IN THIS CHAPTER, we’ll build on all that you have learned so far and introduce some more elements that can add depth to horoscope interpretation. Real insights can be gained from the placement of the Sun, Moon, and ascendant alone, but the insights gained from adding other planets and elements in the chart are invaluable as your knowledge deepens.
In the remaining chapters I’ll introduce a few more elements and guide you through a working understanding of how to read your own chart. However, I would like to stress that there is nothing like practice over time to gain deeper insights.
Casting a chart has been made simpler with the advent of astrological computer programs. Before this, you could calculate a chart using a Table of Houses and an ephemeris, but nowadays there are a multitude of options for casting a chart using a computer. Some of the best professional options are Solar Fire, Matrix, and Astro Gold, but you can calculate a chart for free using Astro.com, one of the best and most comprehensive free options available. Astro Gold has an app, and two other good apps are Time Nomad and TimePassages.
Your Sun , Moon , and Ascendant
The Sun, Moon, and ascendant, or rising sign, are the three primary indicators of personality. These should always be considered first as you begin your exploration of a chart. The Sun is your core, the Moon is your soul, and the ascendant is your persona. To accurately calculate the position of all three (and the other elements of the chart), an accurate date, time, and place of birth are necessary. This applies to the Sun particularly if you are born around the 21st of the month, because the Sun moves into the next sign at different days and times every year. Aspects and house cusps are also more accurate with the correct time of birth.
As mentioned previously, the Sun is the core essence of who you are. It is your ego, your vital self, the central organizing principle of the solar system and you. Ruled by the heart, the Sun could be said to be the conductor of your orchestra. Life purpose and consciousness is derived from the sign the Sun is in and modified by the house placement and aspects from the Sun to other planets. Those who are living the energy that their Sun placement represents are purposeful and have direction. As a day energy and an inhale of breath, it’s who we are when we are taking action in the world, even if the sign you are in is a night or exhale energy. For example, a Cancer Sun will be living a purposeful life when they are nurturing and caring for others. The Sun is the present and the here and now.
The Moon represents your soul or innermost core of your being. This is a night or exhale energy, where feelings and needs are primary. The Moon is a subconscious energy that is receptive to all that is around it. It’s the response to stress and represents what is needed for comfort and nurture and your basic habits and reactions.
The Moon energy in the chart is instinctive, where you have hunches. How you act on your intuition and hunches consciously is through the Sun. The Moon energy is creative, sentimental, and adaptable and can be protective or moody and irrational, but how that energy expresses itself is dependent on the sign and house placement of the Moon. Again, an accurate time of birth is important to know the exact position of the Moon, especially because the Moon is the fastest moving energy in the chart.
The phase of the Moon you were born under also has some influence. A phase is an angular relationship or aspect between the Sun and Moon in the chart. In brief, if you were born with the Sun and Moon in conjunction, you were born under a new-moon phase (day, inhale, and 0-45°), which is suggestive of a self-starter who wants to shine their light on the world. The waxing-crescent phase (night, exhale, 45-90°) is one who is learning independence and letting go of old patterns. The first-quarter phase (day, inhale, 90-135°) is someone who likes to take action and thrives on change. The waxing-gibbous phase (night, exhale, 135-180°) is someone who has a thirst to receive knowledge in the search for truth.
Full-moon (day, inhale, 180-225°) people have the intense light of the Sun shining on the feelings, so they are often impulsive and instinctual. The disseminating or waning-gibbous phase (night, exhale, 225-270°) is someone who loves to share their knowledge and wisdom with the world. Someone born under the last-quarter phase (day, inhale, 270-315°) is a person who feels somewhat out of step with the world and needs to develop a relationship with their intuitive self. The final, balsamic, or waning-crescent phase (exhale, night, 315-360°) is someone who is deeply sensitive and intuitive.
THE FOUR ANGLES OF THE BIRTH CHART
The four angles of the chart are formed by the intersection of the horizontal and vertical axes of the chart and occur at four points: north, south, east, and west. These are known as the ascendant, descendant, Medium Coeli (MC), and Imum Coeli (IC).
The Ascendant or Rising Sign
The ascendant is the sign and degree that is on the eastern horizon at the moment and place of birth or the start of any event. The rising sign represents the part of you that you present to the world, your “receptionist” that projects a certain image when others meet you. It’s the outer layer of being known as the persona, also described as the mask that only reveals what is wanting to be seen initially.
The ascendant also reveals much about a person’s birth and early childhood and, as such, the ascendant can sometimes be a defense mechanism in early life and in challenging situations. However, we tend to grow into our ascendant and live it more proactively as we age. For example, a person with Capricorn rising can be very serious and reserved when young but tends to loosen up as they age.
The Medium Coeli (Midheaven)
The midheaven, also known as the Medium Coeli or MC, is the highest point of the chart and is the cusp of the 10th house in most house systems. In the northern hemisphere it represents the south and in the southern hemisphere it represents the north.
The midheaven is the most public place of the chart and represents the mission, goal, or contribution in life. Often said to represent the career, this is not always the case-though it does represent the nature of the career the person would ideally pursue. As the most public place of the chart, this also represents public reputation and social standing.
The sign and degree on the western horizon at the time of birth, the descendant represents what you are attracted to in others and how you relate to other important people in your life. The sign on the descendant represents the energy of those you will seek partnership with in life. If you have Gemini on the descendant, for example, you will enjoy intellectually based partnerships that are a lot of fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean Gemini sun sign but rather someone who has a lot of air energy in their chart, including Gemini.
The Imum Coeli (Nadir)
The nadir, also known as the Imum Coeli or IC, is at the very bottom of the chart and represents the north in the northern hemisphere and the south in the southern hemisphere. This is the most private part of the astrology chart and represents your inner, most private life. The sign on the nadir is the cusp of the fourth house in most house systems and also represents one of the parents, usually the one who was most inclined to nurture. The childhood home and the home the person prefers are also represented by the nadir.
Aspects are a cornerstone of modern horoscope interpretation. For more detail on the different aspects, please see chapter 6.
In order to calculate aspects, you need to know the degree and sign of the planets and the number of degrees between them. The degrees and sign placements of the planets and other bodies can be found using an ephemeris, but luckily we have computer programs that do this for us (see here for suggestions).
PLANETS IN THEIR DOMINION
If a planet is in its home sign, then its strength is intensified, as are the qualities of both sign and planet-whether positive or negative.
For example, Mercury in Gemini would give a more voracious appetite for learning and would also suggest that the person is highly social, dependent on all the other factors in the chart.
The planet that is said to rule the chart and the person or event is the planet that rules the sign on the ascendant. The sign and house that this planet is in will modify the ascendant energy. For example, if someone has Aquarius rising and their ruling planet, Uranus, is in Libra in the sixth house, then it would suggest that the person has a unique and even quirky mode of creative self-expression.
A stellium is three or more planets in a particular sign, meaning the person will be more of that sign than if there is only one planet in the sign. Because Mercury and Venus move with the Sun for much of the Solar year, stelliums will often include one or both of these two personal planets.
PLANETS IN MUTUAL RECEPTION
Two planets are in mutual reception when each one is in the sign that the other one rules. When planets are in mutual reception, they are connected even if there is no aspect between them. The two planets support each other but the quality of that support is dependent on the strength of each planet in the sign in the chart by triplicity, exaltation, detriment, or fall.
For example, if Mars is in Sagittarius and Jupiter is in Aries, both planets are in a fire triplicity sign and, therefore, would support each other well.
ASTEROIDS AND CHIRON
In this section, we’ll look at the four main asteroids and Chiron-though Ceres has now been promoted to dwarf-planet status. Ceres is the only body in the asteroid belt so far to be promoted to a dwarf planet. Astronomical definitions of cosmic bodies are changing due to new discoveries; these changing definitions seem only fitting as we move into a new paradigm and begin to change the language used in astrology.
Chiron is one of the most interesting and unusual bodies in astrology. In mythology, Chiron was a centaur, but he was unlike the other centaurs, who were quite base creatures. Most centaurs had a human head and torso and the tail and legs of a horse, but Chiron had human front legs, showing a more human quality. Chiron was a teacher, healer, and archer, and he was immortal. When wounded by a poisoned arrow, his immortality kept him living in agony until he gave up his immortality to save Prometheus.
Because of the myth, Chiron is known as the wounded healer in astrology and it’s said that he represents the wound in the chart. If we look at the symbol for Chiron, however, it’s shaped like a key. Combined with the nature of the myth and Chiron’s reputation as a teacher, mentor, and healer, it’s more reasonable to see him as the key to healing in your chart. Chiron is also known as the rainbow bridge between spirit and matter and the maverick shaman.
Chiron doesn’t have rulership of a sign, but it is associated with the constellations Centaurus and Sagittarius and has many Sagittarian qualities-though some also associate the centaur with Virgo because of its healing abilities. An unhealthy expression of Chiron would be to focus on the wound rather than the potential healing.
Someone with Chiron in Aquarius in the second house, for example, may be born with a tendency to feel alienated from others, and that may affect self-esteem. However, seeking out higher knowledge and communion with the whole universe will give the person the ability to see the bigger picture of their place within humanity.
Ceres is known as the Great Mother, the goddess of agriculture, and is associated with the signs Cancer, Virgo, and Taurus. In the astrological chart, Ceres represents how we nurture and how we meet our own needs as shown by the sign Ceres is in. The house placement shows what type of experiences will help you promote feelings of self-love and self-acceptance. This equates to your love language.
Ceres is also associated with natural cycles, such as those of pregnancy and birth, the growing cycles, the seasons, and hospices.
When you are living the best expression of your Ceres, you are attuned to the natural cycles of nature and your body and honoring your own love language.
For example, a person with Ceres in Capricorn in the first house feels heightened self-worth when accomplishing personal goals and when helping others be responsible for themselves, but they may also overidentify with responsibility for teaching others and with the need to impress others. When they focus more on their inner accomplishment and less on the need to control how others take responsibility, they are expressing the higher qualities of their Ceres.
Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom and a warrior whose astrological glyph represents the warrior spear of justice in her role as protector of the state. She is associated with the signs of Libra, Leo, and Aquarius. Pallas Athena represents one’s capacity for creative wisdom and original thought, which creates new possibilities. In the chart, she represents inspired vision and the ability to make sense of complex patterns. A strong placement for Pallas Athena is often found in the charts of astrologers, so she is known as the “astrologer’s asteroid.” I have Pallas Athena exactly conjuncting my ruling planet, Jupiter. Pallas Athena is also known for the soul’s desire to move toward a less binary world and androgyny, so it is apt that I am writing a book that moves beyond the binary world that has dominated astrology. My Pallas Athena not only rules my Sagittarius rising sign, it’s also in Sagittarius conjuncting the ruler of Sagittarius, the teacher.
Where your Pallas Athena is, by sign and house, will indicate where and how you are able to utilize creative intelligence.
Vesta is the eternal flame that burns within each of us. In mythology, she was the priestess of the flame and goddess of the Vestal Virgins and is associated with the signs Virgo and Scorpio. Remember that the original meaning of the word virgin was “one who is whole unto themselves,” which gives a major indication of the symbology of Vesta in astrology.
Vesta represents focus and commitment. Where the asteroid is by sign and house indicates where we focus our energies or what we are devoted to. An unhealthy expression can suggest fanaticism and obsession rather than focus.
If a person has Vesta in Scorpio in the 10th house, for example, they may be deeply focused on their mission in life and tend to overcommit to that, often to the exclusion of their interpersonal relationships, especially if they are not aware of that tendency.
Juno was the divine consort, wife of Jupiter (Hera in Greek mythology). In astrology the asteroid Juno represents our capacity for meaningful relationships and is associated with the signs Libra (significant relationships) and Scorpio (deeply bonded relationships). The sign of Libra is also associated with justice and, as such, Juno is also representative of the oppressed and underprivileged.
Where Juno is found in sign and house placements represents what you most desire in a relationship. In Sagittarius and the 11th house, for example, you would require mutually shared beliefs and vision of the future, and also for the partner to be a friend as well as a lover.
In most modern western astrological traditions, the birth chart is seen a map of the soul’s evolutionary potential and development. The chart is also known as the horoscope, soul map, cosmic blueprint, and natal chart.
In this book, therefore, we are not looking at the chart as a mere description of personality that is unchanging throughout a lifetime, but as a blueprint rich in meaning and possibility. That development occurs through both the planetary transits and cycles and the free will of the person to follow the call of development and evolution. This removes much of the fatalistic interpretations of other astrological traditions.
Predictive astrology has its place, of course. By no means do I mean to suggest that this evolutionary approach is more valid. The evolutionary approach merely suits the nature of this book, as it takes us into a nonbinary approach that works for everyone. In other words, we are talking about both the evolutionary intention of the soul and the evolution of astrology itself.