So why is the practice of astrology, which is at once technical, mathematical and scientifically precise, so reviled in so many religious and scientific circles? Why is it labeled pagan and pseudoscientific by the establishment? Is it because of the degradation that has occurred in modern times courtesy of the infamous monthly horoscope? This tawdry invention of magazine publishers desperate to sell subscriptions - or at least to get you to give them your precious time while you stand in the check-out line - can be found at the back of cheap newspapers, written by God knows what amateur scribe with dubious credentials, snake-oil salesmen of the week ahead, AND furthermore is so generally applied as to be watered down to the point of tastelessness. There are 7 billion people on today's Earth. That's roughly 500 million individuals for each of the 12 zodiac signs. If every person is a snowflake, how then can the forecast for, say Aquarians, apply as equally to me (who am one of those ruled by Uranus) as to my other half billion fellow Water Bearers? It cannot. Every Aquarian is different. Though members of this fixed air sign all share certain similarities - for instance we love our freedom, are unconventional and forward thinking, and get along with most everyone - no two Aquarians, no two members of any zodiac sign, not even twins, not even Gemini twins, are precisely alike.
The differences which occur in the personalities of two individuals sharing the same astrological sign (also called Sun sign, since your birth sign happens to be the constellation the Sun was passing through at the moment of your birth) are due to the influence of the heavenly bodies other than the Sun. In other words the placement of your Moon, and Venus and Mercury and Mars, etc. in your personal horoscope, or chart. Each planet rules a different aspect of the personality. The Moon, for instance, governs the emotional body, and Mercury is associated with thinking and communication. And where these planets fall in your horoscope - which is divided into 12 houses, each house associated with a different area of life, for example the 7th house is the house of marriage, and the 5th house that of children - also distinguishes one person from his same-sign peers. For no two horoscopes are exactly alike.
Your personal horoscope, or wheel, is determined by the time and place and date of your birth. It is a map of what the heavens looked like from the precise place of your birth at the moment you entered the world. Your horoscope is therefore your fingerprint in the stars. It is your own snowflake, and looks like one. Even identical twins, born in such close temporal proximity, at exactly the same place in space, and with the same genetic make-up, have different charts, since the several minutes separating their entrance into the world is enough to slightly shift the degree of the rising sign, or cusp of the first house, and alter the whole zodiac wheel.
How did these mathematical relationships between the heavenly bodies originate? How did the planet Venus, which rules the signs of Libra and Taurus, become associated with love, and Mars with aggression? It is impossible to say. The origins of astrology are shrouded in the shadows of prehistory. Who the mysterious individuals were who formulated the rules that govern this ancient practice, and what their guiding principles may have been, is lost to posterity. One thing is fairly certain, and this is that astrology is of immense antiquity, having existed in rudimentary form as much as 5,000 years ago in Egypt and even Mesopotamia. But only when the rules of mathematical astronomy were developed in the 5th century BC, in latter Babylonia, did the mature form of astrology take shape. And it was given full realization centuries later when the Greek mathematicians developed geometry. Thus astrology was perfected as a formal system of study only relatively recently, or around the first century AD.
Despite having begun as a pagan science, astrology has always contained a strongly religious element, which harmonizes with dogmas as varying as Islam and Christianity. Nevertheless, the practice has always smacked of the occult, which can be off-putting to traditionalists. And which is probably why the Catholic Church rejects it. But astrology springs from a perennial and pressing human need: to know oneself, and then to understand oneself in relationship to others. For among the many hats this age-old practice wears, from the artistic to the scientific and politico-religious, astrology can, if practiced correctly, serve as a universal guiding light in our lives. Not even science, try as science might, has been able to bury it in obscurity by labeling it phony and insubstantial. The ancient idea of a link between man and the cosmos is too strong even for the philosopher's logic, which is why astrology holds and will always hold a unique position between art and science, partaking of each, and yet, like the heavens above us, transcending both.
How to use astrology in your own life? Start by erecting your own personal horoscope. In ancient times complicated mathematical formulas were employed and the horoscope resulted from hours of intense effort. Nowadays who has the attention span? The Internet with its quick fixes has robbed us of our powers of concentration, but also given us the lazy person's way out. If you are equipped with the time, place and date of your birth, all you need is an Internet connection and voila, your chart appears in an eye's blink. One of my favorite free astrological sites is alabe.org, which will erect your birth chart for free. Just go to the site and click the tab at the upper right corner of the screen.
Many sites and programs provide interpretations of the horoscope, which to the uninitiated can look like Greek with its archaic symbols for planets and signs. So, anyone who desires to ascend above mere dilettante in the study of this hallowed art would do best to make good use of an introductory book or two, such as Planets in Signs and Houses. After you understand your own tendencies as revealed by your aspects, you are ready to understand someone else. You can then gain precious insight into the interpersonal workings, both problems and harmonies, which are likely to arise in your relationship with one another.
John Halloran sells a useful program, and only for a handful of change, which allows the user to do a chart comparison between interested parties. The comparison then assigns numerical values to the aspects in your respective charts. High positive numbers indicate areas of strong harmony. For example, two individuals with signs in the same element, as for example a Leo and an Aries (both fire signs) are said to trine each other. The trine is a soft, easy, compatible association. It is smooth sailing on serene seas. As is the sextile, which is found when two signs of the same gender aspect each other, as Aquarius (air) and Sagittarius (fire), both of which are masculine signs, and Virgo (earth) with Scorpio (water), which are feminine.
By contrast, individuals with signs in the same quality, as a Libra and a Cancer (which are both Cardinal signs) are said to square one another. Squares are usually assigned negative values as they indicate areas in your relationship which can be a source of conflict and which will require work to overcome. These areas requiring compromise are not to be avoided. Work means growth, and despite the associated pains, growth is usually good. Besides, squares can generate a lot of spark, and you know what they say happens when sparks fly.
Oppositions occur when planets are in signs at opposite ends of the zodiac. These can be either harmonious or inharmonious depending on the planets involved. Some astrologers call oppositions complements, since like two sides of an equation opposing signs complete each other. Aquarius and Leo are an example of the opposition, as are Cancer and Capricorn. I have only touched on some of the many details involved in chart comparison. For a more detailed account I leave you in the good company of Linda Goodman. Ms. Goodman is a celebrated astrologer and author who writes engagingly about love and relationships in many popular books. My favorite is Love Signs. Whenever I read Ms. Goodman's interpretations I come away both enlightened and entertained.
If you use the chart comparison provided by Mr. Halloran, you'll note a ratio of harmonious to inharmonious aspects. This is called the compatibility index. The best I've seen is a ratio of 12 to 1, positive to negative. Between me and a medical school classmate of mine, Leah. Albeit, we were never more than friends, and as friends, never that close. The total communication value indicates the intensity of the relationship. The current top score there belongs to my dad and his wife, Sylvia. Their "numbers" total over 7000. How accurate an indicator of the strength of their relationship is this? After 10 years of marriage, they are still going strong. In today's world, that's saying something.
How has the study of astrology, encouraged by my mother who herself was an astrologer, benefited me in my romantic life? You may say it has not, since I am currently single. But without the insight provided by this hoary practice, I could by now very easily have been married several times over, and just as many times divorced. And you could say that my chart indicates romantic struggles. My moon in Cancer in the Seventh House of relationships makes romance a focus of mine. However it opposes my Mars in Capricorn in the First House of personal identity, which means in loving someone I risk losing who I am. I think this happens to a lot of people who enter into romantic union only to let themselves go. Never a good thing, if you ask me. And both placements square my Pluto in Libra in my Tenth House of career, which means my profession/worldly success could be jeopardized by a romantic union that could very well overwhelm other areas of life and through exclusion limit me. Romantic love, though so heady and all-consuming, is after all not everything.
So far I have had neither long-lasting domestic fulfillment nor much professional success to speak of, but one thing is certain: I know who I am. And I have astrology to thank for this. They say that if you do not study history, you are doomed to repeat it. So look over your shoulder now and again. I say that he who does not look into the star-gilded future is destined to make many mistakes which a mere glance overhead and a date with an astrologer may have prevented.
And if you're looking for love, seek out a person whose Sun, Moon, Venus and/or Jupiter favorably aspects your own. These planets, and to a lesser extent Neptune, are called the benefic planets and bring blessings in any association, be it amorous or amicable. You can be assured of sunny days. How many of them you'll enjoy will be influenced by the malefic planets, Mars and Saturn. And of course by your own free will, if you go in for that. Not everything is in the stars. Somethings are a product of whimsy, that is to say written on the wind. Whether you wind up together forever or just a day, remember that love is all around us, just like the song says.