In the most basic terms, astrology is a practice that studies the patterns of celestial bodies and their relationships on human affairs. This practice is an ancient one, dating thousands of years ago and it was first developed by the Babylonians and the ancient Greeks.
Astrology is not technically a science and it falls more in the category of metaphysics (the study of that which is beyond the physical). To that extent, it is similar to other fields founded on ancient theories of energy patterns (e.g. feng shui, acupuncture, qigong, etc.). As a result, astrology is a pseudoscience for some or a divination practice for others.
In fact, some people define astrology as “the pseudoscience that deals with the supposed influences of the configurations and locations in the sky of the Sun, Moon, and planets on human destiny. A primitive religion having its origin in ancient Babylonia”. Other definitions state that astrology is “ practice of divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects”.
A more formal definition developed by astrologers at Kepler College states that astrology is “the practice that studies geocosmic relations. Astrology, may also, as a practice, be defined as a mapping technique for a range of dynamic systems, including meteorological phenomena, group behavior, and the human personality. It originated at least 4,000 years ago and has traditionally been divided into two main branches, natural and judicial. Natural astrology is concerned with the influences of astronomical cycles on weather, climate, geological events, plagues and other processes in the biosphere. Judicial astrology is concerned with the correlations between astronomical cycles and the lives of individuals and their concerns”.
Astrology is not the same as astronomy. While the practices of astrology and astronomy have common roots, there is an important distinction in astrology vs astronomy today. Astronomy is the study of the universe and its contents outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomers examine the positions, motions and properties of celestial objects. Conversely, the astrology practice attempts to study how those positions, motions and properties affect people and events on Earth. For several millennia, the desire to improve astrological predictions was one of the main motivations for astronomical observations and theories.
Given that astrology practice is helpful to understand influences in our lives, many people use it as an input for decision making, while others use it for spiritual guidance and development. Unlike other alternative medicine practices that have a direct effect on specific illnesses, spiritual practices provide general understanding and wisdom, fostering personal and spiritual growth.
In the beginning, in Mesopotamia, astrologers looked up in the sky and saw the events on Earth, beginning to see astrology as a law of correspondence (“so above, so below”). Then, when they tried to make astrology a little more scientific, Ptolemy stated that astrology is “causal”. Consequently, when we think about the moon and the effect on the tides, we can understand that they were thinking that the planets themselves would have the effect on us.
Afterwards, Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity”, because it meant that a number of things were happening all at once. Therefore, there is a correlation between what is going on inside with what is going on outside. As of today, there are some diverging points of view and not all astrologers agree on how astrology works. However, even 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 on Earth to discover information from three primary groupings of symbols:
Planets are the key actors in a chart. They represent a set of principles, functions of our psyche or an archetypical energy. Astrological planets include the two lights and the planets Mercury through Pluto (while Pluto is no longer part of the solar system, astrologers still use it). Planets represent the “what”. Below is the list of planets and their corresponding associations:
The expressions of the planets are modified through the astrological signs. The signs indicate a quality of action and are also categorized by the qualities of the four elements: fire, earth, air and water. Astrological signs represent the “how” and are a coordinate system like a map. The twelve signs are:
An astrological chart has one more grouping of 12. These are the astrological houses which represent different areas of life. They also represent the development of the individual, both as an individual and as part of the larger society in which he or she lives.
By overlaying these three dimensions, there is a kaleidoscope with a myriad of possible combinations that pinpoint tendencies and energies at a specific point in time.
To understand how these three components work in terms of celestial body movements, we need to understand the solar system. In the most basic terms, our solar system has a central star (the Sun), with planets orbiting around it. Planet Earth rotates around its own axis as it orbits around the Sun.
The signs are determined by fixing the Earth and dividing the position of the Sun over the course of one year. The position of the Sun relative to the Earth is divided into twelve possible combinations
The houses are determined by the position of the Earth relative to its own axis (i.e. in what position the Earth was as it was rotating around itself). In other words, the houses move with the Earth while the signs do not. We can think of the houses as a personalized version of the zodiac that is superimposed over the actual zodiac.
Lastly, by having a specific date and time as an input, we can know the specific positions of the planet relative to Earth. Putting all these dimensions together helps understand energetic influences for that specific point in time.
Birth charts are the predominant main use of astrology as to shed more light on what a person’s natural predispositions are and how people can use these influences to their advantage. Astrology is also helpful, however, to understand influences on future events. As a matter of fact, many people use astral charts to make decisions on when it is optimal to launch a venture or when to invest.
Astrology as a practice is a compendium of observations accumulated over time. Thousands of years ago, people noticed events, like the moon having a correlation with tides or the heliacal rising of Sirius having a correlation to the flooding of the Nile. And these ideas were expanded as they noticed that there were relationships between celestial and earthly phenomena on many levels. Over the past few thousand years, the body of knowledge known as astrology has accumulated data that demonstrates correlation.
As such, it is important to remember that astrology is a tool. It is guidance, not a rule. Using the knowledge gained from the practice of astrology can help people make their way through life with their eyes open. Because astrology is a profoundly complex practice, the professional astrologer commits years/decades of study and experience to be able to interpret a horoscope properly.
The formal origins of Western astrology (and perhaps Vedic, the Indian version of astrology) can be found in Mesopotamia. Then, astrological omens as well as other omens related to the sky, the weather or the movements of the animals were cataloged by 3,000 BCE. This was primarily a descriptive type of astrology and was mostly concerned with the moon and eclipses rather than specific planetary movements. Eventually sky-watchers of Mesopotamia formally identified the sun, the moon and the five “wandering stars” (forming the seven original planets).
Within Mesopotamia, the Babylonians became the first great astronomers. The minutes and seconds of modern astronomical measurement derive from their number system. They were also the ones who introduced the useful concept of the zodiac. The Babyloanians realized that the zodiac can serve as a yardstick of celestial time if divided into recognizable and equal segments. They selected twelve constellations to represent these segments, many of them identified by the names of animals. Around 280 BC, Berossus, a priest from Babylon, traveled to the Greek island of Kos where he ended up teaching astrology and Babylonian culture to the local populations.
By the first century BC, two varieties of astrology were in existence. One required the reading of horoscopes in order to learn accurate details about the past, present and future. The other focused on the soul’s ascent to the stars and the search for human meaning in the sky. In other words, the Greeks attempted to understand general and individual human behavior through the influence of planets and other celestial objects, while some used astrology as a form of dialogue with the divine.
A very significant role in the development of horoscopic astrology was played by Greek mathematician, astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy, whose work Tetrabiblos laid the foundations of the Western astrological tradition. Under Ptolemy the planets, houses and signs of the zodiac were first explained in detail while their function hasn’t changed much compared to the present day. Ptolemy lived in the 2nd century AD, three centuries after the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes by Hipparchus around 130 BC.
During the period preceding the rise of Christianity, astrology was widely recognized as a practice of knowledge. With the middle ages and the supremacy of the Church in Europe and the beginning of the scientific movement, astrology fell into some disrepute, from which it is still struggling to re-emerge from. Even so, scientists such as Brahe, Kepler and Galileo were astrologers as well as practitioners of so-called “hard” sciences. In recent times, there has been a division into camps, with most astronomers and other scientists coming down on the side of a disregard for astrology. New Age, on the other hand, with its revitalization of shamanic traditions and perennial philosophy has been in the camp of the believers and those working with astrology.
During the 19th century, there was a renewed interest in spirituality and mysticism in England that invigorated astrology in Europe. Psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961), pioneers the use of astrology in analysis. In the 20th century, around the 1920s, newspapers and magazines began publishing the Sun-sign-based horoscopes that we still read today. Since they give only 12 predictions for the entire world’s population, many people deem it as entertainment. Later in the century, computers made it fast and easy to cast charts, replacing the need to do laborious charts by hand (which some astrologers prefer to use anyway).
With the help of astrology, it is easy to understand influences in your life. Spiritual practices are about understanding influences on you. The more you know about the energies around you, the greater the chances to make more successful decisions. The top benefits of astrological readings include:
There isn’t a straight way to become an astrologer. Since there are no degree or certification requirements, every astrologer has a different story of how they become one. Many astrologers, in fact, are self-taught through reading materials while others take formal classes.
As aspiring practitioners acquire knowledge, they typically perform some “un-professional” readings first. They typically practice it on themselves, friends, families, celebrity charts, etc. Some people say aspiring astrologers should give 1,000 readings before they can be a professional.
Degrees in other fields can be helpful for astrologers. The most common degrees for an astrologer are psychology and English. Reading a chart is akin to counseling and requires a careful use of words to properly explain the chart to the client. In this sense, these degrees can be fairly helpful to make an astrologer more effective.
While a certification is not required, many reputable astrologers pursue certifications. In the United States, there are two main certification bodies: the Professional Astrologers’ Alliance (PAA) and the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA). Both institutions have different levels of certification. These bodies offer listings of practitioners in different regions.
Appointments with astrologers can be done in-person or remote. The astrologer will ask for the date and place of birth and ideally, the hour and minute too. People who don’t know their exact time can still have a chart done; it will be less precise, but it will reveal a tremendous amount of information. With this information, astrologers prepare an astral chart, which they interpret and discuss with the client.
Using the birth chart (which is generally what one starts with), astrologers can be a nonjudgmental overview of who someone is. The chart shows potential strengths, challenges and inborn talents. The astrologer will describe what the chart says about inner resources and what needs to be improved. The more spiritually inclined practitioner will speak in terms of a soul purpose.
There are themes in the chart which suggest why each of us incarnated this time around. In a transit or progressions reading, an astrologer can read the larger meaning of whatever is happening to you at the time. S/he can see what the chart says your Higher Self is trying to learn during this phase of your life, this month, this week or even this particular day.
In a chart comparison, an astrologer can help you see whether your needs align with others. Astrology is very good at pinpointing a person’s wants, tastes, beliefs and desires; and contracting them with another person’s. In other words, themes underlying a relationship which might not be obvious on the surface.
A common misconception is that modern astrology makes predictions. While you may hear precise feedback from the astrologer during a reading, it is only in thematic form. An astrologer can see trends in your chart, not particulars. Your Higher Self chooses the perfect way to play those influences out.
Astrology is a practice that has permeated into our culture one way or another. Here are very interesting facts about this practice:
Astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance. The shift began with the advent of the personal computer, accelerated with the Internet, and has reached new speeds through social media. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, almost thirty percent of Americans believe in astrology. But, as the scholar Nicholas Campion, the author of “Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West,” has argued, the number of people who know their sun sign, consult their horoscope, or read about the sign of their romantic partner is much higher.
Nicholas believes that astrology appeals because it gives “context” to people and to world events. Like religion, it says that there is something beyond material existence, but it doesn’t teach dogma, or prescribe action. Many astrologers express concern that astrology can be misused to generate fear or to extort, but mostly, Nicholas said, it’s a way of “framing the thing we’re in.” As humans, she said, “we need rhythm. We need ritual. We need timing.”
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