Lesson Ten: Whole Chart Interpretation
I want to spend our last lesson this term interpreting a complete birth chart - putting together everything we have learned so far. Inevitably, as we take a chart apart and analyse all the different components separately, we end up with all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but lose the picture on the box. Our task tonight is to integrate everything we have studied in the last two terms, and hopefully we will begin to get a good idea of how the whole chart comes together. As we do this, I am also sure you will realise what an enormous amount you have learned in a very short period of time.
Very many thanks to Kate for offering to be our guinea pig and letting us use her chart. Hopefully, Kate, you will let us know how we are doing as we go along. You also wanted to use the Placidus house system, which is fine. In fact, it is a good opportunity to experience for ourselves how the two different house systems work. Here is Kate's chart. Whenever we first look at a whole chart I think it is normal to feel a moment of sheer panic. Staring back at us from the sheet of paper or from our computer screens is a flat, two-dimensional diagram composed entirely of meaningless hieroglyphics.
Audience: I'm glad you said that, because it is exactly what I am feeling at the moment.
Clare: I think it is very helpful to develop a methodical and fairly ritualistic approach to chart interpretation, for two main reasons. Firstly, a methodical approach helps us to develop our craft. It enables us to stay within the astrological discipline itself, listening for clues and messages. Otherwise - and this is something which almost always happens when a whole chart is put up for discussion - it is too easy to go off on interesting tangents and start having our own opinions and emotions and reactions to the chart, which may well have more to do with us personally than with the information provided by the astrology itself. The second reason is that the whole purpose of ritual is to evoke the gods, and this is in fact what we are doing when we analyse a birth chart. If we can stick faithfully to our ritual, then we develop a kind of trust in the process itself and the chart begins to come to life as we study it. Here is a 'Guide to Chart Interpretation' that you might find helpful to start with, and no doubt you will evolve your own approach as you gain more practice in chart interpretation. There are two sections in this guide - the Overview and the Focus. I want to spend this evening just looking at the overview, which alone will give us a great deal of information.
Audience: How long does it take you to analyse a chart before you see a client?
Clare: Well, I have been doing charts for about eighteen years now, so it gradually becomes a more fluent process. But over the years I have found that, by developing a ritualistic approach, the process is gradually strengthened, so that it does get quicker and easier. But all the same, I know that every time I sit down to analyse a chart, I will be entering into unknown territory and embarking on a new adventure. Nowadays I spend about an hour or two on the preparation, and then I always sleep on it before seeing my client - although not literally, of course.
Chart data omitted for reasons of confidentiality
Placidus house system
It is a good idea to start by standing back and looking at the whole pattern of the birth chart from a distance. We will then see the general shape of the chart, which immediately tells us which areas of life are going to be significant, obviously in the broadest terms. For example, is there a marked hemisphere emphasis, either east/west or north/south?
Audience: Not really. Most of the planets are in the western hemisphere, but Saturn, Chiron, and Jupiter are in the eastern hemisphere. And most of the planets are in the southern hemisphere, but Chiron, Jupiter, and Moon are in the northern hemisphere.
Clare: There is always so much information in a chart that we don't need to force anything to fit. In this case there doesn't seem to be a clear hemisphere emphasis, so we can simply move on to the next stage.
2. Lunar phase
Audience: As far as the lunar phase is concerned, this is a waning Moon, so it is rather quiet and mature.
Clare: That's right. We will be looking at lunar phases next term, but you are right that this is a quiet and mature Moon. We don't yet know if this will be important, so we will just make a note of it.
3. House and sign emphasis
Do you think there is a marked house emphasis?
Audience: Yes, there is a strong 7th house. Three personal planets and two transpersonal planets make five planets altogether in the 7th house. That has got to be important.
Clare: Yes, so we now know that something is happening here which means that relationships are going to be an important theme in Kate's life. Do you think there is a marked sign emphasis? Here we will be looking to see if there is a stellium in any one sign, which would be three or more planets.
Audience: Well, there are three planets in Scorpio - Venus, Mars and Neptune.
Clare: What does that tell us?
Audience: That Kate has a passionate nature, and that her relationships will be deep and emotionally complicated.
Clare: Good. Once again, this concerns relationships, so it looks as if we may have the beginning of an important theme emerging. But let's see.
4. Elements and modes
The next step is to look at the element balance, counting just the seven traditional planets. You can see that Kate has two planets in fire (Moon in Leo and Jupiter in Aries), no planets in earth, two planets in water (Venus and Mars in Scorpio), and three planets in air (Sun and Mercury in Libra, Saturn in Aquarius). What does that tell us?
Audience: On balance, she is a naturally thinking type. And with nothing in earth, then presumably issues of personal security, work, money, body and health could be something of a challenge for her.
Clare: Yes, the lack of earth tells us that Kate will need to find her sense of security and substance outside herself, perhaps in the form of possessions or through her work. Moving on to the modes, Kate has two cardinal planets (Jupiter in Aries and Sun in Libra), four fixed planets (Moon in Leo, Venus and Mars in Scorpio and Saturn in Aquarius), and no mutable planets. So we now have a strong theme, because with no planets in either mutable or earth signs, we are going to start to think about Virgo issues, since Virgo is the mutable earth sign. I would therefore imagine that Kate feels a strong need to be useful and practical but, on the other hand, her lack of mutability may haunt her, causing uncertainty about her direction in life.
Audience: Although there are no planets in mutable signs, the angles are both mutable. How would we make sense of that?
Clare: I think this points to the fact that, although Kate's natural inner orientation is mostly fixed, she feels less certain when it comes to engaging with the outside world, where her approach is more flexible and adaptable. As we begin to find these kinds of inherent conflicts, the chart starts coming to life.
Kate: Structured work is something I've always had a problem with, because I find it hard to commit to regular hours and to other people's expectations. As a result, I've had a series of varied jobs, including teaching English as a foreign language, library assistant, PA, and working in an art shop.
5. Intercepted signs
Clare: The next thing to do, since we are using the Placidus house system here, is to check for intercepted signs and repeated house cusps to see whether any planets are 'floating' because they are not house rulers, and whether any planets are particularly strongly anchored in the chart because they rule more than one house. You can see that the signs of Aries and Libra are intercepted in the 1st and 7th houses. With a chart that seems so far to be primarily relationship-based, that is particularly interesting. However, since Venus and Mars also rule Taurus and Scorpio, they are still house rulers in their own right, ruling the 2nd and 8th houses respectively. Otherwise, we might start wondering if Mars and Venus would have difficulty expressing themselves.
Whenever you have intercepted signs in a quadrant based house system, you are also going to have planets ruling more than one house, so in this chart the Moon rules both the 5th and 6th houses, which have Cancer on the cusp, and Saturn rules both the 11th and 12th houses, which have Capricorn on the cusp. We would therefore expect Moon and Saturn to be particularly strongly emphasised in this chart, and in fact they are in opposition, so we need to spend some time teasing that out.
Audience: I have just noticed something rather curious about that, because the Moon and Saturn are also intercepted in the signs of Leo and Aquarius in the 6th and 12th houses. How can we make sense of that?
Clare: Yes, that is a rather unusual phenomenon. I think the way to approach
this is to pay special attention to the Moon-Saturn opposition in the chart.
We know it is going to be particularly significant, and we also know that
it will be rather hard to get at and possibly rather hard for Kate herself
to understand clearly.
As we have seen, the Moon rules both the 5th house of creative self expression and the 6th house of useful and skilful activity, and yet it is buried in the intercepted sign of Leo. Saturn rules both the 11th house of groups and the 12th house of seclusion and retreat, and yet it is buried in the intercepted sign of Aquarius. So the questions that emerge here hinge around Kate's ability to discover and fulfil the needs of her Moon, and her ability to learn to face her own inner fears and take responsibility for herself. These two questions may well indicate significant life themes for Kate, and it is worth mentioning here that it is not our task to try to make sense of this or to try to find solutions or to make suggestions. Our task is simply to record and to communicate as faithfully as we can the themes that are revealed by the chart. But we can leave this for now, since the Moon-Saturn opposition is part of a T-square, so we will look at it more closely when we get to aspect patterns.
6. Ruling Planet
Now we can move on to the ruling planet, and because the Ascendant is in Pisces, there are two chart rulers, with Jupiter being the personal ruler and Neptune being the transpersonal ruler. Jupiter is in the 1st house in Aries. This placement is subjective, determined and goal-oriented, indicating a great deal of personal faith, courage and focus. The transpersonal ruler of the chart links Kate directly and personally to the dreams and ideals of the Neptune in Scorpio generation to which she belongs. And Neptune is in the 8th house, so she is no doubt something of an emotional sponge, a theme which is supported by the fact that her Ascendant is in Pisces. In the water houses, we are going to be sensitive to hidden emotional issues, so this is doubly sensitive to others. As I am sure you can see, there is another self-other theme here, with the personal ruler, Jupiter in Aries, wanting to stand alone and do its own thing, and the transpersonal ruler, Neptune in the 8th house, indicating that she has a tendency to lose herself in close relationships.
Audience: But Mars rules both Aries and Scorpio, so presumably there is some kind of relationship between these two chart rulers.
Clare: Yes, that's a very good point. And Mars, which is the ruler of Aries, is also conjunct Neptune. We are beginning to get a story here which concerns Kate's faith in herself, and her sensitivity to the needs of others or to collective emotional issues. It looks as if she is something of a crusader, and these rulers can come together nicely if Kate dedicates her own personal will and strength and vision to a collective cause. Let's move on to the angular planets to see what else we can find.
7. Angular planets
Audience: There are two angular planets on the Descendant. One is Moon, and the other is Uranus. They are linked together by the Descendant.
Audience: This looks like early disruption and separations.
Clare: We know that the Descendant is the point of contact with significant others, and we know that relationships are important in this chart, so what do you think these angular planets are about?
Audience: Sudden changes, sudden meetings and separations. There is something very unpredictable about a Moon-Uranus connection.
Audience: Is this about a detached and distant mother?
Clare: Perhaps. And that might link us back to the Moon-Saturn opposition and the theme of early self sufficiency - having to rely on herself.
Audience: But Saturn is in dignity and, in traditional astrology, it is in the house of its joy, so it must be a strong Saturn.
Clare: Yes, these points support what we have already discovered, that both the Moon and Saturn are extremely important in this chart. I think it is likely that Kate needs to spend quite a bit of time on her own, and that this is a way of nurturing herself. Nevertheless, on some level she is bound to feel rather alone and isolated, although this doesn't have to be a bad thing at all. The lunar phase also indicates that this is a mature moon, so Kate is perfectly capable of providing for herself and standing on her own feet, and no doubt this is something which makes her feel secure and safe. After all, with Uranus conjunct Pluto in the 7th house, relationships are unlikely to be simple or straightforward. Rather, they are likely to bring unpredictability into her life (Uranus), along with issues of power and control (Pluto). She may well need to retreat from relationships from time to time, in order to nurture and heal herself.
Audience: That is very interesting, because Kate has a Libra Sun, and in the 7th house, too. It looks as if there is a really strong theme around wanting to find herself through another and needing to be alone.
Clare: That's absolutely spot on.