capricorn) in the Ascendant (aka Rising Sign, aka First House) will associate Capricorn with the personality. But most of what my friend points to as Capricorn is really Libra, with Saturn helping. (More in a later post about misunderstandings of signs like Libra.)

As in my previous post, I am trying here to encourage people to go a little deeper into astrology, if they're going to be quoting it all over the place. To paraphrase myself: we all know that what we read about Sun signs is superficial, but we can't seem to stop perpetuating it. So before we say that we do such-and-such, or that we are a certain way because we're "an Aquarius" or any other one astrological factor, we should take a step back and remember that the natal chart, like the person it mirrors is a complex interaction of many factors, and we shouldn't sell ourselves short (or make excuses) by boxing ourselves into stereotypes.

* For the record, not everything in the description of Aquarius on this web page is wrong, and some of it is quite good, but the ignorant mixing of the accurate with the bogus makes delineating Aquarius, according to these descriptions, nearly impossible.

05 August 2010

"I'm an Aries." "I'm a Capricorn." - Well I'm a human.

I was recently at a meeting of about thirty-five people, where a few of the folks on the team didn't know each other very well. One of the leaders of the group suggested that while going around and introducing ourselves and which piece of the project we were working on this year, we all say what our Sun-sign was. So as we went around, everyone started with something like "I'm Charlie, and I'm an Aquarius..." I was the last person to introduce myself, and I said (trying to sound the least snobby I could) "I'm Chris, and I am not an astrological sign [a few weird looks]. When I was born, the Sun was in X sign and Y sign was Rising." I'm sure that a few people in the crowd thought that I was being pretentious, but since they all know me as a Traditional Astrologer (and they are all my friends), I'm hoping that they didn't just ignore the comment.

I realize that the purpose of the request to state the Sun sign was to get an overall idea of the "mix" of energies that were being brought to bear on the project. At the end of the intros, someone pronounced that there was a nice mix of all the elements. However, as I present in my talk Hey Baby, What's Your (Rising) Sign?, until recently, the Sun was not regularly considered as any sort of indication in one's personality or personal make up (and by extension, the "energy" that one might bring to a project).

In my talk, I present the probability that astrologers of the twentieth century in the USA started to disguise their work under the new, respectable heading of "psychology" to avoid prosecution on anti-fortune telling laws; to do this, they started to describe each of the zodiacal signs in terms of personality traits. (Sorry that I don't have a reference here; if I write more about this, I'll try to dig it out, but it's more work than I can do to find it for a simple blog post.) In addition, I present my theory that the reasons that people started associating these traits with the Sun are probably two: 1- It's quite easy to know what zodiacal sign the Sun is in on any given day of the year, and in fact most newspapers or online astrology columns list these dates. There are 360 degrees in the circle of the zodiac through which the Sun passes, and 365 days in a year, on average. So it's approximately one day per degree, which is quite easy to predict with almost no mathematical precision needed. 2- The post-Freudian association of the Sun (astrological) with the Ego. The Sun is the Hero in the hero's journey, and the "hero" of my natal chart is me. Therefore, the Sun must be a nice summary of me.

Another technique used in modern astrology is to take the elements and modalities of all of the planets in a person's chart (that is, the zodiacal signs in which they are all placed), and maybe their ascendant and midheaven as well, and boil them down to a "signature." So if a preponderance of your planets are in fixed signs (rather than cardinal or mutable), and you have a plurality of planets in air signs, your "signature" would be Aquarius (fixed air). But this is a mere shadow of the rich technique used for hundreds of years to determine an individual's temperament. Though there are some competing methodologies for arriving at a person's temperament (choleric, sanguine, melancholic, or phlegmatic), most agree on most issues in the process, and arrive at a much richer description of what qualities, if you will, make up a particular individual.

Prior to this Sun-sign craze, if one had to look at only one part of a person's natal chart to begin to get a fairly good description of their personality, that place would be the Rising Sign/Ascendant, not the Sun sign. The Rising Sign corresponds to a person's physical body, health, and happiness. Any planets in the Ascendant (first house) will play a predominant roll, then the sign on the cusp should be considered, then the planet that rules that sign (look at the chart to see where that planet is, how it is placed, etc.). 

Traditionally, the Sun is about honor, fame, glory, preferments. So the Sun really has nothing to do with the personality, unless it is configured "accidentally" to it. For example, the Sun is the body that rules Leo; if Leo is the Rising Sign, then the Sun, and the sign that it is in, will have some bearing on the personality, due to the Sun's rulership of Leo rising. Also, if the Sun is in the first house (the Ascendant or Rising Sign), then obviously, the Sun will be determined toward personality. If the Sun Sign and the Rising Sign are the same (this can happen if a person is born near dawn), then obviously there is a relationship there. And finally, if the Sun aspects (conjuncts, opposes, squares, trines, or sextiles) the Ascendant itself, or the planet that rules it, then it is determined toward first house affairs (body, health, happiness).

To divide people and archive them into one of twelve boxes (the signs of the zodiac) is to do what newspaper sun-sign columns do. And we all complain about that, so why do we perpetuate it? I propose the answer is that people don't know how to do otherwise. They know that Sun-sign astrology is superficial, but they don't know how to get beyond it. Modern astrological texts don't help, they simply perpetuate this. Despite their pleas to take the entire chart into consideration, they will still delineate people's personalities predominantly by the sign that the Sun was in when they were born.

But what struck me more than ever at this meeting was that in listening to people introduce themselves as "I am a Sagittarius," etc., not only are we reducing the personality to the incorrect correlation, but we are reducing the entire person to a sign of the zodiac. And not just to that sign, but to our imperfect (and often erroneous) understanding of it. Instead of dealing with people as individuals, who embody all sorts of different "energies," we are engaging in a calculus of stereotyping, and according to categories that most of us don't even understand. I'll point out here too that most of the astrologers or astrology buffs who engage in this kind of activity, as if it will tell them how everyone in the group will act, are also the ones who denigrate the idea that there is any such thing as fate in astrology. Note the internal contradiction here.

So I repeat: I am not an astrological sign. While there is some information, and even some wisdom to be gained by a familiarity with my birth chart, we should all resist the temptation to deal with people as if they were merely zodiacal signs, and attempt to see them as the unique individuals that they are.

15 June 2010

The Predictive Power of Profections and Planetary Periods (Firdaria) Part III - Betty White's Career

Continuing from the previous post:

Betty White’s career has spanned more than 70 years, making a thorough treatment of it an impossibility in blog format. However, her recent resurgence in popularity (she may, in fact, be more popular than ever before) made me curious about what’s going on for her astrologically. Again, I’ll limit myself to the two techniques I’ve been using in this series: Profections and Firdaria, and I’ll necessarily limit myself to a few highlights from her long career.

Note: all data which follows is from the Wikipedia page on Betty White.

White began her show biz career right out of high school. Since most people start working at this age, and she lived in Beverly Hills, it’s probably not terribly noteworthy for our purposes. From age 20-32, she was in her Jupiter period. Her natal Jupiter is in Libra in the 3rd house, fairly well dignified, and sextile to her Ascendant. However, it is also square to her natal Venus, the sign ruler of her Midheaven (career); so while a certain amount of success is indicated, one would not quite expect to “hit it big” during this period. Nevertheless, White began her TV hosting in 1952 (having been on the show herself for a couple of years) when the host of Hollywood on Television left the show. Though this was during her Jupiter period, Saturn was the co-ruler this year, and we saw previously that Saturn is dignified and in her house of money. It is also conjunct the Moon, the ruler (almuten) of the 10th house (career) and the North Node, generally considered a good luck point.

Her first real career boost came between 1952-55, when she played the title roll in Life With Elizabeth. This brings her squarely into her Mars firdar. Mars in her chart is very highly dignified, in Scorpio, and very quantitatively powerful, being right on the 4th house cusp. She co-produced the show, and won her first Emmy for it. By the mid-50’s, the show was nationally syndicated, and she was the only woman in Hollywood with complete creative control over her own show (Mars in Scorpio). The 1950s in general were an extremely successful time in White’s career, and her Mars firdar lasted until 1961. The 52-55 span were also 7th - 10th house years, 7th house having a focus on relationships and contracts, and 10th house focusing on the career.

Betty White’s film debut was in 1962, in Advise and Consent, which,though it claimed some critical success, was not a big commercial hit. This was during the North Node firdar. It may be noteworthy that aside from a 1978 short subject film, White did not start appearing in films again until the 1990s. This means that her film career really didn’t begin until she was well into her Mercury firdar, and into her 70s. Her real success has always been in television, where during the 60s and 70s she slowly became one of the most successful actors in her field. Her years on the Mary Tyler Moore show were mostly during her Venus firdar (which rules her 10th house of career). Her natal Venus is in her 6th house of work. During her years on The Golden Girls, she was in her Mercury firdar, Mercury also being in her 6th house, and ruling her 2nd (money) and her 11th (friends). Mercury also squares exactly her Midheaven; while the square isn’t usually a friendly aspect, Mercury is not a particularly malevolent planet, and the contact is probably better than no contact at all.

But what drew my attention is White’s current return to stardom. While she has worked non-stop for a very long time, there are certain shows that were more successful than others, and during those runs she has been more in the public eye than in intervening years. In 2006, White participated in the Comedy Central roast of William Shatner, with whom she starred in Boston Legal. For many young people, seeing this older woman make such openly rude, crude jokes, while still maintaining an air of elegance and even innocence, was an eye-opener. In 2006, White entered her second major Saturn firdar. Remember that her Saturn is well-dignified in her house of money, conjunct the Moon, which is the almuten (overall ruler) of her career house (10th). Saturn rules her house of work and relationships/contractual partnerships. So in general, these years should continue to be quite good for Betty. In early 2010, a Facebook campaign to get White to host Saturday Night Live led to the announcement on March 11 that she would host the show in May of that year. This was exactly one day after Mars took over as co-ruler (with Saturn). We have already seen the power and dignity of her Mars, which was her major ruler when she really started to make it big. In addition, 2010 is a 5th house year for White, which brings fun, play, creativity, sex, etc. to the fore.

When I started this series, I mentioned that we would be able to really only scratch the surface of what Profections and Firdaria have to show in Betty White’s chart. Nevertheless, just “scratching the surface” has spilled into three long blog entries. What fascinates me most about these techniques is (especially when one goes into detail) how much information they can give about a person’s life without even looking at transits, or what’s going on currently in the sky that might affect one’s natal chart. This is all based on one, single chart – the natal chart of the person. This raises all sorts of questions about the roll of fate in astrology. I’m sure that I’ll get to ponder that here at some point in the future.

The Predictive Power of Profections and Planetary Periods (Firdaria) Part II – Betty White's Marriages

In the past few years, the career of Betty White, veteran actor, has seen a huge boost once again. Her work has spanned over 7 decades, since she began modeling at age 17. Although investigating overall fame is beyond the scope of this post, I thought that it might be fun to look at her career (or a few moments of it) and her marriages in light of these two classical techniques.

Chart data

According to the Wikipedia entry for Betty White and her page on IMDB.com, she has been married three times. The first, to Dick Barker, lasted only a few months, from June to December 1945. The second marriage was also short-lived, lasting only two years, from late 1947-1949. Her third marriage was to fellow game-show host Allen Ludden, and lasted from 1963 until he died in 1981 of stomach cancer.

In Betty’s natal chart, her house of marriage (7th house) has no planets in it, and Aquarius is on the cusp. Being a fixed sign, we would suspect that a marriage would last. However, being ruled by Saturn, there are sure to be some problems. Happily for her, Saturn in her natal chart is in quite good shape in Libra, where it is well-dignified by exaltation and triplicity. It is in her second house, so marriage and money/material security will have some link. It is also conjunct the Moon in late Virgo; the Moon rules her Midheaven (10th house cusp) and is therefore an indicator of career. So we see marriage and career as two areas that are likely to be tied to one another.

1945 was a twelfth-house profected year for Betty. The twelfth house is a place of loss, sorrow, hidden enemies, confinement, major illness. While there is no information readily available on line about why they divorced, the fact that Dick Barker was a chicken farmer (as well as military pilot) was probably too confining for someone with major Hollywood ambitions. It’s possible too, that they did not get along at all (hidden enemies), though without more documentation, it’s impossible to say for sure. Betty’s 12th house has Cancer on the cusp, which is ruled by the Moon, also in her second house. So perhaps she sought a security in the relationship that didn’t manifest. Regardless, marrying during a 12th house year not the best indicator of success. When Betty married Barker, she was in her Jupiter/Sun firdar. Jupiter had taken major rulership in 1942 for 12 years, and this particular year was co-ruled by the Sun. Jupiter is dignified in her natal chart, is in the 3rd house, and rules the 5th (lovers) and the 8th (death).

Betty married again in late 1947, and this marriage lasted just two years. 1947 was a 2nd house profected year for her, so again, money and security come into play. Also, Saturn, the ruler of her 7th house (marriage) is in her 2nd house, so whenever a 2nd house year rolls around for her, relationship is one of the key themes (in addition to money). Saturn also rules her 6th house of work; so it’s not terribly surprising that she married her agent, Lane Allen. Jupiter was still her major period ruler in the Firdaria scheme, but by now, Venus was the co-ruler. Venus is in Betty’s 6th house of work also, in Capricorn, fairly well dignified in that sign, though combust (too close to the Sun) and in a house that’s not the greatest one to be in anyway. So at best her Venus is in middling condition; in reality, it’s in somewhat poor condition. In addition, Jupiter and Venus are square to one another in her natal chart. So a fantastic marriage is not a likely result.

Two years later, when she divorced, she was near the end of a 4th house year. The focus here would have been on home and family. She has a very powerful Mars, dignified in Scorpio, right on her 4th house cusp. Regardless of the focus on the home, this will be a contentious year, given Mars’ placement there. Also, by now, the co-ruler (still along with Jupiter) for that year was Mercury, which is also in her 6th house, but is square to the Mars. So there is a lot of conflict going on here having to do with home, family, work. Mercury in her chart rules her house of friends, and Betty is quoted as having said that she and Lane Allen were good friends, but that they should not have married.

White’s third and most successful marriage came in 1963 to fellow game show host Allen Ludden. That year was a profected 6th house year for her. Again we see the focus on work. And remember that the 6th house is ruled by Saturn, which also rules her 7th house. So we see a permanent connection between daily work and marriage for her. With this marriage, the connections is the strongest, and the two worked together on many TV shows in the next two decades.

In mid-1963, Betty was in the middle of the three-year span that was ruled by the North Node. Generally, the North Node is seen as of the nature of Jupiter and Venus, the two naturally benefic planets. So this would have been a far more positive time than in previous marriage years. Her natal North Node is conjunct her dignified Saturn (ruler of 7th house of marriage) in her 2nd house (money). So the timing on this one is looking far better for success.

Ludden died in 1981 of stomach cancer. Once again, White was in a profected 12th house year (loss, sorrow, hidden enemies, serious illness). Her 12th house has Cancer on the cusp (yes, there is a connection between Cancer and cancer in that it is a very fertile sign, and cancer is unbounded growth). Cancer also rules the stomach. By now, Betty was in a Venus/Jupiter firdaria. Remember from earlier that Venus and her Jupiter square one another in her natal chart. Remember also that Jupiter rules her 8th house – death.

One might ask: If Saturn rules White’s house of marriage (7th house), then why wouldn’t she be more likely to marry during a Saturn Firdar? For those born at night, Saturn is the major ruler from age 9-20, most of which is a far less likely time to marry. The next major Saturn period began in 2006 at age 84, and will last until 2017 (see below for comments on this and career). Again, unlikely ages for marriage. There were two periods in which Saturn was a co-ruler before Betty married Ludden: from mid-1952 until early 1954, and from January 1959-January 1960. Since I haven’t read a detailed biography of her, I can’t really say what happened during those times, but it’s likely that there were some proposals or at least possibilities of marriage hovering around.

(An interesting note: Ludden’s first wife died days before their 18th wedding anniversary; Ludden himself died just days before his and White’s 18th wedding anniversary. One day, it may be worth a look at his chart to investigate this “coincidence” in depth.)

Coming Next: Betty White's Career

The Predictive Power of Profections and Planetary Periods (Firdaria) Part I

Ancient astrology was good at predicting. Back in the days before psychology, astrology was perfected as a predictive art. I won’t go into the reasons for its demise here, but thankfully, many of the older philosophies and techniques have been being recovered by skilled astrologer-linguists in recent decades.

Two of the “lost techniques of the ancients” that work particularly well, and which I use in my daily practice are Profections and Firdaria (planetary periods).

This is a simple and ancient technique, and not to be confused with Secondary Progressions, which is a fairly modern one. It is based on symbolically moving the chart one house per year. So from age 0-1, everyone is in a 1st house year. From age 1-2, all are in a 2nd house year, etc. Every 12 years, we return back to the Ascendent and a 1st house year again. So on birthdays # 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, we start the 12-year cycle again. There is much more detailed information to be gained by thoroughly employing this technique; for now, I will focus only on the main house for each year. Ideally, it should also be used in conjunction with Solar Returns, but that’s more detail than I want to involve here.

This is a Persian word that comes from the Greek “period” (Greek ‘p’ > ‘f’ in Persian). The basic idea is that we are all subject to the rulership of each of the planets at different points in our lives. The scheme is the same for everyone, with one variation, which I’ll explain in a moment. The planets are used from Saturn inward through the Moon, and each rules a given number of years. Saturn rules 11 years, Jupiter 12, Mars 7, the Sun 10 years, Venus 8, Mercury 13, and the Moon 9. The North and South Lunar Nodes get 3 and 2 years respectively, and are inserted after Mars.

The variation I mentioned is this: Anyone born in the day time starts with the Sun as their ruler (for 10 years) and continues around the circle in order. Anyone born at night time (that is, with the Sun below the horizon in their natal chart) starts their lives with the Moon (for 9 years) and then continues on, clockwise, in order. This brings 75 years, which is a healthy life span for most humans. Each of these periods is subdivided again by 7, and each of the other planets co-rules one of those 7 subdivisions, but I won't go into that more. After age 75, you simply begin again with the Sun or the Moon, depending on the diurnal or nocturnal chart.

Coming next: Part II, the case of Betty White

09 June 2010

Not Again With This Retrograde Thing! (Not Really, Read On...)

A Facebook friend posted earlier today about how people are being jerks all around and you would think that Mercury is still retrograde. Excuse me for harping on this issue, but there is a lot going on astrologically, all the time, that has nothing to do with Mercury. Or retrogrades. Now, I don't blame this person at all for attributing it to Mercury retro, since that is the only thing that modern astrologers seem to teach these days about what might be going "wrong" in a chart or in transits. Until better quality info gets out there, or at least the understanding that things are more complex than one planet's being retrograde, folks won't have even the basic language to begin to understand any of this.

However, the really interesting thing here was a comment that was made in response to that post. A self-identified astrologer attributed this people-lashing-out business to the fact that Pluto is retrograde until September. As stated in one of my earlier posts, Pluto (along with Uranus and Neptune) is retrograde for about six months every year. Yup, easy math: 50% of the time, these planets are retrograde. So blaming current behavior on something as generalized as that (citing Pluto's "intensity") really seems a lazy response, not to mention a particularly modern one.

My own response to the issue is that Jupiter and Uranus are standing at 0 degrees Aries, on the world axis. Haughty Jupiter and unbound, unpredictable Uranus in the cardinal fire sign may be spewing forth this energy that people have a right to do whatever they want, consequences be damned. Saturn is only 3 degrees off the opposition, in late Virgo; so beneath this outward haughtiness and disdain for consequences, there may be a nagging feeling that it's not OK to be a jerk, but that just makes people feel guiltier (Saturn) and even jerkier about it. Mercury is about to hit 0 Gemini, so don't be surprised to see an onslaught of words that usher that smug, holier-than-thou attitude into the public arena. The Moon will be crossing this point (0 Gemini) for a few hours too, so Thursday of this week might be particularly unbearable. But this will pass.

My real wish is for those who call themselves astrologers to investigate and study things more deeply before making public pronouncements. In this day of Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and other social media, anyone who calls herself or himself an astrologer, and who pronounces publicly on astrology, has a responsibility to educate themselves enough so that when they do speak or write, they don't embarrass those of us who take this Art seriously enough to do so.

11 May 2010

Retrograde Schmetrograde

I was recently catching up on one of my favorite blogs, Christopher Warnock's Renaissance Astrology Blog (we pre-Enlightenment types have to stick together, you know). Reading the post on retrogrades, I had to agree with him wholeheartedly. If you haven't read my own posts on retrogrades, go here to find them. Christopher points out a few things, and though I encourage you to read his post, here are the ones that jumped out at me, restated in my own words, and with some of my own thoughts thrown in.

  • Modern astrologers eschew any talk of "malefics". They often refuse to acknowledge that Mars, Saturn and sometimes other planets may work against our desires; however...
  • There is no way to categorize their descriptions and delineations of Mercury retrograde as anything other than "malefic", i.e., he will work against your purposes.
  • There are far worse debilities that Mercury can suffer than retrogradation: detriment and fall (in Pisces), afflicted by malefics, combust, and so forth, and these happen on and off all the time, yet no one seems concerned about them.
  • Reading modern astrologers' take on Mercury retrograde, one would think that Mercury is the single most important planet in any chart, and that it rules everything.
  • When Mercury, or any other planet, is retrograde, Life Goes On! One cannot stop and jump of the merry-go-round for ten weeks each year just because Mercury is retrograde. Businesses open, contracts are signed, autos and computers are purchased etc.
A lot of this reminds me of when I lived on Cape Cod, and was more closely associated with a particular gift shop; once or twice a year, when some big alignment was happening, the local paper would call to ask what we thought would happen. The psychics at the shop (one in particular) would give some spiel about realigning energies, yadda, yadda... I would often preface my comments with "you're probably not going to like what I have to say". This was because my reply to their question was usually "nothing out of the ordinary will happen that day". What's interesting about this is that it was me, the Medieval astrologer, of the famous gloom-and-doom Medieval astrologers, who was predicting business as usual. The modern types - who, remember, don't believe in malefics - were always the ones predicting some kind of Armageddon-type event. Just look online to see what people are saying about 2012, and you'll get an idea of what I mean.

One day I'll design and market the "Retrogrades Happen" bumper sticker. For now, suffice it to say, amongst ourselves, that they do. And life continues.

18 April 2010

Retrogrades 2010

Retrogrades 2010
All events are given for Midnight at Greenwich Mean Time

If you're not sure what the "Stationary" refers to, please see the prior post.

24 Dec
27 Dec
27º Cap
14 Jan 
16 Jan
5º Cap

15 Apr
19 Apr 
12º Tau
10 May
12 May
2º Tau

20 Aug 
21 Aug
19º Vir
11 Sep
13 Sep
5º Vir

08 Dec
11 Dec
5º Cap
29 Dec 
31 Dec
19º Sag
05 Oct
09 Oct
13º Sco
15 Nov
19 Nov
27º Lib
09 Dec
21 Dec
19º Leo
01 Mar
11 Mar
0º Leo
08 Jul
24 Jul
3º Ari
02 Nov
19 Nov
23º Pis
18 Dec 
14 Jan
4º Lib
18 May 
31 May
27º Vir

Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow"

Modern astrology posits that when a planet that goes retrograde and then direct, it also passes through a "shadow" connected to that cycle. The idea is that, for example, if Mercury goes retrograde at, say, 12º Taurus, and then travels back to 2º Taurus, then the "pre-shadow" period is from the time that Mercury originally reaches 2º to the time it gets to 12º, then the "post-shadow" period is when it goes direct at 2º to the time it reaches 12º again.

This is a purely modern invention, and has no basis in Classical or Medieval astrology.

If this were true, then Mercury, for example, would spend over seven months of the year debilitated by being either retrograde or in the shadow. This would mean constant problems, especially for those who are ruled by the planet. 

Those who espouse this idea claim that they have observed the shadow effects during these periods. However, there are no specific examples given, just generalities. Also, it's curious that this is something that was not observed by the great astrologers of the past, who did a lot more actual observing, of the planets themselves, not just their cycles on charts.

When observing retrograde cycles, I encourage you to pay attention to the stations and the actual retrogrades, and while I won't discourage you from trying to tease some meaning out of this "shadow" idea, I recommend that one have lots of specific examples before including it in any readings or predictive work.

15 April 2010

Retrograde Planets: What to do?

In the previous post, I outlined a few ways in which a retrograde planet might affect someone personally:

  1. the person is heavily ruled by the planet that is retrograde
  2. the person is in a planetary period ruled by the retrograde planet
  3. the retrograde planet is aspecting a person's chart directly
So what happens when there's a retrograde and life must go on? The washing machine breaks, and you have 4 kids at home and no laundromat nearby. The lawn mower blows up and your yard is turning into a field of wild flowers. Your boss has scheduled that important conference, conference call, or project deadline during the retrograde period. We can't just stop in our tracks until the retrograde cycle is over.

Let's take Mercury retrograde as an example, since it's the one that most people are familiar with, and the one that happens most often (it also "conveniently" rules many of the things that make our daily lives "work").

A friend recently replied to the news that Mercury is now stationary retrograde by posting that she has a new business set to open a few days before Mercury goes direct again (surprise!). I don't know what kind of business it is, but all businesses that are involved in Merchanting are ruled by Mercury (you can even see the similarity in the words Mercury and Merchant). Does this retrograde spell automatic doom for the business? No! While it's not the ideal astrological situation under which to open a new business, there are some things that can help a great deal here.

On the day of the Grand Opening, one can pick a time that minimizes the Mercury influence in the chart. Now if Mercury were in really good shape (in Gemini, Virgo, or another Air Sign), one would want to maximize its effects for merchants. But here's a trick for minimizing any damage that he might do. Construct the chart for the opening time of the business so that Mercury does not rule any houses in the chart that are significant to the business. This requires a good knowledge of the houses in a chart and what the mean, and how they might relate to one another, which is beyond the scope of this post. But I'll spell it out a bit more by way of example.

Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo. So these signs in the chart of the Grand Opening should be on the cusps of houses that have nothing to do with what the business is about. Here are the houses that will generally be important to any business:
  • 1st house (aka Ascendant or Rising Sign) rules the actual business and the life and health of the company
  • 2nd house rules the money that the business makes through its own efforts, and any assets that could be liquidated quickly (for example, not real estate or stocks)
  • 10th house rules the reputation or fame of the business (think publicity)
  • 7th house rules clients
  • 6th house rules employees
There may be other important houses involved, but without knowing more detail, it's impossible to guess. So we want to pick a time of day when neither Gemini nor Virgo is on the cusp of any of these houses. Also, we want to make sure that the Mercury retrograde is not in any of these houses.

The good news for my friend is that there are a number of realistic times during that day where Mercury is not in control of these places. At 9-10 am, for example (at her location), Gemini is on the 12th house cusp (secret enemies, isolation). So having the 12th house ruler (Mercury) in really bad shape (retrograde) is a good thing! Also at that time, Virgo is on the 4th house cusp. The 4th house is the land; so unless she (and/or any of her business partners) own the land for the new business, this is not a serious issue. Also during this time, Mercury itself is passing from the 12th house into the 11th house. By 11 am, however, that Mercury retrograde is in the 10th house of the chart (reputation, fame, publicity), so I would definitely avoid opening between about 10:30-1pm. And then as Gemini and Virgo move around the houses, they may fall onto places where you don't want them. For example, by 1pm, Virgo is on the 2nd house - money, which would not be a good thing.

So this is how you might avoid potential disaster during a retrograde cycle. Especially with new businesses, you should do everything possible to keep your hard-earned investment money and make it grow.

Disclaimer: there are other things in electing a time like this. Other planets, signs, and houses, and especially the Moon will play a significant role. And just because the Mercury retrograde does not rule any of these significant houses in the chart, that does not mean that they are automatically in good shape; one must take many factors into account. But this should give you an idea of how to go through the astrological "back door" when it's necessary.