To be honest, this is not an astrology tutorial. I am definitely not good enough to write one of those right now. But as a form of excuse for the catchy title i’ll try to point to the best tutorials i’ve found (and in the next post i will actually talk about astrology, swear!).
I’ve said that words do not have real meanings and that there is no Truth™ — and i seem to be stuck at my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I say that you cannot transfer experiences through words, and i see myself trying to convey an idea that does not fit with other people’s experiences.
A different tactic, then. Instead of arguments, i will tell a story.
“The tale of how i learned astrology”.
My mother and some uncles did study astrology for quite some time. My first contacts with this discipline were not newspaper horoscopes, as with most people, but instead personal map readings. “You have Sagittarius on your ascendant.” “You have Venus conjunct Pluto.” And most often than not an interpretation, like “Saturn on the tenth, well, success, sure, but not fast or effortless”. I never looked for predictions in astrology — and this is a good first advice.
Also, very soon i discovered that (though older astrologers might hate me for that) making a chart is very simple, it is just a matter of entering the necessary data onto a program [and obviously now you can do it online, the best place i know of being astrodienst].
On the other hand, i used to think that astrology was too hard. I did not think that i would really ever dedicate time enough to be able to read my own astrological chart. It was just a picture to me, and later a picture that i understood to be a depiction of the sky at the time i was born, but i did never try to extract any psychological (or historical) knowledge of it.
But then i went to a birthday party of a friend, Marcos. He is a professional astrologer. And, out of nothing, he gave me “The only way to learn astrology“, which in Portuguese is not called this, it is just “curso de astrologia”, but my friend actually said to me that this book was the “only one” available that really did teach anything.
And, well, i read the book.
The first impression of the fledgling astrology student is that astrology is just about memorizing names and things [take a first look at those listings! ♈ ♉ ♊ ♋ ♌ ♍ ♎ ♏ ♐ ♑ ♒ ♓]. Instead of explaining some connected concepts, it seems that the books are just long lists of signs, written symbols for those signs, and endless series of keywords for each of those. Aries can be impulsive and courageous, but also idealist and enthusiastic, and egocentric, and so on. Adjectives seem to be the love of the authors of those books, but they do not stop there. No! The lists can include anything from kinds of stones to phases of life to parts of the body.
The basic impulse, then, or at least the impulse i had at this point, was to try to get some concrete and palpable conclusion by extracting words from the list. I have Sagittarius ascendant, i would try to translate that into “am i smart? have i talent for philosophy?”.
To coax interpretations from lots of indications was a boring, uncreative and tiresome process. The longer i tried, the less i understood, the less i could see of the bigger picture. Nevertheless, it did help that doing that too much i began to get very acquainted with the symbols themselves. That is, i became comfortable with such arcane phrases as “a full 11th house” or “♄ in the Midheaven”. Those no longer sounded as empty names — even if i really did not understand them too much.
The next step actually began to happen when i loosened and stopped worrying about “what it meant”. Then i was just curious about what someone’s signs where or would say. Once i met a Libra girl and she was just too serious to be Libra, and that kept bugging me until i asked her what was her ascendant and it was Capricorn — i let out an “Aaaaahh!” and she was pissed when i couldn’t explain what that meant.
Once curiosity took hold — what in one of those synchronicities happened at the same time i got an astrology program on my Palm that allowed me to make people’s charts wherever i was — i began peeking at more and more people’s charts. And looking at lots of them seemed to be more fruitful than getting too deep into my own or into some specific one.
Then i began to see, it began to jump up to my eyes, in each chart which points were strongest, which were more important in that given configuration. Amidst that soup of symbols some simply seemed to form sentences, they seemed to make sense together. Like when i saw someone with ♂ conjunct ♇ in ♏ it just didn’t seem “normal” or “usual” — i mean, everyone has ♂ and ♇ in their charts somewhere, but conjunct? And in the first degree of ♏? Wow!
Before all that happened, i could give pretty accurate descriptions of the signs that were predominant in my own chart, but the others i was always forgetting about, no matter how much i did read about them. Now they all began to settle into a system. It was not that i gained some deep insight into the “nature of the water element”, it is just that it all was part of a cycle and even if i did not have much empathic connection to a given point there i did understand the context.
At last, i understood that “i’ve got ☽ in Aquarius” actually means much more than “i have an unconventional way to feelings and relationships”. And i say that not because you can extract the second phrase from the first (and many other ones). In a sense, you could do the reverse too.
But the thing is that “♒ Aquarius” is part of a 12-wise typology, it is a system, and at that a pretty clear and objective system (contrary to what scientificist types will tell you). It is the thing that comes after “♑ Capricorn” and before “♓ Pisces”, after all.
So even if you and i get to completely different interpretations of what “☽ in ♒” should be held to mean, we are still constrained in what we are talking about. No doubt we are talking about two different things, as we are in disagreement, but we are forced to be talking about something that first can be seen in the sky and that can be measured in it’s motion. Astrological symbols are, in many ways, operational definitions.
But when we talk about “unconventional” the same does not apply. What does “unconventional” mean? What is “convention”? Even if you come up with beautiful definitions, or if you summon some respectable source or dictionary, it pretty much remains the fact that those definitions where not part of the conversation before you introduced them. Even if you create ad lib whole systems of understanding to explain “unconventional” they will be like a complement to our previous ideas and not really an analysis of it — it might have lot’s of future creating those systems, but before them “unconventional” did not mean anything very specific.
And now try the same thing with “feelings”! Not only this word does not have much meaning, in the sense i used in the previous paragraph, whatever you construe it to have will most likely be strongly opposed by your interlocutor, because despite not signifying anything «feelings» are an integral and important part of people’s lives. “Feelings” is a word that has no meaning — every single person i asked, despite in the shallow having a agreeable capacity to say “what feelings are”, once inquired a little more emphatically showed that they had completely different takes and attitudes and understandings about “feelings” and would react in completely different ways about issues that dealt with «feelings».
So “feelings” has no meaning, but it is important.
In the end, what i learned was that astrology could have lots of meanings (if you didn’t burden it with the imperative of being “True”). It was not important but, if you used this whole field of meaning you could understand more than you did before, or than you could do without it. And then, you can make astrology important.
Obviously it is very easy to get lost amidst all those symbols and arcana. It is. That is, mainly, what our contemporary other systems-for-understanding-man have on top of astrology despite they lacking astrology’s wealth of symbolism. They are simpler and therefore more straightforward, but that makes them shallower than astrology. It is a give and take proposition. (But notice that the contemporary systems that do rival astrology in complexity are much much dirtier than it!)
I have dedicated a fairly big amount of time to learning astrology, but i did so mainly because it was fun. It was cool. And it does help me through life. And that is all there is to it.
So, to close, let me put in a list what i believe to be reasonable “steps” to learn astrology (along with the links to real tutorials i promised!).
- learn to draw the symbols
- make your own chart
- stare at it as much as you please ;-)
- preferably with a friend, find all the points in you charts, reading each other’s (practice until it becomes very easy, for example, to find “so where is Saturn? and which aspects are closer?”)
- ask everyone you know for birth data and make as much charts as you can (it is good to do it now, as you still do not exactly grasp just how intimate this is and you will not be too ashamed to ask)
- read the meaning of people’s ascendants (or rising signs)
- do follow the link “More on that ascendant” at the end of each description
- be sure to find at least one person of each sign!
- find more than one person with the same ascendant and compare them
- triple check you can name all the signs in their correct order
- triple check you know all the planets and where they are in the solar system and about how fast each moves
- chose a chart (or more than one) and do a planet-by-planet analysis
- do follow both the link to each planet and then, there, the link to “this planet in the signs”
- maybe search google for the specific planet-sign combination, like “Neptune in Sagittarius”
- begin to try to spot which points are more important in each map
- chose a chart (or more) and do an aspect-by-aspect analysis (order the aspects by closest orb)
- try to understand the ecliptic and the other arcs in the sky
- look at someone else’s chart and instead of asking yourself “what does this mean” ask “what does this person need to hear about herself, what can i say that will make her grow?”
- learn the various categories and divisions of astrology: the four elements, the three qualities, the difference between the day (up) and night (down) sides of a chart, between rising and setting, and so on
- choose a chart and do a house-by-house analysis
- Try to recognize the ideas in the person, instead of trying to conclude anything. Try to see the “♆ in the first house” instead of divining whether this means confusion or tendency to have problems with drugs or whatever
If you did come to the end of the list, you probably already have your own idea of “next steps”. One thing you for certain could do is to explore each of the sites linked above, principally Astrodienst which is to my knowledge the reference in astrology. In any case, here are some other things which were part of my “learning astrology story”:
- get your paws onto an astrology program (better than the palm thing, please) and tweak it to your hearts content: change colours, settings, displays, whether to use the new or old symbol for Pluto, and so on
- choose a house system
- define your own orbs
- buy some books: i would definitely recommend “Planets in Aspect” and “Planets in Transit“, and also “Horoscope Symbols“
You probably noticed i did not really say anything about astrology, really. I did not say what does “Moon in Aquarius” mean. I did not interpret anything. That was part of the design — because i believe that focusing less on “what it means” and more on “how does it work” can enhance your view, can make you see more. And doubtlessly, i believe the same attitude is useful in philosophy, in business relations, in mathematics or whatever you please.
But i also have a post about what i do think it means, in the end — but beware of wild speculation and work-in-progress!