Evolution and Astrology

Astrology & Evolution
For heavenly bodies to be able to affect us, there must some way in which they hook into our physiology. How and why did our physiology evolve that way? Various people have considered ‘how’ – a mechanism by which astrological influence might work, but I’m not aware of anyone addressing the evolutionary question of ‘why’.

What I mean by this is, if you believe there’s a natural biological (probably bioenergetic) mechanism causing humans to be affected by the planets or stars, then the question arises of why we evolved that way. What advantage is it to the human species to incorporate the influence of the stars?

In this post I make 2 suggestions:
1. there must be an evolutionary advantage to susceptibility to heavenly influences,
2. offer a theory as to what that evolutionary advantage is.
These are separate issues: you might agree with 1 but have a different theory as to why.

Note: I am not an evolutionary biologist so my speculations are only those of a moderately well-informed layman.

Evolutionary Fitness
In strict Darwinian terms the question is: what survival benefit would it be to a group or species to be subject to astrological influence? For astrology to work, humans (and possibly other species) must have evolved biological mechanisms which translate heavenly influences into impulses or behaviour. Any such effect uses energy which could otherwise be spent finding food, seeking a mate etc and so must have a corresponding benefit or would likely have disappeared due to natural selection favoring individuals less subject to astrological influence.

If, as I suspect, the trait is very old and developed as humans (or mammalian species in general) evolved we may need to consider why the trait might have evolved in the first place and why it has persisted or is “evolutionarily conserved”.

Why Traits Evolve
The most direct evolutionary reason for a trait within a species is that bearing it may increase an individual’s chances of offspring. For instance, peacocks with long beautiful tails are preferred by peahens and thus have a better chance of reproducing, so those males within the species who have better tails have a reproductive advantage.

In species where males fight to mate or own a harem the mechanism is clear: the strongest males reproduce, the weaker ones don’t. The stronger males leave more offspring. This benefits the species as a whole, although it does not make all the contestants happy: competition ensures a few winners and a whole bunch of losers.

Certain traits such as altruism fly in the face of expectation and there is lively debate about why they exist. For instance, in wolves only the dominant alpha pair breed and other group members help nursemaid the pups and hunt for them. On the face of it, this is evolutionary suicide for non-alpha individuals because losers in the reproduction stakes are helping the winners. This altruistic behaviour must persist either because it helps their future individual reproductive chances, or improves the group’s chance of passing on their genes.

Astrological Fitness & Side-Effects
With astrological influence we should see an effect which benefits the fitness of the species or group, but which may create losers and winners.

There might also be side-effects. For example, if some particular astrological trait was beneficial for reproductive success, the mechanism by which it worked might carry along a susceptibility to other astrological traits neutral to reproductive success. For example, susceptibility to influence by the Moon and Mars might have direct reproductive benefits, but the mechanism also causes the side-effect of being susceptible to Mercury and Saturn, which may not. In fact I suspect this is the case. As long as the mechanism as a whole has a net effect this is not a problem.

Why? Genetic Fitness
My theory is that astrological influence increases genetic mixing. It is a mechanism to prevent gene pools getting stagnant and forcing periodic exogamy. This improves genetic fitness.

In the Nature & Nuture post I suggested that astrological influence is the third leg of the stool – it balances and counteracts effects of nature (genetics) and nuture (family and group influence). Nature and nuture seem to me to at least partially create a movement towards endogamy, or mating within the group. Marrying relatives passes on more genes like your own (nature), and cultures are notoriously intolerant of other groups. Astrological influence throws a wrench into the tendency towards stagnation causing people to be attracted to mate with other people further from the group center. Thus it brings fresh genes into the group and improves the gene pool.

Dangers of inbreeding
Americans notoriously move around and meet new people and so may not appreciate the dangers of inbreeding. But throughout history humans have mostly been less mobile or lived in smaller groups than today. Paleolithic peoples (hunter-gatherers) were mobile but in small groups; neolithic peoples (farmers) tended to be static. Many peoples also needed to defend themselves from neighbors, so the dangers of inbreeding and a restricted gene pool could be quite real.

There have been many examples of a cultural tendency to intermarry closely to preserve property and family line, in same cases to the point of introducting physical defects, eg the pharoahs (as we now know from DNA studies of Tutankhamen’s family). Many societies eventually came to understand dangers of close inbreeding and prohibted marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity. Anthropology knows this issue as Endogamy (marriage within the group) and Exogamy (marriage outside it).

Requisite Astrological Markers
Astrology does contain the necessary markers for this effect. That is, astrologers can recognize certain chart configurations both individually and between two people as affecting relationships – including romance and passion, long-term partnerships, and having children.

Humans now have successful birth control techniques but this is of relatively recent origin, so gene mixing probably evolved chiefly based on attracting two unlikely people to mate and assuming children may follow. Long-term relationships offer a better chance for offspring to mature, so configuations for a persistant relationship may also be relevant.

Astrologers will already have recognised some of these configurations: for example, Mars-Venus conjunctions between two charts for sexual passion; Sun-Moon, Jupiter-Sun or Moon for marriages. Vedic astrologers will also recognise the obsessive and “fated” quality of Rahu & Ketu conjunctions with another persons Venus or Mars.

An effect capable of breaking someone out of the genetic trap of a small group must provide strong impulse towards a different mate, even to the point of going against all social mores and causing rigid disapproval. So passionate obsessive relationships are probably part of this effect. At the extreme end of this spectrum we may see relationships considered not only scandalous but unethical.

Why does Astrological Influence do this better than anything else?
We don’t strictly have to answer this question because if astrological influence achieves it successfully it will be conserved as a trait unless a better mechanism arises. However there are clear advantages to the mechanism anyway. One huge advantage of celestial mechanisms is they run like clockwork for a very long time and affect people everywhere, thus having a scattershot worldwide effect. Because the planets go regularly about their business, all possible combinations will happen and be distributed randomly among the population. If you wanted to randomize genetic mixing it is hard to think of a better way to do it.

Follow-on posts address further questions such as how this mechanism might have arisen and how we see it at work in astrological charts.

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Charles & Camilla

[original post 2005-04-20] Prince Charles and Camilla  Parker-Bowles finally got married!  We assume there have to be some aspects between their charts for them to have stuck it out this long… here are their charts. (Data from AstroDataBank).

Chart for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles

There are lots of points of contact between their two charts, including that they they have the same Ascendant, Cancer. This gives them some empathy in their basic outlook and emotional nature.

Jupiter-Moon aspects are commonly found in long- lasting marriages and partnerships; Jupiter-Moon indicates that the Jupiter person understands and supports the emotional life of the Moon person. Here we have a double opposition – that is Prince Charles’  Jupiter is opposite Camilla’s Moon, and her Jupiter is opposite his Moon. This means the empathy runs both ways.

There is also a conjunction of Camilla’s Jupiter with Prince Charles’ Sun – another good aspect. Jupiter-Sun is a good friendship aspect.. the Jupiter person supports the personality and actions of the Sun person.

The Jupiter-Moon oppositions also take in a Jupiter-Mercury conjunction and opposition; these are not as important in the emotional life, but do show some comfort and ease in communication with each other.

There is also one of the fated aspects we looked at in an earlier posting [url]. Camilla has a natal Mars-Rahu conjunction, which makes for an active person with lots of energy. This conjunction is opposite Charles Mars in Scorpio, thus Camilla’s Ketu is conjunct his Mars. Since the two Mars are in Scorpio and Taurus with the nodes across them, and affects both their fifth houses, this configuration undoubtedly has a sexual charge to it.

Over all, the chart pattern here shows a lot of comfort and ease between the two, which contributes to their staying power.

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Fated Relationships: the Nodes

[original post 2005-03-21] A relationship between two people is usually reflected in their charts. Planets which are either conjunct (in the same place) or opposite cause there to be a connection between people with the characteristics of those planets. Typical connections vary according to the type of relationship, and with different people. Venus-Mars conjunctions tend to signify romance and sex whereas Venus-Moon connections may indicate sympathy and friendship.

Marriages often show Sun-Moon conjunctions, and sometimes Jupiter-Moon. Jupiter-Moon aspects are also found in the charts of close friends, as are Jupiter-Sun aspects.

Certain people feel or behave as if they are fated to be together. They think of themselves as “soulmates” or they stick together through extraordinary circumstances, even when it’s to their extreme disadvantage. Sometimes they fly in the face of social rules and the relationship is considered highly unethical by others. Sometimes they cause great damage to themselves or those around them.

I’ve noticed that in these relationships we often see an aspect between the nodes of the Moon and personal planets – usually Venus or Mars, occasionally also the Moon or Sun. (The nodes of the Moon, known as Rahu and Ketu in jyotish, are the the astronomical points where the plane of the orbit of the Moon cross the plane of the earth’s orbit around the Sun… where eclipses happen. They are plotted onto a horoscope like planets. In both western and eastern astrology are regarded as karmic points.)

In Jyotish thinking the nodes exert slightly mysterious influences, and Rahu in particular can lead to obsessions. Venus-Rahu is often seen in intense relationships, and even after the relationship ends when it becomes very hard for people to let go.

This phenomenon is part of my ideas about evolution and astrology. A number of posts in this blog about relationships explore Rahu/Ketu connections.

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Chart Calculations

[original date 2005-03-26 06:22:50]  Recently I was asked:  are the positions of planets in an astrological chart real? Do they correspond to what’s in the sky? How accurate is it?

The short answer is Yes, these days charts are quite accurate with respect to planetary positions.  In my friend’s chart Saturn is located at 27 Capricorn, using the sidereal zodiac. Or approximately 54 degrees from the galactic center. Or on a western astrological chart it’d be labelled as located at 21 Aquarius, using the tropical zodiac. They all mean the same place in the sky…. X degrees measured along the ecliptic plane (the plane of the solar system, that arc in the sky) from their own starting point. 

Usually we don’t measure how far above or below the ecliptic plane a planet is, because they’re never far away from it. But most astrology programs can tell us that too. Saturn’s declination was -15 degrees that day, which means 15 below the ecliptic plane. If we went back in a time machine to the day my friend was born and looked into the sky we would see Saturn located at the far end of the constellation Capricorn, slightly below the ecliptic plane, i.e. in the position the charts give. As long as we knew approximately where the ecliptic plane was in the sky, or what the constellation Capricorn looks like, we could find Saturn just fine using the information from the astrology program. The location the astrology program gives us corresponds to the correct position in the sky.

Astrology programs work out the position of the planets using an ephemeris. I have an ephemeris in book form (more than one actually). It has tables listing the positions of the planets each day at midnight. If you want to know where a planet is any time inbetween you do arithmetic to extrapolate between midnight of one day and the next. The computer software that calculates charts contains similar tables and an arithmetic routine to do the calculation. The arithmetic program is very accurate. (Before computers astrologers had to do the arithmetic by hand and very tedious it was too! Used to take me an hour just to work out the positions of the planets).\r\n

The tables in the ephemeris get their information about where the planets are on each day by starting with known observed positions in the past and projecting future positions from those, using specific mathematical formulae for the orbit of each planet.

The maths of planetary orbits was first worked out by Galileo & Kepler back in the 17th century, so ever since then we have been able to project where the planets are going to be with reasonable accuracy. Planetary orbits are very stable. Since the invention of super-computers we’ve been able to calculate orbits with very good accuracy.  The space program caused NASA to do extremely accurate computation of planetary orbits; this data is publicly available and many astrology programs now use NASA data.

When we cast a chart for someone, the program is projecting where the planets would have been (or will be) but usually doing it with such mathematical accuracy that results are reliable.  As ephemeris data and math formulaes are publicly available there’s no reason not to calculate correctly.

There is a limitation to accuracy. Doing charts for people or events within the last couple of centuries (or projecting them for the next couple) is extremely accurate. But if you start doing charts for people like Jesus or Buddha who lived a couple of thousand years ago, it’s trickier, because even very small errors in the calculations can add up into large errors in planetary positions over a large number of years. Especially for fast-moving bodies like the Moon. Many astrology programs tell you what span of time they’re accurate for. I have a couple of programs that I would trust back or forward at least a few hundred years… eg for Shakespeare’s chart.  

Before computers made it easy to do accurate calculations astrologers used to watch the sky a lot. Now it’s temptation for people not even to know if the moon is full or new today, because they never look at the sky, just at their computers. Myself, I think to do astrology well you need to stay in touch with what the actual planets and stars are doing up there!  Not because the computer calculations are incorrect, but to stay grounded in a basic of astrology: the movements of the heavenly bodies.

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Zodiacs #3: a chart

[original post 2005] To make the difference between tropical and sidereal clearer, as related to the positions of the actual stars, here is a chart.

zodiac chart
Zodiac chart

On the outside edge are written the names of the actual constellations. They are shown in their real positions in space related to the time of year as the earth orbits the sun.  The zodiac in green is the tropical zodiac, which starts wherever the vernal equinox points to on March 20th/21st. This is currently a point in the constellation of Pisces. Each astrological zodiac systen uses a “normalized” or regularized set of zodiacs of thirty degrees each, so once you determine the starting point you just count around 30 degrees to find the next “zodiac sign”.

The tropical zodiac doesn’t correspond to the stars. Most tropical zodiac signs are not located in the constellation whose name they borrow; at most they touch by a few degrees.

The sidereal zodiac (which Jyotish uses) is shown in blue. It attempts to make its regularized zodiac signs line up with the real stars as much as is consistent with equal sign sizes. It’s more accurate, tho the need to create 30 degree signs means it’s off a bit in some places from the constellations. As you can see, even in the sidereal zodiac, zero Aries is actually at the end of the constellation Pisces! 

There are a number of different ideas of exactly where sidereal zero degrees Aries should start in order to have the least amount of inaccuracy.

The definition of where zero Aries is placed is called the Ayanamsha (a Sanskrit word). Many ayanamshas take the fixed star Spica as a starting point for zero Libra (since it’s very close anyway). A sidereal zero Aries point never moves; it is in the same place every year. But the ayanamsha is often stated mathematically as the number of degrees from the tropical Aries point on a specific date. Defined this way an ayanamsha changes its value slightly every year, since the tropical zodiac Aries point moves constantly with reference to the stars.

A sidereal ephemeris will give the ayanamsha value for each year, which enables us to easily calculate the offset between the two zodiacs. So it’s useful to have it stated in this form.

The most commonly used ayanamsha is called Lahiri. The offset of the tropical zodiac from the zero Aries point of the Lahiri sidereal zodiac is currently almost 24 degrees. Today is 31st March. Western astrology says the sun is rising in Aries; Jyotish says the sun is rising in Pisces.

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Zodiacs #2. Where’s Zero?

[original date 2005-03-24 06:39:39]  The rough chart we constructed in part 1 shows the planets in approximately the positions they were in the sky.

A basic chart
A rough chart

But it doesn’t allow us to state their positions precisely. Astrology is an old subject, it is thought the Sumerians divided the circle into 360 degrees around four and a half thousand years ago. 360 is a useful, divisible number and is close to the 365 days in a year. The invention of degrees will allow us to start pinpointing planetary positions more accurately.

Circular chart
Circular chart

When planets move across the sky, they don’t simply move through degrees, they move against the background of the stars. From earliest times people have grouped the stars they saw into patterns we now call “constellations”. Even though we now know those stars may be at very different distances, constellations are still compelling patterns in the sky. There’s many constellations over the night sky, like Draco, the Dragon, right overhead in the northern hemisphere, but the most familiar ones are those located around the plane of the solar system – the zodiac constellations.

Zodiacal constellations
Zodiacal constellations

By marking these constellations around the edge of our chart we can easily divide up our chart into sections.

chart with zodiac
Chart with zodiac

But there is absolutely no universal consensus on how those positions are numbered or named! Where do we start numbering from? A circle has no beginning or end – so you can start anywhere at all! That’s what the different systems do.

3 zero points
Three starting points

Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac, which means it counts using the real constellations – sort of! Currently we use zero degrees Aries as the beginning of the zodiac; in past times it probably started at zero Taurus, Gemini or Cancer. However, the sidereal zodiac used in astrology is not in fact an exact mapping of the real constellations, although it’s a lot more accurate than the tropical zodiac.

The star maps shown here are not accurate to scale or position, but they do reflect the fact some constellations are bigger than others. Virgo, Scorpio and Pisces are larger than 30 degrees, Libra and Aries are smaller. So astrologers “tidy up” – they even them all out, creating 12 zodiac signs of 30 degrees each.

Because Aries is a small constellation and Pisces is a large one, the start of the sidereal zodiac, nominally 0 degrees Aries, is in fact in the end of the actual constellation Pisces.

There’s a debate about where exactly to start counting; the most common choice is the Lahiri system (“Lahiri ayanamsha”).

Astronomers often now use “galactic co-ordinates”, which count the degrees from the the galactic center. Radio-astronomy has established the center of our galaxy is in Sagittarius.

Western astrology uses the “tropical zodiac”, which has a completely different way of calculating where to start counting. It does not start from any actual stars (even tidied-up ones). It uses the first day of spring as the start of the solar year, and projects that position in orbit out against the stars and calls it the zero point. This day is the spring (or “vernal”) equinox, when day and night are equal lengths.

Currently this point is at about 6 degrees of sideral Pisces.

the tropical zodiac
The tropical zodiac

On the first day of spring we can look to the east just before sunrise and see the constellation of Pisces, against which the sun will rise. Just to be really confusing, the tropical zodiac calls that the “Aries Point”. Then count off twelve sections of 30 degrees around the circle and call them by the names of the true zodiac constellations. You could call these “virtual constellations” as they don’t correspond to any actual constellations at all. The first 24 degrees of “tropical Aries” are in the constellation of Pisces; only the last 6 degrees are really in Aries.

So the tropical zodiac “signs” and starting point are defined by the earth’s relation to the sun, not it’s relation to the stars.There are two problems with this system:
1. Lots of people confuse tropical zodiac signs with real constellations.
2. The start point moves slowly but constantly.

Due to a very long-term cycle in the earth’s movement, the “Aries Point” moves by about 1 degree every 72 years. Over thousands of years each constellation in turn will be home to the this point.  Around 200 AD the “Aries Point” was at zero degrees sidereal Aries, but it won’t be again for another, oh twenty-six thousand years or so. There is nothing wrong per se with the idea of a tropical zodiac; things would just be a lot simpler if it could be more easily distinguished from the sidereal zodiac.

The position of the planets at any specific time are accurately described in all the systems – as long as you know which system is being used. In my natal chart, the planet Jupiter is at 2 degrees 08 minutes of sidereal Sagittarius. Or 26 degrees 03 minutes of tropical “Sagittarius”. Or approximately -1 degree or 359 degrees from the Galactic Center. They’re all describing the same position – Jupiter was almost conjunct the Galactic Center.

Early astrologers experienced different results as the planets moved through the zodiac constellations. The combination of planets positioned against the zodiac constellations is perhaps the most fundamental feature of astrology.

If you think the constellations themselves, or the powerful fixed stars within them – eg Regulus in Leo – are actually exerting or transmitting an influence on the planets then it matters that we represent these stars adequately. If you think the chief influences are planetary movements within the solar system, then the zodiac is just a picturesque way to describe planetary positions and inaccuracy is not significant. We’ll explore this issue in a future post.

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Zodiacs #1. Chart of the Heavens

[original post 2005-03-23].  By request, here is an explanation of how horoscope charts are derived from the actual planets and stars, and how there come to be different zodiacs. It’s a complicated subject so there are simplifications here.

Our solar system contains a number of planets orbiting the sun. The planets are all approximately in the same plane (due to centrifugal force, I believe [check this!]). Our calendar year is derived from the sun, and equals one complete revoltion of the earth around the sun. Other planets take more or less time for one orbit, depending on the speed they are going.

Solar system
The sun and planets of our solar system

Most planets also spin around, like a top. On earth one spin is one day. The axis of spin on earth is through our north and south poles. A planet’s axis of spin is usually not straight up (right angles) to the plane of the solar system, different planets tilt every which way.

Uranus is spinning on its side!  The earth’s axis is tilted at 23.5 degrees to the (imaginery) straight up-down line.

Earth's tilt
Earth’s tilt gives us a sideways view

Because the earth spins we’re privileged to see a huge amount of the solar system and visible universe during the course of a day!  By day we see the sun move across the sky – we can’t see the stars because sunlight blots them out (except the moon, which is very close). By night we see any stars and planets currently to earth’s nightside. Because of the 23 degree axis tilt the sun and stars appear to move in an arc across the sky.

Ecliptic Plane by day
We see the sun move along the arc by day

Ecliptic Plane by night
We see planets move along the arc by night

We can’t really see Saturn and Jupiter that well at night without a telescope, but I wanted to make a clear picture. Our view of this arc(“the ecliptic plane”) changes from summer to winter –  when the earth is at different points on its orbit around the sun the arc appears higher or lower. It also looks more up or down depending where on earth you live.

The fact that all the planets move around in approximately the same plane makes it much easier for us to make a 2-dimensional map of where they are. To make a simple chart we can ignore the height of the planets, since they’re all relatively close. Pretend you’re sitting above the solar system, over the sun.

Solar system from above
Looking down from above the sun

But we aren’t living on the sun, we’re living on earth – the cosmic forces come towards us from all around the earth. So we need to put down where everything is with respect to earth. To make our chart simple we’ll ignore how far away from us everything is, and draw them all at about the same distance.

Looking down from above the earth

This is the basis of an astrological chart. In real life the planetary orbits are not lined up quite exactly with the solar system plane; some astrologers note the height variations on their charts (“declination”) and treat it as significant. Also, there are reasons why it might be OK to ignore the differences in distance, but that’s a subject for a future post.

In part 2 we’ll look at how those zodiac signs get into the act and why there are different zodiacs.

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Nature vs Nurture

[original post 2005-03-20] The Nature vs Nurture debate has been going on a long time. The debate is about whether we are more influenced by our genes than our upbringing (or not). Biological determinists favor influence by genes (“nature”); those of a psychological bent tend to favor upbringing (“nurture”).

This issue is sometimes politicized. Liberals often favor maximum influence by upbringing: for instance in the debate about women’s abilities at math & science, also the question of whether being gay may be a genetic predisposition.

This simple opposition has never seemed persuasive to me. If the two serious influences on people are genetics and upbringing then family members should be more like each other than they are. Many families have members who are manifestly different in some way (even counting “throwback to Uncle George”!), and certainly not easily accounted for psychologically as some kind of reaction against their family.

To these two influences I believe we should add a third – astrological influence. That family member marching to the beat of a different drum is often the odd one out astrologically too, their chart showing significant differences from other family members.

If we were only seriously influenced by genes and upbringing it should be easy to recognize the field of influence of each of those forces. I suspect there would be a tendency for one influence to have “won out” and become dominant over the other.  The presence of a third force – susceptibility to being influenced by cosmic forces – creates a triad in which all three forces balance each other. A 3-legged stool is more stable than a 2-legged one.

How astrological forces might exert this influence is a subject for another post, but possible mechanisms include influencing gene expression during embryo development and after birth, and ongoing influence of thought pattern & behaviour via neurological effects.

From an astrological point of view we should also note the implication – obvious but sometimes overlooked by astrology enthusiasts – that astrological forces are not the only thing influencing people.  Astrological “twins” may have many things in common, but they also have significant differences depending upon their physical (genetic) heritage, environment and upbringing.

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Pope John Paul II

[original post 04/08/2005] I’m writing this a few hours before the funeral of Pope John Paul II. There is some question about his birth time. The date and place of his birth are well known; AstroDataBank now have the time as 17.30 with an A rating (“from memory”), giving various quotes from the Pope himself saying it was between 5 and 6 pm. A 5 pm chart has the Ascendant in late Virgo.

John Paul II - 5 pm birthtime

Any time after 17.05 has a Libra Ascendant.

John Paul II - 5.30 pm birthtime

Determining exactly when someone was born is called “Rectifying a chart” and is a long complicated affair; we will look at few of the issues here.

First, we can guess which chart is more likely – this is always easier when the person is older and has lived most or all of their life, and the promise of the chart has been carried out.

#1. On purely statistical grounds most of the charts are Libra rising, so that’s the most likely.

#2. The Virgo rising chart Ascendant is 29 degrees, which is weak. It is unlikely, tho not impossible, Wojtyla would have become Pope with a weak ascendant. A Virgo rising chart would have Mercury as its chart lord, which is in Aries in the 8th house, again not a strong public placement. In fact the Virgo rising chart has no strong “career” placements, except perhaps the Sun & Moon in the 9th house, which is good for public relations (politicians often have Moon in the 9th).

#3. The Libra rising chart is ruled by Venus in the 7th, a stronger placement. Ruler of the first in the seventh house indicates someone concerned with partners or other people generally. (And whatever you thought of his church policies, John Paul II was certainly a “man of the people” who loved his flock and was a great pastor). Venus in the 7th however is not good for marriage. It is also cojunct Ketu, the south node of the Moon, a karmic indicator… this person would either marry someone foreign, strange or spiritual (as John Lennon did), or not marry at all…  or we could see this as  “marrying the church.”

#4. In the Libra rising chart Mars is in the 12th house, a typical placement for someone who prays or mediates a lot or in some way sublimates their Mars energies. In the Virgo rising chart Mars would be right on the Ascendant. Although John Paul was certainly healthy and even athletic at times, he did not come over quite as punchily as people with Mars on the Ascendant do. This point however, is a matter of judgment and other astrologers might disagree.

#5. Most important, Jupiter – which represents priests and religion – is exalted in Cancer, a very strong placement. In the Libra rising chart Jupiter is in the 10th house, creating one of the Mahapurush “great people” yogas (such as we saw for the Dalai Lama). With Jupiter this is called Hamsa Yoga, and is a highly appropriate configuration for a famous “high priest” figure. Since we know Wojtyla became Pope, we can reasonably look for some indication of that in his chart. In the Virgo chart this yoga does not occur.

From these considerations I would favor any chart after about 17.15 with a Libra Ascendant.To rectify a chart properly one also looks at significant events in a person’s life, especially those that are not entirely under their control, such as accidents. You can also look at important events like moving house (or being elected Pope!). 

We’ll look at the two charts for the time he was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981, and his death a few days ago. The bullet that shot him also stopped his watch, so the exact time is known.

John Paul II - assassination attempt

And of course, his death time has recently been published.

John Paul II - death chart

Assuming these times are accurate, and the charts cast accurately (something one often needs to doublecheck what with timezones and daylight savings time)… it’s interesting that they both have Libra ascendants!

However, the important thing is how the planets fall in the Pope’s birthchart. Assuming John Paul’s chart has a Libra Ascendant, both events have Jupiter in the Pope’s 12th house. The houses concerning health and sickness are chiefly the 6th and 8th, the houses of death the 8th and 12th.  The shooting chart has transiting Moon, Jupiter & Saturn in the Pope’s 12th house, and Venus – which we take to be his chart lord – transiting his 8th. It also has Mars in his 7th, which can signify an enemy. The time of death chart has Jupiter with Ketu in his 12th house, and a bunch of planets in his 6th house of health & sickness. These alone would not make it a death chart but we must always to take into account the circumstances of the person. What would be a recoverable situation for a younger stronger person is more fatal for an older one.

Notice also that Venus – the probable chart ruler – is combust and within a degree of the Sun in the death chart. Although Venus likes, and is strong in Pisces, it is here both combust and between two malefics. It’s worth noting ancient Greek astrologers had the idea that when a planet becomes combust within one degree of the Sun it has a special status called cazimi – “in the heart of the Sun”. Combust is simply weak, cazimi is strong but other-worldly. A cazimi planet becomes invisible in the material world, but its true soul shines out in the other world – perhaps a good religious metaphor for death.

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“Beneath A Vedic Sky” William R. Levacy

[original post 2005-03-27]   Bill Levacy’s book Beneath A Vedic Sky, published 1999, is a very workmanlike introduction to Jyotish.  For beginners its sections are well laid out and for those with some familiarity with western astrology it’s a very accessible way to learn how Jyotish differs.

It has what few Vedic Astrology books have, “recipe book” sections giving an idea of appropriate interpretation for planets in signs, planets as house rulers and dispositors, two-planet combinations and the effect of transits. These are obviously only general as you have to know see the whole chart to see how the various influences will play out, but they are extremely helpful for beginners.  I have more than once looked them up when slightly puzzled about someone’s chart and found his description included useful reminders of the possible range of meanings.

At the end of the book there are short introductions to various associated topics, including muhurta (choosing charts for special events like weddings) and mundane astrology (charts of cities and nations).  He includes some remarks about horary astrology (answering a question from the chart of the time it was asked).

This is a great introduction and reference and deserves a place in any beginning or intermediate jyotishis bookshelf.

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