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Archive for April 21st 2006

Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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How to Learn Astrology
by Eric Francis

ONE of the great astrology secrets is how you become an astrologer. It takes some natural talent, but more than that, it takes devotion. Part of that devotion is managing your relationship to the unknown, that is, to all the mystery that abounds when you start to get into a topic like this and go the places it leads you. One of the most important things you can do is talk to other astrologers, but you need to be careful not to pick up their prejudices. It is absolutely essential to keep an open mind. Not everybody has one.

Mainly, you learn astrology by doing astrology. Reading and lectures get you about one-third of the way there. You get the rest of the way by doing astrology, and writing about astrology.

This week, I'd like to reveal what in my opinion are the most important tools you can get to speed you on your way. Like anything, becoming an astrologer costs some money, but thanks to the Internet many tools and resources are available that simply did not exist 10 years ago. These include various online ephemeris resources and chart casting services (and stuff like this column).

Still, there are some things you need on paper, in the 3D world, in a more tangible form than the Internet. Call me old fashioned, but that's just where I'm coming from. A lot of important resources don't make it onto the Internet (for example, I have not found a good astrology dictionary, but if you know of one, please let me know).

Here is a list of my most highly recommended tools to use and learn from, including a couple of study plans for your own natal chart.

1. Your natal chart, prepared by an astrologer or a quality chart service. I am NOT talking about an interpretation -- I am talking about the chart itself. Astro.com does charts but I don't think the format they print in is particularly satisfying. It's small and crowded. The best charts are made by Solar Fire or Time Cycles, one of which most astrologers use. In studying astrology, it's pretty important to have an idea of the energies in your own chart. This helps you "know thyself" and also gives you one of the clearest real-life illustrations that astrology works, and shows you how it works.

2. Your secondary progressions, same deal as above. You may not know what secondary progressions are, and you may not be able to find easy, pat explanations of how they work, but suffice it to say they are one of your most important charts. The way you learn to read progressions is to get the chart and start reading it. This is how you do any astrology -- you get the chart and (even if it takes a while) you read it. With progressions, first study the Moon and look at the things it's done lately, is doing now, and is doing next.

3. An ephemeris. The ephemeris is the book that tells you where the planets are. The reason to have the ephemeris in book form is because you will need to browse it in order to find the information you need. It's too complicated to do this using an online ephemeris, and you don't always want to be strung onto the Net when you're doing your astrology work. You need an ephemeris that covers from around 1920 to around 2020. Unfortunately, the best one is difficult to get in the United States, which is put out by a French company called Aureas. Short of that, I recommend getting the American Ephemeris for the 20th Century, and then the American Ephemeris that covers from 2000 to 2050. You can get this from AstroAmerica.com, an excellent mail order shop that specializes in astrology; or an esoteric bookstore. If you are in the UK, try LondonAstrology.com or in person at the Astrology Shop in Covent Garden. They are also very good with mail order. NOTE that the American Ephemeris and the Aureas Ephemeris list Chiron. This is important.

4. An astrology dictionary or encyclopedia. Or both. You need to know what words mean, and you need to know that certain concepts exist that are conveniently put into dictionary or encyclopedia form. Most people overlook this crucial step to learning. The very best dictionary, for thoroughness and accuracy, is the Arkana Dictionary of Astrology by Fred Gettings. This book may be out of print. I suggest you try a used book search, such as Amazon or Half.com. Another good one is the Astrology Encyclopedia by James Lewis. There is an older version, available cheap used, and a newer one, which can be purchased new, and who knows, it's probably available used by now as well. Jim's book also lists people and asteroids. It's very useful. The two compliment each other quite well.

5. A tarot deck. Working with the tarot in tandem with astrology is helpful for two reasons. One is that the cards, particularly the trump cards, illustrate astrological signs, the planets and the elements. Having illustrations is quite helpful because it gives you an opportunity to visualize the energies. The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley has a lot of good information, but you have to deal with the fact that he's a real occultist and not writing for Reader's Digest. I suggest the more decks the better, so that you can make comparisons across the decks. The other great advantage to working with tarot is that you will train your intuition. Astrology has a technical side, but ultimately when you really get what it's talking about, you make a little intuitive leap beyond the data. This is what tarot will teach you how to do. Here is an example of integrating tarot and astrology.

6. A chart notebook. You make this yourself. In the early phases of your study you will start to collect charts. I suggest keeping these in some kind of three ring binder, whether you punch them out or use sheet protectors. Your charts can be where you take your notes, or you can keep the notes mingled in on other paper. Your chart notebook is where you will keep all your stuff together and it will quickly become your most important astrology book.

7. Study newspaper horoscopes. Pick your favorite horoscope writers and cast a chart for the date given on the horoscope. Read the different signs and see if you can pick up imagery from the chart or the ephemeris that matches what the writer is predicting in the horoscope. Here is a basic article on how newspaper horoscopes work, from this series.

8. Read the charts of news events. Chart data is always nice, because it leads to charts. Most people read the charts of their friends. This is helpful, particularly if you ask people to tell you about times in their life when they were having important transits (I write a lot about this in Astrology Secrets Revealed). However, it's easier to read the charts of news events because you don't have to get mixed up into the head and private feelings of people close to you. You can be a little more easygoing. Any time a news event states a time, that's a personal invitation to you as an astrology student to cast the chart. The date and place are always easy to find. You can find the time if you look for it. But sometimes they just hand you the time, and that's your cue. Cast charts for everything, even if you have no clue how to read them. A good source of articles about news events, besides this column and Planet Waves, is StarIQ.com. They offer good, workable basic astrology principles and specialize in reader-friendly articles short enough to read in one bite.

9. Astrology Software. For this purpose, it really helps to either have charting software or a good service. You will wince at the price of astrology software -- but I promise you: it is worth it. Some are difficult to learn. It's worth it. In my opinion, the best for Mac is Time Cycles and the best for PC is Solar Fire. They are very different -- Solar Fire is a lot better, and harder to use -- but once you get started, you might even go the whole distance. And I can pretty much assure you that you'll never outgrow Solar Fire.

10. Books. To be a good astrologer, you need to have a diversity of viewpoints. No one explanation of an aspect gives you the whole picture. Certain ones will seem to crack the case, and often you will assemble a composite of viewpoints. This is what I have found to be the best method of studying. I consider what is written in books to be commentaries rather than definitive information. This lets the writer off the hook and gives you a way to work with the material. Here is the thing with books. They disappear fast; they go out of print. So if you see one that looks like you might like it, now or in the future, buy it. At least write down the publication information, but usually, for what you pay, you get far more than your money's worth.

11. Writing. You may feel that because you're new to astrology or not an 'expert' that you have no business writing about it. I would say that to the contrary, if you're new to astrology, writing about is the best way to get a sense of what is going on. It will help you find the words and more to the point, you will develop your concepts. When you read a chart for a person, you're putting the chart into words. Most people do this by talking, but writing helps you focus, refine and therefore become clear. Start a Web page, get a local magazine interested, be an active participant in a discussion group -- but write, and save what you write. Don't be afraid to write the same thing over and over, that is, to develop the idea till you say it in an interesting and effective way. There are relatively few good astrology writers -- there's plenty of room to actually make a contribution.

12. Creative outlet. It helps a lot to have a creative outlet, particularly a visual or kinesthetic one (painting or sculpture). This will help you work the intuitive side of your brain, giving your intellect a rest. You will indulge your senses in the feeling that reality is flexible and can be shaped by your hands. Art takes us to another level of reality entirely, and this is a really good way to keep your mind focused when you're studying esoteric subject matter. But art exists for its own sake, it offers much in the way of pleasure for the mind and senses, and is a good way to process your emotions.

13. Astrology Secrets Revealed. This is the best kept secret for studying astrology. Nearly every major topic and many minor topics are considered in some detail. Use the archives, use the search feature, submit your study questions. Here is the archive by date, and here it is by topic. Here is the homepage and search facility. Plenty is in google, too.

14. Parallel Worlds Chart Resource. This offers a lot of 2006 charts and is in the format of a more than basic chart notebook. There is also a discussion of the 12 houses. This is VERY useful. Five people worked on it for four months to research, cast, code and produce this excellent free astrology resource. Indulge yourself.

15. Therapy. Anyone endeavoring to help people with astrology would be wise to invest some time in going to therapy. It will help you understand yourself, and even though you're not a therapist, give you methods you can use in chart readings.

PS, learn the freaking glyphs! A lot of people around here already know them, but here is a basic listing. These can come to life, each and all.

I'll be back with more questions and answers next week. Remember that ASR is sponsored by your subscriptions to Planet Waves Weekly. And you can visit Planet Waves every day for a new blog and photo!


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Planet Waves Weekly is the only place online to get the weekly horoscope of Eric Francis, both emailed and posted to the Web on a subscriber homepage each Friday. Eric is now writing Parallel Worlds, the 2006 annual edition of Planet Waves with the year-ahead forecasts, available to all subscribers. As a subscriber, you can keep up with Eric's essays on astrological developments, chart reading techniques, Tarot cards, and world affairs. Experience Eric's unique perspective as an astrologer-investigative reporter. Read more than three years of archives of essays and horoscopes. We invite you to look around and become one of many satisfied readers of Eric's daring and innovative astrology journal.


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