Astrology (from Greek: αστρολογία = άστρον, astron, "star" + λόγος, logos, "word") is any of several traditions or systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth. All are based on the relative positions and movements of various real and construed celestial bodies, chiefly the Sun, Moon, planets, Ascendant & Midheaven axes, and lunar nodes as seen at the time and place of the birth or other event being studied. A practitioner of astrology is termed an astrologer, though they are sometimes referred to as an astrologist.
Many of those who practice astrology believe that the positions of certain celestial bodies either influence, or correlate with but do not influence, people's personality traits, important events in their lives, and even physical characteristics.
Astrology is not considered to be a science and is separate from astronomy, the scientific study of the heavens. For many astrologers the purported relationship between the celestial bodies and events on earth need not be causal, nor even scientific. Although there are astrologers who try to put astrology on sound scientific principles, for many more it is a technology and an art that merges calculations with intuitive perceptions. Some believe that the core principles of astrology are based upon the ancient Hermetic maxim: As Above, So Below. The famous astronomer/astrologer Tycho Brahe also used a similar phrase to justify his studies in astrology: Suspiciendo despicio - "By looking up I see downward."
In past centuries astrology often relied on close observation of astronomical objects, and the charting of their movements, and might be considered a protoscience in this regard. In modern times astrologers have tended to rely on data drawn up by astronomers and set out in a set of tables called an ephemeris which shows the changing positions of the heavenly bodies through time.
Central to all astrology is the natal chart (other names for this diagram in English include horoscope, natus, nativity, astrological chart, map, birth chart, cosmogram, soulprint, or simply chart). This is a diagrammatic representation in 2 dimensions of the celestial bodies' apparent positions in the heavens from the vantage of a location on Earth at a given time and place. Interpretation of a natal chart is governed by:
Common traditions of astrology include Western astrology, Chinese astrology, Jyotish (Vedic astrology) and Kabbalistic astrology. All of these can be subdivided by type, such as natal astrology (the study of a person's birth, or natal chart), horary astrology (a chart drawn up to answer a specific question), and electional astrology (a chart drawn up ahead of time to determine the best moment to begin an enterprise or undertaking). Mundane astrologers believe correlations exist between geological phenomena (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.) and astronomical phenomena (the movement of celestial bodies in relation to Earth). Political astrology has existed for thousands of years as well, while some astrologers use ancient methods which are supposed to be able to predict the weather and weather-related phenomena (storms, floods, etc.), which is collectively known as meteorological astrology.
Astrology has had an influence on the English language. Influenza was so named because doctors once believed it to be caused by unfavorable planetary and stellar influences. The word "disaster" comes from the Latin "dis-aster" meaning "bad star".
A few Western but all Jyotish (Hindu) astrologers use the sidereal zodiac which uses the true astronomical positions of the stars. The majority of Western astrologers base their work on the tropical zodiac which uses a view of the heavens as seen 2000 years ago.
The cases for and against
Astrology is a controversial subject with many voices speaking both for and against its recognition as a valid field of study. The case for and the case against astrology are presented here:
The case for astrology
Astrology provides a direct link to some of the longest held human beliefs. Its continued appeal may rest on its ability to link an individual's life to the wider cosmos and so give a feeling of uniqueness, meaning and of connection to the totality of things. Astrology also makes use of basic, archetypal qualities found universally throughout humanity, and some people find it a useful intuitive tool with which to describe themselves, others, and the relationships between them.
Anyone can set themselves up as an astrologer, so there is a wide range in ability and approach. Some serious astrologers may be members of a society that tries to maintain standards of learning and conduct; others may be lone hobbyists.
Most serious astrologers scorn trivial horoscope predictions supplied by newspapers as nothing but a way to entertain readers. All popular astrology in which people are labelled on the basis of their sun sign alone is seen by serious astrologers as frivolous and not worthy of defence. The sun sign is regarded as but one of many factors which must be taken into account when interpreting one's horoscope.
An individual astrological reading by a skilled astrologer _ or by the individual himself or herself if he or she is well_versed enough in astrology _ is thought to provide a way for the individual to divine his or her own feelings about the present, and to better understand his or her own personality. This can give the individual the opportunity to understand those feelings and patterns of behavior which may be barriers to possible futures, and so change their actions in the present to bring about a desired future. In this respect it is more closely linked to Tarot, I Ching and modern psychotherapy than to astronomy.
An individual is always seen as the ultimate master of their destiny, and given sufficient will and purpose, as being able to overcome the most adverse astrological indications. However, the degree of struggle necessary will depend on the astrological circumstances in which they enact their project.
Most astrologers make no claim to be practicing a science and see their skill as an art which gives a structure to a dialogue with their client. An astrologer's success would need to be measured in terms of the happiness and well_being of their subjects rather than the mechanical prediction of events. Astrology has, however, taken on new astronomical concepts as they have been discovered and added its own symbolism to them. Thus the outer planets discovered since 1781, because of their slow movement across the zodiac, sit in the same position in the charts of whole generations. They have been assigned a role in interpreting the processes of large groups; of nations, institutions, ideas, beliefs and the generations themselves.
Many people use the fact that there are 13 constellations, of unequal size, along the astronomical ecliptic, and not twelve equally-sized constellations, to try and discredit or otherwise disprove astrology. In astrology, the size of the actual astronomical constellations is a non-issue because most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, where the ecliptic is divided into 12 equal portions exactly 30 degrees each to get the 12 astrological signs. (12 signs x 30 degrees each sign = the 360 degrees of the ecliptic). The beginning of the astrological year is the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere (the vernal equinox _ usually around March 21), and not when the Sun crosses an arbitrary dividing line drawn up in modern times to denote where the constellation of Aries begins. The time of the vernal equinox, therefore, is the definition of the start of the astrological sign of Aries, even though the Sun is well within the astronomical constellation of Pisces at that time of year. See also the First Point of Aries. Jyotish and western Siderial astrologers avoid this criticism by using the true astronomical positions of the stars.
Of the 13 modern signs of the zodiac (constellations of the ecliptic), Ophiuchus is the only one which is not counted as an astrological sign because Ophiuchus was only added to the astronomical zodiac by the International Astronomical Union in 1930 when it based its zodiac on the 1875 equinox. The constellations were redrawn in 1930 to include a very small portion of Ophiuchus on the ecliptic, possibly in an attempt to try and discredit astrology and astrologers, though scientists at the time claimed that the redrawing took place for the sake of simplicity; this redrawing is where we get our mondern 88 constellations. According to the official boundaries of constellations first set out in 1930, the ecliptic now also passes through a thirteenth constellation, Ophiuchus (Serpent-Bearer), but before 1930 the ecliptic never passed through this constellation. Although the constellation Ophiuchus has existed for a very long time (since Ptolemy at least), one must remember that it wasn't until 1930 that the constellation was "officially redrawn" to cross over the ecliptic. In 1930 the constellations as we know them today were 'standardized' and set to their current and recognizable forms.
The 12 (equal) sign astrological Zodiac has been in place for well over 2000 years and is still used by most Western astrologers, while Ophiuchus has only been located along the astronomical ecliptic for the past 75 years or so.
The idea that tidal forces affect biological organisms has scientific support. In 1954, a biologist named Frank Brown transported a shipment of oysters from New Haven, Connecticut several hundred miles away to Evanston, Illinois. Oysters open and close their shells in synchronicity with the tide, and up until this time the explanation for this phenomenon was simple -- the physical force of the water gave the oysters some cue as to when to open and close their shells. Dr. Brown placed his oysters in a controlled environment, and at first they responded as expected, opening and closing their shells in accord with the tide in New Haven. However, within a week, they began to get out of sync. Within two weeks, they had once again settled on a unanimous rhythm. They opened and closed in correlation with the tidal forces of Evanston! This despite the fact that there was no physical motion of the water to prompt their action. Clearly, some mechanism in the oyster was "detecting" the tidal force.
One explanation which biologists have for this phenomenon is that the Earth's magnetic fields are probably affected by tidal forces, and nearly all biological organisms (including humans) are affected by the Earth's magnetic field. While this has little bearing on the actual practice of astrology, it is strong evidence that tidal forces do indeed have an effect (albeit indirect) on living organisms.
The case against astrology
Astrology, like other forms of pseudoscience, tries to lay claim to the prestige of science without submitting itself to the discipline of the scientific method. The key is falsifiability. Some believers in astrology consult a horoscope published in a newspaper, which claims to make predictions for the coming day. Newspapers often publish horoscope columns with the title "Astrological Forecast," implying that they should be considered on the same footing with weather forecasts. However, astrology has failed carefully designed empirical tests of its predictive claims, (http://home.wxs.nl/~skepsis/astrot.html) unlike meteorology, which, although not always correct, has been proved to be statistically more accurate than random guessing.
As is often the case with pseudoscience, the practitioners of astrology respond to such disproof either by changing their claims, or by refusing to accept the scientific method as a valid test of their claims. As an example of changing their claims, some astrologers may say that astrology is only useful when the astrologer can have personal contact with the client, in which case the newspaper astrology columns should be abolished. If, on the other hand, the scientific method is to be rejected entirely, the problem is that astrologers do not agree on any alternative method of determining whether a particular astrological method is any more or less correct than any other.
There are also some specific criticisms about methodology that scientists make of astrologers. Almost all modern astrologers eschew direct observation in favour of specially constructed astrological ephemeris.
- The tropical zodiac system used by most astrologers in the west does not align with the stars they claim to study. When astrologers say a planet is in a particular sign they are not talking about the set of stars which an observer can go out at night and observe, they are talking about a hypothetical position in the sky which once coincided with that constellation 2000 years ago. The precession of the Earth's axis as it rotates means that all stars in the sky have, over 2000 years, apparently moved their positions by 24 degrees when seen by an observer on Earth. While scientists know and understand this astrologers have decided to ignore it. The result is that most of the time when an astrologer says a planet is in one sign, a scientist will know it is in fact in the next one.
- Astrologers who use the tropical zodiac, as almost all in the west do, take an arbitrary point in the past as the basis for their interpretation of the heavens. The zodiac of 2000 years ago holds no special place in astronomy. If we go back 4000 years we find Taurus was the constellation of the Vernal equinox, go back 6000 and Gemini was. Astronomers understand that the view of the heavens continually changes over long periods of time while astrologers use a fixed and inaccurate version of reality.
- Astrologers assume that all the constellations on the zodiac are of equal size of 30 degrees when in fact there is considerable variation from 44 degrees across for Virgo to 20 degrees across for Cancer.
- The constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent holder, was recognised by the ancient Greeks, and lies on the Zodiac. It contains the sun once a year (in early December), and the planets at various other times. Even Ptolemy - one of the great astrologers of antiquity - recognised it and recognised that it contains the sun once a year. Yet astrologers, including Ptolemy, ignore it.
- As a claim that stellar objects may influence one being’s life, astrology raises the question of distance. If, on one hand, distances to objects do matter, the charts are invalid as not taking it in account. If, on the other hand, distance is not important, all objects in the universe should be accounted for. It is not the case in the astrological system. For example, some objects in the solar system asteroids belt are bigger than some small planets of this system and thereafter should not be ignored.
- A thought-provoking paradox can be mentioned, even though it does not apply fully to the case of astrology for it does not claim immutability. If one's life can be accurately predicted, there is no point in knowing predictions for one can not change them.
Be said that this is a rather sheepish statement; as it says that knowing something you can't change isn't worth it, and yet we know a lot of things that aren't changeable and we consider them useful.
History of astrology
Main article: History of astrology
The belief in a connection between heavenly bodies and the lives of people has played an important part in human history. It is likely that in the beginning the observation of stars was used to predict many things in daily life. The astrologer/priest was someone very important as a counsellor of the king/emperor who could predict when was the right time to plant seed, when floods would arrive, and when was the right season to fish. They were the calendarist and it's possible that a common belief emerged that, if they could predict natural things they could certainly also predict one's fate.
For the overwhelming bulk of human history, astrology and astronomy were regarded as one and the same subject, with a distinction being made between "natural astrology" (the study of the motions of the heavenly bodies, timing of eclipses, etc.) and "judicial astrology" (the study of the supposed correlations between the positions of various celestial objects and the affairs of human beings).
Isidore of Seville (d. 636) was one of the first to distinguish between astronomy and astrology. However, astronomy did not begin to be separated from astrology until the 16th century, when, with the system of Copernicus, the conviction that the Earth itself is one of the heavenly bodies was finally established.
The study of astrology and the belief in it, as part of astronomy, is found in a developed form among the ancient Babylonians; and directly or indirectly through the Babylonians, it spread to other nations. It came to Greece about the middle of the 4th century B.C., and reached Rome before the opening of the Christian era.
The modern astrological sign that one is born under depends on one's birthday, and the specific time of birth is used to calculate the very precise natal chart. However, astrology is not limited to Western astrology alone, though Western astrology by itself has dozens of branches and various offshoots. In modern India Vedic astrology (or Jyotish) is commonly used to this very day, and in China Chinese astrology has been around for thousands of years and continues to flourish. The ancient Greeks formed Hellenistic astrology while the Mayans of South America also formed their own brand of astrology with the help of their super-precise, world-famous observatories. The ancient Egyptians also had their own system of astrology while a unique system of astrology eventually emerged in Tibet as well. Other cultures and civilizations around the world also developed their own astrological systems independently, though they are far too numerous to continue to list here.
In India and China, astronomy and astrology are largely reflections of Greek theories and speculations; and similarly with the introduction of Greek culture into Egypt, both astronomy and astrology were actively cultivated in the region of the Nile during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Astrology was further developed by the Arabs from the 7th to the 13th century, and in the Europe of the 14th and 15th centuries astrologers were dominating influences at court.
A most important application of mathematics during the Middle Ages was in astrology; astrologers were called mathematici. Inasmuch as the practice of medicine was based largely on astrological determination of the proper treatment, physicians had to become mathematicians, and thus astrologers as well.
Even up to the present day, men of intellectual eminence have convinced themselves that astrology has a foundation of truth, just as there are still believers in chiromancy or other forms of divination.
There is an obvious tendency, however, for astrology to be employed, like palmistry, as a means of imposing on the ignorant and credulous. The generally established belief of the scientific community is that astrology is either mere superstition or absolute imposture, and that its vogue is due either to willful deception or to fatuous, unscientific gullibility.
Relationship to astronomy and science
The distinction between astrology and astronomy was not made until relatively recently (see History of astrology and History of astronomy). Today, astrology is viewed as astronomy's predecessor in the same way that alchemy is viewed as chemistry's. Most scientists dismiss astrology as pseudoscience.
A goal of astronomy is to understand the physics of the universe. Astrologers use astronomical calculations for the positions of celestial bodies and attempt to correlate astronomical events with earthly events and human affairs. From ancient times to the 17th century, astrologers constantly desired more accurate astronomical tables, and for this reason, they instigated and even funded many important developments in astronomy. The role of astrology as an important motivation for astronomical research diminished as the works of Galileo and others solved the problems in celestial mechanics that were of interest to astrologers, and as belief in astrological influences or correlations became extinct among astronomers. The needs of modern navigation and physics became more important motivators for astronomical research.
Many prominent figures in the early history of western astronomy, including Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei, were practicing astrologers. It is a commonly held belief among astrologers that Isaac Newton had an interest in astrology. However, Newton's writings fail to mention the subject and the handful of books in his possession that contained references to astrology were primarily concerned with other subjects such as the writings of Hermes Trismegistus (and mentioned astrology only in passing.) In an interview with John Conduitt, Newton said that as a young student, he had read a book on astrology, and was "soon convinced of the vanity & emptiness of the pretended science of Judicial astrology" (D.T. Whiteside, M.A. Hoskin & A. Prag (eds.), The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1967), vol. 1, pp. 15-19).
There are biological phenomena that coordinate with celestial movements (e.g. circadian rhythms, see Chronobiology). It has been demonstrated that some amphibians are able to use celestial bodies for orientation (source: Encyclopędia Britannica). Some astrologers may attempt to draw conclusions from this phenomenon, but it is more likely these correlations are not completely understood.
In medieval Europe, a university education was divided into seven distinct areas, each represented by a particular planet and known as the Seven Liberal Arts. They were seen as operating in ascending order, beginning with Grammar which was assigned to the quickest moving celestial body (the Moon) and culminating in Astronomia which was thought to be astrologically ruled by Saturn, the slowest moving and furthest out planet known at the time. After this sequence wisdom was supposed to have been achieved by the medieval university student.
Generally accepted phrases and keywords associated with each astrological sun sign
- Aries — "I want," action oriented, pioneering, assertive, "me" first, enthusiasm, leader, competitive, selfish, head/brain
- Taurus — "I have," sensual, cautious, acquisitive, musical, traditional, stubborn, throat/neck
- Gemini — "I think," curious, talkative, sociable, duality, mercurial, whimsical, intelligent, superficial, hands/arms
- Cancer — "I feel," sensitive, tenacious, family and home oriented, helpful, nurturing, moody, stomach/breasts
- Leo — "I am," passionate, dramatic, independent, noble, creative, leader, egotistical, heart/back
- Virgo — "I serve," practical, work and service oriented, critical, common sense, intelligent, health conscious, fussy, intestines/digestion
- Libra — "We are," partnerships, balance, grace, charm, cooperative, social, ideas, lazy, kidneys/lumbar
- Scorpio — "I desire," intense, controlling, sexual, compulsive, deep, secretive, mysterious, obsessive, genitals
- Sagittarius — "I seek," philosophic, fun-loving, adventurous, blundering, wanderlust, scattered, hips/thighs
- Capricorn — "I build," ambitious, cautious, authoritative, cunning, competent, stable, saturnine, knees/skeleton
- Aquarius — "I know," friendships, cause-oriented, the group, society, progressive, eccentric, aloof, calves/ankles
- Pisces — "I believe," feeling, duality, spirituality, soul growth, suffering, artistic, overly emotional, feet
Astrology and the classical elements
Astrology has used the concept of the classical elements from antiquity up until the present. Most modern astrologers use the four classical elements extensively, and indeed it is still viewed as a critical and indispensable part of interpreting the astrological chart. The elemental rulerships for the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac (according to Marcus Manilius) are as follows:
- Fire — Aries, Leo, Sagittarius - hot, dry, ardent
- Earth — Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn - heavy, cold, dry
- Air — Gemini, Libra, Aquarius - light, hot, wet
- Water — Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces - wet, soft, cold
Constellations of the zodiac and the parts of the body
According to Marcus Manilius (1st century AD) in his epic poem (8000 verses) Astronomica, the signs of the Zodiac preside over the parts of the body as follows:
- Aries -- the head
- Taurus -- the neck and throat
- Gemini -- the lungs, arms, and shoulders
- Cancer -- the chest, breasts, and stomach
- Leo -- the heart and upper back
- Virgo -- the abdomen and digestive system
- Libra -- the kidneys and lumbar region
- Scorpio -- the genitals
- Sagittarius -- the hips and thighs
- Capricorn -- the knees and bones
- Aquarius -- the calves, shins, and ankles
- Pisces -- the feet
For Manilius' associations between body parts and the planets, see Planets in astrology and Medical astrology.
Some astrologers believe that each number from 0 to 9 is ruled by a celestial body in our solar system -- the layout below is the most widely accepted system amongst modern astrologers but there are other conflicting systems as well.
- Zero is ruled by the planet Pluto, which gives it many transforming and regenerating qualities. It has a lot of depth and intensity, which makes it a transcendental number indeed.
- Two is ruled by the Moon and the astrological aspect of the opposition, which means this number is very co-operative, emotive, and has a great deal of feeling. This number is associated with relationships in general.
- Three is ruled by Jupiter and the astrological aspect of the trine, and is educated, wise, and happy. The acquistion or expenditure of money often features prominently in the number. There is usually a free flow of engery associated with this number, which indicates that both good and bad come easily to this number. This number is the major benefic, so is considered lucky to many. Money will come and go esily when three is significant.
- Four is ruled by Mars and the astrological aspect of the square. It is forceful and dominating in an attempt to control the tension that is inherent in this number. It also has a great deal of stability and is therefore a good number when attempting to build foundations. When four is prominent, quite often people will need to overcome obstacles before they will be able to reach their highest potential.
- Five is ruled by the planet Mercury and the astrological aspect of the quincunx. It is very communicative and witty on a light level. Because this number deals with the concept of communication, on a negative level deception can also be involved, so it is always best to double check for the facts. Sometimes an individual must make adjustments in order to fit in when this number is significant.
- Six is ruled by the planet Venus and the astrological aspect of the sextile. It is a pleasant, harmonious number that governs the arts and music. Tact and diplomacy figure prominently with this number, so relationships will be of paramont importance. Six is a minor benefic, so money will play an imporant role when this number is significant. There will be a free flow of energy, which will enable many opportunities for success to come to the individuals who this number has touched.
- Seven is ruled by the planet Neptune. It is a very spiritual number that is not limited by the constraints of the physical world. This is the number of mystics, visionaries, and seers. Because this number is associated with idealism, depression can easily manifest itself when our expectations of others and our goals are not met. This number as many surreal, or unreal, qualities to it.
- Eight is ruled by the planet Saturn. It is a solid and very stable number that has many limitations that must be transcended. Those individuals who have this number prominent in their life usually must learn by experience. They quite often have many harsh lessons to learn, which are quite often the result of a karmic debt they must repay before they can progress unto their next level of spiritual evolution.
- Nine is ruled by the planet Uranus. It is very eccentric and unusual in nature. Where this number is prominent invention and ingenuity are very important elements to any given situation.
While different from the actual planets themselves, each astrological sign has also long been associated with a particular number, beginning with Aries which has always been the 1st sign of the Zodiac and ending with Pisces which has always been the 12th and final astrological sign of the Natural Zodiac. This layout is as follows:
See also: Classical elements
The ancient link between astrology and alchemy
Alchemy in the Western World and other locations where it was widely practiced was (and in many cases still is) closely allied and intertwined with traditional Greek astrology; in numerous ways they were built to complement each other in the search for hidden knowledge. Traditionally, each of the seven planets in the solar system as known to the ancients was associated with, held dominion over, and ruled a certain metal.
The list of rulership is as follows:
Some modern alchemists/astrologers obviously associate:
As these planets were not discovered until relatively recently, there is no classical or traditional basis for these associations as there is for the ancient planets and metals.
As Isaac Newton was (indisputably) a well known alchemist of his time period, and astrology and alchemy were (and in some cases still are) so closely linked, it is very plausible that Newton had a very good working knowledge of astrology, or at the very least a basic understanding of astrological methodology as it was related to alchemy. Logically then, one would certainly have to know a good bit about astrology in order to use alchemy effectively, and Newton along with other prominent alchemists definitely knew this. For more informations see Isaac Newton's occult studies.
Astrology as a descriptive language for the mind
The personality descriptions made in astrological charts can be viewed as a method of describing the subjective inner world of mind and personality. This has roots in alchemical and Hermetic tradition which were very influential until the 17th century. Many writers, notably William Shakespeare,  (http://www.chartplanet.com/html/shakespeare.html), used astrological symbolism to add subtlety to the description of their characters' motivation. An understanding of astrological principles is needed to fully appreciate such literature. Some modern thinkers, notably Carl Jung, have acknowledged its descriptive powers of the mind without necessarily subscribing to its predictive claims.