If you type "What is astrology?" into google you'll get an answer something like this:
Astrology is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.
In truth, an educated astrologer would never tell you that celestial bodies have influence over human affairs. The moon, of course, has gravitational pulls, and the sun does too, but stars and planets are too far away to have any actual impact on humans or the earth.
A more accurate answer to "What is astrology?" should be worded like this:
Astrology is the study of the patterns of movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as reflecting the potential of human affairs and the natural world.
Much like the study of psychology, astrology is an academic discipline and a social science concerned with society and the individuals within a society.
Astrology is a map
Astrology maps the heavens at the moment of your birth, and in that map skilled astrologers can read the potential of your life. The study and conclusions of astrology are based on observation and experience dating back to the beginning of written history - 5300 years ago, and even earlier! Markings on bones and cave walls show that lunar cycles were being noted as early as 25,000 years ago.
Over all those thousands of years it has been learned that, for some unknown reason, the patterns we see in the night sky reflect affairs on earth. Or the potential of them.
There are other kinds of patterns that can be interpreted to reflect what's going on as well. Divination, prophecy, fortune telling, omens, and augury have been part of human scholarship since the very early days. Scholars have read human potential in the patterns of sticks, coins, cards, tea leaves, smoke, numbers and the lines on a person's palms, and these are just a few of the more common sources.
How is this possible?
Occultism is the study of hidden wisdom, and it has always dictated that what happens on one level of reality also happens on every other level; the microcosm and macrocosm behave alike.
Modern quantum physics is coming closer every day to proving that the microcosm and macrocosm are connected. Quantum entanglement, for example, is a physical phenomenon that occurs when groups of particles interact in certain ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance. The idea that reality, and all its parts, are entangled in ways we can actually study is very exciting, and we are on the threshold of learning how it works.
Of course, this implies that I should be able to read the potential of, say, your newborn daughter's life in anything - a handful of sand or the mist from her breath on a mirror, for example. And I could! But the thing is, I'd need to know how to do it. I'd need to be taught.
Because astrology has been studied over thousands of years, it's possible to learn how to read and interpret the patterns very accurately. There are lots of schools, courses and books available.
If astrology is real, why is my horoscope so often wrong?
The horoscopes you read in the paper or online are very simplistic, based on the sign the sun was in when you were born. There are 12 signs. There are 7 billion people. Even if all those people's sun signs were evenly distributed, that would leave 583,333,333 people for each sign. It's not likely that a few lines written about the sun's activities today will hold meaning for 583,333,333 individual people.
Also, an astrology chart is a map. A daily horoscope would have to be cast for some geographic location. Typically, horoscope writers will choose Greenwich. If you live somewhere in the GMT area, you may (still unlikely) find general horoscopes slightly more relevant than if you live in Vancouver, BC - 8 hours away. But if you do live on the west coast of North America, try this. Try applying the horoscope to something that happened yesterday. It might actually ring true now and then, but it still wouldn't be all that useful.
A true horoscope will be based on not only the Sun but at least nine other celestial bodies. It will also take into account where on earth you were born and what time, as well as where on earth you are sitting now. The date, the time and the location of your birth as well as your current position are crucial to drawing and reading an accurate natal map and horoscope.
The most reliable astrological predictions will come from an astrologer educated and skilled in reading an individual's astrological chart with its overlay of 'transiting' planets.
There's more than one kind of astrology?
There are many different fields in the study of astrology. Some of them can be described as follows:
Natal astrology uses the moment of birth to draw a map of the heavens (Natal Chart) and shows the potential of a person's life. Natal astrology helps us learn things about our personality, our talents, and our possibilities. Natal astrology is an individual's guide, a map to their life.
Horoscope astrology studies one's current experiences. The astrologer will look at an astrology chart that looks at where the planets are on the given day. When you are born, the chart is drawn and becomes your Natal Chart, but the planets keep moving. As they move through the heavens, the aspects between them and your natal planet positions indicate events and possibilities in your day-to-day life.
Synastry astrology is the study of how people get along. You can overlay one natal chart on another natal chart and study how the planets and houses intermingle. This kind of astrology is most often used for romantic readings: Will this person and me be a good match? But it can also be used in families and in the workplace.
Horary astrology is predictive astrology. It's one of the most ancient forms of astrology, and one of my favourites. The astrologer is asked a question and draws a chart for the moment they hear the question. Similar to drawing a chart for the birth of a baby, they are drawing a chart for the 'birth' of the question and in the chart, they are able to answer or present possibilities for resolution of the question.
Using horary astrology I have won simple lotteries, found lost objects and advised people on the success or failure of business ventures. Predictive astrology is very intensive and requires examination of many indicators. And of course, it doesn't always work for me - I'm a hobby astrologer. But it can be a lot of fun!
But the real value of astrology is not that it answers these kinds of questions, although it can be a useful tool. The real value of astrological study is personal understanding. Like all maps, an astrological chart can guide us around peril and towards safe harbour. We can read about our desires and our fears, our talents and our gifts. Astrology can help us gain objectivity when we are confused. And it can teach us. About ourselves, about the potentials around us, stages in life, phases of relationships. Astrology is one of life's great tools.
I want to get started!
I love astrology and have studied it as a hobby most of my life. If you want to start your own study of astrology, the first step will be to get your Natal Chart drawn up. There was a time when it would take me quite a while to draw up a chart using a stack of books for references (ephemeris, Table of Houses, etc.). Now, I use apps - there are some excellent apps available. Be sure you search for them using words like ephemeris (position of planets) and natal chart. Horoscope apps won't be what you're looking for. I personally use iPhemeris (available for all platforms) and love it: www.iphemeris.com
You will also need your birth time, place and date. Many people find they don't have their birth time. For this, you can write to the hospital where you were born, check inside a family bible, or go through baby momentos. I found my own birth time on a yellowed birth announcement stuffed in an old pile of papers in my parents' home.
Once you have your Natal Chart, you're ready to start your study!
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash