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What Is Astrology

For the last few decades, Astrology has been synonymous with sun sign forecasts in magazines and newspapers, as a form of entertainment. Even the majority of modern astrology books have focused only on the sun and often presented cartoonish presentations of the signs qualities such as; Pisces are dreamy and waste hours of their life looking for their car keys, Libras struggle with making decisions and Geminis talk none stop. However this somewhat fun, but overly reductionist approach to astrology, has led to the majority of the West forgetting that astrology is the oldest science in the world. One can only imagine the dedication and brilliance of the mathematical minds thousands of years ago, that spent their time observing the night sky and over time identified and plotted the movement of the luminaries and inner planets. 

Astrology is thousands of years old and first appeared in Greece around 4BC. Spreading through Europe and the Middle East, astrology was considered the science of the soul and studied by some of the greatest minds including Hippocrates, Galen, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Nostradamus, and Sir Isaac Newton, and is evident in the birth of astronomy, mathematics, physics and medicine.  Evidence of how intricately astrology was layered throughout both science and the culture can still be seen by the complex symbology drawn from their myth and archetype system, the planets named after the gods, the days of the week named after the planets (Saturnday, Sunday, Moonday, ) and our months after the seasons. Astrology started to loose credibility and was tossed out of main stream as superstition, or at the very least a pseudo-science at the end of the17th Century. 

The discovery at the heart of the separation between astrology and astronomy was the theory Copernicus put forth in 1543 of the heliocentric model; a sun centred universe. Prior to this, early observations of the night sky had naturally led them to believe for thousands of years that the earth was at the centre, and that the planets travelled around the earth. The warm, life giving Sun, was revered and central to the Western astrology system and the entire system is built around the seasons, or the position of the Sun throughout the year. In this way, the four right angles of the chart represent the Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. This is worth noting when considering arguments put forth regarding astrology and the constellations today. Whilst Western astrology named and uses twelve of the many constellations identified as part of its system, it is not a constellation based model.

Astrology: Text
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Astrology: Image

Astrology is a complex language made up of three distinct symbol systems, the signs, the planets and the houses. Interwoven, these three vocabularies each with a distinct purpose, bring the story of the birth chart to life. The signs are our identity and all the complexity entailed in one’s character including psychological framework, needs and fears, dreams and desires, attitudes and biases. Each of the 12 houses represent an arena in life, for example education, family, community or creativity and in this way, indicates where the theatre of life will take place. The planets symbolise the internal structure of the mind and psychological function such as emotions, intellect, will and self imagery.

Central to astrology is the birth chart, a map of the sky showing the placement of all the planets and the sign they were located in at the exact time you were born. The chart is represented by a 360 degree circle, divided into 12 sections representing the 12 houses. The time you were born is integral to drawing the chart, as this indicates which sign is located in the first house, the starting place for your unique placement of all the signs and planets. 

Interpreting the birth chart requires learning this ancient language; becoming a symbol reader. The art of weaving together the messages of the signs, planets and houses, is a complex task and requires several years of study to master. When appreciating the complexity and detail involved in reading the birth chart, one can quickly see how focusing only on the sun sign is overly reductionist. Astrology does not simply categories people into 12 signs, simply by adding the moon and its sign alone, we now have 144 possible combinations of interpretation, vastly increasing the depth and description of character and potential.

Up until recent times generating a complete birth chart was rather inaccessible, involving hours of study and the arduous task of looking up an ephemeris, a chart listing the trajectory of each planet by sign and degree for every day of the year. This information was then plotted out on a chart and mathematical angles where calculated between the planets and signs. Today however with the invention of computer software and ease of access on the internet, charts can be developed in minutes making it more accessible than ever. This has led to a resurgence of interest in this intricate and complex system that offers ritual and spiritual insight, by re-connecting us with the cycles of nature.

Astrology: Text
Astrology: Image
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