Friday, March 31, 2006

An underused Technique: Diurnals

In December, my father died. As a daughter, my reactions have been varied and at times, surprising even to me. Perhaps in a few months, I will be able to write about that more fully. For now, I can only address externals, like: which financial companies really gave us hassle, and which were easy to deal with? More on that soon!

However, as an astrologer, what do I have to say about this? We all are such ambulance chasers, what can I say about the prediction of death?

First, did I predict it? Yes, and no. In my solar return for 2005, I had the Moon in Scorpio in the 8th house. As a classicist, the 8th house is certainly a primary indicator of death, and probably not that of the Native. The previous year, I had also had the Moon in the 8th house, this time, in Cancer, and sharing the house with Saturn in Venus. What happened? Our beloved head cat died. So death was a high probability item for 2005-2006, but whose death?

The following month, my partner had actually asked a horary question about who would died first, my father, or my stepmother? The chart had some uncertainty about who was which (another topic I hope to return to), but one thing was clear: whoever it was, was likely to die soon.

So the table was definitely set when I got the call that Dad had possibly had a stroke, but certainly was in a bad way health-wise. My brother and I dropped everything and high-tailed it to Arizona, and Dad died a little more than a week later. As soon as we arrived, it was terribly obvious that Dad was in very bad shape, and not likely to recover. His Christian science beliefs were only part of the complex of issues that added up to too little too late.

In that very odd world of hospice, when the mind gets endlessly caught up in trivial details like urine output, the astro-brain engages the “when” question, because there’s really not much else that makes any sense. The macro view of the solar return had performed, but what is the difference between Sunday and Monday?

Let’s be frank. Most astrological techniques are not really developed to work in total real time. When my partner Maggie’s Mom died, transiting Saturn was a day from conjunct Maggie’s natal Moon. Not bad! But still an orb. My solar return showed the year. My lunar return for the month in which he died (a technique I almost never use) had a fixed grand cross straddling my natal angles, with Uranus right on the 8th house cusp and the 8th house ruler Jupiter right on the 4th house cusp opposed by Mars; and the forming Saturn-Neptune opposition on my 1st-7th axis. It is the worst looking lunar return for this year, although upcoming July doesn’t look so great. So this focused November to December as the peak point. But do we always get the juicy transits on the “right” day?

I have found over time that when I am searching for the hit within a week’s time, more often than not, I get the real precision out of diurnals. Diurnals are a modern technique that is calculated by taking the time, time zone, and location of the Native’s birth, and inserting today’s (or whatever desired) date. What you then look for is angle hits: exact to the degree, transiting or natal, because the angles move by about a degree per day.

The hint that it’s time to consider diurnals is something big, with no logical transit to set it off. By logical transit, I mean something bigger than the Moon sextile a totally unrelated planet, i.e., a planet that is neither in a relevant house, nor ruling one.

Since I ended up sing diurnals to rectify my own chart, have also applied them to this kind of quotidial effect, to very interesting results.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Astrology is not Inherently Esoteric

One of the ideas floating around the astrological community is not merely the idea that astrology is intrinsically esoteric, but that this is a good thing. Part of my problem with this idea no doubt revolves around definitions, but I think this idea also masks a couple of other underlying assumptions which are not terribly benign.

Esoteric knowledge is hidden knowledge. Ok, easy enough. But that raises the questions: hidden by whom? Hidden from whom? And what is knowledge, anyway? If your cosmology is that astrology was created by and maintained by the Divine, whoever and whatever that is, and that primary knowledge does not and cannot reside in human beings, then, yes – astrology must have and does have an esoteric component, if only because Divine knowledge and Divine will is rarely if ever transparent to mere mortals. However, if this is true of astrology, wouldn’t it be equally true of every other form of knowledge which relates to the divine? Why should astrology be unique?

Most of what we call astrology in either the West or India either originated with or was strongly influenced by the Babylonians. Francesca Rochberg, in her 2004 book which is listed in my bibliography post, addressed this issue of what divination meant to the Babylonians in great detail. Simplifying somewhat, in the Babylonian cosmology, all people were slaves of the gods. The king might be way up the ladder from everybody else, but even he was at best an overseer. But ho do you know what your masters want? The Babylonians believed that the gods spoke to humans through omens. Anything that happened that was out of the ordinary was potentially an omen, hence a message from the gods. At first, these omens might be seen as applying primarily or exclusively to the king, as it was his job to relay these commands. But eventually, omens that happened to you and to you alone could be seen as your personal message. Among the possible omens were the celestial omens. And eventually, the birth itself could be seen as a personal omen.

If interpreting the omens is at heart what astrology is, then why would those gods not want us to be able to decipher the message???

I believe that a lot (I won’t say all) of what gets touted as esoteric has a lot more to do with human power games than with anything divine. There’s good communication and teaching, and bad communication and teaching. If I acquire a skill and then I either cannot or won’t teach it to others, what good did it do for the human race for me to have gotten it in the first place? Where’s the divine logic in that? Now, it’s one thing to say that the acquisition of knowledge requires sequencing. That’s like saying that in order to understand radioactive decay, I first have to understand atomic theory. Fine. But if I understand decay, and you have only gotten as far as atomic theory, I am not “better” or “more evolved” than you are. I’m simply further along the learning curve, which is not a value judgment at all.

Get a grip. Learn what you can. Teach others. Have fun. Move on.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Books I've read recently of interest to Astrologers

  • Burnett, Charles, Jan P. Hogendijk, Kim Plofker and Michio Yano, Ed. 2004. Studies in the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree. Brill: Leiden.

  • Connor, James A. 2004. Kepler's Witch. An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of his Mother. HarperSanFrancisco: San Francisco.

  • French, Roger. 2003. Medicine before Science. Cambridge University Press: New York.

  • Gutas, Dimitri. 1998. Greek Thought, Arabic Culture. Routledge: London.

  • Ho Peng Yoke. 2000. Li, Qi and Shu : An Introduction to Science and Civilization in China. Dover: New York.

  • Ho Peng Yoke. 2003. Chinese Mathematical Astrology. RoutledgeCurzon: New York.

  • Hogendijk, Jan P. and Abdelhamid I. Sabra, Ed. 2003. The Enterprise of Sciences in Islam. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

  • Lucas, John Scott. 2003. Astrology and Numerology in Medieval and Early Catalonia. Brill: New York.

  • McEvilley, Thomas. 2002. The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Allworth Press: New York.

  • Newman, William R. and Anthony Grafton. 2001. Secrets of Nature. Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe. The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

  • Noegel, Scott, Joel Walker and Brannon Wheeler, Ed. 2003. Prayer, Magic and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World. Univ. of PA Press: University Park.

  • Pingree, D. and C. Burnett, Ed. 2004. Studies in the history of the exact sciences in honour of David Pingree. Brill: Leiden ; Boston.

  • Possanza, D. Mark. 2004. Translating the Heavens. Aratus, Germanicus and the Poetics of Latin Translation. Peter Lang: New York.

  • Rochberg, Francesca. 1998. Babylonian Horoscopes. American Philosophical Society: Philadelphia.

  • Rochberg, Francesca. 2004. The Heavenly Writing. Divination, Horoscopy and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture. Cambridge Univ. Press: New York.

  • Rubenstein, Richard E. 2003. Aristotle's Children. How Christians, Muslims and Jews rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and illuminated the Dark Ages. Harcourt: New York.

  • Tinniswood, Adrian. 2004. By Permission of Heaven. The True Story of the Great Fire of London. Riverhead Books: New York.

  • Turner, Gerard L'E. 2003. Renaissance Astrolabes and their Makers. Ashgate: Burlington, VT.

  • Twicken, David. 2000. Classical Five Element: Chinese Astrology Made Easy. Writers Club Press: Lincoln, NE.

  • vanden Broecke, Steven. 2003. The Limits of Influence. Pico, Louvain and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology. Brill: Boston.

  • Walters, Derek. 2005. The Complete Guide to Chinese Astrology : The Most Comprehensive Study of the Subject Ever Published in the English Language. Watkins/Duncan Baird: London.