“What’s your sign?” has become a classic line in pop culture; at times it’s a cheesy pick up line, and others, a question popped as just another fun way to learn more about someone. It’s not rare to encounter a skeptic when the topic comes up, and most people — excluding dedicated astrologues — don’t tend to take the practice too seriously. The movement of the stars and planets doesn’t really tell you anything about a person, right? Wrong! Once you get past the poppy presentation, reading your horoscope can be useful tool for finding out all sorts of things, not just about others, but about yourself.1
Astrology is one of the most famous of the occult arts. Astrology is the movement of the study of the movement of the stars and planets as a source of divination. It has been practiced by many civilizations throughout history but what’s most well known in today’s world is western astrology or “the zodiac” and what’s commonly called eastern astrology or “the Chinese zodiac.” Both of these styles rely on birth dates to divine more information about the person. However, historically astrology has been used to predict a wide variety of events above and beyond someone’s personality. The Egyptians, for example, foretold the coming of Greek invaders and accepted it as Ma’at because it had been foreseen.2 So you see, it can have varied uses for things, even outside of yourself!
But, when it comes to serious magical practitioners, believing the horoscopes we read in newspapers and magazines is pretty much synonymous with believing in “made up nonsense” for most people. How legitimate can it be if it’s published in every mainstream paper around the world?
Well, the times the sun rises and the moons sets are published too but it doesn’t make that information less meaningful. If you think horoscopes are just good for a laugh, then there’s a lot more you need to know about the movement of the stars.
Please note, I will be speaking primarily about the sun signs, also known as western astrology for this piece.
1. Daily horoscopes are just the tip of the iceberg.
You can find your horoscope in just about any paper published in the country. There are a ton of websites that also offer this information, even if they don’t have any affiliation with the Occult or spiritual matters otherwise. All you need to know is your birthday and you’ll have your sign in a matter of moments.
That information, however, is just your basic sun sign info. To really know what the stars have in store for you, you’ll need to have a natal chart done which you will need your birth time and location for. The more accurate this information is, the more accurate your chart will be. There are a plethora of websites that will be able to generate a natal chart for you but it’s better to have a real live astrologer create your chart as they will be able to more clearly explain what all the connections mean. Still, you want to get a taste of what a full natal chart looks like try Cafe Astrology for an easy and fairly through glance. ((“Free Astrology Birth Chart Report,” Cafe Astrology, 2002.))
A natal chart will show you that your horoscope is more than just your “sign,” it’s really about where planets (the sun included) were in relation to the stars at your time of birth and how this affects your entire life.3 The horoscopes we see in papers are more of quick study guide for your sun sign for that moment in time. Your unique natal chart is the key to the answers of how to best respond or understand current astrological events.
2. Who’s in your houses?
Even if you don’t go see a professional astrologer (or check out a free website) there’s still a lot more you can learn about yourself, just from understanding astrology a bit more than what comes out weekly from your favourite site. (That’s us, right?)
If you do a bit of study, you’ll find out about “the houses.” There are 12 houses in total but they are split up by sky placement, they’re based on movement of the Earth. Each house controls an aspect of our lives such as our identities (House I) or our partnerships (House VII). In a way, you can think of houses as earthly concerns of a person’s being.
Each house is controlled by planetary energies but how that is represented depends on your birthday. Your first house is always your sign and then you follow the wheel accordingly. In a natural chart (one that starts with the default settings) Aries is the first house, then Taurus in the second. I’m a Libra, so that’s my first house followed by Scorpio for my second. The idea is that the planets and zodiac signs sit in these houses and their energies impact your experience of these houses (ie. these parts of your life….). So, how I handle myself (House I) as a Libra is much different than that of an Aries and what I think of my possessions (House II) is much different with the energy of Scorpio than Taurus.
The zodiac is a wheel and to find your houses, all you need to do is locate yours on the wheel and move counter clockwise starting from your sun sign. Your sign is House I and then just label the house counter clockwise. This exercise may not answer all your questions but you may learn that Aries living in your seventh house is why you’re so terrible at group projects.
3. We believe the moon affects us, why not the other celestial bodies?
Every few months you’ve probably heard people around you fret about the movement of mercury “Oh no! Mercury is in retrograde!” and if you don’t know anything about astrology, you’ll probably wondering what that means (other than the fact that shit might get crazy). It’s not some mystical thing that we can’t understand, and it’s not a sure-sign of disaster. Mercury is closest to the sun and moves very fast and has a elliptical orbit.4 Because of this, a a few times a year it moves past us and it appears that it’s moving backwards as we follow our own rotation around the sun. The retrograde period is notable because the orbit of the planet is so short, it happens very often. So, it’s science! But it still messes up communication, though.
The planets are constantly moving in and out of signs, some very quickly, like Mercury and others very slowly, like Pluto. As planets make their way through the zodiac, they affect everyone, differently. Sometimes these are positive and can give you a burst of energy and focus but other times a visit from a planet can really drag you down (like Mercury).
Being hip to your horoscope may help you understand what may be affecting you and why. Once you have found out where the planets and zodiac signs sit in your chart (what house they are in), you can gain some insight into how to make sense of your horoscope. So, to return to our example above, knowing that Mars affects your the part of your chart that impacts relationships, during a Mars retrograde, or any other interesting activity that planet may exhibit, you will know to pay extra attention to that part of your life.
In case you were wondering, Mercury controls communication and when it goes into retrograde, it wrecks havoc on lines of communication. Both through face to face and electronic (like when you use a remote to change the channel). The issues surrounding this retrograde aren’t random, they’re communication based so next time it happens, just pay a little bit more attention to that part of your life.
4. Astrology can be magical.
Astrology can be a way to dive into understanding parts of your experience and personality, but it’s also got macro-significance that we can’t really can’t ignore. In magical spaces, it’s not just that people are constantly asking what signs they were born under, astrology is just one of those things that seems to end up in everything. There are astrological recommendations for crystals, spell-workings, and incense, and references to astrology can be found in tarot cards, and other forms of divination. It’s everywhere!
Knowing more about astrology can help you know which planetary influences are best to work under and what stars would suit your magical needs best. For example, Jupiter is lucky so working a luck spell during an astrological event tied to Jupiter may sway it more in your favour (but think this through – it’s a delicate art). Doing workings tied to days of the week (Jupiter’s day is Thursday) can also be powerful, and if you want to get really intricate, you can also research planetary houses (they vary by day). You can check out websites like Astrodienst5 to see where all the current plants are at for more timely spell-work if you’re curious.
6. Tarot and the stars.
As I’ve already mentioned, it plays a role in tarot. Understanding the different signs can help you find new connections in the cards if you’re a reader.6 In this case, knowing your sign won’t help you but a background in the stars will help you see deeper into the cards.
Traditional tarot is heavy with astrological references throughout the deck. Certain cards are associated with planets or zodiac symbols which can provide a deeper meaning.
The cards also display actual symbols from astrology so knowing these can help you read more information at a glance.
Obviously, decks that are merely inspired by the traditional cards won’t always have this imagery, however, since it’s such an integral part of the tarot, there’s a good chance that astrology will show up. Knowing more than your basics will help you see new connections and allow you to explore a deeper understanding of the cards.
Bonus: It’s really fun!
This may seem silly but learning the basics of astrology and using them in your practice is a fun way to learn more about the world outside of yourself as well as a new way to look at yourself and the people in your life. The way the signs present in a person isn’t always very obvious and talking about them with others (or just looking at them yourself) can help you understand why people act the way they do. You may think that your calm Aries friend (a sign known for being a bit hot headed) is doing a terrible job at being true to their sign, not to mention that this astrology stuff must be a total joke. But, after hanging out with him for a few weeks you realize that those Aries qualities only come out when he’s at work or under pressure.
Astrology has gotten a bad rap despite (or maybe because of) its mainstream appeal. While at first glance it might seem as it doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of knowledge, but there’s a lot someone with even just a bit of knowledge with astrology can begin learn and apply.
- See, for example, Liz Worth’s horoscope column, Hidden Insights. [↩]
- Robert Bauval and Ahmed Osman, The Soul of Ancient Egypt Restoring the Spiritual Engine of the World (Rochester: Bear and Co, .2015). For more on this book, check out Donyae Coles’ review. [↩]
- Eva Shaw, Divining the Future: Prognostication from Astrology to Zoomancy (New York: Facts on File, 1995). [↩]
- “Mercury Retrograde,” Universe Today, 10 December 2008. [↩]
- “Horoscope and Astrology,” Astodienst, 19 February 2017. [↩]
- Eileen Connolly, Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice (GloucesterNew Page Books, 2003). [↩]