What Is Astrology?

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Disclaimer: This post is not a guide to becoming an astrologer, nor do these views reflect those of the author. It is an objective overview on astrology.

This will be the first in a series of astrology posts, in which the core principles of astrology will be described. Subsequent posts will cover the astrological beliefs of different cultures and how they differ. Let’s check it out!

What is astrology?

Astrology is the study of how the locations and movements of celestial bodies influence our lives. Their positions are said to have an influence on our daily affairs, personality, and destiny. Three things are said to be influences: location of the planets (the Sun and Moon are included collectively), zodiac sign, and houses.

Planets

The planets in astrology also include the Sun and Moon. Calling all of them planets collectively makes it easier to say. Each planet refers to different energies and characteristics. They are not said to cause anything, but to indicate and describe what is already taking place. The representations listed below is not an exhaustive list, as their main attributes also encompass those relating to it. For example, a planet representing the search for truth would encompass attributes of learning, law, justice, spirituality, education, and so on.

  • The Sun represents your inner essence – the part of you that makes decisions and enacts your will. Your Sun sign is what is apparent to others
  • The Moon represents your nature and how you react emotionally. This is manifested partly in how you react to situations which you have little time to think. Your Moon sign is the part of you that you see.
  • Mercury represents knowledge and communication. This is reflected in our abilities to learn, communicate, listen, and reason. It is a reflection of rationality.
  • Venus represents your ability to express affection and appreciate beauty. It is manifested in these traits and in what you find pleasurable.
  • Mars represents aggression and physical energy. It is manifested through action and passion.
  • Jupiter represents joy, generosity, confidence, success, and the search for truth.
  • Saturn represents boundaries, restriction, and structure. It will hold back ambition, delay good fortune, etc. Though it sounds like Saturn’s a hindrance, boundaries are set in place for good reasons.
  • Uranus represents insights and spontaneity. It is manifested in instances like “eureka” moments and flashes of creativity. Revolutions, innovations, and disruptions are results of Uranus’ energy. Uranus also represents the urge to become aware of yourself (your Sun, in essence).
  • Neptune represents our underlying urge to lose ourselves and to peer through illusion. It aids us in our journey of gaining wisdom and understanding. Uranus gives us flashes of insight into deeper meaning, while Neptune is what essentially reveals it. There is more to everything than what we see, because what we see is illusion; Neptune reveals these illusions.
  • Pluto represents transformation. It is said that since it’s so slow an entire generation will have the same Pluto sign, it has historical importance. It also corresponds with cycles, with endless beginnings and endings.

Houses

Houses are essentially the areas of ones life. Different houses have different effects, including those on relationships, career, travel, home, and identity. The wheel of Houses is based on the Earth’s rotation about its axis. In the chart above, the houses are evenly divided into 12 sections and move counterclockwise starting from just below the left of the middle line.

The houses wheel is based on the ecliptic, or the apparent path of the Sun around Earth. When you were born, planets were in different relative positions to the Earth. The planet that was on the eastern horizon (first house) at the moment of your birth declares your sign. I mention this now because different signs in different houses have various effects.

Though the planets manifest as different energies, the houses are areas in your life in which those energies will play out. When a planet passes through a house, it energizes the houses traits. Every house has a ruler in which it brings the energy from its own house into other houses. For example, Taurus, ruler of the second house, could be found in the eighth house. It would bring some of the energy of the second house to the eighth. The houses correlate to these aspects of one’s life:

  • First: Beginnings, self, appearance, initiatives, and personality (ruled by Aries).
  • Second: Money, values, self-esteem, environment and how we perceive it (using the senses), and work. Ruled by Taurus.
  • Third: Communication, friends, community, neighbors, transportation, and knowledge. Ruled by Gemini.
  • Fourth: Home, family, emotional foundation, security, caring, and base of consciousness. Ruled by Cancer.
  • Fifth: Romance, self-expression, drama, creativity, fun, and pleasure. Ruled by Leo.
  • Sixth: Health and fitness, service, routines, and schedules. Ruled by Virgo.
  • Seventh: Relationships (from business to friends and marriage), cooperation, and sharing. Ruled by Libra.
  • Eighth: Intimacy, bonding, joint resources, birth, death, transformation, investments, inheritances, bankruptcy, growth and healing. For growth to occur, some loss must be dealt with. Ruled by Scorpio.
  • Ninth: Travel, study, ethics, learning, inspiration, luck, adventure, religion, philosophy, aspirations, ideas, and expanding one’s mind. As the third house is about concrete knowledge, this house is about abstract understanding. Ruled by Sagittarius.
  • Tenth: Career, success, accomplishments, status, fame, achievements, reputation, authority, and law. Ruled by Capricorn.
  • Eleventh: Groups, society, teams, social causes, surprises, and invention. Ruled by Aquarius.
  • Twelfth: Endings, healing, closure, spirituality, afterlife, art, subconscious and unconscious mind, escapism, sorrow, grief, frustration, and limitations. Before this house sounds too depressing, let’s remember that many endings require some negative emotions to overcome in order to heal. This house rules those aspects of life as a consequence of ruling endings and closure. Ruled by Pisces.

Zodiac

The first chart has a zodiac wheel placed on top of a house wheel (positions are derived from calculation). The zodiac wheel is seen by the various symbols for the constellations (Taurus, Virgo, etc.), as shown directly above. One’s zodiac sign is figured out by looking at which constellation the Sun was in front of at the moment of birth. People typically go by birth date, but there are times when that date gives the wrong sign. Earth’s precession (change of position of its axis) causes the dates to change a little over time. This is why zodiac dates are different nearly every time you search them!

Zodiac signs are the same thing as Sun signs. If you’re a Scorpio, you could also say that you are a Scorpion Sun. However, two Scorpion Suns could have had their Suns in different houses. Characteristics of the zodiac signs depend upon their elements, qualities, and polarities.

Elements

These are the basic traits, or temperaments, of the signs.

  • Fire: Responds quickly to energy and action, bold, confident, passionate.
    • Aries, Leo, Sagittarius.
  • Water: Sensitive, emotional, responds to energy without thinking.
    • Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.
  • Air: Responds to energy with thought and rationality, social, curious, logical.
    • Gemini, Libra, Aquarius.
  • Earth: Responds to energy critically and thoughtfully, practical, cautious.
    • Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.

Qualities

These indicate how people express their element in their behavior. Every sign lasts about a month, and if we take each of the four seasons to be three months each, we can see different signs in different parts of the seasons. Those in the beginning of the season are cardinal signs; in the middle, fixed; and in the end, mutable.

  • Cardinal signs start the seasons. Their behavior reflects this in their assertive, initiative behavior. They typically like change.
    • Aries (spring), Cancer (summer), Libra (fall), Capricorn (winter).
  • Fixed signs keep the seasons going. They are stable, determined, and unmovable. They can be stubborn but they follow through to the end.
    • Taurus (spring), Leo (summer), Scorpio (fall), Aquarius (winter).
  • Mutable signs close off the season. They are the least stable and influenced signs. However, they are flexible and adapt well to changes.
    • Gemini (spring), Virgo (summer), Sagittarius (fall), Pisces (winter).

Polarities

The two polarities can be seen as positive and negative, yin and yang, masculine and feminine. Each zodiac has a polar opposite, and those of the same sign can understand each other more easily. Fire and air signs have the same

  • Yang/positive/masculine: Fire and air signs have this polarity. They are direct, outgoing, and active.
  • Yin/negative/feminine: Earth and water signs have this polarity. They are passive, withdrawn, reserved, and reactive.

Rising sign/Ascendant

Rising signs differ from zodiac signs. While zodiac signs focus on the apparent position of the Sun specifically, rising signs focus on the planets (including the sun). Whatever planet was coming over the east horizon at the moment of your birth is your rising sign. If it was sunrise, your Sun sign and rising sign are the same. Rising signs are important in astrology, as they are said to have a profound effect how others see you. Another name for the rising sign is the ascendant.


Of course, this isn’t all there is to astrology! Stay tuned for more topics including aspects and transits, ages (ever heard of the Age of Aquarius?), and how other cultures interpreted the celestial bodies.

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