The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 260, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Leisa Schaim
Episode originally released on June 25, 2020
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released November 10, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This is Episode 260, and in this episode, I’m going to be talking with Leisa Schaim about the first steps in reading a birth chart and some of the first things you should look at whenever any astrologer starts looking at a chart to get an overall sense and feel for it. So today’s date is–what is it, Sunday?
LEISA SCHAIM: It’s June 21.
CB: Okay, at 3:05 PM, in Denver, Colorado. And like I said, this is the 260th episode of the show. Welcome back.
LS: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
CB: Thank you for joining me today.
LS: Of course.
CB: Yeah, so what are we going to be talking about today? Let’s give a little thumbnail sketch before we do news and announcements and then we dive right into it.
LS: Yeah, so we’re going to be talking about the first things that you might want to look at when you first start looking at a birth chart. And we’ll go through what you might do for different purposes that might affect what you’re looking at in a birth chart and mention some of the replies that you got when you put out a social media post about questioning what people look at.
CB: Yeah, so this was something I was thinking about recently, which is just what is the first thing you look at when you pull up a new chart that you haven’t seen before. Do astrologers have a system, or are there just things that are chart-specific that your eye sort of goes towards? And I think that’s a discussion that’s useful for new students of astrology especially.
But also, what are some of the main things that you should try to look at in every single chart is something I think people often don’t know. What are the first steps you should take when you’re trying to interpret any chart?
LS: Mm-hmm. And then we’ll talk through some of the first things that we look at when we first look at charts, since that can be dependent on who you are and what kind of approach you’re taking to astrology.
CB: Right. So like you said, I put out a Twitter thread on June 16 asking people what they look at when they first look at a chart. And I got a lot of answers that were very interesting, so we’ll bring some of that in as well.
CB: So before we get started, news and announcements. One of our sponsors for this episode is the Astrological Association of Great Britain, which is actually hosting a conference later this week, which is the 52nd annual conference of the Astrological Association, and the title of the conference is Serving the Future.
So this is happening online. Because of everything going on, of course, this has switched from what is usually an in-person conference. I actually spoke there and attended for the first time last year, one year ago in June. But they’ve switched it to an online conference, which is taking place June 26-28, 2020. And it’s a three-day Zoom conference that people can attend as webinars with six workshops, four plenary talks, and five different tracks of astrology lectures all going at the same time with different world-class speakers from around the world.
LS: Yeah, it’s really unique this year that we can attend so many conferences that we wouldn’t necessarily get to travel to just from the comfort of our own home.
LS: Sort of a silver lining of the virus situation.
CB: Yeah. And just last month, we did the Northwest Astrology Conference, and that was amazing in-person online, and I’m sure this one will be great as well. I definitely recommend people taking advantage of it because conferences are normally so expensive: you have to pay for a conference ticket; you have to fly all the way there; and you have to pay for…
CB: …your hotel and food and everything else. So this is actually kind of a rare opportunity where people can attend a conference of this caliber that’s not just a single webinar or a single class or something like that, but dozens of highly-skilled professional astrologers presenting lectures from around the world. And that’s part of what I liked about the Astrological Association Conference is that it’s much more international.
CB: All right, so you can find out more information about that at AstrologicalAssociation.com. And I’ll put a link probably in the description below this video or on The Astrology Podcast website.
LS: Sounds good.
CB: Cool. All right, so let’s jump into our topic.
CB: So our topic today is the first steps in reading a birth chart. When I was looking at the responses, I got a ton of responses from Twitter to this question. There were some overlapping similarities or overlapping answers that were the same for different people like, look at the Ascendant, look at the Sun or Moon, or other things like that.
But there was also a lot of diversity, and I realized part of the reason for that was because it kind of depends on the context of what you’re looking for; it depends on the context of what your inquiry is when you’re looking at that birth chart. Because sometimes people are approaching it for differences like, what question do they have or why are they looking at the chart.
LS: Right. So is this a chart that you’re looking at for a client consultation, for instance, where you are the professional astrologer, and the client is coming to you to talk about specific topics? So that’s one context that comes up a lot, but certainly, not the only reason that people would be looking at charts. So it could also be more casual, like family or friend charts. A few people in the comments I think brought up love interest things; they’d look at Venus or Mars, or something if it was someone they were interested in.
CB: Right. They were scoping out their precious charts. So they’re immediately zooming in on where is their Venus or Mars, or something like that.
CB: Other people said that they would look at the Mercury placement to see how they might communicate with that person, which I thought was interesting.
CB: So depending on why you’re looking at the chart, obviously, you’re going to approach it in different ways, or you’re going to look for different things if you have a specific question. But we’ll sort of approach this more from not quite a client standpoint–or maybe more of a client standpoint–but more of a standpoint of generic, neutral things you should look for in any birth chart, or some of the things that we specifically look for in charts when we first pull them up.
LS: Mm-hmm. What are some of the core things to look at to understand a chart.
CB: Right. All right, so one of the questions you have to ask is what is the purpose of a particular consultation, if this was a client thing.
CB: Do they have a specific inquiry about career or finances, or other things like that? Because that’s obviously going to shift your focus and make you focus on a specific area. But let’s say they come to you just saying they wanted a reading of their birth chart in general.
LS: Yeah. And some people get those, and some people specifically set up their consultations that way where you have to get a general birth chart reading, for instance, before you go into timing. And I think, for me, I look at a lot of the general things no matter what people are coming for, and then I also look at some other things depending on the specifics of what they’re wanting to talk about.
CB: Right. So there are some things that you always check versus context-specific things that you would look at if somebody’s approaching you for a specific thing or a specific type of question.
CB: One of the things is the distinction between “I think that’s important” versus what draws your eye. And I think there’s different astrologers that will have different things that draw their eye to different charts, or there’s different things that might be unique in certain charts that catch your eye right from the start versus what steps do you apply in every chart across the board, no matter what.
LS: Mm-hmm. So I kind of do both. I have at this point a set template of things I go through, as I’m preparing, before a consultation, core things to look at. But the very first thing I do–despite that being the mainstay of my preparation–I do just pull up the chart and look at it and see what I notice, and then I go through all the foundational steps more comprehensively.
CB: Right. And that’s a little tricky because there’s certainly charts that are going to have major things that stand out. So let’s say somebody has a stellium–let’s say they have ten planets in one sign. That’s obviously going to focus your attention on the sign and the house that those ten planets are in, as well as that that person might be the Antichrist or maybe Jesus, or something like that if they have ten planets in one sign.
LS: Sure. Not that that happens very often.
CB: Right. It’s like once or twice.
LS: Yes, so there are different things that could draw your eye; stelliums certainly would be one of them. Even though it’s not the first thing I prioritize when I look through my list, that would certainly be the first thing visually you might notice if you pull up a chart like that.
CB: Yeah. As the owner of stellium, I get that a lot, since I have four or five planets in Scorpio, depending on how you look at that.
CB: That’s hard not to, then, with that much focus to have your eye drawn to that. And we actually had an example chart; I’ll see if I can bring it up. One chart that I used in my book–Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, available in fine book stores everywhere…
CB: …literally everywhere–which you originally drew to my attention is the birth chart of Judy Blume. And she has a stellium of planets, of four planets, in one sign.
LS: Yeah, that’d be a good one to look at later.
CB: Okay, so we’ll put that off. So there are some things that naturally–depending on how the chart presents itself–are going to draw your attention as a unique situation more times than others. And then there’s other things that are regular steps that you need to look at in every single chart.
CB: Okay, so one of the things we have to say of course from the outset is some techniques are very tradition-specific. Depending on either the tradition of astrology, or the school of astrology, or, let’s say, a subset of natal astrology that you follow, they’re going to have different approaches depending on what they emphasize. Because sometimes there’s different schools that emphasize some techniques more than others or that emphasize certain placements a lot more and make that the focal point of their system.
CB: So for example, even in modern astrology there’s different schools that follow certain teachers, that tend to emphasize different things, or have certain fixed approaches.
CB: Evolutionary astrologers tend to focus on the nodes or Pluto, and so that will probably be the first thing that many of them look at in a chart.
CB: What else is there?
LS: There was a certain strain of modern astrology at one point that looked at chart patterns a lot. It was popular for a while.
CB: Yeah. So that would include things like stelliums, but also, T-squares, or a yod, or Grand Cross, or other things like that.
LS: Right, or a bucket, or where they were aligned compared to each other.
CB: Right. Also, there’s certain subsets like the Noel Tyl school. Actually I’m planning to do an episode on Noel Tyl next month with Basil Fearrington. And one of the things, for example, that Noel Tyl incorporated a lot–he just passed away in the past year–was the use of midpoints, which is some technique that some modern astrologers use and other modern astrologers don’t. So depending on how much of a focal point you make that specific technique, it may or may not be in your list of things that you go through.
LS: Right. So this really does depend on where you’re coming from and what you think is most important in charts in general.
CB: Right. All right, so I think that’s enough remarks and provisos. We’re primarily going to focus on things and try to outline a system of things that we follow for the most part. And some of that’s going to be applicable to what other people do generally, as modern astrologers, and there’s going to be some overlap with other approaches, and then some of it might be specific to things that we do or things that we focus on or prioritize more.
CB: Okay, so let’s say that we’ve cast a birth chart; there’s a few things actually we look at first. I mean, the first few things that I think you should look at–and I think most modern Western astrologers look at–is generally speaking, the so-called ‘Big 3’, which is what it’s called in modern astrology, which is your Sun, your Moon, and your rising sign.
LS: Yes. And I think some of these things I did mean say a moment ago–so I’m glad you said that–that are pretty core to most astrologies.
CB: Yeah, I mean, the Big 3. Even though it wasn’t always called that, it was definitely something going back very far into 1st century Hellenistic astrology that they did pay attention to in different contexts, which is the Sun, the Moon, and the rising sign.
CB: So one of the first things is looking at the rising sign, the Ascendant, is a good initial thing I think that astrologers focus on.
CB: And one thing that somebody mentioned in a comment that I thought was a good one is they’ll look at the Ascendant, and they’ll look at the degree, but they’ll also take a look at the birth time. What is the birth time that you have for that chart? Does it look like an exact time, or does it look like a rounded time? And then to go along with that, also, is the Ascendant really early in the sign or really late in the sign? So if the birth time’s rounded, could the Ascendant have fallen back into the previous sign, or could it fall into the next sign?
LS: Yeah, that’s really crucial.
CB: So ambiguity, especially when you’re looking at it from a client standpoint. If you’re reading somebody’s chart for them, first thing’s first, you want to know that what you’re looking at is correct and that the data that you have is correct.
LS: Yes, definitely. And depending on your house system–for instance, if you’re using whole sign houses like we do–that changes just about everything. I mean, it doesn’t change the sign placements of the planets typically, but it could change all of the house placements.
CB: Right. Maybe we could put up our electional chart for this episode.
LS: Sure. And that would be a good example of it could have switched over very soon after.
CB: When did I call it? When did we start officially?
LS: I actually don’t know exactly what time we started, but I know it was late Libra rising.
CB: Okay, so it’s 19 right now. I’ll say 3:15.
LS: Sure. Yeah, so that can change things a lot. And you really want to actually take note of that even if the time doesn’t look rounded; I mean, especially so if it does. If it says 8:00 PM even, then you definitely want to look at that. It says 8:15 even, or 8:30, that could still be rounded.
If you do have an exact birth time from the birth certificate, I think it’s reasonable to assume that that is correct, but you have to think about what is going on in the delivery room when a baby is born. And usually there are many things that are prioritized before writing down that time, so it still could be a few minutes off, even if it does look like an exact time. So you want to be careful if it is really late or really early in the rising sign to make sure that it couldn’t be a different rising sign and switch all the house placements.
CB: Yeah. So right here, for example, the Ascendant is at 28 degrees of Libra right now in Denver. So that is something where the Ascendant is going to change signs here in the next few minutes.
CB: For those watching the video version of this, I will just animate the chart and show you what happens if you move the chart forward just a few minutes. And the Ascendant moves from 28 to 29 Libra, and then very quickly moves into Scorpio; which as Leisa was saying, it changes all of the whole sign house placements because in whole sign houses, as soon as the Ascendant changes signs, then all of the other house placements change signs as well.
CB: Even if you’re not using whole sign houses, even if you’re using a quadrant house system like Placidus, having the Ascendant change signs is still a big deal because it changes the ruler of the Ascendant.
LS: Definitely. Which is always a major placement in any birth chart.
CB: Right. Okay, so first thing’s first, check the time, check the data. If this is your own chart, if you can, it’s better to pull up your birth certificate if you can because that’s usually going to be more accurate than a parent’s memory.
CB: But generally speaking, the first thing I think both of us look at is the Ascendant, the rising sign. And for me, I look at whether it was a day chart or a night chart, whether the person was born during the day or whether they were born at night. And that’s pretty simple. You just have to see whether the Sun is in the top-half of the chart or if it’s in the bottom-half of the chart.
So right here, for example, right now, it’s only 3:30 in the afternoon, so we know it’s a day chart. And we can sort of tell from that or just by looking outside, but in this chart, we see the Sun up in the 9th whole sign house. So we know that with the Sun in the top part of the chart, it’s a day chart versus if the Sun was below the Ascendant/Descendant axis; it would be a night chart.
LS: Right. And that is determined by that exact Ascendant/Descendant degree. So typically, unless you’re very, very close to that actual degree–if the Sun is right on the Descendant or right on the Ascendant–it’s usually otherwise pretty clear that it’s a day or a night chart.
CB: Right. Okay, so is it a day or night chart. And that immediately starts bringing into focus and taking us back to the Big 3–which are your Ascendant, your Sun, and your Moon–because those are the three things we want to look at first.
The rising sign, what sign the Ascendant is located in. Then we want to look and see what sign the Sun is located in, which is classically speaking, just what people refer to as your ‘Sun sign’, or sometimes just your ‘sign’, for short, over the past century, since Sun sign astrology has become really popular. So the sign and the house placement, and perhaps even aspects to the Sun. And then, finally, looking at the other luminary, which is the Moon, and the sign placement of the Moon, what house it’s placed in, and what aspects the Moon has to it.
LS: Right. Those are definitely some of the big ones that I look at early on; and particularly, the Sun, then you put even more weight. I think we put a little more weight on the Sun by house placement, sign placement, if you’re born during the day, and similarly, the Moon for night, even though they’re both important regardless.
CB: Right, so both luminaries are important regardless. But this is why I usually look to see if it’s a day chart or a night chart first because then I know which luminary–the Sun or the Moon–to put more emphasis on. You’re going to put more emphasis on the Sun if it’s a day chart and more emphasis on the Moon if it’s a night chart.
CB: Okay, so those are three things that we’re definitely looking at first, pretty much no matter what. One of the other things that comes over more from traditional astrology and that was definitely more emphasized in the earlier traditions–less so recently in modern astrology, but it’s beginning to have a big comeback–is the ‘ruler of the Ascendant’.
LS: Yes, definitely. The ruler of the Ascendant being kind of your guide or your representative in where you’re going in life or a particular area of focus that your life is directed towards by sign and house placement.
CB: Right. So what you want to do is figure out what sign of the zodiac your Ascendant is located in and then what planet rules that sign. So for example, if you have Taurus rising, then Venus is the ruler of your Ascendant, and you want to see what sign and house Venus is located in in your chart. And some modern astrologers refer to that as the ‘ruler of the chart’ or the overall ‘chart ruler’.
In ancient astrology, there were other overall rulers of the chart, so we usually just refer to it as the ‘ruler of the Ascendant’. But it certainly is one of the major rulers of the chart that has a dominant focus in the life or a dominant role to play in your chart in general. So something you’re going to look at in every chart, no matter what, is what is the ruler of the Ascendant, and especially what house is it located in.
LS: Yeah, because that is going to be an area of disproportionate focus for you. And sometimes that’s clearer than others, or sometimes it becomes evident at different points in life than others, but it will always be an important area of life for you in some manner of speaking.
CB: Right. So for example, if the ruler of the Ascendant in your chart is in the 7th house, then relationships may play a more dominant role in your life, since the 7th house is the sector of the chart that pertains to relationships. If the ruler of your Ascendant is there, then that’s going to be a more major focus for you in your life compared to other people in some way.
CB: Or if the ruler of your Ascendant is in the 11th house of friendships, then somehow your attention and focus in life is going to be more on the area of friends and groups and alliances, and other 11th house topics than it might be for somebody else.
CB: So we’re paying attention to the ruler of the Ascendant as one of the first things that we look at in any chart because that’s going to tell us something about the overall focus of the native’s life, and some of the things that they’re going to tend to prioritize or be directed towards at different points.
LS: Mm-hmm. And sometimes it’s a self-conscious thing, like the person understands that that’s an important priority for them, an important area of life, and sometimes it’s more that they’re drawn there, even if they don’t want to be drawn there. So it can go different ways. It’s not always something that the person is fully conscious of, especially earlier in life, I would say.
CB: Right. I mean, there’s all sorts of provisos; it’s not necessarily something that they like. Even if it’s something that they end up being focused on, it may not be their ideal thing that they wanted to focus on early in life.
CB: Or it may not be until later that they really start to care about that topic after some change in them that occurs. There may be times in their life where certainly they have other things that they’re more focused on, but still for some reason, that one topic comes back to them in some major way.
CB: A lot of this is also going to have to do with the condition of the planet. And that’s a whole thing that we can’t fully get into here, but crucial in terms of describing this as well is what sign of the zodiac is that planet placed in. Is it a sign that it’s usually familiar with and calls ‘home’ or has some resonance with? Or is it a sign that is a little bit more challenging, or a little bit more opposite in terms of its significations in terms of what it would normally want to do in a chart or signify?
LS: Right. Because the condition is going to kind of show how easily the person takes to that area of life, or how easily they express it, or different things like that.
CB: Right. And so, it’s things like that, like the sign placement. There’s also aspects from other planets. Does it have supportive aspects from benefic planets, like Venus and Jupiter, so that when it focuses on that area of life, it does so with relative ease or success, or without encountering major obstacles or hindrances? Or does it have more challenging aspects–like hard aspects, such as the square, the opposition, the conjunction–from the malefic planets, like Mars or Saturn? In which case it might encounter more obstacles or difficulty, or just resistance when it comes to focusing on that area of life, for one reason or another?
LS: Definitely. So that’s the rising sign and the Ascendant ruler. I would add to the Sun and the Moon–particularly, the Sun during the day or the Moon at night–not only the house and sign placement, but also, the house it rules. These are different layers…
CB: The house that ‘what’ rules?
LS: The house that the Sun during the day or the Moon at night, and both, to some extent, that they rule respectively because those are going to be important areas of life as well. So it depends on how many layers we want to get into, but these are some of the checklists that I go through when I’m preparing.
CB: Okay. I think that does start to get a little too complicated at this stage.
LS: Yeah, for the intermediate people listening.
CB: Right. So Sun, Moon, rising, ruler of the Ascendant. Another one that you had mentioned that I thought was a really good one to mention that’s really important is planets in the rising sign, or planets in the 1st house.
CB: Which, for us, since we’re using whole sign houses, the rising sign is the 1st house. But even if you’re not using whole sign houses, or you’re using Placidus, I think people will certainly prioritize planets in the 1st house, especially the closer they are to the degree of the Ascendant
CB: Because those are going to be dominant players, especially in describing the character of the native and character traits and psychological traits, but also, sometimes physical traits or things pertaining to their physical bodies. The 1st house is the meeting place between the sky and the Earth, and so it tends to represent both things related to the native’s spirit, and their mind, and their intellect, as well as things related to their body, and their physicality, and their physical well-being.
LS: Right. So you’ll find that planets placed in the 1st house really stand out notably in terms of what kind of person this is upon first glance. When you first meet someone in particular, those should stand out to you. So for instance, with Mars in the 1st house, is this someone who’s really assertive or aggressive and takes the lead in things? Or is this someone with Jupiter in the 1st house who is potentially like a Santa Claus-type figure, sort of buoyant, and wanting to guide people, and happier than usual, and those sorts of things? Which of course depends on the specifics of the planetary placement beyond that, but those are, generally speaking, some things to look at.
CB: Right. I’m thinking of other things, like Mars in the 1st house, the President’s chart. For example, Donald Trump has Mars in the 1st house, and astrologers often will immediately focus on that as being one of the things that characterizes him. Whether you’re a supporter or not a supporter of him, some of the Martian traits, certain Martian things are more prominent in his personality as a result of that.
CB: All right, so planets in the 1st house, especially the closer to the degree of the Ascendant, the more that’s going to stand out and be important.
CB: So should we move on to the next section in terms of the most positive or negative planet in the chart, or should we linger? We didn’t say much about the luminaries in terms of the analysis of the Big 3 and looking at the Moon or the Sun.
LS: Right. I mean, we could for a couple more minutes, I would say.
CB: Okay. So I guess people are probably familiar with their Sun sign for the most part and understanding how that’s analyzed in terms of especially its sign placement, and the quality of that sign placement being more prominent in your life. I mean, there’s some issue there–especially people that have a day chart where the Sun is more important–if they were born during the day, then the Sun and some of the characteristics of zodiacal sign that it’s in is going to be more prominent for them.
Also, if the Sun is in the 1st house–so if their rising sign is the same–or if their Sun is very angular in the chart, then that zodiacal sign might be even more prominent. So there are some people that really are going to resonate with that, whereas, there’s other people, especially if they were born at night that might resonate more with their Moon sign and its zodiacal placement.
LS: Right. And I think people usually resonate to some degree with all three of the placements, or four, you would say–rising sign, Ascendant ruler placement, Sun, Moon–it’s just a matter of degree, I think. And I think that’s one of the things that distinguishes actual full birth charts versus the stereotype of astrology as being somewhat simplistic. But there are actually all these different pieces of who you are, and also, other pieces of your life contained in the birth chart.
CB: Yeah. So for the most part, nobody is going to be just one zodiacal sign.
CB: Everybody’s going to be characterized by especially a mixture of those three, which are the rising sign, the Sun sign, and the Moon sign.
LS: And Ascendant ruler.
CB: And also, modified significantly by the sign that the Ascendant ruler is located in.
CB: And then when we’re looking at the luminaries, we have to do the same thing we did with the ruler of the Ascendant in terms of looking at their house placement, but also, looking at aspects that the luminaries have to other planets.
CB: So do they have supportive, flowing aspects–like trines and sextiles–from Venus and Jupiter, or do they have more challenging aspects, especially hard aspects, from Mars or Saturn? That’s going to be indicating a little bit more trouble in some ways, or challenges sometimes in expressing those energies than in other situations.
LS: Definitely. So all those three traits–the aspects, the sign placement, and the house placement–and I would throw in the house rulership, in terms of some of the core pieces of any given chart you start looking at.
CB: Mm-hmm. I was talking about hard aspects with malefics, for example, and I think one of the delineations that is still relevant from modern astrology is about the Moon sometimes being how people express their emotions or the emotional state of a person just by default, and sometimes if there’s challenging aspects that indicating challenges with that: like hard aspects with Saturn to the Moon, for example, and somebody being more prone to depressives states sometimes, if it’s an opposition or a square, especially in a night chart; or conversely, let’s say, with Mars that there’s a square or opposition to the Moon and being more prone to emotional outbursts or angry, emotional states.
LS: Definitely. I would agree with that. Yeah, by aspect, and also, by sign. I like to talk about it as kind of like how you initially instinctually respond to things emotionally before you have time to think them through, which is kind of a longer way of saying your ‘default emotional state’, like you mentioned. But different people have sometimes strikingly different initial emotional reactions to things or the way that they process emotions. And so, yeah, this is a more psychological thing, but it’s kind of an innate and basic piece of who we are as individual people.
CB: Yeah. And it has a lot to say about how you will respond to other things, both in terms of when you get into relationships, like romantic relationships with other people, but also, when you deal with obstacles or things at work, in your career, or with friends or other things like that. What are some of the things that you have going for you that work in your favor and are helping you out as assets in your personality makeup? What are some things that are challenges that you either do or do not try to work on throughout the course of your life in order to improve? Or what are some of the things that you perhaps struggle with and have to keep putting effort into in order for it not to be more of a problem?
LS: Right. And I think lots of these planetary placements in our birth chart describe something about how we go through the world and how we react to different situations. But the Moon sign, in particular, can be this very individual, “I would never react that way. Why did you react that way?” And that can be in a workplace, that can be in a relationship or a family. It can be with friends, anything.
CB: And some of this probably really also ties back to things like what are some of the inherited tendencies that you got from your family relationship growing up, especially because the Sun and Moon can sometimes be taken to represent symbolically the parents, like the mother and father, or whatever the parental figures were that you grew up with. Whatever that represents in your life, sometimes the Sun and Moon can play a role in reflecting that and things that you learned very early on in your life; like how to process and respond to emotional stimuli, whether those were positive things or negative things.
LS: Definitely. And that’s a whole other topic, but it can be fascinating to see how some of those sign qualities or even luminary aspects filter through family trees because that is kind of astrologically how that gets represented as it gets passed down.
CB: Yeah. So for me, for example, I’m a Scorpio; a November 1, Sun sign Scorpio. And then my Mom’s birthday is two days later, so she’s the same 10-11 degree Sun sign Scorpio. And her father–so my grandfather–same birthday. So that’s like three generations of Scorpios with the Sun. But then, weirdly, my father was born not as close, but about a week later, also a Sun sign Scorpio. And then my brother was born a week earlier, just barely with the Sun in Scorpio as well.
LS: That’s kind of intense. That’s a lot of Scorpio in one family.
CB: I mean, I wasn’t going to put an interpretative spin on it. I was just pointing out that sometimes you’ll see generational stuff. And it isn’t always Sun sign stuff. Sometimes it’s rising signs, sometimes it’s Saturn sign stuff, and other things like that, but you will see these repeating patterns in families that can be really interesting and really weird.
And that’s one of the reasons why the initial Big 3 of your Sun, Moon, and rising matrix can be really important because it’s not just tied into inherent personality characteristics. There’s some of that in terms of inherent personality characteristics that you would have no matter what family you’re born into, that you just come into life with, but there’s also this other factor, which is probably the family matrix that you’re born into and what dynamics you inherit from different family members, for better or worse.
CB: All right, so I think that may be good. I mean, one of the things you do have to pay attention to with the Sun–so it’s Sun we’re looking at–is conjunctions. And not just conjunctions, but planets even in the same sign, or if the Sun is very early in the sign or very late in the sign. You can look at out-of-sign conjunctions if they’re relatively close.
CB: With the Moon, because it moves so fast, you’re definitely also looking at sign-based aspects, so any planets in the same sign. But also, especially planets within, I would say, in exact aspect with the Moon within 12 degrees are ones that I would pay attention to as being much more relevant than other aspects.
LS: Right. Because the Moon moves so quickly and that’s about how much it will move during that day that you were born.
CB: Right. Okay, so Sun, Moon, rising, sign placement, house placement, aspects. Let’s move on. Other things that I pay attention to that are part of my approach to astrology–and that is a little unique–that I brought in from ancient astrology is at this point, I will use the technique or the concept known as ‘sect’, which is the distinction between day charts and nights, to identify according to sect the most positive planet in the chart and the most challenging or negative planet in the chart, for lack of a better phrase.
CB: And the trick with this is basically that if you were born during the daytime, with a day chart, then the most positive planet is going to be Jupiter and the most negative planet or challenging planet is going to be Mars; whereas if you’re born with a night chart, the most positive planet is going to be Venus and the most challenging planet is going to be Saturn.
So what I’ll immediately do is look at especially the house placement of the most positive and negative planets in order to get some insight into what area of life the person’s going to tend to have greater ease, or benefits, or luck, or other types of positive circumstances versus what part of life is this person going to have greater challenges or obstacles to overcome, or other things of that nature.
LS: Definitely. I definitely have that on my template to look at as well because it can be really important. And you can see at a quick glance if this is going to be an innate talent–if it represents at least something connected to the person themselves–if it can represent something with regard to other people in their life or other topics in life, and what area is apt to go better that you can lean on to say this is an area that will probably beneficial for you or will go better than average, or things of that nature. And they might be, conversely, coming in to talk about the area that is harder for them or isn’t going as well, and that’s often connected to the malefic contrary-to-sect, Mars during the day or Saturn at night, wherever it’s placed or wherever it’s ruling.
CB: Right. So to give some specific examples of that, let’s say they have a day chart, then we’d immediately look to Jupiter and what house it’s placed in. And let’s say it’s placed in the 10th house. Then we would expect career matters to go relatively well for them, or that to be an area where they have some good fortune for some reason.
CB: If they have a day chart, we would look to Mars as the more challenging placement and what house it’s placed in. And then let’s say it’s located in the 11th house, the place of friends. Then we would expect the area of friends, and groups, and alliances to bring greater challenges in their life for some reason.
LS: Right. And this is an important place to be looking at the different areas of life–the different houses in the chart representing different areas of life and not always the person themselves. And that’s an important distinction coming in with that topic of the benefic and malefic, the topics that are more apt to go well versus have more challenges.
Because while sometimes that can be connected to some actions that the person is taking that they could improve, sometimes it’s actually coming from outside of them; so for instance, their actual friends if Mars is in a day chart in the 11th house. Maybe there are things that they might be careful of, or learn to improve how they interact with friends or groups when they have Mars there, but ultimately, it might not be something that they are fully in control of because that could be representing actual, literal friends or literal groups that they belong to.
CB: Yeah. I mean, sometimes it can go either way in terms of whether it’s something that’s within the person’s control or whether it’s something that’s outside of their control. So just sticking with–let’s do both. Let’s say, day chart, Jupiter is in the 11th house. Let’s say Jupiter is the ruler of the Ascendant; when the planet is the ruler of the Ascendant that’s sometimes when the thing is something that the person is directly bringing into their life or is in control of in some way; they become the agent of that planet.
So Jupiter in the 11th house, and maybe they have in a day chart good fortune in the area of friendship because they go out of their way to build alliances, and they have some sort of knack for organizing friends and groups and movements. So maybe they become the head of an organization or are very involved in community organizing, or something like that.
LS: Right. Or even more informally, they just are the person that you know to go to who collects people together.
CB: Mm-hmm. They walk into a room and they’re the life of the party or something like that.
CB: So that’s an example of it being within the person’s control. Other scenario–let’s say it’s Jupiter in a day chart in the 11th, but it’s outside of the person’s control. It could mean that they just have very good luck throughout their life at different points as a result of their friends. Let’s say a friend gets them a great job at a company that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise just because they have that connection with a friend.
CB: So I’ve delineated birth charts like that. One of the founders of Apple, for example–not Steve Jobs. But it was…
CB: …Steve Wozniak, who has a really good 11th house placement. And it was due to his friendship with Steve Jobs that they both became millionaires because of their working together as friends out of high school.
LS: Right. So it can be external like that; it really depends on the specifics of the house connections.
CB: Mm-hmm. The other scenario is challenging stuff. So Mars in the 11th house of friends, in a day chart. Let’s say it’s something in the person’s control that maybe they accidentally become the agent of and they get into fights with friends, or even deliberately cause problems in a friend’s life in some way as a result of some action that they take.
LS: Yeah. And that can be something where they’re actually, unbeknownst to themselves, being aggressive in friendships or in groups compared to average, or something like that, so they’re initiating the problem. Another scenario would be Mars in a day chart, in the 11th, where it’s not them, but when they get into groups of people–say, they join an organization–somehow there’s always conflict when they join groups. I’ve seen people who have that.
CB: Sure. Or they have a friend that they have a falling out with, or a friend stabs them in the back. And it wasn’t something that was deserved on the native’s part, but they just happened to become friends with somebody and then they had this major falling out at some point. I’ve had clients and different people with different variations of that.
For example, I had one person who grew up and she only had one major friend. But then that friend died, and the person was kind of traumatized by that and never wanted to have any other friendships again. And I think that Mars was very tied in with her 11th house in a day chart. I knew somebody else that had Saturn I believe in the 11th in a night chart and that was his most difficult placement. and he had a real fear of groups and never wanted to go to any conferences or anything–even though it would be advantageous for him professionally–because he had awkwardness around social situations and a real aversion to even forming friendships.
LS: Right. And this is the kind of thing where I have some sympathy for both some of the psychological interpretations and some of the more traditional interpretations that are more concrete. Because you can see sometimes how these things become ingrained patterns in someone’s life, where maybe concrete things actually happen through no fault of their own–say, with the more challenging malefic, for instance–but then they come to expect that that’s how that area of life goes, and so they start to unconsciously reinforce it too. So it can be elements of both, I think.
CB: Yeah. It’s really tricky because it can go either way, or sometimes it can be both, or sometimes it can be extremely one or extremely the other.
CB: So we’re talking about the benefic and malefic and the house placement. We also look at that because that’s going to be important; the aspects of that planet, of the most positive planet are generally speaking going to be the most supportive aspects of other planets. And that’s one of the reasons why we identify the most positive planet because it’s not just about its house placement; but also, the other planets that it aspects, it’s going to have a greater ability to support and strengthen and affirm or say ‘yes’ to in some way.
CB: So if that planet is Jupiter in a day chart or Venus in a night chart, and it’s forming nice trines or conjunctions, or even other close aspects with other planets, then those are going to be supportive and affirming. Whereas if we’re looking at the most negative planet, it’s house placement, but also, other aspects–especially conjunctions, squares, and oppositions–can be something that can negate or deny or say ‘no’ to what other planets in the chart want to signify; so it can import some of those difficulties over into other parts of the life.
LS: Definitely. Yeah, that’s true. I start going off on a whole tangent when we start going there because it starts getting to be like a lot of subtopics.
CB: Yeah. I guess I’m just mentioning some of it in passing because these are all things that I go into in larger lectures, either in my book or in my course that I have 10-hour lectures on. But I want to at least mention some of this stuff in passing to give people a glimpse into some of the more advanced things where you would go with some of these concepts.
CB: Oh, yeah, I was going to pull up a first example chart because we haven’t been looking at any charts yet. And I mentioned her chart earlier, but this might be a good time to look at it.
CB: So this is the birth chart of the children’s book author, Judy Blume. And this is a timed birth chart. She’s an award-winning author. How many books has she written?
LS: Oh, dozens. I’m not sure.
CB: Dozens, so lots of books.
CB: So here’s her birth chart, and I’ll describe it for those listening to the audio version; she has Libra rising. And one of the first things that our eye is drawn to in this chart immediately when we start looking at it is that she has a cluster of planets in one sign.
CB: So that’s one of the first things that always catches my eye when I look at this chart is that she has that stellium of four planets in Aquarius, which consists of Mercury, Jupiter, the Sun, and Venus. And because she has Libra rising, Aquarius is the fifth sign relative to the Ascendant. So it’s the 5th whole sign house, and the 5th house traditionally is the house that has to do with children.
CB: So right away, we know she has a cluster of planets or a stellium in that sign, so that’s going to indicate greater emphasis on that house and the topics associated with it; so we would think that the topic of children is going to be more important in her life in some way.
CB: Not only that, we noticed two other things. One, if we look at her rising sign, or her Ascendant, again, it’s Libra–and the planet that rules Libra, of course, is Venus–and Venus then becomes the ruler of the Ascendant. And Venus is one of those planets that’s located in Aquarius in her 5th house as part of that stellium. It also happens to be a night chart, so Venus is also the most positive planet. And Venus is one of the benefics in the 5th house, and the other benefic, Jupiter, is also located there.
CB: So right away, we know she has a stellium in the 5th house of children, indicating a greater focus. We know she has the ruler of the Ascendant in the 5th house of children, which, again, shows a focus on that topic. And then we also know that both of the benefic or positive planets are located in that sign and in that house as well.
CB: And so, how did that work out for her?
LS: I mean, this is a really notable chart because, yeah, it matches up exactly with someone who wrote lots and lots of children’s books and became famous for that and noteworthy and so forth. That’s her major role in life at this point.
CB: Right. And she had children also.
LS: She had children.
CB: She had, I think, two children, and she started writing children’s books when they were…
LS: When they were children.
CB: …both really, really young. So it’s like those planets are doing double-duty because, of course, on one hand, they’re talking about her children in particular. But then because there’s so much focus, it becomes a larger thing of she ends up writing books that millions of children have read at this point. And I think she was given one of the highest awards for writing children’s books in the world.
LS: Yes. So it’s really interesting. Your eye is drawn for so many reasons to the 5th house. You have your Ascendant ruler there, you have both benefics there, you have her Sun there–one of the–luminaries, and Mercury, which is the general significator of communication or things like writing.
CB: Right. So the other thing about the chart, the other area that our eye is drawn to is she has both of the challenging planets–the two malefics, Mars and Saturn–in the 7th house; the 7th house is the place of relationships. And that’s one of the areas, relationships, that she had some of her greatest challenges with, or where things didn’t go as smoothly.
LS: Yes. I’m forgetting the specifics now because it’s been a long time since I read that story, but I think it was like she was home with her children and wasn’t happy with her marriage and then was writing.
LS: Started writing because of that.
CB: Yeah, I can’t remember all the specifics. I just know that was an area that she noted as not going as well in her life, without getting too much into the details.
CB: Since this is a night chart, since we see the Sun is in the 5th house–she was born at almost 10 o’clock at night, so we know it’s a night chart–then we would also want to pay attention to the Moon, which is up there in Leo in the 11th house. So that’s one other major area that’s probably very important for her, but it might be more important in terms of her personality or personality characteristics, since it’s the Moon and it’s in a night chart, and it’s sort of up there by itself.
LS: It could be. Yeah, it’s interesting that the Moon, which is the luminary of sect at night, is ruling the 10th house of career and that ended up being kind of a notable area of her life.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And we can tell by this she was born at almost a Full Moon–about a day before a Full Moon–because the Moon is in the sign opposite from the Sun. And anytime the Sun and Moon are opposite each other that’s always going to be a Full Moon.
CB: That’s actually one of the things I’ll pay attention to as well.
LS: Lunar phase?
CB: Lunar phase–like what is the relationship between the Sun and the Moon. Because sometimes you can note things like if the person was born close to a New Moon or if they were born close to a Full Moon. And then, also, if you additionally pay attention to if they were born close to a New Moon or Full Moon, I will look to see where the nodes are placed. Because if the nodes are in the vicinity, let’s say, within 15 or 18 degrees, then that will also have been an eclipse.
LS: Yeah. There’s lots of other things you can tack on.
CB: Right. All right, so that’s a good initial one, just outlining some of our basic principles in terms of looking at the Sun, Moon, and rising, the ruler of the Ascendant, and what house it’s place in; identifying the most positive and the most negative or challenging planets in the chart based on sect. And it’s already in an example like this, we’ve got some of the major themes or major topics in this person’s life.
CB: Okay, so where should we go from here? This is one that you mentioned that was a good one. It’s one I pay attention to as well and I include in my chart layout.
LS: ‘Stationary planets’.
CB: Stationary planets.
LS: Yeah, so I look to see if there was a planet that stationed within approximately a week either before or after when the person was born. And you don’t have to be absolutely strict if it’s within about a week, but if it’s like eight days or nine days, I still kind of pay attention to it. And basically, you want to do that because any stationary planets near when someone was born put an extra emphasis for life on that planet wherever it’s placed and wherever it rules.
When a planet is stationing by transit, it’s a temporary emphasis, maybe that week or so, on that particular energy of whatever that planet signifies. But if it stations near when someone was born, it kind of ‘bakes’ that into your birth chart for your whole life.
CB: Yeah. So basically, what you should do is look to see if you have a planet in your birth chart that within seven days of your birth either went retrograde, turned retrograde, or either went from retrograde to turning direct. And if you do, then that will be like a planet that has an exclamation mark next to it in your chart for one reason or another. And that could be Mercury, for example, which goes retrograde three times a year; although the actual stations then are multiplied because it has two…
LS: Like six.
CB: …stations during a retrograde cycle. So that means it stations retrograde or direct six times a year. See if Mercury stationed within seven days of your birth, but also, Venus, which goes retrograde every year-and-a-half. See if you were born very close to a Venus station or a Mars station, or even an outer planet, like Jupiter or Saturn or what have you.
LS: Mm-hmm. And sometimes that will just add additional information to a theme that was already showing up in the chart. But in other instances, it will actually provide a reason that wasn’t standing out yet for why this particular energy is important in this person’s life or expressing strongly in this person’s life.
CB: Right. Yeah, there’s one chart that I always think of, of like why is this person so successful in what they do, and he, I believe, was born very close to a Jupiter station. That Jupiter doesn’t look like it’s super prominent in the chart, but when you realize that it’s stationing, and the way it’s configured to other planets, you realize why he’s had some of the success that he’s had.
CB: It’s because that Jupiter is getting amped a little bit, and that station is indicating it’s more important than it should be otherwise.
CB: Okay, so that’s one of the things is we’ll look for stationary planets. That can be hard to look up. The easiest way to do it is to pull out an ephemeris and look at the month that the person was born in the ephemeris and just see within about a week if there are any planets that station retrograde or direct.
CB: I have my Hellenistic chart layout, so here’s the animated chart. And down in the bottom-right corner, I have a little box that lists retrogrades and stations.
LS: Most software, something you can click on is stations.
CB: Like this one. We can see–down in the bottom-right corner–Mercury is listed as retrograde. It says its last station was at 14 Cancer and that was 3.7 days ago. So if this was a birth chart, we would know that Mercury recently stationed within a week, so that would be a more important planet. Then we keep going through the list. We notice that Venus is also retrograde, and its next station is happening in 3.4 days. So that means Venus is actually getting ready to station direct, so that would be another important planet in this chart as well.
LS: Mm-hmm. I mean, I pay attention to either kind of stations because any station within about a week of birth is notable and is going to put an extra emphasis on that energy, but particularly, I pay attention to planets stationing direct even more so.
CB: Yeah. Planets stationing direct are definitely going to be a bit more powerful or useful. Planets stationing retrograde are not necessarily as good, but can still be useful and can still be notable in a person’s life.
CB: Okay, so stationary planets, notable patterns. So we’ve already kind of touched on this, but this is something that we’ll look at just because of chart patterns, which I’m hoping to do an episode on next month because I haven’t done an episode on the podcast yet. But that’s things like ‘stelliums’ that we’ve mentioned, if a person has three or four planets in the same sign. I always thought a stellium was four planets, but I realized a lot of people do three planets. Where do you fall on that?
LS: I think that’s a recurring argument that I never care to get into, but I think it’s three or more. Because the point, to me, anyway, isn’t a specific definition; it is that there’s an extra emphasis in that area of life.
LS: And to me, an extra emphasis is like three, four, five–anything above two. And even two could be a little bit more emphasis, but particularly, three or more, I would say.
CB: Yeah. Well, as somebody with a four-planet stellium, I guess I always looked at a ‘puny’, three-planet stellium as less impressive.
LS: Yeah, I guess so. And I mean, in terms of statistically where the planets astronomically are placed, it would be more rare to have four in a sign versus three in a sign.
CB: Yeah. Well, part of the issue is that the Sun and Mercury are always pretty close to each other, so it’s not that rare because Mercury only gets one sign away from the Sun.
CB: If the Sun is in one sign, there’s only, besides that sign, two other signs Mercury could be in. So two is pretty common or is pretty easy to find. Venus never gets more than two signs away from the Sun, so you will see sometimes things like that line up in terms of those three; the Sun, Mercury, and Venus can line up in the same sign.
CB: But four is definitely when it gets kind of rare. But certainly, just having three planets in the same sign is already putting an emphasis on that part of the chart.
LS: I agree.
CB: Okay. People can chime in on the three- or four-planet stellium debate.
CB: Okay, stelliums. That’s not the only planetary pattern. Other planetary patterns that people look at could be things like a Grand Cross.
LS: Or a ‘Grand Trine’, or a ‘T-square’, or even things as simple as most of the planets are in the top-half of the chart, things like that.
CB: Right. So ‘hemisphere emphasis’ if all the planets are in the top of the chart, or if all the planets are in the bottom part of the chart, if all the planets are on the left side of the chart or the right side of the chart.
CB: It’s hard not to have your eye drawn to things like that when you pull up a chart, especially if you have aspect lines drawn, which I usually do. Because if you’re paying attention to the aspect lines sometimes it just creates these patterns in the center of the chart.
LS: Right. And I never want to overemphasize that–I think sometimes they have been overemphasized–and I would definitely start with the more foundational rising sign, Ascendant ruler, Sun/Moon, by house placement, rulership, by sign, by aspect, all of those things. I would start with all of those first, but these are some of the ones that we might look at after that or consider after that.
CB: Yeah, because part of the problem is that these are not going to be in everybody’s chart.
CB: You want to have a system that you’re going to apply across the board to everyone’s chart, which is Sun/Moon/rising sign and other foundational stuff like that. But you want to have the ability to occasionally, if something pops up, and you see a planetary pattern, to be able to identify it and know how to start working with that.
CB: I do think you have to be careful because there’s a tendency in modern astrology to overemphasize certain planetary patterns, like ‘yods’, and go way over the top in terms of thinking that it’s the most important thing, or that’s it’s the only thing you should focus on, and that’s definitely taking it a little bit too far.
LS: Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say as well because I know that’s the impression I got when I first got into astrology by reading some texts.
CB: Right. Okay, so I’ll return to that maybe next month when I do the planetary patterns episode.
CB: Aside from that, planets conjunct the degree of the angles is one of the ones that I put on. We already touched on this briefly in terms of really focusing on planets conjunct the degree of the Ascendant or in the 1st house, but the closer it is to the degree of the Ascendant. I would add to that that even though we use whole sign houses, we still pay attention to the exact degree of the Ascendant, the Midheaven, the Descendant, and the IC as being a very important sensitive point in the chart that can make the planets more active or busy or prominent in the person’s life.
CB: And so, you really want to pay attention to any ‘planets that are closely-conjunct the degrees of the angles’, I would say especially within 3 degrees; but maybe even wider than that, within 5 degrees could even be important.
LS: Yeah. And like we were talking about before, it’s kind of just extra-emphasizing the general nature of that particular planet or its general significations. Also, if a planet is in the 1st house at all, it’s going to automatically bring the topics of the houses it rules to the forefront of the life; and that’s another thing that that means, that planet placed in the 1st house. And that’s going to be even more so if it’s exactly conjunct the degree of the Ascendant or within a few degrees.
CB: Okay. So let’s say–I talked about that earlier–Mars if it’s conjunct the degree of the Ascendant, then Mars might be more prominent in the person’s personality. So they might be more, best-case scenario, more positively, they could be more outgoing; they could be more athletic or more forthright in their style of presenting or communicating. Mars, also, if it’s not being channeled as well, they could be more aggressive or acerbic. What are other Mars…
CB: Prone to conflict or creating strife.
LS: Adversarial, that’s a good one.
CB: Adversarial, okay. So that’s an example, but we could take that through all the houses. Let’s say Mars is conjunct the degree of the Midheaven. Some of the same significations of Mars could come through in terms of the person’s career, or profession, or public profile.
CB: What are some examples of that?
LS: So the person, best-case scenario, might be a very assertive leader if Mars is in the 10th, and it’s a decent Mars. So they can take singular action.
CB: Right, decisive.
LS: Yeah. And then less-good, they might be prone to conflict with their superiors, their supervisors, if they have one, or just conflict in the workplace in general.
CB: Yeah. On the Descendant, on the negative side, if it works out in a challenging way, it could be conflict or strife in the context of partnerships. Alternatively, it could be some of those other significations you were talking about in the context of career, like the ability to be decisive or putting a lot of energy into relationships for some reason, or in some specific context.
LS: Mm-hmm. Or having a very decisive or initiating spouse or something.
CB: Yeah, like you and your spouse are both into mixed martial arts, and you regularly spar with each other or something like that.
CB: Or let’s say Mars is on the IC, the degree of the IC.
LS: Right. So the problems with that could be conflict within the family, particularly when growing up with parents or something like that. I guess the positives would be a very active family life. Maybe you did a lot of activities with your family, or your home life is something where you put a lot of your life energy into.
CB: Sure. And then, also, I think of the 4th as being the ‘hidden place’ and just the ability to do things in private. Yeah, so somehow getting some of that martial energy out in terms of the home and living situation, or the ability to act decisively behind the scenes, let’s say, as a positive manifestation of Mars conjunct the IC.
CB: So the point there is just in all of those instances, we’re just talking about the archetype of Mars manifesting itself more prominently if it’s conjunct the degree of one of those angles. And then that gets modified in different ways depending on what whole sign house it’s placed in, since the degree of the Midheaven and the IC can float anywhere in the top- or bottom-half of the chart and can import those significations into different houses.
CB: But anyway, that applies to other planets. Venus could be conjunct one of the degrees of the angles, so that’s going to make Venus more prominent in the chart; Saturn could be conjunct one of the degrees of the angles. So this is important because it’s one of those things that’s going to mark the life in general, where that planet is going to become more prominent in the life overall in some way.
LS: Right. It’s kind of like the stationary planets, not everyone is going to have that in their chart. But if they do, then it’s something that will stand out in the birth chart overall.
CB: Yeah. It’s one of the things that your eye is going to be drawn to immediately, at least for me, in terms of what I’m prioritizing. Since we’re prioritizing, we know that planets conjunct the degrees of the angles should be prioritized. Because their archetype is going to be more prominent and more of a dominant theme in a native’s life in general, we know to prioritize that if we see it in a chart.
CB: Okay, so moving on to the next thing, besides planets conjunct the degrees of the angles, I put ‘elemental’ or ‘modality’ emphasis. This is something modern astrologers emphasize a lot, and I think it’s still definitely relevant. It’s something that’s shown by default. There’s a little bar or graph for it in Astro.com charts where it shows if you have an emphasis of planets in a certain element–like, let’s say, earth, air, fire, or water signs–or if you have an emphasis of planets in a certain modality, such as cardinal, fixed, or mutable signs.
LS: Yeah. And that’s something that I think sometimes gets overemphasized when people are first learning astrology, or at least from my vantage point now. I feel like when I was first learning things, I thought that was way more important early on than I do now. But that said, I’ve kind of come back to it to some degree on some middle-ground because it does still show how people will go about things.
So for instance, with the modality, is it easy for them to initiate things in their life, which would be cardinal; or is it easy for them to stabilize things and keep things going for a long time, which is fixed; or is it easy for them to do lots of things at once and they feel bad about that and that’s mutable. And that’s actually something that comes up a decent bit in consultations if people don’t feel like they should be doing it that way but that is actually strong in their chart. So that’s the modality piece.
CB: Yeah, or the elemental piece I talked about on an episode just a few months ago with Darby Costello where we did a whole episode on the four elements. What’s an example?
LS: Like lots of things in water signs.
CB: Right. So let’s say you have a big Grand Trine in your chart, and you have all planets in water signs. When you put water into a container, it tends to just adapt to whatever the shape of the container is. And so, people with lots of water placements might be very adaptive, which can be a positive thing in terms of adapting to other people around them; but perhaps when taken to an extreme, it can indicate people that are too passive. And therefore, when they should push back against other people in their life, they’re going with the flow and they don’t do it, or they have a harder time doing that.
LS: Right. It can also say other things, like if someone is particularly impressionistic in how they communicate if their Mercury and lots of other things are in water signs, for instance. I was reminded of that recently and you’re expecting something else. It’s just about how different people go about things in their lives.
CB: Yeah. So that can sometimes be in a purely psychological context but it can have other important ramifications.
CB: So elemental emphasis can be something certainly that you would pay attention to. That’s not going to apply to everybody. Most people are going to have some distribution just because of how planets work out, but sometimes you’ll have certain charts, especially if there’s a stellium, or if there’s a Grand Trine, or some of those other planetary patterns. One of the things that those planetary patterns are marking for you, or that you’re supposed to realize when you see one is it’s making it so that there’s an elemental or a modality emphasis.
LS: Mm-hmm. And that can matter also in terms of what does this person care about in their lives. If it’s a client consultation, for instance, and they have a bunch of earth signs, or even their Sun and Moon are in the earth signs, that would be enough. Does this person care most about actually making something real or manifest in the world, or do they care more about their inner lives? And that can actually make the difference even if it’s not an overwhelming emphasis on one element.
CB: Right. But even if we see some of these things, like an elemental emphasis, sometimes that’s interpreted as a deficiency in the person’s life that can sometimes get balanced out by the type of people that they attract into their life, or the other type of people that they’ll just tend to run into or form relationships. Occasionally, they can import that element or that modality into their life through other people, which then sort of balances it out in different ways.
LS: Yeah. And I think that it’s good to not get too caught up in, “Am I missing an element?” or things like that because that doesn’t usually stand out to me anyway as particularly important. It’s more about who are you, and how you go about your life, and what are the things you care about the most.
CB: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing or something where you have to balance it out. It can just be an indicator for you, as an astrologer, about themes that are going to be more dominant when you’re interpreting this chart.
CB: Okay, so emphasis. Let’s see–close aspects. One of the other things I’ll look for myself is really ‘close aspects’. I’ll look for applying aspects, and I’ll also tend to especially emphasize hard aspects–which are the conjunction, the square, and the opposition–as being ones that are going to pop out and are going to be indicating more tangible, stark themes in the life, for better or worse.
LS: Mm-hmm. Because if things are in aspect by whole sign that still matters, but it’s just going to be a much, much stronger theme or topic in that person’s life, for better or worse, if it’s by degree.
CB: Yeah, especially I would say within 3 degrees. I think 3 degrees–especially if it’s applying, especially if it’s within the same sign–is going to be an important or a dominant aspect, especially if it’s a hard aspect, such as a square, a conjunction, or an opposition. But even if it’s within 3 degrees and it’s a trine–or to a lesser extent, a sextile–then that’s still going to be important. In certain contexts, especially a trine with a benefic, it can be very positive and very supportive; especially if that benefic is Jupiter in a day chart or Venus in a night chart.
LS: Right. So these are just more qualitative distinctions as to what’s going to be stronger themes in that person’s life.
CB: Right. Okay, so those are most of the main things that we would look at and emphasize. And so, this was originally what seemed like kind of a short list in terms of the things that we prioritized, but that took us like an hour to talk about. Let’s review it really quickly and then move on to the other things that we have written down here, which include ‘timing’ and things like that.
CB: Okay, so, first things first, looking at the Ascendant, the rising sign, and looking at the Big 3, which are the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant.
CB: So that’s your starting point and the first thing you should look at in any chart is the Big 3: the luminaries, the Ascendant. Then look at the sect of the chart. Is it a day chart or a night chart? Because that tells you which luminary to emphasize or to focus on, the Sun or the Moon: Sun in a day chart; Moon in a night chart.
Next, we would look at the ruler of the Ascendant and what house it’s placed in, what sign it’s placed in, and what aspects it has to it. And the house placement of the ruler of the Ascendant is indicating a part of the life that the native may focus their attention on more than others.
CB: After the Sun, Moon, and rising, we might pay attention to planets in the 1st house or conjunct the degree of the Ascendant. You could really skip and at this point go to the one that we put later, basically, any planets that are angular or closely-conjunct the degree of the angles, which is not going to happen in everyone’s chart. But if you do see a planet closely-conjunct the degree of the angle, you know it’s going to be more prominent as a dominant theme overall in the person’s life.
CB: Next, using sect, identify the most positive planet in the chart–and that’s going to be Jupiter in a day chart or Venus in a night chart–what house it’s placed in, what sign it’s placed in, and what aspects it has with other planets. Because it’s not only going to be able to help and indicate positive things in the house that’s placed in, in the area of life that that’s associated with, but it’s also going to help any other planets it’s aspecting in the chart to affirm and strengthen them.
Next, you want to look at the house placement according to sect of the most challenging planet in the chart–which is Saturn in a night chart or Mars in a day chart–and the house placement, indicating an area of greater challenge or difficulty. But also, look at aspects that that planet makes to other planets in the chart–especially conjunctions, squares, or oppositions–because it could potentially indicate challenges with those planets that it’s aspecting as well.
CB: After that, stationary planets, any planets that station retrograde or direct within a week of when the person was born as putting an exclamation mark next to that planet. Next, notable chart patterns, such as a stellium, a T-square–other names, like Grand Cross, Grand Trine.
LS: Hemispheric emphasis.
CB: Hemispheric emphasis. So planets all on one side of the chart for some reason. I’ll do a full episode on that next month. After that, elemental or a modality emphasis, then close aspects, and especially focus on applying aspects and hard aspects. Although if they’ve got very close, applying trines that can be important as well–or sextiles to a lesser extent.
CB: And that’s basically it, right?
LS: Yeah, that’s the big rundown of all of the core pieces that we would first look at in a chart, which sounds a lot longer than it actually takes. When you’re actually accustomed to looking at all of these things that can go by pretty quickly when you just glance at each one in turn.
CB: All right, let’s transition into looking at some random charts. So I’m just going to use Solar Fire. I just jumped back several years. And we’ll jump around and look at whatever random chart it generates, and we’ll treat that as if it was a birth chart for an actual person.
LS: Sounds good.
CB: All right, so I jumped back randomly several years and here’s a chart. Let’s describe it for the audio people, audio listeners, so the chart has 2 degrees of Scorpio rising. So the first thing we’re drawn to is the rising sign, which is in Scorpio, and I notice right away, or one of the things my eye is drawn to is that Jupiter is right there conjunct the degree of the Ascendant at 9 degrees of Scorpio.
CB: So it’s about 7 degrees off, but it’s still in the rising sign. And it’s pretty closely-conjunct the degree of the Ascendant because we know any time a planet is just below the Ascendant like that it’s getting ready to rise over the eastern horizon. So that Jupiter is therefore more prominent in the person’s life, in the person’s chart, more notable because it’s a day chart, so it’s also the most positive planet in the chart.
LS: Right. Then we see that the Sun–since it is a day chart–is above the horizon; it is placed in Cancer in the 9th whole sign house.
LS: So that does make the topics of the 9th house more important in this person’s life.
CB: Yeah. So 9th house topics, like religion and philosophy, and travel and foreign places.
CB: We see that the Moon, the other luminary, is located in Gemini in the 8th whole sign house. So there’s an interesting emphasis then right away just in terms of two of our placements are in water signs, and one of them is an air sign. So the Sun is in a water sign, the Ascendant’s in a water sign, and the Moon is in an air sign; so we’ve got more of a ‘water and air’ vibe going on so far here.
LS: Mm-hmm. Something else that makes me notice is that the 9th house is kind of doubly important because the Sun is placed in it and the Moon is ruling it. So both luminaries are connected to the 9th house.
CB: Okay. And I guess this brings up a point that’s probably relevant just in terms of angular planets because we’ve focused on planets in terms of angularity by degree and planets closely-conjunct angles by degree.
CB: But really, for me, also planets that are in angular signs are important, especially the 1st whole sign house, the 10th whole sign house, the 7th whole sign house, and the 4th whole sign house are going to be more important. Because the other ones that I’m noticing here that are prominent are Mars and Saturn.
CB: So the degree of the Midheaven is at 8 degrees of Leo, and we see Saturn conjunct the degree of the Midheaven at 9 degrees of Leo, and Mars almost conjunct the degree of the Midheaven at 12 degrees of Leo, so those two are going to be prominent. Having both of the malefics in the 10th whole sign house is going to be a lot more challenging; it may indicate some of the native’s greatest challenges and difficulties come in the area of career and reputation and overall life direction.
LS: Right. Although one of them is the Ascendant ruler; Mars is ruling the Scorpio Ascendant. So it also means, in conjunction with that, that the area of career is a particularly important area in life, and an area or a topic that the person will be drawn to, even though there will also be challenges there.
CB: Right. And since it’s the ruler of the Ascendant, it’s possible that some of those challenges come from within, or that the native might accidentally create some of those challenges themselves rather than it necessarily always being something that comes from without or from circumstances.
CB: What are other things in terms of our rules here? So we’ve done the Big 3. We’ve done the angular planets. Technically, the outer planet, Neptune, is in an angular house. It’s in the 4th whole sign house, so that might be relevant in terms of the person’s parents, or home, or living situation. Although it’s not conjunct the degree of an angle, so I’m not as worried about it.
LS: Right. It looks like Mercury will station in about 9.9 days. So that’s a little outside a week, but kind of close. So there could be an extra emphasis on Mercury in this person’s life, which is placed in the 9th house.
CB: Okay, 9th house of…
LS: Higher education, religion and philosophy. Possibly astrology. Big-picture meaning.
CB: Yeah. And then this gets into more topical stuff, but then we notice that the ruler of the 10th house is the Sun, and it’s in the 9th house as well. So the ruler in the 10th house of careers is in the 9th house; so it’s bringing some career focus on the 9th house, in addition to the Sun being the sect light.
LS: Right. I mean, there’s a lot more you could go into with the rulerships, things that I always look at in conjunction with any of those planetary placements we’re talking about.
CB: Maybe this would be a good moment then to talk about the topical things.
CB: So one of the things on our list is that there are certain things that you should look for in every chart: like the Sun, Moon, and rising; like the ruler of the Ascendant; like angular planets, either ones that are conjunct to the degree of the angles or ones that are in angular signs. But in different types of consultations, when they’re coming to you for different things, or if you’re looking at a chart for a specific reason, there’s going to be certain parts of the chart that you’re going to focus on more depending on the topic of the consultation.
CB: So for example, if we’re talking about career, or the client is coming to you about career, or the question that you’re looking at in your own birth chart has to do with career, you’re going to focus more on the 10th house; and not just planets in the 10th house, but also, the planet that rules the sign on the 10th house and what the ruler of that sign is doing and where it’s located.
LS: Right. And so, for the topics, for instance, when I do consultations, there’s kind of a laundry list of things, most of which we’ve just talked about for the basic chart placements that I always go through no matter why they’re coming for a consultation, and I quickly write those down. And then I look at what is the topic that they’re coming to me for and look at both the natal placements related to that, as well as the timing surrounding that.
CB: Yeah. And we’ll get into timing in just a second, but definitely, in terms of natal placements, looking at the house that matches that topic and looking at the ruler of that house. In this instance, with our random chart, looking to Leo, which is the 10th whole sign house, and seeing that Mars and Saturn are there, that’s saying something about the quality of how the 10th house and career matters are going to go for that person.
CB: And then we’re looking at the planet that rules Leo, which is the Sun, and the fact that the Sun is located in the 9th house of travel, and religion, and philosophy, and education; indicating that something about the focus of the career gets brought into the 9th house topics.
LS: Right. And then in this particular example, you might think things like–if you haven’t started talking to the person yet–the area of career is important because the Ascendant ruler is placed there. Mars is ruling the Ascendant and placed in the 10th house, it’s with Saturn. So there’s potential frustrations there, but it’s also an area where they’re putting a lot of effort into that.
And then there’s some opportunity for it still to go better because the ruler is the Sun placed in the 9th house and applying by trine to that Jupiter in the 1st. So there’s actually some nice counteraction here where the initial look at the 10th house is a little bit more problematic but then the ruler is a little bit better.
CB: Right. So you really have to try to balance out placements in the house that you’re looking at, but also, what the condition of the ruler of the house is when you’re looking at specific topics.
CB: So if you wanted to study relationships, you’d look at the 7th house, planets in the 7th house, and what the ruler of the 7th house is doing. If you wanted to study friends, you would look at the 11th house, planets in the 11th house, and what the ruler of the 11th is doing.
CB: So sometimes newer students of astrology get tripped up on this: if they have an empty house, they think there’s nothing going on in that part of their chart, but that’s not necessarily true. You have to look and see what the ruler of that house is doing and that will tell you about the topic of that house.
LS: Yes, as well as potentially the general significations of a planet, if there is a planet that generally signifies the topic, like Venus for relationships, even if it’s not specifically ruling the 7th. You might look at that in addition to the house ruler, for instance.
CB: Okay. Let’s randomly generate some other charts really quickly and just jump through them. So I will back up again by a bunch of years and then stop. And I’ll animate the chart and move it by a few hours just to keep us on our toes. I don’t know if I want to do that one. All right, how about this?
LS: Sure. That’s a nice one.
CB: Let me make sure it’s on the screen. Yes, it is. So this is a chart with 12 degrees of Taurus rising. Right away, we see that Venus is in Taurus at 18 degrees of Taurus in the 1st whole sign house, and getting pretty closely-conjunct the degree of the Ascendant.
CB: So the ruler of the Ascendant is Venus, and it is in the 1st house. This is also a night chart, since the Sun is down there in the 3rd house, so we know that Venus is the most positive planet in the chart.
LS: Right. So Venus placed in its own sign, as the Ascendant ruler, it’s not directing your attention or this person’s life to another area. Instead, it’s kind of giving a more solid foundation to the chart overall when the Ascendant ruler is actually placed in its own sign in the 1st house. It can also be someone who can be particularly effective in self-directed action if the Ascendant ruler is in its own sign in the 1st house.
CB: Yeah. And just in general, Venus, and Venus-related themes, and the archetype of Venus are going to be more prominent in this person’s life.
CB: Because the 1st house is the body and the mind, in some way, it might exude Venus in some way. Sometimes Venus conjunct the degree of the Ascendant or in the 1st house can be people that come off as particularly attractive or appealing, or magnetic in terms of their personality in some way.
LS: Mm-hmm. And they’re usually better-than-average at bringing people together doing unifying-types of activities because a signification of Venus is unity; so diplomatic, usually.
CB: Yeah, or artistic pursuits, or other things like that.
CB: Let’s see, what else is going on in this chart? So Venus is obviously our focal point, since that’s right on the Ascendant; it’s the ruler of the Ascendant and it’s the most positive planet.
LS: Mm-hmm. This is directing my attention towards the 6th house matters because the other benefic is in the 6th house, and Venus is ruling the 6th house. And so, Venus being somewhat near the Ascendant degree as well, basically, there’s some positive things going on with regard to 6th house topics.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s true, but it might be getting us far afield with the rulers of the houses in terms of just focusing on our basic steps. So luminaries–it’s a night chart, so we’re going to focus more on the Moon.
CB: So the Moon in Virgo might be more of a dominant factor in terms of this person’s personality, which they might not know otherwise because their Sun is in Cancer.
CB: But since this is a night chart that might not be as dominant personality-wise for them as their Moon in Virgo. So this might be a person who doesn’t necessarily resonate as much with their Sun sign when they first heard about it, but later on, they might resonate more with their Moon sign once they hear about it.
LS: Right. Agreed. The Moon is also placed in the 5th house, so 5th house topics could be focal to the person’s life, such as children, artistic pursuits. I mean, that actually kind of doubles-up some potential for artistic pursuits with Venus being a general significator of such things in the 1st house and ruling the 1st house, and then the Moon being in the 5th house because that’s a signification that can go both ways there.
CB: Right. In terms of other angular planets, the degree of the Midheaven is at 24 Capricorn. So it’s pretty close to this Uranus-Neptune conjunction at 20 Capricorn, and it’s making those two outer planets more prominent in the person’s life.
CB: With Uranus conjunct the degree of the MC, it can be something unique about the person’s career. It could be something that is unexpected in terms of the person’s career developing rapidly or going in an unexpected direction at some point in life.
CB: Neptune conjunct the degree of the MC can create sometimes a lack of clarity surrounding the person’s career, which can be sometimes challenging in terms of nailing down exactly what the person wants to do or where they want to go. And since these are both happening in the 9th whole sign house, it’s also blending in 9th house topics. So it may be that this is tied into the person’s philosophy or religious views, and somehow that’s part of what’s creating a lack of clarity.
LS: Right, or something that involves intangibles. I could see at least that piece going along with someone doing astrology, for instance, because astrology traditionally goes in the 9th house. And Uranus is a kind of unusual pursuit, and Neptune can involve intangibles or things that you can’t see.
CB: Mm-hmm. So all of this is also relevant and tied in closely because the other angular planet in this chart is Mercury, which is down there conjunct the degree of the IC, with the IC at 24 degrees of Cancer and Mercury at 26 Cancer. So Mercury is also opposing Uranus and opposing Neptune.
CB: So this is bringing in themes especially in terms of how the person communicates, and is making Mercury and the idea of communication more prominent in the life, in addition to that angular Venus.
LS: Right. And you would definitely think ‘communication’ with this chart, or I would anyway, because the Moon, which is the sect light at night, is ruling the 3rd house as well. The Sun, the other luminary, is placed in the 3rd house and communication can be a topic of the 3rd house amongst some other topics. And then Mercury in the 3rd house, very angular on the IC, is also the ruler of the sect light; the ruler of the Moon. So lots of communication things from different angles here.
CB: Right. All right, so we’ve already focused on Venus being the most positive planet and how it’s right on the degree of the Ascendant. Since it’s a night chart, I would also have a question about where some of the greatest challenges in this person’s life are, and I would zoom in on that Saturn in Pisces in the 11th house because this is a night chart; so in a night chart, Saturn is going to tend to be more difficult. And since it’s in the 11th house of friends and groups, I would tend to think that this person might struggle a little bit more with friends and groups and social activities for some reason.
LS: Yeah, definitely. Agreed. That’s pretty common for Saturn in a night chart being the strongest area of challenge. This actually also has a really tight Mars-Saturn opposition here.
CB: Right. So that’s one of the closest aspects in the chart because Mars is at 1 degree of Virgo and Saturn is at 0 degrees of Pisces, so they’re within about a degree of an opposition.
LS: Right. So it might emphasize that even more, that particular area of challenge.
CB: All right, is that good for this chart?
LS: Yeah, I think so.
CB: Okay. Because we’re just doing very quick, thumbnail sketches basically at this point in terms of looking at these charts and what some of the most prominent or dominant things are that we notice right off the bat.
CB: All right, so let’s animate another one.
LS: Do one more.
CB: So I’m going to push it far into the future. And then I’m also going to animate the hours, get a different rising sign. Did that come up with an interesting chart?
LS: Let’s see. It could be okay.
CB: Okay. So what we ended up with by random chart generator is a chart that has 15 degrees of Virgo rising, and we see right away Jupiter is conjunct the degree of the Ascendant at 16 degrees of Virgo. There’s a bunch of other angular planets. Another one of the things I see–if we try to focus on our initial placements–are planets conjunct the degree of the Ascendant, and the Ascendant jumps out first.
CB: The other thing we look at are the luminaries. The Sun is up there in Cancer in the 11th whole sign house conjunct Venus. And this is a day chart, so the Sun is going to be the dominant luminary. And then we see the other luminary, the Moon, which is down there in Pisces in the 7th house conjunct Neptune, sort of close to the Descendant at 15 degrees of Pisces.
CB: The other thing that jumps out is the ruler of the Ascendant, because it has Virgo rising, Mercury is the ruler of the Ascendant; and it’s up there in the 10th house in its own sign, in the 10th whole sign house. It’s not exactly conjunct the degree of the Midheaven, which is at 13 Gemini, but it’s pretty close.
And this brings in another thing for me, which is sometimes seeing ‘planets that are dignified or well-positioned’ in a chart is definitely something that catches my eye. If I see a planet ‘in its own sign’, or ‘in its exaltation’, or even to a lesser extent, a planet that’s ‘in a mutual reception’ with another planet, those would definitely be parts of the chart that I’ll tend to consider to be either strengths or at the very least mitigations if they have challenging aspects.
LS: Definitely. Yeah, those stand out to me as well as areas that probably will work particularly effectively in that person’s life.
CB: Mm-hmm. So that’s showing me in this chart a career focus with the ruler of the Ascendant in the 10th again, and that it’s something that tends to go relatively well. There’s a little bit of challenges. First thing is there’s a ton of angular planets in this chart.
CB: So it’s not just Jupiter that’s angular conjunct the degree of the Ascendant, it’s not just Mercury–which is in the 10th whole sign house and not far from the degree of the Midheaven–we’ve also got planets conjunct the Descendant, including the South Node, Neptune, and the Moon. Neptune being conjunct the degree of the Descendant can bring some nebulousness to the sphere of relationships.
LS: Right. Best-case scenario, that’s someone who is sort of ‘boundaryless’ in a positive way, like the partner is very spiritually-oriented, or the partner is very artistic, for instance. You can get with the Moon conjoining Neptune on the Descendant in Pisces, less-positively, it could be things like addiction issues or not seeing people clearly who you’re trying to partner with.
CB: Mm-hmm. Let’s see, and then Saturn is also angular. Saturn is conjunct the degree of the IC. So the IC is at 13 Sag, and Saturn is at 11 degrees of Sag.
CB: However, this is a day chart. So Saturn is not the most difficult malefic. It tends to be more constructive especially early in a person’s life, but even people with day charts still can tend to wrestle with Saturn, or there can be some major issues surrounding that. So because it’s in the 4th house, this is probably something that pertains to the parents, or the home life, or the early living situation and some sort of setbacks or obstacles or difficulties that the native would have encountered early on.
LS: Definitely. Yeah, and that one is actually almost as close as the Jupiter conjunct Ascendant. Jupiter conjunct Ascendant is within about a degree, but the Saturn conjunct the IC here is within just 2 degrees, so it’s also very angular. So that would put the emphasis even more on those potential, long-term struggles or efforts around home and family, which in a day chart can be more positive over time.
But it’s kind of like an area where they’re compelled to continue to put effort or continue to work on throughout their lives and hopefully get better at it in time. So maybe someone who didn’t feel like they had a strong or a warm family life growing up, but because of that kept working on that to really make that an area of focus as an adult.
CB: Sure. The only other thing I think we’ve left out at this point is since it’s a day chart, we want to look at the most challenging planet and that’s going to be Mars, which is retrograde down there in Scorpio, at 23 Scorpio, in the 3rd whole sign house.
CB: So it could bring some strife or challenges or difficulties to 3rd house topics, which can be things like siblings. So perhaps there was a problem or some strife involving siblings at some point in the person’s life.
CB: The 3rd house is also communication and short distance travel. So it could indicate somebody that communicates more aggressively or is more blunt in their speech. It could indicate some challenges when it comes to travel at some point. Although because Mars is in its own sign that acts as a sort of mitigating factor that helps it be a bit more constructive than it might be otherwise.
LS: Yeah, I think you’ve hit on a lot of the main points here. I mean, that Mercury is really focal just because it’s not only angular but it’s ruling the 1st house and the 10th house, and those are really particularly important even within the four angular houses. So yeah, communication is just a very strong feature of who this person is.
CB: Right. Obviously, we could keep jumping through different charts like that, and I think that’s useful, but we don’t want to sit here all day. There are a few other things we wanted to touch on.
CB: So we touched on how you can do different topical things, which is by looking at the house. If you know what topic you want to look at, you look at the house, the ruler of the house, and look at the general significator.
CB: But one of the other first things that we’ll sometimes look at is ‘timing’. If you’re not just looking at the chart itself and the basic placements to get a feel for the overall life, sometimes you’ll also want to know what’s going on right now in the person’s life, and therefore, there’s some timing techniques that you can bring into play right off the bat.
LS: Right. And these are things I always look at no matter what the person has said they want to particularly focus on because it kind of gives you a snapshot of where this person is.
CB: Yeah. So for me, one of the first things I’ll do is I’ll calculate in my head the person’s ‘annual profections’, and I’ll just see what age the person is and what house is activated and what sign is activated by annual profection in that year.
CB: And annual profections is super simple. We’ve done a few episodes on it in the past, including a workshop you and I did, I think, just last year.
CB: So just do a search for ‘annual profections’ and you’ll find episodes on that on my YouTube channel or on the podcast website. But basically, you just start with the rising sign, and whatever sign that is, that sign is activated for the first year of the person’s life. Then once that first year is up, and they come to their first birthday, one year after they were born, it then jumps downwards to the next sign in zodiacal order.
So the sign after the rising sign, that sign then becomes activated for the next year of the person’s life. Then you jump, once that year is over, to the next sign, to the third sign after that, or the 3rd whole sign house, and then that sign is activated for the year. And you just keep jumping one sign per year for every year of the native’s life.
LS: Right. And what that’s going to do is show you a particular set of topics that might be more focal or more highlighted for that person this year of their life, from one birthday to the next, as well as tell you which transits to really focus on for that year.
CB: Right. So the primary thing is just seeing what whole sign house is activated in that year. If the person’s in a 7th house profection year, if the 7th house is activated, then something about relationships might be more important during that 12-month time span.
CB: If they’re in a 10th house profection year, then career might be more of a focal point. If they’re in an 11th house profection year, then friends might be more important for some reason that year, so focus on what house is activated by profection. Next, you’d probably want to focus on if there are planets in that house; those are going to become activated.
CB: And then, finally, look at the ruler of that sign, and what house it’s located in in the chart, and what that planet is doing, and then that planet is going to become important that year as well.
LS: Right. So it’s going to activate whatever natal configuration there is, whether there are planets or not in that house, and either way, where the ruler is placed in connecting those two houses together.
CB: Right. So this brings us then to the next section. It was just something that in terms of timing I think most astrologers will do off the top of their head, which is they’ll look at ‘transits’ at this point and what are the major transits that are currently going on, or recently happened, or are coming up in the near future in this person’s chart.
LS: Right. So I’ll think about the medium-term transits in particular–I know you noted Jupiter and Saturn, for instance, where they’re transiting this year–and any other major things that are going on. So for instance, this year, with the Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto transit all in Capricorn, I would say, “Well, where is this happening in this person’s chart in terms of house topics, and is it hitting anything very closely by degree?” Those are the two things.
CB: Yeah. So my general tip is just look for slow-moving planetary transits in the current time span of this year, let’s say. And slow-moving transits tend to be outer planet transits from Jupiter and Saturn onwards because those tend to be in effect for a while.
CB: Jupiter transits are usually in effect for at least a year, Saturn transits are usually in effect for two to three years, and so on and so forth.
LS: Right. And also, in that transit area, I think I mentioned this already, but the transits of whatever the profected sign ruler is. So pay attention to those more.
CB: Yeah. So if Mercury is the ‘ruler of the year’, then Mercury retrogrades are going to be more important for you. If Venus is the ruler of the year, then Venus retrogrades are going to be more important for you, and so on and so forth.
CB: I’ll often pay attention to if the person has any proximity to a ‘Saturn return or major Saturn transits’; like angles to Saturn I’ll pay attention to that.
CB: What whole sign house is Saturn transiting through? And if I see that the person has, for example, Saturn in Aquarius, I know that they’re just starting their Saturn return right now because Saturn recently went back into Aquarius.
LS: Yeah, definitely major structural things like that, like life stage transits, which can either be a Saturn return or the mid-life transits: Saturn opposition, Uranus opposition, and so forth.
CB: When is the Uranus opposition exact usually?
LS: Usually around age 42-43, give or take. It can be, I think, 41 to 44 on the outer ends.
CB: Okay, so that’s one you’ll focus on. Saturn return always happens between usually the ages of 27 to 30. So you know if the person is in that age range that they’re in the Saturn return age range.
CB: For example, as I said, if Saturn is in Aquarius, then they’re just starting that right. But if their natal Saturn is in Capricorn, they’ve been going through their Saturn return for the past two to three years since late 2017, and they’re actually finishing that up now.
CB: So if it was a client that’s something you might want to talk to them about, and talk to them about what house Saturn was in natally, and how those topics have been coming up for them over the past few years.
LS: Yeah, those are definitely big ones. But also, say, regardless of age, if Saturn is transiting the 1st house that’s a major restructuring transit. Anything going through the 1st house really is quite important, and so, I might discuss that with them.
CB: Yeah. Or if you notice any outer planets that are hovering around especially the degrees of angles, then you know those are going to be important. If Saturn is going over the Ascendant, if Jupiter is going over the degree of the Midheaven, if Uranus is going over the degree of the Descendant, or if Neptune is going over the degree of the IC or whatever, those outer planet transits are going to be heightened at time and are going to be more of a focal point in the same way that, earlier, when we were looking at natal planets conjunct the degrees of angles. Those were also considered to be heightened focal points in the birth chart as a whole.
LS: Definitely. Agreed.
CB: Okay, so transits. The other thing that we might look at that we did an episode on last year was ‘the houses that eclipses are falling in’ currently as showing an emphasis on that house axis.
LS: Right, because that will bring important new beginnings and endings to topics that are reflected in those houses. And that’s not necessarily with each and every eclipse, but reliably so, within that series of two or three sets of eclipses in those two opposing signs or houses.
CB: Right. So sometimes an easy way to do that is just to look and see where the transiting nodes are and what houses the transiting nodes are moving through in the person’s chart; because usually when the Sun and Moon form a conjunction or an opposition within around 15 to 18 degrees of the nodes that’s also an eclipse.
CB: So you can pay attention to the transiting nodes and what houses those are moving through just as a way to identify what houses eclipses are taking place in. And my keywords for eclipses are there will be ‘great beginnings’ and ‘great endings’ in that area of life indicated by those pairs of houses where eclipses are taking place in that part of the person’s life.
CB: So if eclipses are happening in the 4th house, in the 10th house, right now, during that two-year period, then we know there’s going to be some great beginnings and great endings in terms of the home and living situation and in terms of the career and overall life direction; so 4th and 10th house.
CB: If eclipses are taking place in the 5th house and 11th house, it might be great beginnings and endings with respect to children and friends or groups, and so on and so forth.
LS: Yeah. And that can be good background information no matter what the person is coming to you for, but particularly so if they’re coming to you to talk about that topic because then you know there is actually going to be some movement going on in those areas of life.
CB: Right. Okay, so that’s good in terms of transiting eclipses. And what was the title of that episode? It’s like ‘Interpreting Eclipses in the Birth Chart’, or something like that.
LS: ‘In the Houses of the Chart’, or something like that.
CB: Yeah. But just do a search for that on The Astrology Podcast website or on our YouTube channel, and you’ll find that whole two-hour episode.
CB: Finally, you mentioned glancing at ‘secondary progressions’, and I think that’s a good one.
LS: Yeah. And that’s not something I spend much time on, but I do glance at it to see if there are any major things sticking out. And for me, things like any planets that are stationing by secondary progression I will pay attention to, which doesn’t happen very often. That’s why I say ‘glance’ at the progressions because they don’t move quickly, except for the Moon.
And that is a technique that is symbolically a day for a year in the ephemeris. So 40 days after you were born approximately are the progressed planets for your 40th year of life, for instance. And I think you did an episode on secondary progressions, right?
CB: Yeah. Me and Kelly Surtees did an episode on secondary progressions a few years ago, so you can find that on the podcast or on YouTube.
LS: Right. So I’ll glance at the stations, and then I’ll also glance to see if anyone is in their progressed balsamic or New Moon lunar phase because that really sticks out. It’s more of a general background thing; it’s not a specific thing. It’s more like are you in a time of endings or are you in a time of beginnings overall, and people can actually viscerally feel that and often get really bothered by it. And that’s why I look that one up, to be reassuring, like, “Yes, you are supposed to be in this stage of your life right now of endings,” or new beginnings respectively.
LS: And then, a little bit–but I don’t focus heavily on it–any progressed aspects to natal planets.
CB: Okay. I don’t use secondary progressions as much as I used to, but I’ve been going back to it more over the past few years, at least just glancing at if a secondary progressed planet is stationing retrograde or direct. That can be a very important turning point in the native’s life with respect to that planet.
CB: And yeah, if a person is having a secondary progressed New Moon then that’s usually a new beginning in the person’s life; a secondary progressed Full Moon can be a culmination of events in a person’s life.
LS: Yeah. It’s really the balsamic Moon I like to tell people about because inevitably they feel really stuck and like nothing is gaining traction. And it can be very reassuring to know that they’re actually supposed to be emptying out right now and not building new quite yet, but that that will be coming soon.
CB: And then, finally, the very last thing–and you had put this first in our outline but this gets really complicated–is ‘zodiacal releasing’ and looking at their zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Spirit, and Eros, and maybe fortune periods because that divides the person’s entire life up into chapters and subsections.
CB: So it’s pretty easy with that technique to get a sense for where the person is located in terms of their overall life narrative or overall life story with respect to career, relationships, or health and bodily matters.
LS: Mm-hmm. It’s kind of like a ‘you are here’ in a time map. All of astrology is, but I feel like zodiacal releasing is particularly. So it gives you a sense of where they are in life, and then you can kind of talk more specifically from there.
CB: Yeah. So we did a whole episode on that, that was like four-hours-long, on zodiacal releasing. So people can search for that on the podcast website or on the YouTube channel to see that episode. But generally speaking, we just look at the Level 1 periods because that’s indicating the different chapters in a person’s life if the life was a book, and you could divide it into different chapters and also identify what some of the most important chapters are in the person’s life.
LS: Right. And you would use that with any other natal or timing things with respect to either career in the birth chart, or relationships, if people were coming to you to talk about either or both of those topics, which are pretty common topics that people like to ask about.
CB: Right. Okay, so that’s the end of our outline. So that was pretty much what we’ll look at in terms of first steps in looking at a birth chart.
CB: So obviously, the early part of this was more just what we start looking at in a chart, and then the later part was getting more into timing, which is going to depend on, again, are you looking at the near future in the person’s life and what’s currently going on in their life, which is often what people want to talk about or what you might be interested in if you’re looking at their chart, but not always. So timing may or may not be relevant depending on the context of what you’re looking at.
LS: Yeah, and whether this is client consultation, or whether they just want to know about their birth chart as a whole, or whether they want to know about something that’s going on right now, etc.
CB: Yeah. So there may be certain timing techniques that might be more or less relevant in terms of timing, or more or less useful, depending on the context of the technique. And there’s also different natal techniques that are going to be more or less useful or relevant depending on what you’re trying to look for.
CB: Okay, so as we’re wrapping this up then and getting to the end of this, I guess one of the things that we’ve definitely learned or that’s been emphasized repeatedly is that when you’re looking at a chart the context matters. Who is this chart for and why are you looking at it? What questions are you trying to answer by looking at it?
LS: Mm-hmm. And that’s important in general, but I think it’s also important in terms of not everything that you look at is something you’re going to speak on depending on why you’re looking at it, or why you’re talking to the person, or why they have come to you, if they have come to you. So for instance, this might be a lot of good information for you in terms of just to get a sense of who is this person and what is their life like–or what is their life about or focused on–and then you can go to what their coming to you to talk about; and you might not talk about all the different things that you looked at in preparing.
CB: Yeah. I mean, one of the problems I sometimes have is a client might come to you wanting to talk about relationships, but then when you cast their chart, the career stuff is the most prominent part of their life or something like that, or that’s the main thing that your eye is drawn to. And maybe that’s because the career or something will become at some point in the person’s life the most important thing that they become known for or that becomes a dominant area or sector of their life at some point, but that may not be what they want to focus on right at that time.
LS: Right, or sometimes it comes up. People will ask, “Well, should you say everything you see in the chart?” and I don’t know that you should. I actually don’t think you should because that might not be what they’re asking about. And even though you can see a lot of things in someone’s personal life in a chart, you don’t necessarily need to bring all of it up. And you definitely can’t even address all of it, in fact, in a 75-minute consultation.
CB: Yeah, there’s often way more in a chart that you can see. One of the things that I think trips people up is it’s not all going to be relevant during all parts of your life. And one of the things I think especially younger astrologers get tripped up on is there may be placements in the birth chart that are indicating things that just haven’t happened yet in your life.
CB: So even if a delineation of a certain placement doesn’t resonate with you yet, or hasn’t been a major factor, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be relevant at some point in your life in the future; it just may not have been activated yet.
LS: Right. And that’s really tricky if you’re talking to young people in particular. If someone is older, usually a lot of things have happened at that point that reflect different placements in the chart, even if not everything.
CB: Right. Other times, some of these placements can be not consistent or recurring or permanent things, but instead, they can be one-time events, or they can indicate one major thing that will happen at some point in your life.
CB: Or maybe it happens a couple of times, but it’s not otherwise a consistent or–what’s another term for that happening all the time?
LS: Like a static or a constant kind of thing.
LS: And that’s why occasionally people will maybe not resonate with a particular interpretation or something of a placement. I mean, sometimes it’s simply not about them, for instance, versus something else in their life. But sometimes it’s also, like you said, just a one-off thing, so it’s not something that’s happening all the time.
CB: Right, or it could indicate other people in the person’s life. Sometimes planets in the 4th house are describing things about their parents, or planets in the 5th can be describing something about the life of your children. Planets in the 7th can be describing something about your spouse.
CB: Planets in the 11th can be describing something about your friends. So sometimes you have to be aware that not all of these placements are describing things about you directly–or even your personality or something like that–but sometimes they can be describing other people in your life that may or may not be important to you at some point in time.
LS: Yes. Agreed. Although that can be tricky sometimes if there’s an overlap, say, if Mars is in your 1st, but it’s ruling your 7th or something. So it can, in fact, apply to you and other people in your life; like you and your partner, for instance.
CB: Right. And I talked about this last month–and this has been a recurring theme throughout the podcast because it’s always something that frustrates me in delineating charts–is people tend to normalize and take for granted things in their life, either positive things or negative things. If there’s something positive in their life, they assume it’s positive like that for everybody; or if there’s something negative, sometimes they can tend to normalize it and just assume everybody has problems like that in that part of their life.
CB: That’s not necessarily true, but you don’t always realize that unless you’ve looked at lots of people’s lives, and you realize how much variation there is in terms of the different types of experiences or the spectrum of experiences that people can have in that area of their life.
CB: So that can be something challenging also in terms of understanding your own chart and what certain placements are indicating. You kind of have to step outside of yourself and try to look at it objectively. To some extent, I think that the problem with astrology is that it’s showing things more objectively than you might be used to looking at in your life, and sometimes that can be weird or not as natural as you would think that it should be.
LS: Mm-hmm. And that is sometimes the value of talking through your chart with an astrologer. It’s not just that if you don’t know the placements–maybe you understand what the placements are supposed to mean–but still, you talk to someone who’s maybe looked at lots and lots of charts and talked with different people about their charts compared to just a few charts.
CB: Yeah. So I talked about that a little bit earlier this month in the episode with Diana Rose Harper, so that would be a good one for people to check out for more on that topic. And then, also, the earlier discussion with Benjamin Dykes, very early in the podcast history, on subjective versus objective experience where we also dived into that issue a little bit more as well.
CB: All right, so I think we’re getting towards the end of this here and we’re pretty much done. Were we able to outline a system? We spent a long time unpacking some of the first ones, so I hope that didn’t get lost a bit. I was glad that we eventually summarized our main steps. Are there any major steps or things that we left out?
LS: Well, I don’t think major ones. I mean, hopefully, we don’t think of one later, but there’s always middle-tier things that you might do. But I think those were all the real beginning, core things, the foundational things that we both look at.
CB: Okay. And I’m sure people in the comments will leave different things that they look at. Like I said, we tried to put a warning at the beginning of this or a proviso that there’s going to be different schools of astrology or different traditions of astrology that are going to approach things differently, that may emphasize different things or not use certain techniques that we use, or they may emphasize or introduce techniques that we haven’t talked about here, so there’s going to be variation. But I think if people follow these steps, it should give you a pretty good approach to interpreting charts, and interpreting not just your own chart, but looking at other birth charts as well.
CB: All right, so where can people find out more information about this? What lectures do you have?
LS: I have a lecture on annual profections, the repetitions of annual profections. I also have one on Finding Joy and Meaning in the Birth Chart, which specifically focuses on those benefics, as well as some of the luminary placements and rulerships and some other stuff.
CB: And Saturn Return and Sect is a good one in terms of some of the sect stuff as well.
LS: Mm-hmm. For sure. And then I’ll have some electional stuff up soon.
CB: Okay, awesome. As for me, of course, there’s my book, which I mentioned earlier, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I introduce all the basics of all these techniques, and then go into the rulers of houses and looking at the benefics and malefics, as well as some more complicated techniques for looking at planetary condition, which is the bonification and maltreatment conditions; and then, finally, getting into detail with the timing techniques, like annual profections and zodiacal releasing.
CB: So you can find out more about that in my book, or you can get into even more depth in my course, which is the Hellenistic Astrology Course, which is at TheAstrologySchool.com.
CB: All right, I guess that’s it then for this episode. Thanks a lot for joining me for this today.
LS: Of course. Thanks for having me.
CB: Thank you. Thanks to everybody for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. Thanks to all the patrons who support our work here at the podcast, where I sort of alternate between doing interviews versus doing more workshop-style, instructional stuff like this. But it’s fun to alternate between the two, and I always try to bring a balance each month of talking about the historical or philosophical or different social things, but also, sometimes getting into more practical things as well.
LS: And techniques.
CB: Yeah, techniques or history and other things. All right, well, I guess that’s it for this episode. So thanks everyone for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.
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