Planets and Signs

Posted: July 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

The next most important thing to grasp after essential dignity is how a sign and a planet interact. Planets “produce” a very wide range of possible outcomes. The signs act like 12 different kinds of polarizing filters across the light of the planets to modulate their effects. Or put another way, if the planets are particular kinds of character actors, the signs are costumes. Some fit very well. Others they wouldn’t be caught dead in but have to wear anyway.

In the last post we talked about planets in very broad terms from the perspective of traditional natal astrology. Now we need to look at how the signs work and put them together to make intelligent delineations. Delineation is a fancy term for describing what a chart is presenting to you. It is atemporal. A fully delineated chart gives you a lifetime of possible factors but no placement in time. However, you cannot predict when events will occur in time without first delineating those events clearly. Delineation first, then prediction.

Going back to the polarizing filter metaphor above,  signs can be seen as sets of three different polarizing filters. The first is polarity, the second is mode, and the third is element. These are my terms for the traditional terms masculine/feminine, quadruplicity, and triplicity respectively.

Polarity is the easiest to understand. It makes the production of a planet act in an active or reactive way. If you are familiar with the whole yin/yang thing, you can think of it in that way as well. Take a moment to think about each planet and see how it might act in an active way and how it can act in a reactive way.

We’ll take Mercury as an example in the two signs of its rulership, Gemini and Virgo. Gemini is an active sign and Virgo is a reactve sign. In Gemini, Mercury will want to actively express cunning, intelligence, and information seeking in active way. This could manifest as curiosity or garrulousness. It shows a mind that likes to pursue information actively. In Virgo, Mercury acts reactive. It will take in information and hold it. A reactive Mercury responds to other’s information and then acts. If they are the calculating type, they will hold their plans in secret and act only when the time is right.

Mode is probably the trickiest to understand. First, let’s take a look at why the zodiac is the way that it is. One of the common complaints against astrology is that the signs don’t match up with the actual backdrop of stars, and this is true. The constellations do not fit in convenient 30 degree slices of sky either. Those who make this complaint don’t really understand the Tropical Zodiac that is used in Western Astrology.

Where in the sky does the zodiac begin? Traditionally it begins in degree 0 of Aries, but when does that begin? The beginning of Aries is marked by the point in the sky where the sun rises on the day of the Vernal Equinox. The sky is then divided up in 30 degree segments from that point. Against the actual backdrop of stars, this point will shift by a degree once every 72 years thanks to a wobble in how the earth rotates. If you could live 25,920 years, then you’d see the Sun make the full trip, if the math is correct.

When Greece was the heart of astrological research, this point was in the constellation they called Aries. Now it is in Pisces. Soon enough, it will be in Aquarius. These are the great Astrological Ages, which were popularized in the 1960s by all the talk about the Age of Aquarius.

Astrology is an observational science. So what were our forebearers observing when they were investigating the signs? They were investigating seasonal changes. You can learn quite a bit about a sign by investigating the natural world at the time the Sun is in that sign. For example, what happens during the time of Aries? Everything starts to spring forth, willy-nilly. Everything starts exploding with life. Thus, Aries is known for its explosive, devil-may-care attitude. When do Saturn’s signs of rulership come down the pike? January and February, the dead of winter.

They observed that each season lasted about three months. The were born, persisted for a little while, then decayed. That’s the idea behind the three modes, known as cardinal, fixed, and mutable (sometimes known as common in other texts).

The cardinal mode pushes with vigor. It is throwing out its energy. It conducts its element clearly out into the world. All of the cardinal signs happen at the start of a season, destroying the old season that is being left behind. A planet in a cardinal sign will push its viewpoint hard, seeking recognition. Its struggle to be born cannot be hidden.

The fixed mode is strong and stable. Its seasonal kingdom has been established. It reflects the glory of the element of the sign. It is the persistence of life that has made it through birth and childhood. In in seasons of a fixed sign there is no way another season could be mistaken. In Leo, it is summer. All sign of spring is gone. There is no sign of autumn. Moreover, because the season of that element is established, it will draw in qualities that agree with it and fix them in the life of the native.

The mutable or common mode is the kingdom in decline. The next season is starting to assert itself but it is not strong enough to break through yet. The element in this time wavers between the old and the new, from being fixed to being cardinal. It is an unstable sign. The whole Groundhog Day thing about whether we’ll see spring early or not can be traced out of this. Will the end of February and March still be snowy and icky during mutable Pisces, or will the forces of Spring be more ascendant before Spring finally slays Winter when the Sun reaches Aries?

Another way to think of mutability is that the sign is absorbing or withdrawing the element of the sign in preparation for the next phase of life. A seed draws Water to start life, then destroys itself to sprout (Pisces). The growing plant withdraws Air to stop its growth and extension in space to prepare for maturation (Gemini). The plant stops strengthening itself with Earth and prepares itself to fruit (Virgo). Finally, the plant withdraws the fire of life and prepares for death (Saggitarius).

The mode is one of the trickier concepts to grasp, but it is so important for later delineation. Picture how a planet would act in each of the three modes. Then go to the chart about sign qualities and use the listed combinations of gender and mode to make further combinations in your mind.

Going back to Mercury’s rulerships, Gemini is an Active Mutable sign. Virgo is a Reactive Mutable sign. This befits Mercury’s nature as someone who changes back and forth between genders and dispositions. Mercury is the go-between of the gods in mythology. He/She cannot push in just one way (cardinal), or stand still and draw things toward him (Fixed.) He/She is free to travel wherever he/she pleases. When Mercury is in the sign of his/her rulership, the mind will be broad and liberal.

Finally, we get to the elements. I’m going to assume that the reader has no idea what a classical element is, so if a lot of this is old hat bear with me. The elements, as astrologers see them, are qualities of reality. They are not the fundamental building blocks, as the word element would suggest from science. Instead, they can be seen as states of reality that are constantly transforming themselves into each other.

The four classical elements are Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. These words are pointers to deeper concepts. Sometimes people conceive of them as plasma, gas, liquid, and solid. While these are correspondences, they don’t do much better in describing just want the elements are getting at. Remember, the elements along with the polarity and the mode are polarizing the qualities of the planets in particular ways. Here’s my way of looking at it.

Fire: Light, life, heat for both good and ill, power, action.

Air: Extension in space and communication of qualities. Pervasiveness. Expression and movement

Water: Cohesion and dissolution. Bonding. Emotional security.

Earth: Solidity, manifestation, fecundity. Physical security.

If you look at the wheel of the chart, you’ll see that all of the active signs are fire and air signs, and all the reactive signs are water and earth. This is easy enough to see if you look at the actual substances. Fire and air both leap up and expand to fill the available space. Water and earth will fall down, coalesce, and absorb things.

Now that we have all three components, we can now examine a sign in itself fully. Let’s take Aries. Aries is an active cardinal fire sign. I find it easiest to work my way backwards. The fire element wants to be active and powerful. In what mode does it want to do it? In the cardinal mode. It wants to charge forward with its type of expression. It seeks to overturn power and action that it doesn’t agree with. It’s maximum go-go-go. And because it is a fire sign, it is active. We’re looking for maximum action, maximum doing, maximum creative force. As Aries is the sign of spring, Aries wants to pump as much activity as all those seeds are in April.

Now, if we place this sign in front of a planet’s energy, what do we get?

Sun: This is not the life-giving ruler sitting on the throne now. This is the conquering king that seeks dominion. The Sun is fighting here to project its power and prestige as far as it can into the world. He is a dissatisfied king that wants more and has the authority to do it. Note that Aries is the Sun’s exaltation. The Sun can achieve great effects here, but they can easily be swept away by change. This is also a sign where the Sun can burn itself out working far too hard.

Moon: The Moon is changeability and nourishment. Put in this costume, the Moon seeks novelty. New emotions, new experiences, and a dissatisfaction with staying still for even an instant. This is the person at the salad bar who takes a little something from everything, even if it doesn’t all go together, just because it’s different.  Moreover, it is not afraid to change themselves or their external circumstances as necessary to match the changing whim of whatever houses the Moon is ruling. Also, if an Aries Moon wants to take care of someone, they’ll do it on their own terms, even if it may not be for the best of the person they’re caring for!

Mercury: A bold communicator, a someone with devious cunning. They will not be shy to express a viewpoint. They will be full of their own ideas that burst forth with life from within their own brain, and not be likely to take in what others might say.

Venus: This is the sign of her detriment. Venus wants to unite people with bonds of lust and love, but Aries makes Venus too restless to stay anywhere for long. This can lead to a frustrated person who can’t find just the right type of person they want. It can also lead to a person who sleeps with as many people as they can just so Venus can express all that extra oomph. To form a bond needs time and qualities from other elements. Aries blows these connections apart too quickly for Venus to be satisfied. So she’ll take what she can get.

Mars: This is the sign of Mars’ rulership. What is more driven, gung-ho, and more creative of something new than warfare, courage, valorous action, and the other positive sides of Mars. In Aries, Mars can go as hard is it likes, and also has the freedom to act with power in ways that it sees as appropriate rather than being forced into narrow channels.

Jupiter: This is a dangerous sign for Jupiter. Jupiter can be the rocketing star that expands to new heights, but can also be the one that overshoots too far and becomes a shooting star falling back to Earth. Jupiter in this sign can mean a libertine in the broadest sense. Someone who wants to achieve maximum freedom as fast as possible, and woe to anyone who gets in their way.

Saturn: Saturn is in fall in Aries. Saturn wants to restrict and contain, but Aries doesn’t allow that at all. This can manifest itself in several different ways. It can be the neurotic that wants to push their rules onto everyone else. It can be the rudderless person that tries a thousand different ways to organize themselves, but can’t stick with one. It’s like a pressure cooker. Aries will apply heat to the firm vessel until something explodes. If the native is fortunate, there is a release valve built into the chart. Otherwise, it’s gonna be ugly.

You may have noticed something in these descriptions. All of the notes had martial tones to them. That’s because the signs also have some of the qualities of the planets that rule them. This is another important link between signs and planets, and will be very helpful in interpretations later on.

Try taking all the lessons so far and make your own descriptions for the planets in different signs. Don’t worry about if it is exact or weak. Just put something down. Experience will help you refine it as you learn more. Better to have a little something to start from than staring at a chart with nothing at all.

As you can see, as planets gain and lose dignity moving through the signs, they will be able to bring about what they talk about in the chart in varying degrees. If they’re in the right sign, the expression flows freely with good things. Even the malefics, which do bring about negative things, can bring them about in positive ways if things are good. This is also assuming there’s no interference from aspects, accidental dignity, etc.

One thing to note about malefics. When they’re debilitated that’s not a good thing. While it does decrease their malefic nature it makes it far worse when it does find the right conditions. The always polite person under stress that snaps and goes on an indiscriminate killing spree may just have a Mars in Libra.

There is one more important piece of grammar that we must cover. Now that we have the creators and their costumes, we need the stages that they’ll act upon. These are the houses.

Astrological Theories and the Seven Planets

Posted: July 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

The seven planets of traditional astrology are the producers of actions, if you view them in the traditional sense. There are at least five different theories about why traditional astrology works, which are detailed by Ben Dykes. I’ll summarize them here:

Aristotelian-Ptolemeic: The planets cause things to happen through some application of whatever physics is popular at the time. Most people in this camp also believe that there is some free will, but that will is also causally determined by the planets so it’s not entirely free.

Stoic: Everything is determined by some sort of cosmic mind or Logos. Thus, the planets do not cause effects, but they signify meanings. Thus, astrology is a science of interpretation and divinational, not a physical science as in the former camp. This viewpoint allows the least amount of free will. Though it may appear that we have free will, even our choices are predetermined. However, there is some slight leeway because a planet’s signification may only signify a type of thing with the details left undetermined.

Platonic: Take the Stoic view, but add more free will. The lower parts of our soul, the emotions, instincts, and the body are causally determined by the planets, but our reason can control these and study the heavenly motions to understand the eternal mind beyond the heavenly movements. An enlightened person could study these movements and bring that wisdom back to help less-enlightened people live better lives.

Christian: Unlike the previous three views, the Christian viewpoint believes that we do have indeterminate free will. Human free will is a weak version of God’s radically free will. However, most people do not exercise their free will even if they think they are. Through God’s Grace, we can access our free will and break beyond what our charts say. However, unsaintly people are still controlled by their charts.

Magical: A hodgepodge of viewpoints that seek to contact and petition the planets and related spirits directly to modify what the chart predicts. Astrological rituals, talismans, the use of gemstones, and other practices are related here.

These viewpoints do have overlap, and many of them do have counterparts among modern astrologers. I personally take a bastardized mixture between the Christian viewpoint, the Stoic viewpoint and the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic viewpoint. I believe that we do have a very free will, but we are caught by long-standing patterns of previous actions and conditions coming from myriad sources. These patterns combined with our reactions to them are the causal determinants of what will happen to us.

Through effort these patterns can be influenced to produce more favorable patterns in the future. The planets signify particular parts of human experience that can be read in advance and prepared for. Caught early enough and given enough effort and mindfulness, the initial pattern set at birth can be changed. However, most people never do this because they don’t know the patterns or how to change it. Astrology gives us a karmic mirror to see ourselves, albeit an imperfect one. Astrology can never give a complete picture of a person any more than a biography does.

However, when reading a traditional astrological text, it can be helpful to discover which of these five viewpoints the author is using so you can understand their reasoning. While I disagree with many of the author’s reasons why astrology works, the observations they made have held water in my experience.

So, with that out of the way, we can now talk about the planets. The planets signify particular areas of human experience that are productive. Or, if you like, the planets are the engines that cause different effects to happen. The planet’s ability to cause actions is filtered through the sign that the planet is in and disposed into the houses that it has control over in the chart. The quality of those results is colored by essential and accidental dignity as well as aspects.

Here are what the seven planets produce in basic detail:

The Sun: Life, ego, success, recognition, power, light, creativity, beauty, spontaneity, some types of sexuality, prophecy, enlightenment.

The Moon: Change, growth, decay, nourishment, transformation, transmission of the other planet’s powers.

Mercury: Analysis and assimilation, whether for positive or negative purposes. Cunning. (Remember that this planet had a lot of either/or categories in those charts? That’s because it takes on the qualities of whoever he is hanging around with, whether by planet, aspect, or sign ruler. )

Venus: Lust. When highly dignified she expresses love, but in most charts she means lust. The lesser benefic. Her benefits are very individual.

Mars: Aggression, zeal, initiative, daring, courage, and other such terms. Not sex, but can be mixed with sex in the pursuit of power. The lesser malefic. Limited in time and space.

Jupiter: Freedom, abundance, wealth. Removal of limitations. The greater benefic. His effects are more wide-reaching than Venus’.

Saturn: Limitations, hindrances, secret things (including wisdom, esotericism, etc., esp. when combined with Mercury), obstacles, solitude, endings, death.

How does dignity work with these in practice? Let’s take Jupiter as an example. If Jupiter is well dignified, then it signifies the above, that is, the removal of limitations. However, if Jupiter is debilitated, then he is trying to remove limitations but in a poor way. The individual could become a libertine or a poor bon vivant. Or perhaps opportunities for freedom come along but they are snatched away. It depends on the signs and houses involved.

In fact, let’s take a look at how the signs and the planets interact next week. It’s an extremely important topic. Stay tuned!




More on Essential Dignity and Debility

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Last week I talked about how to calculate the five essential dignities. Let’s take it further now.

It is possible for a planet to have multiple levels of essential dignity. For instance, the Sun in Leo will always have rulership and triplicity dignity at the same time since Leo is a fire sign. Traditional astrologers often use a point system to help calculate how much power a planet has by assigning different point values to different conditions. It’s convenient, though in tricky situations with a lot of other factors going on it may prove inaccurate. Nevertheless, it’s a good tool.

The point values for essential dignities are:

Dignity Points
Rulership 5
Exaltation 4
Triplicity 3
Term 2
Decan 1

Thus, the Sun would have 8 points total. But what does dignity mean when you read a chart? Every planet produces particular effects. The quality of those effects rises as the planet gets more dignified. Even in planets that are traditionally malefic, like Saturn, a very dignified Saturn can bring about positive effects in line with its nature such as wisdom and good judgement.

So what do each of the dignities mean exactly? There is a set of metaphors. Rulership is like it sounds. A ruler on their throne. That planet can do anything it wants to do within its domain. Whatever it wants to do, it will do and will stay done. Put another way, the planet can act like a person can in the privacy of their home.

Exaltation is like a conqueror. The actions of an exalted planet are dramatic, but they do not last without work. People with exalted planets will get what the planet predicts at a very high quality when the conditions are right, but they could easily be taken away again. This would not happen in rulership. This is something to watch for in predictions.

Triplicity is like being among friends. The planet has to hold itself back from acting as they’d like, but they are among friends who understand them. In fact, in certain situations a planet in triplicity can indicate a lot of associates and friends.

Term is like being around strangers or acquaintances that honor you. The planet’s behavior is even more restricted, but there is a respect there that allows the planet to act. Nevertheless, this is still a pretty weak dignity.

Decan is the weakest dignity. It’s like getting recognized by the bartender at your local pub. Your face is known and acknowledged, but you’re not necessarily going to get any special treatment. Still, better to be a little known than not at all.

What if, like the Sun in last week’s example, a planet has no dignities at all? The first thing to see is whether or not the planet is in fall or debilitated. A planet is in fall if it is in the sign that is opposite the one that it is exalted in. A planet is debilitated if it is in a sign opposite from one that it rules. To know what sign opposes which, count six signs away from the one you’re examining. Thus, the opposite sign of Aries is Libra. Mars would be debilitated in Libra and the Sun will be in fall.

If a planet has no dignities, but also doesn’t have any debilities, then that planet is called peregrine. A peregrine planet is like a wanderer or a tourist. The planet will still want to produce things in accordance with its nature, but it would depend on the local laws as signified by the ruler of the sign the planet is wandering around in. If that sign ruler has low dignity, then they will have a harder time, and vice versa. However, the general characteristic of the ruling planet must also be taken into account. A planet in peregrine in a house ruled by a malefic will still have a tough time even if the sign ruler is dignified.

A planet in fall has a lot of similarities to a planet in exaltation but in reverse. Remember that a native with an exalted planet will get what the planet signifies often with hard work, but it can slip away at any time. A planet in fall will make the native want those things, but rarely provide it. The poor schmoe that drinks at the bar saying “I coulda been a contender. I had everything and I lost it all”, that’s a planet in fall.

A planet in detriment is like someone in prison or among enemies. They either cannot produce what they promise or whatever they make crumbles quickly. These will signify weak areas in the native’s life, unless assisted by other planets.

Sometimes a planet may have debilities and dignities mixed together. Take Saturn in Leo. Saturn is in detriment in this sign, but is also in triplicity. How to read this? Considering the point scale above, think of fall as -4 and detriment as -5. Take the stronger one and use that as the basis. We could say that Saturn detests traveling through Cancer more than Leo, but he doesn’t have fun in either of them much at all. Don’t let the presence of a dignity amidst debility overshadow the debility unless there are a number of dignities.

Remember that we are only talking about essential dignity for now, which is a measure of the dignity or debility of the planet itself, rather than accidental dignity which is a measure of how that planet’s location adds or reduces dignity (e.g. angular vs. cadent planets). Dignity is a measure of the quality of the effects that a planet will try to produce within a chart. But what are those effects? For that, we have to examine the planets in more detail. More on that next week.

Essential Dignity

Posted: July 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Essential dignity is one of the most important concepts to grasp about traditional astrology, so we’ll go there next. We need a chart to work with to help our study, so let’s pick a random one from the Astro Databank.

Leona HelmsleySqu

A brief aside. This square chart is the normal chart used by traditional astrologers. It’s also used in some schools of Vedic astrology. Each of the little triangles is one of the 12 houses. The triangle with its apex on the left side of the square is the 1st house, then one counter-clockwise from it is the second, and so on. More on the houses later.

One thing that trips up new students in astrology is judging the strength of a planet in a chart. There are two ways to do that in traditional astrology: essential dignity, and accidental dignity. We’ll look at essential dignity in this post.

Planets that are more “dignified” or have more “honor” are more capable of bringing about what they are signifying than those that are weak. Planets may have different amounts of dignity, or debility. Most people will have one or more planets that have more weight in the chart than the others.  When you start to examine how planets work together, this plays a crucial role. But before we can get to that, we have to look at what makes a planet dignified.

Every degree in the zodiac is ruled by a number of planets. If you are familiar with modern astrology, you are familiar with the idea of planets “ruling” signs. This is the first essential dignity, and the most powerful. The following planets rule these signs:

Planet Rules
♊ and "♍"
♉ and "♎"
♈ and "♏"
♐ and "♓"
♑ and "♒"

If you chart these out around a circular chart, you can see that the rulerships have a nice symmetry around the chart.

The second essential dignity is called exaltation, which is also used in modern astrology. The placements for these are not so symmetrical:

Planet Is Exalted In
♍ (yes he has both rulership and exaltation in this sign)

There are three others that are not used in modern astrology. The first is called triplicity.

Element Diurnal Nocturnal Participating

If a planet is in a sign that matches the element above, that means it has triplicity. This is further broken down into Diurnal, Nocturnal, and Participating rulers. In a diurnal chart, one in which the sun is above the horizon, the order in planets in power goes like the chart above. In nocturnal charts, the order would be Nocturnal, Diurnal, Participating.

So, for instance, if you had ☉ in ♐ and ♃ in ♌, assuming no other dignity, both would have triplicity dignity. Both are in the line for Fire triplicity above. If the sun was above the horizon, then the Sun would edge out Jupiter. But if it was night, then Jupiter would edge out the sun. Poor Saturn will always be last.

The next essential dignity is term, and I’m not about to recreate the chart for that so let me post a picture:


From Altair Astrology

DON’T PANIC! I never memorized this particular chart. It’s a bit confusing to read, so let break it down. This is a table of the Egyptian terms. A term is an uneven division within a sign that is ruled by a particular planet. The circle of the sky that the planets travel within, the ecliptic, is divided into twelve 30 degree segments we call signs. This chart is showing where in each sign the terms lay. Let’s take Pisces as an example.

We see 0, then ♀, and then 12. From 0 degrees ♓ until just before 12 degrees ♓, the ruler is Venus. Once it hits 12, the ruler is now Jupiter until it reaches 16 degrees, and so on across the chart ending with ♄ ruling 28 degrees ♓ to the end of the sign. Notice that the Sun and the Moon cannot receive a term dignity.

Finally, the last essential dignity is decan, also known as face, which I’ll also show with a chart:


From Skyscript

The decans are 10 degree divisions of each sign, and they follow a regular order. This is the so-called Chaldean order and it follows the apparent speed of the planets across the sky as they move against the backdrop of stars in the sky. It starts with Mars on the first decan, then the Sun and so on around the chart. I found it easiest to pick one planet and memorize its decan positions and then count off from there until I reached the decan I needed. If the planet you’re examining is in the decan it rules, then it has decan.

To keep this from going overly long, I’ll refrain from talking about why the essential dignities are like this or where they come from. Just consider it like those weird rules you’d hit when you started learning a language. Roll with it for now.

If you’re utterly confused, here are a few examples of dignity analysis using the chart at the start of the post. Leona Helmsley’s Sun and Mercury are in 12 degrees Cancer. Which one is stronger than the other by essential dignity alone? (Note for the advanced people, yes, there is cazimi going on here but we’re ignoring it for the example.)

First, rulership. Neither the Sun nor Mercury rule Cancer, so that’s out.

Exaltation? The Sun is exalted in Aries and Mercury is exalted in Virgo, so that’s out.

What about triplicity? Cancer is a water sign. Neither the Sun nor Mercury are in the Water entries, so they’re out. Note that this chart is a diurnal one though!

Term? Venus rules 12 degrees Cancer to 16 degrees, 59 minutes Cancer. No term dignity either!

Do we get lucky and have face? This is the 2nd decan of Cancer. Aha! Mercury has face, so is dignified just barely over the Sun. Overall though, both of these planets are very weak.

More on essential dignity, and debility, in next week’s post.

To Begin with Astrology

Posted: July 3rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

I have a fascination for divination that I cannot deny. There’s a certain rush I get from consulting a divination system. Even when I try to drop it for a while, I get tugged back in. I’ve decided to stop resisting the pull and move back into this, starting with astrology.

If you’re an old-time reader, you may remember back when I did practice magic wholeheartedly. I eventually got to a point where I was driven to Buddhism and told to drop all magic, which I did after some effort. A few months ago I asked Kalagni for a Mo reading on whether just writing about astrology, specifically doing a modern cleanup of Bonatti, would be beneficial for my long-term development, and a second question on whether I should return back to magic.

The second answer was a resounding “hell no.” The first one was a yes, albeit with a whole ton of effort attached to it. I ended up not pursuing it in favor of other writing projects (I’m a freelance writer), but writing about divination appeals to me, so I’m picking up the keyboard again.

Natal astrology is what I’m experienced in. Even have some courses under my belt. Here’s my theory on it. In a nutshell, I believe that astrology shows the basic pattern of karma someone brings into this life. As a Buddhist, I believe in the concept of rebirth. Previous actions of thought, speech, and body will create results when conditions are correct. The individual has the power to alter their karma through effort. Most things, though not all things, can be overcome with sufficient effort. The natal chart is not a web that traps you. It is the cards you’re dealt with. You have to play the hand as best as you can. Questions about whether it is best to go with the flow of the natal chart’s strengths and weaknesses, or whether it is better to fight them, is up to the individual.

The first thing every student of astrology must learn are a set of lists. Astrology has its own grammar that must be internalized before it can be of use. Every divination system on the planet is like a language that must be learned before you can understand the message. Therefore, here are the basic lists:

The Signs

Sign Symbol Polarity Element Mode
Aries Active Fire Cardinal
Taurus Reactive Earth Fixed
Gemini Active Air Mutable
Cancer Reactive Water Cardinal
Leo Active Fire Fixed
Virgo Reactive Earth Mutable
Libra Active Air Cardinal
Scorpio Reactive Water Fixed
Sagittarius Active Fire Mutable
Capricorn Reactive Earth Cardinal
Aquarius Active Air Fixed
Pisces Reactive Water Mutable

The Planets

Name Symbol Polarity Diurnal/Nocturnal Benefic Malefic
Sun Active Diurnal X
Moon Reactive Nocturnal When Waxing When Waning
Mercury Both Both Depends Depends
Venus Reactive Nocturnal X
Mars Active Nocturnal X
Jupiter Active Diurnal X
Saturn Active Diurnal X

Later posts will go into what all the categories mean. Right now, these have to be learned stone cold. You may have noticed that I skipped Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. That’s because my background is in traditional astrology. I like the old ways, which is why I’ll explain the difference between benefic and malefic.

A benefic planet brings about good effects. A malefic planet brings about bad effects. What is considered good or bad and what it being effect depends on the chart. In my experience all of the planets can act bring about things we would consider good or bad, but the tendency of the malefics is to bring about things we don’t like, and the benefics to bring about things we do like.

Modern astrology doesn’t like to use the idea of benefics and malefics. This is often wrapped up in the idea that the universe is fundamentally good and so there is no malefic tendencies to the universe, just misunderstood lessons or some other such thing. In my viewpoint, the planets are not the causative agents of events on earth, which is a common complaint leveled against traditional astrologers. But then again, neither are we. Reality just a set of dependent actions coming together under the right conditions to create an experience we call reality, good or bad.

Astrology’s power is allowing us to read some set of those actions and predict what might happen. In fact, a good reading of the natal chart can tell us what needs to be avoided, much like how a meteorologist can tell you that a lightning storm is coming and you should stay inside. And, just like how a meteorologist can’t tell you where lightning will strike exactly, astrology isn’t going to tell you when you’re going to sneeze next.

Point being, the planets can signify when bad things are coming down the pike, and some planets signify nastier things than others, just like how seeing a tornado cloud in the sky is a pretty good sign that bad things are coming your way.

For now, if you’re interested in following along, commit these two charts to memory and I’ll see you in the next post.

Gotta write something

Posted: April 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2,677 Comments »

I’m a freelance writer by trade. You would think that someone who writes articles for a living would have no trouble keeping up with a blog. That is completely untrue. When you’re writing 10,000-25,000 words per week on deadline, the last thing I want to do most nights is sit down and bang out a thoughtful blog post. Yet I do know a few people do continue to look at this blog (thank you Ocean Delano and Kalagni), so here’s what’s up in TUMworld.


All signs still point out that I should stay far away from magic and continue my Buddhist studies. I even went for third-party verification by getting one of Kalagni’s Mo readings through his Etsy store. The answer I got was Mara, the demon of the aggregates. Even ol’ Early Buddhist me knows tons of suttas about Mara. Part trickster Satan, part Archon, he encourages people to stick around for this constant rebirth thing that he’s running (for now). To quote the text that Kalagni is using: “Though you think about the Dharma path, you are diverted to wrong directions.” Granted, this could change in the future, but it’s quite a clear answer.

Dhamma practice

So what am I doing then for my Buddhist practice? Quite a lot. I’m reading suttas with my partner every night. I have a weekly sitting group where we have excellent discussions and a monthly short retreat. I did end up doing the one for last month, which was an intensive whole-day retreat, but I just missed this last one due to a lot of changes happening. I still need to get on the horse for regular daily meditations. I’ve gotten far enough with both samantha and vipassana to know it’ll be great for me if I do. I just haven’t prioritized it high enough. Perhaps I should take a cue from the Tibetan tradition and really pound in the preciousness of human life and contact with the dhamma until I find out what is holding me back.

There is a good chance I may go on a longer retreat on my birthday. Vipassana-oriented. We shall see.

Doctor’s visits

I’ve also been seeing a lot of medical professionals. Finally decided to use that insurance. I’ve seen orthopedists (shoulder issues), primary care (physicals and referrals), urgent care (persistent sore throat), body workers (to loosen up the shoulder), and today a chiropractor/applied kinesiologist. Despite what science may say about AK, I’ve seen some major improvement after just one visit. Tomorrow I revisit my orthopedist to learn about my MRI results and what my physical therapy regimen will be. Since I’ve already hit my deductible I’ll probably get my eyes checked. Hell, maybe even get braces. Fix ALL the things!

The rest of my life is going rather swimmingly. My partner got a new job and I got all her old clients. Money is rolling in. The mother-in-law moved out of the house. My gardens are growing pretty well. Still practicing wing chun. Getting back into SCA slowly (14th century spices seller with a focus on incense). Of course, sabbe sankhara anicca (all formations are impermanent).

Meditation Retreat Feb 2015

Posted: February 4th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | Comments Off on Meditation Retreat Feb 2015

Meditation has a reputation with most Westerners as being this mostly harmless, likely very boring activity that improves concentration and opens your heart for for the diligent. I can say that yes, meditation can improve concentration and open your heart. In fact, you can access some pretty blissful states with dedicated concentration practice that beat the pants off sensual pleasures.

However, there’s a dirty little secret in meditation too. If you start getting pretty far down certain pathways it gets terrifying.

A few days ago I did a half-day meditation retreat with my local Buddhist meditation group. First Buddhist retreat ever. My intention was to practice concentration the whole time and see if I could reach said blissful states of concentration once again. We had divided into two groups where one side would do walking meditation outside and the second would do sitting meditation. 45 minutes a session, four sessions, no breaks other than moving mindfully from one area to another.

I got put in the group to do walking first. Fair enough I thought, I’d do walking to start up the process of concentration and then drop into it deeply during the sit. But after a few scant minutes into the sit, the other side of Buddhist meditation started piping up. Loudly.

See, there’s this other type of meditation, a more important type in some respects, called insight meditation. It’s a process of seeing things as they really are. In walking meditation, this is on the sensations in the bottom of the foot while you walk. My mind must have been primed cause I dropped into a deep perception of impermanence.

If you’ve hung around Buddhist circles long enough, you may have heard of impermanence and its friends unsatisfactoriness and non-self. They’re called the three characteristics. Everything has these three characteristics according to Buddhism, but in order to get to the goal of Buddhism, the complete elimination of suffering, these have to be seen fully.

Now I have had glimpses of impermanence in the past, but this was a whopper. Not only could I see the impermanence of my sense contacts, but could infer it to all sensory contacts experienced by anyone and across all times. It also tried to spread to certain mental aspects as well. My ego did not like this and sent me in a terror spiral for hours. Huffing for air like water was getting thrown on me. Visceral. I’m proud I didn’t run out screaming.

I told my teacher about it, and he said this was an excellent sign. In retrospect, I also know it’s an excellent sign. But damn is it rough to see that, even the little glimpses I’m seeing afterward. He also said I needed to let go even more and to do more of the heart practices so that these deeper experiences aren’t so rough. He’s given me this advice before, but now I think I really need to take him up on it.

What’s Your Kung Fu

Posted: January 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on What’s Your Kung Fu

Kung fu isn’t a martial arts style. It is any skill achieved through great effort. I have been a kung fu (in the martial sense) practitioner for about 4 years now in Wing Chun. One of the things my sifu tells his students regularly is to reflect on why you’re putting yourself through the training. It’s hard work. Hard on the body and hard on the mind. I’m typing this right now with an ice pack on my knees.

I’ve been rolling around this question a lot lately. My original desire to train involved three components:

1. Martial arts are very fun to me. I like the physical challenge, especially since I’m not really a physical person to begin with.

2. I wanted to attain a nebulous goal of “self-mastery”.

3. Ego. I wanted to feel like I had a skill that no one could criticize. Even if they didn’t like martial arts, I didn’t want someone to say that I didn’t have skill in it.

I figured by the time I got to the intermediate level and learned the second form, I would know whether I wanted to continue or not. That was reached a year ago. I’m still learning new things, but to jump up to the advanced level would require that I take a commitment to the school that I know I can’t take at this time. Nor do I know if I’ll ever be able to do so.

Looking at the reasons now, the martial arts are still very fun to me. I like going to class, but my body is wearing out. Everyone in the intermediate level has sustained a joint injury at some point. This gives me pause. I’ve also found a much better method for self-mastery through the practice of the teachings of the Buddha, which also fulfills the third goal in a far more admirable way. Indeed, I would rather that Dhamma practice be my kung fu.

Yet I still like the idea of attaining a high level of skill in Wing Chun even if I don’t go through the entire system. I will continue to think on this problem, and get my knees checked out, and see if I want to stay.

The Internet is Enchanted

Posted: January 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Internet is Enchanted

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_BallThe longer I use this wonderful thing we call the Internet, the older I feel. It’s not the same anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. I’m old enough to remember when I first got onto the Internet back in 1994, though not old enough to remember things prior to the Eternal September or any BBSes. At that time, the Internet was far different. The entire spirit of the thing was different.

What happened to the spirit of freedom and the sharing of knowledge? The joining of disparate communities into a space that made it feel like a giant convention? The feeling that we have created something that is truly for the benefit of humanity rather than the benefit of commercial activity, tawdry entertainment, and the solipsistic circle-jerk that is social media?

A great enchantment was laid over the users of the internet. At some point, take your pick on exactly when, we stopped communicating ourselves on the internet and started advertising ourselves instead. Instead of sharing knowledge and forming connections, we burnished facades of ourselves into perfect pictures and demanded attention for anything we said. Sure, the net has always been a little narcissistic (welcome to my corner of the web!) but it was nothing like it is now.

It’s crazy what they can do with your data these days. You’re a predictive analytics statistic ripe for customer intelligence (as if our minds and behaviors were foreign countries!)  and marketing automation strategies. The net is becoming like some Cenobitic torture device that sucks in your eyes and attention and lifespan and transforms it into data and money while exploiting your psychology against you. Feels like I’m in The Invisibles sometimes.

Thankfully there are people that are fighting back. Indieweb is fighting things on one front by rigging websites to show a strong chain of authorship for a person’s content no matter where it might be. The goal is to take back ownership of an individual’s data. Unfortunately, it also requires you to really dive into social media. There’s an expectation that users of Indieweb will want to have all their stuff jammed into social media silos. More power to them. Maybe Ted Nelson’s Project Xanadu would be a useful vision document for them.

Closer to the mark are sites like and several others that are rebuilding the ways. I really like this idea and I think it should spread further. Why not have your friends hang out on a tilde server, using PINE and chatting with one another? It’s like IRC, hand-crafted pages, and old-school email came back to life. It’s a beautiful thing and the closest thing I’ve found so far to that old feel. The story of how it started is a great read.

I also have a fondness for 1990s static website design. Hard to replicate on WordPress, which by nature is a dynamic site, but I do what I can. There’s probably users of the net that have never seen a static page, more’s the pity. Why static pages though? Aren’t they boring and clunky? Not at all. Anyone with half a sense of good desktop publishing principles can make a beautiful static website.

It’s the modern dynamic sites that are clunky! If I have to use third party plugins like Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, No-Script, and Social Fixer to get usability out of your site, there’s a problem. With a static website the medium doesn’t get in the way of the message. Isn’t the communication of knowledge what the internet is really about?

I have no illusions though. Even if every social media site on the planet went down tomorrow there would be dozens more that spring up from fetid leftovers. There’s too much money to be made in that game. But we can at least inoculate ourselves by paying attention to what we’re saying online.You can add real signal into the noise Then, just maybe, some of that old feeling might come back again.


Starting over

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Starting over

Another year, another reboot of this blog. But this year is going to be a little different.

It’s not going to be focused on magic, martial arts, and minimalism. It’s not going to be focused on a commentary about Agrippa.

It’s just going to be me. I write for a living, and I wanted to carve out a little space for writing for myself on whatever came to mind. No agenda. No trying to cultivate an audience or push a product. I do enough of that crap in my day job as a freelance writer.

So let’s see what happens when I just let myself go.

Since I’m starting over, might as well talk about what you can see so far.

Why “The Unlikely Mage?” There used to be reasons, but now it’s a moniker that has stuck in some circles. It’s as good a name as any.