Saturday, October 28, 2006

Newspaper astrology from the past

The newspaper column below was by Carl Payne Tobey, a respected American astrologer in the mid-20th century.

One of his quotes:

There is so much that has been taught that is not true, and we need its elimination because it has caused severe mental indigestion. As in other educational areas, we have had too much brainwashing in astrology.

(I like this man!!!) Click on quote for a bigger version of the illustration.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sun Sign columns and astrology by computer.

I read "Under One Sky" recently, and noted how acclaimed experts go about writing their interpretations of a natal chart. An old saying came to mind this morning: "After the lord mayor's show comes the muck-cart". I reflected how essential that muck-cart was in days gone by.

Sun Sign columns are a much maligned area of astrology. Many astrologers consider these columns have little to do with astrology at all. Likewise, astrological reports generated by computer come under fire from "real" astrologers.

"Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party" - another old saying !

If a hundred people in any busy street were to be asked what they knew of astrology, I'd take a guess that around 90% of them would mention a Sun sign astrologer, or newspaper/magazine column. The remaining 10% would probably be split between those who knew nothing at all, and those who had a serious interest in the subject.

Sun sign astrology is the tip of an enormous astrological iceberg. It is the part in clear public view, the part which has kept astrology alive when it might otherwise have sunk beneath the scorn of scientists and sceptics. In my view those astrologers who delight in deriding Sun sign columns and websites do astrology in general a great disservice. A good daily column such as that written by Jonathan Cainer does not purport to "tell your fortune" for the day in question. The astrologer offers wisdom and inspiration, based on the current astrological climate. That's all. People enjoy reading a little piece of wisdom each day. This has to be true, otherwise why do newspapers continue to carry such columns ? Because they boost circulation. It has to be said though, that some Sun sign columns are decidedly better quality than others, it's the poorer ones which have been pounced upon and used as example by critics of astrology.

If some astrologers find it necessary to publicly deride Sun sign columns, that says more about THEM than about the intelligence of readers of those columns, or the competence of the astrologers who write them.

Who knows - someone whose interest was initially sparked by Sun sign columns might progress to learn astrology via a college or course, and might one day become THE astrologer who discovers a "missing link" or "golden key", or devises an infallible method of interpretation or prediction. Who knows?

Computer generated astrology reports are another bone of contention.
In my opinion these fall into two categories:

1. Those generated from a computer program, written by whomever, which was bought retail, with the specific intent of selling reports to the public (by licence - part of the program price).

2. Those written by an experienced astrologer and integrated into a computer program to produce reports, to be obtainable only from that astrologer.

The first type of report is of limited use, I've seen such a report and was disappointed by it, but would not say it was completely without value. I have had much better experience from the second type of computer report, obtained from an astrologer I respect and admire.

Nobody expects that an astrology report generated by computer could ever take the place of a consultation with an expert, or an individual report written specifically for one person. Most people nowadays are aware of what computers are, and are not, capable of. A full personal report written especially for a client, like a custom made suit, would take an expert many hours of work, for which he would expect to be paid. Most people do not have a large amount of money to spend on astrology. Computer reports have made something nearer to "real" astrology available to a much wider market. Ready-made suits did the same thing for men's tailoring . Discernment is needed when choosing the source, as with any purchase.

Sadly there are some charlatans around in every walk of life, there are always some sincere but less able individuals, too. Charlatans are easy to spot in astrology - they chase customers with bogus offers, advertise widely in magazines, they frighten clients, imply that they have secret knowledge. No reputable astrologer would ever stoop to this level.

A last thought on this topic:
I look on Sun sign astrology as a kind of pre-school astrology for the public. Computer generated reports - junior school astrology. Individually written reports or personal consultations are akin to university level astrology. There's a gap..... between junior school and university. That's a gap which each of us is capable of filling for ourselves, with a little study and research.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Under One Sky"

"Under One Sky" is a book, brainchild of Rafael Nasser, which contains the biography of a woman who was unknown to 12 different, well-known, astrologers. Each astrologer gives their "blind" interpretation of her natal chart. Each uses their own specialised system. Systems include Vedic, Western, Mediaeval, Hellenistic, Mythological, Evolutionalry, Archetypal, Uranian, Psychological, Western Sidereal, and Light-hearted. The astrologers specify how and why they reached the concusions they did.

I've been trying to decide which of the 12 astrologers has most closely "nailed" the woman. I read her biography, once skimming over it, then for a second time in careful detail. Her biography is quite detailed - a little too wordy for my comfort, but it does provide a good "feel" of who she is. I picked out a few key points which, in my opinion, ought to come through loud and clear in an accurate interpretation. These were: first and foremost world travel. Then: academic ability, spirituality, health problems/accidents, relationship with father.

It isn't as easy as I imagined it might be to clearly see who has come closest to describing the anonymous woman. The astrologers were also quite wordy, somewhat "woolly" too in places! Finally I came to the conclusion that one of the astrologers who uses the sidereal zodiac, and one who uses the tropical delivered the best, clearest, and in my opinion most accurate reports.
No names, no pack drill (don't want to get into trouble!!)

Things I learned from this exercise:

1.Both zodiacs work, in the right hands.
2.Too many words muddy the waters, even when the writer obviously has style and flair.
3.A light touch is best.
4.Not everything is shown in a birth chart, even when experts translate.
5.Basic tropical "everyday" astrology is as accurate as the most complicated specialised type, or using a variety of different celestial bodies, or myths.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


After reading what seems like a thousand internet articles on the sidereal/tropical debate, my brain is now reeling.

Astrologically there are too many options!!

I have a natal chart calculated using tropical zodiac.
I have a relocated chart using tropical zodiac
I have secondary progressed and directed charts (based on natal)
I have a natal chart with current/future transits
I have a progressed and directed chart with current/future transits
I have a natal chart calculated using sidereal zodiac.

I could have even more charts - Draconic, Solar Return, Lunar return, Harmonic, Midpoint.......the list goes on and on.

My instincts tell me to stick with natal plus transits, and ignore everything else - but WHICH natal ? Tropical or sidereal ?

Does it matter, if both fit me reasonably well? The same planets are arranged in the same way, only some sign emphasis is different, the overall "feel" remains the same.

Back to the coalface for more research !

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tropica/Sidereal III

Sidereal versus Tropical astrology is much too deep a subject for me to judge with my extremely limited experience. There are too many imponderables. Far greater and vastly more experienced minds than mine have failed to come to a clear finding on the issue. I can only observe, experiment and come to a conclusion which satisfies my own needs.

At present, I'm of the opinion that both zodiacs work, up to a point, using straightforward western methods at an elementary level (pre-school!) - at least in the charts of people I've known very well, and for a long time. It's as though one compensates for the failings of the other. I've wondered how could this be.

Nobody on Earth currently will still be around to see what happens when the two zodiacs drift even further apart - 3, 4, 5 signs. The answer might be more apparent in the far distant future - but by then perhaps physicists and astronomers will have uncovered the mystery behind astrology anyway.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More tropical/sidereal

Showing a rough idea of the different positions of zodiac signs within sidereal and tropical systems, the third, outer ring shows the astronomical positions. Click on picture to enlarge.

Tropical and Sidereal - the plot thickens!

I usually skim over any mention of sidereal astrology. I knew only that sidereal (Vedic) is the system of astrology used in India, and that the zodiac signs relate to a slightly different period - a variance of almost one full sign, when compared with the tropical zodiac.

I was inspired to try to discover more.

After a session of searching the internet, I've found out that the difference between sidereal and tropical is mainly in the calculation of the starting point of the zodiac.

In Western/tropical astrology the calculation of the Sun passing through the 1st degree of Aries is marked by the Spring equinox or March 21st. By extension, if one looks in a Western ephemeris it is clear that the beginning of each season is lined up with the Sun passing into each of the cardinal signs in the zodiac – Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The tropical zodiac, therefore, is a symbolic system based on the Sun/Earth relationship and is oriented to the seasons.

In sidereal astrology the calculation of the Sun passing through the 1st degree of Aries is marked by the Sun passing through the actual observable fixed stars making up the constellation Aries and has nothing to do with the seasons. “Sider” means “star” and therefore sidereal astrology is based on the actual astronomical positions of the planets against the backdrop of the fixed star constellations. The sidereal zodiac is not symbolic but is oriented to an observable phenomenon.

Once upon a time, around 285AD the two systems were in harmony, and gradually ever since then the two have slowly moved apart due to the precession of the equinox.

Precession of the Equinox is the age old phenomenon whereby an observer on Earth will notice that after one year, he will not realign with the exact same point in inertial space. In ancient times observers on Earth noticed that the vernal equinox aligned with the constellation Aries, then after a few thousand years with constellation Pisces. Now as many know, we are at the "dawning of the age of Aquarius." This backward procession is the precession of the equinox – whereby the equinoctial point slowly recedes through the 12 constellations of the Zodiac, completing a full cycle in around 26,000 years.

So.....which is the more accurate system for use in trying to assess human personality from an astrological chart of the time of their birth - Sun based, or Star based? "Suck it and see!" Try both and decide which works.

I understand that the differences in the two systems are more extensive that described above. Apparently in Vedic/sidereal astrology a lot of emphasis is placed on the Moon's position, and the Sun is less important. Other subtle differences in interpretation exist too.
It's not possible to do a "straight swap", by simply moving the position of natal planets to allign with the sidereal system, and use tropical interpretations. Or so it appears to me.

Even if we did make a "straight swap", the overall flavour of the chart would remain very similar. What would happen is this. Any planet at less than 24* of a sign would move into the previous sign. 24* is the current approximate difference in calculation between the two systems... this has to be approximate because there is argument about this too ! The amount difference in longitude in the two methods of calculation is known as the ayanamsa, by the way.

An easy way to do the swap-over in your head: if the planet’s degrees are less than 24 in any given sign, add 6 degrees and go back a sign. For example, if a planet is at 11 degrees Gemini then add 6 degrees and go back to Taurus. The Sidereal position would be 17 degrees Taurus. I've looked at my own chart with this in mind.

My Aquarian Sun would move into sidereal Capricorn, but Jupiter in tropical Pisces would take the Sun's place in sidereal Aquarius. Mercury in Capricorn would move into sidereal Sagittarius, Venus in Sagittarius would go to sidereal Scorpio, and so on. I have only one planet in my chart which would remain in the same sign - Mars at almost 29 Scorpio would stay there, giving me Venus at one end of Scorpio and Mars at the other end. My Aries Moon would become a sidereal Pisces Moon, Saturn likewise into Pisces. Uranus from Taurus to Aries. Neptune from Virgo to Leo, Pluto from Leo to Cancer.

Nothing so far would lead me to think that one system is more accurate than the other.
I could make a case for either, there is no glaring inaccuracy. Perhaps Mercury in Sagittarius is not quite "me" , though !

A person with a "bundle" pattern in their chart - all planets grouped in 3 or 4 signs, or even a strong stellium, might be able to asses the difference in systems with more accuracy than I am able to do.

The really glaring difference for me, would be my ascendant moving from Cancer to Gemini. Definitely inaccurate. However, my birth time could still be out by up to an hour or maybe more. I used to think I had Leo rising some years ago. Stories of my birth time varied as told by Dad, Mum, and Auntie! Dad said "teatime", Auntie said "about half past two", Mum was in no state to know, but thought "around 3 o'clock." A professional astrologer has rectified the time using details of events in my life, and came up with 2.27pm as the nearest degree he could be sure of - but he said that for sure my ascendant is Cancer.

If my birthtime had given me an ascendant just into Leo, that would fit, because sidereally it would be in Cancer, which I consider to be correct.

In my own case, then, it would all come down to time of birth. If an accurate time of birth gave me a Leo ascendant, I'd say sidereal fit me better. If an accurate birthtime gave me Cancer ascendant in tropical, then definitely tropical is the better fit. So.... as it stands at present, tropical works best for me.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Sadly, Bob Thaves, the originator of the Frank and Ernest cartoons, of which these are a part, died in August this year. His son Tom and team continue the good work. It's nice to see cartoons with a celestial flavour.

Astro-twins - the end.

Information on my near astrological twins has been hard to come by.

There's a slight connection between W. Brugh Joy MD (a doctor) and Baroness Rawlings (left) who used to be in nursing before her career in politics. Perhaps she too has Cancer rising. The other 3 are too diverse to see any connection from the scant information I have. I'm quite surprised to see a sportsman among them (Mike hill top left), not so surprised about the academic and the musician (no pics available).
Going back in history, born 27 January were Mozart, Lewis Carroll, Jerome Kern, and many writers, musicians, artists, pysicians, politicians and military men. Not many sportspeople. Of course, this could be said for birthdays on any day of the year - the only records available are those of "eminent" people of their time. It's a pity we can't access details of all the plumbers, carpenters, bakers, nurses, office workers, bus drivers, etc. born on that day too!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Astro-twins - encore.

Astrologers would probably laugh at my efforts to find similarities with anyone born close to my own birth date. I am well aware that even when biological twins are born within minutes of each other in exactly the same location, down to the inch, they are not always similar. Even so, I am drawn to do this, to satisfy myself, and if I can find some similarity or correspondence, however slight, I am satisfied.

In the case of Germaine Greer, the circumstances of her birth and the fact that neither of us has borne children are significant.

In the case of W.Brugh Joy MD, who also shares my ascendant and Moon positions, his current career has a broad correspondence with my own long-time interest in astrology and other mystical matters. From his own words, found on the internet, it appears he is, in nature, quite similar to myself in at least one important way.

I have discovered 4 more people born on 27 January 1939. Two of these were born in England, one in America and one in Russia.

Mike Hill, Jackson, Michigan, PGA golfer
N R Bomford, head master, Harrow School , England
Patricia Rawlings, Baroness, member of the House of Lords, England
Tigran Yegiayi Mansuryan, composer , Russia.

My study continues! If I fail to find similarities to myself, I might find them between others of our small band of 27 January 1939-ers.