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.