Understanding Themes in the Birth Chart

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After considering the various dominant tones affecting the personal planets of a chart, one may notice one or several tones that seem especially dominant by being repeated over and over. Recognizing such pervasive tones is the first step toward recognizing themes in any chart. One effective method of further understanding themes in a chart is to combine the chief factors of the chart by using the ' 'twelve letters of the astrological alphabet* '* in all their combinations and seeing which combinations (or "interchanges") repeat significantly.

The astrological alphabet is basically as follows:

Letter 1: Aries, Mars & 1st House Letter 2: Taurus, Venus & 2nd House Letter 3: Gemini, Mercury & 3rd House Letter 4: Cancer, Moon & 4th House Letter 5: Leo, Sun & 5th House Letter 6: Virgo, Mercury & 6th House Letter 7: Libra, Venus & 7th House Letter 8: Scorpio, Pluto & 8th House Letter 9: Sagittarius, Jupiter & 9th House Letter 10: Capricorn, Saturn & 10th House Letter 11: Aquarius, Uranus & Uth House Letter 12: Pisces, Neptune & 12th House

For example, if one's chart not only has Mars in Scorpio (an interchange between astrological letters 1 and 8, thus coloring or toning the expression of the Mars energy with a Pluto quality) but also includes a close Mars-Pluto aspect (another interchange of letters 1 and 8), there is a double emphasis on the same combination of energies; and hence, the expression of Mars

*I believe that Dr. Zipporah Dobyns (Ph.D., Psychology) was the first to popularize the concept of "12 letters of the astrological alphabet," a unifying concept which I found extremely helpful in simplifying chart interpretation and especially in teaching chart synthesis in my classes.

energy will be powerfully characterized by Plutonian qualities. If Mars is also in the 8th house or if Pluto is in the 1st house, this theme will be even more dominant.

Another example might help to explain this mode of synthetic analysis, especially for beginning and intermediate students of astrology. Suppose a person has Mercury in Capricorn; this person's attunement of the conscious mind will inevitably share some fundamental qualities with all others who have this Mercury placement. But suppose this particular person also has Saturn in close aspect to Mercury. This gives us two different emphases on the same theme: an interchange of astrological letters (or principles) 3 and 10 (or between 6 and 10 if the Virgoan dimension of Mercury seems strong for this person). With such a double emphasis on the same fundamental dynamic, we know that this individual will have a strong propensity toward handling exacting detail, toward a serious and practical mode of thinking, toward nervous tension, and toward working hard to develop certainty about their ideas. If this person has other factors in the birth-chart which also represent interchanges between these same principles (such as Mercury in the 10th house or Saturn in the 3rd or 6th house), there would be even greater dominance of this theme in the person's life; and the astrologer could therefore know with certainty that this would have to be one of the major things discussed during the consultation.

Another area of interpretation and chart synthesis which students of astrology find difficult is the entire question of configurations between many planets, involving a number of different aspects. Ultimately, only years of experience and practice will enable the student to overcome this seemingly insurmountable obstacle; for one must develop the ability to see configurations in a chart as a whole and to blend the meaning of all the planets involved in such complex combinations. However, many textbooks are so filled with abstract theory about various configurations (grand trine, T-square, grand cross, kite, etc.) that they make the whole process seem much more difficult than it really is. What is usually ignored is the fact that all those various factors and details simply symbolize facets of one whole, living person. And, in such configurations, there are two basic things to keep in mind which are much more important than the exact type of configuration involved:

A. Rather than focusing upon the type of configuration being considered (for example, a grand trine, yod, kite, etc.), one must primarily understand the meaning of the planets involved and their specific interchanges with other planets in that configuration. One is then able to blend these meanings in a way which accurately reflects how an individual actually experiences these energies. Any of the traditional configurations can be productive and creative, regardless of beliefs to the contrary, since they all represent particularly intensified interactions of the energies and principles symbolized by the planets involved. Secondarily, one should blend the energies of the signs involved in the configuration.

B. Most of all, one should focus one's attention on any personal planet (or the Ascendant) involved in a configuration, for that factor symbolizes the most immediate mode of expression for the energies of the entire configuration; and it reveals a dimension of the individual's being which is usually at least partially conscious and therefore has a particularly direct impact on his or her everyday experience. An individual will be able to identify with the meaning of a personal planet, and thus will be more able to understand and perhaps to modify the expression of that energy.

Finally, I have been urged to include in this book a simple, systematic Outline of Chart Interpretation which lists a sequence of steps that beginners might follow in trying to understand any chart. Although "chart synthesis" will not develop just from following a sequence of guidelines, beginning students of astrology do need to start somewhere with an intelligent step-

by-step approach to interpretation. Therefore, I have adapted an Outline that I have used in many beginning astrology classes.

Following such a systematic approach does have its drawbacks; in reality, once a person has absorbed quite a lot of astrology, he or she will naturally tune into the major themes of that person's life and chart, replying to certain questions that a client may ask, and focusing on some chart factors while placing little emphasis on others. But that comes with experience. As I said above, people do need to start somewhere, and following this Outline will at least keep one oriented toward the major factors in a chart and keep one open to the wholistic nature of any chart and to the possibilities for chart synthesis.

The Outline includes a few chart factors and terms that are not explained in this book, but the reader can easily find the explanation for those terms in one of the astrological encyclopedias or major textbooks. It is outside the scope of this work to include all such traditional factors. An excellent explanation of virtually all astrological terminology is Nicholas DeVore's Encyclopedia of Astrology, an extremely intelligent and comprehensive work.

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