27 August 2008

While We're on the Topic of Astrology...

While I'm on the topic of astrology, I'll take a moment to write a little about some of the difficult questions that a wannabe astrologer must resolve. This is one of those posts that is more about me getting things straight in my head than anything else... I'm not really keen on following any particular school of thought. In issues like this I'm more inclined to go with my gut, since I don't really believe that there is any ultimate truth for spiritual issues, but that they rather connect to a deeper, personal side of us. Spirituality is subjective. What is true for one person may not be for another, yet that does not make it less true for the first person.

While the principles of (western) astrology are pretty much the same for all astrologers, there's a myriad of details that they differ on. The most obvious question is, what objects should actually be included in a chart? In olden days there were only seven known planets (moving objects in the sky, which include the sun and moon), but today we know of several more planets and other orbiting bodies, like asteroids. In addition to these there are many mathematically derived points often used in horoscopes, which can be treated like planets even though they don't actually represent any real heavenly body.

As I said above, I like to follow my gut and go for a more personal, subjective interpretation of these issues. A multitude of abstract, mathematical elements doesn't really appeal to me. I'd prefer to focus on actual heavenly bodies. But this is not necessarily because the objects are really "there", but rather because planets and asteroids are commonly names after mythological characters, and the nature of the mythological archetypes they represent is very useful when approaching astrology in a subjective, psychological way. Of the more abstract entities, the ones I might consider using are the lunar nodes (because they are widely used and traditional) and possibly Lilith, mostly because she's named after a mythological character (even if not from classical myth).

Of the actual heavenly bodies I'd like to emphasize the seven classical planets. But that doesn't necessarily mean discarding later discoveries. These would obviously include the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Pluto of course is now classified as a dwarf planet, but in astrological terms that makes no difference. If, however, I include three minor objects, I might as well include others. Ceres is also a dwarf planet, so it's a likely candidate. Eris, another dwarf planet, might also be, but it's even farther than Pluto and has a very long orbit, plus it's not supported by Astrolog, my current choice of astrology software (same goes for the fourth currently known dwarf planet, Makemake). The asteroids Pallas, Vesta, Juno and Chiron are also used by many astrologers. Apart from Chiron, all these additional objects are named after goddesses, which would add much needed female energy to the mix, as the traditional planets, apart from Venus, are all named after male characters.

Of course one cannot use every possible object, so one has to have some criteria to make choices by. Of the asteroids, Pallas and Vesta are the largest, and thus strong candidates. There are, however, several asteroids larger than Juno. I surmise that Juno is often used alongside these others because, with them, it was one of the first to be found. But is tradition the most important criteria? We're only speaking of a difference of about 40 years here. Chiron is also often used, even though it was discovered much later and is smaller than Juno. Chiron, however, represents a very different group of bodies with many eccentricities, which may make its inclusion justified. Also, I must say that Chiron in my chart is in a very interesting position, which makes me reluctant to scrap it just based on its size. But I might just scrap Juno...

Another important question is which house system to use. Placidus is the most widely used, but it is problematic. Apart from being overly complicated, in my opinion, it doesn't work above the arctic circle, and any system that doesn't work for the entire planet seems fundamentally flawed to me. The Porphyry system, in all its simplicity, seems like the strongest candidate for me at the moment.

Well, this has grown into a really long post. I think that'll do for now. I'm not aware of any of my friends having a passion for astrology, but naturally feedback is always welcome.

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