Astrology is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial objects as a means for divining information about one’s character and potential (natal or birth chart), human affairs (personal and interpersonal) and terrestrial events. In the last article, I gave a basic overview of the 3 important aspects of astrological language: signs/constellations, planets and houses. If you missed this introduction, please follow this link to read it. In this segment, I will extrapolate on how the planetary positions influence astrological interpretation, some relevant differences between Western and Eastern/Vedic astrology, and the ways that astrology can be used to better your life experience.
A horoscope is a visual expression of a set of relationships for the time and place of the chosen event. These relationships are between the planets (including sun & moon), signifying tendencies such as war (Mars) and love (Venus); the twelve signs of the zodiac / star constellations; and the twelve houses. Each planet is in a particular sign and a particular house at the chosen time, creating two kinds of relationship.
A third kind is called the ‘aspect’, and is the geometric angular relationship of each planet to every other planet, where for example two planets 120° apart (in ‘trine’) are in a harmonious relationship, but two planets 90° apart (‘square’) are in a conflicted relationship.
The following chart shows the various aspects, it’s representative glyph observed in a chart, the degrees of separation between the planets and keywords representing the energy of the aspect.
An ‘aspect’ which may help us to recognize and use our talents is the sextile; these are communicative and relationship-friendly aspects. They point to energies that can be directed and reveal the potential for their intelligent use.
A square aspect creates tension between planets, necessary to stimulate action, but not so much as to create harmful stress. We may encounter obstacles that seem to be at cross-purposes with our desires, consequently overdo it, before we get it right. But they can be positive as they force us out of complacency. Squares tend to be more difficult when we are young, as typically we grow and learn from their influence.
The way we would see the 4 major and minor aspects on a wheel chart is like this:
Together these relationships and their interpretations form the language of the heavens speaking to humans; it is a language that was once integrated fully into our everyday understanding of life and that can help us negotiate our choices during chaotic times, and personal challenges.
There are many kinds of astrology, with very different foci. One typically begins with a natal (birth) chart, similar to taking a picture of the planets at the time of one’s birth–the universe stopped at that moment in time. It reveals what the universe has to say about who a person is and what he or she may become. Then one can overlay that information with what is happening in the heavens at the current moment or for predictive astrology, look into the future, to make informed decisions about when might be favorable times to initiate, communicate, or withdraw from, whatever aspects of life one is considering changes within. But there are others: astro-relocation, which looks at suitable geographic locations for one to reside, or medical astrology, which looks at the birth chart to discover the person’s weaknesses and best potential remedies.
By far the biggest difference in astrological approaches, is how the east and west use the heavens to decipher it’s influence upon an individual. I will outline the major differences between Western and Vedic (=Eastern = Jyotish), the latter arising from India. Western astrology has not always been accepted by the masses, whereas Jyotish, is deeply respected and integrated within eastern lifestyles. I will outline below some of the main differences between the 2 approaches.
1. Tropical vs. Sidereal: Western astrology systems use the zodiac/signs related to seasons, called tropical astrology, while the Eastern Vedic system uses a zodiac of constellations related to stars – that is, sidereal. Tropical zodiac signs are defined by the sun’s apparent annual seasonal movement around the Earth; thus the vernal equinox is the first zodiac sign of Aries, as the sun moves across the equator going northward. Vedic astrology uses the actual star constellations in the sky, with a typical reference point of the star Spica, defining the beginning of the sign Libra.
2. Precession: Around 1700 years ago, Sidereal and Tropical Aries positions in the sky were similar, but since then, they have been moving apart from each other, as a result of the ‘signs’ moving backwards in relationship to the constellations, about 1 degree every 72 years; this is called precession of the equinoxes. Tropical astrology does not adjust for this change, saying seasonal segments of the heavens are independent of the constellations. Sidereal astrology uses the actual places of the constellations in the sky as they are now.
3. Number & Focus of Planets: Vedic astrology uses the Sun and Moon and planets up to and including Saturn. It does not use the outer planets of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. It also places special emphasis on nodes of the Moon. Vedic astrology gives more significance to the rising sign (=Lagna) and the moon, than the sun, which is the prominent ‘planet’ western astrologers focus upon; most westerners identify solely with the location of their sun sign. However, all good astrologers will interpret the positions of all of the ‘planets’ in signs and houses.
4. Nakshtras: in addition to the 12 signs of the zodiac, the Vedic system uses 27 ‘moon signs’; each is divided into 4 sections. This allows for more subtle understandings of an individuals’ uniqueness. The moon is considered more important than the sun in the Vedic approach.
5. Dasa: The Vedic system has a way of forecasting when traits in the chart will show themselves through the use of a predictive analysis tool called dasa; each planet in the horoscope is allotted a specific period of influence in a person’s hypothetical lifetime of 120 years. For example, if you are in your Saturn dasa, which lasts 19 years, you will learn some deep life lessons through disciplined internal effort, nose to the grindstone if you will, resulting (if properly engaged) in spiritual and character enhancing rewards. During a Jupiter dasa, life will offer the opposite expansive effects of this planet’s energy.
6. Planetary Yogas: In Vedic approach, there are special combinations of planets that offer a degree of power and influence. There is nothing like this in the western approach.
7. Chart formats: The Vedic charts are square, and western are a wheel.
Below are the 2 formats for Vedic charts: each showing the placement of Houses (numbers) and Signs
North Indian Chart South Indian Chart
The Indian / Vedic charts above are not filled in with the planets and aspects, so you can just get the sense of the format.
A typical circular format Western chart, is shown on the left; it is ‘filled in’ with: the aspects between planets shown in the innermost circle (colored lines of opposition, trine etc), the next circle out shows the house numbers & adjoining wedge shaped zones, within which are the planets (as they were in the heavens at the time of reference); the outermost circle, shows the glyphs as representative of the location of the signs of the zodiac.
A good astrologer can help you negotiate the birth chart interpretation, as well as how the current heavenly status is influencing you, and how to best approach various aspects of your life. For astrology to be effective, we must work on the level of identity. Astrology should be a finger that points you back to your true identity in this life. Circumstances may be pleasant or unpleasant, but they will always exist in whatever situation you find yourself. We all must find our own internal balance that is independent from the forces that surround us. And this is where the great tools of yoga come in to help you balance and integrate within all the forces that surround you, and why in the East, astrology and yoga were integrated on a daily basis.
Remember, the Yoga Vacation Retreat with Debbie at the end of February, is an opportunity to understand how the earth and heavens are within you. A Vedic astrologer will be presenting a workshop, and offering readings.
Go to www.YogaOasis.biz/retreats and read how a week of inner and outer exploration can transform your life.