that the content on this page was contributed by Karen Carter-Seagan.
Astrology has been practiced for thousands of years, and despite the ridicule of scientists millions continue to believe in its influence. Many mistakenly believe that Astrology indicates fate - that a person's life is set on a certain path by the moment and place of birth. But Astrology is simply a tool used to gain knowledge that, if used in the right way, can bring great insight.
Just as science barely has a grasp on the workings of the mind (are people's actions caused by learned behavior, genetics, environmental factors, or a combination?), it dismisses Astrology because the effects of the planets and sun and moon on the Earth and mankind are the result of such a complicated network of factors that science has not come up with a satisfactory way to test Astrology's validity. Likewise, there are so many interpretations of these effects that astrological predictions and readings can vary greatly among astrologers. Astrological influences do not only affect humans; the same principles apply to pets, corporations, nations and this Web site.
Whether Astrology is considered a science or an art, all who study and practice it will ultimately arrive at their own individual conclusions about its validity. Thousands of books have been written on the subject. Here we are going to focus on traditional Western Astrology and present a simple overview. Many would say that much of the ancient wisdom of the early astrologers has been lost through the ages - and it's true that there are numerous schools of Astrology. Today many astrologers give very different interpretations of astrological events.
For instance, in August of 2001, Saturn (the planet of fate) made the first of three oppositions to Pluto (the planet that rules death). Many astrologers predicted great turmoil in the world, and one even specified that there would be increased terrorist activity and that the United States would be particularly affected. Five weeks later came September 11. In the months that followed, these planets made two more oppositions to each other. But some astrologers predicted that great good would eventually come of the events that were unfolding.
While this planetary alignment was powerful and indeed is still being felt, the ultimate outcome will result from the actions of humans. These actions will be influenced by the heavens, but free will reigns. Just as some who grow up underprivileged become criminals while others become saints, the sum of our lives makes us who we are - how and where we are raised, the families we choose to be born into, and whether we choose to acknowledge Universal Truths. Astrology can indicate certain probabilities, but with the right intentions positive astrological influences can be enhanced while the negative ones can be overcome.
So let's get down to the basics...
The ecliptic is the great circle of the celestial sphere that is the annual path that the sun appears to go through among the stars - or of the earth as from the perspective of the sun. Within this great invisible band around the earth are the 12 signs of the zodiac, equally divided into 30-degree segments. The constellations that make up the 12 zodiac signs when combined describe the entire cycle of human life in patterns that correspond to the seasons.
The first sign is Aries. The sun enters Aries at the moment of the spring equinox, usually on March 20. Aries is the baby of the zodiac, arriving with the rebirth that comes with spring. Likewise, moving through the zodiac signs is like going through the phases of life: Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and Leo correspond to various phases of childhood. Virgo, the end of summer, is making the transition to adulthood. Libra is the young adult, while Scorpio becomes concerned with more serious issues like death and what happens afterward. Sagittarius, the sign of the philosopher, looks back at all that has come before it as it begins the transition to old age. By the time we reach Capricorn, weariness of the conditions of human life seems to have set in. Aquarius and Pisces equate to very old age, and these signs are not as concerned with earthly goings-on as they understand that there is more to life than what is experienced on the 3rd level and focus more on other levels of reality.
Many people know only their sun signs - the sign of the zodiac the sun was moving through at the time of their birth. But the complexity of an individual's chart cannot be overemphasized. No two people's charts will ever be the same, because even if they were born at the same time they are never born at the exact same point in space-time. However, say two babies are born at the exact same time in the same hospital. Their charts will be virtually identical - giving them the same potential. However, many factors will come into their lives that will ultimately determine who they become.
Every planet in a chart will be in a particular sign of the zodiac, but while some signs will not have a planet moving through them, each person's chart contains the entire zodiac and everyone experiences the potential of all 12 signs. Most people are combinations of three or four major signs, with the other eight or nine signs taking on less-important roles.
The signs are divided by three significant characteristics: Elements, Qualities, and Polarities. Most people have heard of the elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water; there are three signs of each element. The three signs of each element are divided by quality - one each of Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. Lastly, the signs are divided by polarity - they are either masculine or feminine. Fire and Air signs are masculine, while Earth and Water signs are feminine. What does this all signify?
The ELEMENTS are a source of imagery for interpreting the signs.
The FIRE signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, are adventurous, energetic and sometimes explosive. They are leaders and entrepreneurs but they can be impatient and are often impractical. EARTH signs, Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, tend to be very practical and, literally, earthy. They are often unimaginative, but they make excellent managers. The AIR signs, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, rule knowledge and communication. Their focus is on intellectual pursuits and planning, but they can be hyperactive. WATER signs, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, rule the emotions and are sensitive and compassionate. They are imaginative and dreamy and among other things rule religion and mystical spirituality.
The QUALITIES influence one's relationship to their environment.
The CARDINAL signs, Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are controlling leaders. They are assertive and are the most interested in producing change in their environments. The FIXED signs, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, tend to be the most stable and self-sufficient signs. They usually resist attempts to change their lives, which can sometimes be to their detriment. However, their consistency makes them strong and they are good at managing things. The MUTABLE signs, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are the most easily influenced by their environments and adapt well to change - they go with the flow. Mutable signs are the communicators of the zodiac.
The POLARITIES divide the signs into two types: masculine (positive - Fire and Air signs) and feminine (negative - Earth and Water signs).
The Chinese notion of yin-yang is probably the best comparison for this idea. The masculine signs, Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius, tend to be more extroverted, while the feminine signs, Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces are more introverted and sensitive.
In Astrology, the Planets are the 10 major objects in the solar system that seem to orbit earth: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Each planet influences a different aspect of the personality, and the sign in which a planet is located indicates how that part of the personality is influenced. Each planet rules one or more signs of the zodiac.
The SUN, which rules Leo, is the largest influence on the overall personality - it is who we really are and what we are trying to be. It represents the masculine side of the personality. The MOON rules Cancer, and is the feminine side of the psyche. Its placement in the chart can show you what you most need, especially in emotional terms. MERCURY rules Gemini and Virgo, and indicates how you think and communicate. VENUS rules Taurus and Libra, and is the prominent planet is all relationships, particularly love relationships. It also influences tastes in art, music, clothes and what turns you on. MARS rules Aries and Scorpio, and influences the choice of careers. It shows how you express your sex drive, as well as how you get angry. JUPITER rules Sagittarius and Pisces and indicates how you are lucky in life, and where you need to focus on growth physical, mental, spiritual or emotional depending on where it is in your chart. Jupiter is the planet of wisdom. In contrast, SATURN is the planet of fate and stability. It rules Capricorn and Aquarius, and shows what you're scared of and where you're most ambitious. Early in life, Saturn brings pain, but as you get older it helps you gain insight. Some astrologers also believe that Saturn's placement in the chart can indicate influences from past lives. URANUS rules Aquarius, and is the planet of radical rebellion. Under the right conditions it works to tear down the established order, and is also the planet of personal transformation. NEPTUNE rules Pisces and is the planet of dreams. It rules mysticism and the deep urge we all have for divine union with All That Is. PLUTO rules Scorpio, and the deepest recesses of the subconscious. Like the ruler of the underworld, Pluto is associated with death, as well as the occult and mystical religions.
One last term should be mentioned under the planets even though it's not one - The Rising Sign or Ascendant. This is determined by the time of birth - it is the astrological sign that was on the eastern horizon at the time of birth. The easiest way to understand it is if you were born at dawn - your rising sign would be the same as your sun sign, as the sun was coming up on the eastern horizon. All 12 signs of the zodiac come around every 24 hours, so the ascendant changes every two hours or so. Astrology teaches that while your sun sign is who you truly are, your ascendant is the face you show the world. It is also how others perceive you. Your rising sign determines how you look, your body type, and even what type of clothes look good on you. For instance, a Gemini with Capricorn rising will usually show the world the conservative face of a Capricorn, but with people they are familiar with and trust they will let their hair down and show their true gregarious Gemini selves.
The sun, moon, and ascendant are the major influences in a chart, and the moon, since it is feminine, tends to have a stronger impact in the charts of women. Other planets can also play key roles depending on their placement in the individual chart.
Astrologers can describe the general psychological profile of an individual by interpreting the planets and the signs they fall into. But until the 12 houses are added to the chart the interpretation will remain general. The houses, like the ascendant, are determined by the time of birth. Even though a chart will not contain a planet in every sign, the house placements in a chart bring all signs into influence, as each house corresponds to its sign. For instance, Aries, the first sign, corresponds to the first house, Taurus to the second house, Gemini to the third house, and so on. The twelve houses influence very specific experiences of life, and they allow astrologers to focus in on the activities in which the possibilities of the planets and signs can be expressed. More information on the houses can be found on the Astral Signs page.
Sometimes the planets in a chart make specific angles to each other. These angles are called Aspects. There are five major aspects, as well as several less-significant ones. The major aspects are the Conjunction, Sextile, Square, Trine and Opposition. Some Aspects are considered very beneficial, while others will present challenges. CONJUNCTIONS, where planets seem to be virtually on top of each other (0-8 degrees apart) are usually considered positive aspects, though they can present challenges depending on where they occur in a chart or charts. They join planets together in what becomes a powerful force. SEXTILES are when planets appear about 60 degrees apart in a chart. A sextile is a strong harmonious aspect. SQUARES are when two or more planets appear about 90 degrees apart. Squares are challenging aspects that causes friction between the planets involved. The TRINE is the most positive aspect. The planets involved appear about 120 degrees apart and they work together in harmony. OPPOSITIONS are the most challenging aspects. As the name suggests, the planets are about 180 degrees apart and are in conflict with each other.
The positive aspects indicate where life will be easy, while the challenging aspects are, well, a challenge. But the tense aspects in a chart or charts can also point to the most obvious areas where growth can be achieved, while harmonious aspects can result in wasted opportunities. Aspects can occur in and affect an individual chart, and they also come into influence when comparing two or more charts such as couples, parents and children, or even countries.
Predictive astrology is usually based upon the reading of Transits, which means tracking the movements of the planets through time in relation to the birth chart. The inner planets, Sun through Mars, move so quickly that only a few transits have strong affects on an individual. However, the outer planets are another matter entirely.
Perhaps the best known transit is the infamous Saturn Return. This occurs when Saturn comes back around to the planet it was in at the time of birth. This occurs the first time between the ages of 28 and 30 (it takes Saturn about 29.5 years to orbit the Sun). The Saturn Return is a very powerful transit that can influence an individual for 2, 3 or more years. It tends to be a time of major change, and the first Saturn Return usually marks the individual's full transition into adulthood. Something or perhaps several things in your life will change in a big way. If you're in a relationship, it may end - or, you may have a child. If you're not in a relationship you may become involved in one that will have a major impact on your life. Or, you may decide to make a major career shift or make a major move. Saturn's influence will have the greatest impact on those areas of your life that you are most dissatisfied with - either consciously or unconsciously.
Other transits can be almost as powerful, but they are too numerous to mention here. Since the planets are in continuous motion transits are occurring on an almost-daily basis. The moon, for instance, moves through every sign of the zodiac in less than a month, and transits every planet in the chart during the month several times.
If all this has left your head spinning, you're not alone. As mentioned at the beginning, the complexity of a chart cannot be overemphasized. So many factors to take into consideration in a sky that is always on the move.
For more information on astrological signs and houses, click the image below.
If you wish to understand the illusion of time through some of the many human calendars, please CLICK HERE .
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