In This Chapter
^ Assembling your birth information
^ Creating your chart with piles of paper, tables, and dusty old books ^ Surfing the Internet to get your chart
^ Probing your psyche and glimpsing the future with astrological software hat could be more fabulously arcane than an astrological chart? Well, ▼ ▼ lots of things: Alchemical sigils, kabalistic diagrams, magic spells — you name it. But this book isn't about them. It's about astrology, which only seems strange. That's because an astrological chart, with all its mysterious-looking symbols, has nothing mystical about it. It's a representation of the real world, and it isn't peculiar at all. An astrological chart is a picture, in streamlined form, of the solar system at the time of your birth. It's that simple.
To visualize the cosmos as it was then, imagine standing on the Earth at the precise moment of your birth. Imagine, too, that you're facing south and looking at a gigantic clock face that has been superimposed on the sky. To your left, in the nine o'clock position, is the eastern horizon. That's your Ascendant. If you were born around dawn, that's also where your Sun is. The twelve o'clock position is high in the sky in front of you. That's where your Sun is if you were a lunchtime delivery. To your right, in the three o'clock position, is the western horizon. If you were born around dusk, your Sun is there. And if you snuck into this world around midnight, when the Sun was illuminating the other side of the planet, your Sun is in the six o'clock spot.
If you know the phase of the Moon at your birth, you can locate it in a similar way. Were you born under a new moon? Then your Moon and Sun are in roughly the same place. Born under a full moon? Then the Sun and Moon are opposite each other — 180° apart. If one is rising, the other is setting.
The point is this: The horoscope is neither a metaphysical construct nor a mystical symbol nor a psychological portrait. It's a map. Your horoscope shows the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets at the moment of your birth. The astrologer's task is to look at that map and figure out its meaning. But first you have to get your hands on the map. In this chapter, I tell you how to do just that.
Gathering the Information You Need
If you're like most people, you won't have any trouble finding your birth information. Here's what you need:
1 Your month, day, and year of birth 1 The place of your birth
1 Your exact birth time — or as close to it as you can get
Without an accurate birth time, you can never know what your Ascendant is (see Chapter 11 for more about Ascendants). You won't have trustworthy house placements for your planets. You may not even know your Moon sign because it changes signs every two or three days. Without an accurate birth time, interpreting your chart correctly will be challenging. And predicting the future will be close to impossible.
Fortunately, finding the exact time is usually easy. But don't be surprised if your mother's memory of what must surely have been the highlight of her entire life turns out to be spotty. Since I haven't done a survey, I have no statistics to bandy about, but I will say this: It's shocking how many parents can't remember when their children were born. They don't know if it was 2:05 or 5:02. One mother even confessed to me that she wasn't sure who was born at 10:06 a.m.: her daughter or herself. That's why I recommend that you corroborate your birth time through the official record — your birth certificate.
To get your birth certificate online, check out the National Center for Health Statistics at www.cdc.gov/nchs and click on the link that says "Help obtaining birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificates."
What if no one thought to look at a clock when you were born? First, keep in mind that an approximate time is better than nothing — much better. If all you know is that you came into this world before breakfast or during the Late Show with David Letterman, that's useful information, even if it's not exact.
If you aren't sure of your birth time, you might consider asking a professional astrologer to rectify your chart. Rectification is a complex process. It involves working backwards from major events in your life (such as marriage, divorce, or the death of a parent) to make an educated guess about your probable birth time. Some astrology software includes rectification modules. Even so, it's wise to proceed with caution: Unless the astrologer has considerable experience, rectification isn't a sure bet.
A more significant problem arises when you have no idea what time you were born. I have a beloved friend, one of many children, who never knew her birth time. And then one day, things got rapidly worse. During an astonishing conversation with an older sister, she discovered that no one in her family could vouch with 100 percent certainty for the day of her birth — or even the month. Suddenly she wasn't sure whether she was a Libra (no way) or a Scorpio (yes). This rare situation is an astrologer's worst-case scenario.
More typically, people know the day, month, and year of their birth — but not the time. That's not a tragedy. Even without the time, you can uncover a wealth of information about yourself. However, when you go online to get your horoscope — or even when you do it yourself — you have to adjust for the missing information.
In the absence of anything resembling an accurate birth time, I recommend that you do what professional astrologers do: Pretend that you were born either at noon or at dawn (my preference) and proceed accordingly. (In Chapter 3, I tell you more about what to do if your birth time is lost in space.)
What It Takes to Cast Your Chart the Old-Fashioned Way
In the past, before the computer infiltrated every corner of human existence, figuring out the positions of the planets was a challenge. It required patience, hours of free time, a fearless approach to mathematics, and an eagerness to grapple with the kinds of boring details that drive most people nuts.
For instance, you had to look up the longitude and latitude of your birth place, and you had to correct for its distance from the standard time meridian for that location. You had to distinguish between local time and Greenwich mean time, not to mention standard time, daylight saving time, and war time. Then you had to calculate the movement of the planets using, among other tools, a table of proportional logarithms. Most people didn't want to bother.
I always felt differently. I liked staying up late surrounded by numerical tables, volumes of astrological data, pads of yellow paper, and the special horoscope blanks I bought at a metaphysical bookstore. As I calculated each planetary position and house cusp, drew the symbols of the signs and planets onto the chart, and counted up how many planets were in fire signs, in earth signs, and so on, the chart — and the person —slowly grew clear in my mind.
That process takes time, and I don't do it anymore. Instead, I use a computer, like every other astrologer I know. With a computer, you can get an accurate chart without even thinking about math. Later in this chapter, I tell you how.
Still, the best way to understand astrology is to cast a chart the old-fashioned way. Here's what you would need to calculate it yourself:
i The precise longitude and latitude of your birthplace. You can figure it out from a map or look it up in a book like The American Atlas: U.S. Longitudes and Latitudes, Time Changes and Time Zones, by Thomas G. Shanks (ACS Publications), which includes an international atlas.
i The details about your time of birth. Just because you know the exact moment of your birth doesn't mean that your problems with time are over. You also have to know what time zone you were born in — and this is an area riddled with quicksand.
For instance, Tennessee is divided down the middle, half in one time zone and half in another. Most places in Texas observe central standard time — but El Paso doesn't. And if you were born in Indiana between 1955 and 1965, you're in deep trouble. During those years, the powers-that-be, unable to choose between central and eastern time, decided to carve up the state and assign different regions to each time zone. Each year, they did it in a different way. If you were caught in this civic calamity, you have no choice: Go to a professional astrologer. Or log on to one of the Web sites listed later in this chapter.
Then there's daylight saving time. Until 2007, it ran from late April to late October, but the exact days differ from year to year and from state to state. For example, if you were born in California on October 27, 1963, you were born under daylight saving time. But if your birthday is a year later, on October 27, 1964, you were born under standard time.
And did you know that during World War II, the entire U.S. operated under war time? It began on February 9, 1942, about two months after Pearl Harbor, and ended on September 30, 1945. (It was also in operation in some places during World War I.)
To account for these variations in time, you need a trustworthy source. Again, I recommend The American Atlas: U.S. Longitudes and Latitudes, Time Changes and Time Zones, compiled by Thomas G. Shanks.
i A table of houses. This book-size table tells you what degree of the zodiac is rising at any given moment according to the time and latitude of your birth. It also tells the degrees that appear on the other house cusps. One resource for this information is the Michelsen Book of Tables by Neil F. Michelsen (ACS Publications), which includes two popular types of house division as well as a worksheet for casting a horoscope the old-fashioned way.
¡^ An ephemeris for the year you were born. The Rosetta Stone of astrology, an ephemeris is an almanac that lists the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets for every day of the year, either for midnight or noon in Greenwich, England (the basis for Greenwich mean time, from which all time zones are determined). So if you were born on the stroke of midnight in Greenwich, you don't have to do a thing to determine the position of your planets. You can read them right out of the book.
If you were born at any other time or place, you have to make adjustments. Using an ephemeris, a table of houses, and the principles of high school algebra, you can come up with a close approximation of your chart. Should you insist on precision (perhaps because you have a dose of Virgo in your birth chart), you need one more item, which I explain in the following bullet.
¡^ A table of proportional logarithms. Using this numerical chart makes your calculations precise. But if going to the mat with a table of logarithms sounds like a fight you won't win, do yourself a favor: Skip the calculations and go directly to the Internet.
To get your hands on any of these books, go to a well-stocked astrological or New Age bookstore — if you can find one. Or check out The Astrology Center of America at www.astroamerica.com. The folks who run this place have virtually everything (including software), and they comment on much of it, so you can do a little comparison shopping right there. Plus, if you're intrigued by Tarot cards, you'll enjoy this site, which lets you peek into about a hundred different decks. Contact The Astrology Center of America via the Web, by phone at (410) 638-7761, or at 207 Victory Lane, Bel Air, MD 21014.
The easiest way to get an accurate copy of your horoscope is to log on to the Internet, go to one of the sites in the following list, and type in the date, year, time, and place of your birth. Here are three of the best sites to visit:
¡^ Astrolabe (www.alabe.com): Astrolabe offers an excellent, free birth chart along with about three pages of interpretation. Feed your birth date into their form, send it off, and seconds later, it comes back to you, complete — and I mean complete. In contrast to other Web sites with seemingly similar offers, Astrolabe supplies not only some basic interpretation but also an image of the actual chart, with the Sun, Moon, and planets placed clearly within the zodiac wheel. Astrolabe also offers other services, for which you have to pay.
i Astrodienst (www.astro.com): You can get a free birth chart (or "portrait") at this absorbing Web site — and lots more, including lengthy daily horoscopes, a report on "love, flirtation, and sex," a relationship chart and analysis, and a six-month forecast based on the changing position — or transits (see Chapter 16) — of the planets. All these freebies are abbreviated versions of longer reports you can buy. I don't have a problem with that. The only missing ingredient here is that your actual chart — the round emblem that suggests a personal mandala — is not shown. You have to construct it yourself. (I show you how in Chapter 3.)
i Chaos Astrology (www.chaosastrology.com): The free birth chart offered at this Web site is longer than most — plus, it includes the actual chart, if you know where to look. The trick is simple: After you feed in your birth information and your astrological profile appears on the screen, click on the sun/moon icon at the top of the page. Lo and behold: Your actual birth chart appears.
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