The Importance of the Ascendant and Confirming your Ascendant degree
I recently had an amazing day filled with deep psychological breakthroughs, and, as an astrologer, wondered, "What transits were happening that day"?
Much to my surprise, I had no transits by Saturn through Pluto, and no planet-to-planet transits at all!
But what I did have were three transits to my Ascendant: Sun trine Ascendant, Mars sextile Ascendant, and Jupiter opposite Ascendant.
This reminded me that transits to the Ascendant are paramount. In the olden days forty years ago, many astrologers dismissed the Ascendant as simply your "persona" -- how the world saw you or a superficial layer of your personality.
Even then I knew that this was a mistake. With the rise (in the West) of both Traditional Astrology (Mediaeval and Hellistic) and Vedic astrology, the truth that the Ascendant is the most important point in the chart has revived.
The Ascendant, and its Ruler, are YOU. More than any other point or planet in the chart.
No wonder this convergence of three planet upon the Ascendant, with a clear field of no other transits, was so incredibly transforming.
So how does one confirm ones Ascendant position?
Just as I have several times.
Paying careful attention to when transiting planets aspect the Ascendant, especially when they conjunct or oppose the Ascendant.
Since Mars conjuncts or opposes the Ascendant every year, that's the easiest one to track. Jupiter does so every six years, and Saturn every 15 years or so.
Watch the weeks before and after the planet is about to enter one degree before the Ascendant and note when you start feeling the planet's energies strongly. That will let you know if your Rising Sign is exactly what you think it is, or a degree or more off.
I encourage everyone to do this, as it will empower you to trust your chart more.
p.s. For those who don't know what to watch for:
When Mars impacts your Ascendant, you might experience more energy, sexuality, speediness, or anger.
Jupiter can incline you to feel more open, generous, spiritual, trusting, or stable.
Saturn can lead you to feeling more anxious, depleted, distrustful, judgmental (of yourself or others), or isolated.
Why can Vedic astrologers rectify charts so easily?
During the years when I was exclusively a Western astrologer, I had several calls to rectify client's charts.
I chose to undertake some rectification jobs, and spent many hours on each -- and had to have a deep understanding of astrology -- in order to determine an accurate birth time. I was successful, as borne out by information later discovered, but the work was incredibly laborious.
And that's why most Western astrologers don't rectify charts. (And by the way, astrology software cannot rectify charts, only advanced Western astrologers can.)
So when I dove into learning Jyotish, I was surprised to discover that Vedic astrology is perfectly designed for routine chart rectification, and most Jyotishis can and do rectify charts easily and frequently.
Why is rectification so simple in Jyotish? Let's start by understanding that Vedic astrology began thousands of years ago when timepieces were scarce and also quite inaccurate.
Vedic astrology developed with structures and procedures to be able to easily determine which birth time works for a person.
As shown in this animation:
The Whole Sign House system pioneered in Vedic astrology compensates for imprecise birth times because charts only change every two hours or so. Therefore, if you have a birth time with a possible time range of three hours, you only have to look at two natal charts to see which fits.
(Note: Western astrology also used Whole Sign Houses until the Tropical Zodiac drifted from the Sidereal Zodiac and Whole Sign Houses stopped working.)
To narrow down birth times even more, Vedic astrology has a set of harmonic charts called Amsha, Vargas, or Divisional charts that change more quickly, e.g. the marriage sub-chart, called the Navamsha, changes every 8 minutes.
There are many sub-charts (Amshas) each indicating the flow of a specific life theme such as siblings, parents, career, home, health, deaths, education, vehicles, ethics, spirituality, or vitality.
And so the Jyotishi can explore each divisional chart and compare them to how each of these life areas have panned out for the person whose birth time is in question, and thereby arrive at a relatively precise birth time.
E.g. if someone is happily married, the Navamsha should show that marriage is favorable vs a Navamsha indicating that the person never got married or has been divorced.
Are you an Astrological Maestro?
One of my pet peeves has been with students of astrology who can't wait to add as many extra points into their charts as they can.
But I was reflecting upon it today, acknowledging that different astrological factors speak to each astrologer, and so extra points can be inordinately valuable and effective in the hands of specific practitioners, as can different predictive methods, etc.
So what is a good way of thinking about this?
I came up with a musical analogy:
A preeminent conductor can work with a very large orchestra, hearing every instrument -- all at the same time!
They know when to emphasize the horn section, when to quiet down the drums, and when to change the tempo.
However, it takes years and years of hard work for a conductor become a master, a maestro.
And that is where my issue lies.
Learning has many stages:
Being introduced to and deepening ones understanding of the vocabulary. As in learning a foreign language, we need to learn the basic vocabulary before tackling a larger one.
Then beginning to understand the "parts of speech", I.e. how words are to be positioned in relationship with each other.
Next, learning grammar. Seeing how to combine words correctly to communicate effectively.
At this point, when all of the above are "under your belt" (fully digested and automatic), then creativity, inspiration, and magic begins to happen.
And so with astrology, "parts of speech" would include planets, signs, houses, aspects, etc.
I invite everyone to enjoy every step of the journey. To retrace their steps to gain even more depth (beginners mind), and to be happy to discover where they are too narrow or even wrong in their use of "language".
A juggler starts with three balls, and only later can work with bowling pins, more objects, etc.
And so do we.
Are Mutable Signs really Mutable?
I was also reflecting today on mutability and realized that while people with many planets in mutable signs can be adaptable in the moment, it would be a big mistake to think that they are open to making deep changes.
In other words, the very receptivitity and changeability on the surface can mislead us into thinking that there's a core flexibility, where there is not!
I recognize that for deep change, one needs Cardinality to initiate it, and Fixity to consolidate it.
So don't be surprised if many mutable-predominant people make major changes much less often than you might expect.
The distinction between the innermost planets and the middle planets
This week I tripped on a large backup power unit and fell.
I quickly realized that Mars was at work because the fall was due to my haste and impulsive movement.
And yes, I had transiting Mars opposing my natal Moon within a degree, applying.
This led me to reflect on the fact that in Vedic astrology, every planet influences planets in the same sign and in opposite signs, but only Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have additional special aspects.
And that these three planets, which are the only visible planets beyond the Earth, are significantly more potent in their effects than the innermost ones, e.g. by transit.
It's almost as if they are "outside of our skin" and therefore are more compelling.
I think that this is a very useful distinction, because I have certainly felt Mars transits much more than any of the transits by the innermost planets.
The effects of good and bad placements: the Nakshatras
I am continually struck by how a planet in a Nakshatra that's well placed manifests the positive qualities of a Nakshatra, while if poorly placed, manifests the negative qualities of the Nakshatra.
Of course, one could say that about other attributes besides Nakshatra placement, but it's very conspicuous there.
A couple of examples:
In Donald Trump's chart, his Moon is in Jyestha, both debilitated and eclipsed (conjunct Ketu, the South Node) and aspected by Mars.
Among the more shadowy aspect of Jyestha are being manipulative, having a false public face, fierce dominance, and not letting go and moving on or admitting defeat.
While those with positive Jyestha placements don't manifest these qualities at all, Trump certainly has.
Another example is Ashlesha. While many people with important placements in Ashlesha feel a bit different from others, only truly poor placements can create deep feelings of alienation.
And writing this led to another important insight: If the chart as a whole is either very positive or very challenged, then, to some extent, all of the Nakshatra placements are uplifted or made poor, respectively.
Take Arnold Schwartzenegger. His Saturn is not only in Ashlesha, but also combust, leading us to expect him to have very powerful Nakshatra-related issues.
(And for most people, the Nakshatra occupied by Saturn already has some challenges via Saturn.)
But his chart is so positive, with so many yogas, two benefics aspecting the Ascendant and Ascendant Lord, and the Ascendant lord is doubly strong and benefic too, that his Saturn in Ashlesha just doesn't cause major problems in his life.
(Upon close inspection, Saturn and Venus also form a lovely Raja Yoga together too).
Nevertheless, all placements do manifest, and Saturn in Arnold's chart (as 9th lord) represented his father, who was, according to Wikipedia, a man who doubted that he fathered Arnold, was very strict and punished him corporally, and had no patience or receptivity towards Arnold.
But Arnold's deeply positive makeup enabled him to rise above his early traumas.
Articles comparing Western and Vedic astrology
A website visitor mentioned that she had read my article comparing Western and Vedic astrology.
I realized that I've written many articles on this topic, and decided to list several of them here, in case others want to delve into the differences between the two astrologies:
"Naïve astrologers think that the nodes are the markers of soul destiny, but in both Western and Vedic charts, everything in the chart contributes to and reflects the soul lessons, purposes, and the destinies of the incarnation."
In Western astrology, every strong aspect, focal planets, predominances, and other noteworthy uniquenesses all indicate a person's specific life themes, as do so many other chart configurations.
Similarly, in Jyotish, the yogas, reinforced and convergent themes, and influences on the Lagna and Lagnesa are only of few of the many factors pointing to a person's unique destiny.
It is vital for astrologers not to have "tunnel vision" or over-simplify by focusing only on one or two chart factors. Every chart is one-of-a-kind, never to be repeated, and therefore each moment (and each birth) has its own individual attributes.