Astroblog 2 - April.17.2018 - The Basics Part 1

Hello, again, out there! I mentioned last week in the TarotBlog section of the website that the first set of blog series for both the Tarot and the Astrology sections will be "the basics." So, that's what we're gonna talk about here. Just like with tarot, it's really important to have a basic understanding of what astrology is, what astrology is not, and the basics of how it works before we dive into anything more complex. So, let's do it...

If you've ever read your horoscope in a newspaper or magazine, you may have thought to yourself, "Who actually believes in this garbage?" And honestly - it's probably with good reason - it's seriously unlikely that some writer working for a random magazine actually knows your future...bogus, right? That's because it is. Those common horoscopes (often referred to as "Sun Sign Astrology") are a bastardized version of what astrology, in it's completeness, actually is. Astrology can't tell the future. Astrology doesn't control you. We are all made up of all the planets, all the houses, and all the zodiac signs (we'll get into that in a few minutes), and lastly, but most importantly, we are all agents of our own free will. 

Remember when you were in science class, and they taught you the mnemonic phrase, "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos Politely" to remember all the planets in our solar system - that's finally going to come in handy somewhere outside of your 4th grade classroom. When we are born, all the planets are out in space doing their thing - orbiting, hanging out, getting beat up by space rocks and other matter, you know - normal planet stuff. A birth chart (sometimes referred to as a natal chart) captures where these planets were and what they were doing when you were born. It's quite literally a map representation of the sky at the time of your birth.

So, when you ask someone, "what's your sign?", and they respond that they are a Leo or a Taurus or whatever their sign is, what you're really asking them is "what is your sun sign?" - in other words, in what zodiac sign the sun was sitting at the time of their birth. We all have a Sun Sign, and that's what we're generally most familiar with. But, we all also have a Mercury Sign, a Venus Sign, a Mars Sign, a Jupiter Sign, a Saturn Sign, a Uranus Sign, a Neptune Sign, and a Pluto Sign. (Told you you would need that trick!) Additionally, even though it's not technically a planet, we all have a Moon Sign. The sun (which is also not technically a planet) is an important part of someone's astrological chart, but it's just a very small piece of a much larger picture. 

Most people are already familiar with the twelve signs of the zodiac. You know - Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn,  Aquarius, and Pisces. Just like the planets, we all also have all 12 signs of the Zodiac represented somewhere in our charts. 

Lastly, a piece of the puzzle which you may or may not have ever heard of are the Houses. There are 12 houses in each birth chart, and they represent various areas of life - finances, family life, etc. Just like the planets and the zodiac signs, we each have all 12 Houses represented in our charts.

Now, before we go any further into what the planets, houses, and signs represent in a chart, we should probably talk about Jung. If you read TarotBlog1 on this site last week, then you already know that Carl Jung was a Swiss Psychiatrist with some pretty rad theories about the collective unconscious. Another term he coined was "synchronicity." Jung believed in the idea of meaningful coincidences and mirroring. Essentially, that what was happening on Earth was a mirror of what was happening in the sky - an "as above, as so below" sort of a thing. With that, the idea naturally follows that people and events take on the characteristics of the time they are "born." That means you can do a chart for a person or for the start of a business or marriage or country - whatever you want really, and that chart will give you a look at what was going on in the sky at the moment of it's "birth." 

There are three pieces of information required for building a birth chart - the birth date, the birth time, and the birth place. There are tons of free online tools that allow you to create a chart. I use TimePassages Pro right now, but that's a paid software. Prior to that, I was going to www.astro.com and building charts for free. For the purposes of this discussion, I constructed Beyonce's chart for us to take a look at. I highly encourage you to go and construct your chart to have in hand as we start to look at the specifics of the charts throughout the Astrology Basics Series - you'll learn a lot!

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A few basic things to get us started - birth charts are reversed from what we traditionally think of as East and West. In a birth chart, the right side of the chart represents the Western Hemisphere (Houses 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and the left side of the chart represents the Eastern Hemisphere (Houses 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12). Likewise, North and South are reversed. So, the bottom half of the circle (Houses 1-6) represents the Northern Hemisphere, and the top half (Houses 7-12) represents the Southern Hemisphere. It's tricky, but you'll get used to it. 

The Houses start on the left side (Western Hemisphere) of the chart, and are numbered 1 through 12 counter-clockwise. The little glyphs inside the houses represent planets and important heavenly bodies (asteroids, etc.). The zodiac is represented along the outside of the circle. Notice that the zodiac doesn't line up perfectly with the houses and that not all of the houses are the same size. Beyonce's are fairly evenly sized, but this is not always the case. So, if you see a chart where the houses are visibly different in size, don't panic - it's normal. It's because the example chart was pulled the in what we call the Placidus method of construction. There are options to pull the chart in the Equal House method which is another way to construct a chart so that all the houses are equal in size.  It cleans up the look of the chart a bit, but I learned to read charts in Placidus, so I find it easier to explain charts in Placidus.

Without knowing anything about the planets, houses, and zodiac, you can look at a chart and tell some things about a person just based on where the planets are placed and the general chart shape. The planets are where our life energy is focused. There will always be empty houses. We all have them. It doesn't mean we won't experience what those houses represent in our life. It just means that our energy is primarily focused in other houses where planets are found. Those 4 hemispheres we discussed (Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western) are associated with some specific qualities, and can be further divided into quadrants that can tell us a little more about the person. When you look at where planets are located or concentrated, you can tell a lot about where people generally focus their energy. 

In order to have a good understanding of how this works, you need to understand how the chart is set up. Think of yourself as being born in the center of the chart. The chart isn't heliocentric like our universe is in actuality. Earth is the center of the birth chart, as that's presumably where we were all born (one hopes...). That's right - you actually do get to be the center of the universe sometimes!

Let's orient ourselves. If the subject is being born in the center, and the Eastern Hemisphere is on the left side of the chart, then the line separating House 12 and House 1 would be considered the horizon, right? You will hear A LOT about "The Ascendant" or "The Rising Sign" as we move forward in learning about charts. The ascendant is the zodiac sign that resides where that line is. It was the sign that was rising in the East at the time of your birth. For Beyonce, her ascendant is Libra.  We'll talk more in depth about what the ascendant, or rising sign, is responsible for as we move through the series, but for now, just know that it's there and that it's important. 

Directly 180 degrees across from the Ascendant on the same axis (often denoted as "AC/DC"), the line separating House 6 and House 7, would be the sign setting in the West at the time of birth. This is referred to as "The Descendant." Beyonce's descendant is Aries. Again, we'll talk about the significance of the descendant in subsequent blogs, but for now, it's just important that you can locate it on the chart.

Also, the zodiac is represented as a full 360 degree circle, and the order of the signs never changes. Based on this, whatever sign the ascendant is in, the descendant will always be the exact opposite sign (180 degrees away) in the zodiac - the six pairs look like this:

  • Aries/Libra

  • Taurus/Scorpio

  • Gemini/Sagittarius

  • Cancer/Capricorn

  • Leo/Aquarius

  • Virgo/Pisces

So, a Gemini ascendant always means a Sagittarius descendant and vice versa. 

The AC/DC axis divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. So, from that we can deduce that everything in the Southern Hemisphere was what was "visible" and above the subject at the time of their birth. Likewise, everything in the Northern Hemisphere of the chart would have been "invisible", as it wasn't overhead in the sky at the time of birth.

Let's step back and talk about archetypes for a moment. If you read TarotBlog1, then you know that understanding archetypes is paramount to being able to interpret tarot. The same is true for interpreting birth charts.  So, let's think about archetypes for a moment to deduce what the Northern and Southern Hemispheres say about us in a general way. 

When you think of something "visible" versus something "invisible," what natural associations come to mind? You would probably associate extroversion with the "visible" and introversion with the "invisible," right? Let's follow that intuition. By that logic, people who have a Southern Hemisphere with more planets located above the AC/DC would tend to be social, extroverted, community-oriented, and concerned with events outside the self.

Likewise, people with more planets in the Northern Hemisphere would tend to be more inwardly focused. They would likely be introverted, focused on the self, and generally more centered on the areas of life that shape our identity as opposed to participating largely in arenas of the social collective.

So, what happens if you have an even split or relatively even focus of planets both above and below the AC/DC? Well, you would probably more of a mix of the two archetypes rather than favoring one preference over another. This is the case for Beyonce. She has 5 Northern Hemisphere planets and 5 Southern Hemisphere planets in her chart. So, she's likely a mix of the two archetypes. The specifics of what that looks like for her as an individual can be determined by looking at the planets, houses, and signs. Those will give you all the specifics, but we'll focus on that in subsequent blogs in this series.

Now, let's switch gears a little. Similar to the AC/DC axis, imagine a vertical line running down the middle of the chart from top to bottom. It would run between the 9th and 10th and 3rd and 4th Houses. At the top of the chart, in the Southern Hemisphere where the 9th and 10th Houses are divided, is the Midheaven (often denoted as "MC"). This is the highest point on the chart and also the sign of the zodiac that was at the highest point, directly overhead, at the time of your birth. It's another important point on our charts, which we will discuss in detail in subsequent blogs on this series. Beyonce's is in Cancer. 

If you follow that imaginary line downward, to where the 3rd and 4th Houses are divided, that point on the chart is known as the Imum Coeli or "IC" which is latin for "bottom of the sky." Just like the AC/DC axis, the MC/IC axis follows the same 180 degree rule with respect to the signs. So, since Beyonce's MC is in Cancer, then her IC, would be in Capricorn. 

The MC/IC axis divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres on the chart. The Eastern and Western Hemispheres describe how we are motivated and who we "answer to" in a sense. People with heavy planetary focus on the Eastern Hemisphere, as Beyonce does, tend to be independent, self-motivated, assertive, and accountable to themselves.

On the flip side, people with a strong Western Hemisphere tend to be more focused on others. They are motivated not by the self, but rather, by others, and oftentimes, the needs of others come first to these people. 

So, now that we have a firm understanding of what the Hemispheres represent, let's combine this knowledge, and break the chart in to quadrants. Starting with the 1st House and moving counter-clockwise, the quadrants are broken up as follows: 

Quadrant I, The Northeast Quadrant (Houses 1-3): This quadrant blends the Northern and Eastern Hemisphere archetypes. Remember that the Northern Hemisphere is all about the "invisible," the self, and inward focus. The Eastern Hemisphere represents someone independent who is both motivated by and answers to the self. Therefore, someone with the majority of their planets in Quadrant I would likely be someone focused highly on personal identity and the self as a major part of their value system. They're likely to have a very subjective viewpoint in life, and enjoy working alone as well as spending considerable energy on introspection.

Quadrant II, The Northwest Quadrant (Houses 4-6): This quadrant blends the Northern Hemisphere (inward focus, self) with the Western Hemisphere (someone both focused on and motivated by others). So, when we blend these ideas, we get someone who is likely focused on the idea of personal expression. These would be people who want to expand their awareness out to the others. They want to self express and have others be receptive to that. 

Quadrant III, The Southwest Quadrant (Houses 7-9): This quadrant combines the Western Hemisphere (someone both focused on and motivated by others) with the Southern Hemisphere characteristics of being "visible," social and, extroverted. A Quadrant III person would likely be someone who cared very much about social identity and expansion. People in this quadrant live very public lives, and not necessarily in the celebrity sense - these are the kind of people who put it all out there. You know the type, where every life event is a matter of public record. We all know of at least one person who gives the public a play by play of the minutia of their day via social media...that's likely a Quadrant III person.  These people place a high value on the opinions of others. 

Quadrant IV, The Southeast Quadrant (Houses 10-12): This quadrant blends the Southern Hemisphere aspects of being "visible," social, and extroverted with the Eastern Hemisphere qualities of independence and self-motivation. They would be people who are interested in social expression. These people want to make a mark on the world. They are likely to be independent and focused on social causes. 

Looking at Beyonce's chart, she would be an Eastern Hemisphere person, so equally Quadrant I and Quadrant IV. 

In the next blog, we'll talk about some typical chart shapes and patterns and what they signify as well as what the AC, DC, MC, and IC represent in our charts. Then we'll move into the planets and their archetypes.

In the meantime, construct your chart, and look at your where your planets are focused. What Hemispheres/Quadrants stand out in your chart? Also, locate your Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven, and Imum Coeli as well as what sign of the zodiac each is found in.

-S