March 22, 2013

So You Want to Learn Astrology

If you need help learning how to find aspects or read transits, go here:

Otherwise, here's what you're going to need to start:


The American Ephemeris for the 20th Century

This is the Bible of astrology. It gives planetary positions for every day of the 20th century (1900 - 2000), which is probably when you were born. This is where you're going to find your natal planets and those of most of the people close to you whose chart you may wish to study, as well as celebrities of this century. This is also where you're going to find a lot of the history you may start out examining: the World Wars, the Great Depression, the sinking of the Titanic, presidential elections and assassinations, scandals, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. 

Ephemeris' come in two varieties: noon and midnight. I use the midnight one, but that's just personal preference. Whichever you choose, it will show the positions at that time in Greenwich, England, which is where all time zones originate.

Along with planetary positions, an ephemeris contains sidereal times, the dates of lunations (the moon cycle from new to full and back), eclipses (both solar and lunar), declinations (planets north or south of the equator), planet ingresses (the time a planet enters a new sign) last aspects (the time the moon makes its last aspect to a planet until the time it enters a new sign - known as being "void of course"), planetary stations (when the planets appear to change direction) the position of the moon's nodes, Julian dates, the galactic center,  SVP, (synetic vernal point, which is the tropical 0-degree point in the sidereal zodiac, which you will probably never use unless you plan to learn sidereal or eastern astrology), and a monthly position of the asteroid Chiron.

The American Ephemeris for the 21st Century

This is exactly like the ephemeris above except that it only covers 50 years of the current century. You need both. This is where you will find the planetary positions for every day of your future.

Here you will also find the planets of 9/11, the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the election of the first "white" president of the U.S. (and who knows, maybe the first female president), as well as the future king or queen of England, and hundreds of events and people we do not yet know. Maybe you will be the one to find them.

Amazon wants a stupid amount of money for these. Go straight to the source, instead. Astro Computing

The Michelsen Book of Tables
Chances are that you're going to have every chart you study cast by computer. That's a sign of our times. But are you going to understand what it is that you've done?  In order to really understand astrology, you need a firm grasp of the principles behind it. It's essential that you understand the math and science behind the charts, even if you never cast another one by hand. What if someday the unthinkable happens and we have neither electricity nor computers? How will you cast a chart then? You must know how to do it yourself. It's not that hard! I don't own this one myself, but I believe it contains everything you need for learning to cast charts by hand. 
Also available from Astro Computing.

 - OR -
Dalton's Table of Houses
Here's a very inexpensive Table of Houses, which is what I started out with back in the 70's. This is Dalton's Table of Houses. It covers latitudes between 22 and 59 degrees north (If you live in the southern hemisphere, this won't work for you). This is the book you will need to find the ascendant, midheaven, and house cusps of the chart once you have done your math. This one does not teach you how to cast charts. You can get a used one for around $2 and a new one for about $15 from the big evil empire of online books, but you can also shop around.

Below: This is what the inside of a Table of Houses looks like.

 Here is an enlargement of the upper left corner of the image above:
Once you have done your math and know the sidereal time of birth, find it at the top of the page in the Table of Houses, locate the latitude (the grid of the earth that pinpoints location: latitude and longitude. You remember those from middle school, right?) in the left-most column, and voila! There's the degree of your midheaven and ascendant, six houses cusps, altogether. The other six house cusps are exactly opposite. For example, if the midheaven is at 6 Aries, then the ascendant is at 14 Cancer 02, and the 7th cusp is at 14 Capricorn 02. The 8th house cusp is at 8 Aquarius 02. The 9th cusp is at 5 Pisces 02, and so on.

An Atlas, any international atlas

I'm no longer calling this one essential because by the time you have read this far, just about any atlas you buy in print is already obsolete. You might want to get one and keep it handy in case of Armageddon or something, when electricity or the internet are unavailable, and this looks as good as any. What you need it for is look up latitudes, longitudes and time changes. Latitudes and longitudes themselves don't change, but the countries where they are located do, all the time. Where is Siam?  Do you know where Bohemia was? How about Ceylon? Who heard of Myranmar in 1995 when this was published? Do you know the name of the country it used to be? I didn't think so. And time changes happen frequently. Even some states in the U.S. are half in one time zone, half in another. The beginning and ending of daylight savings time changes fairly often, and then there's War Time. It's enough to make you go cross-eyed. I'm going to hook you up with something easy, fast, and online that you can and should use for as long as it is available. I'll provide the link in a moment, but first a warning: It's free - Free charts! Free atlas! Free data bank! Free Personalized Daily Horoscope!  - everything your little heart could desire for casting computerized charts that can be printed out, BUT it's basically meant for people who already know how to cast charts. The hosts are not particularly friendly or helpful. They rarely answer questions, and when they do, they're rather cranky. But they are the absolute best with data. I have never looked up a location I couldn't find (even ghost towns in obscure places), or a time zone that was incorrect. In fact, I double check every chart that I am not 100% sure about by casting it again at this site, and I can't begin to tell you how many times that has saved my butt. Go to the site, bookmark it so you can find it again in a second, familiarize yourself with all they offer, and practice casting charts until you are comfortable. If you mess up, just start over. 


Planets in Transit
by Robert Hand

I skipped forward a little here because this category is called absolute essentials. These are books that you cannot do without if you are going to learn astrology. They are not optional

What makes this one special? First, it's written by Robert Hand, who may be the most intelligent and experienced astrologer of this century, and possibly any century. You know that saying, "He wrote THE book?" Robert Hand is that guy. You can never go wrong with one of his books.

The other thing that's special about this one is that in every other book of transits that I have ever studied, the explanations the authors give cover only part of the territory. They begin to give out around Saturn's aspects to Pluto. Once they got there, I guess they either figured it would be redundant to go further, or they just got lazy, or maybe anxious to get their manuscripts published, or who knows?... The truth is Pluto's transit over Saturn is very different from Saturn's transit over Pluto. Neptune's transit over Venus is very different from Venus's transit over Neptune. Uranus' transit over the sun is very different from the sun's transit over Uranus! Robert Hand went all the way. He gives aspects to the ascendant and midheaven as well. Unfortunately, he didn't cover the Moon's Nodes which is a big disappointment to me, or aspects to Chiron, but that's understandable as it is neither a planet, nor does it have a definitive delineation as of yet. Personally, I think the delineations of Chiron feel forced, and although I see it show up in significant places in charts, I am still unconvinced of its real effects. But that's got nothing to do with this book. You need this book. You should probably buy it from the man, himself.

PLUTO: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul
by Jeff Green a/k/a/ Jeffrey Wolf Green

Our earliest philosophers like Plato and Socrates talked about... a priori knowledge - things we are born knowing without ever being taught those things. We know they are true without having to find any evidence, run any experiments, or look for any proof. Astrology is based on the idea that all human beings are eternal souls which exist both within and outside of corporeal bodies. To simplify this for the sake of time and space, and to encourage you to examine this theory for yourself, I'm going to make short of it here and write about it as fact because I believe it to be fact.

After death, the soul reviews its recent life with a Council of Twelve. It learns where it did well, excelled, and failed. Based on that information, and the need to right the wrongs it has perpetrated against others, to complete unfinished business, and for some, to teach or serve humanity, it makes a plan for a new life. It chooses the conditions for that life in ever-smaller circles, but almost always with those with whom it needs to balance its karma. It chooses an eon, an era, a nationality, a race, a religion, a gender, and a relationship to certain others based on its individual needs. It then contracts with other souls to provide the lessons necessary to its plan. That is why we often feel upon meeting others that we have known them before. Or we take an instant liking or disliking to them. Or we feel we're the wrong gender because we have recently switched from one to the other. We wonder how we got "stuck" with our parents or our socio-economic environment. We ask, "Why me? Why am I here? What's it all mean? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?" And so on.

If the other souls we need to make contacts and contracts with are not quite ready, or still in the material world, our time may be spent in rest, study, and reflection. We are then born at the exact moment and place where the planets are aligned to provide the conditions required to fulfill our plans. This book will help you to sort those things out. That world is only a breath away

I bought my copy in a bookstore in Los Angeles. Standing there, reading about my own position of Pluto, I was so astonished that I recorded the date I bought it so I would always know when "I could see clearly now." You can buy yours at Powell's, Barnes & Noble, or even Amazon if you must.

If you would like to know more about this subject now, here are some links for further reading:


The A to Z Horoscope Maker and Interpreter
by Llewellyn George

This is a modern version of the book I used back in the day to learn the math and principles of casting charts. It covers the basic principles, constructing the chart, interpretation, simple transits, and advanced techniques such as progressions (but not directions, at least not in my copy). It also has a brief astrological dictionary. It must be easy enough to worked for me.

Best place to buy it is from Llewellyn.
Llewellyn also has good books for those who are into Tarot, Wicca, and just about every esoteric subject you can name from faeries to Reiki. Browse subjects here.

The Only Way to Learn Astrology Series
by Marion D. March and Joan McEvers  

 I already knew astrology well before I encountered these books, but I recommend them to students who are working on their own and need it all spelled out for them. I find them a little simplistic, but they do provide the information in a proper order for it to be learned. While looking online for the best place to purchase them, I came up with Goodreads, but I didn't find the rest of the series anywhere. Three more are called The Only Way to Learn About Tomorrow, The Only Way to Learn About Relationships and The Only Way to Learn About Horary and Electional Astrology. They may not be in print anymore, so if you see them anywhere, you should probably snap them up.

The Astrologer's Handbook
Frances Sakoian & Louis Acker 
This is very basic information found in just about any book on aspects and transits, but where this one goes above and beyond is in its coverage of triplicities and quadruplicities, hemispheres, negative / positive signs, male /female groupings, rulership, exaltations, dignities, detriments, and overlays (although overlays are useless if you have interceptions in a chart). Most books on basics leave these very basic things out. Students eager to fly ahead often overlook these facts of astrology, but they do so at their own peril.

Astrological Patterns
by Frances Sakoian and Betty Caulfield

There is so much to love about this book. It's not just another rehashing of the same old stuff. We call those "cookbooks." Same old same old same old. It doesn't matter which you choose; they all say the same thing with different illustrations. This one offers some enlightening facts that help the astrologer to really understand the person in the chart. You're not always going to have the client sitting in front of you, or even know who it is!  You may have never met the person before, and may not ever meet him. Using the techniques in this book will help you to get a grip on who he is, before the "your sun is in Libra, blah blah, blah."

This book covers the basics like rising signs, house patterns, planetary patterns, hemispheric emphasis and how to judge the strengths and weaknesses of the planets. But then it covers territory I haven't seen in other books, like the Seven Basic Planetary Patterns. Is your pattern a bucket (how important that handle is!), a locomotive (are you a bit of a steamroller, intensely focused?), or a seesaw (back and forth, back and forth always trying to see both sides of a situation)? You could be a splash, a splay, a bundle or a bowl.

This one also covers the natural disposition of the personality. Which planets form the closest square or opposition in the chart? Which planet is in high focus? And what does that mean? 

Mental chemistry is one of my favorite covered topics. Are you an impulsive, high-strung person who jumps to conclusions, or an introvert who mulls things over and slowly comes to a conclusion? Are you impatient or tolerant? Do you stop and listen to others or interrupt while they're relating an event? You don't find the answer in the sun sign, or the rising sign. The secret is in the speed of the moon and the position of Mercury, and you can find it in this book.

 If you really want to learn astrology, read everything you can find on the subject until you can separate the wheat from the chaff. Compare what is written to what you see in the charts. Compare what is said to your personal experience. It won't be long until you're reading an article about it and either bury your nose so deeply between the pages that you can barely breathe, or toss it over your shoulder to land against the juncture of the wall and floor while you think that some idiot is just making stuff up for whatever reason of their own, and they sure as hell don't know what they're talking about. Really. It won't take long if you keep at it. 

You should read everything legitimate about astrology that you can get your hands on. Skip the cookbooks that are a waste of money, and instead, subscribe to The Mountain Astrologer, known as the best astrology magazine in the world. As far as I know, it's the only remaining one, but for the sake of argument, it is a very good read, and I highly recommend getting a subscription. It's available in digital and printed formats, every-other-month. It is a great learning tool.

There are so many good astrology textbooks to advance to as soon as you are ready. Any books written by the authors above are recommended. In addition, I admire:

Steven and Jodie Forrest
Isabel Hickey
Steven Arroyo  
Marc Edmund Jones
Jan Spiller and Karen McCoy
Alan Leo
Jeanne Avery  
Dane Rudhyar
Martin Schulman
Evangeline Adams
Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas
Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson
Michael Harding and Charles Harvey
Reinhold Ebertin
Erin Sullivan
Grant Lewi


  1. I don't really know what to say as "Thank You" doesn't seem quite sufficient!
    But I hope you'll be pleased to know that I have already placed my 1st order and it shall be dispatched within 48 hours and delivered to me at my Log Cabin in the Country.
    I can't imagine a more nightly undisturbed place I could be to begin my new endeavor.
    (The timing couldn't have been better placed had I have alined the Stars and Planets myself!)

    I've been searching for guidance my entire life by one who would steer me in the right direction towards something I know I have the passion and ability to be 'Good' at through their own passion and dedication to their craft.
    I can't express my thanks enough for putting me on the right path.

    You are a 'Wonderful Woman'
    Eternally grateful xxx

  2. It's my pleasure, "Eternally Grateful." I hope that it really does work out for you. I'm not doubting your sincerity in the least, but just telling you for a laugh, that if I had a dime for every student and apprentice I've taken on that said similar words, I would be sitting pretty right now. Every single one of them has dropped out after about a month, saying, "This is too hard!" Nothing worth having comes easily, and the more difficult it is, then maybe the more it's worth? If you only go so far as the aha! moment where your eyes are opened to the secrets of the universe, then I will be very satisfied. I DO hope you reach it.

    1. How's your studying coming along, "Eternally Grateful?" Did you stick with it and make any progress?

  3. For me this isn't just something that I want to do! It goes deeper than that. It's a part of what I am and I really need to learn and understand how to it more a part of me rather than me just being a part of it and feeling like I've been set adrift in a boat at sea floating with no Oars! But you're right. I can imagine you've come across many 'Wannabe's' so I'm going to stop talking and get on with it.

    I've just had confirmation that my book has been dispatched so it should be with me anyday now.

    I will not only prove to be a worthy student, but a loyal apprentice too.. But like I say "Actions speak louder than words" I'm very grateful and appreciate all the time and effort you've already invested in me and regardless of how difficult this gets or how long it takes me to grasp I have no intention of giving up or letting you down.

    'True Sincerity'

  4. I hope you're alright xHayleyx

    1. I'm fine, thanks. Just been very busy. Hope you are well, too.

  5. That's good :)
    It's busy over here too.
    But just so you know 'Out of sight isn't out of mind'

    Speak soon.


Comments are moderated to prevent spamming.