by Lois Rodden
I am a data collector. Today, there are three things that I want to say: 1) Why data sources are important; 2) The difference between a source and a reference; and 3) How to record data sources. Why Data Sources Are Important
In September 1961 I went to my first astrology class. Within a month I was a data collector. My first desk was a card-table in the alcove and my first file cabinet, a cardboard box with files that were labeled "politicians," "entertainers," "sports," "family," and more. I kept data in the same way that everyone else did; on a chart. No source, no idea of where I'd gotten it. Why would I? It came from another astrologer so naturally it was the right chart. I did not have a clue. None of us did. We astrologers passed charts and chart data around with the blithe arrogance that our data was carved in stone. We were not deliberately dishonest, but lord we were naïve! For me, it was when TR Saturn crossed Neptune at the same time that TR Neptune crossed Saturn that I was impacted with just how much of our structure was based on illusion, how much really bad data we had!
That was then. This is now. Those astrologers who are knowledgeable and sophisticated recognize the need for data sources and why. But that's not all of us. Recently, within the last two years, I traced the phone number to call a nationally known astrologer to ask for the source of a data for which she'd been quoted. She replied with impatience, "I am a professional and very busy. I don't have time to write down where every piece of birth data comes from."
It was in the '70s when, for the first time, an item of my data was challenged. Richard Ideman was looking through my data-notebook and he remarked, "This is the wrong time for Churchill," and "I have a different time for Clark Gable."
I was as indignant as though he had impugned my personal integrity. This, I have since found, is a not-uncommon reaction. One astrologer threatened to sue me for slander when I said, "Where in the world did you get that data? It's way off." I've learned since to be more indirect in questioning someone's data, leading up to the final question by remarking that sometimes different people have different data for public figures. I've also learned to be grateful for corrections, which I now accept with masochistic delight.
At the time of my first loss of innocence, I went to the Church of Light in Los Angeles to check their archives. When I'd attended the C.L. school, I had done some volunteer work "on the hill" where a dozen or more file cabinets were kept and I knew that the Church had extensive records, including for the most part, data sources. I asked for permission to copy the records and sources of public figures and was given admission to the C.L. files under the condition that I take no data of private figures and that every page that I wrote be examined before leaving the premises. At that time I also discovered the remarkable reference world of the library, and also began a data correspondence with other astrologers which eventually led me around the world and across the ages, consuming my interest and dedication. In the '70s, I paid a hundred dollars (a lot for me at the time) to look through the library of Carole MacDonald in Hollywood. She had over a thousand volumes of magazines dating back to 1890, to Old Moore and the early Alan Leo magazines. I went through every one, copying data and sources, for months.
First of all, Clark Gable was born at 5:30 AM according to Jean Garceau, "Dear Mr. Gable", 1961, p.18. Chester Williams in "Gable", 1968, wrote "as a blizzard raged outside." Ruth Dewey quotes Samuels, "The King", for 9:15 PM. Joan McEvers quotes Jan Moore for 3:30 AM "from doctor's records." C.L. has 8:50 PM. SS No..361 has 9:00 PM. Kraum's personal notebook has 4:40 AM. "Gable's Women," 1987 gives 5:30 AM, no source.
Same type of thing for Churchill. Stalin. Actors, statesmen, writers, artists, all kinds of people. We not only had undocumented data but lots of it! I think it was the summer of 1978 when I first stood up at a "mini-session" for AFA and gave a five-minute expose on Dirty Data, that which has two or more quotes of unsubstantiated information.
As astrology had begun its resurgence in the 20th century, it had first came to attention in the UK. There are no registered birth times in the UK and its colonies so the pre-natal epoch became very popular, a method a rectification for untimed births. There are times given on birth records in Scotland, Italy, France, Belgium and some other countries, but it was not until much later that astrologers began to investigate their access to public records. Early birth records in the United States varied state to state, and again, it was not until after the '60s and '70s that some enterprising astrologers began to check on which states responded to requests for birth data.
So who cares? Why is it important to have accurate data? Perhaps it is not important at all, as long as we are playing the Astrology Parlor Game. For some astrologers, every chart works. Data that we divine from the akashic records are quite acceptable for those of us who are doing psychic astrology. After all, reality is subjective, is it not? We may use the horoscope as a focus for our inspiration, in which case there is always some descriptive revelation that we can find at some degree.
The astrologer who believes that astrology is a science as well as an art is more apt to believe that when we have accurate data on which to base our studies, we shall be able to discern which of a variety of esoteric techniques has value. I do hope, and I do believe that there are intelligent astrologers among us who want to validate our field with evidence that can be replicated: astrologers who are doing systematic studies of the difference between the various house systems and zodiacs: astrologers who are approaching asteroids and harmonics and helio and other innovative method with more than anecdotal stories but actual evidence of degree meanings and angular positions.
The bottom line is that we cannot validate our findings unless we can first validate our data.
I see articles in leading journals that give bibliographies, nicely done, very academic – and then data with no source. What does that imply? That the quality of the data is incidental and it does not matter if it's accurate or not. This takes us back to square one: that astrology is a psychic science and data accuracy is not an issue; the horoscope is a mystical focus at any event. In major conferences, noted speakers present data with no source. In publications, major astrologers present data with no reference and no source. How amateur!
Without a data source, every set of data are suspect. There is no reason to assume that any astrologer has valid data if he or she does not quote a source that can be backed up with documentation or verification. Fifty years or even twenty years ago we may have been forgiven, but today, if we are so lacking in astrological sophistication that we do not recognize the need for data source, we embarrass ourselves as well as denigrate our field. I love astrology and hate to see her on the street corner in fish-net stockings or hunched over a crystal ball in a low-rent district rented room. The Difference Between a Source and a Reference
A reference is who-sez-so and a source is where did the data come from. When we quote Dell Horoscope, that is a reference; it is C data: no source. When we quote Lois Rodden's AstroDatabank, or March and McEvers' The Only Way…, or The International Astrologer…, or Agnes Astrologer, these are all points of reference and they are not sources. The instant access to information that we have with the Internet may now give us instant pap; astrologers and websites hand out data with neither reference nor source. Moreover, it is inadequate to give the Rodden Rating without an explanatory quote.
The source of the data is the point of origin. With accuracy we may report "Dell Horoscope July/1962, an article by Agnes Astrologer in which she quotes the person himself." With accuracy we may report "Lois Rodden's Astro-Data V; B.C. given," or with accuracy we may report "Agnes Astrologer quotes a colleague for B.C." In these cases, when I read the reference and the source quote, I can decide for myself whether or not I accept the data. If we astrologers are indeed independent thinkers, we resent being mind-raped by someone else telling us whether data is accurate or not. I want to know who sez so and where did they get their information.
Recently, astrologers are noting with their articles the simple source of "B.C" or they use the Rodden Rating of AA to denote birth record accuracy. I'm pleased to read the author's report that the information came from B.C. but always wonder, who sez so? Does he or she have the B.C. in hand or whom are they quoting? I'm sorry to report that there are astrologers who say "B.C." when they mean "before coffee." They say "3:15 PM given in biography," when the biography actually says "afternoon." They say "personal" (meaning that the person himself or herself gave the data) without reporting who sez so.
When I actually see the physical copy of the B.C. (or the biography, or hear a different version of time given by someone else) and find that an astrologer was doing "creative reporting," from then on, that astrologer will be quoted for C data, Caution, no source until or unless there is actual documentation. Once their credibility has been breached, we can no longer trust the word of the person who has given away that treasure; the honor of their word.
Recently an astrologer gave out two data over the 'net for which he stated that he had the B.C. He further claimed that two astrologers had seen the B.C., but for reasons of confidentiality, no one else would be permitted to see the documents. Others responded that it was impossible to get a birth certificate from these states and a debate exploded of whether or not the data was accurate – or a sham. If the alleged documents may not be examined by someone who could compare them to other actual documents on file, it remains suspicious. Some of the correspondents presented valid evidence of prior deceptions, but some became ugly with personal aspersions – responded to by threats of legal action. We astrologers are more than a bit conflicted on the point of criticizing our own. I have a letter on my desk from a well-known astrologer who writes, "It is so destructive for astrologers to carry on such a vendetta when we should be supportive of each other." I might respond, "It is so destructive for astrologers to present data that they can not substantiate. I would rather know when a colleague has a blemished record, in order to make up my own mind as to whether they can be trusted."
I totally agree that it is really tacky to call someone a liar. At the same time, a valid point remains. Whenever there is any question of validity of data, the issue may only be resolved with hard evidence. When data is questioned, it must be presented as C data: "Caution, source not confirmed." Period. No editorial. No name-calling, no defamation of character. The bottom line on this point is, don't just tell me the data came from B.C.: I want to know who has the B.C. Who sez so?
In some cases we do have to give an ambiguous source such as "LMR quotes a colleague," when it is necessary to protect a confidential source. In these cases, the confidential information must be kept on file where it can be documented upon request. In journalism the necessity is not uncommon to protect one's sources, but with a challenge, I must be able to produce my facts for private investigation.
During the '80s I worked with Ed Steinbrecher, a fastidious collector, editing the Steinbrecher database. One point on which we debated was his quote, "From the person to Jacques de Lescaut." My point was that Ed was giving his imprimatur to the data, and Lescaut has often proven himself to be an inaccurate collector. The bottom line is that we state the reference first, then the source. In this case, the accurate quote is, "Lescaut quotes data from the person." When we begin those long complicated quotes such as an apostolic succession of names, be sure to start with the most recent. We may end up at times with such nonsense as "Agnes Astrologer quotes the niece of Hughes' wife's hairdresser, who relates that her aunt heard Hughes' wife mention that her husband was a 'daybreak baby' while she was having a manicure last February in Vermont." We start with the reference – who sez so – and try to muddle through from there.
A question may come up of how accurate a data collection should be. My first data book, Profiles of Women had a shocking 24% errata. Small wonder! It was an accurate representation of what was available at the time. Since then it has been reprinted several times and each time, every correction possible has been added. Plus, every January 1st an errata supplement is printed with all the updated corrections, a supplement that is available upon request for a minimal printing charge. If you have the first Profiles of Women (published 1980), please request your Errata Supplement. The AstroDatabank is also updated continually with all corrections and recent information and each successive Version will be as accurate as possible on the date of publication.
European astrologers tell me that the Gauquelin data books have errors. This is not surprising. Any and every data collection may be considered to have a level of 5% error from simply the process of transferring information – from human error. The Taeger Lexikon had some 17% error in the data that I could check from my files. Hans Taeger put out an errata booklet each January 1st for several years after publication. For the Rodden series, it was not until Astro-Data V, the Crime Collection, that I managed to publish a book with only 2% errata. This was due to better editing, tighter control and a ferocious dedication to accuracy.
By the year 2000, two of the top chart-casting programs have a place on the data-entry screen where we may enter the Rodden-Rating and Source Notes. For the first time, we have the sophistication in software to keep up with the professionalism that top astrologers insist upon and we may now have data attribution right on the face of the chart along with the data! Those two programs are two of the best available: Solar Fire V and Halloran Software.
We professional astrologers are the ones who set the standards for those to whom we counsel, write and teach. It is my position that our foundation rests on our data and that it is our job to not only present accurate data, but to substantiate our presentations with accurate sourcing. I sincerely invite you all to join me in writing, teaching, and setting the example of sourcing all of our data. Data and the Rodden Rating
Reference and Source are two ways of attributing birth data that are often confused.
A Reference refers to where the material was seen or recorded. References always refer to secondary sources of where the information was printed such as data collections, astrological journals, magazines, articles, news letters, the internet, biographies - and as such, may or may not have a source. The Reference is often another astrologer, who may or may not have a source.
A Source is the origin of the data. Data sources include: birth records, someone's memory (hearsay), or the person who stated the information as allegedly accurate. The key question is "From where did the information originate?"
A proper bibliography includes a precise reference, even though the reference itself does not contain the information as to whether the data is accurate or not. Even a reference to Lois Rodden's collections may be useless without a rating classification – you might be referencing Dirty Data!
In 1980, I began to print my books with a Rodden rating system that is now used world-wide. It is a simple and easy way to classify data according to its data source.
In brief the Rodden ratings are:
- AA Absolutely Accurate as recorded by family or state documentation
- A Accurate as quoted from memory; the person, kin, friend or associate
- B Biography or autobiography
- C Caution: no source given; reference only
- DD Dirty Data: two or more conflicting quotes
- X Date with no time of birth
- XX Data with a speculative date and time, hypothetical
Data Source establishes the original source of the birth data and indirectly indicates the confidence with which the birth data can be used. To draw accurate conclusions, it is essential to have accurate data.
We have no way to police our own field, which is actually another issue but one that certainly has a bearing on data reporting. We can neither legislate nor enforce a data rating system or sourcing. We can only hope that a rational appeal to men and women of good judgment will result in standards that improve our professionalism.
AA: Absolutely Accurate by family or state documentation of Birth Certificate (B.C.) or Birth Record (B.R.) This is data recorded by the family or state which may include quotes from the Registrar or Bureau of Records, Baptism certificate, family Bible or Baby Book. These data reflect the best available accuracy.
A: Accurate data as quoted from memory of the person, kin, friend or associate. These data all come from someone's memory, family legend or hearsay. The quote may be substantiated by a qualifying statement such as "Grandma said I almost made it on the 4th of July, arriving just a few minutes before." When the information comes from an astrologer's client it is considered more reliable than from a public figure, given in public. Please keep in mind that public figures, especially politicians, answer a question in public to be accommodating; therefore the time given may be an approximation or a guess. When the quote is given from one of a group, it may be questionable. Rounded-off times such as 6:00 AM or Midnight may also be questionable.
B: Biography or Autobiography. When these data are substantiated by the author, they are considered reliable. When the quote is vague, "It was a wild and stormy night," it is more likely literary license. At times public figures lie about their ages. Biographers who market scandal and gossip may actually create misinformation for the sake of book sales.
C: Caution; no source given, reference only. These are undocumented data, often given by amateur astrologers in magazines and journals with no source, or an ambiguous source such as "personal," or "archives." When any magazine, journal or astrologer is quoted without the original source of the information, this is a reference, not a source. If the person making the quote has proven unreliable in the past, any future quote automatically falls in the C category until validated. Rectified data from an approximate time ("born in the morning") has a valid place as C data unless contradictory times are given.
DD: Dirty Data; two or more conflicting quotes that are unqualified. These data are offered as a reference in order to document their lack of reliability and prevent their being presented elsewhere as factual. They are often sincere attempts to find a birth time that have met with ambiguous results. In many cases, the presentation of Dirty Data leads to the discovery of an accurate source and the data is updated to another category.
X: Data with no time of birth. Untimed data may be of interest in the examination of planetary patterns. It is usually given as 12:00 Noon to accommodate the computer.
XX: Data with a speculative date and time, hypothetical. Historic figures or certain news figures may be of such great interest that various attempts are made to deduce a birth date.
This article was originally published September 16, 1999. Copyright © 1999, Lois Rodden. All rights reserved.