The Basic Horoscope
The word horoscope is derived from Latin hora (hour) and Greek skopein (I view) and it literally means “a view of the heavens at the hour of birth.” Based on the constellation of zodiac signs included in the ecliptic and forming the background, a horoscope chart can be constructed showing the movements of the solar system’s planets, moon, and the sun from our earth-centric viewpoint. Against this background of zodiac signs as seen in the sky about 2000 years ago, a basic horoscope was eventually developed as a framework comprised of archetypes. Archetypes in astrology are represented by the zodiac signs, planets and a large assortment of luminaries. To astrologers, the term planet is more than the actual planet; it is a symbol for many things involving the earth and human affairs.
The horoscope chart is divided into twelve sections called houses and each house is comprised of thirty degrees forming a 360 degree circle. The lines dividing the houses are called cusps and represent the doorways (in a sense) to the house next door going forward from house 1 to 12. Each of the 12 houses has a separate significance from the other but form relationships to each other as well and may be seen blending together or divided into groups. (See Modalities.)
House 1 is at the 9 o’clock position on a 12 hour clock. House 2 is at the 8 o’clock position and so on to house 12 at the 10 o’clock position. However, the houses correspond to a 24 hour clock in astrology and house 1 or the ascendant is at 6 am, House 2 at 4 am, House 3 at 2 am and so on to House 12 at 8 am. As you see the horoscope is displayed with the numbered houses in a counterclockwise position. Time in the way of a 24 hour clock is superimposed on the horoscope displayed in clockwise fashion but is a mirror image of the view from outer space.
Generally, the zodiac signs and planets and houses are all separate entities of a horoscope, yet as explained in each page devoted to these basic components, one may come to understand the unique reactions and relationships they have with one another and in human affairs. In many ways, astrology is a language of archetypes that resonates with the human psyche. These astrology components are similar to grammar and the parts of speech that make language understandable. Houses, signs, planets, etc., can become the parts of speech in the language of astrology and once understood may provide guidance and self-understanding.
What is a horoscope?
The basic horoscope provides a space, a stage one could say, where the performance of each person on a daily basis can be observed by the astrologer. Through millennia of observations of people and events, astrologers learned that there was a correspondence to human behaviour and activities during certain astronomical cycles, and from this an aggregation of theory and principles developed and became astrology. Today, astronomers are very sure to distance themselves from astrologers.
Although both groups are interested in the workings of the universe, astronomers do the grunt work of determining the planetary and luminary paths used by astrologers. Most astrologers don’t have the time to go out every night and record the night sky as they did in the old days (of course they use computers now for these calculations). This information is contained in an ephemeris and is available in books or online.
Astrologers really only use the information provided in an ephemeris to be able to create (or cast) a horoscope chart which shows and graphs the movement of the celestial bodies. One could say the planets and luminaries are merely actors performing onstage against the scenery of each sign and house of the horoscope in a never-ending command performance.
How is a horoscope used?
Astrologers learn to read and interpret a horoscope chart much in the way a theatre critic reviews a performance, or a meteorologist reads a weather map to determine the weather. In a play, the actor’s movements, the scenery, the props and what goes on behind the scenes creates the story. A meteorologist reads and interprets the different weather patterns to predict or explain the weather. In the same way the weather person does not make the weather, astrologers do not make anything happen and are not performing any wizardry, merely reading the signs and patterns.
Horoscope charts can be created for anything that has a birth, including people and all animals, an idea, a business or partnership. There are as many branches and sectors of astrology as there are in psychology or medical science. Astrology is a very large body of information that has been collected and used by astrologers for five millennia.
Because of the movement of the earth around our sun, one can depict a 24 hour clock in a 360 degree circle. However, back when astrology was created it was thought that the sun went around the earth, and from our viewpoint here it does. The sun, moon and all the known planets at the time from our 24 hour viewpoint could be measured as rising in the east, moving high through the sky then setting in the west and click repeat for tomorrow and forever. Astrologers had the bright idea to superimpose this 360 degree circle in the ecliptic they called the zodiac circle onto a 360 degree 24 hour clock, but inverted, and someone called it a horoscope because as explained at the top, a horoscope is a view of the heavens at a certain hour, much like a still photo.
Once the 24 hour clock, circle of the zodiac, and 12 houses were combined for a snapshot of a birth or event the horoscope was further divided and dissected while given meanings called rulerships. Ancient astrologers observed that the planets, signs and houses had particular connotations depending on their geometric relationship to one another. These are predictable patterns in a very similar fashion to how different components of the atmosphere contribute to weather, different astrological cycles can interact in predictable ways like weather masses.
The Basic Horoscope
A horoscope is constructed for an exact moment in time. The month, day, year and exact time of day to the minute is used. But also the geography where the event or birth has occurred. This locates the subject of the birth or event and puts them at the centre of the universe with all other celestial bodies mapped around this centre point using the ecliptic circle. The planets in a way become thumbtacks on the chart and are found positioned both in a particular house, but also a particular sign. For example one may be born with the sun in Virgo in the 4th house. A map of all the planets in signs and houses in the horoscope is then laid out according to individual time of the birth. This personal horoscope is commonly called a natal chart (birth chart) and astrologers often refer to the subject of the chart as the native.
Initially horoscopes were created for kings and leaders but eventually regular folks also got in on the fun. In astrology the spring equinox is the traditional beginning of the astrological calendar. Occurring around March 21st give or take a day or so the sun returns to a position in the sky astronomers call the Vernal Point and this determines the beginning of spring as well. The astrological year begins every vernal equinox at zero degrees, minutes and seconds of arc in the sign of Aries.
Ancient astrologers determined the twelve zodiac signs we use in the same order today also ruled over the 12 houses they superimposed on a circle. They observed that the planets and luminaries appeared to rise from the eastern horizon upwards (ascensions) and when past the highest point in the sky at noon would then be descending. After learning to dissect a circle into two hemispheres, above and below the horizon they further divided the horoscope into four quadrants. Eventually, the primary horoscope included 12 divisions or houses. House 1 also corresponds to the ascendant or rising sign in, House 4 is the nadir, House 7 is the descendant, and House 10 corresponds to the midheaven in most house systems.
In a 24 hour clock using the sun, the time of noon is depicted at the top of the chart in a horoscope and is called the midheaven (latin medii coli, or MC). Midnight corresponds opposite to that at bottom and is called the nadir or IC. In a two-dimensional horoscope chart the eastern point or ascendant is at the far left and represents 6 am. The midheaven or MC is at top at noon, the descendant is to the right at 6 pm, and the IC is at the bottom at midnight.
The houses are areas of influence in the horoscope corresponding to life events. House 1 begins on the same line as the ascendant at 6 am but these are two different things. The 2nd house cusp begins at 4 am on the 24 hour clock. The 3rd house cusp begins at 2 am on this clock, and so on until one reaches the 12th house cusp at 8 am. Each house has individual associations and rulerships, but also by groupings.
Cardinal – House 1, 4, 7 & 10. Sign – Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
Fixed – House 2, 5, 8 & 11. Sign – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius
Mutable – House 3, 6, 9 & 12. Sign – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces
Angular – House – 1, 4, 7 & 10. Sign – Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
Succedent – House – 2, 5, 8 & 11. Sign – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius
Cadent – House – 3, 6, 9 & 12. Sign – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces
Fire – House – 1, 5, 9. Sign – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth – House – 2, 6, 10. Sign – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air – House – 3, 7, 11. Sign – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water – House – 4, 8 & 12. Sign – Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Planets and signs located in angular houses tend to often have more meaning in the chart as a whole and often deal with the most personal situations and that most personally affect you. Planets/signs in succedent houses have a bit less influence and deal with resources and activities involving others and the community. Planets/signs in cadent houses have a slightly less influence and pertain to community events and society, or what we put into and get out of society. Learn more about these house and sign groupings here.
Although many astrologers do not put a lot of emphasis to these house and sign partitions they can be helpful in understanding a native’s behaviour and also indicate strengths and weaknesses in the horoscope horoscope.
The 12 Zodiac Signs
Ancient civilizations looked to the night skies and saw images of what they valued and worshipped. In the ancient eras the skies were the TV, theatre and religion for people. Many indigenous cultures on all continents developed their own unique form of astrology, based on the constellations they created, and the signs they observed. The signs used in Asian/Chinese Astrology are celebrated annually in late January and early February. The signs bear different names in Ayurvedic, Celtic, Aztec and Mayan astrology to list just a few cultures that developed their own version of astrology. All indigenous forms of astrology usually cast one form of a horoscope or another with various numbers of signs and houses.
In modern times the most common forms of astrology are traditional Chinese astrology most common in Asian cultures, Ayurvedic astrology followed more by South Asian people, and Western astrology which is most familiar to European and North American cultures. All forms of astrology are highly popular today and for 5000 years the art of astrology has endured many highs and lows as human beings struggle to understand its proper place and service in our lives. Without computers most would struggle quite a bit with the mathematical and astronomical equations required to cast a horoscope today.
In Western astrology the 12 horoscope signs used are Aries the Ram, Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins, Cancer the Crab, Leo the Lion, Virgo the Virgin, Libra the Scales, Scorpio the Scorpion, Sagittarius the Archer, Capricorn the Goat-Fish (or Sea-Goat), Aquarius the Waterbearer, Pisces the Fishes. Each of these as archetypes are explained on their own pages at this site.
In astrology, the planets perform in many ways like actors. They represent archetypes and each planet has many roles. As the luminary bodies closest to the earth and able to be tracked in ancient times with the naked eye, the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were observed and it was decided they represented certain people or energies. The trans-Saturnian planets had yet to be discovered but the luminaries we call the sun and moon were also included as “planets” in astrology. Today, astrologers also include in horoscopes the outer planets and a very large number of asteroids, plutoids, planetoids and meteoroids now lumped under the umbrella term of centaurs. The primary planets have the most influence; or rather indicate the more serious or permanent situations over and above the influence of the centaurs generally in a horoscope.
Planetary influences are thought to be positive, negative and neutral in influence, but this may highly depend on their geometric relationship to one another, called aspects, transits and progressions, as well as their sign or house position. Natal aspects pertain to the planetary relationships within the horoscope; transits and progressions pertain to planetary aspects formed by the constantly moving planets to natal planetary cycles determined at birth.
Planets are considered to be afflicted if influenced by the more difficult aspects squares and oppositions, or major configurations such as t-square or grand cross. The more positive major aspects are sextiles and trines, with conjunctions considered neutral. Kites and grand trines are two configurations that are usually most positive in influence. The best horoscopes contain a balanced mix of all of these major aspects although some minor aspects can help achieve balance too.
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