The word Astrology comes from the Greek words astron or "star" and logos or "word". It can be taken quite literally to mean the words, or language of the stars. It is composed of many traditions (such as modern Western, Hellenistic or Vedic) each of which utilizes various branches of astrology (such as natal, mundane or horary). Each of these traditions and types of astrology uses the apparent and relative positions of celestial bodies (i.e. the sun, moon and planets) and other points (i.e. the Ascendant, Lots, and Aspects) in order to aid in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth.
Many of those who practice astrology believe the positions of certain celestial bodies either influence or correlate (as in the case of synchronicity) with people's personality traits, important events in their lives, and even physical characteristics. The most prevalent application of astrology is to use it to analyze the birth charts of individuals (Natal astrology) in order to read character, psychological traits, and to some extent destiny.
In order to draw conclusions about the meaning of the positions of the planets and other astrological factors, an astrologer usually casts a horoscope. For example this could be for the moment of a person's birth (Natal astrology) or a specific event (Electional astrology) or even the birth of a question (such as in Horary astrology where the chart is cast for the moment that a question is asked to the astrologer). This type of astrology where the main emphasis lies in casting charts for specific moments in time, computing the degree of the ecliptic rising at that moment (the Ascendant) as well as the houses which are derived from it, is called Horoscopic astrology.
In ancient Hellenistic astrology the rising sign or ascendant demarcated the first celestial house of a chart, and the word for the ascendant in Greek was horoskopos. This is the word that the term "horoscope" derives from, which in modern times it has come to denote either astrological charts in general or the birth chart of an individual as a whole.
Horoscopic astrology is a very specific and advanced type of astrology that developed in the Mediterranean region and specifically Hellenistic Egypt sometime around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE that deals largely with astrological charts cast for specific moments in time in order to interpret the inherent meaning underlying the alignment of the planets in that moment. One of the defining characteristics of this form of astrology that makes it distinct from other traditions is the computation of the degree of the Eastern horizon rising against the backdrop of the ecliptic at the specific moment under examination, otherwise known as the ascendant. From the ascendant a set of houses are usually derived as well, in addition to other points such as the Lots.
Once an astrologer has cast a chart, he or she looks at the major points of the chart such as planets, angles and various other factors. These help the astrologer derive interpretations about the person or event via a process known as chart delineation.
A number of hypotheses have been put forward concerning the mechanism behind astrology:-
Synchronicity - The vast majority of western astrologers in the world today believe that astrology is a purely correlative study which reflects the underlying patterns in various systems, without any mechanism for a causal planetary influence needed at all. Proponents of this theory usually point to the work of the German psychiatrist Carl Jung, and his theory of synchronicity.
Fractals - Some astrologers suspect fractal associations between the geometry of events in the sky and those on Earth.
Chaos theory - It could be argued that the mechanism behind astrology might operate less in terms of Newtonian laws, and more in terms of chaos (e.g. a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil leads to a tornado in Texas).
Gravitational influence - The argument that since the gravitational forces of the Moon cause the movements of the tides, then by extension they must also have an effect on human life, was one first put fourth by Claudius Ptolemy in his 2nd century work known as the Tetrabiblos. While today few believe that gravitational or tidal forces are the mechanism behind astrology, the idea that tidal forces affect biological organisms has some scientific support.
- Common Elements
- Astrological Methods
- History of Astrology
- Interpretive Elements
- Interpreting charts
- Cultural Traditions of Astrology
- Branches of Astrology
- Glossary of astrological terms
- Validity of astrology