Significators and Astrological Modeling
by Hank Friedman
Early in my astrological career, a famous musician asked me "will I ever settle down with a woman? I know that I have Venus in Sagittarius."
Even then I knew that it was a big mistake to use Venus as the only, or even primary, indicator of someone's love life. That more important than Venus (in assessing one's love life) was the 7th house, planets in the 7th house, planets aspecting the 7th house, and as I was to learn later from Vedic astrology, the owner of the 7th house.
Planets may indeed symbolize certain themes, e.g. Sun - Father, Moon - Mother, Venus - relationships, but they're general significators for everyone, and therefore don't have nearly as much influence as indicators that are much more specific.
In other words, everyone has Venus but not everyone has planets in the 7th house or aspecting the 7th house. And certainly not everyone has the same planets in or aspecting the 7th house, much less the same planets in the same signs...
The reigning principle is: the faster-moving the (astrological) point, the more it represents a person's uniqueness and individuality. And the fastest moving factor is the Ascendant, and therefore the house cusps. And as a result of that, what planets end up in (and ruling) different houses.
And therefore if you really want to describe the person's life in detail, the factors that are most important to use are the quickly changing ones. And that's why the birth time is so crucial.
Since general significators don't really hold enough influence, ways that employ them for astrological modeling are misguided. When, for example, Venus is used in an Astro*Carto*Graphy map to be the planet representing Love, it has the same weakness as it does in a birth chart (i.e. using Venus by sign to indicate one's love life).
In other words, the idea of an astromap that ignores the 7th house occupants, and the 7th house itself and focuses only on Venus and on the areas of the map touched by a Venus line (or by Venus aspect lines) is going to rarely be accurate. Because Venus is not the main influence that indicates one's love life (unless it rules or occupies the 7th house).
Why would people fall into this trap? For a simple reason: birth times are often unknown or inaccurate, and used to be even more unknown and inaccurate, so people would take the easy way out and use a significator that was constant. I.e. they could avoid birth time errors because everyone has Venus in a sign. But they were ignoring the imprecision of that approach. Which is huge.
One factor in a chart can't possibly tell you everything about anything. E.g., as I've learned from Vedic astrology, planets aren't automatically benefic or malefic in every chart.
For example, Jupiter can represent great challenges in charts with Venus-ruled Ascendants, while Saturn in the same charts can give very positive results. Each planet, in any case, has both positive and negative qualities (e.g. Jupiter's faith and overdoing, Saturn's focus and negativity.).
Life is very complex and therefore chart delineation requires a great deal of synthesis, taking into account not only the interactions between the planets but also the location of the planets and the location of their rulers, in order to even begin to describe their lives and nature accurately.
So using just one planet to represent a life theme is sort of like trying to give someone directions when you have removed most of a map, and you're focusing only on one little area. (E.g. just the destination without seeing where the person is coming from.) How do you give directions if you don't have the whole picture?
The chart is a very complex ecosystem. And people, of course, are ecosystems. There is no one who is always focused, and in fact part of the beauty of astrology is that it shows where the person is likely to focus, and where they are not likely to focus.
Over time, we learn to see the person's nature by how the chart tilts. For example, they may tend to over-focus on challenges more than see life as easy because they have a predominance of Earth signs and a focal Saturn and several of the challenging house occupied.
The more factors that are taken into account, the more likely the prediction is accurate. That's why novices are so often off the mark. Because they try to make it too simplistic, e.g. Venus in this sign always means this. No it doesn't, no way. Especially when you're talking about mundane factors.
But even when you're talking about (a person's) psychology, there are guiding principles: the strongest planet wins and the majority rules. Venus, for instance, in Virgo under the proper conditions may in fact indicate someone who's a little emotionally reticent, but that could be completely outweighed by other factors in the chart (e.g. many planets in Fire signs) and only crop up as a fluke once in a while in the person's life, instead of as a general pattern. One not only has to take everything into account, but what the primary influencing factors are, both on the chart in general and also with regards to each theme in life.
Lest this seem too daunting, astrologers and students of astrology get better over time
in learning to get the feel of the chart, at feeling the pulse of the chart, in seeing the fabric of the chart (as one person called it "the Cosmic Loom"), in understanding the interactions and overall Gestalt. And as that happens, and not simply through factor by factor analysis but by pattern recognition and intuition, the understanding of the details becomes "bred in the bone" i.e. becomes so automatic that synthesis arises spontaneously.
Everything in an astrology chart depends upon context, meaning: every factor is modified by its placement, both by sign and house, by its relationship to other factors, its affiliation with the rest of the chart, e.g. by rulership, dispositorship, even by the time of day. And so, taking something out of context, removing it from where it is embedded in the chart, will cause you to lose most of the the real meaning of that factor and/or the themes it represents.
Again, the more factors and the more the relationships between those factors are taken into account i.e., the more context and not just content is taken into account, then the more effective the reading.
Postscript: two major attempts were made in astro-computing to see if modeling could work. Mark McDonough of AstroDatabank offered a very large reward for any astrologer who could create a model, using his software, of a real life quality or theme (e.g. career, illness, trait, etc.). No one succeeded.
In a second study, the modules from many astrology programs that claimed to assess compatibility in couples were tested against two large groups (happily married and bitterly divorced). In every case the software failed to distinguish between the groups.
This shows that both people and astrology charts are simply too unique to be modeled effectively by mechanical methods.
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