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Astrology Basics

What is astrology?

Astrology (Astro – Star; ology – study) is literally the study of the positions and movements of planets (Mercury; Mars; etc) and satellites (Sun; Moon; etc) in order to gain extra insight into a person’s life. There are several ways in which Astrology applies to every day life: the most common application is the reading of a Birth Chart. A Birth Chart is a very specific, tailor-made diagram or map; it is a visual representation of the planets and their relationships to each other at the exact time of a person’s birth. Birth Charts can be used to identify key weaknesses and key strengths of a person’s character. They can calculate potential problems, such as career choices or choices in love, and can also guide a person into correcting mistakes and choosing the right path.

The other very familiar application of Astrology is the more general Daily or Weekly Horoscope, which predicts how the day or week ahead will develop according to the calculated movements of the planets. A daily Horoscope will study the positions of the planets of given day and predict general trends and developments.

When was astrology developed?

Before we can answer this question we need to select one of the three great Astrological Traditions whose history we wish to explore. Western Astrology, which is our main focus, began in ancient Babylon and was a natural extension of a religious culture that was concerned with the changes of the seasons and saw divinity in the constellations and visible planets. This astrological tradition eventually spread from the middle-east to Europe where it was interpreted through the filter of a Greco-Roman understanding of the planets and the heavens.

More ancient perhaps than Western Astrology is the Vedic system developed in India, although there is evidence of significant interaction between Vedic systems and the Greek development of Western Astrology. Chinese astrology is significantly different to both Western and Vedic astrology: It has five rather than four elements and allocates signs to individuals based on their year rather than their month of birth. Astrology is a living tradition that continues to develop to this day. Relatively recent innovations include the addition of newly discovered planets such as Pluto to the interpretation of horoscopes.

What is a horoscope?

The answer to this question is much more complicated than you might think. However, as this is only an introduction to the world of astrology let’s keep things as simple as possible. A horoscope is commonly understood as meaning the interpretation produced by an astrologer based on the information that they find in your birth chart. The birth chart itself is a diagram that represents the position of all the planets in the heavens at the time of your birth and it is the relationship between these planets and their position in the chart that tells the astrologer how to correctly produce an accurate horoscope. However, you may also encounter books or web sites that refer to the chart itself as the horoscope.

In addition, astrologers will produce charts that are not records of the heavens at someone’s birth but in order to answer specific questions or to see the progress an individual has made in their life. These charts are also horoscope charts and the report that the astrologer produces is also called a horoscope or a horoscope interpretation. Of course the most well known horoscope is the one that you might read online on a daily or weekly basis and these regular predictions based on each sign are what most people think of when they use the term horoscope.

What is the zodiac?

There are some very complicated and very involved definitions of the Zodiac. We are all familiar with the twelve Zodiacal signs: Aries; Taurus; Gemini; Cancer; Leo; Virgo; Libra; Scorpio; Sagittarius; Capricorn; Aquarius; Pisces. Each of these twelve signs actually represents a constellation – that is, a grouping of stars in a specific shape.

The Aries constellation denotes the shape of a ram; the Taurus constellation denotes the shape of a bull, and so on.

Roughly speaking, then, the Zodiac is a term used to describe the movement of the planets through those twelve constellations: for example, when the planet Venus moves into the realm of Aries, then romance and love can become a lot more unpredictable, but a lot more fun too!

The Zodiac (the movement of planets through the constellations) is what forms the basis of a daily or weekly Horoscope.

What are the signs of the zodiac?

Aries; Taurus; Gemini; Cancer; Leo; Virgo; Libra; Scorpio; Sagittarius; Capricorn; Aquarius; Pisces.

For modern Horoscopes, we generally accept that the twelve signs relates directly to the position of the Sun at the time of birth. Another term for the Zodiacal signs is the Sun Sign. For example, those born around March the 21st to April 21st are known as Aries, because the sun will be in the sign of Aries around that time.

However, to complicate things a little, Sun Sign dates are not the same every year.

Take the date: 20th March. People born on this date are presumed to be Aries, but if you were born on this date in 1975, or in the year 1983, you are actually a Pisces.

There’s also the matter of the exact time when the Sun shifts from one sign to another. For example, take the date: 20th March 2007, when the sun moved from Pisces into Aries at approximately 20:07 (EDT). People born on this day could be either Pisces or Aries, depending on the exact time of birth. Those born before 20:07 will be Pisces; those born after this time will be Aries.

This is known as being born on the Cusp; i.e., being born at a point when the Sun is about to shift into the next sign. People born on the Cusp will generally have attributes of both signs. A person born on the 20th March 2007 will have the tendencies of a Pisces and an Aries. Those born on the Cusp between two signs should read the Horoscopes of both signs.

The Planets

The planets are crucial for any astrological reading, be it a Birth Chart or a Daily Horoscope. The planets don’t stay still; they move, some quickly and others very, very slowly, through the twelve constellations.

When a planet appears to be moving backwards, it is said to be Retrograde. When it starts moving forwards, it is said to be Turning Direct.

Retrograde movements weaken the quicker planets and can impact on the planetary Aspects too.

The key planets are:

The Sun – the sun is like a person’s identifier. The position of the sun determines your sign. This is like your foundation, upon which everything else is based.

The Moon – the moon governs our emotions. It moves through the Zodiac, through the signs, very quickly. When there is a new moon or a full moon or a lunar eclipse we sense it, even if we don’t realize it. The Moon can sometimes make us very loving and sensitive, or rather moody and overly sensitive.

Mercury – Mercury governs communications. Mercury is quick-witted; agile; it is, as the namesake suggests, mercurial, like quick-silver. At its worst Mercury can be a little deceitful and a little sly.

Venus – Venus is responsible for love and beauty. This doesn’t just apply to romance, although it’s certainly a major part. Venus encourages inner pride, inner beauty as well as external appearances and it can also lean a little towards vanity too.

Mars – Mars is like the fighting planet. It imbues us with drive. It pushes us. It is our motivator, although sometimes it can motivate us too much and make us a little too determined to have it our way.

Jupiter – Jupiter is nearly always associated with wisdom, but in relation to other planets, Jupiter tends to affect luck and generate enthusiasm. This is the planet that can have us making grand plans at one point and then kicking back and doing absolutely nothing at another point.

Saturn – Saturn is like a stern parent figure. It is a fun-sapping planet, but sometimes we all need a little discipline and Saturn is the planet to provide just that. This planet advocates caution and encourages us to think things through.

Uranus – Uranus is the quirky planet. This can encourage individuality and uniqueness. It’s like a charming and eccentric relative who encourages you to be yourself. This planet, though, can sometimes be a little too willful and too rebellious.

Neptune – Neptune is like the archetypical Poet of the planets. It is gentle, creative, and artistic. It’s also a very forgiving presence, seeing the good as opposed to the bad. This planet can direct us to put our needs on hold in order to serve others, but sometimes it can overdo it.

Pluto – Pluto is quite rightly likened to a volcano. Pluto is not subtle. Where Pluto figures in your Horoscope, you can be sure that the changes will be dramatic and sometimes a little traumatic. Often though, the changes it brings are positive ones, in the longer term.


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