(click on star to read the answer)
The short, simple answer is: yes, of course I do. But the truer, slightly more complex answer is: no, I don’t “believe” in astrology, because looking at the world through an astrological perspective requires no extension of faith for me.
Asking an astrologer if she believes in astrology is rather like asking a priest if he believes in God. It’s even more like asking a veterinarian if he believes in dogs. Veterinarians see dogs everyday in their practices; they don’t have to believe. I see astrology working everyday in my practice and in my personal life. Because I know what to look for, it’s easy to see and understand. Like the veterinarian, I don’t need to “believe.”
Actually, no. Your professor was describing a true astronomical phenomenon whereby the zodiac of the constellations no longer lines up with the zodiac of the seasons. This is something astrologers are very familiar with.
For 5000 years (in the Western world, and longer in China), humans have observed the sky and noticed that certain times of the year, or seasons, had particular qualities. Astrology was born when people formed associations between happenings on Earth and the movement of planets through particular patches of sky. Those patches of sky, or “signs,” had stars in them, which were organized into constellations and used as a memory device to help people remember the meaning of the sign. Mythological stories sprang up around the constellations to help people to understand and remember the signs’ meanings. Thus a thematic link was formed between a time of the year, or season, and an area of sky, or constellation. At first it was thought that the seasons and constellations were the same thing, but over time it became apparent that they were distinct.
For example, when the Sun crosses over the equator in spring, we have the spring equinox, which is the beginning of the seasonal sign of Aries. The equinox is the point at which the days (in the northern hemisphere) begin to grow longer, which is how we know it’s spring. But there is also the constellation Aries, which is—or should be—the group of stars the Sun is passing through when spring begins. However, since this link between the seasons and constellations was formed, there has been a sort of slippage. This is because the earth is not just spinning in a regular way, it actually has a wobble to its spin, like a top or gyroscope winding down. This wobble has caused the spring equinox to move backwards or “precess” into the constellation Pisces, moving a tiny amount further backwards every year. Therefore when the sun is in the season of Aries (approximately the thirty days following the spring equinox) it is now in the constellation of Pisces. Sometime next century it will be in the constellation of Aquarius (thus the famous “dawning of the Age of Aquarius”).
Astrologers, not to be deterred by this precession thing, have split up into two camps: tropicalists and siderealists. Tropical astrologers are usually Western world astrologers (like me) who use the seasons, while siderealist astrologers, who are mostly—but not entirely—Indian or Vedic astrologers, use the constellations. Funny thing is, both systems work. The key is to be internally consistent and to use the techniques that developed inside the tradition you choose.Geeky astrologer’s joke: If you go play during recess, does that mean you play backwards during precess? (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
The chart, the planets, the stars, none of these actually cause people to do or be anything. Over the centuries, astrologers have suggested many ridiculous ideas about why the planets seem to affect us: cosmic rays, planetary dust, magnetism, gravity, and so on. But a combination of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity and a piece of new physics about the holographic nature of the universe explain it best.
Synchronicity is, as Jung called it, an “acausal connecting principle.” Which is to say, when you observe two things linking up in time and space, they are connected by virtue of that link, and they have meaning to the person who is experiencing the link.
Add to this what modern physicists have discovered about the holographic nature of the universe: that the universe reflects its whole self on many, many levels. A hologram is a whole picture which, when cut up into pieces, shows the whole picture again in each piece. Fractals are mathematical formulas which display themselves graphically as patterns which repeat in ever-smaller units on into infinity. These fractalline patterns are reminiscent of natural patterns (the shape of a leaf, a spiderweb, a beaver’s den). In fact, all of nature seems to be holographic, containing the same patterns over and over again in different forms. Have you ever looked closely at moss and noticed how it looks like tiny trees?
Spatially, one example of the holographic nature of the universe would be the way that the shape of the solar system (a magnetic center with orbitals) is reflected in the shape of an atom (a magnetic center with orbitals).
Temporally, one example would be the way that a year and a day mirror each other: morning/spring being an awakening of light and energy, afternoon/summer being the warmest and most lit, autumn/sundown being a decline in light and energy and winter/midnight being the darkest, coldest time of day and year. This is also mirrored in the lunar phases, which run from the dark new moon through the ever-brightening first quarter to the bright, full moon, then decreasing in light through the waning third quarter and returning to the darkness of new. Much astrological knowledge is built on the understanding that life happens in cycles which nest in each other and build on each other.
Combining these two ideas (the holographic nature of the universe and Jung’s theory of synchronicity), it becomes clear that the planets do not have to compel us by virtue of any forces which they exert on us from outside ourselves; they have only to exist in the same spacetime moment that we do. It is not that the planets lead and we follow, it is that we dance together.
The groupings of the planets in your birth-chart are a symptom of the quality of that birth-moment. It is a moment you captured by being born in it. You “caught” the moment in your very flesh and you are now living it out. You carry that moment in your body throughout your whole lifetime. So the planets don’t cause you to be the ways you are; you also do not cause the planets to be the way they are. You simply share the qualities of the birth-moment.
To understand a human being we can look at the human being of course; but if that was sufficient the many disciplines we use for self-discovery simply wouldn’t exist (psychology, philosophy, religion, etc.). It’s not easy or simple to read the human being directly from himself. The reason we look at the birth chart instead is that, unlike a human being, it a is a readable tool for understanding the quality of that moment and thus of the human being also.
Most modern Western tropical astrologers (like me) do not read the chart as an expression of your unchangeable fate, but rather as a series of likelihoods, possible life-experiences which derive naturally from your personal astrological temperament. Which is to say, your natal chart describes your temperament, and your transits and progressions describe the sorts of life experiences that will be extremely likely to happen to a person of your temperament. A good astrologer can also tell you when those experiences will happen and suggest how to handle them gracefully.
Knowing all about your temperament might seem only mildly useful compared with knowing about your fate, but consider the following idea: If you know what kind of creature you are, then you know how you should live.
Let’s say you are a particular kind of animal, perhaps a lion. Naturally, you should live on the savannah, hunting and sleeping with your pack, harem-style, as lions do. But suppose you came from a family of otters. Your family members, who love you, have tried their hardest to teach you otter ways: how to swim and catch fish, and they’ve tried their best to include you in fun otter social games. They have no clue why you don’t care for fish, have no interest in their games and worst of all, hate the water! You, meanwhile, are frustrated and feel deeply misunderstood.
At this point in your life, an astrology reading would be invaluable. The instant you sit down the astrologer can reflect to you: “what a fine lion you are!” Bewildered, you cry, “but I’m an otter! My whole family is otters. I know no other life.”
“I don’t think so,” says the astrologer, and she proceeds to point out all your lion-traits and suggest ways you might use them to best effect. Then she can explain all the lion-oriented life passages you’ll be going through, and at exactly what times you’ll be going through them, so that when you come of age as a lion, you’ll be ready.
A good astrologer will correctly identify your lion-nature and explain it to you. A great astrologer will find your lion-nature to be worthy of celebration and a really great astrologer will leave you inspired by your own essential nature, feeling right about yourself, excited to live the life you came here to live and better empowered to do so than you were when you walked in.
Birth is a complex process with many steps. An obstetrician or midwife may well ask, “is the birth-moment the moment of the crowning? Or is it when the baby emerges?”
The birth moment is actually the moment of the baby’s first breath. When the baby is inside the mother, it is an extension of the mother’s body, bound together with her in every biological process upon which life depends. The baby eats, eliminates and breathes through the mother; in effect, they are one body. As long as the baby is connected via the umbilical cord to the mother, those processes continue and the baby is a part of the mother, not a being in itself.
The moment of first breath is the moment when the baby makes its first act independent of the mother and in doing so, establishes itself as a separate being, both biologically and spiritually. I heard a friend speak in tones of awe about being present at a birth: after the baby emerged and breathed, she said “suddenly, there was one more person in the room.”
Here’s a description from an account by a midwife of a difficult birth where the baby was out but not yet breathing: “I could feel . . . that the baby had a strong heartbeat but about fifteen seconds had passed since his birth and he hadn’t figured out how to breathe yet. . . Time stands still when a baby doesn’t cry. . . It’s odd how babies appear to shrink when they’re not breathing, and this little boy was getting smaller by the second.” And finally: “. . . as his lungs began to fill up with air, he began to fluff up like a sponge soaking up water. He howled, and then he grew bigger and stronger and more alive right before my eyes.1
At the moment of that independent act, the first breath, the baby imprints the quality of the moment into his or her very cells by drawing oxygen into them. The baby then becomes an agent of that moment, carrying that moment with all of its qualities forward into time and space, living out that moment for the rest of his/her life. The baby’s mission is to live out the potentials of that moment in the most brilliant and satisfactory way possible.
The birth chart shifts subtly every three minutes. A ten minutes’ difference between two charts can spell a lot of personality change. This is part of why even identical twins are not always temperamentally identical.
Usually—but not always—the most accurate birth time is the one listed on the birth certificate. Most hospital nurses and doctors are not aware that the infant may want a reading someday and do not know which moment during the birth cements the birth chart (it is the moment of first breath—see above). Frequently, birth times are recorded later according to what the nurse remembers and are simply not regarded as important data. If the time listed is to-the-minute, rather than rounded off by the hour or half-hour, it’s probably reliable data.
Mother’s memory is not a very reliable source because mother was usually pretty distracted at the time. If you are lucky, you may have a mom who is sure of your birth time to the minute. Alternatively, you may have a baby book which was made at the time, and which lists the time of birth along with your weight and length. This is also likely to be a good source.
If you don’t have a birth certificate and you’re getting conflicting or vague data from Mom (“I’m pretty sure it was around 2 pm, because we’d just had lunch brought in. . .” or “I guess it was between midnight and 1:30 am. It was after midnight, that I’m sure of.”), you can get a birth certificate from the hospital you were born in. Contact the hospital by phone and ask the Records department how to obtain a copy of your birth certificate with the time on it. They may require a written request with your signature on it, because of medical confidentiality laws. Find out whether they actually have the birth time on record before you send the letter—if they cannot provide you with the birth time, it’s not worth the trouble.
Alternatively it may be possible to obtain a copy of your birth record over the internet. I had success obtaining my deceased father’s birth record by googling “Akron Ohio birth records.” Medical records are usually only released to the individual whose record they are, or a family member if the individual is deceased.
If you have no written record and cannot get one, you may have to rely on your mother’s or father’s memory. This usually yields not an accurate birth time, but a good place to start.
If you have absolutely no record of a birth time and not even a general guess (i.e. you were adopted, etc.), an astrologer can still arrive at an accurate chart. . .
“I just can’t get a birth time” or “I was adopted and there’s no record of a birth time for me.” What can be done? Then we use rectification.
Rectification, or “making right” is a research process by which we can discover your accurate birth time. If it’s done right, it should result in a chart which feels right to you and works for you over time. The process I use is more intuitive and less technical and works best with a client who knows themselves pretty well, and can remember the dates of significant events in their past.
Rectifying a chart from a day-long time span is much more time-consuming and expensive than from an hour-long time span, but it is doable. Any astrologer worth the name who is willing to do this should guarantee that the resulting chart feels right and accurate to the client.
Fortunately, no. In any field there will be some bad apples, but those are the exception rather than the norm. Most professional astrologers sincerely want to help. Among the many useful tools for self-understanding and personal growth, astrology is something of a power tool. It should be used carefully and when selecting an astrologer, it’s important to choose one with good sound ethics. But how do you know what good ethics are in the realm of astrology?
It’s easy to be taken advantage of when you are not sure what you have a right to expect from someone whose services you are buying. People tend to fall into two camps: the superstitious (who believe too easily) and the skeptics (who refuse to believe, even in the face of proof). In their extremes, both camps hold preconceived notions about astrologers as a class, without a reasonable sense of what can be expected of an individual. Unfortunately such preconceived notions increase the likelihood of a bad experience by creating exactly what the person is trying to avoid. This makes it difficult to clearly judge whether a particular practitioner is a good one or not. Below are some standards you should reasonably be able to expect from anyone who calls themselves a professional astrologer.
You should be able to expect of your astrologer much of what you would expect from a good psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, or a reputable consultant (such as lawyer, accountant, etc). Your astrologer should:
Choose an astrologer as you would a doctor or lawyer:
I do not offer in-depth readings of charts for a third party, so please do not ask me to look at your boyfriend’s chart and tell you how he ticks. The main reason for this is that each piece of the chart can be lived out in a multitude of ways. Unless I have the native (the person whose chart it is) there to validate my interpretations, I can’t be sure that I’m giving useful, pertinent information. You are the ultimate authority on yourself and your life, and so is your partner the ultimate authority on theirs. Reading someone’s chart when they are not present to relate it to their own experience can lead to misinformation which can confuse and even poison a relationship. Please don’t go there.
I am willing to take a brief look at the compatibility between your chart and theirs, and this will tell you whether you want to take the next step and get a full-sized reading for the two of you.
I can’t speak for all astrologers, of course, but I can let you know how I spend the time you’re paying for.
Beyond the hour or hour and a half of actual reading time we have together, there is a lot of time when I’m working for you that you don’t see. First, there is the initial intake. This is a 15 or 20-minute conversation where I find out exactly what you want out of the reading, so I can tailor it to your needs. Then I take anywhere from an hour (for a natal reading) to over two hours (for other, more complex readings) to prepare. So by the time you see me, you can bet that I’ve already spent at least an hour and a quarter on you, if not more. Then there is the reading itself and while I make every effort to confine myself to the time frame we agreed on, I frequently find the reading spills over. After the reading I take about 45 minutes to an hour to prepare the disk and packet for you and mail it to you. There’s also the cost of first-class mailing, which I don’t pass on to you. Put all that together and I’m not actually making $100 an hour; in fact it’s more like a third of that.
In addition to all of this, I do one reading a month “pro bono” or at a deep discount for someone who really needs it. I do that because I love astrology and people.
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