ONE OF my esoteric teachers, the late Arthur Joseph Kushner of New Paltz, liked to say there was a time when all things began. Sometimes the best teachings are the very simplest, though this is an easy one to forget. All that exists has its origins in time.
Things and activities that date to immemorial antiquity did indeed one day came into being. Yesterday they were not there; then today, they are here. Whether you’re talking about the use of tarot cards for divination, the first time someone intentionally made a chair, or the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one day it happened. Usually the origins of things are lost to time. Humans are inherently migratory critters, and many of our documents and artifacts are lost in movement along with my MS Office 98 disk. Stories are forgotten or lost as languages die, libraries burn or are burned, and of course constant warfare and religious persecution obscures history.
We don’t usually think of astrology as having an actual origin. Personally I always imagined the birth of astrology happening as someone looked up at the night sky, their imagination taking over as they made up a story. I have associated astrology with folklore, which is decidedly not astrology — forgetting what Arthur took the time to explain: that all things, and astrology is definitely a distinct thing, have a distinct point of origin, even though you may never know what it was.
At last weekend’s conference of NCGR, the National Council for Geocosmic Research in Baltimore, I was given some information that has begun to rearrange my astrological thinking more than anything, well, since Chiron.
Beginning in 1993 (around the time of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn), something called Project Hindsight was created. We know its origins: Roberts Hand, Schmidt and Zoller were its original members, though two of the Roberts have gone their own way.
Since then, Hindsight has more or less continuously been translating astrological texts out of ancient languages, principally Greek and Latin, but also Hebrew, Aramaic and others. I was fortunate to be introduced to Hindsight by one of my teachers just two years after it began. They have made many discoveries from a number of ancient cultures, but in the past few years the researchers have begun to understand the astrology of the Hellenistic era, which is at the root of our astrology.
We often think our astrology came from Arab mathematicians and astronomers, but actually, the Arabs were mostly using texts translated from Greek, dating to about the second century BCE.
That, says Robert Schmidt, one of the creators of Hindsight, is when Hellenistic astrology, the entire system, seems to have appeared, within a time span of about 50 years. When you consider that it can take most of 50 years to learn astrology, the notion that an entire sophisticated system — with houses, planets, signs, numerous calculation methods, interpretive rules and so on — was invented, developed, or discovered within that short timeframe, is astonishing. But one way or another, that appears to be what happened.
Original documents in ancient Greek were amassed mainly in two collection projects in the 20th century: that of David Pingree, and another earlier collection called the CCAG series. Those pertaining to astrology have been translated by Project Hindsight researchers, for the most part by Schmidt, who is fluent in ancient Greek and other languages. From this literature it is clear that there are seven “founders” of Helenistic astrology, and that one of them is Hermes Trismegistus.
Did he bring his astrology from somewhere else, or have a source of access to ancient knowledge that had somehow been concealed? As usual, a discovery conceals a deeper mystery or two. We don’t really know who Hermes Trismegistus was, where he came from, or when he lived. Speculation abounds, and it’s fun to consider. Is it accurate? I don’t think God even knows what they will be saying about Oprah in 3,000 years, but I’m sure we would laugh ourselves silly if we could hear it.
In my conversations last weekend with Schmidt and his wife Ellen Black (one of which is posted to our audio section), I learned many strange things, but the one that stands out is the existence of a document called the Thema Mundi. This is the “chart of the world.” Many traditions and people have pondered the existence of such a chart, and one appears to exist, at least in name.
The Hellenistic scholars who write about it refer to it as a teaching device, so it seems likely to be a hypothetical chart, that is, a construction rather than a chart for an event, but one with placements that have occurred many times in history. What Schmidt and Black have deduced from their research is that this seems to be a chart that is the foundation for the system of Hellenistic astrology, which in turn gave us the astrology we now have.
In other words, rather than being a chart that was put together based on the rules of the Hellenistic system, it is the key to our astrology, something of an original document from which those rules were deduced. Of course, nobody can say for sure and the literature is not clear on this particular point. The chart exists and was used, and we now have access to it.
Yesterday in a phone conversation, Schmidt likened his perception that the chart is the source of astrology rather than the other way around, to seeing a film of a cup breaking, played backwards. Imagine that’s all you had, the reverse film. If you watched the film, you would need to speculate about all the possible forces that were pushing the various bits together to shape them in the form of the cup, then assume there was some way they were mysteriously sticking together. You might wonder what intelligence orchestrated the shards arranging themselves as a cup. If you start with a cup, watch it break, and then watch it come back together, it makes a lot more sense. On this logic, it makes sense to presume the Thema Mundi is a starting point rather than a destination or logical conclusion of the Hellenistic principles.
The chart has seven planets, since that’s how many were known at the time — though I often wonder about why nobody seems to have noticed Vesta, which is almost always visible without a telescope, and which people looking at the sky should have noticed moving around up there (that is another discussion). In the Thema Mundi, the planets are all in their traditional rulerships. The Moon is in Cancer and the Sun is in Leo. Mercury is in Virgo, Venus is in Libra, and Mars is in Scorpio. Jupiter is in Sagittarius and Saturn is in Capricorn. The rest of the signs, and houses, are empty.
Now here is the interesting part. The chart has Cancer rising. And it would appear that the overlay of houses and signs of our astrology is based not on Aries being associated with the 1st house, but rather, Cancer.
If you studied astrology any time after the early 20th century, you were taught pretty much as a matter of rote memorization that the 1st house corresponds to Mars and to Aries. This became a popular way to conceive of what Schmidt calls the “12 letter alphabet” of astrology in the 1970s, and you often hear associations like “Sun = Leo = 5th house.”
Personally, I have always found this to be irritating and somewhat thoughtless, as is the simplistic assertion that “signs and houses mean the same thing.” In particular, the way the houses work and feel is quite distinct from the way the signs work. They are related, sure. The relationships are sometimes obvious, but often there are surprises, and it’s often much less straightforward than astrologers say. Based on the Thema Mundi it would appear that we have had our system skewed by 90 degrees. The “natural chart” correspondence of houses to signs to planets, according to the Hellenistic system, is as follows below. Note that only the first seven houses are occupied in the Thema Mundi, abbreviated below as “TM.”
|1st house||Cancer||The Moon|
|2nd house||Leo||The Sun|
|3rd house||Virgo||Mercury (Hermes)|
|8th house||Aquarius||(Saturn, empty in TM)|
|9th house||Pisces||(Jupiter, empty in TM)|
|10th house||Aries||(Mars, empty in TM)|
|11th house||Taurus||(Venus, empty in TM)|
|12th house||Gemini||(Mercury, empty in TM)|
Note, this is a nocturnal chart. The Sun is below the horizon. In ancient astrology this makes a big difference, a distinction that is now getting the attention of more astrologers entirely because of the Hindsight work.
From this key, you can pretty much deduce all the basic rules of Hellenistic astrology, and understand your own astrology a lot more clearly.
Note that we still have cardinal signs on the angles. In other words, in the system we’re accustomed to, Aries, a cardinal sign, is the “ascendant.” In this system, Cancer, another cardinal sign, is the ascendant. Cancer is the sign of mothering, and is associated with the ascendant, which is the house of incarnation, where you come from the misty void of the 12th house into tangible form in the 1st house. In fact, Alice Bailey, in her book Esoteric Astrology, makes a similar case for the sign Cancer, saying that it’s the sign of incarnation. Note that many “traditionally trained” astrologers have long poo-pooed Alice Bailey as being drivel.
For its part, Aries turns up as the 10th house of the Thema Mundi, which is a house with a lot of fiery initiative — career, fame, expression in the world. Yes, the 10th seems to have some connection to Capricorn in our system, but speaking as one who must interpret regularly using the newer (incorrect) system, Capricorn does not exactly fit the outgoing initiative required of the 10th. I’ve had to fudge by taking Cap as a cardinal sign and getting the initiative from there, the property of cardinality (astrological lingo for initiative), which works well enough — but not as well as having Aries as the natural sign associated with the 10th house. This helps us understand the Aries Point, which seems a lot closer in meaning to the 10th cusp than it does to the ascendant.
Let’s look at a couple of more examples, and then let this information sit for a while, and let our minds adjust to the 90-degree reality shift. Consider the 5th house. Before being aware of this information, here is how I characterized it in my house definition listing:
The house of taking risks, pleasure, play and creative love. These all call upon a person to dare. Of all the previous houses, the 5th has the greatest feeling of surrender. Romance, children, adventure, gambling, bungee jumping, hang gliding, and sex for fun or passion, including when you’re in love. This house can have an unusual karmic quality to it; there is a relationship to something that’s beyond immediate experience or perception but which activities of that house can bring out.
Hmm. An “unusual karmic quality” (not referenced by most books, which will leave you with the 5th as a romantic weekend in Las Vegas). Scorpio is reminiscent of this feeling. And the mix of Leo and Scorpio is much more reminiscent of the passion and surrender of the 5th house, and what you happens when you really dare, than is a Leo connection.
Now, what I did not mention in this interpretation (and why it’s never a good idea to get your information from just one source) is that children are often conceived in the 5th house, and that makes a lot more sense when you overlay the house of passionate sex with the sign of the mysteries of birth and death. We also get an idea of why, when you embark on what seems like a fun romance, you can end up involved deeper than you planned. We have a picture of why, besides the obvious, the 5th house lands you in Scorpio Land.
Let’s take one more example on this theme. In an article I wrote in February 2000 for StarIQ.com, called “Beyond Death and Dowry: Astrology Points to a New Sexuality,” I presented a discussion suggesting that we consider Aquarius and the 11th house as a model for sexuality, rather than the usual Scorpio model. Basically, I was suggesting that we make a 90-degree axis rotation in our notions about sexuality, ease off on the property right aspects insinuated by the 8th house (which covers many aspects of sex, as well as death, and by extension, things like inheriting money), and tune into a more communal idea of sex and relating.
It seemed innovative at the time, but the founders of Hellenistic astrology were about 22 centuries ahead of me. Aquarius is the sign associated with the 8th house. What we think of as the most private affair, be it sharing an orgasm with someone or what someone says at the time they are dying, is processed through a sign that is associated, at least in modern astrology, with the community, groups and associations.
In actual fact, sex is inherently a community matter. We see this in every way, from gossip to the influence that relationships have on the community; from how we must consider the transmission of STDs as something that affects us all, to the odd tendency a good number of people have to experience a series of partners and exist in a form of polyamory called an intimate network (even though it’s given the name ‘monogamy’). There is the implication that we need to apply visionary ideas and ideals (Aquarius style) to our process of give and take with sexual relationships (the 8th house).
The 8th covers marriage contracts and contracts of all kinds, and we get an image of why the marriage commitment is typically conducted in public, with a group present. We can also see that beneath any formal agreement between two people is a level of reality, signified by Aquarius, where that connection is part of the broader matrix of society. Nothing, and no association, exists in a vacuum; we are all part of the world.
The Thema Mundi has many implications, for every subject covered by astrology, and even knowing about the thing feels like being handed the secret of how astrology works, or like pulling up the floor boards and seeing what we’ve been walking over all these years. There are several permutations of the chart, including one that has the planets placed in their signs of secondary rulership (Jupiter also rules Pisces in the ancient system) and their signs of exaltation (for example, Saturn is exalted in Libra), a discussion I’ll take up in a later edition. All the charts have Cancer in the ascendant.
For now, have fun considering the chart that truly is one of the ancient keys to astrology. Keys lead to doors and doors lead to different places — this is the beginning of an adventure.
This is a slightly simplified version of the Thema Mundi. Actually, the house cusps intersect the signs at 15 degrees, such that half of Cancer would be above the horizon and half below. However, whole sign houses were used, regardless of where the house cusp intersected the sign. Even if a cusp ran through a sign at 28 degrees, the entire sign counted for a house. In other words, because the whole sign counted for a house, a planet would have changed houses at the same time it changed signs. The house cusp represented a kind of peak of energy within the house rather than the transition to a new one. In modern astrology we use the house cusp as the transition to a new house rather than a peak of energy within the house.
Under a Changing Sky
By Eric Francis
WE ARE in the last moments of the astrological year. The Sun is now at the end of Pisces, heading for Aries, which will be preceded by a partial solar eclipse on Sunday. An eclipse at equinox, though it seems to be a simple coincidence, is really the simultaneous alignment of several different solar and lunar cycles.
Consider the structure for a moment. The Sun, in the last degrees of the annual cycle, is met by the Moon, completing one trip through the zodiac. Even an ordinary New Moon at the Equinox would be interesting, but this is a New Moon where the Sun is partially obscured by the Moon. We could say that for a moment, we’re aware that unconscious forces represented by the Moon and Pisces dominate the conscious, active, heroic ones represented by the Sun.
This will feel different for everyone paying attention, from deep and emotional to exciting and dynamic. For others, they may be able to look back and notice that their life crossed a natural crease in the landscape of time. The symbolism of an eclipse in Pisces right at the end of the solar cycle is, in any event, strongly suggestive of completions and of the invocation of a new phase of life. Since we are aware of it, we can use it.
The eclipse is conjunct Ceres, formerly the largest asteroid, now the nearest dwarf planet. Ceres represents the nexus of emotional process and nourishment. The two are closely related; emotions and the gastrointestinal tract are closely related. Both are also enmeshed with the whole discussion of boundaries, since to be emotionally healthy we need boundaries and the intestines represent a boundary through which the body absorbs nutrients.
At the moment of the eclipse, Ceres is closely square Pluto, suggesting that there is some intense inner working out of grief, alienation and emotional longing that is one step removed from our relationships. But the results of this process will soon enough be available to work with. The Ceres-Pluto square is part of a collection of major and minor planets in Sagittarius and Pisces that are square one another.
Eclipses (or lunations of any kind) while the Sun is at an angle (such as at equinox or solstice) have at times arrived with extreme or dramatic results, though currently we’re in an extended phase of such astronomical events during a time in history when no matter how weird something is, it seems like just the next weird thing. So we live with a perceptual distortion that makes it difficult to sort out the background from the foreground, and to distinguish events that are significant from those that are less so. The same may be true in our personal lives, though this is often the case.
This week’s conjunction of Mars and Chiron emphasizes the point. All conjunctions are the endings and beginnings of cycles. Mars almost always represents action, self-assertion and the willingness to confront life and change the world. Chiron balances that energy with an introspective quality, social awareness, and the focus of intention, but is at the same time another form of warrior energy. Chiron teaches, mentors, endures and negotiates, and Mars takes the learning of Chiron and puts it into action.
Mars in Aquarius will be doing a lot of that lately, as it soon sweeps through the Saturn-Neptune opposition before moving on to Pisces. This is a nearly simultaneous opposition of Saturn by Mars, then a conjunction to Neptune. Venus is also about to enter Taurus and is now exactly trine Pluto in Sagittarius.
Mercury, for its part, re-enters Pisces on Saturday, March 18, less than a day before the eclipse. This has been an emotional Mercury retrograde for many people, though from what I have been learning over the years, these retrogrades never affect the whole population in a consistent way. Some people don’t even notice; others have their lives turned upside down. That is Mercury for you. Over the next few weeks we will get a rather interesting journey of Mercury through Pisces, which will soon conjoin the North Node and Uranus in that sign.
In sum, we have many solar and lunar cycles changing over; we have the Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus about to change signs; and we have Mars rather active in the sky, stirring up the will-to-change and making sure we pay attention to our environment, be it mental or physical.
Pisces Solar Return IV
By Priya Kale with Eric Francis
SOMEWHERE TUCKED away neatly in your mind, a quiet storm has been brewing. Recently you have had a vision of your soul’s mission, and this is through some dramatic developments on the path to its fruition. Saturn’s ongoing opposition with Neptune has been disconcerting to say the least, causing you to question and examine all your long-held beliefs, firm up your boundaries, and get clear about what you need. But this has been a necessary exercise in uprooting the weeds so to speak and nurturing only that which holds true, by your standards and not anyone else’s.
The more discipline you apply to this process, particularly in setting limits about what you want and focusing your energy there, the better opportunities you have to express yourself. This is indicated by the ongoing trine between Jupiter and Saturn in the fire signs Leo and Sagittarius, suggesting an opportunity to express your most deeply held values — as long as you hold true to them.
Mars joining Chiron in your 12th, along with a stellium of planets in Aquarius, is making you poignantly aware of the fears and insecurities that you like to keep hidden — even from yourself. This is not a bad thing, and in fact offers tremendous potential to actively deal with, heal, and put behind you once and for all everything that has held you back for so long, particularly your fears, which are often represented by Mars in the 12th. This is not something that happens to you but has to be an active exercise in reflection and awareness where you are typically inclined to turn your head the other way and use denial to cope. The Mars-Chiron conjunction is the birth of warrior energy, and in Aquarius, this is about shedding your fear of people and allowing yourself to walk freely in the world, unencumbered by the beliefs of others.
You are in an extremely creative and passionate cycle right now and I suggest you acknowledge this process consciously. Your choices are leading you towards an undeniable transformation; a lot of this comes in the form of emotional intensity and the feeling that you are being guided by forces higher than yourself, on the one hand, and deep within yourself, on the other. Have faith in yourself and your abilities, and harness this dynamic surge of energy to help you materialize some of your deepest desires and that which you yearn for.
What is it that you want to achieve? Jupiter up in 10th house brings bountiful opportunities, but working its way toward Pluto in the year, a laser-like ability to focus them. Its ongoing trine with Saturn offers you all the support and structure you need to manifest your life in a tangible way. Although you feel like there is no time for distraction right now, leave room for some time to let your mind wander into that wide open place where it goes when you’re relaxed. You need your friends and daydreams as much as they need you, and effective time management might be a handy skill to have. Get your work done, then forget about it for a while.
Connections you make right now in your personal and professional life are intense, influential, and seem to have an element of destiny attached to them. But destiny has that way of needing to be worked out. The thing is, your solar return offers most of the resources you need in abundant quantity, and much ability to be self-reliant in any other case. You are running on a high level of passion and charisma that can’t be easily ignored, so be aware that all eyes are on you.
This may at times bring up issues and insecurities in partners about their own self-worth and what they mean to you. There is strength in communication right now, as Mercury is re-entering your sign as we speak, so don’t underestimate the power of your words to soothe and assuage the worries of an intimate partner. Sometimes all it takes is a validation of their feelings, and offering the feeling of being heard. An honest discussion would do wonders for an injured ego. You have the ability now to be very articulate, and this will go a long way toward laying to rest any lingering unfounded feelings of inadequacy.
Strengthen your bonds with friends and partners this year as you step into a whole new world of possibilities and probabilities. What good is being on top if you have no one to share your success with? That success will be all the more meaningful to you and effective in the world for sharing it with others, who will in turn use you as an example of how to be free. As the long era of Uranus in Pisces develops (enhanced by Uranus on the North Node), you could say that’s the theme of this transit: that as you find your own freedom, many of the people around you find theirs.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, March 16, 2007, #654 – By ERIC FRANCIS
Aries (March 20-April 19)
You’re going through a psychic rebirth, and over the next month or so the feeling and the experience will return in a new way, over and over again. In truth a rebirth experienced in a therapy room, at a New Moon ritual, in an erotic experience, at a social gathering, or alone in a private space, are all different forms of the same thing, and all are available to you. The many-faceted distinction in form is designed to remind you that the circumstances are not what’s important — the content of your experience is. You are being born into a new life, and nothing will make that more real than living each day as if it’s true.
Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Venus in your sign comes with a variety of messages, which you need to interpret in the context of being very much on top of your game. That is to say, you are at a high point, certainly one where you can see the wider landscape, and are sensing just how much is possible. But your potential involves your being able to overcome certain of the more reserved or reticent aspects of your nature, and daring to take leadership, particularly in your professional life. The truth is that leadership is more than personal — it really is about making sure others understand that you’re willing to take authority, and do it well.
Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Mercury this week slips back into Pisces and over the midheaven of your solar chart — the place where we reach out into the world, strive to make a name for ourselves, and accept the responsibilities that come with having not just a résumé, but a reputation. The sign involved is Pisces, which is another way of saying you decide how you project yourself into the awareness of others. You shape your character, but remember that you can do so more or less honestly, more or less in tune with the core of your being. You’ve had time to consider your position, time to prepare for this crucial moment.
Cancer (June 21-July 22)
When the Moon eclipses the Sun, we all feel the influence of something we normally take for granted. For you, this is about untangling an emotional complex that may have held you back for years. That knot is suddenly slipping free, unbinding you to make your path through the world in a way that has never been possible for you, or for your predecessors. You possess all that they had, and much that they never imagined they could. You exist in a world that needs your talent in a way of which you’re finally becoming conscious. Allow your confidence to rise to the surface of your personality, but never forget it’s coming from the deepest place.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
In its usual backward thinking, the world often teaches us to be “spiritual” before we learn or dare to be human. In the process, we impose ideas on biology; we impose morals on emotions; we burden the basic facts of life with an endless and ultimately meaningless ethical debate. You seem to be in a space, rare to find on the planet at the moment, where you have put being human as a higher priority than being a mystic. Necessity has been dictating for some time that you see others as simply and purely human — but to do this, you’ve needed to exert some superhuman powers. This week’s solar eclipse should bring some welcome relief from that.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Mercury appearing on the horizon of your solar chart is suggesting that a relationship is back in your life after taking a brief vacation. Yet the emphasis is now clearly on how you define the terms of your reality, your boundaries, and your needs. You may be inclined to want to dive in and surrender, and that is, of course, what a real relationship is about. Make sure you do so having made some agreements with yourself and, if possible, with the person to whom you’re getting closer. These agreements need to be less about facts and figures and more about an understanding that relationship for truth is an experience offered to the greatest good of all concerned.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Your chart is exploding with rebellious energy at the moment, which covers art in all its many forms, spontaneous romance, how you relate to your kids if you have any, and in particular, how you relate to your friends. Spring is in the air, and you may be feeling constraints and limitations of your social experience to be like something you want to detonate: an old building or, better, an old and rigid belief system. Pay attention to the expectations you believe are being placed on you, and those you are placing on yourself. See if you can figure out where they came from, bid them farewell, and begin the revolt.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You may be feeling the moment has come to dive in, and if so, you can be fairly sure the waters are deep and warm. But they will soak into you and change you, revealing a different aspect of your nature than the familiar one you live with from hour to hour. The feelings you’re experimenting with are likely to give you the freedom to be different every day, the permission to be less stable, and in particular, to be less stable for the sake of others. Remember, to the extent this is true, it’s for your own freedom and sanity, and to liberate the child within you. She finally feels safe enough to come out and play.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
An eclipse of the Sun in Pisces represents an intense moment of preparation for breaking free from an emotional bog. Curiously, the way you’re going to do that is precisely by going deeply into your feelings, where a friend, partner, or lover is ready to meet you. Yes, the past couple of months have been filled with hesitancies, minor reversals, and too much to think about. True, you have been spending more time in the outer world than the inner one, and more time in your mind than in your body. Remember, the only way out is in.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Gradually the pressure is coming off you, but the events of this week will assist greatly. The issue is precisely that you have not been able to see or really feel what has been pushing you or quietly engulfing your awareness. Once it’s gone, you will suddenly notice, like a sound that was droning away in the background that becomes apparent once it stops. Use all your senses, including six through 10. Remember that vague sense of discomfort you carried around, so you can be reminded of how good you feel now. Remember the bog, so you can appreciate standing on dry land.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Mars in your sign is stirring up just about everything, within you and around you — be glad of it, since this kind of excitement doesn’t come along very often. You’re enough of a voyeur to appreciate the wild show; enough of a scientist to be fascinated by the repercussions of your own creative energy. But make sure you carry around the spirit of an artist in these weeks, using your ability to shape and create the world as the rare gift that it is, and teaching yourself and others that beauty is the true expression of justice. Fear not. Love boldly, because love is freedom and freedom brings sanity.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Though we’re nearing the end of the Sun’s run through Pisces, the focus is on your sign due to a solar eclipse, and the return of Mercury after the recent retrograde into Aquarius. This is a moment of review, in particular, of your relationship to your fears. Oh, you’re not entirely over them, but you’ve made progress. That progress has come mainly in the form of gaining a sense of scale: you are bigger than your fears, no matter how big they may have seemed in the past. You have an unusual ability to take any form of negative energy and convert it into creativity, burning it like fuel. Keep that in mind as the next few weeks progress.