|Astrology is the study of patterns and relationships — of planets in motion, our birth chart, synastry with others, the make-up of elements — and using that knowledge as a tool to find meaning.
Is Astrology a science?
It falls more in the category of metaphysics, the study of that which is beyond the physical. It’s similar to other fields that are founded on ancient theories of energy patterns, like yoga. Astrology at high levels is a mastery of its particular science and the intuitive arts. As the earliest known ordering of existence, long before recorded history, it’s been called the “Mother of all Sciences.”
The Celestial Clock:
Astrology’s premise is that the planetary movements influence the Moments in Time. Since we’re part of the story of the Universe, our moment of birth recorded on the celestial clock is meaningful. The planets continue to move, engaging with the fixed in time energies of our birth chart.
Astrology is an incredible tool of self-discovery, no matter how far you decide to take it. If life seems like a series of meaningless events, astrology can be a comforting sign that perhaps things happen for a reason. The birth chart is a guide to self-understanding that never stops revealing new layers of insight.
Understanding Your Birth Chart:
Astrology can be baffling at first, because it involves a different kind of wisdom. There are three parts to any birth chart, planet, sign and house. There’s a blending that happens in astrology that involves those three. As you learn more, your understanding deepens. You get a sense of what life lessons the Aries Sun in the 10th House holds for you.
After learning about the planets, signs and houses, it’s time to look at aspects. This is the relationship between the players in your birth chart. Do they square each other? Or, are they in harmony with trines and Sextiles.
Where the Heck Should I Start?
It’s said that there’s truth in stereotypes, and that’s where they come from in the first place. The essence of each sign’s energy has built up a reputation. Gemini is chatty, gossipy, a bright wit. Scorpio is sultry, intense. Virgo is a purist, a neat-freak, and so on. Hold those stereotypes loosely as you make your own observations.
The Moon sign is the essence of the basic nature in the broadest possible strokes. The rest of the chart fills in the details. Hold the Moon sign in your mind, as you go on to learn about the Moon. What kind of Cancer am I? The rest of your chart tells the story.
The Chemistry of Astrology:
Astrology provides cosmic clues as to why you’re attracted to, repelled by or indifferent to those you meet. It helps you take personality clashes less to heart, but also show potential red flags to watch out for. Some connections are sparked by friction, and astrology helps you take the long view, and see them as challenges that cause you both to grow.
What are other uses of astrology for understanding relationships?
Astrology can give you a deeper understanding of all your relationships — with bosses, siblings, parents, children, friends and partners. Comparing a couple’s birth charts alerts them to areas where their natures could come into conflict.
While most people in India are aware of astrology, comparatively few know that other cultures have other systems of astrology.
There are Chinese and Tibetan horoscopes, with their cycles of twelve signs going through years rather than months, so that the key to your character is the year, not the month, you were born in: the Year of the Dog, Dragon, Tiger, and so on.
But the nation that probably has the oldest and richest astrological tradition is India. Indian astrology bears some strong resemblances to its Western counterpart: the signs of the zodiac are more or less the same, as is the significance of the planets.
(Indian astrology, however, uses only the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, as well as the Sun and the Moon, in its analysis.)
In India, however, astrology is taken much more seriously than in the West.
Few Indian parents would seek marriage partners for their children without having an astrologer evaluate their horoscopes; a wedding in India may take place at a strange hour of the night or early morning because of the chosen most auspicious time; and some affluent Indian women are choosing to have childbirth by cesarean section so that they can time the births and their children can be born under auspicious stars.
Indian astrology is often called Vedic astrology because it is rooted in the ancient sacred texts called the Vedas, the oldest of which are dated to c.1500 BCE by conventional academics and to 2000 or 3000 BCE by alternative scholars. A Sanskrit name for Vedic astrology is Jyotish or Jyotisha, meaning “science of light.”
One of the most striking ways in which Vedic astrology differs from its Western counterpart is that it is sidereal rather than tropical. The tropical signs remain fixed throughout the centuries, whereas the constellations revolve in a long cycle sometimes called a Platonic year, lasting nearly 26,000 ordinary years.
In c.2000 BCE, when the current Western astrological system was first devised by the Babylonians, the constellation of Aries was in the tropical sign of Aries, and, moreover, the spring equinox took place when the Sun was at 0 degrees of Aries (March 21 in our calendar).
But because the cycle of the Platonic year produces a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, the spring equinox took place in the sign of Pisces for approximately the last 2,000 years and is now beginning to move into the sign of Aquarius – hence the coming of the Age of Aquarius.
Vedic astrologers do not use this tropical system; their horoscopes are based on the actual current positions of the zodiac constellations in the sky. Hence there is a discrepancy between the Vedic and Western systems, amounting to approximately 23 degrees.
That is, if the Sun in your natal chart is at 24 degrees of Sagittarius in Western terms, it will be at 1 degree of Sagittarius in your Vedic chart; and so on. Because this is almost equivalent to the number of degrees that a whole sign occupies (30 degrees), chances are your astrological birth sign will be different in your Vedic chart.
Say you have your Sun at 13 degrees of Virgo, Western style; in that case it will be at (approximately) 20 degrees of Leo in the Vedic system.
While this may sound complex, with a computer a Vedic chart is no more difficult to compute than a Western one. Interpretation is another story. Vedic astrology is not necessarily more complex than Western astrology, but it is probably fair to say that the typical Vedic astrologer feels the need to look at the extended implications of the chart than the typical Western practitioner, who usually focuses on the birth chart and the current position of the planets in regard to it.
Vedic astrology, by contrast, has over twenty subcharts called amshas or vargas, which provide insights into the subject’s chances of marriage, likely career, and degree of success in life.
One amsha indicates the subject’s spiritual inclination and capacity, while another, particularly important one called the navamsha addresses marriage, general life themes, and the second half of life. Yet another amsha is said to cast light on past lives and incarnations.
While the intricacies of Vedic astrology would be difficult to fit even into a substantial book, much less a short article, some key things about it are worth noting. One important feature of Jyotish is the system of Nakshatras. This is a series of 27 lunar houses that, much like the Sun sign in Western astrology, gives crucial indications about character and fate.
If your nakshatra is Rohini, for example, it is said that you will have an affectionate and truthful disposition as well as an affinity for the arts, beauty, and culture. Bharani, by contrast, is favorable for competition and for activities regarding bold or aggressive action. Each day is also governed by a nakshatra, making it favourable for certain types of activity (or inactivity).
Birth nakshatras are also important because they form the basis for computing dashas, planetary cycles in life. The complete cycle of the dashas is 120 years; within this, there are individual dashas of varying length. Each of these is ruled by a planet or luminary: Venus, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury, as well as Rahu, the north node of the Moon, and Ketu, the south node of the Moon.
(These last two are not planets, but have many of the same functions as planets in the Vedic system.)
The particular dasha that you are running at a given period in your life is likely to give a strong clue of your key concerns at that time. If you are in a Venus dasha, you may be occupied with relationships and marriage; a Saturn dasha may indicate a time of sober responsibility.
Whether these are fortunate or unfortunate will depend on the place of the planets in your chart; for most people most of the time, the influence of a dasha is likely to be mixed.
These emphases mark another difference between Vedic and Western astrology. Particularly since the twentieth century, Western astrology has become reluctant to speak in terms of fate or destiny, preferring to describe a chart in terms of character tendencies and hesitating to make firm predictions about what will or will not happen to the subject.
Vedic astrology has no such inhibitions. It is focused on what will happen to you in your life in very specific terms, and it purports to tell you when these things will come about. As such it can sound extremely fatalistic to the typical Westerner, and in truth Jyotish probably is more deterministic than the types of astrology that are most in vogue in the English-speaking world.
But Vedic astrology is not fatalistic in the most negative sense. It does not encourage people to sit back in quietude and allow events to happen to them. Because it is rooted in the Vedic tradition, which is a whole system of knowledge that encompasses all fields, it also points toward remedies.
Someone in a highly unfavourable dasha may, for example, be told to chant certain mantras as a way of counteracting its influence. Other remedies include ayurvedic medicine as well as certain religious rituals. Subjects have reported uncanny reversals in fortune (including cures of life-threatening diseases) as a result of carrying out these instructions.
Gemstones are another popular way of countering unfavorable planetary influences,astrologers advise strengthening a weak Sun in your chart by wearing a ruby. The remedy won’t be cheap, though , the ruby “should be a minimum of two carats in size, set in gold of fourteen carats or more…. As a substitute, a good-quality garnet can be used, but it should be of at least three carats in size, preferably five.”
Gemstones for other planets include pearls for the Moon, red coral for Mars, emeralds for Mercury, and diamonds for Venus.
As with most forms of divination, there are dangers associated with Jyotish, especially if it is practiced with impure motivation. Ammachi (pictured top left , below attached ), one of contemporary India’s most beloved gurus, has said that the coming of Jyotish to the West, while generally a positive development, has a dark side.
“When a powerful predictive system falls into the hand of a materialistic culture, the potential for abuse is enormous…. Astrologers concerned only with making money or gaining fame will not succeed. This is because it is not possible to do Vedic astrology properly without tapas (spiritual self-discipline). Real astrology lies beyond the calculations.”
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