What is Astrology?

1. Introduction

1.2. What do astrologers do?

12 Houses of the Heavens - Icelandic manuscript from between 1747 and 1752Even though we do not have a definitive statement as to how astrology works, we can certainly explore what an astrologer does. Most astrological traditions use the specific time, date and place of an event here on earth to discover information from three primary groupings of symbols:

Planets

The planets are the key actors in a chart. They represent a set of principles, functions of our psyche, or an archetypal energy. Astrological planets include the two lights (the Sun and Moon) and the visible planets Mercury through Saturn. Modern Western astrologers also use the more recently discovered planets of Uranus and Neptune. Most modern astrologers also include the dwarf planet Pluto because they have nearly 100 years of exploring its meaning. Other dwarf planets and minor planetary bodies like asteroids or centaurs are sometimes included as well. In addition to physical bodies, you may also find other calculated points such as the Moon's nodes, or the Part of Fortune.

Signs

Dane Rudhyar, a theosophist astrologer from the mid to late 1900's (1974)

[F]or the humanistic astrologer, a birth chart is a person-centered symbol. That is to say, it carries a “message”- the symbolic formulation of the individual’s dharma. It suggests how he can best actualize the innate potentialities of his particular and unique selfhood. It is a symbol, a mandala, or logos, a word of power. Astrology, seen from this point of view, is a language of symbols.

The expression of the planets is modified through the astrological sign. The signs indicate a quality of action and are also categorized by the qualities of the four elements fire, earth, air and water. The astrological signs of the zodiac are not the same as the astronomical constellations, even though they share the same name. Astrological signs are a coordinate system like a map which divide the 360 degree circle of the ecliptic into 30 degree divisions.

Houses

The astrological houses are calculated based on a specific time and place, The houses describe how a planet in a particular sign relates to different areas of life or fields of experience. The 12 astrological houses divide the chart based on the daily rotation of the earth.

The Chart

The position of each of these symbols is plotted on a map called an astrological horoscope. The chart is interpreted based on the type of question being asked and the type of astrology the practitioner follows. There are many uses for an astrological chart:

  • Discovering something about the psychology of an individual (natal astrology)
  • Finding the answer to a specific question (horary astrology)
  • Picking a time that is favorable for a specific type of future action, such as getting married, founding a business or taking a trip (electional astrology)
  • Discovering information about the fate of a nation (mundane political astrology)
  • Helping to predict weather patterns (natural astrology)
  • Helping to diagnose the course of an illness (medical astrology)
  • Determining how people will get along with each other (relationship astrology)
  • It is also used to predict future periods of ease or stress or to discover something meaningful about an event that has already occurred in relation to a country or an individual (predictive astrology)

Although the core basics have remained the same, techniques and interpretations have changed over time and will vary somewhat from person to person, or group to group depending upon various influences, including:

  • The culture and society in which a technique was developed
  • The culture and environment the astrologer lives in
  • The individual's personal beliefs and philosophy
  • The purpose for which the chart is being read.