Intro to astrology

Introduction to Astrology Part 1

Astrology is an ancient science, its origins resting deep within the depths of time immemorial.  Historians point to the ancient sumerians, the Rabbis point to Adam, the first man and the eastern people have their own theories on the subject.  Archeological evidence, the most famous one being Stonehenge, have proven that Astrology wasn't merely a theory for the ancients, but was a reality which they investigated carefully and used almost religiously.  It is known that in the middle ages, and even up until this day, kings (and a few presidents) would consult astrologers regularly to determine what business contacts to hang on to, when would be a good time to plan various events, which enemies are conquerable, etc.  The Rabbis comment that certain biblical villans (Nimrod, Haman) were astrologers and say that Abraham, father of the Semetic people, himself was a renouned master of Astrology. 

Over time Astrology has spread and divided into several schools: Vedic astrology, Chinese astrology and Western astrology - which is the one we'll be dealing with here.


A note about the author, before continuing.  I first began studying Astrology five years ago.  The first three years in depth and the past two not so much.  This article will present an introduction to Astrology based on the most reliable sources I have found, mixed with personal contemplations, observations and re-associations.  I will unfortunately not be able to source any of my material since I've been through so many sources, written and verbal, that the sources are even confused in my own mind.  Note that the associations I am presenting in this article is only one opinion and there are hundreds of other opinions on every part of Astrology.

Also note that I am a religious Jew, and as such this work will contain some biblical references.  Astrology exists in the Jewish Tradition and is referenced in the great compilation of Jewish Law known as 'Gemara', though only briefly.  Most of my information on this subject comes from non-Jewish sources.


Judaism forbids the use of any method to predict the future or determine auspicious times.

Since it is forbidden for me to practice it is also forbidden for me to teach, so this article will be focussed on Birth Charts and will not touch on Horoscopes at all.  The art of mapping birth charts is complex enough to keep a person busy for a lifetime, however, so don't think this limits investigations in any major way.


Philosophical Point

Astrology is real.  Throughout history it has proven to be so.  Does this mean that fate controls everything?  Does this mean that we have no free-will?  Absolutely not.


Astrology is not a determinant - it is an influence.  Birthcharts determine a person's base character traits which can be improved through the application of Willpower.  Just because a person is born with his Mars in Pisces doesn't mean that he will eternally be lazy - it just means that he will have a strong influence towards laziness from the get-go.  It doesn't even mean this drive is permanent; through meditation, repetitive action and other character-building exercises a person's influence can shift, making their base drive more active.

But is this right and proper?  Should one fight one's own character, or just sit back and go with the flow1?  On the one hand, is fighting nature a good thing?  Isn't nature an expression of G-d's will?  On the other hand, G-d gave us the ability to chase higher moral values and overcome our base natures.  Is free-will any less natural or any less divine?


I will leave the question with you.  Just know that it is possible to change your nature.

1note that 'going with the flow' doesn't necessarily mean flopping on the couch; some people have a very active flow, making the 'going with the flow' attitude for them equate to constantly running around everywhere and acting very busy.


The Birthchart

A birthchart is made in one of two methods: writing it out by hand using complex calculations, or plugging the required variables into a computer program.  I will not be teaching the first method, mostly because I don't know how, but also because now that we live in an age of computers it is completely useless.  There are two free astrology programs that I use, one called StarLight and the other AstroClock (if you get this software, note that AstroClock is slightly off when it comes to the ascendants.  For specific times it is best to rely on StarLight  Additionally, the website provides free on-line birthcharts.  You can buy professional astrology software if you would like, but personally I don't see the point.


There are three pieces of information needed to make a birthchart: Birth Date, Birth Time, Birth Place.  A chart can be made without the birth time but the house placement will not be accurate, the ascendent will be impossible to determine and the Moon and possibly Mercury may be placed in the wrong house.  This severely limits the amount and accuracy of information that can be gathered.  If a person doesn't know his birthtime, most hospitals are now keeping records (i don't know how far back it goes though) and if this isn't possible, expert astrologers may be able to determine your birthtime through tracing and associating major life events. There are four parts to the Birthchart: The Signs, Planets, Houses and Aspects.  The signs are the twelve signs of the zodiac.  The planets are the ten to twelve heavenly bodies that circle the sky (we are including the sun and the moon in the list of planets, even though they are technically not planets).  The houses are the twelve divisions of the sky in which the planets are found.  The aspects are angles between different planets, determine any further associations between them.  In part one of the introduction we will discuss the signs and the planets.  In part two we will get to the houses and aspects. A cheat sheet of basic meanings is presented here:

Sign                  Elment Mode    Keyword           Planet   Faculty             House Meaning


^ - Ares           Fire     Cardinal Confrontational  Mars     Motivation         1         Self

_ - Taurus        Earth   Fixed     Stubborn          Venus   Attraction          2         Stuff


` - Gemini        Air       Mutable Quick               Mercury Communication 3         Intellect

a - Cancer       Water   Cardinal Caring              Moon    Self-Image         4         Home


b - Leo             Fire      Fixed    Regal               Sun       Personality        5         Legacy

c - Virgo           Earth   Mutable Pure                 Merc*    Communication 6         Routine


d - Libra           Air       Cardinal Balanced          Venus** Attraction         7         Partnership

e - Scorpio       Water  Fixed     Conceiled         Pluto     Morality            8         Mystery


f - Saggitarius  Fire     Mutable  Adventurous     Jupiter   Opportunities     9         Journey

g - Capricorn    Earth   Cardinal  Driven              Saturn   Refinement       10        Occupation


h - Aquarius     Air       Fixed     Sociable           Uranus  Identity             11        Friends

i - Pisces         Water  Mutable  Musical            Neptun  Imagination       12        Inner World


* Some say Chiron: Conscience
** Some say Asteroid Belt: Perception (static)

Other POI


Ascendant determines the 'true self' (decision maker) & ruling planet

North Node: True Goal, Major Obstacle



Conjunct           Mixture


Square              Disadvantage

Trine                 Advantage


Sextile              Association

Opposite           Conflict


The Zodiac

The Zodiac is the name given for the 12 star-signs.  This name, though sounding mystical and intriguing, tells us very little about the twelve signs themselves.  What are they?  Are they constellations?  Are the mystical entities?  Are they gateways that sit at the edges of the universe?

For this, let us do a bit of verbal archeology in Hebrew.  The Hebrew language is an intricate web of associated meanings, designed logically.  It is not a random mish-mash of words like english is.  The Rabbis say that the Hebrew language is the same language that was used in the creation of the universe and thus holds all mystical secrets within it.

The word in Hebrew for The Zodiac is 'HaMazalot' or, in the singular, 'Mazal'.  This word is commonly translated as 'Fortune' but this is not the case.  The word comes from the hebrew verb 'Nazal' which means 'to flow', making the zodiac 'The Floes'.  The word 'Mazal' is also related to the word 'Mashal' which is a verb which means 'to control/to rule'.  Thus the Zodiac are also ruling influences.  The root of 'Mazal' is 'Zalal', which Rabbi Hirsh says means Lower/Debase.  Thus the zodiac is an influence on the basic, lower self and not the entire self.  This root is also related to the root 'Salal' which Rav Hirsh says means Elevate/Raise Up.  This means that, though they determine the base characteristics they can also be harnessed to elevate a person.


Through this (limited) investigation we have a slightly better picture of what The Zodiac are: Floes of influence that primarily rule the lower self but can also be utilized to elevate the self.

The system works as follows:  The twelve signs exist in twelve directions and constantly send their flow of influence in our direction.  These influences then get filtered through the planets to target specific faculties within creation and then reach earth from one of twelve directions, which determines which level of expression the energies sent to the various faculties will be manifested through.


Yes, I said it, but I don't understand it either.  This is the best picture I have come up with for how the whole thing works but it still seems somehow inadequate.  The best thing, I think, is just to accept that somehow this system works and go with it.



The Twelve Signs

We will start our investigations into the system with the twelve star signs.  These are Ares, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Saggitarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.  The order is not actually important, since the whole system works cyclically and not linearly, but conventionally they are always given in this order.  The only place where the order seems to work linearly is when associating the signs with the human body.  Ares would be the head and Pisces the feet, the rest of the signs being stratified throughout the rest of the body.


The zodiac signs can be further simplified through their associations with the four elements and the three modalities of the four elements.  The four elements are Fire, Earth, Air and Water.  The three modalities are Mutable, Cardinal and Fixed.  All the signs, then can be reduced to two variables in this system.

Fire: ^bf  Mutable: `cfi


Earth: _cg Cardinal: ^adg

Air: `dh   Fixed:   _beh


Water: aei

This is the most common simplification of the twelve signs.  Another is by seperating them into the four seasons and the three parts of the four seasons.  To do this, start with the first three (Ares, Taurus, Gemini) as Spring and go on from there (I don't know how this set of associations would work out in the southern hemisphere... it'd be interesting to work out).


The Four Elements

The four elements can also be subdivided into the Positive and Negative elements and the Inner and Outer elements.  The Positive elements are those that strive upwards.  The Negative elements are those that strive downwards.  The Inner elements are those that are contained, the Outer elements are those that are not contained.


Fire and Air are the Positive elements, Water and Earth are the Negative elements.  Fire and Water are the Inner elements, Air and Earth are the Outer elements.

Fire: Positive Inner.  Striving upwards in a contained way.  Fire is the least stable of the elements, always moving and striving.  When fire isn't growing its shrinking and this dynamic is constant.  Fire constantly moves from one place to another, from one situation to another or one person to another seeking more, fresh fuel for its needs.


Air: Positive Outer. Uncontained upwards force.  Air has the ability to be everywhere all at once and cannot be easily contained by anything.  Though air is free, it is also very easy to shift and control.  When air is stuck in one place, like a tight room, it can stay still for days at a time.  When it's in the wide outdoors, however, it is constantly dynamic, being blown this way and that by all the external influences.

Water: Negative Inner.  Striving downwards in a contained way.  Water is the most adaptable of the elements.  Water shifts and molds itself to any kind of container it finds itself in, filling it with ease and efficiency.  Water also has a way of finding the little nooks and crannies that are often overlooked, exploring every possible cavity.


Earth: Negative Outer.  Uncontained downwards force.  Earth is the most stable of the elements and represents the solid, unmoving state of existance.  Earth is rigid and unchanging once established in its place and when not established it quickly finds a way to settle, settling being earth's first priority.

The Three Modalities


Each of the elements is split into three modes: Mutable, Cardinal and Fixed.  Mutable represents an element while adapting, Cardinal represents an element in its unhindered state and Fixed represents an element in it's hindered state.  These three modes of the four elements make up the twelve Zodiac signs.

Putting it all together


The twelve signs, in brief.  Note that there is much that isn't said and much that can be expanded.  A whole essay can be written on each of the twelve signs.  Consider this a sample to spark your own intuition.

^ Ares - Cardinal Fire.  The natural state of fire is a roaring flame.  The flame always strives to grow and spread, like an Ares constantly strives to better himself, push the next limit.  Fire burns brightly and though it can be dimmed, it can never be extinguished or thoroughly suppressed.  The symbol of Ares is the Ram.  Rams very often butt heads with each other in a struggle for dominance.  This is the Ares way; to seek out conflict and grow through them.


_ Taurus - Fixed Earth.  When Earth is hardened even more it becomes solid rock.  Rock is completely stable and unchanging, which is the Taurus' greatest strength and greatest weakness: pure stubbornness.  But rocks aren't only plain, misshapened grey globs.  Fixed Earth can also be beautiful gemstones, the unalterable radiance that is always available for others to enjoy.  The symbol of Taurus is the Ox.  The way of the ox is to graze in peace and tranquility.

` Gemini - Mutable Air.  Air is already fully mobile, but the steady breeze that is Gemini is even harder to contain.  Air in motion constantly moves from place to place, like a Gemini who contantly moves from situation to situation, person to person, never satisfied with what he has, always looking not for something better, just something else.  The media is the greatest friend a Gemini could have, bringing massive amounts of information from all parts of the world for the Gemini to bask in and breeze through.  The symbol of Gemini is the Twins.  Two pulls, two faces, seemingly also two mouths, the way of the twins is constantly planning the next move.


a Cancer - Cardinal Water.  The natural state of water is gathered in a lake or a small pond within a copse of trees with a cottage overlooking it.  At least, that's what a Cancer would say.  Water within a vessel; A cancer in his home.  Cancers are also strongly associated with the emotions of Joy and Sorrow.  The symbol of Cancer is the Crab.  Crabs always carry their homes with them.  Thus, the way of the crab is to develop a calm and healthy home.

b Leo - Fixed Fire.  When fire is restricted and guided it becomes glowing embers.  This is arguably the most powerful state for fire to be in, because it gives off the most heat and consumes very efficiently.  Embers are the root of all flames, because every flame has a point of consumption.  The Leo is the same: Powerful and regal.  Leos are a source of energy and motivation.  They link people together like they link flames to their fuel.  The symbol of Leo is the Lion, king of the animals.  The way of the lion is to be in the center, wielding power.


c Virgo - Mutable Earth.  The state in which earth is changeable is Clay.  Virgos still have the tenacity and stability of earth, but are more flexible than their fellows.  Nonetheless, one a virgo has chosen a shape/way of life, they like to stick to it, finding the process of change to be a great bother.  A statue, made of clay, does not act - it merely observes.  Virgos also like to sit back and observe.  The symbol of Virgo is the Virgin.  Like a statue, the virgin exhibits restraint in action.  Thus is the way of the virgo: to remain pure through restraint of action.

d Libra - Cardinal Air.  A pleasant autumn day, few clouds in the sky, the air sitting calmly over the earth.  This is the Libra: peace and harmony even in the midst of decay.  Despite its desire to be at rest, air can be quite easily influenced to change its direction.  Whenever this happens, though, the Libra strives to return to a state of balance.  The symbol of Libra is the scales.  The way of the scales is constant tipping and constantly readjusting.


e Scorpio - Fixed Water.  Hardened water is called Ice.  Ice has a strange property that is unfound in other solids: it is less dense than its liquid state.  Just like Ice seperates and floats above the water so too does the Scorpio seperate and try to float above everything else.  The mystery of the Scorpio is in the fact that under the rough and intricate surface, ice is transparent, from surface to depth.  This vulnerability is closely guarded.  The symbol of Scorpio is the Scorpion.  The way of the scorpion is to remain hidden at all costs.

f Saggitarius - Mutable Fire.  Saggitarius is the spark that flies off of the fire.  The spark is airborne, free, roaming through the winds.  But this free-spirit has the potential to start a powerful blaze.  The spark is the beginning of any fire, which marks the Saggitarian obsession with newness, youth and the origins of things.  Saggitarians have the power of inspiration, both for themselves and for others.  They always follow the trends of the times, keeping up with everything new, having the undesireable side-effect of spreading themselves thin.  The symbol of Saggitarius is the Archer.  The way of the archer is to keep active and on the move and have access to everything.


g Capricorn - Cardinal Earth.  Earth in its ideal state is fertile soil.  Though it appears to be plain and useless, soil has amazing potential within.  Very often the soil is ignored but great attention is payed to the wonderful greenery that emerges from it. that The symbol of Capricorn is the Goat.  Goats climb constantly, setting their sights to the high peaks and steadily advancing to the top, the natural grace with which they do so often going unnoticed.  Thus is way of the goat: setting lofty goals and working towards them.

h Aquarius - Fixed Air.  When air is put inside a room in can sit there calmly for hours.  This calm, cool state is typical of Aquarians, who are comfortable in any situation they can be found.  Like soil, very often air goes unnoticed and unappreciated.  Then again, so does Astrology and look at the influence it plays in the lives of others.  The symbol of Aquarius is the water-vessel, one of the most unappreciated objects, but the most necessary for civilization to exist.  Thus is the way of the water-vessel: to provide for others for the sake of the duty, without expecting reward.

i Pisces - Mutable Water.  When water flows it always looks for the lowest point.  It somehow manages to find all the little cracks and crannies that would otherwise go unnoticed, exploring them thoroughly.  Both Pisces and their opposites, Virgoes, have the power of observation but they see different things: Where Virgoes see everything that goes on at the surface, Pisces have the uncanny skill of seeing what is normally the unseen.  The symbol of Pisces is the two fish moving in different directions.  The way of the fish is to live below the surface and constantly move through the depths.


End of part 1.0

See part 1.1 here

Yeremiah Moshe Hornick


May 2007

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