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.

Retrograde Planets

Before listing the actual dates (in a later post), let me make a few comments about retrograde cycles in general and what to do with them.

Retrograde Cycles
  • Outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) spend almost half the year retrograde, and they don't rule zodiacal signs, so for most purposes, one can ignore the retrograde cycles. The one exception to this is if the planet changes direction within a degree or so of one of your personal points in a chart (Ascendant, Midheaven, Sun, Moon, for example).
  • Jupiter and Saturn each spend about 4 months retrograde in a given year. So unless you have a big focus of planets in their signs (Sagittarius, Pisces, Capricorn, Aquarius, Cancer & Libra [these last two are the exaltation signs of Jupiter and Saturn]) don't worry too much about these. The most important thing here is to see what house it's going through in your chart and accept that there may be some slow-downs and reversals in those areas.
  • Mars will spend 2-3 months retrograde, on average, but it only happens about every 2 years. See above for Jupiter and Saturn for how to deal with this. Mars signs are Scorpio, Aries and Capricorn (exaltation).
  • Venus goes retrograde about every 18 months, for about 6 weeks at a time. Venus signs are Taurus, Libra, and Pisces (exaltation). Venus also rules relationships in general, love, lust, and to a certain extent, fun. So this has the potential to affect everyone in these areas, as well as those who are heavily Venus-ruled.
  • Mercury goes retrograde on average 3 times a year for about 3 weeks each time. Mercury-ruled signs are Gemini and Virgo, so if you have a lot of this in your chart, it may affect you personally. Also, Mercury is the natural ruler of communications, thinking, writing, and Merchants. So these things, as well as mechanical items, are usually affected more directly for everyone.
A retrograde planet is far more likely to affect someone if it goes retrograde, or turns direct, at or near the position of a planet in your own natal chart. A Mercury retrograde passing over one's Ascendant, for example, will be more significant than one that is buried in the 8th house, with no aspects to anything else in the chart.

Planetary Periods
Another time that one might be affected specifically by these retrograde cycles is if one is in a planetary period that corresponds to that retrograde planet. For example, if you are in a Jupiter period, and Jupiter goes retrograde, this may affect you. I'll post more on these periods at a later date under the topic "Firdaria", so watch for it.

When a planet is approaching retrograde, it appears to slow down. It usually spends a few days in the degree that it's about to turn retrograde in. Once it reaches this degree, it's as good as retrograde, since it's not really moving ahead any more. Also, as the retrograde comes to an end, the planet slows down again; when it reaches the degree that it will turn in, it will again spend a few days there, and the planet is about as good as direct, since it no longer appears to be moving backwards. So when looking at these cycles, especially Mercury, which happens often, try to take advantage of the stations. As a matter of fact, since a planet that moves most slowly is far more powerful, when a planet like Mercury stations to go direct, it's at its most potent, even though (or more specifically because) it hasn't started to move forward yet.

See the following post for what to do when you're stuck with having to deal with daily life during one of these retrograde cycles.

14 April 2010

Why I do Medieval Astrology, Part 3: Dignity and Rulership

Picking up where the last post left off...

So then what exactly is "dignity"? The simplest explanation is that a planet that is essentially dignified (that is, which has dignity based primarily on what sign it is in), gets to work the way it wants to work. There is a basic harmony between the nature of that planet and the nature of the sign it's in. This allows the planet to operate in a dignified, or graceful way. (Note that this does NOT mean that the planet and the sign are the same, as some schools of modern astrology teach.)

For example, Saturn is sort of like an old math teacher, making sure that the numbers add up, and that everything is recorded fairly. Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius, and so is dignified when in these signs. Capricorn is about the old structure, and cold, hard success, Aquarius is about community-building. So when Saturn is in one of those signs, he is able to operate the way he wants to operate: without emotion, concerned with structure, measuring out everything fair and square. So he is unimpeded in his efforts. Saturn is also exalted in Libra, which is about balance, and also about being fair and square; so this is also a place where Saturn operates well. It's true that Libra is about relationship, but Saturn is the part of it that makes sure that the relationship has a solid structure, and that the partners involved are treating each other justly. It's not the mushy, lovey-dovey part or the lust represented by Venus. So the nature of the signs here support the nature of Saturn. And although Saturn is considered a "malefic" (literally an evil-doer), he is almost kind when he is in these signs (especially Aquarius and Libra, since the heat of a daytime/masculine/positive sign warms up the ice-cold Saturn).

Saturn being dignified in Aquarius, and exalted in Libra gives it a level of rulership in all three air signs, that is, the Airy Triplicity. So even in Gemini, the third air sign, Saturn is considered dignified. Once you get past Sign, Exaltation, and Triplicity, the next two levels of dignity divide each of the signs into smaller portions. The Terms/Bounds divide each sign into five unequal divisions; the Faces/Decans divide each sign into 10 degree segments. So even if a planet isn't dignified by one of the major dignities (Sign, Exaltation, Triplicity), it will be dignified somewhere in that sign. This is of critical importance in many areas of delineation, but especially in matters of fate and free will, which we will see later on.

Now in addition to being dignified when a planet is in the proper sign and degree of the zodiac, it also gets rulership over those signs and degrees. So if a planet is dignified in a particular sign, it is also said to be the ruler of that sign. That sign is connected to that planet, even if that planet happens to be off in some other part of the zodiac. For example, let's say that someone has Pisces Rising. The sign of Pisces is ruled by Jupiter; when Jupiter is in Pisces, he is quite well dignified. But what happens when he's somewhere else in the chart? What if he's in Virgo, which, being the opposite sign from Pisces, is a place where Jupiter is debilitated? Virgo does not support Jupiter's being Jupiter. So when I consider the affairs of the first house (primarily, body, health and happiness), I consider Pisces in general (the sign on the first house/Ascendant), but also the condition of Jupiter in Virgo, which is not well off. Again, this is something that would be completely missed by modern astrology. In addition to the dignities that Jupiter has (or debilities, as the case is here), we must examine what house he's in, and what aspects he makes to other planets, in order to arrive at an accurate delineation of the affairs of the first house.

In order to get a very detailed picture of this first house, however, we need to consider all five levels of planetary rulers of Pisces: Sign, Exaltation, Triplicity, Term and Face. As I've said, Jupiter here rules Pisces, and he's in lousy shape, so it does not bode well for one's health or happiness. So what is a person to do if they have this configuration in their chart? Are they totally screwed? Not necessarily. In traditional astrology, there are at least four other rulers to examine for help: the Exaltation ruler, Triplicity rulers, Term and Face rulers. Venus, for example, is exalted in Pisces, and is therefore the exaltation ruler. So if Venus is well placed in the chart, and in good condition, the person can look to that area of the chart to pursue issues of health and happiness, rather than depending on their debilitated Jupiter. As a matter of fact, whenever they depend on Jupiter to secure these things, they will be disappointed; since Jupiter is in the seventh house in Virgo, this means that relationships (7th house) will work against the health and happiness of the native. But if Venus is in one of her own signs, say Taurus, where she is dignified, let's say in the third house, this would give the native an area of life to pursue health and happiness more successfully (3rd house = short journeys, siblings, etc.). But if Venus were in lousy shape too, we can still examine the three Triplicity rulers of Pisces (Venus, Mars, Moon) and the Term and Face rulers of the particular degree of Pisces that is Rising.

Now, why have I gone on so long about this? Because, as mentioned above, one of the modern criticisms of Medieval astrology is that it is too fatalistic. I hope that this somewhat protracted example demonstrates that although there is a certain amount of fate indicated here, Medieval astrology shows more precisely a fuller range of options for success than modern astrology ever could. Far from being fatalistic, it seems to me that this is exactly the kind of information that allows a person to make free will choices in their lives.

I'll leave it there, though I'll have a lot more to say on this matter in the future (and hopefully in shorter posts).

Why I do Medieval Astrology, Part 2: Dignities and Debilities

When I first learned astrology, I learned from the astrologer who first read my chart. She and her business partner taught some introductory courses, and I was fascinated. I started to read everything I could on the subject. I learned, for example, that Venus "rules" Taurus and Libra, and that she is "exalted" in Pisces. But nothing I read really explained much of what that meant, except to say that if Venus were in one of these signs, it was a good thing. The books go on to say that more recently discovered planets like Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto "rule" Pisces, Aquarius, and Scorpio, respectively. But few sources went on to explain the significance of this, beyond stating that if the planet was in that sign, it was a good thing.

I was lucky in my studies. Within a year of beginning, I fell into a class that was presented by one of the astrologers who had become part of the effort to translate (or re-translate into something that made sense) many of the older astrology texts (pre-Enlightenment) into English; usually this was from Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. The class was supposed to be an eight week affair, one night per week, essentially presenting a lot of what had been translated. However, the course went on for at least six weeks, and was essentially an intensive introduction to Classical/Medieval Astrology.

Probably the most fundamental piece of the class was my introduction to Essential Dignities. Until modern times, astrologers used not only "rulership" and "exaltation", but three other levels of rulership. And one of those was major. The five levels are Domicile/Rulership, Exaltation, Triplicity, Term/Bound, and Face/Decan. But even more importantly, we learned what to do with these. My own chart serves as a good example. I have Mars in Pisces; Mars neither "rules" Pisces, nor is he exalted there. So a modern astrologer would look at this and interpret a pretty weak Mars, all watered down, with low energy levels (in fact, I was told this very thing by astrologers). Anyone who knows me, however, would disagree. I am not a "low energy" person. I have deep energy reserves, but for me it operates more like a slow burn, rather than a flash. Now a classical analysis of the same placement would see that Mars in Pisces is in his own Triplicity, and (in the 22nd degree) his own Term and Face. So this is a very dignified Mars in Pisces, far from a wimpy little fish. Moreover, with Scorpio rising, Mars rules my Ascendant. So this will affect, in a very direct way, my first house issues (physical body, health, happiness).

Since the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) don't figure into this Essential Dignity schema, if one were to use Pluto as the ruler of Scorpio, one would have no way of evaluating the dignity of the ruler of my Ascendant, and therefore, how my health and happiness will work out. (By the way, in Europe many use Pluto as the ruler of Aries, and still associate Mars with Scorpio - how's that for clarity?) In addition, since it takes Pluto about two hundred fifty years to circle the zodiac, my Ascendant ruler will only make it through a fraction of the zodiac in my lifetime, which would allow me only a fraction of life's experiences.

All of a sudden, my chart started to "work," to make sense and accurately describe the circumstances of my life. Now, back to the idea that a placement is "good" or "bad". It's important to remember: What's good or bad for a planet is not necessarily what's good or bad for the person. I'll write more on this in a future post, but just for now, let's keep from being judgmental about people, even though we're judging planets.

The corollary of all of this is that planets can be in signs where they are "debilitated," that is, they don't function very "well" or smoothly.

I'll write more on this too in the future, but I hope that this whets your appetite a bit.

13 April 2010

Why I do Medieval Astrology, Part 1: Houses

This is the first of what will undoubtedly be many posts on this subject. I'll try to keep each one on the short side. I don't really like reading long blog posts myself, but occasionally they are necessary to elucidate a point.

Astrology from the Classical through the Medieval period was not primarily psychological. As with life, there were pieces of it that one would today certainly label "psychological." That particular term, however, is fairly new, so our astrological forebears would not have used it. There are techniques that identify a person's Primary Motivation, Quality of Soul, etc. Some of these are quite simple, and some are special techniques. But in delineating a chart, it's clear that there are elements that are what we would classify today as psychological.

However, this was not the main focus of a chart, and was not the primary approach to delineation. The modern approach goes something like this: The first house (Ascendant, Rising Sign - they are all synonyms) represents the "mask" that you show to the world, the surface "persona", but it's not the real you. The second house is how you feel about money, and your relationship to it, and all things that support you. The seventh house is your relationship with your spouse, etc.

In Classical/Medieval astrology, the first house is quintessentially you. It is your physical body, your health and your happiness. Much more than a mask that you show to the world, it's the single part of the chart that most represents you as a person with flesh and bone. And the ancients had a far greater respect for the connection between matter and spirit than we do today. Aristotelian philosophy posits that a body doesn't exist without a soul, but that a soul can't exist without a body either. Continuing, the second house is your money, not how you feel about it. It's not your values or what supports you psychologically. It's how much money you have, or how much you have in "movable goods", that is, stuff you could liquidate pretty quickly. The seventh house is your spouse. Not how you feel about her or him, and not the relationship itself. It describes and delineates that other person. And so on through all the houses.

In modern astrology, the houses take on the role of mere psychological extensions of the native. It seems to me that one must have a pretty big ego to think that the rest of the world is an extension of oneself. Based on modern astrological logic, if I cease to exist, then so does everything else. The Medieval approach is that the first house is the native, and that all of the other houses show the world (material and spiritual) that surrounds us.

This is what allows Medieval astrologers to predict, rather than merely psychoanalyze. If a chart shows how you feel about the world, what is there to predict? If, however, the chart represents real things in our lives, and the things that affect us from outside of our own psyches, then we can see what direction those things are headed in, and attempt to predict probable outcomes.