Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Astrology and the Authentic Self

The two most popular systems of calculating house cusps are the Placidus and Koch methods. Both are mathematically rigorous methods, high-tech if you will. (Don't worry if you have know idea what I'm talking about. I'll explain about house cusps later.) But what if I told you that there was a more accurate method that was both older and simpler? Would I sound like a reactionary or an old curmudgeon? Well, there is such a method, and it's used in Astrology and the Authentic Self: Integrating Traditional and Modern Astrology to Uncover the Essence of the Birth Chart by Demetra George. This book uses the Whole Sign method, which is a throwback to the Middle Ages and before. But guess what? I've tried it on my own chart, and it works. Some of the planetary placements in my chart make a lot more sense under this system.

Now for those of you who don't know much about astrology, there are twelve houses in an astrological chart, each corresponding to a different area of life. The first house, for example, corresponds to identity and personality; the second house to money, possessions, and things of value, and so forth. The house cusps are the starting points of each house in the Zodiac. The Placidus and Koch systems start with the Ascendant (the point of the Zodiac that's on the Eastern horizon at birth) and the Midheaven (where the sun would be if it were "high noon") and extrapolate the other house cusps by either space or time. The Whole Sign system just uses the Ascendant, assigning the start of the sign it falls in to the first house cusp, the start of the next sign to the second house, and so forth.

At this point, I don't want to talk about the book (it's good, try it) as much as about the implications of the usefulness of the house systems. If a medieval house system works better than the two most currently used systems, what does that say about the usefulness of astrology as practiced today? Shouldn't there be a clear winner among the house systems? Or if valid results can be obtained with any of them, does it really matter at all?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: The Art of Predictive Astrology

In the past I've shied away from using astrology to make predictions, partly because of the free will thing, and partly because of the Oedipus Effect: the steps taken to prevent a predicted event are often responsible for enabling it. But mostly for the real reason, which is that I didn't know how to do it. The Art of Predictive Astrology: Forecasting Your Life Events by Carol Rushman may solve that problem.

The starting point for prediction is what the book calls "Natal Promise:" potentials as given by the birth chart. If the potential for a certain event is not indicated by the birth chart, it's not going to happen, so there's no point looking for it. There's a whole chapter devoted to determining natal promise, with an interesting formula for the number of possible marriages.

Two major tools used by the book are progressions and transits. Progressions are computed by rolling the birth chart forward by one day per year of real time; transits use the current position of the planets. In both cases, the planet's positions are compared to what's on the birth chart. The theory is that these positions can activate planets, houses and aspects in the natal chart. Also featured in the book are lunations (new moons and full moons) and eclipses.

I'm going to try the techniques given for a few months. I'll let you know how it works out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book Review: Tarot for Everyone

Tarot for Everyone by Hajo Banzhaf is a tarot book geared to beginners. In addition to basic tarot theory, the book presents three basic layouts: the Compass, the Blind Spot, and the Oracle of Love. Descriptions are given of the 78 cards, with specific interpretations for the position the card falls in in each of the three layouts. Twelve additional layouts are given in the appendix. One interesting feature of the interpretations is that the upright and reversed meanings seem to be combined, and one or the other is used based on the position of the card in the layout.

I bought the book a few months ago and tried a couple of spreads with mixed results. I was trying the spreads with a new deck, so that might have had some effect. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the book again and tried the Compass spread. This time, it just worked. To be honest, I'm not sure why. I got similar results with the Oracle of Love and the Blind Spot.

Based on those results, this book deserves mention as another option for beginners. The sheer volume of information that's needed to do effective tarot readings can be intimidating, and anything that helps get results without memorizing hundreds of pages of information shouldn't be overlooked just because it seems to have a superficial approach.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book Review:1-2-3 Tarot

I've noticed that the tarot and astrology sections of the bookstores I frequent are starting to thin out, with more space devoted to the paranormal, 2012, and "The Secret" type books. I wonder if this is because both tarot and astrology require large investments of time and energy to attain any proficiency. Or maybe everyone is using the free courses available on the internet instead. Anyway, for those of you who still like dead trees, I have an introductory book for you: 1-2-3 Tarot: Answers in an Instant by Donald Tyson.

The book has a simple but effective method of reading the cards. Each card is given possible meanings as either a noun, a verb, or an adverb, and the combinations create sentences. The selling point of the book is that this method makes it possible to do meaningful readings without knowing anything about the cards. This seems to fit in to the American propensity toward instant gratification, but it actually works if taken as a starting point. The book starts with a three-card spread, then moves on to more complex spreads that form multiple sentences. I've done some experimentation with the method as applied to the traditional Celtic Cross spread, and it yields some useful interpretations.

The verdict? If you're a beginner, buy the book, but don't stop there or you'll miss the other advantages that Tarot has to offer. If you've been reading for a while, the book will give you a fresh approach that you'll be able to integrate into your current methods.