The Language of Astrology

Copyright © 2000 by B. Clare Goodwin

Understand that thou art a second little world and that the sun and moon are within thee, and also the stars.
– Origen, 3rd Century Christian Mystic and Theologian, Homilies in Leviticum, 126

Astrology is a symbolic language. It is an ancient expression, designed to convey our place and purpose on this Earth. Just as English is used to represent ideas and principles, astrology can be a short-hand communication between those who know the code. Studying astrology is a lot like studying a foreign language. There is an elementary level of understanding which will get us by. There is a deeper level where we can articulate quite well. A still more profound level is reached when we can read the ideas of writers and poets and come to philosophical understandings. And there are those who dedicate their lives to communicating through writing and speaking this second language of astrology.

The English that is used in America today, in the year 2000, is quite different from the language that was spoken when our country was founded. Words have evolved over time, and the definitions and usage have grown to accommodate new life styles and experiences. The same is true for the astrological language. With the conviction that we have free will and our fates are not “carved in stone”, many modern astrologers prefer to go beyond predicting the future. Whether giving a basic chart reading or ongoing counseling, humanistic astrologers see themselves as spiritual and life enhancing guides rather than as fortune tellers.

Astrology is the study of man’s response to planetary stimuli. The stars have no conscious benevolence or animosity; they merely send forth positive and negative radiations. Of themselves, these do not help or harm humanity, but offer a lawful channel for the outward operation of cause-effect equilibrium that each man has set into motion in the past.
– Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

You probably are familiar with some of the basic words used in the parlance of the stars. Almost everyone knows what zodiacal sign the sun was in when they were born. There are twelve of them: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Some people have the notion that it is better to be one sign rather than another. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. The word “red” evokes different internal responses or visual images according to the one who hears it. Red can represent many qualities, emotions or items on a continuum: from danger, fear, blood, fire, or STOP signs, to the quiet moment of a sunset, a delicious strawberry, a beautiful rose from one’s beloved, or great passion. Red in itself is neither good nor bad. Likewise, the sun signs have a wide range of interpretation.

In elementary school students are taught the names of the planets: The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In astrology, each planet represents qualities and experiences common to us all. The Moon looms large in our cultural lore. Science knows that the moon has a causal effect on the tides. Many people are aware that the moon has a similar effect on our bodies, moods and emotions. If we think about it, we might agree that a warm and bright summer sun has a different impact on our physical being than a winter sun. If these larger heavenly bodies influence us, why assume that the others don’t? As babies just being born, with our sensitivities turned up to maximum, we are imprinted with the energies of all the planets at that particular place and time.

For behold, the kingdom of heaven is within you.
– Luke 17.21

A “snapshot” of the planets in the sky at the moment of birth gives us what is called the natal astrological chart. This is a map that describes where the planets were at that moment in time. The map, or chart consists of 360 degrees around the earth, divided into twelve segments called “houses”. The exact degrees are determined by complicated, yet precise, mathematical calculations. Each house, or segment, describes a different quality or arena that is universal. These territories make up the “kingdom” of our lives. We may visit certain locales in our kingdom more often than others. This is a result of the placement of the planets in our chart. As you look at the following house descriptions, which ones resonate most for you?

Our presentation in the world, how other people see us
What we value, resources and finances
Communication, community, siblings
Home, foundation, roots
Children, creativity
Details of day to day living, the physical body
Significant others, one-to-one partnerships, marriage
The intuitive, psychic realms. Death/rebirth issues, other people’s money.
Higher learning, philosophy, travel
Career, work, purpose
Groups of people, friends, organizations
Spirituality, things hidden
Everyone has the same areas of life concerns represented by the twelve different segments on the natal chart. When we are born, all the planets are in a particular location relative to the earth. I like to use the metaphor of a conference table to describe the basic chart. The planets are viewed as archetypical helpers, or to use the conference table analogy, “committee members”, who have come to assist us in this lifetime. The mind is represented by the planet Mercury. Our emotional “delegate” is the moon. The representative for our physical energy is named Mars, and so on, with each planet representing a different aspect that makes up a multi-faceted human being. Each member of the committee believes their format is the highest and the best and want to run the “show” of your life. In fact, the only reason these participants are there is for the Self to use, to coordinate and express for Self’s benefit.

Do you know two people who have the same Sun sign, but have entirely unrelated traits? That is because even if two people were born during the same time of year, the moment and place of birth locates all of the planets in different houses or priorities in the chart. One person might have the Sun in the 10th house of career, meaning this is where they “shine”. Another person could have the sun placed in the 4th house of home and family giving this area more attention. Add in the other 9 planets and it makes for quite a lively discussion at our round table of life!

The sign of the planet is the “clothing” or costume the planet wears. Mars, the archetype of physical energy, wearing an Aries running suit will be active and action oriented. In a Pisces leotard, it will be more fluid in physical expression. Imagine the difference between a Mars in the 1st house, representing how the world sees us, and Mars in the 12th, indicating things hidden. It certainly helps to explain why people are so unique!

Be sure to leave a little room for the mystery!
– Roberto Assagioli

One of the biggest distortions of astrology is mistaking the sign for ourselves. For example, “I’m a Scorpio and therefore that’s who I am.” In humanistic astrology the soul, Self, or essence of being is in the center of the chart and not represented by any particular planet. I have a sun in Aquarius, but I AM NOT that. I have Pluto in Leo, but I AM NOT that. I AM a point of light in the very center, surrounded by rooms where these archetypes live. They have come with particular lessons, qualities, strengths and blocks. My sub-personalities such as the “inner child” or “critic/judge” gather and form around these archetypes. Where these sub-personalities manifest can be seen in our charts. Other patterns of strength and weakness can also be found and explored through the language of astrology.

Using astrology as a tool for growth helps us become aware of the voices at our table. Some of my internal committee members might really want me to stay at home being a creative artist. But there is another strong coalition that says “OH NO! We believe the best thing for you is to get out there and be visible to lots of people”. If I let these players direct me, I’m doomed to a lifetime of inner conflict and turmoil. When I become centered and know that these are polarities, I can get these different factions to agree to time sharing. “Ok Neptune, today you can stay at home and meditate, paint and be all dreamy. Tomorrow it will be Mercury’s turn to get out there and be visible and share the dreams.” The more the inner dialogue is opened, instead of working against me, the qualities can act together on my behalf.

It’s a wise person who is guided by the stars, and a fool who is ruled by them!
– Isabel Hickey

Our natal chart does not necessarily limit us to living out a lifetime of predetermined qualities. The goal is to be Self and choose to manifest the positive aspects of our energies with consciousness as opposed to being ruled or blocked by them. While I cannot change the sign or placement of the planets in my natal chart, I can get to know the positive aspects of them and learn to consciously enhance these qualities by having a natal chart reading. When we become aware of the energies that are at work, we can direct them to manifest in much more helpful ways. Or, if we choose, the astrological therapeutic process can help us to deeply synthesize the planets or qualities into a united common cause! May the stars guide and illuminate your path. It’s your choice.

This article appeared originally in the September 2000 Wisdom Magazine and is Copyright © 2000 by B. Clare Goodwin

Clare Goodwin is a humanistic astrologer, therapist, tarot reader, and artist living and working by the ocean in Falmouth, MA. She has also taught in the Professional Counselor Training Program at the Synthesis Center in Amherst, MA. She does intuitive counseling in person or by phone.