There is a particular and very common approach to astrology with which I have major disagreements. I call that approach Sun sign astrology.
According to Sun sign astrology, I am a Pisces because I was born between the eighteenth of February and twentieth of March in the particular year I was born, and this single fact is the most important astrological fact about me. Sometimes it is the only astrological fact, at which point it becomes newspaper column astrology, which isn’t any sort of astrology at all, really. Newspaper column pseudo-astrology uses words from astrology, but as we know it consists of little more than tidbits of generally decent advice that could apply to anyone and might apply to some people more than others. Oddly enough, I have fewer problems with newspaper astrology in practice because it at least has the value of a fortune cookie.
Sun sign astrology does look at more than your Sun sign, but sometimes only just barely. It looks at each of the other planets and the signs in which they are found, but that’s pretty much it. Let me show you.
This is how Sun sign astrology views my chart.
Then you can find a book with a little section in it called, “Interpretive Guidelines for Mars in Sagittarius” which says something like:
Asserts self honestly, idealistically, energetically, impulsively, tactlessly
What one wants is guided by one’s beliefs, morality, and inspirations
Decisiveness and strong actions are motivated by one’s aspiration toward an ideal or a guiding vision of the future
Physical and sexual excitement is stimulated by adventurous activities
Initiative and drive are colored by an expansive urge for self-improvement and a restless need for exploration
This, by the way, comes from the highly influential Stephen Arroyo’s Chart Interpretation Handbook. The primary problem is that these above statements easily become the interpretation of Mars in Sagittarius. Notice how this so easy rolls off the tongue as a single meaningful concept. Sun in Pisces. Mars in Sagittarius.
I’ll make this clear. I am not a Pisces. Rather, the Sun was in the sign called Pisces when I was born. The Sun is in Pisces in my natal chart.
The Sun’s presence in Pisces of itself does not mean any particular thing, which is not to say it means nothing. I mean to say that a formula, Sun>Pisces, does not capture the full astrological significance of the moment in question and in fact may distort it completely. Some modern astrologers get this, of course, and they’ll say just what I’ve said, though it’s all too common to find websites and blogs and books that oversimplify the art to absurdity — planet + sign + (maybe) house = some simplistic description that is a combination of only these two or three things. This is what I call Sun sign astrology, and I generally dismiss it completely as uninformed and lazy.
So. Mars has passed into Sagittarius. What does this mean for you? Well, do you have any planets in the first degree of Sagittarius? Do you have any planets in the first degree of Gemini, Pisces, Virgo, Leo, or Aries? If so, which planet is it? How does this one aspect other planets in your chart? Which house is it in, how fast was it moving, is it oriental or occidental to the Sun, is the Sun above the horizon and it beneath the horizon or vice versa or some other way, and is this beneficial for the planet or not? How are the other planets aspecting Mars, and what are their situations and their essential and accidental dignities?
You see where I’m going. This is far too complicated and far too personal to write a simplistic post on Mars>Sagittarius.
Mars’ “influence” is an influence upon a given thing, given the nature of that thing. Mars’ influence on you is not based on the fact that it ingressed into Sagittarius, for the most part, but how it relates to your own natal chart in many complicated ways and is not based upon the simple blending of mythic archetypes in such a way that Mars>Sagittarius of itself has a wide overarching meaning, and a single particular type of influence upon the whole world in one sort of way whenever it occurs. What we can say is that Mars has left the sign of its rulership and a sign of its triplicity. What does this mean? Well, that depends on the rest of the chart, naturally, and whatever your other point of inquiry is. This is critical. No part of the chart stands in isolation. Trying to read a chart in isolation, without a purpose, will probably yield no results.
So, again, what does this mean? What does it mean that Mars will be in Sagittarius until the end of May? It certainly doesn’t mean that “Sagittarians” will get a boost of energy and motivation. It certainly doesn’t mean “we’ll be able to harness this fiery, fearless energy to make things happen.”
I’m not going to tell you what it does mean because you’re asking the wrong question. Thinking in terms of the Mars>Sagittarius formula is thinking about it in entirely the wrong way.
I’ve attributed this wrong thinking to laziness and ignorance, but that isn’t quite true, not entirely.
The planets’ “influences” are not like ordinary mundane physical influences. For example, the “influence” of the Sun’s presence in Cancer is not the same as the heat of its light on your skin in the middle of June — which is not to say there is no connection between the two things.
The planets do not cause anything. Or, rather, they do cause everything. Or, perhaps, we and everything else cause the planets. Things get messy if we approach this question this way, so… how about we don’t?
When it comes to astrology, causality as it is typically understood has no place. Ptolemy was wrong about many things on a theoretical level, at least according to our current way of perceiving the world, and I’m not just talking about epicycles. Saturn does not emit cold dryness, nor does Venus emit warm moistness, which then descends to Earth and influences the world somehow. Further, the planets do not cast rays, and do not influence Earthly affairs by way of gravity, or magnetism or any such thing.
Astrology is not founded upon physics. Astrology is not a physical science. It is not a thing like chemistry and it doesn’t need to be for legitimacy. Not everything needs to be “scientific”. We need to grow out of this crutch. We need to grow out of this dependency upon the scientific elite for permission to believe any given thing. We don’t need some “scientific” study to tell us what is and is not true; we can believe things in absence of a study, and we can believe things in spite of a study, which might be and very probably is incorrect somehow. I’ll save the rest of this for later. My point right now is that astrology is not Science as we know it. Astrology is, however, a science.
There are no subtle energies beaming down from space responsible for the mechanism behind astrology. You are not going to uncover the secrets of astrology by a cold hard “objective” look at the “facts” of the matter, and a statistical analysis is unlikely to be fruitful. Why? Because astrology is not a science as we understand it. Astrology was ousted from the mythology of Science — that is, the belief system called Science — for very good reason. It doesn’t fit. As such, the methods of this belief system will not be a useful tool for analyzing the subject.
We find this in a number of areas, such as psi research and the like. One of the most interesting features of psi research is that the effect observed in a study will often peter off. The statistical significance of the findings start off rather large, but fall in such a way that when viewed as a whole the effect disappears and detractors can then say that the effect never existed in the first place. Why should this be? Sometimes you’ll hear people say that test subjects just get bored with the experiments or something similar, but I don’t buy that. Carl Jung and one of his associates performed a very crude astrological study and found this same effect. Very highly statistically significant findings petered out and the effect disappeared when all findings were taken as a whole. Very strange, isn’t it?
It’s also commonly said that a psi study will yield positive results if the researcher believes in psi and expects to find something and will yield negative results if the researcher does not.
I point out psi research because it is another example of something that is rejected by the Scientific belief system as we know it and resists analysis by the tools of the belief system. Perhaps you’re thinking of this backwards. It may be that these phenomena are rejected by the belief system of Science because they resist the tools of the belief system; the belief system is not directly responsible for the ambiguous results, as some may think I am saying. It may be that the belief system merely filters out what it can’t hold.
So my point. Astrology does not belong to the domain of Science-as-we-know-it. Yet still we apparently feel compelled, obsessively, desperately, to give astrology the perceived legitimacy of Science. Just look up David Cochrane for an example (the bio I linked to says he’s had promising results, but if you really look into it, you’ll find he’s a very frustrated man; none of those promises apparently get him anywhere despite his success as an astrologer in other ways). Oh, and I do know about the Gauquelin studies. I’m definitely not dismissing them.
Astrology is not a simplistic system of blending meanings attributed to the planets with meanings attributed to the signs, and the houses are not a second set of signs. There is nothing Aquarian about the eleventh house except for ankles.
I believe that Sun sign astrology is the other side of the coin of pseudo-scientific astrology. In my view, neither approach understands astrology and neither takes the subject seriously, but both views are natural given the historical context of our situation. Sun sign astrology unknowingly wants to live up to the attributions the Scientific belief system mockingly makes of it. Sun sign astrology aims to be stupid and lacking in substance because the collective belief system demands that something take up the necessary role of Thing to be Mocked and Ridiculed — such things as astrology, psi, and “alternative” medicine in particular primarily because they conflict with mechanistic materialist assumptions and because they remind Science of what it rebelled against three hundred years ago before it became its own orthodoxy and the very same monster living in its own closet.
Now the obvious question. If astrology is none of this, what, then, is astrology? I’ll get to that in another post.