The simplified astrology found in newspapers, magazines, and other popular publications emphasizes sun signs as well as a rudimentary form of solar astrology. While there are many different influences in every individual's natal chart, the single most important astrological influence on personality is usually the sign of the zodiac the Sun was in at birth. Sun-sign astrology has the advantage of simplicity—a person's birthday is all that must be known to figure out her or his sign—but this simplicity is purchased at the price of ignoring all other astrological influences, and hence is rarely 100 percent accurate.
Solar astrology is a system that is often used when an individual's birth time cannot be determined. Rather than beginning the chart's houses from the ascendant (which cannot be calculated when the birth time is unavailable), a solar chart uses the position of the Sun on the day of birth as the place to begin the first house, and then calculates succeeding houses in equal arcs of 30°. Newspaper astrology further simplifies this system by using the 30° arc of the sun sign as the first house, the next sign in order of the zodiac as the second house, and so forth. In other words, for a Scorpio (i.e., a Scorpio sun sign), all 30° of the sign are regarded as the first house, all 30° of Sagittarius (the next sign of the zodiac after Scorpio) as the second house, all 30° of Capricorn as the third house, and so on.
These highly simplified houses are used to determine the influences of the transiting planets that are generic to each sun sign. As a concrete example, the planet Jupiter embodies a principle that expresses itself variously as multiplicity, expansion, joviality, and good luck. When transiting Jupiter is in Capricorn, it is in the solar third house of all Scorpios. The third house represents travel, relatives, communication, and related matters, so the presence of transiting Jupiter in this area indicates a period of time during which one experiences more trips, as well as more communications,
than usual. Relations with relatives also tend to improve. Capricorn is the solar second house for all Sagittarians. The second house has to do with money and possessions, and the presence of transiting Jupiter here usually corresponds with a period of comparative financial abundance. Capricorn is the solar first house for all Capricorns. The first house is the basic self and the physical body, and transiting Jupiter here tends to make one happier and also corresponds with a period during which Capricorns put on weight. These basic principles can be extended to every sign of the zodiac, which is precisely what newspaper astrologers do.
The exact origin of newspaper astrology is difficult to determine, though it probably originated in popular almanacs. Astrology columns have been abundant in the English-speaking world since at least the early twentieth century. Because newspaper astrology ignores all other astrological influences and is thus a hit-or-miss system that works only occasionally, professional astrologers tend to dislike it inasmuch as its inaccuracy can lead nonastrologers to reject astrology as untrue.
Bach, Eleanor. Astrology from A to Z: An Illustrated Source Book. New York: Philosophical Library, 1990. Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Astrology. London: Rout-ledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.
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