Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Looking at Stars and Charts by Hand?

Today I wanted to talk about a couple of issues that come up occasionally. I've learned that the best thing to do when this happens is to write up my thoughts and post them as a blog or on my website.

The first has to do with the actual physical observation of the stars and planets. This is an area where the basic confusion between astrologer and astronomer comes in; a mistake that amuses astrologers, but enrages astronomers. An astronomer studies the physical makeup and characteristics of space and celestial bodies. An astrologer looks at the relative position, speed, relationships, etc, of celestial bodies and makes predictions based on them. The basic tool of the astrologer is the horoscope or astrological chart. Until 1700 astrologers needed to be able to do some astronomy, they had to be able to calculate orbits and positions of planets and stars in order to create charts. Some astrologers even did physical observation of the movement of planets because logging these positions over a long period of time is how an ephemeris, which is a book containing the daily position of the planets is created. By the 17th century however, reasonably accurate ephemerides existed and most English astrologers just looked up planetary positions, rather than doing actual observation.

Again until around 1700 most astronomers were also astrologers and did prediction as a matter of course. Nowadays, astronomers almost froth at the mouth when confused with astrologers and have absolutely no knowledge of or desire to make astrological prediction. Recently I told someone in Iowa City I was an astrologer and then asked me if I worked at the University of Iowa! I was amused, but not apoplectic.

Ok, this leads to the next issue. As noted the key tool of the astrologer is the horoscope or astrological chart. This is a very accurate representation of the position of the planets, specific fixed stars, etc., at a particular time, date and location on Earth. A chart is a flat two dimensional representation of what you would see three dimensionally if you were actually standing at that particular time, date and location (with no clouds, other obstructions or the Earth in the way for objects below the horizon). In this the astrologer is much like a radiologist. They rely on x-ray or CAT scan or MRI charts which they use to interpret the health of the patient, but never see the actual patient. Similarly, astrologers don't need actual observation which is a good thing since we couldn't look at birthcharts without traveling all over the world or going back in time.

It is not uncommon for potential students to insist that they have to create astrological charts by hand and I have had potential students refuse to study with me out of concerns about using computers for astrology. Ironically all these potential students corresponded with me via e-mail!

Ok, I think there are a couple of issues mixed in here. First, a certain number of people are computer-phobic or find software difficult to use. While not a Luddite, I am not exactly a whole hearted fan of the unbridled use of technology. I tend to be a late adopter myself. I am also sympathetic to the endless effort necessary to learn new software and then keep up with it as the tech gods endlessly change it. Nevertheless, astrological software is a godsend!

Let's look at what is necessary to create a chart by hand. First you need a chart blank and a pencil to mark in the planetary positions. Then you need a book of tables, which includes the the necessary tables for houses and explains how to do the calculations. You also need an atlas that has accurate longitude and latitude information plus information on timezones and Daylight savings time changes, usually you need a US plus International Atlases. Plus you need an ephemeris that gives the daily position of the planets. You need to convert the time for the chart into local/Sidereal time, then calculate the house cusps, then interpolate the position of the planets. In my Michelsen Book of Tables, there are 22 pages of instructions!

As you can imagine these calculations are time intensive and if you make a mistake you mess up your chart. Very early on in my astrological career I calculated a few charts by hand, it took me about 45 minutes to an hour. I think if you got good at it you could perhaps do a chart in 15-30 minutes.

Compare this to using astrological software. All you need to do is enter the time, date and location. The software looks up the location, checks the timezone and DST and in less than a second gives you a super accurate chart. And there are FREE online chart drawing programs like Astrodienst pick chart drawing, Ascendant!

William Lilly, the famous English astrologer, used to send his charts out to be calculated by another astrologer. He would have loved astrological software! And since what an astrologer needs is an accurate chart, how it is produced is really irrelevant.

Now, the anti-astrological software partisans tend to fall into two camps. The first are typically non-astrologers who dislike computers. While I am sympathetic, in this situation, for the reasons stated above, I wholeheartedly embrace astrological software.

The second camp is represented by astrologers who learned astrology before the advent of astrological software. Pre-1980s you had no choice but to calculate charts by hand. Thus these older astrologers learned the laborious process of hand calculation and were loath to give it up. I have heard astrologers insist that calculation by hand was important because you learned from it. However, the process of hand calculation just teaches you how to calculate by hand, it does not teach you much of anything about celestial mechanics or anything else.

There is a valid point that computerized chart interpretation, commonly known as "cookbooking" cannot substitute for individualized interpretation by an astrologer. Very true! But this has no bearing on how the chart is created. I do 100% of the interpretation of all my readings individually, but I use charts created by computer. This gives exactly the same result as far as the interpretation is concerned as if I created the chart by hand.

So, yes when wide accessibility of computers ceases, astrologers will have to return to hand calculation. I have stockpiled all the necessary reference materials for chart calculation, but actually without a computer I'd probably shift to geomancy and I ching. Until that point, however, it is highly advantageous to use astrological software. Interpretation is not affected at all, and in fact likely enhanced by the accuracy of computer generated charts over hand calculations.

Additional Comments: I wanted to add some thoughts triggered by comments on this post. No reflection on the commentator whose points are good!

The issue I wanted to comment on was, "doing charts by hand is good for you" This is another point that I have seen raised with regard to charts by hand, but also to being fluent in Latin or Greek or Arabic, or any number of other useful or potential useful skills or types of knowledge. There's a whole lot of things that if you knew how to do might be useful as an astrologer. For example, I am an attorney with 25 years of practice which is very helpful in doing legal horary questions.

The problem is mistaking useful for vitally necessary. Latin would be nice since you could read all those untranslated astrological works. It is not necessary since you can learn and master traditional astrology just reading English. Using my example, sure it helps when doing legal horaries to be a lawyer, but it certainly is not necessary to be lawyer to judge a chart with a legal question. What I do as a teacher is to strip down the material to the bare minimum necessary to function as a traditional astrologer. I do this because this bare minimum is a pretty significant amount of knowledge and technique, that all by itself takes a good deal of time, energy and determination to master. Start throwing in the merely useful, and you are loading students with extra, unnecessary obstacles.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Name Change Horary

I got an interesting horary question today with a very clear answer that I thought I would share.

Question: "Should I change my name?"
Time Question Received & Understood: 10:00 am CST February 21, 2016
Place Question Received & Understood: Iowa City, IA 41 N 39 91 W 31

The meaning of the astrological factors are fully explained in the analysis below.

Astrological Factors Considered:

In this chart 18 Taurus rises and it is Moon hour. As the Moon is the night ruler of Earth signs the chart is radical or rooted which means it has internal signs of accuracy. As Taurus rises you are signified by Venus who is dignified by face in a fixed sign in the 10th house. The Moon is peregrine in a fixed sign. The Moon squares Mars and opposes the Sun with reception. Venus, your significator sextiles Saturn.


As Taurus rises you are signified by Venus who is weakly dignified by face in the 10th house. This shows only a weak ability to change names. The 1st house is the house that signifies the querent, the person asking the question. We look to this house for the appearance of the querent and questions involving their body. Lilly, Christian Astrology, page 60-1. John Frawley used the 1st house for a question involving a change of name. Horary Textbook (Apprentice Books, 2005) page 142. So we note that there is a fixed sign rising and that Venus ruler of the Ascendant and significator of the querent is in a fixed sign. In addition, the Moon is in a fixed sign. Lilly says of fixed signs, " Let us admit the Ascendant to be fixed, and the Lord of that Sign also in a fixed Sign, you may judge the party to be of firm resolution, no changling; or as we say, one that will stand to maintaine what he hath said or done, be it good or ill." Christian Astrology, page 89. With the Ascendant, Ascendant ruler and Moon all in fixed signs, this indicates that you should not or will not change your name.

Friday, February 12, 2016

These are the KEY Traditional Astrology & Astrological Magic Texts

I was correcting homework today for a very serious student taking multiple courses when I realized that Lilly hadn't really covered a particular question, but I had the solution, Bonatti!

I knew that this student would benefit from getting exposed to Bonatti and was both willing and had the resources to add Bonatti to their library.

Then as I thought about it, I realized that Lilly, Bonatti, Ramesey and Al-Biruni were my key texts for traditional astrology. That's William Lilly's Christian Astrology, Guido Bonatti's Book of Astronomy/Liber Astronomiae, William Ramesey's Astrology Restored/Astrologia Restaurata and Al-Biruni's Book of the Art of Instruction in the Elements of Astrology. While I do have a much larger library of traditional astrology texts, these are the ones I rely on and actually refer to in my practice. Lilly for horary and natal, Bonatti for horary, natal and electional, Ramesey for electional, Al-Biruni, as a basic astrological source.

For astrological magic, the key texts are Picatrix and Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

If you are serious about traditional astrology, you need to have a copy of all these books!

Lilly, Horary books 1&2

Lilly, Natal, book 3

Ramesey, just google search the pdf, or if you like having a printed copy, like I do for reference, plus a bunch of other electional books you can get my Renaissance Astrology Electional Compilation (this is the textbook for my electional course)


Bonatti, you have to get these individually, but well worth it

Bonatti on Horary

Bonatti on Electional

Bonatti on Natal

Bonatti on basic astrology

Bonatti 146 considerations

These are also available directly from the translator Ben Dykes, thanks a million Ben for making these available

Finally Picatrix

Three Books of Occult Philosophy

or Eric Perdue's excellent translation of Book one

IMHO you definitely need these texts, but once you have them, you've got about 90% of what you really need.