Western Astrology

Astrology is one of the earliest divinatory arts devised by man. It is easy to picture our cave dwelling ancestors observing the changing shape of the Moon over its 28-day cycle and the movement of the Sun over the year; eventually divining omens and portents from these changes.

Five planets are visible to the naked eye, and these were called “wanderers” because their path across the heavens is so obvious against the more remote background of fixed stars, which form the constellations or ‘signs’ with which most people are familiar, for these are the 12 signs of the zodiac.

Yet there are, of course, more than five planets in our solar system, just as there is more to astrology than reading a Sun sign forecast. Astrology can reveal a person’s temperament and the way in which he or she is most likely to react in a given set of circumstances, making it a key to self-knowledge.

Early astrology was based on actual observation of the heavens, and in later years , when people had become mathematically minded, man already knew that the movements of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were predictable because they followed a regular pattern. The angular relationship between these heavenly bodies was also studied and found to be important. Thus the early astrologers tabulated the movements of the planets and these ephemerides, as they are called, are very similar to the ones in use today.

An elaboration of the early system, which dwelt upon the signs, Sun, Moon and five visible planets, was the use of 12 houses which cover every possible area of life. The arrangement of these is dependent upon knowledge of the subject’s birth-time which allows us to know the exact the exact position that was on the Eastern horizon at the moment of birth. This is called the ascendant or rising sign and often has more effect upon one’s personality and life-style than does the Sun sign.

In some ways little has changed in astrology since those early beginnings except that the advent of the telescope allowed us to discover three more planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. But even today more emphasis is usually placed upon the position of the sun through to Saturn in natal astrology than on these outer planets . The former are termed ‘personal’ planets whereas the three more recent discoveries , which are slower moving, are mainly considered to be more effective in terms of one’s generation.

Once every year the Earth makes a complete journey around the Sun, and the eight planets all revolve around the Sun in approximately the same plane as the Earth’s orbit. Astrology is concerned with the relationship between the members of the solar system and what happens on Earth, therefore the movements of the Sun, Moon and planets, as they revolve in their orbits , are calculated from a geocentric point of view: that is, as if viewed from the Earth.

Although the Sun is the center of our system, from our viewpoint on Earth, it appears as though the Sun and other planetary bodies move through the heavens against the backcloth of the zodiac. The zodiac circle is divided into 12 sectors or segments known as signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

Because of the Sun’s apparent journey through the zodiac and our ability to calculate exact times when it will ‘enter’ and ‘leave’ each sign in turn, astrology based on the Sun’s position alone has come to be called Sun sign astrology. Although popular, as no specialist knowledge or complicated calculations are necessary, Sun sign astrology must, by definition, be rather limited in application. Also, the Sun’s entry into each sign varies slightly from year to year, so the dates quoted for each sign prov ides only a rough guide; for accuracy, an ephemeris should be consulted to discover the exact time and date of the Sun’s entry into a particular sign in any given year.

Natal astrology, however, can give a much fuller picture of an individual’s character because all the planetary positions and inter-relationships at birth will be taken into consideration. Unless one has a computer to do the work for you, some calculation will be necessary, though this may be much simpler than imagned and is explained later in this chapter.

But the first steps towards practicing astrology is to learn about the planets. Their nature and areas of influence. ( In astrological terms, the Sun and Moon are referred to as planets, also lights or luminaries.) As you can see by the diagram above, the focal point of our system is the Sun and nearest to that is Mercury, followed by Venus , the Earth and Mars. These are all comparatively close together, within the context of the vast distances involved, and are therefore usually referred to as the fast moving planets.

Next in order from the Sun come the ‘giants’ of our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn which, before the advent of the telescope, was thought to be the furthermost planet. Finally, we come to the newest discoveries, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto; sometimes referred to as the ‘transpersonal’ planets by astrologers.

Reference: Predicting Your Future: Selene