Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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Dear Readers Around the World
There was a lot of interesting, meaningful news this week coinciding with the solstice and the first of two Capricorn Full Moons. But rather than (so far) being surprising, intense or 'new', what we had was something of a history lesson, very much apropos of Capricorn.
We heard more about the now infamous Downing Street Memo, which suggests that members of Tony Blair's cabinet knew they would be acting illegally if they assisted the United States with the war in Iraq. Related to the war, the record of civil rights abuses at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba persisted as an issue.
But perhaps most important, one of the killers of J.E. Chaney, Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, the three young voter registration workers killed during 'Freedom Summer' 41 years ago, was convicted of manslaughter in Mississippi. An 80-year-old preacher and KKK member named Edgar Ray Killen could serve three 20 year sentences for the crimes. This unusual conviction was a statement to the world that Mississippi is willing to look at its racial issues and its horrendous history. This is a genuine ray of healing in the United States.
In a lesser reported story, Italy convicted 10 former Nazi German soldiers, all now in their 80s, to life in prison for a wartime massacre in the Italian village of Tuscany, which occurred August 12, 1944.
The theme of all these top stories seems to be the world seeking closure on some level, a genuine sense of resolution of the past, so we can go on and face the challenges of the future. This is an excellent metaphor for the Capricorn Full Moon.
Remember, though, that since this was the first of two Cap Full Moons, and because it occurred exactly on the solstice, we are looking at astrology that will have effects through the month and through the season as well. But so far, the willingness of leaders, the press and people, to acknowledge the world's problems is truly encouraging.
We need to make a habit of this, as there's plenty of work to do. Fortunately, there are plenty of us to help out.
More discussion of Cancer and Capricorn in Planet Waves this week, and in our premium subscriber service, Planet Waves Weekly. Here are a few of your questions, which cover the Sabian Symbols, what it means to be having multiple transits, and some information about the asteroids. Thanks for tuning in.
Reporting in from Toronto, this is Eric Francis.
I am intrigued by the Sabian Symbols and actually do find that they seem to relate to people's angles and degrees of placement. Would love to hear your comments in general.
The Sabian Symbols are a relatively new astrology tool -- a degree-by-degree symbolic reference system -- invented in 1925 by the beloved Rev. Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, one of the truly original astrologers of our times. To create the system, he worked with a clairvoyant named Elsie Wheeler. Unfortunately, the exact date of their project is not known, or we could have a chart for the creation of the symbols
The Sabian Symbols are an exceptionally easy tool for even the most inexperienced astrologer, but also provide the most advanced astrologers with excellent information. They help illustrate and demonstrate the level of astrology that is symbolic, rather than that which is 'caused by a planet' or 'scientific'. They are, in a sense, based on pure synchronicity.
The Sabian Symbols comprise the first system that gives each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac an image or idea. Today, there are a number of these available, and every one I've picked up has at least been interesting and relevant to my chart. But the Sabian Symbols are the originals, and they are the most widely used -- so they are an important tool for astrologers conveying information to one another, and to the public.
To create the symbols, Marc Jones and a friend named Elsie Wheeler spent the day in a park in San Diego. Jones had brought with him a set of 360 index cards, on the back of which a degree of the zodiac was written (1 Aries, 2 Aries, and so on, up to 30 Pisces). The cards were shuffled and then, randomly, without looking at the degree written on the back, he would draw a card and Wheeler, would give him an image that appeared to her. Jones wrote down what she said. By the end of the day -- one day, with a lunch break -- they had scribed the whole set.
Jones took the cards back to the office and put them in order, and was surprised to see that the sequence made sense. Over the coming months, he wrote notes that explained and elaborated on what he felt the significance of the symbol was. In addition, he researched planetary placements of famous individuals and related them to the symbol for the degree in which the planet fell.
Here is a bit of history that hopefully I have not pulverized too badly. The name 'Sabian' relates to an occult brotherhood in Mesopotamia (specifically, Babylon), in the cradle of civilization, to which Jones felt the symbols had an association. Mesopotamia is in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, in and around what today we call Syria and Iraq. It is believed to be the birthplace of agriculture, mathematics, accounting and many other developments considered to be a part of the modern world. Mesopotamia is also believed by many to be the birthplace of astrology; the term 'Chaldean' is at times used synonymously with both astrologer and Babylonian. It's unclear whether all of this knowledge derives from an older, prehistoric civilization such as Atlantis, for which Mesopotamia was a refuge or holdout, or whether the knowledge actually came into being there.
In any event, Sabian is the name for the channeled symbols, which Jones helped bring into being, and which have become a truly significant part of the astrology we practice. As the symbols are used more extensively, they form an ever-stronger morphic field -- that is, a psychic strength or power, as well as a natural resonance with more individuals. This process roots them more firmly in collective consciousness. In a sense, the longer they are used, by more people, the better they work.
The fact that the symbols, though randomly channeled, possess an internal structure and logic is partly what makes them so compelling. But it's also the fact that when you look up the symbols for degrees which your own planets occupy, they are likely to reveal much about your chart and how you relate to it.
The symbols were reworkd in the 1960s by a student and colleague of Jones, another renowned and beloved astrologer (and musical composer) named Dane Rudhyar. He re-released them in a book called "An Astrological Mandala," still widely available, which is considered by many astrologers to be the definitive version. Jones and his version have their followers, and the older edition is still in print. Rudhyar revised some of them, modernized them, and wrote his own commentaries about how they relate to their signs, their place in their sign (each zodiac sign consists of six cycles of five symbols each), and to a particular psychological process associated with that sign. Indeed it is this psychological and spiritual aspect of the symbols that Rudhyar reveals so well, and which is likely to be why so many people relate to his version of the set.
When using the symbols, it's important to follow this method of relating them to a particular degree. From 00 degrees and 1' (zero degrees and one arc minute) of a sign, the point or angle occupies the first degree, all the way up to 1 degree and 00' (zero arc minutes) of a degree. From 1 degree and 01' you are in the second degree, all the way up to 2 degrees and 00'. By this method, from 29 degrees and 01' up to 30 degrees and 00' is the 30th degree of a sign.
Therefore, if a planet is at 24 degrees and 03', you would use the symbol for the 25th degree. This is in the instructions for the book, it's consistent with ancient astrology -- and it's often done incorrectly.
Here are a few examples of Sabian Symbols at work. The symbols that begin the seasons are really quite interesting. Here they are:
Aries 1: A woman just risen from the sea. A seal is embracing her. (This is the degree for the Aries Point, or first degree of the zodiac -- it depicts the creation of humanity. Curiously, it's more an image of the creation of Venus than the creation of Mars, but still, we have a creation image.)
Cancer 1: On a ship, the sailors lower an old flag and raise a new one.
Libra 1: In a collection of perfect specimens of many biological forms, a butterfly displays the beauty of its wings, its body impaled by a fine dart.
Capricorn 1: An Indian chief claims power from the assembled tribe.
Sometimes, events have unusual synchronicities associated with the symbols; other times, they are cryptic and seem to directly contradict the event, sometimes with such force as to be ironic.
The degree rising for the Sept. 11 attacks, also occupied by the planet Mercury, was 'Circular Paths', which Rudhyar suggests is about "Coming to terms with the inevitability of establishing steady rhythms of social activity." Certainly, the attacks established a steady rhythm of social activity in terms of fear on the march that is leading us nowhere.
Chiron was discovered in 1977 in the 4th degree of Taurus, 'The Pot of gold at the End of the Rainbow', which Rudhyar says is about the linking of the mundane and the celestial order. Here is additional confirmation of the bridge imagery that is so prevalent with Chiron.
The Moon of photographer Ansel Adams is in the degree Leo 5, with the symbol, 'Rock formations tower over a deep canyon'. It could be a description of one of his photographs -- the Moon itself included.
The Moon of former president George H.W. Bush is at Libra 18, with the symbol, 'Two men placed under arrest'. Rudhyars explanation: "A breakdown in the constructive relationship between the individual and society, and the expectable result." Ya.
I've had my natal chart and upcoming transits done through a computerized website (astrodienst), and I've been trying to use it to learn how to do my own predictions. But one thing has me puzzled, and I think others may be wondering about this too. At any given time, there are multiple transits going on to one's natal chart, and sometimes the predicted effects seem to contradict each other. For example, in late July/early August I will have Saturn opposing my natal Mars, but trining my natal Saturn. The former is supposed to cause problems, the latter is supposed to be good. So which one takes precedence (or do they just cancel each other out)?
Is there a rule of thumb for figuring out which transit carries more weight?
Your question reaches to the essence of why we need astrologers to do our charts -- or why we must really use prepared reports in an active way, as a research tool, rather than as a thing we swallow whole. Often the individual interpretations given in a prepared report for a given transit are excellent.
But then we need the mind of an astrologer to assemble the pieces of the whole, and apply the various factors to one another and take the interpretation to a new level. The same holds true for 'cookbook' type textbooks, books like Robert Hand's "Planets in Transit." In much the same way, the individual ideas can be valid commentaries, particularly if you contrast them with others. But then, somehow, there needs to be an added factor of putting the puzzle together.
There are ALWAYS multiple transits going on at the same time. Together, they form a pattern that relates to a set of experiences in our lives. I'll use your chart as an example, since you've written with the question. Since I don't really know what's happening with you personally, I'll need to stick to your chart and let you fill in the more important part, about your life.
Before I do so, I'll add this. I suggest you take a phase of your life that was either very meaningful or really intense (often these factors arrive together). Then, do your transits for that era and see how the combination of forces paralleled the combination of events, ultimately leading to one cohesive experience of life. Studying past transits is a truly valuable way to study astrology.
But as for the present. Here's your chart:
And, though this is in black and white, here's a chart symbols legend.
Let's use the example of transiting Saturn opposing natal Mars, but trine natal Saturn. The reason it can do both of these things at the same time is because you have an exact sextile aspect between Mars and Saturn.
Can everyone SEE this transit? Mars is easy to find; it looks like the thing on the door of a men's room. It's red in this chart. Mars is in Aquarius (blue squiggly lines). When Saturn goes into Leo in July, it will make an opposing transit to natal Mars. To see this, you have to imagine an 'extra' Saturn outside the wheel up in Leo near the left side of the chart. If we can, we'll draw this in using Photoshop.
That's one transit. At the same time, because you have NATAL Mars and Saturn in a close aspect, Saturn will be aspecting natal Saturn as well. Saturn is the yellow planet counter-clockwise. Your natal Saturn is in Sagittarius, and transiting Saturn will be in Leo. That means that Saturn is making a trine (by transit) to your natal Saturn.
Now, as these things go, I would not rate this as a major turning point in one's life. But let's look at the mix of energies and see if we can come up with something that makes sense to another reasonable human being, or to you.
Saturn opposite Mars in Aquarius has the feeling of an obstructing factor that gets you to focus. There is the sense of having a lot of very idealistic creative ideas (Mars -- Aquarius -- 5th) but which you need some kind of containment to express. There's a factor that comes along in the form of that transiting Saturn, which says, 'we want your creativity, but we want it in this particular way, and then you can do whatever else you want'.
Notice how the house placement of the planet(s) involved becomes important. The 5th is a particularly meaningful house for you because you have Chiron there, which really fires it up, and gets you craving experiences that you don't necessarily get to have. We could look at one natal Chiron aspect in particular to see that -- Mercury (in Taurus, up in the 8th house) square Chiron (in Aquarius in the 5th).
I need to interpret here, since I don't have you to ask, but that feels a little like: 'If I dare to express my creativity and let go, I'll cause total chaos. But I really need to express myself. I just don't know how to do it'.
Mars in the 5th is what you would actually be expressing. And it turns out that Chiron is in the transit picture. It's now making a long exact conjunction to your natal Mars. Transiting Chiron, remember, is now in the early degrees of Aquarius. So is your natal Mars. So Mars is getting a conjunction from transiting Chiron and is about to get an opposition from transiting Saturn. It's in a kind of squeeze.
So -- what's the squeeze?
Is it involving a creative project, or a relationship? This is the part where you have to fill in the blanks, wait and see, and take the appropriate action. Here is where the trine from transiting Saturn to natal Saturn comes into play. Your natal Saturn is in the 3rd house, in Sagittarius. This reminds me a little of a fixed belief system that does not want to change when the time comes to change your possibilities by changing your beliefs.
I would add one last transit note. At the moment, there is one you have not factored: transiting Saturn conjunct natal Uranus. This is one that is in progress now. And it's here to show you something; which is how to be the unique person you are in the world of commerce and conformism. Saturn is giving a shape to your 'uranian' energy, and it's also teaching you to be more stable.
All of these transits have the combination of frustrate -- excite -- express all working together. There are similar veins of thought running though them; Saturn both conjoining Uranus and then opposing your Aquarius Mars is the frustrate/contain/focus your energy aspect. Chiron is stirring up Mars (and in reality also Uranus and Saturn, since it's in the midst of transits to all of them). But as far as I can tell, the focus is on the 5th: art, experimentation, sex and taking risks.
I hope this gives you a little idea of 'live interpretation', which is of course only half the story -- the little half. The bigger half is you -- what you DO with these energies.
I could have just as easily put this in the front of this response, but let me say it here. Transits are not just things that 'happen to us'. Au contraire, they are opportunities we have, resources, and energies made available.
And like life, they are always complex mixtures of 'good', 'bad', weird, predictable and surprising. But WE are the ones making the choices, if we can muster up the guts and awareness to do so.
Thanks for writing!
Asking About Asteroids
Please could you tell us all about the asteroids you regularly use in all your charts and why you use them.
This is big territory -- very big. I've devoted quite a few articles to it, some of which I'll include at the bottom of this reply.
At the peak of my asteroid use, late last year, I was working with about 80 bodies in all. These included the major planets, the first four asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, discovered between 1801 and 1807), a different kind of planet called Chiron (discovered in 1977, not an asteroid), and a variety of named centaur planets (bodies in Chiron's class, discovered 1992 to present). I also used about 8 planets beyond Pluto (called transneptunian objects, or TNOs) and then about 50 asteroids.
Collectively, there are other planets besides the big nine that are called the 'minor planets'. There are many categorizations, mainly used by astronomers, and also by some astrologers.
Each type of body has a different feel, and a different place in human experience and psychology. And while some tend to be deeper or more psychological than others, in truth, any of these planets can offer truly profound insight into the nature of a person or of how their chart works.
In general, the asteroids (such as Pallas Athene, Psyche, Sphinx, and Hidalgo) give detail. They help point to the exact circumstances surrounding the situations of our lives. They can provide stunning clarity and accuracy, if you are patient and allow them to speak. For example, Psyche talks about the sense of oneself as having a 'wound that cannot be healed', usually psychic or a kind of soul wound. It can be healed, of course, but Psyche can represent the sense that it can't be, and the key to finding how to resolve the thought pattern.
J. Lee Lehman, in "The Ultimate Asteroid Book," says that asteroids, 'have few concepts allocated to [each] and their being small and numerous may allow for many, very exact meanings'. Conversely, the planets have many very large, vague meanings, but the asteroids have very precise significance. This statement is only half true; some of the asteroids are exceedingly complex, and at the same time, conventional planets can have highly specific meanings in a given context.
The centaurs (Chiron-like bodies, including Pholus, Nessus, Asbolus, Chariklo, and Hylonome) talk about transformation processes, healing processes, as well as psychological tools we use to get through life. For example, Asbolus talks about how we handle extremes of adversity and danger as children. Nessus talks about abuse patterns in the family of origin, and how they manifest psychologically in adults.
The TNOs (objects in andbeyond Pluto's orbit) talk about where the deep psychological patterns of society meet the deep psychological patterns of an individual. For example, Quaoar talks about the family patterns of our personal lives and how they mirror society. It also addresses our personal creation mythology, including how we came to be who we are.
Now, astrologers who don't use these planets often say, 'The regular planets can give you the same information'. Perhaps, and I try to make a habit of, every time I make an interpretation using minor planets, looking at the chart and asking what a traditional astrologer would see if they did not have the advantage of the minor planets.
However, here's the catch. The minor planets help us define issues, they help us spot specific circumstances, and they tell us a lot about the stories that we live by. They open up our minds to ideas and to ways of looking at the world. It is true that you can tell a lot about someone from their major planets. But when you discover that a person has an asteroid right in their ascendant that speaks volumes to the themes of their life...well, that's another story. When you find out they have an exact conjunction of a centaur to the Moon and another to the Sun, that deepens the chart.
It's neither necessary nor possible to use all the minor planets in a session. There are tens of thousands with names, so that's not going to happen. But the way to work with them is to develop relationships over long periods of time, so that you have some sense of who these critters are when you need them, or when they show up.
The influences of newly discovered minor planets are studied by observing charts (for people or events) when there is a conjunction to a major planet or the ascendant, and then noticing the themes and correlations to 'real life'. The themes are also deduced through the names and mythology of the body, the shape of its orbit, and other astronomical details.
One of the more stunning examples I have ever seen of a minor planet revealing its nature was that during the Scorpio New Moon last year, the Sun and Moon were conjunct the centaur Hylonome. Scorpio is about death, rebirth and transformation. This is a centaur about the healing of grief and that has been given the additional keywords, 'the cry of the people'. The New Moon was, exact to the day and hour, during the funeral of Yasser Arafat.
To give you an idea of what one of my typical minor planet charts looks like, here's an example, partly hand drawn, from my collection -- an eclipse from later in the year:
I've found that the best sources on the minor planets, all in Google, include the "Astrology Encyclopedia" by James R. Lewis, as well as anything by Martha Lang Wescott (very detailed and technically oriented, but excellent keywords), as well as Melanie Reinhart.
Here are two of my articles, the first on the first four asteroids and the second on Chiron, some centaurs and TNOs, and the third on two newer outer planets, from this column, plus extras:
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