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Eric Francis Astrology Q&A
Archive for Friday 17th December 2004

Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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Dear Readers:
As the Sun approaches the Galactic Core and the Capricorn Solstice, the news has been moving very fast. Wednesday, a hostage situation developed in Greece, progressed rapidly as the hijackers released one hostage after the next, and resolved itself later the same day with nobody hurt (very interesting charts that clearly said no show-down; the hostages were basically saved by Mercury retrograde); David Blunkett, the embattled home secretary of the UK, has finally resigned, to the relief of many freedom-loving people; the Ohio voting fraud situation is starting to make the front pages in the States; and Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire for his gross mismanagement and overly optimistic predictions involving the Iraq war. Significantly, this involves his inability to 'support our troops' with the right armor and equipment.

While none of these developments represents the world turning over, they are all evidence that things can change, that they do change, and that they must change. The 'conservative' ideology that we're going to keep things the same and/or make them like they were yesterday is basically impossible to fulfill. It defies every law of nature. The planets, time, progress and consciousness all work their way forward, as messy as the process may be. 'It' does not change -- people do, and this is energy that nobody can stop.

The grand paradox is that the worse things get, the more aware people become, and therefore the more likely it is that people will take action. I think a lot of us are wondering: what gives? At a certain point, something has to, yes? Indeed, something will, as people suddenly find themselves in the present.

Something interesting I've noticed is the number of questions that come into this page that have the basic theme, "What should I do with my life?" It seems to be the single most asked question, or at least they stand out of the pile. They are difficult to answer, though I've been mulling over a response that addresses the theme of hearing one's calling, answering that calling, and right livelihood. But I think that through these questions, at least, we have a little field data suggesting that there is a crisis of life purpose brewing in society.

I am surprised to see how many of these questions come from people in their late 40s and early 50s who are waking up to the idea that they might actually have a mission in this incarnation, some important work awaiting them, or a purpose they may serve in a planetary awakening.

I feel the ground beginning to rumble. I'm getting the idea that the many individuals who are seeking a higher purpose -- which is one form of an identity crisis -- may well add up to the global events that surround Chiron's passage into Aquarius in the spring and through 2005.

As for the current sky:

The days have pretty much stopped getting shorter at this point (here in the northern part of the globe, opposite Down Under). While the solstice has not technically arrived, practically speaking we are in solstice; the Sun ('sol') is holding at a little over 23 degrees south declination ('-stice', as in stasis or stillness). This is an extreme in every sense of the word; our minds and bodies are wondering 'where the Sun went', even though we have a nifty technical explanation.

At the same time, this is the week that the Sun and Earth align with the Galactic Core -- the heart of the Milky Way, our galaxy. This is exact on Saturday, which in my estimation accounts for a large aspect of the intensity of this particular season.

Mercury, still retrograde, is slow and powerful in the Sagittarius sky, and returns to direct motion Monday in an exact conjunction to Ixion (a planet that to me suggests 'that which we are all capable of') on Monday, Dec. 20. Beware of the Mercury storm, which surrounds the station by about three days on either side! Don't mess with your computer over the weekend or through late next week, if you can at all avoid it. Just leave it alone. The chances are it will fix itself; and if not, the fix will be a lot, a LOT easier next week. If you must, begin with making two careful backups of your most important files, and getting a couple of opinions.

The Sun enters Capricorn the morning of Dec. 21 in the states; afternoon in Europe. This is the official winter solstice -- commencement of winter in the north and summer in the south. It is a meaningful turning point that you can feel in your body; you don't need me, or a book, to feel this shift, if you tune in and notice. Local history, the history of our times, turns a corner, and we turn the corner with it.

Safe holiday travels, cousins and friends. Walk lightly in the light.

Hi Eric
Can you recommend a good book on aspects, not just 'this aspect in this situation makes that', but actually something to help me interpret them?

Liz, South Africa

Dear Liz
Hello South Africa! This question goes to the head of the class. Instead of recommending a good book, I'll write you a little book chapter.

Let's start with a definition of an aspect. In common language, an 'aspect' is part of the situation, or a perspective of the whole. The word contains the Latin root 'spect', as in spectacle, something we look at. It is a way of looking at the chart.

Fred Gettings, in his excellent dictionary, defines it as the "term applied to a large number of specific angular relationships between planets and other celestial bodies or nodal points." In this column we talk a lot about aspects: they have names like square, trine, sextile and quintile. Simply put, an aspect is when two planets align a particular way. This is the purpose of all the numbers in an astrological chart. When two planets have similar numbers, they are in aspect (there are other aspects that are not so easy to see).

An aspect is another way to say that planets (or points, such as the ascendant) are in contact. They are communicating. The kind of aspect tells you something about the style of communication. They can be fused or blended (a conjunction), working together with good leverage (sextile), in a tense, strong dynamic (square), in such total agreement that they may disappear or lose strength from lack of friction (trine), or fully distinct from one another and in a confrontational mode (opposition). While it's possible to think of these qualities cognitively, it's possible to feel them and to develop what has been called aspect sensitivity. That's like getting into the aspect with your emotions or body and sensing what it feels like to be there. You can actually sense the quality of the aspect. This takes some practice, but once you know what you're going for, it's not particularly difficult to get the hang of it. Some people have a shocking natural talent for doing this. If you meet someone who does, eat dinner at their house a lot and hope some of it rubs off on you.

To actually read an astrological chart rather than do it paint by numbers out of the books, you have get yourself into the slipstream of interpretation. Feeling with your body is one way; sometimes it can come through a little like channeling; other times, it seems like an intellectual process, but it has a lot of momentum and pushes you along. It's like being in this zone where the information just comes. Young astrologers can do it as well as the old ones. So experience is not necessarily such a big factor, though obviously, with practice, we get better at anything.

Books are good for what I call commentaries. Some are better than others, and even the boring or negative ones can contain excellent clues. There is a long tradition in both scholarship and esoteric studies for the people who came before us to pass along their commentaries and observations, and they can be very useful. That is, as long as we remember what they are: not the truth or the bottom line, or the 'meaning', but rather a point of view that may be helpful, or serve as a starting point. They are essentially clues, but you are the detective.

There are often a series of logical steps to getting into this interpretation space (this is the Virgo part of the process, which is based on a set of technical skills). And then you're suddenly in this space where the images and correspondences in the chart are providing something new and original that is more than the sum of the parts of the parts, more than the commentaries say, and that is very specific to the situation (the Pisces aspect, which is highly intuitive and imaginative).

Did I say imaginative? Yes, ma'am. To be a good astrologer, you need a vivid imagination. This is because every chart is a chance to do an original reading of an original piece of artwork and a unique life. Always, always remember: each chart is unique, and no matter what a book may say about bits and pieces of the chart, unless you're really famous or get a question answered on this column, your chart is not going to be written about in a book or study materials.

As many of you know, I spend a great deal of session time getting a feel for what my clients are going through, and sensing how their chart works in real-life rather than in theory. One of my tools for doing this is using Chiron. This is a quick, easy way to get a sense of how an aspect structure works. Once you see an aspect in the natal chart, I suggest you ask the client for a description of their life at the time Chiron was making a conjunction to one part of the aspect. In other words, if the person has Venus square Mars, check the time frame when transiting Chiron was conjunct Venus, Mars or both. You are not looking for 'something big', rather, just for the story of their life. Listen carefully, and you will very likely hear something that gives away their experience of this aspect, or reveal the issues it may represent. It may tell you about an aspect (same word) of their life that they need to work out or keep in balance.

This is just one technique, and I have found, time and time again, that it helps. It works, I think, because there is an opening created to allow the client be a voice for their own chart. Aspects in the chart exist as potentials. They are activated by transits. When Chiron comes along, it's like turning up the juice on that particular placement or aspect. It turns the potential into some form of a reality.

There are other approaches, what you could call purely interpretive. Let's look at a chart example or two, which will help us walk through the steps to looking at aspects using another method, a more technical method. I am sitting here trying to figure out what a good example chart to use. I'm tempted to start with George W. Bush, because we all know him so well and his chart says so much about him -- but it's too freaking depressing (I'll do more on Bush right before the inauguration). So let's think of somebody else. How about somebody from the other end of the spectrum, but who you may not have heard of: Seymour Hersh. He is an American investigative reporter who (among other things) exposed the lies and atrocities of the Vietnam War. He continues to work to the present day.

So, now, before you look at the chart, let's just ask: what about this chart says modern-day hero? What motivates him? Let's look at one or two obvious aspects, using the major planets and Chiron, and see.

Seymour Hersh

So now. Gemini rising. That's an 'aspect' of the chart. We know he's a writer; we know we're looking at the right chart. Can you feel that Gemini ascendant pouring off the screen? I's quite strong, and it's even simple enough for me to understand. Let's break it down:

-- Gemini rising (we will eventually study Mercury to learn more), which is an easy call on a gift of gab, a quick mind, and a mercurial person, that is, someone adaptable, and enough of a trickster to stay alive as an investigative reporter.
-- South Node in the ascendant, which says old talents, established way of doing things.
-- Chiron in the ascendant, which says maverick, individualist, highly aware person; in Gemini, someone who may feel like he has a mental or intellectual debility and then go to great lengths to compensate for it, which bestows a powerful gift. Chiron rising also says humanitarian and teacher.

Now, note what's happened: to read this aspect, we've considered the house (the 1st house or ascendant, which tells us about identity) and its associated sign (Gemini, which gives us the color of the energy and some personal tendencies). We've considered the planet and point occupying the 1st house (the South Node and Chiron).

Now let's add a planet to the aspect: the Sun. That's the yellow ball on the top left (stay calm, this is easy). It's in Aries. Aries says fire, strong sense of individualism (repeating the ascendant's theme), placed in the 11th house (where we relate to the community and have a strong sense of public service). He can say, 'my business' (Aries) is 'our business' (11th house). Reading an aspect is about putting together different factors and coming up with something original. Over time, you will learn, acquire or make up keywords for the different factors. This is where reading about astrology comes in handy. Then you look at the chart, you take it in pieces and you apply what you know. Often, just doing the legwork of, 'this is in this house, that's in that sign, these are the aspects; what does it mean?' will get you relevant information in about the time it takes to snap your fingers; or sometimes you may have to ponder it overnight. Keep looking and asking, with sincerity, and you'll find out more. Remember: the aspect has a message; it exists like an apple dangling from a tree. It's there, and it's natural -- not merely a theoretical thing.

Now, notice the number 18 next to the Sun and the 18 next to Chiron. They are in a very strong sextile or 60 degree aspect. Let's look in detail to see why I'm saying very strong. The Sun is at 18 degrees and 19 arc minutes; Chiron is at 18 degrees and 59 minutes. The Sun moves faster than Chiron (with practice, you memorize little facts like this, and logic dictates most of them, i.e., the closer something is the faster it moves). This tells us that the Sun is applying to Chiron; it's making the aspect; it's leaning into Chiron, as if pushing it; the aspect is developing as he's being born.

It's a sextile, saying that these two planets are in close harmony. Gemini is air and Aries is fire; air feeds fire. That Sun, out there in public, is very well supported.

The Sun is also aspecting the lunar nodes -- this is very good for being well known. The nodes involve the public and public karma. If you have the nodes angular (that is, in the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th houses, you can expect the person to have some involvement with the public and the wider world, which may feel very much like a calling. The question is, what is that, and you can sometimes tell from the life; or, you look for images and suggest them to the client. Now, I have told you this, and you can just go and test it out, like we're doing here. Clearly, Sy Hersch has done a lot for humanity, he's made himself a pain in the ass of bad people, and he's quite an independent guy.

Now, so far, I haven't used a book. I've just used the chart. Let's see what Barbara Hand Clow has to say about Chiron sextile the Sun in her book Chiron: Rainbow Bridge (courtesy of Barry at the Astrology Shop in Covent Garden, who very kindly photographed the page out of the book and emailed me the jpg!).

"Chiron sextile the Sun produces a profound depth at an early age, an environment which offers opportunities to develop high principles, and a great inner need to bring significant work into the world." Not bad, Barbara. We don't know about Sy's childhood at this point (we can check his biographies to learn more), but we've got a good description of his work. "There is a noticeable steadiness and constant drive in these natives, but they are also rarely satisfied with their accomplishments." Hmmmm. Interesting. She goes on, "Chirion sextile the Sun indicates that the Higher Self will be embodied within this individual during this incarnation, and perhaps the level of dissatisfaction about accomplishments will lessen when the higher self embodies, usually after Uranus opposite Uranus." [This last is a transit that occurs at about age 40. Hersch did his most important reports on the Vietnam War, including an expose on the My Lai incident, in his early 40s.]

Needless to say, this is an extremely useful book.

Here's the kicker.

Sy has Gemini rising. Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini (this kind of thing you have to learn, memorize or use a little chart for; when I get closer to a scanner I can publish the chart here). So to find out more about the ascendant, we look for Mercury. You can do this with any house. The ruler of that house is likely to be somewhere else in the chart, so some of the work, business, or subject matter of that planet will be played out, or find a home, in the house where the ruling planet exists. You play a little game of hop, skip and jump. Play this game long enough and you'll get the feeling for how it works. It's very dependable.

Let's see how that works here. We find Mercury in the 12th house, in Taurus. The 12th is tied for the oddest house of the lot (the 8th is just as bizarre). The 12th includes mystical secrets, secret enemies, overwhelming large institutions (governments, hospitals, agencies count), as well as dreams and fantasies. Sy has Taurus on the cusp of the 12th and Mercury in Taurus. Mercury there says solid, tangible documentation of secrets. He is able to keep his sense of identity in the midst of people and things much, much larger than he is. Pretty cool, yes?

We could go on; this is a great chart and I've never looked at it until today. Seymour Hersch has a Pisces Moon -- compassion, sensitivity and a psychic quality. All good investigative reporters are a little psychic; there is no other way to deal with 1,500 file drawers full of documents. You open one, you reach in and you find the right sheet of paper.

Liz, I have no idea if I've answered your question, but I've tried to give you an idea of how aspects work in one example, how to suss them out, and a little comparison to a good book of commentaries. Try it a few times and see for yourself, and read my responses here each week; I'll factor more of this in. By the way, my favorite cookbook for aspects, besides Barbara's, is "Astrology: A Cosmic Science" by Isabel Hickey, available at the Astrology Shop or the Astrology Center of America.

Dear Eric
Your explanation of square and trine was really enlightening. I wonder if you could explain to us the meaning of opposition in a natal chart and in a transit. Does opposition mean some kind of separation? Thank you and happy holidays!!


Dear Ananda
There are few ways to think of oppositions.

When you think opposition, think Full Moon. Something has come to the peak of its cycle. It is a face-to-face relationship; full on; full polarity. The Full Moon is a LOT of energy. People go a little loony (which means moony). Full Moons have a way of breaking a deadlock; something gives. They are often the maximum point of tension right before things are resolved. If you want to learn the energy of an opposition in your body, feel your way through the next few Full Moons.

Let's consider the chart structurally. Most of the time, oppositions are planets arranged in opposite signs. [This is always true of the Full Moon. There are times when other oppositions are close to the edge of a sign, creating a situation where one side of the opposition is what's called 'out of sign'. But let's skip that for now; it's a special case and we will need an example chart, which I don't have at the moment.]

When two opposite signs are involved, a polarity of the zodiac is involved. You can think of the horoscope as having 12 signs, or six pairs of signs. When one pair is activated (such as Gemini - Sagittarius), there's going to be the attempt to use the aspect to work with both sides of the process of that polarity. Opposite signs are an arrangement that says 'the same thing in different ways'.

Another keyword for opposite is integration. The point of all these opposite pairs of signs is integrating seeming oppositions. It is like getting the left brain and the right brain to work together.

Note that there are several sets of astrological factors that always work in opposition, and if you study them, you can get some sense of the nature of this aspect: the lunar nodes are always in opposite signs; as are the ascendant and the descendent; and the MC and the IC.

One last clue. When dealing with oppositions, look at the ruling planets of the signs involved. Where are they? Let's say you've got one side of an opposition in Cancer and the other side in Capricorn. What is the relationship between the Moon and Saturn? That relationship will help you understand how the person works with the opposition.

Here's a little article on the Gemini - Sagittarius polarity, as an example:

Hello Eric
My question for you is about twins. I was just visiting a friend with twins, a boy and a girl, born only three minutes apart. (14 January 2004 at 20:00 and 20:03 in Miami Beach, FL.) I was amazed at how developed and extremely different their personalities are even at 10 months. From an amateur's point of view the charts look practically identical. What makes them so different?


Dear Angela
This is one of the most common questions put to astrology. And there are some astrological techniques you can use that carefully distinguish between the charts even given three minutes difference and birth time. I've done a twins question earlier in this series. As a side note, twins are not usually born three minutes apart, unless it's by C-section. So we have a bit of the modern world intruding on the biological and astrological process.

For example had the second twin been born as early as 8:31 pm, we would have two different rising signs (Virgo rising in the second birth, as opposed to Leo rising in the first).

The real answer, though, is that they are different because they are different people. They have very similar charts, but they are going to live those charts out each in their own way. One is a boy and one is a girl, and sometimes these seem like different species. This is a reminder to astrologers that the chart is a set of potentials rather than a measure of destiny.

It will be interesting to see how they distinguish themselves as they grow up, and how they seem to be on the same wavelength. Much of the story has yet to be told. They have some very interesting aspects in their charts, and are likely to be talented innovators of some kind. The family must, however, be careful of the influence of religion on their lives (i.e., imposed morals), as such a program could work out to be quite destabilizing on their relationships when the parents plan for it to have quite the opposite effect.

Hi Eric
I was interested to read in your recent column about the Great Attractor. I have always felt like a stranger in a strange land. I don't fit in anywhere, I never have. I don't feel as though I'm like other people, and they know I'm not like them. Am I just an alien, is it something to do with the great attractor, or something else? What is going on here? I was born December 5, 1960, in Denver Colorado at 4:35 pm.


Dear Cathy
Gee whiz.

I am certain that I cannot really handle your question in an answer: I would need to know a lot about your life first. There is certainly to plenty talk about, particularly about the current years (2002 to present) and also 1995 and 1996. But even a brief look at your chart will shed some light on the situation.

It would be difficult to overstate just how different your life is than so many others.

Cathy chart

See all those planets clustered on the upper right hand side of the chart? Those are four planets and the Part of Fortune concentrated in one sign -- Capricorn -- and one house -- the 8th.

In addition, not only is your Sun very close to the Great Attractor (covered in recent columns, and at this link), it is very close to your 7th house angle, so you really FEEL it.

The overall implication is that you may live your life with very polarized relationships (an effect of the Great Attractor conjunct the Sun on the 7th house) and situations where power and money come into play (the 8th house so full) including marital and business situations.

This is made more intense and complex by the presence of your Moon and Mars down in the second house (lower left-hand side of the chart, in gray and red, respectively).

To put it simply, the theme of this chart is survival. It seems like material survival, but really it's about emotional survival. It's important that you not confuse the two types of struggles, and they are indeed apt to get confused. It's as if anything can become a power struggle -- and it's going to take a lot of awareness to keep things from going in that direction. You must go 'above the battleground' as the Course in Miracles puts it so eloquently.

Another thing this setup does for you is that it gives you deep and direct access to the mysteries of birth, death, sexuality and business -- all the 8th house themes. Knowledge in these areas can indeed be alienating, as they are the main issues of which the world attempts to live in stark denial, and by which so many people are led around like slaves.

I strongly suggest beginning an interpretation of your chart with the Chiron Time Frames exercise. I have you two of the dates above, and here are a few extras:

-- 1972-1973
-- 1989-1990
-- 1995 and 1996, particularly April 1996
-- August 2001-present

I suggest you take each of these time frames and write a few hundred words, beginning with your address, and write the story of that time in your life.

These dates represents peaks in your chart in relationship to where those planets are concentrated. If we have those four time frames to work with, we can learn a lot about the deeper layers of the placements in the 2nd, 7th and 8th houses.

If you could write those up and get back to me, I'll take up your question again.

Hello Eric
Thank you for your response to the person who was concerned about her stepdaughter's difficulty with fractions -- here's a hint from another mom -- teach them to bake from scratch, they have to learn fractions from the cups, tablespoons etc. -- at least how to add and divide them -- I start cooking with kids before they go to least they will have the knowledge to feed themselves (and others) in the future and they can do simple fractions!

Thank you

Dear Sharrie
My family encouraged me to cook and bake from an early age, and it worked out well for everyone. Great idea to use it as math preparation, as well as preparation for independence later in life. I am, though, very happy that I chose to be a writer and not go to culinary school. Thanks for your comment.

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