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SPhoto by Arun Kale.
Photo by Arun Kale.

On Birds and Dreams

By Judith Gayle

Some say life is an illusion, a home movie projected by the collective unconscious on our personal viewing screen. In these days of heavy Neptunian influence, there seem to be a number of different realities playing out at once. We've got a split-screen going on, a multiplex, and it's hard to know which one to follow carefully, which to keep an eye on, which to ignore.

When I was a little kid we'd go to the drive-in on Saturday night and park in the section for the movie we'd picked; if you turned around and looked out the back window, you'd see three more giant screens showing three other films. When I got bored with whatever my parents had chosen, I'd turn and watch the other three, eyes darting from screen to screen, trying to make sense of them without dialogue. Lip reading, it turns out, is next to impossible, so I was forced to watch body language, response, costume, backdrop to get an idea of what was going on. It was good training for decoding these early years of the 21st century -- most of politics, I've found, is performance...maybe even most of life.

With Neptune opposing structured, responsible Saturn, we've had a series of shocks to the dearly held notions about our society, our leaders, and our nation that are akin to being absorbed in an epic movie and having the film break and the house lights come up. You know how cranky that makes you, especially if you were enjoying yourself. I remember the film breaking at a showing of Star Wars, years back, that I momentarily feared would lead to riot. Neptune has gone retrograde now, backing up again to let us consider our discomfort with the realities that are clamoring to intrude on us and, perhaps, notice how shabby the theater seats are and the many rips in the screen. We have plenty to be "dis-illusioned" about. We need to put down our popcorn and notice.

Continued at this link...

Today's essay by Eric Francis is an archive selection,
distributed while Eric is on sabbatical.

Sabian Symbols
Friday 24th June 2005

Hi Eric,

I am intrigued by the Sabian Symbols and actually do find that they seem to relate to people's angles and degrees of placement. Would love to hear your comments in general.


Dear Kristy

The Sabian Symbols are a relatively new astrology tool -- a degree-by-degree symbolic reference system -- invented in 1925 by the beloved Rev. Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, one of the truly original astrologers of our times. To create the system, he worked with a clairvoyant named Elsie Wheeler. Unfortunately, the exact date of their project is not known, or we could have a chart for the creation of the symbols

The Sabian Symbols are an exceptionally easy tool for even the most inexperienced astrologer, but also provide the most advanced astrologers with excellent information. They help illustrate and demonstrate the level of astrology that is symbolic, rather than that which is 'caused by a planet' or 'scientific'. They are, in a sense, based on pure synchronicity.

The Sabian Symbols comprise the first system that gives each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac an image or idea. Today, there are a number of these available, and every one I've picked up has at least been interesting and relevant to my chart. But the Sabian Symbols are the originals, and they are the most widely used -- so they are an important tool for astrologers conveying information to one another, and to the public.

To create the symbols, Marc Jones and a friend named Elsie Wheeler spent the day in a park in San Diego. Jones had brought with him a set of 360 index cards, on the back of which a degree of the zodiac was written (1 Aries, 2 Aries, and so on, up to 30 Pisces). The cards were shuffled and then, randomly, without looking at the degree written on the back, he would draw a card and Wheeler, would give him an image that appeared to her. Jones wrote down what she said. By the end of the day -- one day, with a lunch break -- they had scribed the whole set.

Jones took the cards back to the office and put them in order, and was surprised to see that the sequence made sense. Over the coming months, he wrote notes that explained and elaborated on what he felt the significance of the symbol was. In addition, he researched planetary placements of famous individuals and related them to the symbol for the degree in which the planet fell.

Here is a bit of history that hopefully I have not pulverized too badly. The name 'Sabian' relates to an occult brotherhood in Mesopotamia (specifically, Babylon), in the cradle of civilization, to which Jones felt the symbols had an association. Mesopotamia is in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, in and around what today we call Syria and Iraq. It is believed to be the birthplace of agriculture, mathematics, accounting and many other developments considered to be a part of the modern world. Mesopotamia is also believed by many to be the birthplace of astrology; the term 'Chaldean' is at times used synonymously with both astrologer and Babylonian. It's unclear whether all of this knowledge derives from an older, prehistoric civilization such as Atlantis, for which Mesopotamia was a refuge or holdout, or whether the knowledge actually came into being there.

In any event, Sabian is the name for the channeled symbols, which Jones helped bring into being, and which have become a truly significant part of the astrology we practice. As the symbols are used more extensively, they form an ever-stronger morphic field -- that is, a psychic strength or power, as well as a natural resonance with more individuals. This process roots them more firmly in collective consciousness. In a sense, the longer they are used, by more people, the better they work.

The fact that the symbols, though randomly channeled, possess an internal structure and logic is partly what makes them so compelling. But it's also the fact that when you look up the symbols for degrees which your own planets occupy, they are likely to reveal much about your chart and how you relate to it.

The symbols were reworkd in the 1960s by a student and colleague of Jones, another renowned and beloved astrologer (and musical composer) named Dane Rudhyar. He re-released them in a book called "An Astrological Mandala," still widely available, which is considered by many astrologers to be the definitive version. Jones and his version have their followers, and the older edition is still in print. Rudhyar revised some of them, modernized them, and wrote his own commentaries about how they relate to their signs, their place in their sign (each zodiac sign consists of six cycles of five symbols each), and to a particular psychological process associated with that sign. Indeed it is this psychological and spiritual aspect of the symbols that Rudhyar reveals so well, and which is likely to be why so many people relate to his version of the set.

When using the symbols, it's important to follow this method of relating them to a particular degree. From 00 degrees and 1' (zero degrees and one arc minute) of a sign, the point or angle occupies the first degree, all the way up to 1 degree and 00' (zero arc minutes) of a degree. From 1 degree and 01' you are in the second degree, all the way up to 2 degrees and 00'. By this method, from 29 degrees and 01' up to 30 degrees and 00' is the 30th degree of a sign.

Therefore, if a planet is at 24 degrees and 03', you would use the symbol for the 25th degree. This is in the instructions for the book, it's consistent with ancient astrology -- and it's often done incorrectly.

Here are a few examples of Sabian Symbols at work. The symbols that begin the seasons are really quite interesting. Here they are:

Aries 1: A woman just risen from the sea. A seal is embracing her. (This is the degree for the Aries Point, or first degree of the zodiac -- it depicts the creation of humanity. Curiously, it's more an image of the creation of Venus than the creation of Mars, but still, we have a creation image.)

Cancer 1: On a ship, the sailors lower an old flag and raise a new one.

Libra 1: In a collection of perfect specimens of many biological forms, a butterfly displays the beauty of its wings, its body impaled by a fine dart.

Capricorn 1: An Indian chief claims power from the assembled tribe.

Sometimes, events have unusual synchronicities associated with the symbols; other times, they are cryptic and seem to directly contradict the event, sometimes with such force as to be ironic.

The degree rising for the Sept. 11 attacks, also occupied by the planet Mercury, was 'Circular Paths', which Rudhyar suggests is about "Coming to terms with the inevitability of establishing steady rhythms of social activity." Certainly, the attacks established a steady rhythm of social activity in terms of fear on the march that is leading us nowhere.

Chiron was discovered in 1977 in the 4th degree of Taurus, 'The Pot of gold at the End of the Rainbow', which Rudhyar says is about the linking of the mundane and the celestial order. Here is additional confirmation of the bridge imagery that is so prevalent with Chiron.

The Moon of photographer Ansel Adams is in the degree Leo 5, with the symbol, 'Rock formations tower over a deep canyon'. It could be a description of one of his photographs -- the Moon itself included.

The Moon of former president George H.W. Bush is at Libra 18, with the symbol, 'Two men placed under arrest'. Rudhyars explanation: "A breakdown in the constructive relationship between the individual and society, and the expectable result." Ya.

Contradicting Transits

Hi Eric,

I've had my natal chart and upcoming transits done through a computerized website (astrodienst), and I've been trying to use it to learn how to do my own predictions. But one thing has me puzzled, and I think others may be wondering about this too. At any given time, there are multiple transits going on to one's natal chart, and sometimes the predicted effects seem to contradict each other. For example, in late July/early August I will have Saturn opposing my natal Mars, but trining my natal Saturn. The former is supposed to cause problems, the latter is supposed to be good. So which one takes precedence (or do they just cancel each other out)?

Is there a rule of thumb for figuring out which transit carries more weight?


Dear Puzz,

Your question reaches to the essence of why we need astrologers to do our charts -- or why we must really use prepared reports in an active way, as a research tool, rather than as a thing we swallow whole. Often the individual interpretations given in a prepared report for a given transit are excellent.

But then we need the mind of an astrologer to assemble the pieces of the whole, and apply the various factors to one another and take the interpretation to a new level. The same holds true for 'cookbook' type textbooks, books like Robert Hand's "Planets in Transit." In much the same way, the individual ideas can be valid commentaries, particularly if you contrast them with others. But then, somehow, there needs to be an added factor of putting the puzzle together.

There are ALWAYS multiple transits going on at the same time. Together, they form a pattern that relates to a set of experiences in our lives. I'll use your chart as an example, since you've written with the question. Since I don't really know what's happening with you personally, I'll need to stick to your chart and let you fill in the more important part, about your life.

Before I do so, I'll add this. I suggest you take a phase of your life that was either very meaningful or really intense (often these factors arrive together). Then, do your transits for that era and see how the combination of forces paralleled the combination of events, ultimately leading to one cohesive experience of life. Studying past transits is a truly valuable way to study astrology.

But as for the present. Here's your chart:


And, though this is in black and white, here's a chart symbols legend.

Let's use the example of transiting Saturn opposing natal Mars, but trine natal Saturn. The reason it can do both of these things at the same time is because you have an exact sextile aspect between Mars and Saturn.

Can everyone SEE this transit? Mars is easy to find; it looks like the thing on the door of a men's room. It's red in this chart. Mars is in Aquarius (blue squiggly lines). When Saturn goes into Leo in July, it will make an opposing transit to natal Mars. To see this, you have to imagine an 'extra' Saturn outside the wheel up in Leo near the left side of the chart. If we can, we'll draw this in using Photoshop.

That's one transit. At the same time, because you have NATAL Mars and Saturn in a close aspect, Saturn will be aspecting natal Saturn as well. Saturn is the yellow planet counter-clockwise. Your natal Saturn is in Sagittarius, and transiting Saturn will be in Leo. That means that Saturn is making a trine (by transit) to your natal Saturn.

Now, as these things go, I would not rate this as a major turning point in one's life. But let's look at the mix of energies and see if we can come up with something that makes sense to another reasonable human being, or to you.

Saturn opposite Mars in Aquarius has the feeling of an obstructing factor that gets you to focus. There is the sense of having a lot of very idealistic creative ideas (Mars -- Aquarius -- 5th) but which you need some kind of containment to express. There's a factor that comes along in the form of that transiting Saturn, which says, 'we want your creativity, but we want it in this particular way, and then you can do whatever else you want'.

Notice how the house placement of the planet(s) involved becomes important. The 5th is a particularly meaningful house for you because you have Chiron there, which really fires it up, and gets you craving experiences that you don't necessarily get to have. We could look at one natal Chiron aspect in particular to see that -- Mercury (in Taurus, up in the 8th house) square Chiron (in Aquarius in the 5th).

I need to interpret here, since I don't have you to ask, but that feels a little like: 'If I dare to express my creativity and let go, I'll cause total chaos. But I really need to express myself. I just don't know how to do it'.

Mars in the 5th is what you would actually be expressing. And it turns out that Chiron is in the transit picture. It's now making a long exact conjunction to your natal Mars. Transiting Chiron, remember, is now in the early degrees of Aquarius. So is your natal Mars. So Mars is getting a conjunction from transiting Chiron and is about to get an opposition from transiting Saturn. It's in a kind of squeeze.

So -- what's the squeeze?

Is it involving a creative project, or a relationship? This is the part where you have to fill in the blanks, wait and see, and take the appropriate action. Here is where the trine from transiting Saturn to natal Saturn comes into play. Your natal Saturn is in the 3rd house, in Sagittarius. This reminds me a little of a fixed belief system that does not want to change when the time comes to change your possibilities by changing your beliefs.

I would add one last transit note. At the moment, there is one you have not factored: transiting Saturn conjunct natal Uranus. This is one that is in progress now. And it's here to show you something; which is how to be the unique person you are in the world of commerce and conformism. Saturn is giving a shape to your 'uranian' energy, and it's also teaching you to be more stable.

All of these transits have the combination of frustrate -- excite -- express all working together. There are similar veins of thought running though them; Saturn both conjoining Uranus and then opposing your Aquarius Mars is the frustrate/contain/focus your energy aspect. Chiron is stirring up Mars (and in reality also Uranus and Saturn, since it's in the midst of transits to all of them). But as far as I can tell, the focus is on the 5th: art, experimentation, sex and taking risks.

I hope this gives you a little idea of 'live interpretation', which is of course only half the story -- the little half. The bigger half is you -- what you DO with these energies.

I could have just as easily put this in the front of this response, but let me say it here. Transits are not just things that 'happen to us'. Au contraire, they are opportunities we have, resources, and energies made available.

And like life, they are always complex mixtures of 'good', 'bad', weird, predictable and surprising. But WE are the ones making the choices, if we can muster up the guts and awareness to do so.

Thanks for writing!

Asking About Asteroids

Dear Eric,

Please could you tell us all about the asteroids you regularly use in all your charts and why you use them.

Many Thanks

Dear Mary,

This is big territory -- very big. I've devoted quite a few articles to it, some of which I'll include at the bottom of this reply.

At the peak of my asteroid use, late last year, I was working with about 80 bodies in all. These included the major planets, the first four asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, discovered between 1801 and 1807), a different kind of planet called Chiron (discovered in 1977, not an asteroid), and a variety of named centaur planets (bodies in Chiron's class, discovered 1992 to present). I also used about 8 planets beyond Pluto (called transneptunian objects, or TNOs) and then about 50 asteroids.

Collectively, there are other planets besides the big nine that are called the 'minor planets'. There are many categorizations, mainly used by astronomers, and also by some astrologers.

Each type of body has a different feel, and a different place in human experience and psychology. And while some tend to be deeper or more psychological than others, in truth, any of these planets can offer truly profound insight into the nature of a person or of how their chart works.

In general, the asteroids (such as Pallas Athene, Psyche, Sphinx, and Hidalgo) give detail. They help point to the exact circumstances surrounding the situations of our lives. They can provide stunning clarity and accuracy, if you are patient and allow them to speak. For example, Psyche talks about the sense of oneself as having a 'wound that cannot be healed', usually psychic or a kind of soul wound. It can be healed, of course, but Psyche can represent the sense that it can't be, and the key to finding how to resolve the thought pattern.

J. Lee Lehman, in "The Ultimate Asteroid Book," says that asteroids, 'have few concepts allocated to [each] and their being small and numerous may allow for many, very exact meanings'. Conversely, the planets have many very large, vague meanings, but the asteroids have very precise significance. This statement is only half true; some of the asteroids are exceedingly complex, and at the same time, conventional planets can have highly specific meanings in a given context.

The centaurs (Chiron-like bodies, including Pholus, Nessus, Asbolus, Chariklo, and Hylonome) talk about transformation processes, healing processes, as well as psychological tools we use to get through life. For example, Asbolus talks about how we handle extremes of adversity and danger as children. Nessus talks about abuse patterns in the family of origin, and how they manifest psychologically in adults.

The TNOs (objects in andbeyond Pluto's orbit) talk about where the deep psychological patterns of society meet the deep psychological patterns of an individual. For example, Quaoar talks about the family patterns of our personal lives and how they mirror society. It also addresses our personal creation mythology, including how we came to be who we are.

Now, astrologers who don't use these planets often say, 'The regular planets can give you the same information'. Perhaps, and I try to make a habit of, every time I make an interpretation using minor planets, looking at the chart and asking what a traditional astrologer would see if they did not have the advantage of the minor planets.

However, here's the catch. The minor planets help us define issues, they help us spot specific circumstances, and they tell us a lot about the stories that we live by. They open up our minds to ideas and to ways of looking at the world. It is true that you can tell a lot about someone from their major planets. But when you discover that a person has an asteroid right in their ascendant that speaks volumes to the themes of their life...well, that's another story. When you find out they have an exact conjunction of a centaur to the Moon and another to the Sun, that deepens the chart.

It's neither necessary nor possible to use all the minor planets in a session. There are tens of thousands with names, so that's not going to happen. But the way to work with them is to develop relationships over long periods of time, so that you have some sense of who these critters are when you need them, or when they show up.

The influences of newly discovered minor planets are studied by observing charts (for people or events) when there is a conjunction to a major planet or the ascendant, and then noticing the themes and correlations to 'real life'. The themes are also deduced through the names and mythology of the body, the shape of its orbit, and other astronomical details.

One of the more stunning examples I have ever seen of a minor planet revealing its nature was that during the Scorpio New Moon last year, the Sun and Moon were conjunct the centaur Hylonome. Scorpio is about death, rebirth and transformation. This is a centaur about the healing of grief and that has been given the additional keywords, 'the cry of the people'. The New Moon was, exact to the day and hour, during the funeral of Yasser Arafat.

To give you an idea of what one of my typical minor planet charts looks like, here's an example, partly hand drawn, from my collection -- an eclipse from later in the year:

I've found that the best sources on the minor planets, all in Google, include the "Astrology Encyclopedia" by James R. Lewis, as well as anything by Martha Lang Wescott (very detailed and technically oriented, but excellent keywords), as well as Melanie Reinhart.

Here are two of my articles, the first on the first four asteroids and the second on Chiron, some centaurs and TNOs, and the third on two newer outer planets, from this column, plus extras:

Goddesses of Astrology by Eric

Worlds Beyond Neptune by Eric

Q/A response from this series about Sedna and Quaoar

Chiron homepage on Planet Waves with many articles

Maratha Lang Wescott, awesome author

Melanie Reinhart, another awesome author

Planet Waves
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 25, 2007, #664 - By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You may feel like your world will explode if you set a glass down too hard on a table. An unusual planetary setup says that it would make sense to be as gentle as possible with both yourself and others, and to make sure you're aware of when negative expectations are leading you away from what you really want. This being said, you are in an extremely unusual moment, and your apprehension is the measure of how creative and alive you can allow yourself to be. The key to living fully is being intimately aware of your fears, and looking within yourself to see where they come from and how much of your energy they consume. That energy is yours; take it back and turn it into something beautiful.
Taurus (April 19-May 20)
If you're feeling like you're in a tight spot, this would be a great month to feel the squeeze and do something about it. One way to approach difficulty is to let it pass; usually it does. Another way is to use discomfort as an opportunity to make changes -- that is, as a power source rather than as something that leads you to prune yourself back. The question you might want to ask involves whether there is enough space for you in your life. You can probably see a way there could be plenty of space, time and companionship, as well as a world that welcomes your creative contribution. If you find yourself encountering the opposite energy let it guide you in the right direction.
Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Venus in your birth sign is offering a clue how good your life can be. The chances are you have enough money to purchase the things that money can buy, and enough ingenuity to find some of the things that nobody ever bought, or ever will. But more than needing anything new, I suggest you may need to get rid of something old. That something may be a place you inhabit, or it may need to be an idea about that space. The chances are it's something small that you may fear is enormous. So don't be afraid to confront what seem like vast and sweeping changes, and then adjust your perspective and see them for the modest adjustments they are.
Cancer (June 21-July 22)
There is something about human beings that is drawn to beauty, or at least it's a sign of health and awareness. Your most natural living space is a beautiful one, one that you can use as a source of balance and inspiration. But more to the point, it's somewhere that you can come home to someone who embodies those qualities. It is easier to create a physical space than it is to draw a partner into your life, or to cultivate a relationship, but the two are closely related. Your relationship to your environment is having a profound effect on your emotional reality, which in turn is shaping your relationships. This simple formula can replace many complicated ones.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You need to pay close attention to household finances, particularly all things involving banks, mortgages and shared resources. There is an element of volatility in the air, and with some advanced notice, which you now have, you can prepare for it. Indeed, you can put the situation to work for you, though you may not quite see how at the moment. The answer is creativity. You also need to take one or two extra risks, which may mean trusting luck a little more than you feel comfortable doing at the moment, but the chance factor is working for you more than it is working against you.

(Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Are you the kind of Virgo who tends to get stuck in one place? If so, then you can reasonably expect the kinds of high-energy influences that have been following you around to come to the rescue and shock you into a healthy state of movement. I do suggest you go with it; it's not so often that you get to travel as far and as wide as your planets are suggesting you want to go. You may fear that someone with a lot more radical ideas than yourself is influencing you in unwholesome ways. But you're pretty much on the same adventure, and a sense of transit and even a touch of instability will be a real pleasure.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
You place a high value on stability and predictability, particularly where your home is concerned. Life seems to be offering you something a bit different this month, and you will need to adjust a few of your ideas about life. A physical metaphor would be something like knocking down any wall that is not a weight-bearing structure, so that the interior of your life is more spacious even though you may have the same number of square feet. Psychologically, the image is something about thinking of people and things in bigger categories rather than smaller ones, or better yet, remembering that everyone is in a class by themselves.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You may be thrust into a new group of friends this month, and I suggest that your house be where the party is. The reason is less about geography and more about your own space being better suited to the whims of your imagination and your less-than-uptight notions of what it means to have a good time. In other words, your more adventurous boundaries will be more at home where you are at home, and this is definitely a moment in your life when you need to give those boundaries a push, a flying karate kick, or at least invite them to a good old-fashioned naked barbecue.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
Fortunately you thrive on a measure of chaos; you've definitely been feeling it. Of course, it would be so great if everyone could relax a little and get along better, but I don't suggest you wrack your brains trying to figure out why they can't. Instead, set the example for how it can be done, and if that doesn't work, leave people to work out their stuff without getting too involved. It's unfortunately too true that people tend to substitute conflict for creativity, as if it were somehow more threatening to indulge in the life force than to spend the whole day establishing the pecking order. Make sure you don't fall for that bit of chicken-poop.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Who is in your home, and how do they feel? To what extent is the space shared, and to what extent is someone more like a guest? You may be feeling like you have to make a lot of room for the emotions of anyone you live with, or in some way resist getting caught in what appears to be a cycle of their psychological experience. It would appear, however, that the greater the tension along these lines, the more an important discussion needs to occur. Clearly you have so much on your mind that you're unlikely to be saying it all. Indeed, you may be saying hardly anything; but that is not helping.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Life is signaling you with green lights and the direct consent to pursue your fortunes and brilliantly original agenda. You're also being invited to ask why you have been so easily emotionally triggered in the past, and why you have existed in such a tense relationship to who you are. Being a secure person is an orientation in life. In other words, it's a way of looking at yourself and at the world; a way of walking down the street; a way of relating to your home; a way of looking at people; a way of relating to your feelings. Notice, and learn from your own example this month, because you are your own best teacher.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
No four walls can contain you; I don't think, at this point, that any one place is a suitable container for your energy -- no place, that is, except the world itself. We could search the planetary tables going back years and not find a moment as high-energy as the current days and weeks of your life. Despite the boundless quality of your existence, you need boundaries, you need home, you need focus; that will make the astonishing creative energy you are running not only more accessible and more useful; you will feel safer and that sense of safety will feed your strength -- and contribute to the peace of your environment.

CREDITS: Managing Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet.

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