Why Chart Readings Fail, and how they can work even with inaccurate birth data
There are several reasons why a chart reading can fail, and I'd like to review them, and address the very significant issues they raise:
1. Failure to Synthesize Factors Correctly.
The most difficult task for every astrologer is to correctly blend all of the themes in a chart into an accurate representation of a person's life. Most of us learn our astrology piecemeal, e.g. Mercury in Virgo means focusing on practical details, etc.
I deliberately listed this reason first, because one should not assume that the failure of a reading is due to one of the following reason categories before first questioning whether they've missed seeing the dominant themes in the chart because they've not properly weighed and blended chart factors.
Unless we can get a grasp on the whole picture, the interaction of all of the factors in a chart, we won't know the relative significance of each. We may overemphasize a factor that doesn't really express itself much in the chart, and ignore a planet or aspect that is actually dominant in the person's life.
Weighting schemes like AstroDynes and Shad Bala, that tell us how strong each planet in a chart is, are weak pointers at best. No formula can replace the eye of the experienced astrologer, and besides, the goal is not just to determine which planets are strongest, but to go further and see how they influence each other, reinforce each other's themes, create polarities, overshadow each other, etc. Everything in a chart affects everything else in the chart.
Yes, it is incredibly useful to have a method of approaching a chart. But since each chart is different, it is also important to let the chart dictate the method of approach to you.
You wouldn't approach a wolf in the forest the way you would a wildflower. Nor would you give the same reading to a 12 year old and an 80 year old.
A chart that has a striking feature, e.g. five planets in a single sign, will immediately require focus on this one feature, while another chart may be remarkable by its very lack of any single striking feature. (Of course, the more grounded we are in fundamental principles, and the more factors we look at in doing a chart reading -- within reason* -- the less likely any chart is to have no striking features.)
So by all means cultivate a primary method of approaching a chart. Some astrologers begin by focussing on the 1st house and its occupants and rulers, or the aspects with the tightest orbs, or the Sun, Moon, and Rising Sign, or overall Chart Patterns (like the Bucket chart), or the hard aspects. Just don't get stuck in one approach and remember, remember, remember that all factors influence each other, creating patterns different from what each would create by itself.
*One of my biggest "pet peeves" with students of astrology is their tendency to rush to learn about minor aspects, the comet Chiron and the asteroids, Uranian points, tertiary progressions, and other peripheral factors before really mastering the basics (if, of course, they're studying Western astrology). I really believe that for the first couple of years of learning astrology, one should focus on the ten planets, twelve signs and houses, all of the attributes of these factors (e.g. the elements, modes, rulerships, etc.), and the five major aspects, the transits and the secondary progressions.
There is plenty to learn just mastering the fundamentals, and doing so will serve an astrologer much more than developing a superficial grasp of basics and then running on to more obscure, complex, or peripheral factors.
2. Inaccurate Birth Data
An inaccurate birth time can certainly make an accurate reading difficult to accomplish. However, I have recently had just that -- the experience of reading for someone who gave me the wrong time (by hours). The reading was very valuable for the person -- even though some of the emphases were off due to the birth time error -- for two reasons:
1. I really "tune in" to my clients. See who they are and what issues they are presenting, and can address them appropriately by focusing on the chart factors that are congruent with what I see in them. In other words, if you let yourself really see your client before you begin a reading, and encourage them to present their issues to you at the outset, you'll start off on the right track.
2. I have been very diligent (from the beginning of learning astrology) in discovering what factors or themes will manifest in a chart even if the birth time is wrong. And what themes of any position (e.g. Sun in Pisces) will manifest regardless of the rest of the chart.
Vedic astrology is much more affected by an inaccurate birth time than Western astrology, both because house rulerships play such a very large role in Vedic interpretation and because the Varga/divisional (harmonic) charts change completely with small shifts in birth times. That is why rectification -- initially asking the client specific questions about major life events, number of children, etc. to determine if the birth time is correct, and altering it if it isn't -- is so well developed and done so frequently by Vedic astrologers.
3. Environmental and Genetic Effects
My first real understanding of the effects of environment and genetics upon the expression of one's birth chart came when I was asked by a therapist to do some readings for his psychotic clients.
These schizophrenic clients, it turned out, were severely compartmentalized and could only relate to one or two of the planets in their charts. (I've since then found that the more healthy and developed a person is, the more they can relate to everything in their chart.)
My next pronounced experience confirming the effects of environment was when a woman came to me who had a predominance of fire sign planets and a stellium of them in Sagittarius. I would never have guessed that she had any fire in her chart at all, she was so timid, introverted, and inhibited.
I found out from her that her father had beaten her whenever she spoke up, and so she learned to repress all of her fire.
Severe physical or psychological impacts upon a person can greatly alter the expression of their chart in their lives.
The GateKeeper -- Revisited
In an earlier article (click here to read it) I introduced the idea that the Ascendant was the gatekeeper, the place in ourselves that we not only present to the world, but that also controls what comes into us and out of us.
I'd like to also point out that a person usually tends to identify with their rising sign, their rising sign often reflects their degree of embodiment, and people at first glance tend to see your rising sign before anything else.
When you identify with your rising sign and it is not supported by other planets, e.g. the rising sign is in Earth and no planets are in Earth signs, then you tend to expect yourself to have more of the qualities of the rising sign than you actually do. In Earth, you may sign up for more responsibilities and work than is healthy for you. In Air, you might interact more than you wish to. In Water, you may retreat or keep more inside than is healthy. And in Fire, you may push yourself to express more than is appropriate, and may leap in where most of you fears to tread.
The degree of embodiment is best illustrated by an example: Two close friends of mine were born two days apart (the same year). Both are (Tropical) Pisces with only one planet in Earth in their charts. While the person with Leo rising is quite often unembodied, ungrounded, and distractible, the one with Taurus rising is incredibly embodied and grounded and physical in nature. Specifically, if a person has an Earth sign rising, they are likely to be much more embodied (all other chart factors being equal) than other elements rising.
An example of people treating you as if you are your rising sign: one client had Fire rising but all planets in Water and Earth sign. So he'd go to a party, present his Fire rising, and those looking for a firey man would gravitate to him. But when they grew to know him better, they found that he wasn't really firey at all.
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