The number of books available in and out of print on astrology is mind-boggling and continuing to grow. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “static noise” in the overall stream of information, which can make finding the best books on the subject a daunting task. This monthly book review will focus on the best books for beginners, serious students, and professionals.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking at three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book. The book this month is targeted at advanced students and professional astrologers. The composite chart is the chart you get when you take two charts and calculate the midpoint between each point to get the combined chart of the two people.
The Book This Month – Planets in Composite by Robert Hand
The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0914918226 and it can be purchased new in the trade paperback format on Amazon for $15.79 USD. You can find used copies of the hardback edition on Amazon starting at $5.48 USD and on Alibris for $4.82 USD at the time this article was written.
Published in 1975, this book “is the first major book to use the composite technique; it is the most complete, in-depth astrology book ever written about human relationships. Robert Hand’s analysis of the composite horoscope has made a significant contribution to the study of astrology” (back cover). Bold claims indeed! Even today the book holds up as a “significant contribution to the study of astrology”.
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book, a forward by fellow astrologer John Townley, and an index. Since the work promotes original concepts, there are no endnotes or footnotes or bibliography. Quite a lot of the content appears in what can be described as a “cookbook” format, with the composite point described by the house and in relation to other charts in the book. Interestingly, Hand does not describe the composite chart points in signs.
The book contains fifteen chapters and the index. The book begins with Introduction, then Chapter 1: Casting the Chart, next Reading the Chart, Case Studies, Houses, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and ending with the Moon’s Nodes.
This book contains a wealth of information, reflecting Hand’s attention to detail and love of scholarship. If you get to an advanced level in your astrology studies, or you are a current professional and do not have this book, then you do need to get a copy. It is fascinating to learn about the chart of your relationship and see how the points of the composite chart stand on their own and relate to each of the individual charts.
Focus on Chapter 1 – Casting the Chart
Hand states at the beginning that “the composite horoscope is created by finding the midpoint between pairs of planets and other sensitive points of the two natal horoscopes, that is, the Sun of one and the Sun of the other, the Moon of one and the Moon of the other, and so forth” (Hand, 11).
In the second paragraph of the first chapter, he writes, “a midpoint is a point in the zodiac equidistant from two other points, usually planets. It is believed, and extensive practice bears this out, that the midpoint combines the qualities of the two planets from which it is derived” (Hand, 11). As you may surmise, since the chart is a circle, it is possible to have two midpoints between two points in the chart.
For the purpose of composite work, the midpoint to use is the one with the shorter arc. In the case of my wife, who has her Sun in Cancer, and myself, who has my Sun in Aries, the midpoint Sun is in Gemini, not Sagittarius, because the arc between Aries and Cancer (which includes Taurus and Gemini) is shorter than the arc between Cancer and Aries (which includes Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces).
Because of the degree of our Suns, our midpoint Sun is in Gemini, at 10 degrees. Hand nicely explains all the technical calculating and provides clear images to support his explanations. He takes the time to explain how the Houses are cast as well. In the case of my marriage, we have our composite Sun in Gemini in the 5th House, which rules both Love Affairs and Parenting.
Focus on Chapter 11 – Saturn
At the beginning of each chapter on an individual point, the heading is “The Meaning of [Planet/Point] in the Composite Chart”. Hand writes that “Saturn refers to limitations on the relationship, which are often more apparent than real. Saturn is an inhibitor, representing the aspects of reality that limit our efforts to expand and grow” (Hand, 279).
In the case of my marriage, composite Saturn ends up in the 2nd House of Resources. The first sentence of this explanation sets a difficult tone, “Saturn in the second house of the composite chart usually gives a relationship a great sense of material insecurity”. Further, he says, “Money is a source of concern to the two of you and therefore it is also a possible source of problems, even if you have enough money” (Hand, 280). We are both very conscious of money and our resources and how we manage them.
The composite Saturn in our chart is aided by our individual frugal natures. We both work hard to take care of our money, which helps manage this energy because we both definitely feel this energy as Hand describes. As it happens, the point that connects with Saturn in our composite chart is the Midheaven, which Hand does not write about.
We do have an aspect worth mentioning from Chapter 9; our composite Mars trines with our composite Jupiter. Hand writes, “Mars trine Jupiter is one of the best trines to have in a composite chart, for it indicates that there is harmony between you. You like to be together and to do things together, which contributes to a greater understanding of yourselves and each other” (Hand, 234). This assessment does bear out. There is joyful ease between us, even if we are struggling with difficult circumstances reflected by our composite Saturn.
Knowing the Reviewer
I have an academic background; my PhD is in English (1996) and my concentration was rhetoric and composition. Astrologically speaking, I am an Aries Sun with Mercury, my point of communication, also in Aries. These two facts about my background and astrological identity are the two main “lenses” for how I pick and interpret books. I want them to be well-written, researched, and presented (my academic lens), and I want them to be useful, direct, and pithy (my Aries Mercury lens).
This book is still one of the most complete, in-depth astrology books ever written about human relationships. Robert Hand’s analysis of the composite horoscope has certainly made a significant contribution to the study of astrology.