Everyone has questions.
How can I live better? How can I navigate the world well? Why am I here? Just to name a few.
The desire to answer these kinds of questions gave birth to astrology. By looking for correlations between “above” and “below” — astrologers studied the cycles in the heavens to understand — even predict — happenings on earth.
So it’s no surprise astrology has developed into branches based on human needs and concerns. Since the Middle Ages, Western astrology’s been divided into two big categories — “natural” and “judicial” — based on the types of questions we ask ourselves.
Natural astrology is very closely linked to what we might call “natural science.” The astrologer looks for correlations between planetary cycles and natural events such as the weather, earthquakes or the course of an illness, in order to predict trends.
In the West, the Church never condemned the practice of natural astrology, as it was considered central to the scientific study of the day. In fact, the practice of natural astrology is clearly a forerunner to what became the modern natural sciences.
As we move deeper into the information age of big data, the study of natural astrology may provide one of the most fruitful avenues for exploration for reuniting modern science with ancient knowledge.
Agricultural Astrology is an ancient practice to ensure bountiful harvests. When is the best time for planting? Harvesting? How can I maximize the growth of certain crops? Even today, some agricultural practices such as biodynamic gardening still use lunar cycles for increasing crop yield.
In a related practice, Meteorological Astrology (Astrometeorology) has been used for millennia to make long-range weather forecasts. Will it be colder or warmer on average this summer? Is there a likelihood of excessive rain?
Geological Astrology also studies the relationship of planetary alignments and earthquakes. There is some scientific evidence that planetary positions can correlate with geological and weather trends.
Astrophysiognomy concerned itself with correlations between planetary cycles and the physical appearance of biological forms.
For hundreds of years, Medical Astrology was used by doctors to help them answer questions about the cause of an illness, how long it might last, the best herbs or medicines to use for a cure, and when to administer those cures. Doctors regularly used the techniques of medical astrology even into the 1800s. In many ways, the practice of Medical Astrology is similar to Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine practiced today.
Social scientists also study collective, social behavior. So it’s no surprise that over the years, astrologers have studied planetary cycles to help with predicting historical cycles, financial cycles and demographic trends. Such studies of collective behavior begin to merge with the second branch of astrology: Judicial Astrology.
Judicial astrology included those astrological practices at times frowned on by the Church. Their argument centered around discomfort with using astrology to determine the “divine will,” which of course was the exclusive purview of the Church.
Astrology also posed theological questions surrounding the dilemma between free will and fate, which were oft-debated by theologians. (Before you snicker, we still have these arguments today. “The planets made me do it,” isn’t very far away from the infamous “Twinkie defense.”)
Judicial astrology could also be divided into two branches, the collective and the individual.
What’s happening with my tribe?
Ancient astrologers concerned themselves with the spiritual health of their tribe. They were tasked with determining whether or not their community as a whole, particularly as represented by its leader, was at risk for displeasing the divine order.
Today it’s Mundane Astrology that continues the tradition of this most ancient branch. The types of questions mundane astrologers strive to answer relate to politics and the dangers facing a city, country or even a corporation. Mundane astrologers search for answers by using the chart for the founding of an entity, the birth chart of its leader, or the charts of political candidates.
Electional Astrology, called katarche by the ancient Greeks, is a logical corollary. If one considered the birth of a city or group could tell us something about its destiny, how then could we choose the most auspicious moment to begin something new? Religious rites were planned by the stars, as was the founding of cities, to ensure the best relationship of the people to the gods.
What’s happening with me?
Somewhere between 600 and 400 BCE, astrologers began to answer questions using individual birth charts. In the centuries since, many techniques have been developed to answer questions about who we are, how to navigate in the world, as well as the timing and types of challenges we will face.
For the first time in history, thanks to computers, astrology is truly available to everyone. So it’s no surprise this “person-centered astrology” remains the most popular form of astrology today.
Natal Astrology is primarily used for helping answer basic questions such as “why are things not working?” and “when are things going to get better?” There are myriad branches of types of natal astrology to help us understand our character, relationships with others, our vocational strengths, our spiritual journey and more. Natal astrology also incorporates forecasting techniques that compare the changing sky to the natal chart to help us navigate the cycles of our lives and give us some clues as to when challenges may arise and when they will subside.
Horary Astrology is used to find an answer to a specific question. The types of questions can range from “where did I lose my car keys?” to “will I get this job?” The astrologer analyzing the chart of the moment the question is asked to discover the answers.
Individuals also use Electional Astrology to find auspicious dates for personally important events. This could include a good time for saying your wedding vows, putting your house on the market, filing business incorporation papers, or starting your vacation. Since no time is ever perfect, the challenge for the astrologer is to find a time that is both favorable for the type of event and works well with the individuals involved.
Locational Astrology (Astrocartography) deals with the relationship between individuals and where they live. Like electional astrology helps find an auspicious time, locational astrology helps find an auspicious place for various activities, such as romance, career or inspiration. This relatively new kind of astrology has been made possible by the introduction of computers to help with calculating the relationships between a chart and the Earth’s surface.
Bring Your Questions
So whether you want to learn astrology — or are considering going to an astrologer — bring your questions, lots of them. While there are many different astrology techniques and schools of thought, the essential questions we explore remain the same.