Using traditional techniques is it possible to find “evil” in the natal chart?

EVIL  • adjective 1 deeply immoral and malevolent. 2 embodying or associated with the devil. 3 extremely unpleasant: an evil smell.  • noun 1 extreme wickedness and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force. 2 something harmful or undesirable.

In religion and ethics, evil refers to the “bad” aspects of the behaviour and reasoning of human being – those which are deliberately void of conscience, and show a wanton desire for destruction. The opposite of goodness, which itself refers to aspects which are life-affirming, peaceful, and constructive.

Can evil be seen in a chart? Do certain individuals choose to be evil or are they fated to be so? And do their charts reflect this? And are we fated to live out what is in our chart? These questions are all loaded and profoundly disturb many in our profession.

In this day, when even the ancient descriptions of planets as benefic and malefic elicits fundamental discomfort in contemporary astrologers, it is no longer regarded as correct to think in these terms.  The idea that a planet or person could be inherently bad goes against our accepted standard of judgment. Deviation from acceptable behavior is seen as an understandable reaction to the emotional and psychological experiences that have traumatized or otherwise wounded individuals.

Ironically as we move away from judging an individual as evil we continue to embrace the idea that evil exists in the world. As illustrated by our “war on terror” and our fear of the “terrorist threat”. The concept of evil has always been present but we have confused the doing of evil with being evil.

When our ancestors spoke of a planet bestowing malevolent or benefic influence in a horoscope, we tend to imagine this as being a very cut and dry affair: bad planet cause bad things, good planet, cause good thing. The reality is far richer and more subtle then it appears at first glance.

In the traditional cosmos the so called malevolent planets were Mars and Saturn. At their best both are a necessary and positive force in the chart, allowing us to take righteous action, be responsible and build strong foundations. It is only when they are afflicted that their influence becomes a negative or destructive one.

A planet is at its best when in dignity, in a strong placement and even better with strong reception. A debilitated planet has a really hard time expressing its true nature; they become an exaggerated version of themselves. Mars doesn’t just take action he kills all who stand in his way. Saturn doesn’t just take responsibility he becomes tyrannical. The other planets can also cause trouble when in a debilitated condition, but their affect is unlikely to be thought of as evil.

Whether fate is pre-destined or created by the native’s choices is a tricky one.  The modern paradigm places more emphasis on the free will and choice of the individual then was the case in the past. In previous generations the individual had their place within the social hierarchy and few had any choice about it. Even those at the top of this hierarchy had limited choices. Overseeing all, there was God.

Now we speak of the higher self rather then God. We have become uncomfortable with the concept of a Supreme Being overseeing us all, choosing for us, and allocating our fate. The concept of the “higher self” individualises us, if not in fact certainly in title and allows us the illusion of more power to choose.

Regardless of our modern belief in the power or importance of the individual, fate can not be denied; it is what is bestowed on us. We are born into a certain era or time, a particular body, gender, to a particular set of parents, within a family, culture and nation. We do not consciously choose this, we are given this. This is fate. Our free will to choose is confined to our given fate.

The essential nature of man is both corporeal and spiritual; the integration of the two brings us closer to our essential nature. We can choose to align ourselves with our essential nature or to oppose it. The chart reflects the difficulties an individual may encounter making that choice. The more dignified planets there are in our chart the easier the choice, because the more dignity a planet has the closer to its own essential nature it is.

Essential nature is by definition good. It signifies the most balanced state of being.  Essential nature is aligned with the divine or God, however we define that word. In nature a daisy will grow into the best daisy specimen possible within the environment it is given. It can not do otherwise or choose to grow into a rose. Because nothing in the natural world can stray from its essential nature, there is no evil there. A volcano may cause devastation, yet cruel as this may seem, it is nothing more then the restoration of balance. Nature has no will to choose.

But the human being has free will to choose and can turn away from his essential nature. He must come to know and accept who he is, what he has been given, understand his purpose in the scheme of things and fulfill it.  The further away from his essential nature he moves the more he encounters evil or in the words of our fore bearers; malevolence.

The principle thing that pushes man away from his essential good nature is his desires; desire that stem from his corporeal existence. His desire to possess more then what he has been given, to be more then he is and to fulfill a purpose not of his own.  In modern jargon these corresponds to the ego and remember that the ego is never satisfied.

The Lord of the Ascendant, Pilot of the Soul and Significator of the Quality of the Mind

Using traditional astrological methods we can see in the natal chart how easy or not it will be for an individual to stay aligned with his true nature and how strong the pull of his desires will be. By identifying three planets: the Lord of the Ascendant, the Pilot of the Soul and the significator of the Quality of the Mind, we have the information needed to judge how likely one is to move towards or away from his/her essential nature.

Using the table of essential dignities we can identify the overall ruler or almutent of a particular degree of the zodiac by adding up the amount of dignities the seven classical planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon) have at that degree.  We do not give the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) rulership.

Giving the planet in rulership 5 points, in exaltation 4 points, in triplicity 3 points, in term 2 points and in face 1 point, we simply add up the points for each planet to find the one with the most essential dignity at a particular degree or degrees. It is important to note whether it is a day or night chart and use the appropriate triplicity ruler.

Using this method we can identify the Lord of the Ascendant as the planet that has the most dignity at the ASC degree, in other words the almutent of the ASC. Often this is the planet ruling the ASC but not always. As the ruler of our ASC this planet is most concerned with our corporeal life which is often the driving force in our life. In modern jargon we could say it signifies our ego.

The Pilot of the Soul, is the planet in the chart with the most essential dignity overall. As well this planet must be placed in a position of strength, in other words a strong house, from which they can act.  Ideally it would also be free of accidental debility such as retrograde or combustion. All angular houses were considered strong with the 1st and the 10th seen as the strongest, the 4th and 7th less so, followed by the 5th and 11th houses, then the 9th, 3rd, 2nd houses finally the 8th, 6th and 12th as the houses of death, illness and self undoing respectively, were seen as the most unfortunate places from which action could not be initiated.

So, a planet in rulership, say Sun in Leo, but placed in the 12th house would not be as ideal as a planet with only triplicity but in the 10th house, like Saturn in Gemini. The Sun is imprisoned and can not act from the 12th house no matter how strongly dignified he is, whereas Saturn with less essential dignity has more opportunity to act because he is in a position of power.

Ideally, the Pilot of the Soul is the planet in charge; this is the planet that could set us back on the right path if we get sidetracked. This is the planet most closely aligned to our spiritual life, most connected with the Divine source. This is the planet we should endeavor to engage and make friends with, for it is most likely to raise us above our corporeal fate.

Finally we find the significator of the quality of the mind by finding the planet with the most essential dignity at the degree of the Moon, Mercury and ASC.  Quality of the mind does not refer to intelligence or being clever, but rather as to how the mind is used.  It relates to conscience and the moral nature of the native. This planet represents how well their corporeal and spiritual aspects communicate and integrate. In other words, do they use their minds for good or evil?

The same planet may fulfill two or more functions, at other times more then one planet may qualify as significator. To understand this better let us look at some charts.

ADOLF HITLER

 

The chart of Adolf Hitler has been studied by just about every astrologer since 1933, redundant as it may seem this chart is still a great example to use. We know that this native’s life was responsible for events that could be described as evil. It is generally agreed that being responsible for the death of so many millions is horrific.  But was he inherently bad? Was the road to evil imposed or chosen by him? Could he have made different choices?

Looking at Hitler’s chart we find that the Lordof the Ascendant is Saturn 13 Leo in the 10th house, because it has both exaltation and triplicity dignity over the ASC degree of at 21 Libra giving him a score of 7 points to Venus 5 point for rulership, Mars 2 point for term and Jupiter sole point for face.

Using the same method for the degrees of the Moon 6 Capricorn and Mercury 25 Aries, as well as ASC we find the significator of quality of his mind turns out to be Mars 16 Aries with 13 points, closely followed by Saturn 13 Leo with 12 points.  These two planets would function very much as a team especially as they are aspecting each other by square as well as by a very tight, almost to the minute antiscia* conjunction. This antiscia allows these two planets to function far more cooperatively then their stressful square aspect would indicate.

*Antiscia – From the Greek, meaning “opposite shadow”. A degree and its antiscia are equidistant from the summer-winter solstice axis (Cancer/Capricorn). Planets related by antiscia have the force of a conjunction.  Contra-antiscia (the opposition to the antiscia degree) has the force of an opposition.

Finally we must find the Pilot of the Soul. In this chart the search is difficult because Mars, Saturn and Moon are all in detriment, Sun and Mercury are peregrin which means they have no essential dignity whatsoever and Jupiter though he has face dignity is in his fall. Of the seven classical planets only Venus in Taurus has any dignity and she is retrograde, conjunct Mars as well as being very close to the 8th house cusp. Yet by default she wins the position of Pilot of the Soul. This would have been the ideal planet for Hitler to follow…But did he?

So we have:

Lord of the Ascendant                                  Saturn in Leo in the 10th house

Quality of the Mind Significator               Mars in Taurus in the 7th house with Saturn in Leo

Pilot of the Soul                                              Venus in Taurus in the 7th conjunct Mars

Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn in the 10th house, is debilitated in his sign of detriment, in other words far from his (Saturn’s) essential best nature. Saturn was seen as the great malefic by the ancients. Debilitated malefics function in extremes, their nature is amplified and exaggerated. This planet could bring great misfortune in ones life unless he was on his best behavior. At his best Saturn is patient, responsible, disciplined and holds a position of authority.

But in this chart he is not at his best, he is at his worst and yet he is positioned in the 10th house to act and act strongly. So he will act in a strongly malefic manner. Remember that as Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn represents Hitler’s corporeal desires and in the 10th he wants it be the boss, in Leo, he probably wants to be king. Saturn’s dispositor (and MC ruler), Sun is peregrin, he has no strength to give Saturn. Saturn receives Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn conjunct the south node. Moon in Capricorn is in detriment and would feel insecure. Jupiter is equally debilitated in his fall, though he has a bit of face dignity this is more to do with fear then an actual strength*.  Both being with the south node only adds to their debility. All this would give Saturn more justification to take control and not let go (Leo fixed).

* “The Faces supply some intriguing leads about those areas where the individual has fear or problems. The point is that most people don’t like fear and would rather cloak fear with hatred”.  From Lee Lehman “Essential Dignities” page 136

The significator of the quality of the mind is Mars working closely with Saturn. Here we find Mars equally debilitated in detriment squaring his ally Saturn.  One of the main meanings of the quality of the mind is conscience, knowing that an action is right or wrong because we are conscious of more then just our individual (ego) desires or needs.  We have already seen Mars’s connection with Saturn, but there is also a mutual reception by exaltation with the Moon. Both of these planets in detriment are receiving each other into their exaltation. They are exalting their detriment so to speak, not very reassuring.

Mars was also receiving Mercury into his rulership. Mercury being peregrine was easily enlisted to do Mars (and Saturn’s) bidding. Hitler was a great orator who was able to stir the emotions of the masses and lead them into war. (As an aside, Germany is said to be ruled by Mars and Aries. Hitler became Germany’s mouth piece.)

We find that Hitler’s quality mind was not going to tame or soften his Saturn’s drive for power and authority. On the contrary the two would work in tandem together and both bring with them the insecurity of the Moon and fear of Jupiter.

So far we have a dire situation, but was it absolutely necessary for Hitler to become what he became? The pilot of his soul may have helped him steer a different path. As Venus in Taurus we see fertility and creativity, but it is retrograde and conjunct Mars. The good nature of Venus is over shadowed by the strong malefic energy working together and feeding off the long term fears and insecurities (Moon, Jupiter conjunct South Node) that are present. The two malefics used the veneer of Venus to camouflage their indent, presenting a more benign face of Hitler to the world.

Remember that Hitler’s first aim in life was to be an artist and then an architect. Unfortunately he was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art in 1907 and 1908 and didn’t have the educational qualifications to apply for study of architecture. We can only speculate how history may have turned out differently if he had been accepted by the Academy. So his Pilot of the Soul was not given a chance to take the drivers seat. Does this mean that Hitler was inherently bad or evil? I do not think so, but I would say that the odds were stacked up against him. He needed to overcome an awful lot to turn his life towards goodness.

Astrology is about time and we can not look at Hitler’s life or chart without regards to his time. Hitler’s fate was that of Germany’s. Looking at the chart of the man I would conclude that this was a man who was essential weak with little choice then to be carried by the forces of the times in which he lived.

Picking two events that seemed to have been pivotal in Hitler’s life; one mundane and one personal and, we may trace the growing dominance of Mars & Saturn’s influence in Hitler’s life.

Weimer Republic

In 1918 on November 9th the Weimer Republic came into being, shortly followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This perceived public humiliation of the German nation coincided with the period of Hitler’s Saturn return and marked a turning point in his life. This event planted the seed of his nationalistic and racial fervor that germinated into the Nazi Party and lead the world down the road to holocaust.

On that day the Sun 16 Scorpio was directly opposite Hitler’s Mars, Venus 16 Taurus and in contra-antiscia to his Saturn 13 Leo. The event chart’s North Node was at 13 Sagittarius, conjunct its MC and was on the antiscia degree of Hitler’s South Node 15 Capricorn, whilst The event charts Jupiter 15 Cancer was transiting Hitler’s own North Node at 15 cancer and his Moon 6 Capricorn was being opposed by the destructive and at that point unknown Pluto 6 Cancer. On a more personal front his progressed Moon 8 Aquarius was moving to oppose his Saturn 13 Leo.

The fate of his nation evidenced by this charts MC, Sun and North Node triggered the worst of Hitler’s horoscope promises: deeply malevolent Saturn and Mars in positions of extreme power, fed by the insecurity of his foundations (Moon, Jupiter and South Node).

Another incident that was very pivotal in the development of Hitler’s persona was the death by gun shot to the heart of his niece, Geli Raubal on Sept 19th 1931. Rumoured to have been his mistress, Geli and Hitler had an unusual relationship which in many ways played out the symbolic configuration of his Mars conjunct Venus in Taurus in the 7th house square Saturn. Hitler, twenty years her senior, found happiness with Geli, her presence subdued and relaxed him and yet he was totally controlling and fanatically jealous of her. There were questions as to whether Hitler was in any way involved in her death. The rumours and innuendos were never proved, but her death was to have a profound effect on Hitler.  He became suicidal and never regained the public joy he had exhibited in Geli’s presence.

On the day of this event we see Saturn was 16 degrees Capricorn trining Hitler’s natal Mars, Venus and conjunct his South Node while transiting Jupiter at 13 degrees Leo was right on his Saturn. Mars, ruler of his 7th house was transiting his 1st house, at 1 degree Scorpio applying to square his MC (5 Leo) and oppose his natal Mars, Venus conjunction. His progressed Moon sextiled his Mars, Venus and was conjunct his North Node and on its way to conjunct his MC on the day he took the control of the newly formed Third Reich (January 30, 1933).

Again we see both Hitler’s highly malefic planets; Saturn and Mars being triggered by this event. It is said that after Geli’s death Hitler threw himself ever more into his public life. Having enough influence to ensure that his involvement surrounding the suspicious circumstances of her death never came to light, must have been further evidence of his invincibility.  The ambition of his Lord of the Ascendant, Saturn coupled with the ruthless and destructive Mars, devoid of the balancing force of Venus (possibly symbolized by Geli herself, her death being the final death of Hitler’s Venus) allowed the evil that was festering below the surface to be given full expression.

We can not judge a chart in a vacuum. Hitler’ fate was linked to the circumstances of his era, culture, nation and birth. Hitler did not act alone in perpetrating the evil that was the Third Reich. Yet as the figure head for this movement he became the focal point of its manifestation. Was Hitler an evil man? The answer is that he was a weak man who through fateful circumstances yielded a huge amount of worldly power (symbolized by his celestially weak planets in terrestrially strong placement). What could have been done with this power need not have been so destructive, but it takes a strong individual to resist the allure of the ego.

In the words of the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas “The stars may incline, but do not compel.”  Yet even Thomas Aquinas conceded that only when a man’s soul was in communion with God was his will freed from the bondage of his corporal nature – with his physical body and its appetites, needs and desires. The stars may only incline, but your spirit needs to be in touch with a higher power to resist their inclination. Clearly this was not the case with the individual Adolf Hitler.

Bibliography and References:

J Lee Lehman, Ph.D. “Essential Dignities” Whitford Press 1989 page 136

Benson Bobrick “The Fated Sky: Astrology in History” Simon & Schuster 2005

Thomas Moore “The Planets Within, the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino” Lindisfarne Books 1982

Ian Kershaw “Hitler: 1936-45 Nemesis” Penguin Books 2000

Frawley, John “The Real Astrology” Apprentice Books 2000

Frawley, John “The Real Astrology Applied” Apprentice Books 2002

Holden, James H. “Abu’Ali Al-Khayyat The Judgement of Nativities” AFA 1988

Data:

Adolf Hitler: April 20 1889 NS, 6:30 pm (-0:52:08) Braunau am Inn, Austria (48N15 013E02) Rating AA

Germany Weimar Republic: November 9, 1918 1:30 PM CET Berlin, Germany from Nick Campion “The Book of World Horoscopes”

Geli Raubal’s death: Sept 19, 1931 CET -1:00 Munich, Germany. Date from public records, no time, chart set for 12:00 pm

Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  

The Wrong Chart

Every astrologer has done this at some point in their career; given a really good reading to someone and then realized that the chart was wrong! It happened to me just the other day and I could of course blame Mercury for being combust and having turned retrograde (on my Uranus none the less), but maybe I should just admit that I was just careless. Now it wasn’t the birth data that I got wrong, but the consultation chart.

I have been using consultation charts for a long time now. I always set the chart for the time that the appointment is made. I have found that coupled with: solar return, profections, progressions and naturally the birth chart itself, the consultation chart is a mine-full of information.

So last week I set the consultation chart for a regular client; I knew about the issues and situation she had been dealing with in recent times.  Looking at the consultation chart I could see many connections between it and my client’s natal and solar return charts; including its IC and her solar return ASC being on the same degree and its ASC being my clients profected ASC for the year. I expect to see these types of connection between consultation charts and my client’s charts; this confirms the validity of the consultation chart to me.

In blissful ignorance I continued analyzing the chart. Scorpio was rising; its ruler Mars was in the 12th house in Libra, between Saturn and the Moon. Mars was in a separating trine with Jupiter, sextile with Mercury and moving towards a trine with Venus. Both Venus and Jupiter were in Gemini and the 8th house. In fact Mars was in a partile trine to the cusp of the 8th.

I knew that my client’s mother had died some 18 month earlier and that there were issues with her brothers relating to the inheritance, her assets and property. Mars being with Saturn Lord 3 (her brothers) and the Moon Lord 10 (her mother) and the emphasis on the 8th house, particularly as Jupiter was by profection, Lord of the year and exactly transiting  her natal IC, I concluded that the whole situation surrounding her brothers and her mother’s estate was foremost on her mind and that she was finding it difficult; having problems taking action or making a stand on the issue  as her significator, Mars was in detriment in the 12th house.

Sure enough that first thing out of my clients mouth when she arrived was about her trip back home and the dilemma she was havingfeeling caught between her brothers; whichever way she went would alienate one or the other, yet she felt that both were looking to her to resolve the situation. In  fact  she really didn’t want to deal or even think about the whole issue, but knew that she could not continue to ignore it.

The situation like all family disputes is complex and her brothers relationship is intense (Pluto is in the 3rd house). The appointment went very well as we explored many options related to her ability to figure out which approach to take. When she left I felt that it had been a very insightful and productive session, and then I looked at the consultation chart; it was not only the wrong date, but also the wrong time!

How could I do this? Yet the chart “worked” in guiding us to the core of her issue, through which she found a possible course of action for her to follow. This was to take a more “spiritual” approach which is suggested in the chart by the partile sextile between the Moon (ruler of the 9th) and the Sun in its own sign in the 10th.

 

Going back and setting the chart for the correct time, I could not see the situation nearly as clearly, though it could probably be extrapolated.  There are few connections between this “right” chart and my clients natal and/or solar return charts. Had I looked at this chart I would not  have been drawn to conclude that she was dealing with her family’s inheritance issues. However Mercury’s aspect to Jupiter and the 9th house cusp, as well as his conjunction to the Sun does point to my client’s conclusion of taking a more spiritual approach to her situation.

I am left with a sense of awe at the mystery of astrology! How can such specific information be drawn from a seemingly random chart?  There is obviously some force at work which is beyond our control and that “knows” best.

“Where are my glasses?” Beware of Saturn in the 7th house.

Barbara Waters wrote in 1973 “Horary Astrology and the Judgement of Events” (page 14):  “Saturn in the 7th house, the astrologer’s judgement is clouded…the reason for his blindness hardly matters because his judgement is clouded and cannot be objective.”

This chart has  Saturn in the 7th house and I, the astrologer got it wrong.  I even jokingly told the querent after giving my erroneous judgement that: “since Saturn is in the 7th house I am probably wrong”.  On that point I was right. Looking back at the chart the answer seems obvious, however at the time “my judgement was clouded”.

“Where are my glasses?” (21 Jan 2012, 12:52 PM, Melbourne Australia)

The querent had a trade table at an astrological conference. While setting up she had misplaced her glasses which were a new pair of designer prescription glasses. I was speaking with the querent, a friend and fellow astrologer, joking around as one does at a conference surrounded by colleagues and associates. When she told me of her lost glasses I offered to find them with a horary.

Only having the querent’s computer at hand I set the chart, but when I first saw it, I was shocked to find a chart filled with a million aspect lines and various asteroids and other points. To me the chart looked a confusing mess and I said: “I can’t see anything!”… I asked to change the settings and finally “saw” a chart as I am use to; clean and simple with few lines.

She, the querent is signified by the ASC and its ruler Mars in Virgo (working at a marketing table at a conference), the glasses are signified by the  2nd house ruler, Venus in Pisces, exalted (being designer glasses), but this placement also indicated that they are not in a totally foreign place, but rather a place where they are being “honoured”. There were a number of indications that the glasses would be found: the Moon in Capricorn is making a trine to Jupiter a planet in the first house, both luminaries are above the horizon.

But the only thing I saw was that there was no aspect between, Venus and Mars or the Moon and Venus (or Mars). I also saw the peregrine Mercury was on the MC, and I concluded that someone had found them, picked them up and walked off with them.  Not a thief so much as an opportunist.

I could not get beyond the fact that the Moon would first hit Pluto before he could complete his sextile to Venus; which I interpreted as a prohibition.  (This chart adds to my growing understanding that the outer planets do not function in the same manner as the seven classical planets do).

The fact that the Moon was in a partile trine with Jupiter in the ASC and had just separated from a sextile with Saturn (after which it ingressed into a new sign) shows that the glasses were probably in the possession of someone in authority, as Jupiter rules the 9th (the conference was being held at a University) and Saturn rules the MC (also both Jupiter and Saturn tend to suggest a person with authority). The glasses were found at the front desk of the conference and the querent was reunited with them a couple days later.

As for the astrologer, she learnt a valuable lesson; never try to read a chart without giving it due reverence.

Alchemy and Astrology

The connection between astrology and alchemy has its genesis in the fifth and forth century BC, in the philosophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the metallurgical skills of the ancient Egyptians. The meaning and structure of alchemy were summarised in the “Emerald Tablet” and presented as a revelation to Hermes Trismegistus the supposed author of “the Corpus Hermeticum”.

In recent times our understanding of astrology and alchemy has become so distorted that they have lost all true meaning and purpose. Our empirical understanding of reality has made alchemy appear at best as philosophical musing, at worst as little more than superstition.

Astrology and alchemy are in essence looking at the same thing functioning on different levels or different realms. To put it simply astrology deals with the celestial realm and alchemy with the sub-terrestrial realm of the same thing; the movement and manifestation of spirit.

Spirit is the essence of all life and binds the whole of creation together. It permeates all matter and form giving it substance and vitality. Spirit or essential form is akin to the vertical threads of life, the horizontal threads being the substantial or material. Soul is both essential and material, it is both spirit and body, it embodies the rich tapestry woven when the essential spirit and material come together to create life. The purpose of soul is to reflect spirit. The purpose of alchemy and astrology is to purify and align the soul/body in order that spirit can be wholly reflected through its embodiment in matter.

What is Alchemy?

The word alchemy evokes many images including that of the crazed medieval chemist, stooped over arcane manuscripts, trying to unlock the secrets of nature in order to make gold out of base metals or create the so called “philosophers stone” propounded to bestow eternal life. Some have excused alchemy as a philosophical endeavour, defining the alchemist as a philosopher and those who engaged in the transmutation of metals or the search for eternal life as misguided fools.  In the 20th century psychologist led by Carl Jung used the image and symbolism of alchemy and ascribed it to the psychotherapeutic process of personal evolution and analytic practice.

Modern psychological astrologers have embraced this Jungian understanding of alchemy and use the natal astrological chart as a symbolic guide to self-growth. While this works well in gaining an understanding of an individual’s process of individuation and knowing themselves it is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of alchemy. Alchemy is not about the individual or his process. Neither is alchemy naïve chemistry, as some would define it.

Alchemy is the endeavour of purifying soul in order to reflect spirit truthfully, in the sub-terrestrial world the result is gold.

The true aim of alchemy is to go beyond the “I” for it is the “I” as a thought concept or ego consciousness that is the barrier preventing consciousness from being flooded by the light of pure spirit. In the alchemical view of reality consciousness exist in one form or another in all things including the metals and the planets.

The Roots of Alchemy

The problem in trying to come to an understanding of alchemy is that it has always been an esoteric or occult science. Alchemy was known as the “royal art” it was not meant for everyone. A person had to gain the wisdom needed before being privy to the secrets of the alchemists. The true purpose and truth of alchemy is hidden in the symbolism of the alchemical language. This symbolism has a great similarity with astrological symbolism.

In the same way that the physical process of trying to make gold was fraught with danger from accidental poisoning or explosions, alchemical knowledge was considered dangerous to those who were not ready or properly prepared. Philosophically alchemy threatened the dominant monotheist religions and so needed to remain hidden. This may account for much of the old texts being written in secret language, illustrated symbols, paradoxes and riddles.

 

Much of the astrological, alchemical and philosophical wisdom of old comes to us from “The Corpus Hermeticum”, a work attributed to Hermes Trismegistus a mythical wise man also said to be the Egyptian God Thoth. The Corpus Hermiticum is said to record all human knowledge up to that point. It is in this work that we first encounter the precept of: “What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that below.” This sets out the basic principle on which alchemy is founded and this same dictum goes to the heart of astrology and magic the world over.

Alchemy aims to create purity in order for spirit to be reflected and manifested in this earthly realm. In the same way that light has no direction or substance until it encounters an object that can reflect back, giving light form, colour and direction, spirit needs to be reflected by soul, which exist in all matter. But when soul/matter is impure, like a dirty mirror that can only partially reflect light, it distorts the reflection of spirit. Spirit can only truly express itself through pure soul. The purer the receptacle or body of the soul the more able it is to reflect the light of spirit.

The alchemical process begins and ends with the Materia Prima. It is both the origin and the fruit of the work. The Materia Prima is found everywhere in creation, it is the primary substance of the world and the basic substance of the soul. It contains all things and is contained in all things. In order to purify the Materia Prima, it must be broken down and opposites must unite, creating liquid fire, the embodied spirit, the volatile stable or air like earth.

The moment soul (be it human, metal or other) achieves purity and becomes a clear receptive mirror of spirit, the revelation of the creative spirit takes place. Purity can not take place until the creative spirit reveals itself, which can not happen until purity is achieved. This paradox is the true meaning of the sacred marriage alluded to in alchemical writings. The King and Queen come together, pure being meets pure spirit. This is the marriage of Sun and Moon; spirit and soul, sulphur and quicksilver, the primary ingredients of alchemy.

Sulphur and Quicksilver

 

Two of the principle ingredients of alchemy are sulphur and quicksilver.

  • Sulphur, is the original masculine power, it is hot and dry and is symbolised by the Sun. It is the dynamic aspect of the solar or masculine cause.
  • Quicksilver is the original feminine power that is cold and moist and is symbolised by Moon. It is the productive power of “materia”, the dynamic aspect of the lunar or feminine cause.

Together quicksilver and sulphur embody the two phases of nature: dissolution and coagulation. On some level dissolution can relate to the active, vertical thread (or pole) of essence or spirit, of which alchemical sulphur corresponds. Coagulation relates to the horizontal passive thread (or pole) of substance to which quicksilver corresponds. These two may seem as opposite but they are in fact mutually complimentary.

Sulphur corresponds to the “Divine command” by which the world became out of chaos and quicksilver represents “Universal nature” the passive counterpart of the former that allows itself to be used and moulded. The first property (hot and cold) of both is the active masculine, the second property (dry and moist) is the passive feminine. Between them sulphur and quicksilver, by their qualities can expand (hot), contract (cold), coagulate (dry), and dissolve (moist) in a variety of combinations.

Corruption of matter happens when the properties of each mutually penetrate each other: so when the dry (coagulation) of sulphur joins with the cold (contraction) of quicksilver complete rigidity of soul and body occurs. In human life this is expressed as the torpor of old age, avarice and a total loss of the original receptivity and vitality, both spiritual and sensual. The other way with the moist (dissolution) of quicksilver penetrates the heat (expansion) of sulphur we get unbridled passion and a volatility of power. Often these unbalanced states are found together, one begetting the other.

Creative equilibrium can only happen when the expansive power of sulphur and contracting power of quicksilver hold the balance while at the same time the masculine coagulation and feminine dissolving capacity come into a fruitful union. This marries the two threads (poles) of being (essence and substance) and is symbolised by the intersecting triangles of the Seal of Solomon.

This state of absolute equilibrium between the passive and the active, the realisation of the centre of the earthly state is the ultimate goal of alchemy. Only in this state can matter, body or soul reflect back its true unadulterated spiritual essence. The evidence of reaching this state will manifest on all levels of existence including the mineral. So gold will be made, physical life will be prolonged and psyche will be freed of its desires. The dross will be removed through transmutation to allow the revelation of the light of spirit in matter.

Astrological symbols and alchemy

Throughout alchemical texts are found astrological references and symbols. It is evident by this that both are related and an understanding of one would help to understand the other. Both traditions come from the same source that at its heart understood the world to be interconnected and united, imbued with conscious intelligence that manifested in various forms.

Astrology interprets the meaning of the planets and zodiac, alchemy interprets the meaning of the elements and metals. The planets are embodied intelligence; the metals are intelligent bodies. While the metals were generated in the womb of the earth they are essentially under the influence of the seven planets.

The sacred metals of gold and silver are the earthly reflections of Sun and Moon and thus also reflect all other realities of spirit and soul that are related to this heavenly pair. Gold, the supposed aim of alchemist is regarded as the purest of metals; it is free of the impurities of other base metals and is the mineral reflection or subterranean manifestation of spirit. Silver the other sacred metal whose reflective quality acts as a mirror has the ability to reflect spirit. All other planets had a corresponding metal with which they shared their symbol.

Saturn              =         Lead

Jupiter              =         Tin

Mars                =         Iron

Sun                  =         Gold

Mercury           =         Quicksilver (Mercury)

Venus              =         Copper

Moon               =         Silver

The hierarchy of the planets descends from Saturn, analogous to intelligence or intellect, through to the Moon which is analogous to the vital spirit that rules the involuntary and instinctive activities of the body. The hierarchy of corresponding metals are ascending from lead the densest and most chaotic of metals to Silver, the embodiment of pure unformed receptivity. In both Gold/Sun occupies the central position, which is the ultimate and true goal of the alchemist.

The seven signs of the planets/metals express the entire cosmic hierarchy which is the result of the polarisation of existence into an active or masculine pole symbolised by the Sun and a passive or feminine pole, symbolised by the Moon.

  • The Sun is symbolised by the circle and reflects the active principle of being, the pure act of essence. This is the planetary symbol of the King. Gold the metal associated with the Sun represents pure spirit embodied in mineral form.
  • The Moon is symbolised by the crescent or semi-circle and reflects the passive principle of becoming, constant change. This is the planetary symbol of the Queen. Silver is associated with the Moon and represents the metal whose purity is like the purified soul able to reflect spirit in all its glory.
  • Physical matter or earth is symbolised by the cross of the elements (or of matter), the vertical pole of active essence (fire and air) and the horizontal arm of passive substance (water and earth). The wheel of heaven is made up of the cross of matter and the circle of the active principle. This is the symbol for earth or the angular cross of the horoscope. The physical realm of the sublunary world, where form is corrupted is the setting for the desired alchemical transmutation.

Spirit/Sun acts on soul/Moon and changes it, as seen in the changing of the Moon’s form and the constant unchanging form of the Sun. becoming is therefore passive, while the pure essence of being is active and remains unchanging.

The Work of Alchemy

Though Spiritual alchemy was not necessarily involved in metallurgic work, there is a supposition that originally the inward and the outward work went hand in hand.

The purpose of alchemy is not to transcend matter, but rather to manifest spirit in matter. The way to do this is to free the soul or body from its impressions and passions, returning it to its original state, which is pure receptivity. The Materia Prima, primary substance of the world and the basis of soul, contains all things and is found in all things.

There are 3 stages and a lesser and higher level to the work of the alchemist.

  • First is the blackening. Black is associated with downward movement, into matter away from the luminous origin
  • Second is the whitening or bleaching. White is associated with upward movement, aspiration towards the origin/light.
  • Finally is the reddening. Red or Royal Purple is associated with a tendency towards expansion on the plane manifestation.

The lesser work, has the Moon/silver as its end point, precedes the greater work whose ultimate aim is Sun/gold. The two-fold (lesser & greater) and three-fold (black, white & red) stages do not conflict. They occur in a seven-fold division based on the reign of the planets and properties of metals.

Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon are related to the first three stages of the lesser work. This is the phase whose end point is the Moon and Silver. Saturn and Jupiter are symbolised by a glyph compromising the cross of matter and the crescent of the Moon. The first three stages are purely lunar signs.

The first three stages of the greater work is related to Venus, Mars and the Sun whose glyph compromises the cross of matter and the circle of spirit. The original glyph for Mars was a circle with a cross on top, rather then the arrow now used. The last 3 stages have purely solar signs.

Mercury, whose associated metal is quicksilver, the principle initiator of the alchemical process, is symbolised by the cross under the circle under the crescent. It is the only astrological glyph to contain all three symbols. Only Mercury is androgynous and contains both lunar and solar signs.  Mercury, quicksilver comes before all the others. It is not a stage in the alchemical process, but rather the key to the whole work.

The order of the lesser and greater works is in opposite direction to the other. For every active aspect there is a corresponding passive aspect.

  • Saturn represents the passive abasement or extinction of ego-bound consciousness.
  • Mars represents the active descent into unconscious passion
  • Jupiter represents the passive development of soul’s receptivity
  • Venus is the active rising of the inward sun or spirit
  • The Moon and Sun represents the two poles in their pure state.
  • Mercury bears both essences within itself and is the key of the alchemical process.

The first stage of the lesser work, the blackening:

The first, black stage of the lesser work comes under Saturn, whose metal is the densest and most chaotic of all metals: lead. This is the mortification and putrefaction stage. Symbolised by the Raven or skull. At this stage consciousness must be withdrawn from the senses and turned inwards. Saturn’s glyph is the cross of matter over the lunar crescent of soul. The Soul is submerged in matter (the cross) and hidden from the light.

The second stage of the lesser work, the bleaching

The second, whitening stage of the lesser work is dominated by Jupiter associated with the metal tin. Now the crescent, the soul has risen out of matter and is on the horizontal arm of the cross. It has risen above and out of the earth. Jupiter or tin its corresponding metal, represents the first step in the loosening of the soul from the elemental pairs of opposites.

The third stage of the lesser work, the reddening

The reddening stage of the lesser work brings us to the Moon or silver. Here the crescent stands alone free from matter, independent of the cross of elements. Here the potentiality of the soul has been purified from the initial chaos of death (Saturn) and has now fully developed and united in a state of pure receptivity. The white mirror-like metal of silver manifesting this purity, a state also symbolised by the “blessed virgin mother”, the Moon.

In the lesser work the energy as represented by the crescent moves upwards in an ascending movement until the Moon stands alone. These first three stages correspond to the “spiritualisation of the body” the last three stages correspond to the “embodiment of spirit” and represent a downward movement and descent back into matter.

The first stage of the greater work, the blackening:

Venus dominates the first stage of the greater work. Here the form giving power of the active essence of spirit imprints anew to the cross of the elements. At this stage the volatile power of Quicksilver prevails over the solid bodies, later the fixative power of sulphur will prevail over volatile Quicksilver and crystallise a new soul-body form.

The colouring power of Sulphur does become visible in Copper (Venus’s metal) yet the new creation is not perfected, it is still unstable and coarse, because it is still attached to the opposing forces contained in the cross of the four elements.

The second stage of the greater work, the whitening:

Mars dominates the second stage of the greater work. Saturn and Mars are opposite each other, seen in their glyph where the cross sits atop dominating the crescent of the soul or the sphere of spirit. Both represent an extinction of sorts, while Saturn symbolises the chaotic condition of death, Mars is an active and directed descent of spirit into the lowest levels of human consciousness.

Here the body is completely penetrated by the incombustible Sulphur. In Iron the fixative and colouring power of Sulphur, though present, can not manifest its lustre. The spirit is wholly submerged in the body, this is the threshold of the final completion; the transformation of body into spirit-become-form.

The final stage of the greater work, the reddening:

The completion of the greater work is expressed by the Sun. The centre point that was missing at the start in the circle, representing what was only potentially present is now manifest. This stage is the reddening, which expands spirit into matter, reflecting the completion through the colour royal purple-red.

In the greater work the energy as represented by the circle moves downwards until the Sun stands alone. The Sun is analogous to the soul transmuted and illuminated by spirit, representing the perfect union of spirit, soul and body, it is the centre point of equilibrium sought by the alchemists.

The alchemical work that transmutes metals into gold, light incarnated, has its parallel in the inward alchemy of prayer. The soul initially becomes congealed on turning away from the outward world, and then dissolves as a result of inner warmth, and finally after having been a volatile changing stream of impressions, becomes a motionless crystal filled with light.

Ultimately the process of alchemy changes the life of the alchemist in the same way that astrology will forever change the way an astrologer will view life. There is far more to both then initially meets the eye. The more one puts into both the more depth and wisdom is unearthed.

This article also appears on the C.I.A. site and was published in the FAA journal in 2008

Reference

Burckhardt, Titus: “Alchemy, the Science of the Soul” published by Fons Vitae, 1997 (originally published 1960)

Burckhardt, Titus: “Mystical Astrology According to Ibn’Arabi” published by Fons Vitae, 2001 (originally publishd in 1950 in French, first English translation 1977)

Zoller, Robert: “The Arabic Parts in Astrology: a Lost Key to Prediction” published by Inner Tradition International, 1980

Editors of Time-Life Books: “Secrets of the Alchemists”, published 1990

Antiscia: The Story Behind the Chart

 

When I first began to explore the world of traditional astrology I came across a term that was puzzling; antiscia and contrantiscia. The definition was clear enough, degrees of the Zodiac equal distant from the cardinal points of 0 degrees Cancer/Capricorn for antiscia or Aries/Libra for contrantiscia, in other words degrees mirroring each other from the cardinal axis.

Planets in antiscia relationship to each other were said to act like a conjunction, while the contrantiscia were like oppositions. In fact the contrantiscia point is in opposition to the antiscia point. For the purpose of this article I will only speak of the antiscia point, its opposition being a given.

Now the antiscia was defined as: a shadows point, a reflection or a hidden ally.  My intellectual curiosity was pricked. Whilst investigating the antiscia I found that I had two such planetary pairs in my own natal chart. Now the desire to understand antiscia became far more personal.

It seemed that the ancients put a lot of significance on these points. Some even mentioned mundane antiscia, meaning degrees of the Zodiac equal distant from the angles; a sort of midpoint. Could these points be activated by transits or progressions? This might explain those times when nothing seems to be happening in a chart and yet the life is filled with dramas and activity.

When Pluto transited my Sun, its antiscia point occupied by Venus was also activated. Because my Sun and Moon are in partile square to each other she was also being activated as was her antiscia point occupied by Jupiter. Rather then 1 or 2 planets being shaken by the newly demoted powerbroker Pluto, four planets were involved. All the houses they ruled or had command of were taken along for the ride. Suddenly the potential for what these points could mean became very interesting.

Finding the antiscia point for your ASC and MC can reveal so much about who you are and what you do, especially if there happens to be a planet or other significant point on these zodiacal degrees.

Christina Onassis

As a child I remember reading about Christina Onassis the super rich heir of a fortune. Her life played out in the tabloids as proof that money can not buy happiness. Her life ended prematurely at the age of 37 years and 11 month when she died alone of a heart attack brought on by years of drug abuse and physical neglect.

Christina was born into extreme wealth, into a culture and to a father who had little regard for women. Her mother, reputed to be a great beauty was prone to depression. Some accounts claim that she ended her life in suicide; others say she died of natural causes.

As a child Christina was close to her older brother, Alexandros, the clear favourite of their father. Growing up they had little contact with either of their parents who bitterly divorced in 1960, when Christina was 10 years of age.

She grew into an awkward and conventionally unattractive woman in a world that exalted the beauty of women. By all accounts she was a good business woman who had like her father a natural flair and instinct for business, but she is remembered more for her unfortunate personal life.

Within a 24 month period in the early 1970 she lost her entire family when her brother, mother and then father died. She was left alone in the world. Over the years she married four times, but never seemed to find happiness in these relationships. At the age of 35 she gave birth to her only child. She died three years later.

 

Christina’s ASC at 25 Taurus has its antiscia point at 4 Leo, conjunct her IC. The IC represents foundation, family and father; in this case it is ruled by the Sun, a universal symbol of Father. Her identity (ASC) was therefore one and the same as that of her father/family. The Sun also represents the sum total of who we are and who we are evolving into. In her case this was forever bound to her foundations and father, forging her own way in the world would have been that much more difficult.

Looking further we see that the Sun is in Sagittarius right on her 8th house cusp. The 8th house is the house of death and also the house of as “other people’s money” or in our modern terms “their resources”. This is the house of inheritance or legacy, particularly through death. The Sun’s placement on this cusp reinforces the antiscian connection between ASC (self) and IC (father/family). It also accounts for the talents and abilities she inherited from her father.

The Sun’s own antiscia point is at 10 Capricorn within a degree of Mercury, which rules her 2nd house of money and her 5th house of children & joy. There is little doubt that her money came through her father’s estate and one of the few joyful events in her life was the birth of her only child: Athina. Because of this relationship between Sun and Mercury her health & vitality would be affected by movements to Mercury as well as the Sun.

Not only was her Sun connected to Mercury by antiscia and in flowing partile aspect (to the degree) to both Pluto and Neptune, but there was also a hidden contra antiscia (opposition) relationship to Uranus. This gives us a hint of the hidden side of her father. Yes he was powerful and mysterious, but there was a volatile and erratic side that was hidden behind closed doors. It could also symbolize the more self destructive tendencies that hovered just below the surface of her life.

Not surprisingly we find that the antiscian degree of her MC is conjunct the DES, the angle of our relationships, traditionally our marriage partner. So who she was in the world was very much defined by who she was in relationship with. Interestingly her DES is ruled by Mars in Capricorn, exalted conjunct and receiving her Capricorn Moon in detriment. With such an insecure and needy Moon exalting Mars, universal significator of men and ruler of her 7th house, we can surmise that she needed relationships, but as Mars also ruled her 12th house it was potentially the road to her self-undoing. The stage for many a disastrous marriage was set.

Through the antiscia connection between her ASC/DES and MC/IC we see how the men in Christina’s life came to absolutely dominate her identity and how she conducted her life. The Sun was not just the ruler of her IC, but also in a secretly ruled her ASC. Mars didn’t just rule her 7th house, but also subverted the reign over her MC.

Antiscia by Transit and Progression

On Jan 23 1973 Christian’s beloved brother was killed in an airplane crash in Athens. On that day her vulnerable Moon at 23 Capricorn was being transited by Jupiter and her progressed Venus, whilst Neptune was on its antiscia point of 6 Sagittarius. This incident fuelled conspiracy theories and suspicion of covert foul play that were never proved. The antiscian Neptune shows us the hidden side of this very public tragedy, which was none the less a very personal loss to Christina.

At this time Christina’s progressed Sun had reached the antiscia point of her natal Sun. Her brother’s death projected her further into the world of business as she became the sole inheritor of their father’s business. Another interesting antiscian connection at this time was the progressed MC at 26 Aquarius and progressed Moon at 4 Scorpio in antiscia conjunction. This is particularly interesting as the Moon rules her 3rd house of siblings. Behind the very public news about her brother was a devastated progressed Moon in the natal 6th house of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Her grief (Moon) was thrown up to public view (MC).

This death was the first of many in her family concluding with the death of her father on March 15, 1975. On this day Saturn was at 11 Cancer in opposition to the Sun’s antiscia point of 10 Capricorn and Jupiter was at 29 Pisces transiting the antiscia point of her natal Saturn, ruler of her MC. As well the North Node at 3 Sagittarius right on Mars’s antiscia point. In her progressed chart the Moon had reached the antiscia of her natal Moon whilst the ASC was within one minute of her progressed Uranus’s and 1 degree of her natal Uranus’s antiscia point. This last detail speaks volumes about the final blow her father’s death must have been to Christina, now she was truly alone and abandoned in the world by her family.

In her final days Neptune was approaching a transit to her Mercury, which as a result of its connection to her Sun (her vitality) would have affected her health. Whilst Jupiter (ruler of her 8th house of death) at 2 Gemini was opposite Mars’s antiscia point, her progressed Sun was conjunct Mars and transiting Mars was opposite natal Saturn (ruler of her 6th house of illness). All in all a very Mars death, though she is said to have died of natural causes she had attempted suicide numerous times during her life and her death was finally brought on by years of drug abuse and physical neglect.

There is much more to Christina Onassis chart that could be explored, but limited to looking at the story the antiscia can tell, has given us fascinating insight into a troubled life.

Reception, the Tony Soprano Clause

This is a rather long, but (I believe) entertaining and interesting article on this complicated subject. I would welcome any feedback.

Anyone who has studied astrology for a reasonable length of time will have examples of charts that defy our most stanch inner sceptic. These charts stand as evidence that the connection between the stars and our world is far more mysterious then we imagine. The most fascinating thing about these charts is that their origin can be so ordinary. Coming across one of these charts is like having the magic of life exposed; everything takes on a special glow and it reaffirms the reason we astrologers continue our study long after the realisation that the path to riches, this is not.

When such a chart is encountered the desire is to share it, exposing it to the world and challenging those who would degrade astrology to explain how such beauty and perfection can be dismissed. Recently I came across such a chart; revealing itself to me during my search for a better understanding of receptions, it stands as testimony of the powerful wisdom inherent in astrology. But let me begin at the beginning of this quest.

Encountering Classical Astrology in Modern Times

As the many techniques from our astrological past are being rediscovered and reintegrated into contemporary astrology, terms and labels are often bandied about without a thorough understanding of their meaning. Astrology students are at the mercy of their teachers who have been informed by conflicting texts, some of which were translated by academics with no knowledge or respect for astrology. Consequently our understanding of the terminology of old is pretty confused.

Contemporary astrologers have given new meaning to old terms and have initiated various ways of applying the old techniques. This causes confusion, as certain words come to mean different things to different people. Making matters worse even amongst the old masters there were different opinions, so our modern confusion is understandable. However we should endeavour to understand and agree on the basic meaning of our astrological vocabulary, if only to insure that we do not repeat mistakes like that of assigning rulership to “new” planets, in contravention of the essential system on which astrology was founded.

Recently the words “receive” and “receptions” were discussed in one of my astrology groups. It became evident that there were differing ways of understanding the meaning of this term. As reception is a crucial part of delineation, it important that we are in agreement as to the definition of this word and its application in astrological reading. Researching the meaning of reception has brought home to me the subtle complexity of the whole subject. The problem appears to be that if a planet is in another planet ruling (or exalted) sign there is a reception, but which planet receives and which is received and what does this mean in practical terms?

Receiving and receptions

Nicholas de Vore gives two definitions for “reception” in his “Encyclopedia of Astrology”: (1) A planet posited in a sign not its own, is said to be received by the ruler of that sign, as if one were visitor and the other host. (2) The condition in which a planet is receiving an aspect from a faster moving planet.” According to these definitions a planet can “receive” an aspect from another faster moving planet, it can also be “received” by the ruler(s) of the sign it is in.

The term reception is now commonly used to refer only to relationship between a planet and the ruler of the sign it is in. {There is also reception with the minor dignities of triplicity, term and face, but for the sake of this article I will focus only on rulership and exaltation}. Contemporary astrologers may think that the need for an aspect is superfluous, yet most of the old texts imply the need for planets in reception to be in aspect, or applying to aspect each other before their ingress into a new sign. When there is an aspect, the two planets in reception are interacting or communicating to a far greater degree. Reception allows the potential of an aspect to be fulfilled.

There is some room for interpretation here as an “aspect” in classical times was thought to exist between signs not planets and points. It is fair to say that as long as there is aspect by sign, receptions are active. This still precludes all but the Ptolemaic aspects (sextile, square, trine, opposition and conjunction). Both the semi-sextile (30 degrees) and inconjunct (150 degrees) connect sign with no commonality, which therefore can not see each other.

In the context of a reception through sign or exaltation, the planet “receiving” is the ruler of the sign in which the other “received” planet finds itself. The receiving planet is the host and as such is under obligation to welcome and allow his guest access to his domain, resources and virtue. He also has a responsibility towards his guest; he can do them no harm, even if this would be his natural inclination. The received planet or guest is also bound to support his host or ruler and to help do his bidding.

Reception between planets reflects society’s rules about how we relate to one another. If you are my guest I will not harm you, on the contrary I will welcome you and give you access to my home. It would be very bad form if anything unfortunate were to happen to you whilst you were under my roof.

Rules also apply as to how guests are expected to behave. Generally speaking they will respect their host, heed expectations, offer them help if needed and they will not overstay their welcome. All of this is dependent on the essential character of both host and guest, the more honesty and integrity they have the more they will uphold the terms of their association. The more afflicted they are, the more they will struggle to do the right thing.

Aspects give two planets the means of “seeing” each other and communicating. The type of aspect indicates how harmonious or stressful that communication will be. The closer the aspect the clearer they can hear each other, the better the aspect the more they will agree with each other. When there is reception the planets share common motivations and are inclined to assist each other; the stronger the reception the better they can co-operate to achieve their goals. Planets inconjunct, with no aspect between them can not communicate at all, even if they happen to be in one another’s sign.

Broadly speaking the receiving planet has power over the planet that is received, for it rules the territory in which the received planet finds itself in. The received planet is recognisant of his host and could be said to love him. This exchange of power and affection becomes far more complicated when there is “mutual reception”, the situation that arises when both planets are in each other’s signs.

A Study in Reception

Whether a reception is helpful or a hindrance is dependent on the circumstances present in the chart. It also must be remembered that receptions, aspects and dignity have different implications in different types of chart investigations. Horary and some event charts are of a finite moment in time, where as a natal chart is for the life, so that even the most afflicted planet will by direction, progression and transit shift in time. We need to understand reception in context of the specific chart and not as a cook book panacea.

The best way of illustrating how reception may work is through the use of a chart. As providence would have it while trying to make sense of this subject I was also immersing myself in the fictional world of the “The Sopranos” via the iconic television series created by David Chase. The interaction between some of the characters was very reminiscent of the interaction between planets in reception. I began to imagine the characters as planets in particular sign led by the main character, Tony Soprano as a hypothetical Saturn in Aries.

Before continuing my imaginary casting I decided to have a look at the chart for January 10, 1999 at 9:00 pm the date and time the series’ first aired in America. I set the chart for Newark, New Jersey, the geographical setting for the show. The resulting chart is an interesting study of receptions and a great example of how obliging astrology can be in providing us with the perfect chart for every occasion. As the cast of characters naturally found their assigned planet, led by Tony Soprano, the previously hypothesised Saturn in Aries, I was left in awe at the synchronistic revelation that is astrology.

Cast of Characters

I have to apologise for those of you who are not familiar with this fine television program and will provide you with a brief synopsise and outline of the main characters who so easily find their significators in the above chart.

The story line of “The Sopranos” orbits around the character of Tony Soprano a New Jersey mafia boss in full throws of midlife crisis. Tony suffers anxiety attacks and depression from the weight of his family responsibilities, the expectations of his criminal underlings and a profoundly dysfunctional relationship with his mother. Between the normal mid-life worries about teenage children, money, security, mistresses, ageing family members, as well as manoeuvring the political minefield of the criminal world and dealing with the constant suspicion about everyone’s motivations, we discover that Tony is not much different then the rest of us. The series follows the ups and downs of the individuals living in this world, who other then their predilection of solving problems through violence and murder, share the same aspirations of love, happiness and a better life for their children as more law abiding citizens.

So, let us now move on to our casting. As previously stated Tony Soprano would have to be Saturn in Aries, and obligingly he find him here positioned in the unfortunate house of death and legacies. Saturn is in its fall, but does have a bit of dignity by term, so though driven by excess he is able to conduct business. In this nocturnal chart he is the most elevated planet, as would befit the “boss” of the family. Saturn being a diurnal planet in a nocturnal chart is out of sect, reflecting the difficulties he has in performing his duty as the head of the family.

Tony is married to his teenage sweetheart, Carmela Soprano, who supports and encourages him. She keeps a nice home and tries to be a good mother to his children, and though enjoying the fruits of his ill got gains she appears to be in denial about exactly how and where Tony gets his money. Her sphere of influence is the immediate environment and she is of course Moon, cadent in the third house and fallen in Scorpio giving her an excessive need for security and a kind of powerlessness.

The third house maybe cadent, but this is the house where the Moon finds her joy and is referred to as the “House of the Goddess”. The Moon/Carmela’s position here supports the traditional view of the sanctity of the family and the role of the mother in the Italian culture that is the world of the Sopranos. The Moon/Carmela with no aspect to Saturn/Tony can not see him, but her close square to Venus who is in Saturn’s domain and rules the material assets, shows her attraction and uneasy relationship with all things provided by Saturn/Tony.

Tony has many business associates who have to answer to him. They are loyal out of friendship, family ties, insecurity and fear. In Tony’s world friends and allies can quickly turn into liabilities as everyone jostles to align themselves with power. Mercury, peregrin in Capricorn, applying to square Saturn and under his power, collectively signifies these various characters.

Tony’s nephew Christopher holds a special position in the family, the golden boy and Tony’s heir apparent. Sun in Capricorn, ruler of the twelfth house, applying his square to both Mars and Saturn makes a perfect significator for this most interesting and flawed character enmeshed in a complex relationship with his boss and uncle. Christopher is an aspiring writer and film maker with a substance abuse problem, whose loyalty to Tony and the oath he took is such that he would allow his fiancée to be killed rather then betray him.

Mars in Libra, applying his opposition to Saturn signifies all of Tony’s various enemies. In true “Godfather” style there is an understanding between enemies, the rules oblige those in power to take certain action: it’s not personal, it’s only business.

Venus in Aquarius sensually positioned in the fifth house of pleasure and applying to sextile Saturn/Tony, signifying all the spoils of the Soprano’s business interests: money, luxury and the women. Symbolically Venus represents the material gain, but personified she embodies all of Tony’s various mistresses.

Finally we have Dr Melfi, the psychiatrist Tony Soprano has been in therapy with for years. She appears as the voice of moderation and the only one able to reflect back to Tony the dysfunction of his familial relationships and the moral dilemmas his chosen profession create. Jupiter in Pisces, in the seventh house of the physician and in the sign most closely associated with the unconscious could not be a more perfect significator.

Receptions at Play and “the Tony Soprano Clause”

Let us first examine our main protaginist, Tony Soprano ie: Saturn in Aries. As Mercury, Sun and Venus are in Saturn’s ruling signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, Saturn welcomes or receives them into his rulership. As these are applying to aspect him, Saturn/Tony is receiving a sextile aspect from Venus and square aspects from Mercury and the Sun.

Looking at Mercury, Tony Sopranos criminal colleagues, we see that he will perfect his square aspect to Saturn at 27 degrees, but his movement into the next sign will keep him in Saturn’s domain. This means that Mercury is the guest of Saturn and as such he has his attention and can take advantage of what Saturn has to offer. Squaring an angry malefic in his fall situated in the house of death would clearly be a problem for Mercury, but here Saturn’s reception of Mercury alleviates much of the danger.

Saturn holds the power and has the responsibility to offer Mercury protection just as a sovereign would to his subjects (or a mafia boss would to his family). In the old texts Saturn would be said to be bestowing his virtue unto Mercury. I call this the “Tony Soprano Clause”; Tony is duty bound to make sure his guest come to no harm whilst they are in his home. Mercury as the submissive planet being received has to offer support to the needs of his ruler, Saturn. As a guest he must obey the rules of the house and not overstep his welcome. But here we are dealing with a reception by square aspect so there is tension in the relationship. The interplay between Tony Soprano and his criminal colleagues certainly reflect the stressful power play of this reception.

Mercury is in a just separating sextile with the Moon/Carmela. Mercury is in the Moon’s detriment, therefore is received by her. Being in the Moon’s detriment means that Mercury receives the worst of her, he doesn’t like her at all. Saturn/Tony’s criminal colleagues resent Moon/Carmela and she doesn’t want to give them anything. Being in a sextile aspect they will be cordial with each other, but neither gets much support from the other.

Saturn receives Venus, welcoming her into his ruling house of Aquarius, with Venus perfecting her sextile to him at 27 degrees. This reception works both ways as Venus is also receiving Saturn but into her detriment. This means that while Venus has access to the power and goodness of Saturn/Tony, he is welcomed into the world of Venus’s detriment, accessing all the trouble that Venus can bestow.

Venus in detriment indicates an exaggerated desire for luxury, pleasure and all things sensual. In this chart with Venus placed in the fifth house as well as ruling the money house, not to mention her besiegement at the hands of Neptune and Uranus, we get a clear indication of how Venus could come to spell trouble for Saturn/Tony. Venus as Tony’s various mistresses has access to the best of him and though she provides him with pleasure she is also the source of major headaches. No matter how much pain his mistresses may cause Tony and how much he may want to make them pay for it, he is obliged to do them no harm. This is the “Tony Soprano Clause” in action.

Tony’s mistresses, Venus is in a precarious relationship with his wife, Carmela, the Moon. We see the Moon fallen in Scorpio, the sign of Venus’s detriment closely applying to square her. Venus welcomes (receives) the Moon into her detriment and bestows on to her the worst aspect of herself. This is one very stressful square, which through Venus’s relationship with Saturn ties Saturn to the Moon. So while Venus gets to have the virtue of and protection from Saturn but she gets nothing but a square from the Moon who is like a thorn in her side reminding her of what she can never aspire to: wife and motherhood.

The worst of Venus is accessible to both Saturn and Moon. The Moon as Carmela is as corrupted by the money and luxuries also represented by Venus as her husband Saturn/Tony is and her knowledge of Tony’s sexual infidelities almost destroy her. Venus as the symbol for the spoils of Tony Sopranos business, also receives Mars into her domain. The square aspect between them does not perfect, but it does come into orb, indicating a weaker reception. So Mars/Tony’s enemies has access to the goods, including the money represented by Venus. Seeing as this is what everyone wants in the world of the Sopranos this comes as no surprise.

The Sun, signifying Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti is applying to square Saturn and Mars, and both receive him into their rulership and exaltation respectively. The Sun/Christopher has a more complicated relationship with Saturn. Saturn is in the exaltation of the Sun, creating a mutual reception between Saturn/Tony and Sun/Christopher. While Sun is being received by Saturn and has access to his power and virtue, he is protected from being harmed by him in the same way that Tony is protected from being harmed by Christopher through the Sun’s reception of Saturn into his exaltation.

It is clear that Saturn/Tony and Sun/Christopher are very fond of each other, but this relationship is not free of danger. For one, it is a square relationship between a nasty malefic and a luminary with little dignity, and for another, the Sun squaring Mars first, will carry the light of Mars another nasty malefic and Tony’s enemies, to Saturn. This is a case of the “Tony Soprano Clause” cancelling itself out as both planets being received are protected from the harm the other might inflict on them, they are also vulnerable through their reception and welcoming of the other into their domain.

Saturn is in the exaltation of the Sun and has access to the disillusionment that is the danger of exaltation. Over the course of time Tony Soprano becomes more and more disappointed with Christopher’s actions which true to a twelfth house ruler include a fair bit of substance abuse and secrecy. The mutual reception of Sun and Saturn insured that the two stayed bonded, but in the end Saturn/Tony’s essentially debilitated state allowed him to take advantage of circumstances in order to do away with Christopher. It could never end well, as the Sun’s next move was to be into the house of its detriment.

The “Tony Soprano Clause” ensures that Saturn can not kill anyone in his own home, but reverse the situation and invite Tony into your home and things may not end so amicably, for once he crosses over your threshold you give him permission to inflict whatever damage he chooses. This is what happened to the Sun/Christopher and to Mars, Tony’s enemies.

Mars is in Libra, receiving Saturn in Aries into his rulership, whilst accepting Saturn’s reception by exaltation. Mars represents Tony’s enemies, one of who was Ralphie, the captain of one of Tony’s crews, he generally angered all who had dealings with him including Tony, exactly what one would expect from Mars in detriment. Being one of Tony’s business associates may help explain why he felt safe enough to receive Tony into his home. Once inside Saturn/Tony’s anger at Mars/Ralphie boiled over and Tony used the Aries energy at his disposal, bestowed to him by Mars, to do away with him.

Mars/Ralphie himself tried his best to inflict onto Saturn/Tony what ultimately got him, but being in detriment he was essentially weaker then Saturn/Tony’s state of fall. And so Mars/Ralphie lost his head, this is the danger of receiving nasty malefics into your domain. This mutual reception of Saturn and Mars is in an applying opposition. Every opposition with reception will have the receiving planet(s) in their detriment or fall. This may account for the negative reputation of opposition, reputed to be the worst of all aspects.

Moving on we find the Moon/Carmela in Mars/enemies domain of Scorpio, but because there is no possible aspect between the two planets they can not communicate. Tony’s enemies are aware of Carmela (the Moon) but as per the rules they have nothing to do with her. She along with all other family members are safe from Tony’s enemies, the reception insure it, but the lack of aspect means they can not help or give support to each other, they have no connection. Receptions without aspects can not really function. If you are in my home but I have no way of communicating my welcome to you, then this is like the reception with no aspect.

The final member of our hypothetical cast is Jupiter in Pisces as Dr Melfi. This is the only one of the classical seven who is not in a reception (or aspect) with any of the others. She is essentially well dignified in her own sign and though in Venus’s exaltation, there is no possible aspect between them as they are in adjacent signs. We could hypothesise that Dr Melfi/Jupiter may have an insight into the desires represented by Venus, but she has no real connection. Venus does not hold any sway over Jupiter here. In the end Jupiter strong in his own sign and angular is powerless to affect the other planets as he has neither aspect nor reception with them, he stands alone. This is very like the fictional Dr Melfi who concludes that there is no point in continuing the therapy with Tony/Saturn as it only serves to reinforce his destructive attitudes.

Epilogue, the Chart and Beyond

There are some final points of interest in this chart, like Pluto, Lord of the underworld sitting on the IC underpinning the chart. The twelfth house associated with criminals and secret enemies is ruled by the Sun that is on the antiscia point of Pluto. The two malefics, Mars and Saturn are in the signs of their detriment or fall, accentuating their malevolence and allowing them to act in an extreme manner. Both unfortunately placed, they oppose each other from the house of death and the house known as “the gates of hell”.

Venus the ruler of the second house of money, a primary motivation for all who inhabit the “Soprano” world, is in a closely applying square with the fallen Moon, symbol of an unrequited need for security. Adding to the Moon dilemma is the fact that she is on the antiscia point of the South Node. This being like a hidden conjunction it symbolically implies that a strong tie or pull to the past hinders the ability for change and growth. Obviously the Moon also finds itself in a contra-antiscia, or hidden opposition with the North Node, symbol for the road that lies ahead.

So what does lie ahead for Tony Soprano and his follow cast? The final episode “Made in America” aired on June 10, 2007 at 9:00 pm. The chart for this event again set in Newark NJ compares interestingly with the chart of the show’s premier. Mars, Venus and Mercury have all moved to oppose their premier chart’s position, the South node is conjunct the premier chart’s ASC almost to the minute and the Moon is conjunct Saturn’s premier position.

The Sopranos final episode

Saturn/Tony has now moved into the sign of Leo. This is appropriate for at the shows end he has survived a deadly coup by his criminal rivals and can claim the position of “king” over his criminal organisation, albeit his power is much diminished by the loss of so many of his crew. Saturn/Tony is in detriment and is conjunct the twelfth house North Node of the premiere’s chart.

Mercury, significator of the criminal colleagues is unfortunately receiving the Sun, eighth house ruler, lord of death into his own sign. Though the two are in adjacent signs and appear to make no aspect they are in an exact antiscia to each other. So Mercury covertly invited Sun/death into his home, and death did his thing. True to the symbols in this chart, by the end Tony had few surviving colleagues. Their demise being perpetrated at the instigation of Tony’s enemies, Mars now stronger in Aries, who is being received by the Sun into his exaltation.

So Mars/Tony’s enemies is able to access and use the virtue of the Sun, lord of death to seek his revenge on Tony “family”. This is a strong reception as Mars is in a partile sextile with the Sun enabling him to carry the light from the lord of death to Tony. But Mars himself is in a precarious position being conjunct by antiscia the South Node. Symbolically Mars can be thought of as the final winner in the game, he sits on the IC the end point or it could be the grave.

The Moon/Carmela is trining Saturn/Tony from Saturn’s original position, indicating that Carmela has come to understand and accept Tony. Her position on the IC represents the conclusion of the show that family is the true foundation of life. The Moon in Aries, is received by Mars from whom she is separating, indicating that she has access to his virtues, including self-assertion and courage. By the end of the show Carmela has gone from an obedient and subservient wife totally dependent on her husband, to one who accepts the life and man she has chosen, takes financial responsibility and sits more as an equal partner with Tony. {Interestingly the Moon is on the antiscia point of the premier charts Mercury/Tony’s criminal colleagues}.

Venus makes no aspect to any planet and though the Sun receives her into his rulership, the reception is poor as they will not perfect or come within orb of an aspect to each other. As a significator of money, her placement on the eighth house cusp mirrors the financial difficulties our characters find themselves by the end of the show, a situation that will probably not change in the near future. Moral of the story is that crime doesn’t pay after all.

Obligingly, Pluto has moved for his angular position on the IC to one on the ASC, the underworld has come out from hiding. Meanwhile, Jupiter/Dr Melfi is still essentially dignified, but is afflicted by her accidental state of retrogression and position in the twelfth. She is moving away from all aspects and is not involved in any reception. Jupiter like Dr Melfi is isolated from all the other planets/characters and is powerless to take any effective action.

So what happened when the screen went black? Did Tony Soprano live or die? The evidence gained from the receptions in this chart point to Tony’s survival. Lord of death, Sun receives Saturn/Tony into his domain. The “Tony Soprano clause” works in Tony’s favour here death can do him no harm. Yet he is under the Sun’s power in the sign of his detriment and in the house indicating anguish of the mind. We can conclude that Saturn/Tony will not be free of the fear of death, but for the moment death, the Sun can not harm him.

Classical Astrology

As Soul descends through the planetary spheres on its way to incarnation it is bathed in the sleep of forgetfulness. As it awakens, fully inhabiting its new vehicle for experience, the body, it has forgotten from where it came. Time in now its new reality: nothing existed before and nothing will be after.

So where did we come from? And what are we made of? These are the questions that great minds have grappled with for eons. To seek understanding of classical astrology is to engage in these quests in order to gain wisdom.

Beginning my astrological study all those years ago I was motivated by the desire to know my fate. But what I found in contemporary astrology was not so much an understanding of my place in the scheme of things as a very concise view into my psyche. As interesting as this was for a short while, I sensed that there was mote. Then I discovered classical astrology (astrology as practiced up until 1700).

I learnt that the astrology that had been around for thousands of years bears little resemblances to its modern namesake. The foundation of classical astrology is the Hermetic wisdom inherent in the saying “As above, so below” and the acceptance that all emanates from a Divine genesis. The cosmos do not effect or cause events on earth but rather the cosmos and earthlyl realms reflect each other, for ultimately we are all part of the same Divine expression. In classical astrology it is our relationship with the Divine that is of utmost importance rather then the relationship with our parents and peers.

The biggest criticism hurled at classical astrology is that it is events based, overly focused on prediction and that it lacks the multi-coloured shades of our modern understanding into the process of growth and evolution. But contrary to this popular belief, to be immersed into the astrology of old is to discover the rich essence of Spirit in our life.

Story of the three realms

As understood by our forefathers reality is divided into three realms. The highest realm is the realm of the Divine, the realm of first principles. In this world everything is constant; there are no cycles, no decay, no corruption and no form. This is the world of essence, purity and unchanging nature. In this world nothing dies, nothing is born, nothing is created and yet all of creation emanates from there.

The lower realm is the one we are most familiar with, it is the world we live in. It is the realm of matter, corruption, decay and cycles. It is the world of constant change, creativity, beauty and infinite variety, as well as the realm of certain death. Nothing is constant and everything will change, end and begin again. This is the realm of Earth.

The middle realm is that of the twilight, the in-between world we may enter into during our dreaming, spiritual disciplines and meditations. This is the realm that shaman travel in their healing quests. In classical astrology this was understood as the planetary realm, or the realm of the planetary spheres, through which the souls descended on their way to incarnation. The final sphere and the one closes to the earth plane was that of the Moon, known to be both entirely of the material and of the spiritual.

The Descend of the Soul

From the classical period it was understood that souls choose their life and then fall into matter in order to live out the chosen life. Plato (450 BCE) tells a story in the Myth of Err about souls waiting to be born. An angel, messenger of the Divine comes along with a number of lives from which the souls impetuously grab one, with little regards for the consequence of their choice.

Taking their chosen life to the three Fates, they would wait while the Fates checked the spindle of life around which the stars, sun, moon and planets spun and make sure that everything lined up to allow the life chosen to unfold and end as it should. Only when everything lined up properly was the soul thrown down into incarnation to live out their chosen life. Falling into incarnation the soul had to pass through the seven planetary gates or spheres. At each gate they would take on qualities and gifts both good and bad that would help shape their temperamental nature.

The soul’s descent through the planetary spheres begins with Saturn the most distant of the visible planets where they take on structure and authority. Here the soul also takes on grief, the grief of being restricted by the matter and time, the physical reality they so readily jumped into.

At the gates of Jupiter the soul gains the desire to rule, to give and receive honour as well as the impulse for wealth and the power to act. Envy is the down side of Jupiter’s gifts. Mars gives the soul bold spirit as well as impulsive and reckless daring. Here the soul also acquires discernment and is given the ability to cut through the dross, but with these new found gifts also comes the propensity for aggression and cruelty.

In the sphere of the Sun the soul acquires vision and the sense of perception. With these gifts comes pride and in the extreme, arrogance. Venus the next planetary sphere through which the soul passes, offers the gift of love and the impulse for passion. Beauty, luxury and the arts are also gifts of Venus, as is her negative expression, lust.

Mercury gives the soul the analytical faculty of the mind and language with which to communicate. But he also gives them the ability for evil plotting, a yearning for money and greed. The final sphere is that of the Moon, which imparts to the soul its body and the ability to change and grow. This is where the soul acquires hunger and its pains. Gluttony is one of the Moons not so pleasant offerings.

This journey down through the planetary spheres is most profound for it begins with Saturn ruler of Capricorn which is the point of the winter/summer solstice and ends with the Moon ruler of the summer/winter solstices. Astrologically the Moon is a symbol of the infant and so it should that the soul is born into this plane of existence as an infant.

On the way out of this life the soul again passes through the planetary spheres in the reverse order, but this time it releases the qualities and gifts back to each planet, finally giving up structure, authority and grief at the gates of Saturn. Astrologically Saturn is the symbol of the old man and death, a fitting end to the incarnated life.

The beauty of classical astrology goes far beyond the psychological analysis of the individual into the understanding of the soul and its relationship with the earth plane. Through the placement of the planets in our chart we can come to understand the gifts we took from the planetary sphere and the lessons they provide us with. Classical astrology is an art that connects us with our philosophical and spiritual roots and allows us a glimpse at our place within the Divine plan.

How the Traditional View of the Planets Differs from the Modern

The way in which the planets were viewed and understood by the ancients differs fundamentally to the way in which modern astrologers approach them. The actual meaning of the planets has retained some of the traditional essence though much has been distorted through mistranslation and interrupted transmission. As the modern planets; Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, have adopted attributes once worn by the visible planets our understanding of the meanings and association of the classical seven has been watered down.

Modern astrology understands and works with the planets almost exclusively from the perspective of their “universal” or common significance. Any Astrology book will provide extensive lists of words associated with and describing each planet. Such as Venus being the planet of love and representing our values, Mercury the planet of communication and representing our rational thinking, Saturn the planet of responsibility and restriction, Jupiter being associated with wealth and expansion et cetera. In traditional astrology the common description of a planet is far briefer.

In modern times whole books have been written about individual planets, exploring every aspects of their meanings and providing thorough analysis of their expression through the signs, houses, aspect and cycles. From the psychological perspective our understanding of the planets as urges of our psyche has given us a model in which planets are seen as equal, though some may challenge us more. Saturn represents authority, father figures or restriction in everyone’s chart. How well we deal with these things will depend on Saturn’s aspects, sign and house position in our individual chart.

The standard way of presenting the planets is in order from the Sun outwards, except for the Moon that is commonly placed after the Sun, indicating her equal status as one of the luminaries. Following the Sun and Moon we have the inner or personal planets, Mercury, Venus and Mars followed by the social planets, Jupiter and Saturn finally arriving at the trans-personals, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This order seems logical and clear yet bears no relation to that used by our astrological forefathers.

Before considering how the ancients understood the planets we must exclude the so called transpersonal: Pluto, Neptune and Uranus. Planets were referred to as “wandering star” and had to be, by this definition visible like all other stars in our sky. Focusing on the traditional seven planets without competition from their younger more glamorous siblings, allows some of the qualities attributed to these younger members our solar system to be reclaimed by the seven senior planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon.

The planets were presented in this order, referred to as the Chaldean order. This order is very important and forms the backbone to our astrology whether we know it or not. It reveals the genesis of how planets relate to each other through aspects, reception and house position. The planets were ordered according to their speed, from slowest to quickest. The “outer” planets consisted of Saturn, Jupiter and included Mars for they were beyond the orbit of the earth. The Sun was, as should be in the center followed by the inner planets; Venus, Mercury and the Moon.

One of the most beautiful images using this order is that of the descent of the Soul from the realm of the fixed stars through the planetary spheres or gates, beginning with Saturn and finally arriving on earth through the Moon: the Moon being the only planet existing wholly both in this lower world of material generation and the upper world of divine spirit, a beautiful symbol of the Soul. You will notice that Saturn rules Capricorn and the Moon rules Cancer, this is in line with the Solstices. In the earlier times the natural wheel of the Zodiac began with Cancer, the point of earthly birth.

The ancients understood planets through their essential nature: hot, cold, moist and dry. Though they talked of benefic and malefic planets, it was understood that any planet close to its essential nature would behave well and any planet far from its nature could behave in an exaggerated manner causing trouble for the native.

The qualities that best promote life are hot and moist, but too much heat with no moisture is not conducive to fertility. Cold and dry are the most destructive to life of all the qualities, but cold with moisture can still create growth. The so called malefic planets: Saturn and Mars, are both overly dry or hot, Saturn is extremely dry and cold, Mars is burning hot and dry. Both inhibit growth.

The benefic and malefic status of the planets is reflected in the signs they ruled, their relationship to the luminairies, the givers of life and the doctrine of aspects. Traditionally Saturn rules both Capricorn and Aquarius, both these signs oppose Leo and Cancer, the signs of the luminaries. Mars traditionally ruled Scorpio and Aries these signs square Leo and Cancer. While Venus and Jupiter rule signs that are in sextile or trine to the domain of the Luminaries. The only planet to defy this scheme is naturally Mercury, the trickster of the gang who is always out to fool us. He rules the signs on either side of Leo and Cancer so therefore has no connection with either.

The planets were seen as players in the drama of the native’s life, and these players were versatile; they could take many parts and often share roles. How well they fulfilled their role was dependent upon their celestial and mundane condition, in other words how they related to the unchanging realm of the divine; the zodiac and the ever moving mundane world; the houses which hinge on the horizon and the MC/IC. The planets were understood to have both specific meaning in an individual chart as well as universal or common meaning.

In natal astrology it was the specific significance or meaning that was most important to the judgment of a native’s life. Jupiter may signify riches and wealth but this means nothing if Jupiter is not the significator of these things in particular chart. Jupiter’s role as universal significator of wealth could assist by being well aspected to the specific significator of wealth; the planet best placed to act as “the bringer of riches”.

The traditional understanding of astrological judgment and chart delineation meant that you couldn’t deduce anything by just taking one planet in isolation. As I have said the planets played varied roles and interacted with each other in a fashion unique in every chart. A weak planet could make way for a stronger one (through reception, aspect and rulership) to fulfill or at least assist in its role. The strength of a planet would be judged by their essential dignity (rulership, exaltation, triplicity, term or bounds and face) or lack thereof. The ability of a planet to deliver its promise depended on its accidental dignity and debilities: house position, position relative to the Sun, retrograde, speed. The strength and ability to act of a particular planet would indicate how well that aspect of life would unfold.

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