The History of Astrology
Little did I know 30 years ago when I mistakenly purchased an Astrology book, believing it to be a novel, I had just opened the door to an ancient system of insight and divination. A system as it turns out that would profoundly change my life. Like Alice through the Looking Glass, I fell into a world of signs and symbols representing some of humankind’s earliest observations and collective wisdom dating back almost 5,000 years.
In the Beginning
Today astrology and astronomy are distinct and separate disciplines. This wasn’t always so. Approximately 2000 B. C. our ancestors watched, studied, and mapped the movement of constellations of stars and planets as these celestial bodies appeared to rise over the Eastern horizon, and move on their appointed course across the sky. What at first must have seemed like random occurrences or chaos began to appear as purposeful patterns.
Based on years of watching this cosmic dance, observers created theories. Knowledge of repeating patterns became useful tools to predict seasons and weather conditions. These in turn guided the planting and harvesting of crops, migrations from one geographical area to another, and similar behaviors. In no small way, I am indebted to these early astrologers for painstakingly crafting observations into recommendations. Otherwise, I might be planting my vegetable garden in February instead of May! Hopefully it comes as no surprise that we are the fortunate recipients of our ancestors due diligence in connecting the celestial dots.
From the Egyptians to the Babylonians, to the Greeks, and Romans, the growing body of knowledge known as Astrology spread across the world. Why? Because it works. Success with predicting weather and natural disasters evolved into more sophisticated and complex theories and beliefs. These allowed devotees to take another leap and use the mapping of the celestial bodies to understand and predict events in the lives of human beings.
Soon it was not just farmers who relied on Astrology, but also kings and rulers kept cosmic savvy advisors by their sides. Great philosophers and mathematicians including Ptolemy, Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus and Sir Isaac Newton were among those scientists who experimented with the application of theories of astronomy and astrology. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician is quoted as saying “A physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician.” Historically Astrology has been used to plan important actions ranging from declaring war to celebrating a wedding.
Throughout the history of Astrology, various cultures adopted these principles in one form or another. Systems were revised and adapted. In some cases, cultures developed their own fairly unique versions and interpretations. For example, there are 5 chinese zodiac elements (fire, wood, earth, metal, and water) and 12 animals. Today, Vedic and Western Astrology are probably the most popular and prevalent systems, with Western Astrology also known as Tropical, being the most familiar. (As a Western Astrologer, this article reflects my understanding and experience with this version.)
We Are More Than Our Sun Signs
What first grabbed my attention and made me give Astrology a second look, was realizing the history of astrology provides a rich, complex, but cohesive picture that involves not only the Sun, but all the known planets in our solar system. “What’s your Sun Sign?” is not only an antiquated pick-up line; it’s only the tip of the cosmic iceberg.
Throughout time, astrologers have developed simple yet sophisticated meanings for each of the planets. For example, the Sun represents personal ego and how we think of ourselves. The Moon describes emotional expression and may also be a key to understanding the relationship with our mothers. Mars represents motivation; Saturn is the planet of discipline; and so on. The real practice of astrology is far more complex and interesting than the familiar paragraph predictions based on Sun Sign Astrology. However, these pithy daily, weekly, or monthly horoscopes can be amazingly accurate and helpful!
Comparing Sun Sign Astrology to the usual more comprehensive practice of Astrology feels something like this. It’s the difference between telling you I am a woman; or telling you I am a woman raised by Catholic parents with nine siblings, with a master’s degree in business, a practicing animal communicator, convinced chocolate is one of the major food groups, and has a thing for James Bond movie music. Can you appreciate the richness and depth in the second approach?
Getting useful information using Astrology usually begins with the calculation of a chart. Simply, it is a picture of the earth and the surrounding constellations and planets at a specified time. Historically astrologers have recognized 12 star constellations which in turn are associated with the 12 Astrological Signs – Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer and so on. Most often, Astrology charts are drawn as circles and divided into 12 sections that look like pie wedges. Each of the 12 constellations or signs has its place around the perimeter of the circle of the chart. Each of the pie wedges are referred to as Houses each representing an area of life. For example partnerships, home, parents, siblings, work, career, money, friendships, and health as well as other important components are represented.
Charts are drawn according to mathematical calculations factoring in time, and location. Using the calculations along with ancient charts and graphs, an astrology chart for a specific individual birth or event can be drawn. Thank God for computers and modern astrological software. They make it possible for modern day astrologers to cast charts simply and with great precision. Having started out manually casting charts with blank paper, pencil, calculator and reference books, I have great appreciation for those who preceded me and for those software innovators!
The History of Astrology can be fascinating. But let’s face it. What interests me more is what can I do with it now? Why should I bother?
Astrology is used very effectively in the hands of competent practitioners as a tool for choosing the perfect date for a wedding, a root canal, or launching a successful business. However, one of its greatest contributions is in demystifying the human psyche. Astrological interpretation provides the basis for building a psychological profile of an individual or event based on the placement of the planets in Astrological signs and in the 12 chart houses at the time of birth. Along with planets, signs, and houses, astrologers carefully consider the interaction and relationship of each planet to the others. Collectively, we can build an insightful picture.
Astrology charts hold the keys to understanding many of life’s conundrums. They can describe how a person is likely to express their feelings. Do they take their cue from the air element and think them over or talk them out? Maybe they get physical like doing housework, mowing the lawn or chopping wood to work out frustration or anger. We can look at Mercury for clues to how a person thinks, learns or shares information. An Astrology chart also holds information about where we feel wounded, alone, alienated or ineffective. Fortunately they also can tell us about our strengths and greatest personal assets.
Like all tools, Astrology is best left in the hands of experienced and trustworthy practitioners. The good news is there are plenty available. More good news: astrology may seem complicated and you’ll get no argument from me. However, learning this ancient tool can be easy especially when approached like peeling an onion – one layer at a time. Every layer can be rewarding and can enrich our lives many times over.
Astrology remains a controversial science, praised and touted by some, debunked by others. However, history demonstrates its universal appeal.
It’s not just you and I who may keep an astrologer on our speed dial. We are in the company of kings, emperors, philosophers, physicians, notable scientists, rock stars, world leaders, entrepreneurs and many others who are open to using the art of Astrology to inform our choices. The key word in that sentence is “inform”. Astrology like many other disciplines and sciences should never become our only point of reference or source of information and guidance.
How to Get a Great Astrological Reading
- Start by finding a great astrologer
- Ask friends, family, or co-workers for referrals
- Often metaphysical and spiritually-oriented websites, stores, and businesses can provide names
- Don’t be afraid to ask for references or ask the potential Astrologer for information about their background and their style of reading
- Be clear about the purpose or intention for the reading. Are you looking for general information? Are you trying to schedule an important event like a wedding? Are you looking for clarity about your love life or maybe you want direction about changing careers or starting your own business
- Most people remember only a small fraction of what they hear. If you are interested in getting a recording of your session, make this arrangement before your appointment
- Assume the posture of a student or “beginner’s mind”. If you have a genuine intention of hearing valuable information or gaining insight, chances are you will
- Don’t leave your rational mind, intuition or common sense at home. Although you are relying on an expert, no one’s opinion should be more important than your own. As many have stated or paraphrased before, “Don’t be so open minded your brain falls out”
- Expect that much of what you hear will confirm what you already know or suspect about yourself, your emotions, your attitudes, beliefs, motivations and personality. That being said, it’s lovely to get confirmation
- Resist the temptation to dismiss information without at least considering it. It’s very typical that clients tell me something they initially did not understand or found difficult to accept, later was proven accurate and true. This includes very positive qualities. It is sometimes hard to hear and accept reflections that are positive about ourselves
- Run away as fast as you can, if a reading even hints at manipulation or a reader attempts to coerce you into a behavior that is uncomfortable. This includes suggestions that you are under a spell, possessed, or in some way under a black cloud or karmic obligation the Astrologer can release in exchange for something – usually money! I’m embarrassed that I even have to mention this one; but unfortunately, in every profession there are those whose integrity or ethics are suspect
Unless your situation or question is very serious, have fun. And even if your situation is serious, try to enjoy yourself when you explore astrology.
Welcome to the 2019 Earth Pig Year
On February 5, we leave the Earth Dog and enter the 2019 year of the Earth Pig, closing a major 60-year cycle in the Chinese calendar — it takes 60 years to roll through every animal sign and element in both yin and yang aspects. 2019 brings us Ji Hai, the Yin Earth Pig. The last Ji (yin earth) Hai (pig) was 1959, so those born in that year are celebrating their 60th birthdays.
Characteristics of the altruistic Pig are optimism, gentleness, kindness, and honesty. The Chinese believe that the barnyard pig’s temperament is much like humans, as pigs enjoy listening to music, and are highly intelligent. Zodiac Pigs also enjoy luxury, comfort, and good food.
Ten Heavenly Stems, Twelve Earthly Branches
Ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches, in combination with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, determine the qualities of a given year. The heavenly stems are derived from the elements of the Chinese quinary, or five-element system. Each element has a “yin” and “yang” aspect — passive and active — that make up the ten heavenly stems. For example, yin water (gui water) is represented by gentle rain, clouds, mist, dew, fog, and small streams and rivulets. Yang water (ren water) is lakes, oceans, and rivers. Yang water is in continual motion. The 12 animals are the earthly branches.
In 2019, the yin earth element (think of nurturing garden soil — gentle, maternal, supportive) combines with the pig or boar, associated with water; yin earth over water. While earth over water would normally be conflicted, the yin aspect of earth softens the relationship, bringing more harmony. That said, this is still an unstable combination (earth over water), so harmony is tenuous and delicate. The Pig’s water below can break through the flimsy yin earth above.
Some experts believe that the combination of fragile, yin earth over water could bring earthquakes, landslides, flooding — even sinkholes. The last time this heavenly stem (yin earth) and earthly branch (pig) met was 1959, when an historic earthquake (7.2) in Yellowstone Park permanently altered the regional landscape. A 7.9 earthquake in Kamchatka, Russia devastated that region, and the Malpasset Dam in Southern France collapsed. Taiwan and New Zealand had major 7.2 and 7.3 quakes. Chinese astrologers would suggest keeping your seatbelts fastened if you live in earthquake-prone zones.