What is astrology?

Any astrologer will tell you that a horoscope can be drawn up for absolutely anything, births, deaths, weddings, funerals, natural disasters, the founding of a new company, the time the polls opened on the day of a general election, even the opening of a packet of crisps.

Each of these horoscopes will have something useful and significant to say on many levels about the person or event it represents, although any serious astrologer wouldn’t waste his or her precious time and knowledge on something so inconsequential as the opening of a packet of crisps, unless perhaps it was the first packet of crisps off the production line for the launch of a new brand of crisps! That horoscope would have a lot to say about the brand personality of the new crisps which could be put to good use by marketers!

The broad ranging usefulness of astrological horoscopes may come as a surprise to most readers of the sun sign columns in the tabloid newspapers, which are mostly found on the ‘fun’ page with the cartoons and the crossword puzzles. Most serious astrologers would agree that these columns do little to further the cause of astrology and many will claim they do actual damage to its reputation. In reality, the relationship of tabloid astrology to serious astrology is like a double-edged sword. Astrologers do want people to have access to their subject and many of today’s excellent astrologers first became interested by reading their ‘stars’ in the papers and were curious enough, or inspired enough, to delve deeper into it. But still, many columns really do not do astrology justice. In fact, in the early days of sun sign columns, which first appeared in the 1930’s, many ran with a disclaimer! Hardly the best public outing for modern astrology, which is a constantly evolving body of knowledge based on an ancient hybrid of science, art and philosophy, once revered by both science and religion and used in the courts of Kings.

Of course, some columnists take their subject matter more seriously than others. For example, Shelley von Strunckel, writing in the Sunday Times, does much to suggest that the pieces she writes are based on the real application of a set of principles, regularly referring as she does to the movements of the planets and their affect on each sign. For example, in her column for Virgo on 10th April, she says “Judging by the antics of your ruling planet, the retrograde Mercury, over the past weeks, by now you’re probably exhausted. As of Tuesday, this ends, although it may take a few days for things to get back to normal”.

However, other columns, which in the same week may say things like you will have a misunderstanding with your neighbour, but you will find love behind a blue door with the number 30 on it, do nothing to suggest that astrology is anything more than ‘made up’ or at best based on some kind of intuitive ability or psychic power.

So, what is the distinction between popular astrology and serious astrology? Well, the distinction is that serious astrology gets personal!

The sun sign astrology of popular columns is based only on the month of birth. We can say for example that for most of February the sun is in the zodiac sign Aquarius and as there are only twelve signs of the zodiac, there are only twelve possible character types in sun sign astrology. This fact has been the focus of much criticism of astrology, but the idea that astrology allows for only twelve types is just a tiny, miniscule fraction of the whole picture.

A personal horoscope is based not on the month of birth, but on the actual date, year, accurate time and place of birth. From this detailed information the astrologer will draw up an astrological chart, which is the basic tool of the trade for all astrologers. Each chart is unique to the individual (even twins born minutes apart will have subtle but significant differences between their charts) and shows the positions of the Sun, Moon, the planets of the solar system and other astronomical bodies at the time of birth. It is the astrologer’s job to interpret the meanings of these bodies in the chart by their positions and the relationships between them. The combinations are literally endless. If the astrologer looked only at the sun sign and moon sign in a chart and how they operated as a pair, there would be no less than 144 possible combinations. She’d have come a long way from the twelve sun sign characters, but she’d still have only barely skimmed the surface.

So there is a lot more to astrology than the sun signs, but what can a professional reading of your own astrological birth chart tell you and how useful is this information?

Like a directional map of your life, your birth chart describes your past, your present and your potentials for the future. Above and beyond those general character traits which can easily be applied to anyone (another criticism of popular astrology), it will tell you about your deepest needs, wants and desires and how they might manifest in your life. For instance, is your deep need for emotional security at odds with your desire for freedom from commitment and does this cause problems in your relationships? If this is a strong theme in your life it is likely that the astrologer will find this theme symbolised in your chart. More importantly, through detailed analysis of all the chart factors and through intelligent discourse with you, the consultant astrologer will be able to help you integrate those two disparate urges and help you safeguard your future happiness and fulfilment.

So essentially, the chart tells the astrologer about the nature of the life challenges you will face and provides valuable clues about the personal resources, strengths and talents available to you to help you overcome them and make the most of your potential.

Beyond personal astrology, known as natal astrology, there are a myriad of other astrological techniques which can be very useful in everyday life.

For example, vocational astrology, which can help you with career decisions; synastry which compares your chart with someone else’s to assess your compatibility; relocation astrology, which can tell you how you will respond in a new location; mundane astrology, which studies countries, governments and world leaders; and horary, which is a special technique which seeks the answer to a specific question and is based on a chart drawn up for the moment the question is asked. Then there are astrologers who bring their specialist knowledge in a particular field such as health, business or the stock market to their astrological craft.

The applications of serious astrology then, really are almost as endless as the possible combinations in a personal chart and lest we forget, electional astrology is the name of the technique used to find the best possible time to plan an event – when to get married, found a new company, call an election and when to open that all important packet of crisps!

About the author: MANDI LOCKLEY

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