The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 396, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guests Catherine Urban and Patrick Watson
Episode originally released on April 5, 2023
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: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released May 13th, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode I’m gonna be talking with astrologers Catherine Urban and Patrick Watson about calculating astrological charts by hand without the use of a computer or an app or a mobile device or any other things. Hey, welcome both of you.
CATHERINE URBAN: Hey.
PATRICK WATSON: Hey, thanks for having us.
CB: Yeah. All right, so this is a big topic, but we’re gonna have a nice little discussion here. And the purpose of this episode is not necessarily to teach people in detail how to calculate charts by hand, but we’re gonna have kind of like a preliminary discussion to that where we talk about the issue of calculating charts by hand, some of the things that are involved, some of the resources that you need in order to do that, and where you would want to start if you wanted to learn chart calculation. And then once you’ve listened to this discussion, I think everyone will be in a much better position both in terms of where to go to start calculating charts by hand, as well as having some appreciation for why you might want to consider doing that, or why it’s something that could be useful to each individual astrologer.
So part of the genesis of this discussion is Catherine and I were talking about this last summer ‘cause Catherine actually released a whole eight-hour video workshop on how to calculate charts by hand. And you released that, what, a couple of years ago, Catherine?
CU: Yeah, it was about two summers ago.
CB: Okay, awesome. And then, Patrick, you recently actually purchased Catherine’s workshop, went through it, learned how to calculate charts by hand using it, and then you successfully took an exam with the NCGR, the National Council for Geocosmic Research, where you had to do a chart calculation test with that. And you actually successfully passed the test yesterday, right?
PW: Yeah, I did. I got 99.4% correct. So, yeah, that’s correct. I took Catherine’s course and it was really, really helpful. I especially liked the premise or the title of the course—which is, Catherine?
CU: Why thank you. Yeah, it’s ‘Chart Calculations for the Apocalypse’.
PW: I like that. I mean, not that these scenarios are likely, but it is kind of nice to know that if you didn’t have access to all of the things that we rely on for a chart calculation that it is still possible to do astrology—and was for literally thousands of years prior to calculators and computers. So I thought the title was really, really funny and really cool. And the course is really easy to take. It doesn’t feel like you’re being lectured at. It feels like you’re studying with a close friend or studying with the cool, smart kid from class on how to do these calculations, so I really appreciated that.
CU: Aww, thank you.
PW: Oh, you’re welcome.
CB: Yeah, people should check that out on Catherine’s website, which is catherineurban.com. And I’ll put a link to it in the description below this video or on the podcast website for this episode. So let’s talk about that and let’s set the context. And Patrick, I know you wrote an article about your experiences recently, and I’ll also link to that, where you made some interesting points. One of which is that this is the first generation of astrologers right now, ever in history—that due to the relatively recent rise of personal computers, of the internet, and now of mobile phones and mobile chart-calculating apps—that don’t need to know how to calculate an astrological chart by hand in order to do astrology. And so, there’s a whole generation of astrologers who—because that’s no longer either a precursor or a barrier to entry—don’t necessarily know how to calculate a chart by hand at all or may not be familiar with that.
And it’s becoming more and more—the further and further we get away from that previous generation—something of an oddity, or has a unique quality at this point. If you do know how to calculate a chart by hand, you’re almost more rare at this point—at least in terms of younger astrologers—than people that don’t. And I guess that really started in the 1970s, ‘80s, and especially ‘90s when astrological chart-calculating software started to become more and more common. Astrologers would start—especially in the ‘90s and 2000s and 2010s—using often free chart calculation services and websites or eventually getting astrological software or apps, which just made the necessity of learning how to calculate charts completely not a thing anymore essentially, right?
CU: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of cool that you framed our generation in that way, Patrick, ‘cause I had never really thought of it like that before. I know that for many of our elders, many of our peers in our astrological community it was a prerequisite to practicing astrology; you had to learn how to calculate a chart by hand. There was no other way to practice astrology prior to the development of computer programs that do that for us today. And so, it kind of reminds me that we’ve gone through cassettes, we’ve gone through CDs, and we’ve gone through MP3s, and it’s like we’re going back to the records. It’s like we’re going back to analog. And there’s a quality, a benefit—that you wouldn’t otherwise get from just pressing a button—that you get from spending the time and calculating that chart out on paper.
CB: Yeah, what is that?
PW: Yeah, that’s a great analogy.
CB: What is that quality? ‘Cause it takes approximately—let’s give a range—maybe 15 to 30 minutes to calculate a chart by hand, let’s say, once you’ve got it down. What would your estimate be?
CU: I think that’s a great estimate. I remember hearing that William Lilly could do it in 15 minutes, like I think he documented that somewhere. Yeah, I mean, I’m ‘practiced’. I don’t do it everyday, but it takes me about 20 minutes to do a chart.
CB: Okay. So part of that—tying that in with what you said earlier—is that spending that 20 minutes just constructing the chart and calculating all the positions accurately and drawing the chart gives you a different orientation towards the chart from the start because then you’re familiar with every single placement in that chart intimately before you ever even attempt to start delineating the chart.
CU: Yeah, I think there’s something ritualistic about it, something that’s sort of spiritual in a way. The idea that math could be something spiritual—I know that’s something that a lot of ancient astrologers understood, but it really is. It’s like you’re setting up your altar almost, to me. You’re doing all this work to set it up so that you can divine these messages about this person’s life basically. So, for me, there’s something nerdy, but also spiritual about it.
PW: The math is weirdly meditative. It sort of almost—I mean, I would say replaces the function of a prep session, but you’re right. I mean, you intimately become very aware of the planetary placements because you had to go through the process of calculating exactly where they were. Through all the calculations that you go through to find out the Midheaven and the Ascendant or other intermediary angles, you sort of appreciate the importance of those things. You just don’t take them for granted as much as you do when you can just press a button. So there is some kind of undefinable quality of being more intimately aware on a more mathematical level or an underlying more fundamental level of planetary positions and placements that, yeah, is strangely meditative or ‘zen’ or something.
CB: I guess it’s just part that general human observation or tendency that we can observe in many different areas of society of sometimes when you have to work harder for something, you have a little bit greater appreciation for it; whereas sometimes if you don’t have to work as hard for something, if you grow up that way, you have a different orientation towards. For example, in our time, over the past six months, there have been a lot of discussions about ‘nepotism’ babies or children that are born into wealth vs. their parents that maybe had to strive for it, and how parents of wealthy children sometimes have a struggle over how to raise their kids and instill good values in them that they grew up with, even though they’re growing up in a radically different environment. Maybe it’s a similar sort of rough parallel there in some way.
PW: Right. I worked at a movie theater a couple of summers, and I earned maybe between $7 and $8 an hour. And I remember between shifts I decided I’d go and watch a movie, and so I paid for the drink and popcorn. After I’d done that I spent more money than it took a whole hour to earn. I remember that moment where I handed over that money, and I was like, “Wow, that was like a whole hour of my life gone just for this drink and some candy,” or whatever. So, yeah, I think that experience definitely makes you appreciate things more when you have to do things sort of the long, slow, hard way.
CU: Very Saturnian.
PW: That, with Saturn in my 2nd actually. Just thinking about it, that was 2007, so, yeah.
CB: Nice, of course. And what’s funny about that is also it creates a generational divide that’s been interesting for me to watch over the past two decades as I’ve come up in the astrological community. Because you do have that older generation of astrologers—like the Pluto in Leo generation that was born in the 1940s or 1950s—and when they started learning astrology in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you had to learn how to calculate charts by hand in order to do astrology. And so, many of them did and that was part of their process. And it was a somewhat difficult one, or it was a little bit of a challenge to do that versus seeing all these young kids essentially, or younger astrologers, coming up, the next generation, who don’t ever have to have that experience, or don’t do that.
And it’s been interesting to sometimes see the tension between the generations and sometimes the tendency for the older generations that had to do that saying, “Well, these younger generation astrologers are not as familiar with the astrology. They don’t know what the chart is actually based on astronomically,” or other things like that. And there’s almost occasionally—not usually, ‘cause I don’t want to overplay that—sometimes like a resentment of how easy the younger astrologers have it today compared to 30 or 40 years ago or what have you.
CU: Yeah, kids these days have it so easy.
CB: Right, exactly.
PW: “I had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow.” Sometimes you get a bit of that. Don’t want to, again, overgeneralize because another thing that I’ve detected from the older generation is just gratitude.
PW: When I’ve talked about this with my recent time-lapse videos and stuff, I’ve had some older astrologers post comments saying things like, “This gave me trauma. This reactivated my trauma.” Or people saying things like, “Never again. This brings back memories. Never again.” So I also see a lot of gratitude too from the older generation that this is something they no longer have to deal with. So, yeah, maybe there’s some grievance from some folks. There’s also just still a lot of gratitude from the people who remember the worth and cost of it. And I think that’s worth it for even us younger—and even younger than us—astrologers to kind of remember the real privilege we have in having astrological software and being able to do astrology with the ease and convenience that we now have.
CU: Completely. And I know, Patrick, you just took the NCGR level one, congratulations.
PW: Oh, thanks.
CU: I knew you were gonna ace it. But, yeah, even that exam, and even what I’m teaching in ‘Chart Calculations for the Apocalypse’, just calculating a natal chart alone—and I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit about that process—it does give you so much appreciation for the ancients who not only had to sit there—well, not even ancients. I guess people who are still practicing astrology today.
CB: I refer to them as ‘the ancients’ in general.
PW: Small ‘a’ versus large ‘A’.
CB: I’m sure that the Pluto in Leo astrologers would love that.
CU: Yeah, the ancients, the wise ones.
CU: But thinking about how you would calculate all of the different charts—the solar returns, the progressions, monthly returns, if you use that sort of thing—like calculating all these different charts and the patience and the rigor that was required to do that, yeah, I wouldn’t want to go back either.
CB: Yeah. Well, and that reminds me that in ancient times, in some of the Greek astrological texts, around the time of the Roman Empire and the time of Hellenistic astrology, one of the words that was used to refer to astrologers was mathematikoi, which means ‘mathematicians’. So you’ll sometimes see astrologers referred to as mathematicians, or you’ll see astrology referred to as ‘the mathematical art’ because it just literally involved so much math and so much calculation, not just of different charts, but also of different exotic timing techniques—like time-lord systems that involve a lot of math as well, or primary directions or secondary progressions or other things like that that also involve different calculations—and these people were doing this all by hand essentially without the aid of computers or calculators or anything like that.
PW: Unless they had access to the Antikythera Mechanism, but who knows exactly how widespread those were. You also get a real appreciation for the kind of shortcuts they found to determine other things. There’s so many, mathematically, ‘brute force’ techniques that were used to try to figure things out that would otherwise take tons of table to figure out the underlying equations or logarithms that would help speed things along. So, yeah, people—and astrologers especially—have been pretty clever, and you definitely get a sense of that when you do it for yourself.
CB: Yeah, ‘cause that’s the thing. Doing that enough, you realize pretty quickly nobody’s trying to make it harder on themselves than it has to be, and so astrologers will always use anything that they can—any shortcut they can—to make things easier. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, one of the things that came along—which I didn’t realize until somewhat recently—was calculators. Hand calculators were introduced in the 1960s but they really became more widespread in the 1970s, which is surprisingly recent. But that’s something a lot of astrologers then would have used and taken advantage of to speed up calculations. Yeah, you’ve got a nice calculator there, Patrick.
CB: You have one handy, Catherine? I see you looking around.
CU: I do, I do.
PW: I think the calculator came out when Uranus was in Virgo, which otherwise was kind of interesting because Uranus is about technological innovations, and Virgo’s the sign of Mercury: counting, math. Yeah, you have the emergence of this little machine that can do little calculations, so I thought that was kind of a cool Uranus in Virgo invention.
CU: Very cool.
CB: For sure. And so, maybe there were some tensions back then where some astrologers were like, “Calculator? What kind of lazy person would use that? Real astrologers calculate charts just by hand without a calculator or anything like that.”
CU: Or an abacus.
CB: Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. I imagine back in the day there was something similar. 2,000 years ago, there was a similar debate where they were like, “Only real astrologers know how to calculate a chart without an abacus,” or something like that. So there’s constantly these little internal debates maybe in the community on the small points of technology, and the progress of technology, and technology just being used to make things easier and make things more accurate as a constant. But the tension between what you gain from technological advances versus what you lose, I guess, is really the core of what we’re talking about here.
PW: That’s so funny you mention that ‘cause I made a little time-lapse video of myself doing a chart calculation by hand, and then one of my friends, Abigail—who’s @seebystarlight on Twitter—kind of mocked in a joking way and accused me of being lazy because I used a calculator to do the planetary positions for that particular video. And so, I kind of accepted that challenge and made a second one where I did not use any calculator at all, and it took me a bit longer. But, yeah, it can be done even without calculators.
CU: It can be done, but I still recommend using one.
PW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CU: The calculations in calculating a chart by hand are not difficult ones, there’s just a lot of little ones, and there’s a lot of places that you could mess up. So it’s really just practice and with practice you’ll be able to catch your mistakes. But I have no pride about—I use the calculator for every little calculation just because I don’t want to make a mistake and have to do the whole thing over.
PW: Oh, no, I must have triple-checked my calculations on the NCGR exam even though they were fairly simple. You’re right, it’s like a ‘Rube Goldberg’ machine of math, and each step has to be done correctly or else you’ll be off on something later down the line. So that’s something actually that kind of surprised me. I’ve been a fairly math-phobic person in my life, and so I was actually kind of pleasantly surprised that the math actually wasn’t quite that hard, it’s just a lot of it and somewhat tedious. But it’s not actually that hard, it’s just a lot of it and in order.
CB: Yeah, I think that point is really worth underlying for people that are new to this discussion. Using the methods that were developed and the basic tools and the basic books that were used in the 20th century to calculate charts—and what most astrologers over the past century mean by calculating a chart by hand—when you follow that method, the math is pretty simple and it’s pretty straightforward. It’s just a matter of understanding the process and doing it a few times to get the repetition down so that you know exactly what step you’re supposed to take when and why. But once you do that, the math itself is actually relatively simple and straightforward.
CU: Totally. Yeah, it’s just about having the formulas and knowing where to look to draw the information needed for the calculations. But, yeah, most of it’s basic addition and subtraction.
PW: Some set of adjustable decimal conversions if you don’t have those functions handy on your calculator. I definitely recommend having that. But, yeah, sometimes it can get a little tricky. But, yeah, mainly just addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.
CU: Yeah, yeah, and being able, like you said Patrick, to be able to convert the numbers into minutes and hours. Well, really seconds and minutes of a degree is really what it is, and working with a 24-hour clock. So as long as you can keep that in mind, it’s pretty easy.
CB: So that’s like grade school mathematical skills basically. I think somebody in grade school or in 5th grade maybe could do this in terms of the basic mathematical knowledge that’s necessary. I don’t have children, and both of you do. So you two are probably way better at judging what educational level a person might need to pull this off.
PW: I would probably say maybe middle school would be appropriate. Like 6th-7th grade, eighth grade maybe even. There’s like different elements of—I don’t know, that would be my guess. What would you say, Catherine?
CU: Yeah, probably 6th grade, 7th grade maybe. Yeah, I wish someone would have told me back in math class. You’re like, “Why do we need to learn all this?” And if someone would have been like, “So you can calculate a chart by hand,” I would have been like, “Dope. Let’s do this.”
PW: Well, that was my big realization when I was first reading astrology books; I was in geometry at the same time. And so, it was such a convergence of interests sort of happening at the same time. Like, “Oh, a trine is just 120° out of a triangle.” So, yeah, I would say 6th-7th grade probably would be the lowest grade levels that this math is like. It’s not like rocket science.
CB: And maybe some level of maturity also helps ‘cause usually at the end of most mathematical tests and calculations, you don’t then learn your fate and what’s gonna happen when you’re in your 40s in the future or something like that.
PW: Yeah, that’s more like 9th grade.
CU: Yeah, philosophy.
CU: Philosophy 101.
CB: All right, so one of the tensions that comes up as a result of this in the generational thing that’s been interesting to watch is that a lot of the astrological organizations in the late 20th century, there was a push to move towards professionalism and the professionalization of the field. And one of the ways that they pushed to do this was through setting up certification processes so that you could determine who was an astrologer versus who wasn’t—or at least attempting to draw those distinctions in order to be able to better reflect or set some sort of standards within the community, in order to basically have better interactions with the public by raising the standards within the field. So as part of that, in setting up different certification processes, many of the major astrological organizations at some level of their certification would require learning or knowing how to calculate a chart, and they would require you to take an exam demonstrating that you know how to calculate a chart.
So that’s been an interesting debate over the past decade or two because since that’s no longer become the barrier to entry for most astrologers, and since most astrologers learn how to do astrology using computers or apps at this point, there’s been debates within some of the organizations amongst their leadership about whether chart calculation should continue to be required in order to get their highest level certifications, or some of their certifications. I’m not sure which ones still require it and which ones have dropped it. Do either of you have any idea of the different orgs?
CU: Yeah, so NCGR has kept that portion of their certification process. ISAR—you have to have knowledge of some of the pieces of information required to calculate a chart; ISAR will ask you questions about astronomy. And so, I also want to say here that learning the chart calculations, as long as you have the formulas, you can do it, but it is sort of like a gateway into astronomy. Like you start questioning how this stuff matches up in relationship to the celestial sphere, etc. So on the ISAR Competency Exam, you will be asked questions about astronomy and also where you would derive some of the information necessary to calculate a chart, but you do not have to calculate a chart to pass the ISAR exam.
CB: Okay, so that’s the major organization that’s dropped the chart calculation requirement. And I know the AFA is debating it, but I think it’s still required by the American Federation of Astrologers.
PW: Uh, yeah.
CB: Or is it not?
PW: The last time I checked the AFAN site, it seemed like you still had to be able to do that. I don’t know about OPA. I don’t know about OPA, but I just took the ISAR Competency Exam and that didn’t require you to actually calculate the chart, you just had to be more aware of some of the astronomy. And then of course NCGR does. Although, to note, in the NCGR exam, they do not require you to calculate the entire chart, which was actually sort of a surprise. I didn’t know how much of the chart they would ask for, but they would provide chart details, and they would say, “Calculate the Ascendant, Midheaven, Mercury, and Venus.” So that’s all you would have to do for that chart, and then they’d come up with another chart example, and say, “Calculate the Ascendant, Descendant,” and a couple of other planets. So you didn’t actually have to do the full thing. They just wanted to see you do it for different quadrants of the globe.
CU: I think they might have changed that a little bit since I took ‘cause I know they adapted it so that you could take it online.
PW: Yeah, that’s what I did.
CU: Yeah, I seem to remember calculating like pieces and parts of some of them from different quadrants of the globe, but then there was like one full one that you had to do. So that’s kind of neat.
PW: Huh, so they must have dropped it.
PW: I lucked out.
CB: And I think one of the things with that is that with the rise of the internet and everything, and so many different free resources that are available and online webinars, the different organizations have been struggling to redefine themselves in the past decade or two, and struggling to maintain relevancy. And I think some of the internal debates that happened in some of the organizations is whether people will learn chart calculation because of the perceived difficulty and sometimes the aversion to math and doing complex mathematical formulas. So some of the organizations, part of their internal debate is whether they should keep those requirements if it’ll turn too many people away, if it’s too hard or something like that. So that could be a reason it’s been simplified a little bit by the NCGR.
CU: Yeah, and I can totally see both sides of the argument. I can totally see how if you’re an organization who is sort of creating a competency exam to uphold a certain level of caliber of astrological knowledge, I could understand why they might want to encourage students seeking that pathway of education to learn how to calculate a chart by hand ‘cause there are a lot of things that you develop going through that process. You develop an intimate connection with planetary speed, for example, and also just the different planetary motions, like diurnal motion, secondary motion. You can find zodiacal motion. You develop a deeper relationship with the planets basically. But I can also see why they might want to do away with that portion of the exam. If anything, the recent developments in the astrological community and in our field have shown us that you absolutely don’t need to be certified to be a good astrologer. That’s not a requirement. You don’t have to be certified to know what you’re talking about and to have extensive knowledge, theorem, and practice at all. So I can understand why they might consider doing away with the calculations in order to make certification more accessible.
CU: Yeah, and furthermore, I do think that certification, while not necessary, there’s certain things about it that appealed to me personally while I was going through it. I liked the structure. When I started learning astrology, it was harder to find that type of structured learning. So that was really the main draw of it for me that NCGR offered these four levels, and there was a lot of structure, and I could go through it piece-by-piece. But nowadays, there’s so many different options to learn astrology, you don’t have to go through that, but that was just the most immediately available program for me.
CB: Where did you learn chart calculation? Was it through the NCGR and their materials? What was your original motivation?
CU: So I started studying astrology in New York City, and there is a very strong NCGR local chapter there in the city. And so, I studied with a lot of teachers who were proponents of certification, and they encouraged their students to get certified. However, I didn’t actually go through it and learned the chart calculations till I moved back to Cleveland, and Julene Louis—she does the astronomy section in The Mountain Astrologer—she taught me in person.
CB: Nice. Awesome. Yeah, so that’s really important. Certification—that’s a whole topic and a whole debate, as you said, because there’s many self-taught astrologers. And that’s a debate in the community ‘cause there’s a lot of astrologers that have been self-taught that sometimes rise up to the highest levels in the field that are not certified or didn’t necessarily learn astrology from a specific school or organization of something like that. And so, there’s a continual debate within the community about whether certification is useful, whether it should be required, whether there should be distinctions between certified astrologers versus not, and this chart calculation thing just kind of gets integrated as a subset of that.
I think one of the reasons the certification debate comes up is that astrologers want the ability—as far as the public is concerned—to be able to distinguish between who’s actually a practicing astrologer, that’s legitimately learned this subject and has some ability to use it, and can represent astrologers well or relatively accurately versus, let’s say in the worst-case scenario, how would you identify somebody who is just faking it and doesn’t really know astrology at all, or isn’t using astrology, but is just ripping people off, or swindling people or something nefarious like that. How would you tell the difference? And I think maybe 40 years ago the really easy way was like, “Can somebody calculate a chart, or can they not?” That might have been an easy way to tell the difference between somebody that actually practices the subject if they put in that much work to learn how to do the basics of it versus somebody that hasn’t.
CU: Certainly. Yeah, I personally thought it was appealing to have a bunch of letters after my name. But anyways, yeah, I think when you are able to say, “I’m certified by NCGR (I’m certified by ISAR or AFAN),” that sends a certain message to other members of the community who would actually know what those letters after your name even entail. And to some extent, I think to a lesser extent, it signals to the broader public who might not be privy to all that astrology offers and all that it entails that, “Oh, there are certification programs that astrologers go through,” and it may lend a little bit of credibility to it. And that was something that I was also concerned about in 2015 when I started certification because astrology hadn’t had this big, recent boom that we’re all benefiting from, and has made our field so much more awesome. But, yeah, I was thinking I want people to take me seriously when I tell them I’m an astrologer. I want people to know that I’ve taken these exams and connected to organizations that uphold a certain standard of ethics as well.
CB: Right, that’s a really good point. Sometimes astrologers, when they go professional and they start seeing clients professionally, or they try to make it as an astrologer full-time, one of your challenges is standing out and what differentiates you as an astrologer from somebody else. And sometimes that differentiation can be if you’ve taken some certification course, or you’ve studied with some specific teacher or with some specific organization and you can say, “I’ve successfully passed this course and have achieved this certification,” that does make you stand out, and it does mark you as different than somebody that doesn’t have some specific lineage or school or certification that they can point to. So that’s part of the ongoing appeal of why some astrologers are still doing certification or seek certification today.
PW: Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean, we don’t see this kind of issue in other fields, do we? Part of this comes from the fact that astrology hasn’t been part of the university system for a long time. And so, that’s opened up this space where, yeah, we’re not sure exactly how to define what makes an astrologer versus someone not an astrologer or a good astrologer. And I think certification does serve the role of being kind of a barrier against fraudulence and scammers versus people who are doing this legitimately. On the other hand, that means that there’s a lot of people who fall in between where they’re not a scammer, they’re not a fraud, but they haven’t decided to formalize their status in the field. So, in that case, the general public is just having to sort of judge based on that person’s output whether this person seems to know what they’re talking about or not. And I think the general public is fairly good at doing that. There’s certain ways that astrologers sort of communicate whether they have reached a certain standard. You can kind of tell that from maybe their blogs, from their social media posts, or from how they present themselves and other sorts of intangibles.
CB: The quality of their memes.
PW: Yeah, the quality of their memes, naturally. And so, one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and get certified—even though I already have a long presence in the field of astrology—a lot of people have told me, “Patrick, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to. Why are you doing this?” And the reason why is because—not to get too doomsday here—I think that in the future there could be a time when astrologers are in a position where they have to explain themselves. ‘Cause this recent wave of popularity may reach its equal and opposite reaction of a backlash or reorganized or re-energized skeptical movement, and I think that we should be prepared. I mean, it’s good in any case to be prepared for these kinds of arguments or debates ‘cause they can happen from time to time at any time. But I think we’ve kind of had it good for a long time in astrology with the mainstreaming and popularization of this topic, but I think that we will need to be ready to be able to give a better defense of astrology on particular things, and to be able to present ourselves in a more unified and professionalized way.
‘Cause it’s been kind of great in the Neptune in Pisces environment, like you said, Catherine. It’s made our field so much more awesome and fun, and in some cases, wild and weird, but cool nonetheless. But with Saturn coming up to Neptune, that’s one of the things that sort of made me a little anxious about the potentials—and I could be over-blowing it. Probably over-blowing it. But I would still rather feel better about having maybe some of those letters by name and not just relying on the goodwill I’ve established, or the reputation I’ve established, and instead kind of having something that definitively proves that I was able to meet a certain standard of knowledge and that I’m accountable to a code of ethics.
CU: Yeah. Yeah, I share a similar concern, Patrick. I know we’ve talked about that with Saturn in Pisces. And growing up on that Neptune in Pisces that made things like astrology and tarot and crystals and yoga all super cool, I know that Saturn’s coming to town. Saturn wants to make sure that everyone who has their shingle hung, saying “I offer this and I offer that” knows what they’re talking about. Like I know there’s been a lot of criticism on gatekeeping, right? But I do think that there is a place for the elder and upholding a certain level of standards so that people can’t go around accidentally creating harm. ‘Cause that is something that can happen when people are newer to the field and they don’t have that bedside manner developed, and that’s something that organizations help foster for people. So I know ISAR, for example, they don’t just want to show that you know a lot about astrological theory, they want to teach you how to consult with clients. They have modules where you can go and have conversations with someone about their chart, and how to be gentle and how to be respectful and not—
PW: Yeah, I just did that.
CU: Oh, you did?
PW: Yeah, I just did that. I just did that whole training. It was like a weekend, several hours of consulting skills training basically. And even though I’ve been consulting for several years now, I still found it pretty useful and pretty helpful because it made me gain more awareness. I hadn’t really thought about my own consulting skills ‘cause I had mainly come to astrology from a place of just learning as much as I can about and practicing it as well as I can. And so, bedside manner—I think maybe all of us have some room to develop in our own way. And so, I thought that was really—
CB: Cutting down on swear words used in consultations and stuff like that?
PW: Actually I have clients who regularly request if they can swear, and I say, “Of course you can fucking swear.”
CB: Okay, nice. Yeah, maybe part of consulting skills is just keeping it down to a minimum or five swear words, not more than that. And only when exclaiming about upcoming transits that the client has going on.
PW: Right. You never want to open up someone’s solar return and go, “Shit.”
CB: You’re supposed to rephrase that like, “It looks like you have a challenging year coming up.”
CU: “Oh, this looks really rough.”
CB: Yeah. Or euphemisms—that could be a whole class actually in and of itself. There should be an advanced astrology class on euphemisms that astrologers have to use to delicately present—
PW: The three of us, let’s make it. Let’s do it.
PW: Let’s go.
CB: All right, that’ll be the next episode. All right, so we’re getting a whole thing about certification, which I hadn’t thought about. The role of astrology, interface in the future—definitely all that’s gonna become relevant. That’s something I’ve talked about as well over the past year or two of nervousness just ‘cause we saw such a huge influx of astrologers and the huge popularity of astrology. Somebody just sent me something a couple of days ago saying that Starbucks is gonna start integrating astrology to calculate your drink order or something like that; that you can put in your zodiac sign, and it’ll tell you what Starbucks drink best suits you. So obviously astrology has really hit a peak in popularity in terms of our current timeframe. And so, it’s natural that at some point probably we’ll start seeing some pushback against that. ‘Cause the skeptic movement also has fallen apart over the past decade compared to the 2000s when it was much more vigorous and had much more vitality, so I’m sure we’ll see a rise in that at some point.
It’s been interesting recently on Twitter seeing some of the younger astrologers having to police themselves when there are sometimes astrologers just saying wild, random stuff that doesn’t really have any basis in astrology, as far as I can tell, and getting following from that, and seeing how some of the younger astrologers are trying to push back against that, or saying, “No, that’s not okay,” or “This isn’t actually astrology,” or what have you. And that’s part of that issue where sometimes the certification discussion starts coming in at that point as well.
CU: Yeah, and that’s kind of what I was getting at, the importance of a Saturnian element when it comes to—I don’t know if ‘regulating’ is the right word, but for us to maybe self-regulate ourselves in a way. ‘Cause the other thing I wanted to mention is accessibility. I think that another criticism of certification is how much it costs to get certified and some of the requirements by some of these larger organizations of what it takes to become certified. And so, I know that one of the criticisms that this recent wave of astrology sort of held as important was that maybe certification isn’t the route for everyone, and do you need to get certified to be a good astrologer. And we already said, no, you don’t have to, but it might be a good idea as we head into this Saturn in Pisces. And something I’ve been seeing a lot, since I’m pretty active on Instagram, is the ‘Instagram scammer’.
CU: One of my colleagues, one of my friends heard a rumor that someone they went to school with was saying, “Oh, did you hear about so-and-so? This is how they run their business. Like they’re posing as an astrologer and they’re scamming people.” So, in other words, unless you know that this is happening within our community, you might think that we’re all trying to hustle and get donations for bunk readings and stuff like that through DMs. And of course we know that that’s not how we operate, we know that we have higher standards for ourselves in all ways, but to the outside world, they don’t understand that we’re mathematicians and historians and astronomers and all of that. There’s a good chunk of people out there that think that, yeah, we’re just scamming people still, and that’s a reality.
PW: Yeah, I mean, there’s someone out there who received a message from who they thought was Chris Brennan saying, “Grand rising.” What was that, Chris? Someone was impersonating you and DM-ing people.
CB: They were opening by saying, “Hello, beloved,” which is not normally a phrase I would ever utter, especially as an opening line. I keep that restricted to our private conversations, Patrick.
PW: Okay. Yeah, yeah, sorry. I just thought that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
PW: Yeah, generally an astrologer will not just contact you out of the blue in your DMs like that to solicit services. I feel like that’s a pretty sketchy move. But if you didn’t know then you would just maybe assume that that’s how astrologers conduct business. So I think you are making a really great point, Catherine, that the positive side of this Saturn-Neptune conjunction could be a movement towards raising the standard of the field and to kind of create effective barriers against this nefarious element that is trying to sort glom off of astrology and astrologers.
CB: And that reminds me that you had mentioned the previous Saturn-Neptune conjunction, which was in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, and that reminds me of Kepler College, which was formed in the early ‘90s. And part of the explicit motivation for forming it, from the founder, was that there was a bunch of anti-astrology laws that were put in place in Washington, and the conundrum that astrologers found themselves in was that we either need to self-police ourselves and start setting up better standards in order to distinguish who’s actually doing astrology versus who’s not, or those are gonna be imposed on us from external forces or external organizations that are gonna be set up in order to police astrologers that are gonna do a much worse job it than if we set up some internal standards ourselves. And that ended up being the basis and the genesis of the foundation of Kepler College, which in its initial incarnation was set up as a degree program with college-level courses on astrology essentially.
So that consequently is also where I learned chart calculation where the entire first year of Kepler was just learning the history of astrology. But right away in the first term of the second year, you learned the basics of astrology, but you also had to learn chart calculation, so I learned how to calculate charts by hand then. And there was actually a book that was written that is still around, and that I still recommend today as like the best book that you can get if you want to learn chart calculation, and it’s titled, Simply Math: A Comprehensive Guide to Easy & Accurate Chart Calculation, by Lauran Fowks and Lynn Sellon.
So it was written by a couple of Kepler students as their senior project, ‘cause they learned chart calculation from however Kepler was teaching it at the time, and they said, “This could be done more easily. Let’s put it together into a book.” So they wrote a book and then later published it, and that book is available on Amazon. And I’ll link to it in the description, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s not the only book that you need if you want to learn how to calculate charts by hand. You need to get a few other books to get the correct tables and the math and things like that. Like Patrick’s holding up an ephemeris, for example, and we’ll get into what those books are in just a minute.
PW: Oh, okay.
CB: This is the book that will tell you what books you need to get, and it’ll tell you all the steps you need to take in order to calculate a chart by hand. So that’s one option. If you’re like a ‘book’ person, I would highly recommend that book. If you’re more of a ‘video tutorial’ person then I would highly recommend Catherine’s workshop, which I’ll link to directly in the description. What was the title again?
CU: ‘Chart Calculations for the Apocalypse’.
CB: Okay. Yeah, and that’s an amazing eight-hour workshop, video workshop. Or if you want to be super comprehensive, just get both, and that way if there is like a solar flare or like an EMP that like wipes out everyone’s computers and the internet then you’ll have the fallback of the book to work with.
PW: There actually is a giant solar flare coming at the end of this week apparently, I just read on the news today.
CB: Oh, good—
PW: I forgot about that.
CB: Just in time. Pluto in Aquarius.
CU: Yeah, ChatGPT just takes over and gets too powerful and kicks us all out of the internet.
CB: Yeah, totally. Like SkyNet takes over. So, I mean, those scenarios are relevant. We’ve talked about certification as a motivation, and I know some of it was a little tongue-in-cheek with the title of your lecture; maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But let’s talk about some of those other scenarios just briefly of some other reasons that somebody might want to learn chart calculation. One of them is that society has changed so rapidly over the past 30 or 40 years with the advent of, first, computers, and then the internet, and then eventually mobile devices—and God knows what after this. AI is starting to come out. Virtual reality and augmented reality are starting to really heat up this year. Apple’s about to release their own virtual reality device, so who knows where it’s going.
But one of them is we’re kind of just assuming technology will always continue to be there and continue to be ever present in our lives as it has been over the past 30 years. But I had a power outage in my building the other day where the power was just like gone in my part of the city for like an entire day. And, yeah, there was no turning on the computer and opening up Solar Fire to calculate a chart. I just couldn’t do astrology, theoretically, if I didn’t have access to computers or the internet. And while it’s not a super high likelihood scenario, it’s certainly a scenario that perhaps we could entertain for why passing down this knowledge and information and the knowledge of how to do it might be something that’s useful and important, I think, right?
CU: Yeah, certainly. Yeah, I mean, I have been approached by a lot of students of astrology to help them pass the NCGR exam. So after teaching it to people several times—sometimes in person, sometimes over Zoom—I was like I just need to make this a downloadable webinar for people. One, so that it’s just easier for people to access, and two, so that I don’t have to go through the trouble of teaching someone how to calculate a chart over Zoom ever again.
CU: So that was the main inspiration behind it. But I also did want it to appeal to people who maybe just wanted to learn out of curiosity. Yeah, I mean, there are plenty of people who choose to go live off the grid, so that’s kind of what I was also gearing it towards. Or, you know, doomsday preppers—they might want to learn astrology too.
CB: Yeah, totally, like a zombie apocalypse. What is the other one? Yellowstone erupts and sends volcanic ash into the atmosphere.
PW: Yeah, an EMP attack, a solar flare, you know those things would definitely be damaging to the technology we rely on for quick chart calculations. So, yeah, we would definitely need that.
CU: Alien invasion.
CB: Alien invasion, that’s a good one.
PW: Although zombies want to eat your brains, and you do need brains.
CU: You do.
PW: That might be the one that gets us.
CB: So there’s different scenarios like that. For software programmers, obviously, they end up having to learn a lot of this. And it’s been interesting seeing different programmers over the years come to me asking questions and seeing the process of them learning all of the stuff that’s necessary—the math and different measurements that are necessary to calculate charts. So I guess if it’s gonna be passed on—if it’s not passed on anywhere else—it’s gonna be passed on at least through the software programmers at this point.
PW: Mm-hmm. I don’t want to get us too off track here, but I thought it was really interesting that this whole topic has assumingly come as Pluto is moving from Capricorn, an earth sign, to Aquarius, an air sign. Because I almost feel like this has been my parting gift—at least in my own personal chronology before heading off into the clouds; literally, ‘the cloud’, with AI-assisted astrology to sort of master the astrology from the ground up with Capricorn being an earth sign. And I feel like because we seem to be on this precipice of moving towards this AI-assisted astrology that maybe this is a good opportunity for everyone—as Pluto moves back into Capricorn a couple more times—to take advantage of that by reacquainting ourselves with this more fundamental aspect of astrology. It’s almost like earning the right to use these incredible technological tools by kind of mastering the basics by ourselves a bit more self-sufficiently.
CB: Yeah. And one of the things it goes back to is it gives you a better access point and you’ll understand what you’re doing better if you learn both the mathematics, as well as the astronomy underlying what we’re doing. It is true to some extent—especially in the Mesopotamian tradition—that astronomy and astrology were intertwined, and that oftentimes the same people that were doing what we call astronomy today were also the same people that were doing astrology; there may not have been as much of a differentiation between them as there is today, where they were just completely divided into completely separate fields over the past 2,000 years.
One of the things I’ve always thought is that as soon as the concept of an ephemeris was introduced around the 5th century BCE or so, and astrologers started producing ephemerides which allowed them to calculate the positions of the planets in the past or in the future just using tables and using mathematics, I think that’s the point at which astrology and astronomy started to really diverge. Because astrologers were not necessarily watching the sky in order to get the planetary positions that they were then interpreting as being relevant to life on Earth, astrology started to become more of an abstract, mathematical concept, or eventually an abstract, almost geometrical concept in terms of just looking at these two-dimensional diagrams or representations of the heavens, which is what we’re doing with an astrological chart; taking this 3D thing in time and space and then smushing it down and putting it on a chart, on a piece of paper, on a screen, or what have you.
So one of the things is by learning chart calculation, you go back and you start to heal that rift between astronomy and astrology and mathematics that occurred many, many centuries ago. And to the extent that astrology is based on the study of the movement of the planets and other celestial bodies, the more familiar you are as an astrologer with how those different movements in astronomy work, the better your work is gonna be as an astrologer. Like it’s one of the few things I can think of that doesn’t have any downsides. Like I don’t see any downsides to astrologers learning how to do either the math or the astronomy behind astrology better. It seems like it has only benefits.
CU: Yeah, yeah. Like one of the first things that you’ll do when setting up a chart—I mean, once you’ve got your planets calculated—you calculate the Midheaven. And so, trying to figure out what that formula is, I mean, you’re calculating the Midheaven. Some of the components that you take are basically the birth time (which is converted into Greenwich Mean Time), you take the sidereal time (which is found in the ephemeris), and you take a solar sidereal time correction from this book of tables here, and all of that is to basically tell you what degree of the tropical zodiac is on the Midheaven. And it’s really cool. It’s cultivated such a strong appreciation for what it took to develop something like this. You can find relics of ancient books of tables online. There’s images of them, and it’s pretty cool.
But in preparing for our talk today, it got me curious about even the creation of longitude and latitude coordinates. Because what would happen is that for a city you would have a local meridian; so if you’ve ever calculated a chart, it’ll say the time zone up in the corner. And for the ancient—not ancient—but charts from like the 1800s, it’ll say ‘LMT’ next to the time on the chart, and what that stands for is ‘Local Mean Time’. So cities would have a meridian that ran through, and the clocks were set for noon, so everyone knew what relative to noon. Like the Midheaven is basically where the Sun is at noon. It’s the highest point in the sky. So basically I found out the way that time zones were created was out of necessity. Because when we used to travel by foot, the different times wouldn’t necessarily affect travelers of the different cities, but once you got into trains and railroads, they were running into collisions because of the time snafus for when trains would go from city to city. And so, what they created was a standardization of time zones. So you have 24 time zones on the globe, and they’re each separated by one hour. And so, one of the things that you use in here is the minutes because we know that the Sun is still moving as we go from time zone to time zone. So, yeah, that standardization is kind of cool.
But before we got to where we are today there were ancient Greek mathematicians and astronomers who were trying to create coordinate systems for longitude and latitude. So back to my original point, it just cultivates such a strong appreciation for what these ancient astrologers were working with in terms of coordinates. Like you might have an ephemeris that was passed down to you from your teachers, your lineage; you might have a book of tables passed down from your teachers in your lineage relative to your location. But what happens when you need to calculate a person’s chart that was born in a different city? You couldn’t just plug into a computer. You had to have tables, you had to have ephemerides, or you had to know how to convert those, which is a whole other thing.
CB: Right. That raises a point that’s really interesting that I realized as I was thinking about this, reading Patrick’s article. And I don’t know if you’ve said this or if you just alluded to it, but there’s this irony that charts are more accurate now than they’ve ever been in history, and yet, ironically, astrologers know the least about how they’re constructed or how to construct them.
PW: Right. Yeah, isn’t that funny.
CU: It is.
CB: It was just making me think about that, Catherine, in terms of all the things that you were talking about that astrologers used to need to know how to do compared to what they know how to do today. And there’s a certain level where it’s like that’s okay, it’s not a huge deal because astrology I think is fundamentally and primarily about the interpretation of charts. And to the extent that that distinction between astronomy and astrology is still relevant today, the calculation of charts really is the astronomy and the mathematics side of things, whereas the interpretation of celestial positions and the relevance that those have to life on Earth—that interpretive act really is what astrology is and what we’re focused on.
And also, I think it’s possible that even though we have this perception because there’s so many famous astronomers who were also astrologers in history—like Johannes Kepler, Claudius Ptolemy, or others—we have this perception that all astrologers were astronomers, but that may not necessarily be true. And I remember seeing some discussions in a commentary by Theon of Alexandria around the 5th century—the 4th or 5th century—where he was explaining why he was writing a commentary on the tables, which made it easier for astrologers to calculate charts quickly. And he was trying to explain why he needed to write a commentary on this, and he said it was because astrologers kept coming to him and asking how they can use this to calculate charts. So it’s like even then the astrologers themselves may have been primarily focused on the interpretive act, and to the extent that they had to do some of the mathematical calculations that was like a hurdle that they had to surmount to get to the point of what the actual goal was. It may not have been necessarily their favorite thing to do—the astronomy itself was not an end unto itself for the astrologers—but it was the interpretive act that has always been the primary focus of astrologers itself.
PW: And the very calculability of the planets—the very fact that the chart must be calculated, that there’s an exact answer that comes out when you perform these mathematical operations is kind of what underpins the entire idea of things being fated; that there is actually only one answer for where the positions were at a particular time, and that there’s paths that those planets are fixed in. The very fact that you can have something like an ephemeris is sort of evidence that there’s some element of the world which is predetermined, and thus, potentially our lives as well. And so, I also kind of had that realization as well as I was calculating all these example charts and all these practice charts. There’s only one solution, and I was trying to get it for each one.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good point ‘cause that’s the one thing you can’t change. Like we can’t change that Pluto’s going into Aquarius tomorrow, even though I would very much like to as an Aquarius rising. Or we can’t change the fact that 20 years ago when I first started studying astrology, I knew mathematically that Pluto was gonna go into Aquarius in early 2023, and that it was gonna stay there for 20 years, but that piece is not negotiable. And that’s an interesting point in terms of that’s, at the very least, the fated side of astrology.
PW: Unless we nuked Pluto, right?
CB: That is true.
PW: If we nuked Chiron, right?
CB: I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. I’d support that GoFundMe.
PW: But that does raise an interesting point because one of the outcomes of that DART mission—where we basically chucked a rocket at that random asteroid to see if we could change its trajectory—is we did change its trajectory. We changed its position in the ephemeris. And if you can change a planetary trajectory then can you change fate? Apparently, with a big enough rocket, you can.
PW: With a good enough aim.
CB: That’s all you have to do.
PW: Yeah, if you want to avoid a Mars transit—Mars remediation—just blow up Mars.
PW: Problem solved.
CU: Just have enough resources, yeah.
PW: I mean, it’s unfeasible, but it makes you wonder how fixed are planetary transits. I mean, I think they are pretty fixed. I don’t think we can obviously do anything to really actually throw it off, but it makes you wonder.
CB: Yeah, with Mars, maybe that’s what Elon Musk is up to, it makes me think.
CU: That’s his vendetta.
PW: Right, that’s it.
CB: So let’s circle back around to the books that are necessary in order to calculate charts in order to tell people what resources they need, what materials they need to get if they want to calculate charts by hand. And there’s basically like three fundamental books, right?
CU: Yeah, so you definitely need an ephemeris. And, yeah, you might need two of them if you have a 20th and 21st century. Yeah, and I would highly recommend getting the ‘midnight’ editions. I know when I was in my early astrology phase, I had a ‘noon’ ephemeris. My teachers were like, “No, that’s not gonna work.” So you definitely need the midnight position ‘cause all the formulas for chart calculations use the midnight positions of the planets.
CB: It would add an extra step if you had the ‘noon’ version, which just becomes kind of annoying.
PW: I was just gonna say, however, if you did have a ‘noon’ version that could just be good if you wanted to very quickly in your head sort of roughly calculate for your particular location. But I wouldn’t recommend the ‘noon’, yeah, if you’re trying to actually calculate the chart exactly.
CB: And Patrick and I did a whole episode on how to read an ephemeris back in 2021. That’s in Episode 304 of The Astrology Podcast, and people can google that. You’re laughing ‘cause of the sidereal time thing?
PW: Well, yeah, it’s funny ‘cause my use of an ephemeris early in my studies—that was how I was giving kids readings at school, back in high school. I just had an ephemeris and I’d sort of look at the positions. And I didn’t have their Ascendant, and we didn’t really have phones in 2004-2005.
CB: What’s funny is our version of calculating charts by hand is just having a physical book ephemeris basically.
PW: Sure. Yeah, like that’s kind of how I did it, and I’d just interpret the planetary position and aspects and stuff like that. So my use of an ephemeris in the beginning of my studies did not involve actually using it for calculating charts by hand, and so that’s why I felt kind of embarrassed after you popped that question on me of, “What is sidereal time actually used for?” I didn’t actually know. We’re here to discuss how to use the ephemeris, and here I can’t explain like an entire column on every page of the book. Now I’m grateful to say that I do understand what it’s for and that they are very necessary for calculating a chart correctly. But that’s why I was laughing about your mention of that episode because that was actually one of the inciting things that made me realize that I kind of needed to up my game. And actually it was a couple of months after that that I ended up first purchasing ‘Chart Calculations for the Apocalypse’, but I didn’t get around to it until early this year to actually use it. So it’s been a long time coming. This has been cooking for a while.
CB: Yeah. What was the answer, by the way, to the sidereal time thing?
PW: So it measures the number of equatorial degrees you have to pass around ‘cause there’s a difference between the amount of time it takes for the Sun to rotate on its axis versus the amount of time it takes for a whole day to occur relative to the Sun. There’s like a four-minute difference, so it’s sort of accounting for that difference in time.
CU: Yeah, so the sidereal day is basically there’s a four-minute difference. So sidereal obviously refers to the stars, so there’s like a four-minute difference between a sidereal day and a solar day. So one way that you can really see that with your chart software, ironically, is if you’re in the ‘Animate’ function in Solar Fire, and you’re clicking through by day, but you keep the time the same. We know in astrology that the Midheaven is going to move 1° every four minutes, so what you’ll see is that four-minute lag showing up as the 1° on the Midheaven. Which is interesting because if you go to the autumn equinox in your ephemeris, these are all the midnight positions of the planets; you’ve got to think the Sun is down at the IC.
So what’s gonna be up on the Midheaven is 0 Aries. So that’s why you’re gonna see 0, ‘cause 0 sidereal is gonna equate with where the Aries equinox occurs. So basically, from a tropical standpoint, that is going to be the intersection of the ecliptic, the path of the Sun, and the celestial equator, which is basically the equator of the Earth projected outward. So those equinox points are basically where you have the ecliptic intersecting the celestial equator. So that’s what that sidereal time basically is. It’s showing us the difference, on a day-to-day, those stars being in the same position. So that’s why the stars are changing position on a daily basis for us by 1°.
PW: That was a better explanation. Yeah, nicely done. Then that also explains why in a secondary progressed chart the Midheaven moves about 1° every—
CB: All right, so ephemeris. People, the fundamental, probably most important book that everyone needs to get for chart calculation is an ephemeris because the ephemeris will tell you where the planets are in the signs of the zodiac. It’ll tell you what sign of the zodiac a planet is in on any day of the year, either in the past or in the future. And it’ll tell you what degree of the zodiac each of the planets is in, in its individual sign, at the start of each day. And that’s why you’re getting the ‘midnight’ ephemeris because it shows you where the planet is by sign and by degree and minute at the very start of the day basically, right?
CU: Yeah, yeah, so it’s gonna show you the midnight position of all the planets. And that sidereal time—if you convert it into zodiacal degrees—it’s gonna show you what’s on the Midheaven at midnight. And that’s pretty standard per location because no matter where you are on the globe by longitude, you’re gonna have the same Midheaven.
CU: And while we’re on that topic, if you’re on the same latitude, you’re gonna have the same Ascendant.
CB: Cool, okay. And in terms of options, there’s a few different options for ephemerises. A standard one at this point is called The American Ephemeris, and there’s a few different versions of it. A good starter one at this point that covers most of the dates that you would need would be The American Ephemeris for 1950-2050 at Midnight, and it’s titled, The Trans-Century Edition, by Neil Michelsen and Rique Pottenger. So this one will work as long as the charts that you’re trying to calculate are between 1950 and 2050 ‘cause those are the years covered in this ephemeris. If that doesn’t work, or if you need to calculate charts either from before 1950 or after 2050, then you might have to get a different version of the ephemeris. For example, there’s The New American Ephemeris for the 21st Century, 1900-2000 at Midnight, also by Pottenger and Michelsen. And that’ll give you all of the years in the 20th century, and all of the months and days in the 20th century if there’s anybody earlier in the century that you’re trying to calculate a chart for by hand. And then I know there’s other variations, but basically they’re all just different variations of different timeframes I think, right?
PW: Yeah. There’s also free PDFs of the ephemerides for 9,000 years available on astro.com. And while you wouldn’t be able to access that in the event of an apocalypse, that’s why I guess you could maybe, I don’t know, have the PDF printed out and bound and stapled or something, to have it in book format. But, yeah, there’s a few ways to get a hold of it.
CU: That would be a huge book.
CU: 9,000 years.
PW: Yeah, or maybe set up into volumes or something.
CB: Yeah, that is a good free alternative. Just do a Google search for ‘Astrodienst ephemeris’, and they have a bunch of different ephemeris files that you can pull up, and it lets you download them as a PDF. So I think for the purpose of doing chart calculation, as long as you’re trying to calculate it for the years between the 20th century and the first half of the 21st century, you’re probably better off getting a print ephemeris. ‘Cause I think most of the instructions that you’re gonna find for calculating charts are gonna be based on using The American Ephemeris or something pretty close to it, right?
CB: I mean, the data I guess is fundamentally the same. I’m trying to think if there’s anything that might throw people off because I know for sure the Simply Math book uses The American Ephemeris or recommends that. I know you can adapt it to other ephemerises, but I’m just trying to think if there’s anything that might be missing or added or different in The American Ephemeris versus the Swiss ephemeris.
PW: Well, I would say The American Ephemeris is potentially a little more accurate to the minute. Because I just looked at the astro.com ephemerides and they only list the degree position and the minute rounded to the nearest minute, whereas in The American Ephemeris, they’ll have the position of the degree position listed, the minute, along with a decimal. So, for example, it will say Jupiter’s at 23 Scorpio 58.3 minutes, whereas on the astro.com PDFs it will only say Jupiter’s at 23° Scorpio and 58 minutes. So that 0.3 could potentially make a difference. That would be 18 minutes—sorry, 18 seconds. 3X6, everyone. Yeah, you would just multiply that number by 6 to get the decimal. So, yeah, you do technically get slightly more precise planetary positions through The American Ephemeris.
CB: Okay, got it. And The American Ephemeris, to clarify, also is not just for Americans. Like anybody can use that internationally. It just happens to be called The American Ephemeris for some reason, right?
CU: Yeah, as far as I know.
PW: Colonialism, yeah. And capitalism, that’s it.
PW: Kind of like how we measure all longitudes by GMT. You know why? ‘Cause the British Empire, that’s why.
PW: Yeah, we need to decolonize coordinates, but that’s another topic for another time.
CB: Yeah, I mean, the greatest travesty from that is that they force us to pronounce it as Green(w)ich, even though there’s a ‘w’ in that word, and I will never get over that.
PW: Also kind of hilarious is that the place in Greenwich that marks that 0-point line—it’s actually off by like several miles—
CU: Oh, really?
PW: Because we found out with GPS technology. The place has actually built like a whole monument to the fact that this is the 0-point line and it’s actually completely off.
CU: Oh, my God.
PW: So that’s also kind of funny. Like you can take photos at the tourist-y place they set up for people to find the 0-point of GMT.
CU: That’s so funny.
CB: How is this word pronounced?
CB: I will never get on board with that.
CU: Not Green-wich.
CB: All right, it will always be Green-wich in my heart. All right, so ephemeris is the first thing you need to get. Everyone needs to get an ephemeris. An ephemeris, even if you’re not learning how to calculate charts by hand—as Patrick and I discussed extensively in the whole episode dedicated to that—it’s good to familiarize yourself and learn how to read an ephemeris just in and of itself. And it will give you access to a different and more unique and in-depth perspective on the movements of the planets by learning how to read one, so that’s a really good starting point, an ephemeris. What’s the second book that you need in order to calculate charts by hand?
CU: You gotta get yourself a book of tables.
CB: Okay, book of tables. Why do we need a book of tables?
CU: The tables are how you get the Midheaven, the Ascendant. And if you’re using intermediary cusps—like you would for the NCGR exam—that is gonna tell you how to find those in here as well. And this book, The Michelsen Book of Tables, will give you tables for Placidus, as well as Koch.
CB: Okay, so Placidus and Koch tables. So it’s titled, The Michelsen Book of Tables, by Neil Michelsen and Rique Pottenger. Koch and Placidus Tables of Houses and How to Cast a Natal Horoscope, Interpolation Tables, and Time Tables. So this is for primarily if you want to calculate Placidus and Koch houses, but it also gives you some things that are necessary or useful even if you don’t, right?
CU: Yeah, there’s cool things in the book as well. Let’s see here.
PW: You can use it for the Midheaven and Ascendant at the very least.
CB: That’s what I was thinking. So is it a requirement for that, or is it just like something you could do?
CU: You mean just leaving out the other housing cusps?
CU: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, it would just be a lot less tiny, little calculations you would have to do. You would just calculate the Midheaven, and then you would go through the same process and just calculate the Ascendant there. But it’s the same process, for sure.
PW: Yeah, you just need the latitude difference for the Ascendant rather than the Midheaven.
PW: It’s one extra step basically for the Ascendant.
CB: Got it, okay. So get the table of houses to calculate the Ascendant and Midheaven and other house cusps essentially.
PW: Yeah, and you can also get tables of houses for all of the different house systems on astro.com as well, and they also have more detailed ones. Because one of the interesting things about The Michelsen Book of Tables is that the entries for each local sidereal time are separated by four minutes. So astro.com actually has one that is separated by each minute, which is really kind of insane; so it’s a really, really thick book if you were to print it up. But the astro.com ones are a little more precise for the Midheaven; they have the Midheaven down to the second. But the Michelsen tables have it down to just the minute; rounded to the minutes. So in that particular case, it’s flipped. Astro.com is slightly more precise than The Michelsen Book of Tables. But you don’t want to use the astro.com tables if you are taking Catherine’s course because otherwise it won’t make sense. ‘cause the interpolations are thrown off. You have to be using the ones which are four minutes apart.
CU: Good to know. Yeah, I didn’t know that information about astro.com.
CB: Got it. So this is another instance where basically there’s the paid version of buying the books—which is sort of the standard approach—but there are free alternatives for both of these two steps so far with the Astrodienst ephemeris and tables.
CB: Okay, that’s good to know. One thing that’s interesting about this as a side note, with the books of tables, is these books of tables that astrologers have used over the past century for calculating house cusps, or quadrant house cusps, it’s basically a shortcut. It simplifies the math of doing this so that you don’t have to do the more advanced and complicated math that’s necessary in order to calculate, for example, Placidus house cusps. Which I believe is one of the more advanced or at least complex mathematical house systems essentially, right?
CB: So I thought that—go ahead.
PW: I was just gonna say in the beginning of the book, they have that direct method of calculation available. If you want to go just super sane with this, you can learn the logarithms to directly calculate them without needing the tables of houses. But I’d recommend just using the tables of houses just so you’re on the right track.
CB: And I bring it up ‘cause it’s interesting. ‘Cause even calculating things ‘by hand’, astrologers in the 20th century were still using shortcuts basically, a table of houses as a shortcut for calculating the house cusps accurately. It kind of pre-calculates some of the more advanced mathematics for you essentially is what it’s doing, right?
CU: Yeah, I mean, what they have is basically where everything would be relative to latitude. Yeah, so basically you just need to know latitude without going through the whole process. It’s kind of hard to explain.
CB: Yeah, that’s okay.
CU: Yeah, they have it set up so that if you know your longitude and latitude, you can figure it out.
CB: Got it.
PW: Also, one thing you should know about latitude too is on the astro.com tables of houses, they will actually list every degree of latitude. In the Michelsen tables, they kind of skip 5° of latitude for the first few degrees. The difference is negligible, but if you want those absolutely precise ones then you can look at the astro.com tables of houses that list every single degree. Wouldn’t help you in an apocalypse.
CU: That’s true. It does skip by five, from 0 latitude to 20. But the interpolations still works, you just might be off by a couple minutes instead of one minute.
PW: Yeah, it’s a small, small difference.
CB: Got it, okay. So tables of houses for calculating the Ascendant, Midheaven, and the house cusps. I guess their only table of houses is for Placidus and Koch, right? Michelsen? They don’t publish other tables, I don’t believe, so you’d have to go to Astrodienst for that. You were saying, Patrick, that they have other tables for whatever system you want to use.
PW: Yeah, they have Placidus, Alcabitius—is that how you say it? Alcabitius.
PW: Campanus, Regiomontanus, Sripati, Vehlow, Carter’s Poli-Equatorial, Equal, Krusinski-Pisa-Goelzer—I mean, yeah, like the whole gamut.
CB: Basically anything that they can calculate for themselves on the website—which is like most of the major different systems—they will give you tables for, so that’s good to know.
PW: Yeah, Campanus and Regiomontanus, right? I just like saying them in a ridiculous way, that’s all.
CB: Yeah, that’s good.
PW: You gotta give people their money’s worth, Chris.
CB: So that’s the second book that you need, a table of houses. And then the third book that you need is a time zone atlas, right?
CU: Yeah, if you really want to ‘go granola’, you gotta do the atlas. And this will show you the time zones, and it will also specify for you each state, if you’re looking at The American Atlas, or each country, if you’re looking at the international one. It does things like Daylight Savings Time or War Time; it’ll tell you how long those lasted in there too. And it’ll also give you exact coordinates of longitude and latitude. So having one of these is necessary if you’re gonna go all the way.
PW: Although it should also be noted that unfortunately a book can only contain the information that goes up to the time that it was printed.
PW: And so, there is a slight issue once you get beyond a certain point. I think the latest entry I saw in there was like 2000 maybe.
PW: So it’s unfortunate in that respect. If you’re a ‘2000s’ baby then you won’t be able to use those reference texts to find the exact time that someone might have started or stopped, or the particular time they might have started using Daylight Savings Time. Really, Daylight Savings Time has been a scourge for astrologers. And so, if you still have access to a computer then the best place probably to go to find time zone change information would be timeanddate.com. So for every location, basically every major location on Earth, they have like a whole section on that page on the Daylight Savings Time changes and when they happen. And I wish we could get a printed version of that somewhere, but anytime you print it up it could still change in the future. I know that there’s just been recent attempts in Florida to try to make Daylight Savings Time permanent. And I’m not sure what the status of those attempts now are, but these things can change in the future, and they’re really, really annoying. So not sure what to do about that, but this is still really useful for most charts that you’d want to calculate for most people who are currently alive.
CU: That would be so messed up if they just kept Daylight Savings Time. They need to just get rid of it.
PW: I know.
CB: I was talking to somebody about this the other day, and they had some historical statement I’d never heard before. But do either of you know why Daylight Savings exists? I forget the motivation originally.
CU: Yeah, Daylight Savings Time begins in the springtime—it begins I think on the second Sunday in March—and it’s so that we’re getting more daylight during what we would think of as waking hours, so that people could be more productive in the fields and farming basically.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I just looked it up, and it says, “Implemented in the US in 1918, a war-time measure for seven months during World War I in the interest of adding more daylight hours to conserve energy resources.”
PW: It’s not enough to have just had an alternate schedule for that table. No, change the entirety of time to fix this issue. I don’t know why we couldn’t just do like seasonal hours for things. Sorry for popping off, but it’s quite annoying. I don’t know why businesses and schools or governments or whatever couldn’t just decide their own seasonal hours for things. It doesn’t need to be 6:00 AM for the Sun to be rising. I think people are just attached to this idea that the number on the clock must necessarily coincide with a particular time of the day. I know that doesn’t make any sense to me.
CU: I wonder what was going on with Saturn when that was happening. Was there like a Saturn-Uranus square or opposition going on?
PW: I don’t know.
CB: And why this is important with time zone changes—which is the primary thing that this book helps with, or is one of the primary things—is while it’s annoying, everybody has the universal experience, every human, of when Daylight Savings Time happens, and the clock either jumps forward an hour or it falls back an hour, depending on what part of the year you’re in, that can be unsettling for a day or two, or can rearrange your sleep schedule. But for astrologers, it’s actually a real nightmare when you’re trying to calculate charts because it means unless you know for sure whether Daylight Savings Time was in effect or was not in effect, your chart could be off by basically an hour in either direction.
CU: Oh, my God. I have a scary—sorry, go ahead, Chris.
CB: So it can completely throw off the Ascendant and the Midheaven and all of the house placements if you do not accurately know whether Daylight Savings Time was in effect or not. And the problem with it is that it changes from location to location and timeframe to timeframe, and whether it was recognized or not recognized and different things like that, and that’s the primary thing that the time zone atlas is useful for.
CU: I had a scary, scary situation where Daylight Savings Time was threatening some things for me. I was in Mexico. My husband and I decided that we were going to not involve our families and we were gonna get married, and I had elected a chart for us. And I didn’t know that Mexico did Daylight Savings Time.
CB: Oh, no.
CU: It was like the day that we were getting married, and I had to like check multiple different websites to make sure that I was still gonna get the chart I elected.
CB: That’s such an ‘astrologer’ problem—almost nearly coming close to catastrophe because of Daylight Savings Time or something.
PW: It’s peak astrologer.
CU: It was a nightmare.
PW: Wow. Astrologer nightmares.
CU: I was a ‘Bridezilla’ about what time it was.
CB: I love that. That’s the astrology version of ‘Bridezilla’, that’s perfect.
CB: All right, but you were able to get it within the same rising sign or something roughly, or adjust it?
CU: Yes, I was able to make sure that we were still gonna get the chart. And I still to this day double-check it on software ‘cause sometimes software doesn’t catch up. We just had Daylight Savings Time, ironically, as the Sun conjoined Neptune in the sky, and my Solar Fire was not adjusting the time for a little bit.
PW: I notice that especially when you use the ‘Transit’ animator on Solar Fire that sometimes you have to reset it if it goes past a time change. So you’ve got to be pretty careful to make sure that ‘Auto DST’ is enabled.
PW: I was gonna say there’s one thing I actually really liked about living in Arizona—they don’t observe Daylight Savings. So it’s been kind of an adjustment since I’ve moved out here to the Midwest and finally having to deal with this again after about 10 years of not having to worry about it in Arizona. Like Arizona and Senora, the Mexican state directly below it—they don’t do Daylight Savings. So it’s kind of an astrologer’s paradise there.
CU: Oh, yeah, that would be.
CB: Okay, so that’s really important, and that’s why the time zone atlas is important ‘cause you can’t take it for granted that Daylight Savings is always in effect or not in effect. And you need to know what the record was in that specific location and what astrologers have done, especially with the printed ACS Atlas; I believe it’s published by ACS. There’s two books basically that you have to get—or at least at Kepler they made us get both books. The primary one if you’re living in the US is titled, The American Atlas, Expanded 5th Edition, by Thomas G. Shanks. And then the second one, if you want to calculate charts outside of the US, you need to get a book titled, The International Atlas, Expanded 6th Edition; I don’t know what edition it’s in right now. Actually it looks out of print. I’m kind of nervous about that.
PW: Use Thrift Books.
PW: Use Thrift Books, do not use Amazon for this. Obviously, do not spend $500 on that book.
CU: Do not.
PW: There are other websites. Thrift Books. What are some other ones?
CU: Alibris. I don’t know how to say it.
PW: I think AbeBooks is another one. A-B-E.
PW: So, yeah, definitely shop around for that if you’re tempted to buy it.
CB: It’s kind of disturbing or unfortunate that it’s out of print. Hopefully, that comes back into print at some point for all us ‘astrology’ preppers and doomsday-preparers.
PW: The ACS Atlas does still maintain a database, and you can buy a license to use that database if you were developing astrological software. It’s pretty expensive though. So I forget exactly how much, but I remember I looked into it at one time, and I was like, “Okay, can’t afford that.”
PW: So that’s kind of unfortunate, but it is still being maintained. So for any new astrological stuff that comes out, they’ll probably have a license to use that database by ACS. And so, we are still getting good information at least through software.
CU: That’s good to know.
CB: And I think that’s why this is out of print because everything’s moved to computerized, so they maybe haven’t seen the need to keep that in print. So an important point about that is that with the rise of computers basically from the 1970s and ‘80s forward, time zone changes have been documented pretty well by computers because it’s something that’s really important to keep track of, to keep everything in sync. But it’s also, especially with the rise of the internet, something that’s easier to keep track of with computers, where it’s pretty easy to know if a place was recognizing Daylight Savings Time or if it wasn’t on a specific timeframe, and that’s pretty well-documented over the past few decades.
But if you go further back, before computers—like before the 1970s and 1980s—I remember a friend of mine who was programming a software program at the time saying that some of the databases that record time zone changes become less and less accurate. And that’s one of the reasons why ACS’ atlas at the time was the best because astrologers had been so proactive about going back and researching times from the first half of the 20th century and determining whether Daylight Savings Time was in effect or whether it wasn’t, as well as some of the unique and special rules that occurred in some locations during different timeframes. Like I know one of the ones that was a real hassle was Chicago.
CB: There was something bizarre in Chicago where Daylight Savings Time was in effect, but it was not supposed to be recorded on birth certificates, or something weird like that. Do you know what it was?
CU: Yeah, I’ve encountered this with clients before too. I’ve had, believe it or not, two people come to me, born in Chicago in the ‘50s; I think it was like in the late ‘50s. And Solar Fire will give you a warning. It says, “Warning: Even though Daylight Savings Time was in effect, they were being recorded as if it wasn’t, in Standard Time.” So I’ve actually had two clients say, “Hey, I have two birth times.” And so, I had to sit there and kind of do the math and figure out which one was the person’s actual birth time. And, yeah, it’s hard ‘cause you have to figure out which is which, and then you have to figure out which is the real one. So then you’re like rectifying on the spot in some cases.
PW: You get a similar warning flash up for some times and locations in Indiana as well.
PW: And sometimes if the person isn’t born in a proper city, if it’s like an administrative division or something, then it sort of depends on the county and whether they were observing the state; like in some cases, like Indiana, where it was split in two. So you just get in the weeds with this stuff. So I’m just so glad that software is still there for us.
CB: Yeah, that’s really crucial. And also, basically anytime somebody runs into an issue nowadays where they go to a website, or they use a certain program to calculate their chart and it comes out one way, but then they go somewhere else and they calculate the chart and it comes out looking different, usually the reason is a time zone issue where one of those sites is calculating Daylight Savings Time and thinking that it was in effect, and the other is saying that it wasn’t for some reason. So then basically the person or the client ends up needing to have to research that in trying to figure out what actually was historically the case when they were born.
PW: Yeah, if I’m ever having trouble with that I tend to reference between Astrodienst and Solar Fire. Those are kind of my two points of reference. And I tend to trust astro.com sometimes over Solar Fire.
CB: Yeah, well, I believe both of them use the ACS Atlas—
CB: Or did at one point. So they’re both gonna tend to be on the same page for the most part, and those two are gonna be the most accurate in terms of generations of astrologers putting a lot of research into the time zone changes in the 20th century. So when in doubt, if Astrodienst and Solar Fire are telling you one thing, but another website is telling you something else, usually it’s the other website that’s gonna be wrong.
CB: So a funny thing though—a controversy that came up about 10 years ago—is that some modern time zone databases, I think there’s one primary one that most computer systems follow or are based on to track time zone changes at this point, as well as historical changes. And at one point they started incorporating data from the ACS Atlas into their time zone atlas or database, and there was a lawsuit between the astrology software company that owns ACS and this other group of programmers or whatever it was that was taking data from ACS and incorporating it into theirs. And it actually became kind of like a public spat at the time, and some of the headlines were not super favorable for astrologers because the argument became whether ACS, the astrologers, could copyright the data or the research that they had done in order to establish when Daylight Savings was in effect historically in different areas, or whether that information was by virtue of being public record was open-sourced. And eventually the astrology software company lost and I think it sort of went away, but it was a funny little thing that occurred about a decade ago.
CU: I seem to remember hearing about that. I don’t know if you mentioned it on the podcast or not, but, yeah, interesting.
CB: Yeah, well, it was not spun in a positive way for the astrologers.
PW: Because it looks like the withholding of public information. Yeah, you’re never gonna turn out too well if you do that.
CB: Right. Yeah, ‘cause I think it was the astrologers that issued the lawsuit, but then they lost, and then the debate about whether that was a good idea, or whether that made astrologers look bad. Certainly, the headlines didn’t make it look super good.
PW: But you still have to pay them a lot of money if you want to license it for your software. So I’m not sure on what basis they get to do that if they lost that lawsuit, but I would need to know the details I guess.
CB: I mean, yeah, anybody can license their own program and stuff, and people can license other time zone atlases. But it’s like when other programmers have come to me periodically, I tell them usually just to license the ACS Atlas ‘cause it’s the most accurate one, and that I don’t know if the other open-sourced ones have fully and accurately integrated some of the weird time zone rules that existed in the 1940s in Chicago or wherever as ACS has. That’s such a pertinent issue for astrologers that they put a lot more emphasis on making sure that that’s correct than others might.
PW: I would trust an astrologer over a non-astrologer on that. Yeah, the stakes are higher.
CB: Right. Yeah, so anyways, get an atlas, a time zone atlas. One other thing—is that all the time zone atlas does? It does other things as well, right? Doesn’t it give you the longitude?
CB: It’s been like almost 20 years. I should have said at the beginning I learned how to do chart calculation at Kepler in 2005-2006. I calculated several charts by hand successfully, and then I promptly forgot how to do most of that and have not refreshed myself.
PW: How dare you.
CB: Yeah, I know. Well, that’s what you two are here for ‘cause you’re the two experts at this point that are helping me.
PW: I’m a noob.
PW: I just learned this from her.
CU: But it’s so fresh on your mind, you’ve been practicing.
CU: You might be sharper than me at this point.
PW: I’m coming at this with the zeal of a noob. But the other thing that it gives you is the precise longitude, which I found out you can actually calculate from the degrees and minutes of longitude for the location. So you don’t actually need to have that column, you can just calculate it. But they give it to you and it’s convenient to do.
CU: Yeah, the longitudinal correction, right?
CU: Cool. That’s cool that you figured that out.
PW: Only ‘cause Bruce Scofield told me ‘cause I wanted to know if I could bring the atlas to the exam. And I was like, “I’m gonna need the atlas in order to find the longitudinal correction.” He’s like, “But we give you the longitude.” I’m like, “But I don’t know how to do that.” And he’s like, “Google it.” Yeah, you multiply the degrees of longitude by 3,600. You multiply the minutes of longitude by 60. You add those together to get the number of seconds, and then you divide those by 15. And then divide by 3,600 and then convert into degrees again, and, boom, you have that same figure. So thankfully the atlas tells you that so you don’t have to do that calculation, but it’s like two seconds on a calculator.
CB: I forgot that there’s actually another chart calculation book. I haven’t used it—it might be useful for some people—but Bruce Scofield has a book titled, Astrological Chart Calculations: An Outline of Conventions and Methodology. So that’s another option for chart calculation and different books that go over and will teach you how to do this. All right, so there’s other little miscellaneous things. Obviously, we mentioned having a little hand calculator can be useful and can speed things up. Although it’s not entirely necessary, it’s very helpful. Also, maybe a protractor and a compass or something like that in terms of actually drawing the chart on a piece of paper.
CU: And pencils as well. You need pencils and scrap paper ‘cause you’re gonna make mistakes.
CB: Yeah, a lot of paper, and then maybe some colored pencils, maybe some glitter to spice things up a little bit with the actual chart diagram.
PW: This is just half the pile of my practice papers.
PW: Oh, and I just wanted to clear up that Bruce Scofield didn’t actually tell me to google it. He just said, “We gave you the longitude,” and so then I googled it and realized, “Oh, you can just calculate it from the longitude, so that’s why I wouldn’t need the atlas.” But, yeah, I just realized I made it sound like he had told me to google it, and he didn’t.
CB: Right. Yeah, he’s like, “Get lost, kid.”
PW: No, he was very helpful.
CU: Yeah, I’ve got all my scrap paper from learning.
CB: All right, so all that being said, with those three books—in terms of the ephemeris, the table of houses, and the time zone atlas—you can calculate a chart by hand, and that’s essentially all you need, right?
CU: Yeah—and patience.
PW: And practice.
CB: Yeah, all those qualities. But it’s something that once you do—
PW: Oh, and money—the money for buying those books. And I would also say about the cost of tests and stuff, the NCGR one was like $60, and then there’s like a $30 proctoring fee, so it’s not outrageous. The ISAR courses are a bit more expensive, they’re like several hundred dollars altogether, so I understand there is that kind of barrier of cost. But as we’ve tried to point out—several points—there are several free resources available as well to learn how to do this.
CB: Yeah, and the courses or the certification is only if you want a certificate.
PW: Only if you want to do that. Optional.
CB: If you want to get an award for learning how to calculate charts by hand. But if you just want a pat on the back then you can just get the books and learn how to do it by hand, or, yeah, use some of the free resources, especially on Astrodienst that we’ve mentioned. And I mentioned that book by Bruce Scofield—of course the first one I mentioned was the Simply Math book—which is technically the fourth book that I would recommend getting ‘cause that tells you the steps of exactly how to use those three books to calculate charts. But other than that if you have all of that then that’s usually all you need in order to calculate charts by hand. And then at that point you can just go crazy calculating everyone’s charts.
CU: Oh, yeah. Go wild.
CB: You’ll be the centerpiece at all parties, like the most popular person at all parties from that point forward.
CU: It’s a good party trick.
PW: Yeah, I was gonna say maybe at future conferences, they can have a ‘cast-off’ where people do speed runs and do a chart-calculating competition.
PW: That’d be fun, yeah.
CB: All the Virgos would just blow everyone else out of the water.
PW: It’d be just like five nerds in the corner doing it.
CB: Right. Well, one place where this could come in real handy is at a Renaissance fair or something like that, if you wanted to be an astrologer doing readings. If you wanted to be really authentic, you should probably calculate things by hand.
PW: Get a sundial.
CU: Yeah, a sundial and a very big cart with a mule attached to it to carry around all your books that you’re gonna need.
PW: An Antikythera Mechanism, yeah.
PW: An abacus.
CB: Astrologers and their books. All right, so that gives you all of the tools that you need: the books tell you the steps; Catherine’s workshop tells you the steps. Besides that—and we’ll circle around to mention those again—are there any other major points that we wanted to mention about this, or that we need to mention either as meta points that we started most of this discussion with, or other things that are relevant in terms of calculating charts by hand that we haven’t mentioned so far in terms of the books or aside from the books?
CU: I just want to say that it may sound daunting at first, and also, conversely, pointless to learn chart calculations at this point in time, but I love what Patrick shared about coming from this background where math at one point in your life felt intimidating. Learning chart calculations, in fact, it’s a lot of little steps, but I just want to reiterate that the math component really isn’t hard, it’s just a lot of memorization. And as long as you have your formulas, and you know where to look, you’re gonna be just fine.
PW: Yeah, I mean, is it necessary for an astrologer to know how to calculate a natal chart? I don’t think so. I mean, at this time, in the foreseeable future it doesn’t seem like it’s necessary. Is it ideally better for an astrologer to know how to calculate a chart by hand? I think, yes. I think the answer is yes. It’s ideally better not only because of potential apocalyptic scenarios, but also just for deepening our understanding of the mathematical—and depending on the astrological craft—and just to have a full appreciation and awareness of this privilege, this amazing privilege we have in using astrological software. Yeah, that’s kind of my main feeling about, “Should we do it? Does it need to be done?” Well, no, but ideally it’s better if we do, so it’s worthwhile if one chooses to pursue it.
CB: Yeah, for sure. And from my perspective, one of the things that’s important about it is I think it will give astrologers a better access point for truly being able to solve some of the longstanding debates in the astrological community, like, for example, the house division debate. When things like that come up, for example, like last month or whenever, for most astrologers today it’s just an option between clicking two different options in a list, and the design or the appearance of the chart changing, and the positions of the planets changing houses. But many astrologers don’t truly understand the fundamental astronomical principles underlying some of the different points in the chart, and that’s a real problem because it means you’re limited in terms of how far you can go in understanding the motivation for some of the techniques and concepts that we use in astrology, and the original astronomical motivation that some of the symbolic interpretive principles are based on.
And I do think that there’s some very important astronomical and mathematical distinctions that are embedded in some of the charts and some of the different house systems and other techniques that we use, which if astrologers only understood the astronomical or mathematical basis of those better, they might have a better access point for being able to actually answer or resolve some of the longstanding disputes in the astrological community about things like house division, as well as other topics. I mean, we’ve also got things like the tropical and sidereal zodiac or a number of different things that have come up over the course of the history of our tradition, and some of those things are not gonna get better necessarily by astrologers becoming less informed about the astronomical or mathematical basis of the subject. It can only be improved, and it can only help us to move forward as a community to continue to grow and improve collectively if we learn some of this stuff and the mathematics behind it with more detail and more precision and more accuracy. So I think that’s one of the great promises of approaching things like this, as well as getting that education behind you. Even if it’s not that you regularly calculate every chart by hand going forward, it’s gonna give you a better appreciation and a deeper understanding of the topic.
PW: Right on.
CU: Yeah, something unique to us as astrologers I think is that the way that we make use of our astrology in the present is only enriched by our understanding of our lineage and the past. Chris, I know you did an episode two years ago—I think it came out around the time that my workshop came out—‘cause I was thinking, “Oh, that’s really good timing.” You did an episode on the different house systems.
CB: Yeah, with Luis Ribeiro. We talked about the mathematics underlying some of the different systems.
CB: Yeah, so that was Episode 313, which was titled, ‘House Division Calculations in Astrology Explained’. Yeah, so there’s that which gives you more of an understanding of where you might be able to approach the house division issue in understanding the mathematics underlying each of the different systems of house division and how they’re dividing the quadrants, or how they’re dividing the chart into different slices, instead of just focusing on the outcome and whether one house system places my Venus in the 10th house or another places it in the 11th house or what have you. But instead, it’s understanding a little bit more of the reason why they divided this system, or what is the mathematical justification for this approach, and what differentiates it from another approach or what have you.
PW: Yeah, I think asking what a house system is trying to divide, or what is it trying to do provides much more of a productive discussion or more productive thoughts on it than it does to just, yeah, evaluate it by its outcome; this planet in this house makes more sense in this house.
PW: I think that if you understand the astronomy and the mathematics of different house systems then that makes your perspective on the house systems not only more balanced or broader, but also whatever house system you decide to use, it establishes that you’re opting to use that—you’re choosing to use that. It’s a choice. That house system is a choice, not just an inherited disposition. It’s not just a default stance that you take, but it’s actually a choice. It’s not out of laziness or something that you are preferring to use a house system; it is just coming from your understanding of the different principles of division.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. And something Demetra’s been working on recently is the observational astronomy underlying the Midheaven ‘cause there’s three different things that were called the Midheaven in ancient astrology. There was the meridian, which was the quadrant Midheaven, there was the nonagesimal, which is the equal house Midheaven, and then there’s the 10th whole sign house, which was also referred to generally as the Midheaven, as the name for that entire house in ancient astrology. So there’s this ambiguity when reading ancient texts sometimes where you don’t know which one they’re referring to, or you have to infer contextually which one they’re referring to.
But what’s interesting—and something Demetra’s been working on recently in terms of the observational astronomy—is she’s been talking a lot with astrologer Gemini Brett about this just what each different Midheaven represents astronomically, and how the quadrant Midheaven represents a middle-point in time or is very cued into time, as well as location, since that’s the geographical point of differentiation between east and west. But in terms of space and in terms of actual elevation or height, equal house and the whole sign house Midheaven may actually be higher in terms of space, even if it’s not as high in terms of time, or doesn’t represent a middle-point in terms of time.
So there’s a deeper access point there astronomically that we might be able to understand and start to give a context for different systems of house division if one of them is more keyed into space and another is more keyed into time. That might give you a different conceptual or philosophical access point for starting to resolve the house division issue by breaking it down into underlying astronomical principles and having a true understanding of what those are and what the chart is actually representing astronomically, instead of just using it as this abstract, two-dimensional diagram without having a true understanding of what the astronomy or the mathematics is underlying it.
PW: And that’s something I think VR is probably gonna be able to help us with. ‘Cause they already have astronomy apps on VR where you can be like inside the solar system, or be on planet Earth and you can actually see it in 3D. So although we’re talking about the super analog, retro practice of astrology, I feel like to take things further there will be ways we can use emerging technologies right now to further our understanding of the night sky. And of course getting out there and looking at the sky helps too if you don’t have light pollution or clouds.
CB: Yeah, I think that’ll absolutely take us back at some point to the early Mesopotamian days where they would literally go out when somebody was being born and observe the sky and see what was visible or what was not visible, and the visible appearance of a celestial object or a celestial phenomenon had symbolic significance about what was happening or what was starting at that time. It’s almost like an omen-based approach of paying attention to omens in nature, and omens happening in the sky being reflected in events on Earth. But I think one of the things that will be really interesting in getting back to that is having 3D or three-dimensional pictures of what the sky looked like at the moment a person was born and what celestial objects were visible or not visible, was it bright out, was it dark out. Different things like that will be more possible at some point before too long here with where we’re moving with technology and things like that.
CU: It’s so funny you bring up Gemini Brett too because not only is he such an awesome resource for learning astronomy for astrologers, but on the day that my son was born—two months ago today actually—there was a visible Saturn-Venus-Moon alignment in the sky, and Gemini Brett took a photo, a beautiful photo of it, and shared it on his social media. And I saw that, and I was like, “That is my son’s alignment right there.” And I actually emailed him, and he sent me an image file of it, so I’m gonna print it out for him, which is really special and cool.
CB: That’s beautiful. And we’ve noted this on social media—and it might be worth noting here for the podcast—that we recorded the Aquarius episode with Bear and Aerin, and I had picked out an electional chart with an Aquarius stellium for that day. And then a few days later I found out that was also the day that you gave birth to your son.
CU: Yeah, yeah. So he got that beautiful Aquarius stellium that you used to record the episode, which is pretty cool.
CU: Yeah, one of the first birth charts that might have The Astrology Podcast ‘stamp of approval’.
CB: Right. Yeah, I love it.
PW: An ‘AP’ baby, wow.
CU: Yeah, and he was on the podcast with me actually too.
PW: Yeah, he was.
CB: That’s true. He was technically in the Libra episode.
CU: Yeah, and the September forecast, I think.
CB: Yeah, so that’s kind of fitting. Well, perhaps not his last appearance. We’ll have to see how that goes having an astrologer parent, which is a podcast topic we’ve done in the past.
CU: Yeah, with Patrick.
PW: Yeah, that’s right.
CB: Right. Yeah, so circling back to Gemini Brett, I did an episode with him, Episode 121, which is titled, ‘The Importance of Astronomy for Astrology’. Although I may want to go back and have that discussion with him again to get another side of this in terms of observational astronomy for astrologers. ‘Cause that episode, despite the title, we ended up actually just talking about how weird it was that Flat Earth theory had become really popular in the past several years and sort of got stuck on that topic, but we may have touched on some things that are relevant in terms of what we’re bringing up here.
But maybe it’s time. That would be a good next step to maybe talk to him more and have him come back on the show to talk about some of the observational astronomy components that are underlying some of the mathematical calculations that we’re talking about here ‘cause that’s still an important distinction. Even when you’re calculating charts by hand using these books in the manner in which chart calculation came to be done in the 20th century, even though you’re getting closer to the astronomy, in some ways it’s still a sort of mathematical abstraction of things, and it’s not necessarily the same as going outside and looking up and being able to point out or view where different astronomical objects are, right?
CU: Yeah, I mean, it just goes along with the differentiation between the tropical zodiac and the sidereal zodiac in the sense that when you look at where a planet is in relationship to the stars, it may not match up for us exactly using the tropical zodiac. But actually calculating a chart in the way that we would as astrologers today, we are still using a lot of the mathematical and astronomical relationships that our planet has with the seasons; like I mentioned before with the equinox points and the intersection of the ecliptic and our equator, our celestial equator. So it still does have everything to do with the astronomy, it’s just not as visual immediately, I would say.
CU: But then again, I mean, the sidereal zodiac, not every constellation is 30°, so you could argue it either way.
PW: Ayanamsas depend on knowing when the vernal equinox is ‘cause you’re correcting. so they’re both kind of using both frames of references for each other. ‘Cause if you can locate constellations then you can roughly determine when the vernal equinox is using the same method, just you’re doing it the other way.
CB: Yeah. And I think what you’re saying is both are abstractions, both the tropical and sidereal zodiacs to a certain extent, but both also have observational components; because that’s the difference between looking and seeing in an ephemeris that the Sun, for example, just went into tropical Aries a few days ago. But then if you go outside to a park and just observe sunrise and sunset, and the length of the day in that part of the year versus if you go out three months from now at the summer solstice and you observe sunrise and sunset and how long the day is, and then you do that at the fall equinox, and then at the winter solstice, you do get a much more visceral understanding of what those astronomical points are and how that ties into the tropical zodiac, and therefore, what you’re doing with astrology, and why we’re interpreting things in the way that we do. So all of this is just getting us back to some of those fundamental, first principles, which are ultimately astronomical and visible or very tangible things that we interpret symbolically and have symbolic importance for our lives through astrology.
All right, well, on that note, I think we were shooting for a two-hour episode, so we got a good 2-hours-and-12-minutes here. So thank you both for joining me. So just to reiterate, where can people find your workshop, Catherine?
CU: You can find my workshop, ‘Chart Calculations for the Apocalypse’ at my website, which catherineurban.com.
CB: Cool. And you’re otherwise doing consultations, classes, and all the usual. You’ve got a YouTube channel that you are pretty active on.
CU: Yeah, so I’m just coming out of maternity leave, so I actually just opened up my calendar. So you might not have to wait as long to get a session with me, which is kind of cool. And the other thing I have going on is, yeah, I have my YouTube channel where I do ‘Astrology Shots of the Day’. And I actually just launched another segment called ‘The Family Astrologer’, and I’m really excited about that, where I explore topics related to family dynamics through the lens of astrology.
CB: Nice. That sounds amazing. So your YouTube channel, I think people can find that at youtube.com/astrocatherine, and they’ll find all of your videos and content there.
CB: Cool. All right, Patrick, what about you? You’ve got this new article; you just released it today. What’s the title of the article, again?
PW: “Should Astrologers Calculate Natal Charts by Hand?” Which I guess I could have saved myself a lot of time by just saying, “Yes,” but I had some other observations and some jokes to throw in. So, yeah, you can read that at my website, which patrickwatsonastrology.net. And that’s also where I’m available for consultations, natal consultations, rectifications, horary, electionals, tutoring sessions. I also have a YouTube channel that I’m sort of revamping, I guess, or will be. I’m also on Patreon. Also, I’ll be launching—I’m not sure what to call it yet. I guess I’ll be live with astrologer Nick Dagan Best on Twitch every week. So you’ll have to watch our Twitters I guess for when and where exactly that’s happening. But that should be pretty fun to talk about astrology and basically to hang out.
CB: Experiments in livestreaming, sounds good.
PW: Yeah, experiments in livestreaming I guess is what it is currently. I think our name is gonna be Exo-Astrology for ‘exoteric astrology. But, yeah, we’ll have more information about that later on.
CB: Nice. And just to clarify, I think your website is patrickwatsonastrology.com, not .net, right?
PW: Did I say ‘.net’? Oh, no. Yeah, I think I was so focused on not saying ‘patrickwatsonastrologer.com’ that I said ‘.net’. That’s so strange. Yes, my website is patrickwatsonastrology.com. Thank you very much, Chris.
CB: No problem. All right, well, yeah, I’ll put a link to both of your websites in the description below this video on YouTube or on the podcast website for this episode. But I guess that’s it for this episode. So thank you both for joining me.
CU: Thank you so much.
PW: Thank you, thank you.
CB: All right, thanks everyone for watching or listening. Good luck with your chart calculations by hand. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe and like, and we’ll see you again next time.
A special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on Patreon.com. In particular, a shoutout to the patrons on our Producers tier, including: Thomas Miller, Catherine Conroy, Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issa Sabah, Jake Otero, Mimi Stargazer, and Jeanne Marie Kaplan. If you appreciate the work I’m doing here on the podcast and you’d like to find a way to support it then please consider becoming a patron through our page on Patreon.com. In exchange, you can get access to bonus content that’s only available to patrons of the podcast, such as early access to new episodes, the ability to attend the live recording of the monthly forecast episodes, our monthly Auspicious Elections Podcast or another exclusive podcast series called The Casual Astrology Podcast, or you can even get your name listed in the credits at the end of each episode. For more information visit Patreon.com/AstrologyPodcast.
If you’re looking to get an astrological consultation, we have a list of recommended astrologers at TheAstrologyPodcast.com/Consultations. The astrologers on the list are friends of the podcast that have been featured in different episodes over the years, and they have different specialties such as natal astrology, electional astrology, synastry, rectification, or horary astrology. You can get a 10% discount when you book a consultation with one of the astrologers on our list by using the promo code ‘ASTROLOGYPODCAST’.
The astrology software that we use and recommend here on the podcast is called Solar Fire for Windows, which is available for the PC at Alabe.com. Use the promo code ‘AP15’ to get a 15% discount. For Mac users we recommend a software program called Astro Gold for Mac OS, which is from the creators of Solar Fire for PC, and it includes both modern and traditional techniques. You can find out more information at AstroGold.io, and you can use the promo code ‘ASTROPODCAST15’ to get a 15% discount.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach to astrology then I’d recommend checking out my book titled, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. You can get a print copy of the book through Amazon or other online retailers, or there’s an ebook version available through Google Books.
If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology then I would recommend my Hellenistic astrology course, which is an online course on ancient astrology where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over 100 hours of video lectures, as well as guided readings of ancient texts, and by the time you finish the course you will have a strong foundation on how to read birth charts, as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.theAstrologySchool.com.
And finally, thanks to our sponsors, including The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, which is a quarterly astrology magazine which you can read in print or online at MountainAstrologer.com. Thanks also to the StarScribe Astrology and Journaling App, which is currently running a Kickstarter campaign through April 22, 2023 to fund an exciting new mobile app for astrologers. Find out more information at StarScribe.co. Finally, thanks also to the Northwest Astrology Conference, which is happening May 25-29, 2023, just outside of Seattle. This year’s conference is gonna be a hybrid conference where you can either attend online or in person. Find out more information at norwac.net.