I use Google Adwords: Keyword Tool to add “tags” to my posts on FemCentral. This tool shows the frequency that certain words are searched for on the internet. 9,140,000 people search for “astrology” per month. 24,900,000 search for the word “horoscope.”
Horoscopes, predicting the future, are what people think of when they think of astrology. I often get the question that I’m sure many psychics get as well, “Can you tell me the winning lottery numbers?” The number one criticism (that I’ve found) of astrology is that horoscopes are wrong. It’s also the number one reason people seem to seek out astrology. We want to know our future.
Where do horoscopes come from?
There are many different kinds of horoscopes floating around out there. The ones that you see in newspapers (and now, on facebook) are based on your Sun sign, the sign that most of us know from our birthday.
An astrological chart is divided up into twelve “houses”, and each house represents a part of your personality. When you get a personal astrological reading, the astrologer will ask for your exact time and location of birth. This allows her to know which house each planet was in when you were born.
See Virginia Woolf’s chart here. Her Sun – noted as a circle within a circle- is in the ninth house. (If you click on the chart two times, it will enlarge so you can actually see everything.)
Someone writing a generic Sun sign horoscope, obviously, cannot know the exact house location of each and every person reading the horoscope. These generic horoscopes simply put the Sun sign in the first house of the chart. (This first house is the house of “identity.”) For an Aries sun, the astrologer would put Aries in the first house, Taurus in the second, Gemini in the third, all the way around the Zodiac. For a Taurus sun, Taurus would be in the first house, Gemini in the second, Cancer in the third, all the way around the Zodiac. Then, the astrologer looks at what is going on with the CURRENT POSITION of the planets (what they are doing right now), and how they fall into this generic chart. Using this, the astrologer makes predictions.
You’ll see from Virginia Woolf’s chart, her Sun is not in the first house but in the ninth. If she were to have read a generic newspaper horoscope for Aquarius, it would be based on the Sun being in her first house. Not terribly accurate for her.
Should you disregard these generic horoscopes altogether?
Some say that if you combine the horoscope for your Sun sign, and your rising sign, you can piece together something more accurate. Also, there are SOME astrologers that can see the big picture so well, and get the trends, that they can actually tell you something about your sign that may be useful (I find Rob Brezsny’s horoscopes fit in this category). But, keep in mind, that even when generic horoscopes are well done, they portray general climate. You know it’s going to be “warm” over the next few weeks but aren’t getting the exact temperatures or whether or not to expect rain. Some generic horoscopes may provide more exact information but it’s pure conjecture.
There is another level of generic horoscopes that are more useful. These discuss specific transits of planets. What sign the moon is in currently. If Mars is direct or retrograde. How the current position of Mars relates to the current position of Pluto. These, again, are “big picture.” In order to make them specific to you, it’s helpful to know where each of the signs falls in the house of your birth chart. We talked about Scorpio this week. Scorpio is in Virginia Woolf’s sixth house – work and health. So, that’s likely where the Scorpio energy would affect her.
BUT, notice that she has no planets in Scorpio, so the energy would not affect her as strongly as it might someone who had a planet there, or their rising sign in Scorpio. Also, not all planets are weighted evenly in your birth chart. Some are stronger than others (planets hanging out on an angle – one of the very dark black lines – are “stronger”). In other words, a significant planetary event may affect you very little (or, a lot) on a personal level.
What’s the point of generic horoscopes at all?
For the Sun-based horoscopes, I pay little to no attention, honestly. For the ones that describe current movements of the planets, they can help with planning. For instance, it’s not a great idea to sign a contract or buy anything mechanical during Mercury Retrograde. Think of this in terms of weather. Say you want to have a picnic, and there’s an 80% chance of rain. If you take the risk, there is an 80% chance you will get soaked. BUT, there’s a 20% chance you won’t. Same goes with horoscopes. Keep in mind, though, that your personal percentage of risk, even with something like Mercury Retrograde, is really going to depend on what Mercury was doing when you were born (in other words, your birth chart).
Let’s get personal
When you get a personal astrological reading, an astrologer can be much more specific about your horoscope. Astrologers will look at two things to determine, what I call, “the current chapter in your life.”
Progression – The birth chart is a snapshot of the position of the planets when you are born and provides insight into your life’s purpose and personality. Progressions look at how you will evolve over time. Steven Forrest compares progressions to DNA. From your DNA, you might be able to determine, for instance, around what age you’ll go through menopause. From progressions, you can determine when certain areas of your life will be highlighted. (For more on progressions, read “Taking out the psychic garbage: progressing with the moon“)
Transit – Simply where a planet is, right this second, in relation to where the planets where when you were born.
To explain what these mean to you, here are a few paragraphs from the introduction to Planets in Transit, by Robert Hand.
…within each of us is a creative core that actively creates the universe, either by making up each part out of nothing or by agreeing in advance, prior to our physical incarnation, to play a certain game with certain rules. In this scheme your horoscope becomes a symbol of your intentions, not a record of what is going to happen to you.
Both transits and progression indicate the working out of various phases of this original intention…I do not believe that the planets “cause” anything. They are merely signs of the manifestation of the original intention, part of which is experience as flowing through you as will. This is the intention that you are aware of. Part of the intention is experienced as coming from without; you may call it fate, destiny or circumstances beyond your control. But this, too comes from within you, and you need only raise your consciousness to know it. Part of the function of astrology is to raise the individual’s consciousness in just this way.
Basically, we create our own reality. Say you want to spend a week camping out and hiking up a mountain. You consult your horoscope and it says, “Over the next week you will reach great heights.” Perfect! You set up camp at the base of the mountain. Hang out by the campfire. Sleep in. Read. Enjoy the sun. At the end of the week, you find that you are only a few hundred feet from where you started. Do you blame the horoscope?
A birth chart, and horoscope, can keep you in touch with your highest intentions in life. It can point to times when the “weather” or timing is best for what you want to achieve. But, the results are up to you. We are not victims of a planetary conspiracy. The whole Universe is conspiring WITH* us; we need simply to step into our own power.
Got questions? Feel free to leave them below!
(The phrase “conspiring with” was inspired by Rob Brezsny’s book, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings)