The short, simple answer is: yes, of course I do. But the truer, slightly more complex answer is: no, I don’t “believe” in astrology, because looking at the world through an astrological perspective requires no extension of faith for me.
Asking an astrologer if she believes in astrology is rather like asking a veterinarian if he believes in dogs. Veterinarians see dogs everyday in their practices; they don’t have to believe. I see astrology working everyday in my practice and in my personal life. Because I know what to look for, it’s easy to see and understand. Like the veterinarian, I don’t need to “believe”.
I completely agree. Ever read a description of your “sign” and just felt like it had little or nothing to do with you? Ever felt categorized by astrology, forced into a grouping that had no relevance for your life? Ever felt frustrated by others who discover your sign and then nod sagely and say “of course” as if now they suddenly have the key to you? It’s all very annoying.
Believe it or not, it’s annoying to astrologers too. Believe it or not, the problem is not with astrology, it’s with how people use astrology. Astrologers and their students know better. What you think of as “your sign” is really just your Sun sign—and it’s only one small part of who you are. While astrologers view the Sun as important and central, it’s not everything. Not in the least. Read this article to find out more. In fact, I suggest you read it even if you’re a “believer,” because there’s got to be someone in your life who needs to get this.
There are many free or inexpensive reports available on the internet and some of them are even good. But after you try them, you discover they are just a list of various traits that you may or may not identify with. Those traits may even contradict each other and you get no sense of how they fit into the whole picture of who you really are. And you can’t ask questions. At some point you realize that those reports have their limits and if you really want to understand yourself, get oriented and start experiencing the success, joy and intimacy you were meant to, you need to talk to a real person about your chart. Then you need to see a real astrologer.
Prepare to slow down and really delve into yourself. This is not a quick fix. It is a profound look at the map of your life—your whole life!—jam-packed with real tools for self-understanding that you can apply in concrete ways.
Oh and about newspaper horoscopes: I pretty much hate them. They are too general to be of much use to anybody (I call them “fortune cookies”). Here’s more about that: Why I Hate Astrology Forecasts.
Actually, no. Your professor was describing a true astronomical phenomenon whereby the zodiac of the constellations no longer lines up with the zodiac of the seasons. This is something astrologers are very familiar with. For 5000 years (in the Western world, and longer in China), humans have observed the sky and noticed that certain times of the year, or seasons, had particular qualities. Astrology was born when people formed associations between happenings on Earth and the movement of planets through particular patches of sky. Those patches of sky, or “signs,” had stars in them, which were organized into constellations and used as a memory device to help people remember the meaning of the sign. Mythological stories sprang up around the constellations to help people to understand and remember the signs’ meanings. Thus a thematic link was formed between a time of the year, or season, and an area of sky, or constellation. At first it was thought that the seasons and constellations were the same thing, but over time it became apparent that they were distinct. For example, when the Sun crosses over the equator in spring, we have the spring equinox, which is the beginning of the seasonal sign of Aries. The equinox is the point at which the days (in the northern hemisphere) begin to grow longer, which is how we know it’s spring. But there is also the constellation Aries, which is—or should be—the group of stars the Sun is passing through when spring begins. However, since this link between the seasons and constellations was formed, there has been a sort of slippage. This is because the earth is not just spinning in a regular way, it actually has a wobble to its spin, like a top or gyroscope winding down. This wobble has caused the spring equinox to move backwards or “precess” into the constellation Pisces, moving a tiny amount further backwards every year. Therefore when the sun is in the season of Aries (approximately the thirty days following the spring equinox) it is now in the constellation of Pisces. Sometime next century it will be in the constellation of Aquarius (thus the famous “dawning of the Age of Aquarius”). Astrologers, not to be deterred by this precession thing, have split up into two camps: tropicalists and siderealists. Tropical astrologers are usually Western world astrologers (like me) who use the seasons, while siderealist astrologers, who are mostly—but not entirely—Indian or Vedic astrologers, use the constellations. Funny thing is, both systems work. The key is to be internally consistent and to use the techniques that developed inside the tradition you choose.
Geeky astrologer’s joke: If you go play during recess, does that mean you play backwards during precess? (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
Nope, it’s not. And if you believe that it is, ask yourself if that belief comes from personal experience in a real reading from a real, certified, professional astrologer or if it comes from the opinions of other people. If it comes from other people, it’s a belief, something you’ve taken on faith. It’s just a “scientific” one. But have you ever actually given astrology a chance by experiencing it for yourself?
If you are committed to a skeptical point of view, you might be better off not having an astrology reading, because you might be unprepared for how accurate, insightful and true the information you hear feels to you—how it slots right into your life. This kind of experience can shake your worldview to the bones. Consider before you enter into it.
Another reason to avoid getting an astrology reading if you are a diehard skeptic is that it’s hard on the astrologer. Once you go to the trouble to hire an astrologer and make her do all the work of preparing to see you, you’d best give her space to do her job. Most astrologers use some degree of intuition (although psychism is not necessary) and dealing with the “prove it to me” attitude of skeptics makes work where there doesn’t have to be work. Taking this attitude to an astrologer is disrespectful and downright rude. To really get results from an astrology reading, you have to be willing to be impacted by it. In that case, choose an astrologer you can respect and then bring your open mind to the table. If you’re not willing to, best seek other forms of guidance you can bring all of yourself to. And the world is rich with those.
The difference is that ‘astrologist’ is not actually a word in English. Read about it here: “Why ‘Astrologer,’ Not ‘Astrologist?’
Then choose an astrologer who is a warm, kind, compassionate, positive person, who feels right to you, and who comes recommended by a source you trust. Then share your fear with your astrologer and let them soothe that fear.
We’ve all got stuff inside us we don’t want to look at. That’s human. Everybody has both positive and negative ways of living out their various personality traits. If you’re afraid to look closely at the ways you’ve chosen to live negatively (so you can change them), then how can you really embrace the ways you’ve chosen to live positively (so you can do more of them)? Personal growth is hard—and if you can’t face these things, why not slow down the process? Do it at the pace that works for your life. Baby steps, tiny bites, these things will get you there… sustainably.
Here’s one of the first blogposts I ever made, when I was establishing my way of working with clients. You might enjoy it: I And Thou (this is just between us and it’s personal).
An astrology reading uses a graphic map of the sky at the time and from the point of view where you were born. This diagram (your astrology “chart”) is a very precise instrument, and a well-trained astrologer can read it without being psychic. So the first, and main difference, is that you will need to provide the astrologer with your birth data (date, place and time) as accurately as you possibly can, so the astrologer has an accurate chart to interpret. This leads to the second difference, which is that the astrologer needs to prepare for the session with you and will likely spend 90 minutes or so analyzing your chart before the session. This means that walk-in appointments that might work for psychics do not work for astrologers. The fact that the astrologer works from objective data (the chart) also means that you could choose to study your chart yourself, and don’t need to form a dependency-based relationship with your astrologer, whereas with a psychic, you’re getting information you couldn’t have gotten on your own and don’t have the opportunity to question or further research after the reading. You kind of have to swallow a psychic’s information whole and decide for yourself which parts of the reading work for you. See my section below on “what you can expect from a good, professional astrologer.”
The chart, the planets, the stars, none of these actually cause people to do or be anything. Over the centuries, astrologers have suggested many ridiculous ideas about why the planets seem to affect us: cosmic rays, planetary dust, magnetism, gravity, and so on. But a combination of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity and a piece of new physics about the holographic nature of the universe explain it best. Synchronicity is, as Jung called it, an “acausal connecting principle.” Which is to say, when you observe two things linking up in time and space, they are connected by virtue of that link, and they have meaning to the person who is experiencing the link. We call this a “synchronicity.” If we find meaning in this connection, we call it “kismet” or “fate.” If we find no meaning in it, we call it a “coincidence.”
Add to this what modern physicists have discovered about the holographic nature of the universe: that the universe reflects its whole self on many, many levels. A hologram is a whole picture which, when cut up into pieces, shows the whole picture again in each piece. Fractals are mathematical formulas which display themselves graphically as patterns which repeat in ever-smaller units on into infinity. These fractalline patterns are reminiscent of natural patterns (the shape of a leaf, a spiderweb, a beaver’s den). In fact, all of nature seems to be holographic, containing the same patterns over and over again in different forms. Have you ever looked closely at moss and noticed how it looks like tiny trees? Spatially, one example of the holographic nature of the universe would be the way that the shape of the solar system (a magnetic center with orbitals) is reflected in the shape of an atom (a magnetic center with orbitals).
Temporally, one example would be the way that a year and a day mirror each other: morning/spring being an awakening of light and energy, afternoon/summer being the warmest and most lit, autumn/sundown being a decline in light and energy and winter/midnight being the darkest, coldest time of day and year. This is also mirrored in the lunar phases, which run from the dark new moon through the ever-brightening first quarter to the bright, full moon, then decreasing in light through the waning third quarter and returning to the darkness of new. Much astrological knowledge is built on the understanding that life happens in cycles which nest in each other and build on each other.
Combining these two ideas (the holographic nature of the universe and Jung’s theory of synchronicity), it becomes clear that the planets do not have to compel us by virtue of any forces which they exert on us from outside ourselves; they have only to exist in the same spacetime moment that we do. It is not that the planets lead and we follow, it is that we dance together. The groupings of the planets in your birth-chart are a symptom of the quality of that birth-moment. It is a moment you captured by being born in it. You “caught” the moment in your very flesh and you are now living it out. You carry that moment in your body throughout your whole lifetime. So the planets don’t cause you to be the ways you are; you also do not cause the planets to be the way they are. You simply share the qualities of the birth-moment.
To understand a human being, we can look at the human being of course; but if that was sufficient the many disciplines we use for self-discovery simply wouldn’t exist (psychology, philosophy, religion, etc.). It’s not easy or simple to read the human being directly from himself. The reason we look at the birth chart instead is that, unlike a human being, it a is a readable tool for understanding the quality of that moment and thus of the human being also. In fact, the birth chart is wonderfully detailed and granular, and is perfectly designed to reflect a human being’s own complexity to himself in astounding, dizzying detail. Your astrology chart is as complex as you are and can not only reflect the complexity of your problems, but also their solutions.
Of course you don’t want to hear your “fate,” because your future’s not carved in stone. There is no “fate.” You create your future. But your life does have a certain shape and knowing that shape can put you back in the driver’s seat. You are unique and the future you’ll create is different from anyone else’s. Its trends can be predicted by a good astrologer. In an astrology reading you can find out:
- What the changes you’re going through are
- Why things are happening to you right now
- How it feels and what to do about those feelings
- How the timing of it will unfold
- How to handle it all, and
- When it will be over
Most modern Western tropical astrologers (like me) do not read the chart as an expression of your unchangeable fate, but rather as a series of likelihoods, possible life-experiences which derive naturally from your personal astrological temperament. Which is to say, your natal chart describes your temperament, and your transits and progressions describe the sorts of life experiences that will be extremely likely to happen to a person of your temperament. A good astrologer can also tell you when those experiences will happen and suggest how to handle them gracefully.
Knowing all about your temperament might seem only mildly useful compared with knowing about your fate, but consider the following idea: If you know what kind of creature you are, then you know how you should live.
Let’s say you are a particular kind of animal, perhaps a lion. Naturally, you should live on the savannah, hunting and sleeping with your pack, as lions do. But suppose you came from a family of otters. Your family members, who love you, have tried their hardest to teach you otter ways: how to swim and catch fish, and they’ve tried their best to include you in fun otter social games. They have no clue why you have no interest in their games and worst of all, hate the water! You, meanwhile, are frustrated and feel deeply misunderstood.
At this point in your life, an astrology reading would be invaluable. The instant you sit down the astrologer can reflect to you: “what a fine lion you are!” Bewildered, you cry, “but I’m an otter! My whole family is otters. I know no other life.”
“I don’t think so,” says the astrologer, and she proceeds to point out all your lion-traits and suggest ways you might use them to best effect. Then she can explain all the lion-oriented life passages you’ll be going through, and at exactly what times you’ll be going through them, so that when you come of age as a lion, you’ll be ready.
A good astrologer will correctly identify your lion-nature and explain it to you. A great astrologer will find your lion-nature to be worthy of celebration and a really great astrologer will leave you inspired by your own essential nature, feeling right about yourself, excited to live the life you came here to live and better empowered to do so than you were when you walked in.
Birth is a complex process with many steps. An obstetrician or midwife may well ask, “is the birth-moment the moment of the crowning? Or is it when the baby emerges?”
The birth moment is actually the moment of the baby’s first breath. When the baby is inside the mother, it is an extension of the mother’s body, bound together with her in every biological process upon which life depends. The baby eats, eliminates and breathes through the mother; in effect, they are one body. As long as the baby is connected via the umbilical cord to the mother, those processes continue and the baby is a part of the mother, not a being in itself.
The moment of first breath is the moment when the baby makes its first act independent of the mother and in doing so, establishes itself as a separate being, both biologically and spiritually. I heard a friend speak in tones of awe about being present at a birth: after the baby emerged and breathed, she said “suddenly, there was one more person in the room.”
Here’s a description from an account by a midwife of a difficult birth where the baby was out but not yet breathing: “I could feel… that the baby had a strong heartbeat but about fifteen seconds had passed since his birth and he hadn’t figured out how to breathe yet… Time stands still when a baby doesn’t cry… It’s odd how babies appear to shrink when they’re not breathing, and this little boy was getting smaller by the second.” And finally: “… as his lungs began to fill up with air, he began to fluff up like a sponge soaking up water. He howled, and then he grew bigger and stronger and more alive right before my eyes*.
At the moment of that independent act, the first breath, the baby imprints the quality of the moment into his or her very cells by drawing oxygen into them. The baby then becomes an agent of that moment, carrying that moment with all of its qualities forward into time and space, living out that moment for the rest of his/her life. The baby’s mission is to live out the potentials of that moment in the most brilliant and satisfactory way possible.
*Baby Catcher, Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent, pp. 145-146. This book is a wonderful, irreplaceable account of the experiences of a real midwife between 1962 and 1991.
The birth chart shifts subtly every three minutes. A ten minutes’ difference between two charts can spell a lot of personality change. This is part of why even identical twins are not always temperamentally identical. If your chart is off by as little as ten minutes, it can throw predictions of the timing of your future experiences off by years—and the discrepancy gets worse as you age.
Usually—but not always—the most accurate birth time is the one listed on the birth certificate. (Look here for suggestions on how to research your accurate birth time) Most hospital nurses and doctors are not aware that the infant may want a reading someday and do not know which moment during the birth cements the birth chart (it is the moment of first breath—see above). Frequently, birth times are recorded later according to what the nurse remembers and are simply not regarded as important data. If the time listed is to-the-minute, rather than rounded off by the hour or half-hour, it’s probably reliable data.
Mother’s memory is not a very reliable source because mother was usually pretty distracted at the time. If you are lucky, you may have a mom who is sure of your birth time to the minute. Alternatively, you may have a baby book which was made at the time, and which lists the time of birth along with your weight and length. This is also likely to be a good source. Other good sources include anything written down around the time you were born, such as a birth announcement, hospital bracelet, hospital bassinet card, midwife record or other keepsake.
If you don’t have a birth certificate and you’re getting conflicting or vague data from Mom (“I’m pretty sure it was around 2 pm, because we’d just had lunch brought in…” or “I guess it was between midnight and 1:30 am. It was after midnight, that I’m sure of.”), you can get a birth certificate from the hospital you were born in. Contact the hospital by phone and ask the Records department how to obtain a copy of your birth certificate with the time on it. They may require a written request with your signature on it, because of medical confidentiality laws. Find out whether they actually have the birth time on record before you send the letter—if they cannot provide you with the birth time, it’s not worth the trouble. Sometimes if you show up in person and produce your i.d. they will simply give it to you.
Alternatively it may be possible to obtain a copy of your birth record over the internet. I had success obtaining my deceased father’s birth record by googling “Akron Ohio birth records.” Medical records are usually only released to the individual whose record they are, or a family member if the individual is deceased.
If you have no written record and cannot get one, you may have to rely on your mother’s or father’s memory. This usually yields not an accurate birth time, but a good place to start.
If you have absolutely no record of a birth time and not even a general guess (i.e. you were adopted, born in a war zone, the building storing the records burned down, etc.), an astrologer can still arrive at an accurate chart, using rectification. BUT NOTE: I am not doing rectifications at this time. (see next section ABOUT RECTIFICATION.)
“I just can’t get a birth time” or “I was adopted and there’s no record of a birth time for me.” What can be done? Then there is rectification.
Rectification, or “making right” is a research process by which an astrologer can discover your accurate birth time. If it’s done right, it should result in a chart which feels right to you and works for you over time. The process I use is a combination of intuitive and technical and works only with a client who knows themselves pretty well, and can remember the dates of significant events in their past.
Rectifying a chart from a day-long time span is much more time-consuming and expensive than from an hour-long time span, but it is doable. Any astrologer who is willing to do this should guarantee that the resulting chart feels right and accurate to the client. Adding rectification to your reading can multiply the cost of it by several times. Many astrologers won’t do it.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not doing rectifications at this time. It’s too much work to do for the many clients who would rather not go to the trouble of searching for their accurate birth time. If your birth time exists, research it. Find a written source. It’s worth the effort–this is the main map of your LIFE we’re talking about here. It’s the main tool upon which every other piece of astrological information is based. And at this time in my practice, I will not read a chart without a precise, down-to-the-minute time provided from a written source.
Fortunately, no. In any field there will be some bad apples, but those are the exception rather than the norm. Most professional astrologers sincerely want to help. Among the many useful tools for self-understanding and personal growth, astrology is something of a power tool. It should be used carefully and when selecting an astrologer, it’s important to choose one with good sound ethics. But how do you know what good ethics are in the realm of astrology?
It’s easy to be taken advantage of when you are not sure what you have a right to expect from someone whose services you are buying. People tend to fall into two camps: the superstitious (who believe too easily) and the skeptics (who refuse to believe, even in the face of proof). In their extremes, both camps hold preconceived notions about astrologers as a class, without a reasonable sense of what can be expected of an individual. Unfortunately such preconceived notions increase the likelihood of a bad experience by creating exactly what the person is trying to avoid. This makes it difficult to clearly judge whether a particular practitioner is a good one or not. Below are some standards you should reasonably be able to expect from anyone who calls themselves a professional astrologer.
You should be able to expect of your astrologer much of what you would expect from a good psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, or a reputable consultant (such as lawyer, accountant, etc). Your astrologer should:
- Maintain confidentiality about your chart and personal details discussed during readings
- Maintain appropriate professional boundaries (including social boundaries and time boundaries)
- Refrain from inappropriate sexual behavior, seduction attempts or other forms of manipulation
- Display tolerance for differences in values, philosophy or religion different from his/her own
- Be knowledgeable and educated in their declared branch of astrology
- Charge a fee commensurate with the astrologer’s abilities and experience, and make clear fee agreements before rendering services
- Deliver astrological information to you in a way that leaves you feeling at choice in your life, rather than in fear
- Refrain from taking advantage of the situation or of your belief in his/her abilities
- Refrain from encouraging dependency by suggesting that your life is somehow broken and the astrologer has the means to fix it if you give them more money
- And most importantly: do no harm!
Choose an astrologer as you would a doctor or lawyer:
- Ask them how long they’ve been doing this. Ask for certifications but remember that only a handful of organizations and schools in the world certify astrologers and many fine astrologers have practiced for decades never bothering to get certified (myself included).
- Ask them what they can do for you, and if their answer is too technical for you to understand, move on. They need to communicate with you in English, not astrologese or spiritual mumbo-jumbo!
- Choose one that has been referred by a reputable source; if not by a friend who has had direct experience with the astrologer, then by a local metaphysical bookstore or newsletter. Stay away from 900 numbers—some of the practitioners you’ll find there are quite sincere and even skilled, but are at the mercy of their managers who just want your money and lots of it.
- Feel them out for yourself. Ask yourself: are they organized, professional, sincere? Or are they more interested in wowing you than helping you? Do they want to truly serve or merely to look good?
- Expect to pay at least $60 for a decent reading and up to $300 for an excellent one. Price does not always reflect quality because as a group, astrologers tend to be more interested in doing readings than in being paid well for them. Therefore you can often get a decent quality reading from a student for under $100. For these prices the reading should be at least a full hour long.
- Find out how broad the astrologer’s skill set is. If they do several other things besides (like reading tarot cards, psychic readings, aura readings, palmistry, clairvoyance and other metaphysical pursuits) then you might find they are spread too thin and are not very good at any of them. Or possibly, they might be good at one thing or two, but it may or may not be astrology. Overall, it’s best to see someone who is primarily an astrologer and maybe does one other thing at most. And remember that all astrologers are intuitive but not all are psychic and it’s not necessary to be psychic to be a fine astrologer. A truly good psychic will usually focus on a more direct method, like reading your aura, rather than an interpretative method, like palmistry, tarot or astrology. And do I need to say it? A neon sign out front that says “Psychic Readings, Tarot, Astrology” is a big red flag. Most good astrologers do not have a store front (although they can often be found in metaphysical book stores).
- And lastly, if the person “just feels creepy,” stay away! You need to like your astrologer and to feel a mutual respect with them. If you don’t, take yourself elsewhere because your money and your time are too valuable to waste.
About requests for readings of third party charts
I do not offer in-depth readings of charts for a third party, so please do not ask me to look at your boyfriend’s chart and tell you how he ticks. The main reason for this is that each piece of the chart can be lived out in a multitude of ways. Unless I have the native (the person whose chart it is) there to validate my interpretations, I can’t be sure that I’m giving useful, pertinent information. You are the ultimate authority on yourself and your life, and so is your partner the ultimate authority on theirs. Reading someone’s chart when they are not present to relate it to their own experience can lead to misinformation which can confuse and even poison a relationship. Please don’t go there.
I am willing to take a brief look at the compatibility between your chart and theirs, and this will tell you whether you want to take the next step and get a full-sized reading for the two of you.
I can’t speak for all astrologers, of course, but I can let you know how I spend the time you’re paying for.
Beyond the hour or hour and a half of actual reading time we have together, there is a lot of time when I’m working for you that you don’t see. First, there is the initial intake. This is a 15 or 20-minute conversation where I find out exactly what you want out of the reading, so I can tailor it to your needs. This conversation may take place by phone or email. Then I take anywhere from an hour (for a natal reading) to over two hours (for other, more complex readings) to prepare. So by the time you see me, you can bet that I’ve already spent at least an hour and a quarter on you, if not more. Then there is the reading itself and while I make every effort to confine myself to the time frame we agreed on, I frequently find the reading spills over. After the reading I take about 45 minutes to an hour to prepare the recording and possibly adjust any charts we used during the reading for you and deliver these materials to you. There’s also the cost of first-class mailing, which I don’t pass on to you. Put all that together and I’m not actually making $100+ an hour; in fact it’s more like a third of that.
I do that because I love astrology and people.
Once or twice a year is ideal. Astrology is not therapy or coaching (although it synergizes well with both of them) and you don’t need to consult an astrologer weekly or even monthly. A reading should be rich and dense with useful information to last all year.
The most important time to have a reading is in the month before your birthday, so you can get a sense of what the year ahead holds for you and plan accordingly. That’s called a Solar Return Birthday reading, and it really helps you hit the ground running. If you want a second reading during the year as a check-in or tune-up, your half-birthday is the best time, because that’s a natural time for mirroring from someone who knows you and can help you reorient yourself and your life in alignment with your goals and vision. Aside from this, the only reason to get additional readings is if you are in the middle of something big and you want to check in about how it’s going and how you’re handling it.
Beware of inappropriate dependency on your astrologer, especially if the astrologer is encouraging it. Metaphysical guidance lends meaning to our experience powerfully and explains it profoundly, but don’t live your life in superstition, unable to move on a decision without consulting your astrologer. If your astrology readings bring up issues that make you want to return frequently to explain, solve or fix, then most likely those things are best approached with a coach or therapist. Any astrologer who encourages dependency is undermining your sovereignty over your own life.
You are the only one who can live your life and it’s not good to dilute the power of astrology by drawing on it too often. That would be like gorging on a box of chocolates. The 10,000-foot view on your life provided by astrology is something rich, to be taken in small, infrequent doses and savored, digested, and integrated into your daily life—something only you can do.
There is an exception to this, which is when you become fascinated with astrology itself and want to learn more. Then you should become a student of astrology. By studying astrology you can learn more about yourself and your life than any other personal growth path could teach you.