Astrology 101: the very basics
So you want to learn Astrology? Start here!
Hi, welcome, glad you’re here. I’m a beginner in Astrology, perhaps just like you — but one thing you should know about me is the fact I take this “beginner” thing VERY seriously. That is to say: I am not satisfied by arbitrary statements or dogma. I keep digging, and keep digging, ad nauseam, until I find an answer to how or why things came to be the way they are.
I am going to share here what I discovered during this obsessive search for the fundamentals of astrology, so that you don’t have to obsess over it the same way. Spoiler alert: my findings (so far) can surprise you.
1. Astrology isn’t anti-scientific. It just isn’t a science [anymore], but it can coexist with science.
I always laugh at people who say “astrology is anti-scientific”. Not sure if they’re serious (and truly dumb), or just trolling. I’d lean towards optimism and go for option B, but you can make up your own mind.
Somehow (god only knows how, but anyway…), it’s acceptable and even fashionable today to mistake Religion with Science, as if in order to embrace one you’d have to reject the other. That doesn’t even happen with any other 2 areas of knowledge — ever heard anyone claim that “hurr durr ooga booga, Mathematics are invalid because Linguistics make sense”? Or “Biology is real therefore it invalidates the existence of Poetry”? Yeah, me neither. Comparing Astrology to Science makes as much sense (I mean none). Maths have a specific function in the world, languages have an entirely different function, and both can coexist on planet Earth because their uses are equally valid (well, we created them for a reason, haven’t we? You can like one and dislike the other, but what gives you the right to say one should be banned just cause you don’t see the point of it? Other people enjoy it, use it, and want it to keep existing. Maybe stop being so selfish). The same is true for Biology and Art. The same is true for Religion AND Science.
This one is for the nihilists, in before they accuse me of hypocrisy: not saying you guys are invalid. Nihilism is your thing, so by all means enjoy it. Just don’t force it down everyone else’s throat, is all I’m saying. You don’t wanna be preachy like the religious people you look down on, do you?
“But Meron, Astrology literally says planet Earth is the centre of the universe”
To that I’d reply “aye, and Psychology literally says the human mind is the centre of the universe”. How’s that? Art literally says human pathos is the centre of the universe. Music literally puts sound harmony on the centre of the universe. It’s a matter of focus, not fact.
I’ll tell you more: IF Astrology really was claiming what it claims matter-of-factly, then tell me, smartass: why does it not include “Earth” on the charts? Wouldn’t that be logical? If you’re taking an all-seeing approach to the solar system like Astronomy (its Science counterpart) does, then Earth should be in it.
But no, Earth isn’t in it. I’ll tell you why: because we look at the solar system in Astrological charts from the point of view of planet Earth. Since, ya know, we live here. We aren’t Martians or whatever. We’re on this specific planet on the solar system whose real centre (the Sun) is uninhabitable. Even the ancient Greek (who invented our Astrology) knew it. Just look at Icarus’ story in case you forgot that famous metaphor. Did he “chase the sun around Earth”? Eh, no. He flew towards the sun and got burned. Wording matters.
“But Meron, Astrology was once considered a science, that means it’s debunked and invalidated now”
Okay, I get it, ancient people had a habit of mistifying a lot of things. Ancient historians would take creative liberties by adding dragons, mermaids and all sorts of fantasy to real people’s biographies, converging their academic career with a side hustle in entertainment. Ancient medics mistook viruses for demons, embracing religion as a comfort thing when faced with the yet-to-be-understood. Ancient astronomers were also astrologers, going beyond the “boring” objective description into a more exciting world of subjectivity and guesswork. Today the jack of all trades (aka “Renaissance man”, or “druid” like my people say) is a bit harder to come by, so it’s natural that we just see him as a conman.
However, bear in mind perhaps it isn’t a fact. It’s just your individual perception of things. And it’s okay, it’s valid, but don’t mistake the two.
The hard-to-swallow-pill here is that in order to make a case for “invalidating” Astrology because it’s somehow “detrimental” to human objectivity, then you’d also have to let go of everything else in the world that crosses the line into subjectivity, wouldn’t you? Stop enjoying art, stop listening to music, stop going to church or even praying in your moments of despair, stop watching actors perform, etc. Careful what you wish for.
Last but not least: yes, I do reckon there are things that are actually anti-scientific and actually a threat to our “grounding” in reality — the flat Earth movement and anti-vaxxers, for instance. Perhaps they’re sliiiightly similar to astrologers on a very surface level, but then again, what’s their use? What are they here for? Are they proposing a fun new artistic experiment to be enjoyed only in the field of ideas? Hm, no. Anti-vaxxers are actively campaigning against scientific efforts. So are flat-Earthers. On the other hand… who was the last astrologer you saw actively trying to stop scientists on their tracks?
Aye. Exactly. So let’s keep non-issues at bay, shall we? There are enough real problems in the world to keep us busy. “But it could happen”, you say… *Sigh*. Okay, let’s recap: WHEN was Astrology invented? Yesterday? No. Last decade? Also no. It’s existed for a while, hasn’t it? During all these centuries, the astrologer conspiracy against scientists hasn’t ever happened. But sure, any minute now. #Sarcasm
But fear not: IF a real threat to Science emerges, coming from the Astrology community, sometime in the future, I’ll side with you. Pinky promise.
2. Astrology is spiritual. If it were scientific and “nihilist-friendly”, only one Astrology would exist.
There’s only one system for Astronomy worldwide, but many different Astrologies.
Here in the west we are mostly in contact with Classical Astrology (Greece/Rome). If you’re from an Asian background, perhaps also Chinese Astrology. But have you ever heard of Vedic Astrology?
We could go even further: beyond this mainstream trio, I’m pretty sure there are other smaller Astrological systems all around the globe (There’s a film about Yanomami cosmology that hints at it, anyway). Each relies on interpretations of planet positions (not stars, except for the sun. Read the basics before being a smartass) through the lens of religious belief.
There is no Astrology without mysticism and/or religious undertones. None. Zero. Nada. Anywhere at all.
Sure, a lot of people have strong opinions on this topic, and will probably disagree with me very passionately by saying “astrology IS a science!”, but those tend to come from the ego, and we all know the ego isn’t a very reliable source of wisdom (I don’t make the rules — go fight with every psychologist ever). Yes, Vedic astrologers, I’m looking at you. Why do you feel the need to seek validity for your practice on this fake “science” status? Why not simply admit it’s a spiritual belief? Spiritual beliefs are valid and okay. You’re safe and sound. There’s no need for bulshitting. Just look at the Chinese… Look at us Westerners too. We all admit it’s spiritual, add it to esoteric columns on the newspaper, and have fun with it. Come join us on that.
I mean, Vedic astrology literally says Rahu (one of the Lunar nodes for Earth) got its name from a god. In fact, not only its name, but also all its attributes and associations. There’s a list of offerings (yes, the ones you make on an altar) suggested for appeasing Rahu in case you were born with a bad aspect. How is that not religious? How is that a science? You, Vedic Astrologers, can keep calling yourselves scientists if you feel like it (get in line with scientologists, they also do…) but you won’t fool me. By all means police my tone — I bring you facts regardless.
Still on the topic of Lunar nodes: do they exist in Greek astrology? No. Do they exist in Chinese astrology? Also no. But astrology is a science, just like physics, they say. Aye, sure, and pigs fly?
Another case in point: Chinese astrology attributes a lot of importance to the Lunar year, to the point their entire zodiac is based on that (instead of the “monthly” signs we have on the Greek system). Greek astrology is lacking on that regard — it goes by the sun first and foremost, and there are no signs that extend for nearly 365 days. Greek astrology takes into account not only planet positions but also the 4 seasons on Earth, which is why zodiac signs are extended for a longer period than their Vedic equivalents, and the Chinese system is the one lacking if you look at it from this angle. I could go on and on, the differences between Astrology systems are many. How come there’s no standard? Well, different mythologies and religious beliefs, my friend.
The above comments aren’t meant to discourage anyone from practising Astrology. I’m not saying it’s “silly”. I’m just saying it isn’t a science. Artists don’t get discouraged from painting just because they can’t explain their job with calculations alone, do they? But it’s a necessary wake-up call, because I see a lot of fellow beginners falling for the lie that Astrology is somehow nihilist-friendly. No, sorry, it isn’t. Either you address your fear of spirituality, or give up Astrology.
3. The Zodiac isn’t just a personality guide for teens. It’s also a very rich source of philosophical and psychological wisdom if you go beyond the surface.
You might have heard the cliché that “everything is connected”. In Astrology, we take that literally. Sure, it’s a good idea to firstly get familiar with individual [planet and sign] archetypes and what they mean, but I’m pretty sure you already know them if you’ve ever been into reading horoscopes. That’s why I am skipping to this next step: consider the relationship between these planets and signs on a chart. If possible, from the very beginning.
I know… It can look a bit overwhelming at first with all these connections that form a complicated web. If you’ve ever looked at a chart (maybe your birth chart?), you know what I mean. There is no One True Way to go about it, but I’ll share what worked for me: I started getting curious about individual aspects, while ignoring the rest. A hypothetical example: “looks like my Saturn opposes my Jupiter, cool, I’ll see what that means”.
(There is a more detailed step-by-step on my personal blog on how to identify oppositions, squares, etc on a chart)
Say what you will about the religious aspect of astrology, but it can hide a lot of wisdom if you know where to look. Sure, maybe it’s a bit weird to think of a conflict between “the god of time” (Chronos / Saturn) and “the god of expansion” (Zeus / Jupiter) for example. It feels odd to “believe in a pagan tale”, but who said it has to be taken literally or not considered at all? Who said it’s black-or-white? Perhaps your internalised Protestantism said it, dear English-speaking reader — but you’re in control now and you don’t have to listen to that dogma if you don’t wanna. There are ways to look into myths and legends and take away a lot of valuable lessons from them, WITHOUT literally believing in everything word by word. (In fact, it’s doable for the Bible too, while you’re at it).
Still on the example above: Greek mythology says Zeus and Chronos were enemies. Astrology tells us the same about Jupiter vs Saturn. So for instance if you have a Jupiter opposite Saturn aspect, it means Saturn is “oppressing” your Jupiter, and this will manifest in limitations with everything Jupiter brings. Jupiter is spontaneous and optimistic, so you might find it hard to stay spontaneous or optimistic in whatever area of life the zodiac sign where you have the opposition represents (different signs will bring a different “flavour” to this “oppression”, so this goes to show how important it is to look into relationships between planets, signs, and houses).
Well, okay, above we looked into what happens (according to Astrological belief) to an individual under these planets’ influence, and you’re free to believe it or disbelieve it. Now let’s keep this “case study” in mind in order to truly understand the philosophy behind Saturn/Jupiter as an archetype. I see a cautionary tale in it. Let’s look into it:
The cautionary tale is a two-way road. Sure it’s easier to “hate” Saturn, so I’ll start by doing just that: Saturn represents things like hierarchies, authoritarianism, hard work, objectivity and precision (hence the time association), maturity (Chronos is an elderly god stuck in his ways), inflexibility and limits. Jupiter on the other hand is carefree, childlike, cheerful, optimistic, expansive and jovial. When Saturn is oppressing Jupiter, that’s just a mythological way to talk about generational conflicts — Scrooge killing the Christmas spirit if you will. It highlights the importance of trying not to let Saturn “take over” and kill our inner child. Fun is valid, religion is valid, regardless of “the existence of more serious things”.
On the other hand, if Saturn didn’t exist, Jupiter would have no limits. Don’t forget it’s the archetype of expansion, and we all know that limitless pointless growth is the ideology of the cancer cells. Since Jupiter is carefree and optimistic, it opens doors for all sorts of cults and fanaticism (because cults are also carefree and optimistic to a fault, alienating their members from reality). Finally, Saturn represents hierarchies and power structures. If it’s enemy to Jupiter, then we can say that according to the ancient Greek, the State should be secular. Essentially, “government is enemy to religious fanaticism” is just another way to say “Saturn is enemy to Jupiter”, isn’t it? We could even go a step further and infer that (since Zeus became the patriarch regardless) there’s a political commentary embedded in astrological theory, against the growing threat of Theocracy in ancient Greece. Sadly, the same threat remains relevant today.
Can you see the philosophy behind this “silly” Astrological archetype? It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
4. Astrology is a work in progress, but not in the scientific sense — it can exercise your intuition instead.
If you’re interested in learning Astrology, you might have heard about the “purist” astrologers who disconsider Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. You might be wondering why. I’ll break it down to you:
The Ancient Greek knew what a planet was, in the astronomical sense of the word, but they could only work with data we can gather from Earth without space travel or the modern telescopes we have today. As it turns out, the only planets we can identify with ancient tech are five: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.
(Astrology counts “moon” and “sun” as planets as well for practicality, not matter-of-factly, and that’s how the total planets on a chart became seven).
Uranus was discovered in 1781, followed by Neptune in 1846 and finally Pluto in 1930.
So naturally, there are people who feel insecure about continuing the work of our ancient Greek forefathers as if it was a sacrilegious thing to do. I empathise. At the same time, however, I can’t help but wonder what the ancient Greek themselves would think of such a radical stance. Weren’t the philosophers all in favour of constant learning? I’ve heard of at least one who was quite fond of questioning and elaborating on outdated ideas.
Either way, one thing is for sure: for every purist out there, it isn’t hard to find a plethora of people who find the positions of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto on their charts to be quite insightful. Isn’t it ironic that these planets were named after other Classical gods, on a seemingly arbitrary order, and yet they “behave” just like the archetypes that came with such names? That’s the kind of thing I call awen — or, if you will, to keep with all the Classical references in here, “inspiration from the muses”.
Whatever your stance on this debate, know that Astrology is undoubtedly a work in progress. Even if you draw the line at “adding more planets”, who is to say we interpret data the same way people did in ancient times? We don’t have a time machine. And yet, it works for us all the same.