When the question is asked: what is astrology? A simple example would suffice. For instance, someone born on the twelfth of September 1997 at 2:01 AM would have a different astrology-related personality as compared to a person born on the same date at 2:02 AM.
Astrology is a way of thinking, a frame of reference that human beings have passed down the centuries. Three hundred years ago, during the “Century of Enlightenment” when logic took over from spiritual thinking, astrology was left behind as a “fringe belief”.
And yet there is more to astrology than simply predicting the future. When you consult an astrologer, it is not merely to dispel your anxiety about the future. It is also to learn more about yourself so that he might help you find your place in this world. It is also because, without really knowing why, we all feel connected to this symbolical way to look at the world. Whether we want it or not, astrology is part of our collective unconscious, this set of memories passed down from our ancestors, connecting us to the cosmos. Deep within, you know that it can help you find some answers to the most essential questions that linger in your mind.
Who started astrology?
Astrology was born in the kingdom of Sumer in Chaldea, in southern Mesopotamia around 3,000 BCE. By observing the sky, it aims to understand how the universe came to be, where human beings came from, and what is their “mission” on Earth.
In the beginning, astrology and astronomy were one and the same.
With a first mystery…Even if nothing can explain it through scientific means, one thing is certain: In several distant areas around the globe, with no contact with one another, the theories explaining how the universe came to be were the same!
How can it be?
Long before astrology became a speaking point, the Ancients believed that in the beginning the Sky and the Earth were one. Later, when the Earth and the Sky were split, the Sky left its mark on Earth. As such, the first Sumerian astrologers believed that if someone came to understand the Earth, he could understand the Sky, and vice versa.
This is where the Sumerians got the idea to connect celestial events to whatever was happening (or was meant to happen) on Earth. For them, the universe is one. Each part of the universe, humankind included, resonates with the greater whole.
All of it is bound to some Destiny, steered by an assembly of divine willpowers. But humankind is still responsible for their own destiny, because the gods have better things to do than telling us exactly what we should do with our lives. Their role is to set some limits within which human beings will evolve of their own free will. In other words, they can show a direction, but human beings need to decipher their messages and choose the right path for them on their own. They are a GPS guidance system, but we hold the steering wheel.
The problem is that the message from the gods is in code. They speak through symbols, and they are not always easy to understand for common people.
Among the Sumerians, those tasked with deciphering divine messages were the priests, but also the astrologers and astronomers. From their observation platforms (Ziggurats), they watched the stars using a gnomon (a sundial) or a clepsydra (a kind of water clock). Little by little, they would eventually single out 5 stars that were different. While all the others were unmoving, these 5 were mobile. They called them the 5 planets and identified them with their gods.
They would study them for centuries, writing down their characteristics (trajectories, distance relative to the Earth, color, brightness, size). These planets were associated with the Gods they had been worshipping for eons. But since each of their Gods symbolized a hidden part of the human soul, one thing leading to another they would connect human beings to the celestial bodies detected in the universe. Do you see why astrology has been classified as a belief system?
Whatever happens on Earth would subsequently depend on divine powers (the planets). In Babylon, Jupiter was Marduk, Venus was Ishtar, Saturn was Ninurta (Ninib), Mercury was Nabu (Nebo), and Mars was Nergal. The moon-god Sin ruled over fertilization and the life force, made plants grow, and was connected to the trees. The sun-god Shamash was a solar deity with power of light over darkness and evil.
This is how planets became gods, or their messengers, a tradition that was upheld through various civilizations, giving us the current names of the planets…
The largest and most impressive planet, was associated with the Roman king of the Gods, “Jupiter”.
It is so majestic that human beings also turned its moons into divinities: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
The first star of the morning and first star of the evening, connecting sunrise (a male pole of energy) and moonrise (a female pole of energy), the one that everyone finds beautiful, was associated with the Goddess of beauty and love, Venus.
The most amazing thing is that in the four corners of the Earth, civilizations that had no connection with one another used the same symbols associated with the same planets… centuries before the advent of the Internet!
Let’s take Venus for example, the evening star. It was associated with the goddess of beauty and love. Ishtar for the Assyrians, Nana for the Amorites, Astarte among the Phoenicians, Aphrodite for the Greek… and so on and so forth among the Hindu, or in Chinese folklore, etc.
Mercury, or Hermes for the Greek, was the messenger of the gods. He is a symbol of communication, just like Nabu the divine scribe, master of sciences and languages in Mesopotamia.
This similitude among various representations can be found for every planet, among all the civilizations that looked up at the Sky to find a hint of the divine, with only the slightest differences like the Moon being male in Mesopotamia (Sin) and female in ancient Greece (Selene or Artemis).
This is how the Mesopotamian gods and the mythological Greek gods could come together during the 4th century BCE, while Alexander the Great conquered Asia. They had the same essential meaning. It was the same story, the story of the human soul, and the same set of memories that C.G. Jung more recently called the collective unconscious.
From then on, humankind, connected to the universe with interdependent parts, was connected to the planets that it is made of. They find their place within the great “Wheel of Life” (Zôè diakos) or “Zodiac”.
Now according to a very simple division between varying types of astrology, modern astrology is placed under the western astrology. Whereas, the east is referred to as Vedic astrology. This can also be referred to as the Indian astrology.
Vedic Astrology was first introduced back in 1500 to 2000 BCE as it was revealed to the great philosophers of that time. Amongst these Maharishi Parashara turned out to be the most influential. He also issued the text named Brihat Hora Sastra, this particular text is the most referenced text even today which exits in many translations to make it understandable to people belonging to different countries. There were a total of 18 sages but amongst all of these Parashara has the most following.
Another one of the branches in astrology is the Chinese astrology. The Chinese Astrology signs were not always the same, or in the same order, for that matter. It took many centuries before our times to finally settle on these animals in this specific order to determine the Chinese astrology calendar. These animals were in the end chosen because of their importance in the Chinese culture as well as the Chinese household.
Infographics: Explore Astrology in 5 Easy Steps
The Four Elements in Astrology
After the zodiac, come the four elements, which have been very frequently used in relation with each sign. Each zodiac sign in astrology is directly linked with one of the four elements that form the basis of nature. These are earth, fire, water, and air. Let us delve into a little detail for each one to see how they react with certain signs and what properties and attributes they give to the people who relate to them.
Air Zodiac Signs
Air is perhaps the only element that openly supports freedom, liberty, and individualism by breaking free of all systems to form one unique system for the self. At the first impression, air people may look weak or naive in front of the fire people who embody great energy or the earth people who have rock solid planning and implementation skills, however, the advantage that air people have with them is that of open-mindedness. This not only lets them think with fresher perspectives that nobody could ever imagine but also lets them understand the other person very easily. Air element helps one learn the deeper meaning of life by being open to all kinds of ideas where others might draw a line.
Fire Zodiac Signs
Since all of the zodiac signs draw themselves from the sun, it goes to show how important the sun, and subsequently fire is as one of the four elements that make up the earth. Clearly, as it can be seen, fire brings with it huge amounts of energy, and this is exactly what the people relating to fire are. The zodiac signs relating to fire clearly possess huge amounts of energy that let them go about their tasks with a fierce determination of finishing it.
However, as all elements depend on each other for survival, fire too needs air to be able to exist and function properly, showing how nothing is good independently in this world and needs a shoulder at some point in the cycle of life.
Water Zodiac Signs
Water is an element that has its own unique, very different set of qualities that make the people identifying with it even more mysterious and difficult to approach, just like foreign life finding it hard to breathe inside water. The people belonging to the water element, however, show clear signs of adaptability and getting out of tough situations, just like water can take the shape of any container and can also flow out of any place, provided it finds the smallest of cracks.
Earth Zodiac Signs
As it is often called, mother earth perhaps forms the basis for the existence of all the elements. In astrology knowledge, the four elements have very high regard, and earth element takes precedence as it is the one that hosts all others in nature. In strictly astrological terms, the earth being the source of energy of all other elements translates to it being the ultimate manifestation of all of a man’s desires.
Moving on, just like a rock or a cliff that stands tall in the face of the sea, the people identifying with earth are the ones that have rock solid and resolute decisions. Nothing and nobody can force them to change what they have set out to do. This extreme resilience for the sake of the mission at hand makes these people great leaders, who do not take into account the external factors for the sanctity of the task they have undertaken to perform. To learn more in detail see the earth element explanation page.
The Astrology Houses
Astrology resources have a total of twelve astrology houses. These have a very simple function of bringing everything down to the level of the earth for each zodiac sign as if everything was relative. Out of several house systems that are used all over the world, the Placid us system is perhaps the most common one. The division of the houses is categorically done on the basis of space or time.
The basic theory goes to number them counter-clockwise from the cusp of the first house, which is defined by the eastern point at the moment specifically chosen. Space divisions require the plane to be divided into equal arcs of 30 degrees while time-based divisions depend on daytime and nighttime, dividing each into six equal parts.
The First House is also known as the house of self. It focuses on the human as an individual and primarily deals with physical strength, stamina, mental capabilities and the likes. Often overlooked, the first house is also responsible in astrology for the weaknesses of an individual.
The Second House talks of the needs of the individual that comes from the first house. Above all, it represents money and wealth, which, as many would agree, are the first of a person’s needs in the world today or even back in the times. This house is responsible for all the material needs that one has.
The Third House is the house of communications. More than any other sign, this house relates to Gemini. Like the first two houses speak of the body specifically, the third house deals with the mind in its entirety.
The Fourth House is that dealing with family, home, and all things that tie one down to a place. This house instills a sense of belonging in the individual, be it with his real home or a place he has come to accept as home.
The Fifth House caters to the human child that every person carries inside them. Apart from activities that have been a favorite since one’s childhood, the fifth house deals in general with any activities that bring pleasure in life.
The Sixth House of each zodiac sign is responsible for health. Although it is a very general term, since health can be of the body as well as of the mind, this house dives into the complexities of things like nutrition and satisfaction.
The Seventh House deals with matters that are external in one’s life and that are subsequently often a result of other actions. As this means directly seeing yourself or your actions embody the outside world, it is also seen as the house of marriage, with a motto that literally translates to the spouse.
The Eighth House is perhaps the most hated house by each zodiac sign, as it goes on to represent everything a person would try to avoid or run away from. These include one’s limitations in life, taboos that otherwise could be enjoyed, as well as fears that hold one back from achieving all one can in life.
The Ninth House has a motto that can be translated to journeys. This enables it to be the house of exploration, travel, as well as perspective and opinion. All the questions that the human race has asked till now and all philosophies have been a result of this house’s working, as it lets the human mind wander to places and ask questions never before asked.
The Tenth House is basically what everyone can’t stop talking about. When discussing their life with someone, people more often than not have nothing to tell except for their work routines, new successes or failures at work, or how the life at home is going. This is all the responsibility of the tenth house.
The Eleventh House relates to Aquarius on a personal level. In the common knowledge it is known as the house of friendship, however, at a deeper level, the eleventh house also lets one interfere with their inner self and try to befriend themselves, thus helping one come to terms with his own existence and giving them a path forward.
The Twelfth House is also known as the house of self-undoing. However weird this may sound, it has been tough for astrologists to find a definitive meaning for this house. At an easy level, this house is known to turn one’s life into a prison in any way imaginable. For easy understanding, it may be taken to be the house that launches hurdles in the path of its zodiac sign.
The Astrology Planets
The terms planets have a somewhat different meaning when being discussed in astrology. It means not only the regular planets that form a part of the earth’s solar system, but also all other celestial bodies involved, including the sun, and the moon, which act as two lights in one’s natal chart. Often neglected, asteroids and dwarf planets also need to be taken into account when drawing up natal charts as they too have a collective effect worth a lot.
Just as traditional astrology goes; the planets play the most important role, with each one ruling over two or three zodiac signs. In a strong belief that everything in this universe is related, there has to be someone or something that stays witness to everything that is happening. This task aptly falls to the planets, the celestial bodies, since they have been in existence longer than everything the earth and earthlings know of.
With the planets all being constantly in motion, it is an interesting notion that the birth of each person, the starting of each project and the timing of every action that takes place must have a unique position and alignment of all the planets in the universe. The measurement of these positions or locations tends to give astrologers a better idea as to how the outcome of a decision taken at a particular time would be or what personality traits a person born at a certain time in a certain year might have. This, in turn, is all reflected in the zodiac circle that is subsequently made.
Another concept that is important to grab before one embarks on their journey of astrology is that of planetary dignities. This is primarily related to the planet in itself instead of the effects it might have on an individual. In traditional language, it is called how a planet feels in a certain position. Dignity then goes on to specifically reveal how much of energy a planet might be harboring.
A prime example is that the feel of Venus may determine whether the day of a Taurus or Scorpio might go gloomy or happy, depending on how much energy the planet harbors, or in other words, how much dignity it has.
Apart from these basic concepts, astrologers rely on a number of planets to ensure that the predictions and assumptions they make are as accurate as possible. This involves mapping the planets down to the most accurate degree so that everything connects perfectly. The planets that are under surveillance include the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. It is to be noted that the sun and moon are categorically planets in astrological terms only, as it considers any and all celestial bodies to be planets. In such a case, moon astrology becomes a subject in itself. In addition to that, astrologers also keep tabs on the dwarf planets Ceres, Chiron, and Lilith, as well as the uncharted space that covers the planetary and lunar nodes.
Astrology and Ascendant (rising sign)
The ascendant is an essential element of your natal chart, indicating the sign rising on the eastern horizon at the time of your birth (this is why it is sometimes called the rising sign). The ascendant also unveils the impressions that people will get from you depending on how you behave toward them. It gives you the keys to learn how you should behave in order to fully use the abilities unveiled by your astrological sign.
Thanks to your ascendant, you will then know precisely what other people see in you and what they think about you. As a consequence, you will have a clear vision of how you should behave and communicate with other people. Like the Sun Signs, there are 12 ascendants.