The Importance of Skew in Astrology
By Hank Friedman

[Note: My Vedic Guru, Hart de Fouw, ignited Jyotish for me. Without his profound teachings, none of my articles would have been written.]

In Vedic astrology, the impacts of placement and condition on a planet or sign or Nakshatra can completely "skew" its meanings. The skew is either positive or negative, and the lack of a clear skew gives mixed results.

Whether a factor is well-placed and well-conditioned is of major importance, and it is explicitly understood in Jyotish that a chart factor will manifest completely differently depending upon these.

I.e. every factor in a birth chart will have greatly altered meanings (and effects) depending upon its skew.

A Review Of Terms

Let's state some important terms:

Factors: I am using this term instead of points because relevant factors include points (e.g. planets and the Ascendant), and signs and Nakshatras too.

Placement: A factor is well-placed if it is in an Angle (houses 1, 4 , 7, 10) or a Trine (1, 5, 9), neutrally placed (2, 11), or poorly placed (3), or very poorly placed (6, 8, 12)

[Note: the Second and Seventh Houses are also Maraka houses and can contribute to negative themes such as poverty and illness, especially when aspected,ruled, or occupied by malefics.]

Theme: Either a relation (mother, wife, etc.) or other life theme (career, health, etc.) that is understood by examining the house, house ruler, and significator of that person or topic.


In general, factors are well conditioned if they are strong and aspected only by benefics, and poorly conditioned if they are weak and aspected only by malefics.

Conditions making a factor well conditioned include:

A planet is in its own sign or exalted,

A planet Retrograde/Moon Bright

A planet with directional strength (Jupiter and Mercury in house 1, Moon and Venus in house 4, Rahu and Saturn in house 7, and Ketu, Mars, and the Sun in house 10).

A planet strong in many divisional charts

A planet Vargottama
(some exceptions, like being in its sign of debilitation)

A planet or sign or Nakshatra aspected by strong benefics:
Bright Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter (and no malefics)

A sign or Nakshatra only occupied or aspected by its own ruler


Conditions making a factor poorly conditioned include:

A planet within 6 degrees of the Sun,
worse if three degrees or less (Combust)

Planets Mercury through Saturn
within 1 degree of each other (In a Planetary War)

Planets in sign of debilitation,
especially at the maximum degree of debilitation

Planets aspected only by malefics:
the Sun, Mars, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu

More advanced astrologers will include additional positive influences such as being in Pushkar Navamsas and additional negative factors like being in Mrityu Bhaga.

The Essence of Skew

Skew: A factor in a chart is predominately tilted by both its placement and its condition either positively or negatively. Skew, then, is the confluent influence of placement and condition, overall either positive or negative. (Many modern astrologers object to the "politically incorrect" use of terms like bad, evil, afflicted, destroyed, etc. and rightly so, because they can frighten the listener/recipient of a reading, and usually every position in a chart has both challenging and ameliorating influences on it.)

In addition, we are meant to work through themes in a birth chart, even very reinforced ones, thereby "burning karma" and arriving at deeper understandings, greater maturity, profound compassion for others, and even transcendence.

So let's use the terms positive and negative (which still might be a bit much for some people) for lack of even more innocuous labels.

The formula again: if both the placement and condition of a factor are largely positive or largely negative, then a skew exists. A positive skew brings out the best qualities of a factor, while a negative skew elicits the worst qualities of a factor.

The most important skews are those that affect every factor influencing a life theme, as we will explore below.

Note: Alternately, if, as is true in most cases, a factor has both positive and negative placement and conditions, then all of the factors attributes and effects are likely to manifest, as opposed to just the positive or negative ones..

Example: Julia Roberts and her father

To evaluate a person's father, we examine the 9th house, the 9th lord, and the Sun.

The 9th house is influenced only by malefics, the aspect of Mars and occupation by a strong (Rx) Saturn. This suggests that there are problems with the father, and since Saturn is also a strong Temporal Malefic (ruler of two bad houses, 7 and 8), there is the likelihood of both separation from the father and the premature death of the father, both of which happened during her childhood.

The 9th Lord Jupiter is nicely placed (even though the Moon is dark, it is also Lagnesa, the ruler of the chart, and as such a Temporal Benefic and it's at best a weak malefic, and Jupiter has the companionship of the natural benefic Venus too.

So the tilt of the Ninth Lord Jupiter is assessed as generally positive until we factor in the numerous positive yogas it participates in: The First Lord Moon with the 9th Lord Jupiter, The Fourth Lord Venus with the Ninth Lord Jupiter, and the Eleventh Lord Venus with the Ninth Lord Jupiter, plus the Gaja Kesari Yoga formed by the Moon and Jupiter in the same house. These elevate Jupiter to a very positive placement. And yes, her father was Julia Robert's hero, perhaps the most important and caring person in her childhood.

The Sun can also be evaluated, but as a Universal Karaka (significator) of father without any relationship with the 9th house or its Lord, the Sun is of least influence. Nevertheless, the Sun is in its debilitation sign, and strongly influenced by malefic Ketu, so it looks like a very negative skew as signifier of father except for two redeeming factors: The Sun is in an Angle and in Parivartana Yoga (house swap) with Venus in Leo, which greatly strengthens both planets. Being in the Swati Nakshatra, the Sun -- and therefore her father -- may have been too mild-mannered at times, e.g. during the allocation of custody rights during his divorce, which left Julia behind with her Mom.

In conclusion, as is usual in life, the skew for the theme of father is mixed, instead of primarily positive or negative. It is noteworthy, however, that the skew of the 9th house by itself is confluently negative, and that's why its temporal effects manifested so early and so profoundly.

Lady Gaga

Since most factors in most charts do not have an absolute skew, where everything points in only one direction, we have to be a little flexible in our criteria in order to find a factor with skew.

If we look closely at Lady Gaga's Moon, for example:

Placement: in the 5th house in the sign of a benefic = positive

Condition: with Ketu = negative

Bright Moon = positive

aspected by a strong benefic (Vargottama) Jupiter = very positive

aspected by a strong benefic (Vargottama) Venus = very positive

Yogas: Lord of the Fifth (Venus) with Lord of the Second (Moon) = very positive Dhana Yoga, 10th Lord Jupiter in trine to Moon - Chandra Yoga = very positive

The Yogas + brightness + benefic aspects create a very positive condition for the Moon.

As a result, Lady Gaga is renowned for her amazing performances, both as an incredibly creative (Moon-Venus) musical artist and an actress. She also very much wants to have children, and I predict that she will during the forthcoming Venus bhukti -- Lord of the Fifth aspecting the Fifth.

John Lennon

John Lennon's chart is an example of skew that requires a bit more examination.

We will examine the theme of mother. As those who have looked into the life of John Lennon know, he was abandoned by his mother, causing deep emotional scars, and then she died while he as still young (17).

We will be examining the 4th house, the 4th lord, and the Moon.

The Fourth House:

Condition: The only aspect on empty Fourth House is by a very troubled Saturn. = negative

Note: Saturn is in its weakest sign, Retrograde, and the loser in a Planetary War with Jupiter, and therefore a very destabilizing influence.

[The Planetary War between Saturn and Jupiter is in the Second House of family and in the Nakshatra of Bharani, which carries the themes of severe family issues when poorly skewed, as it is here. So issues with the family are quite reinforced.]

The Fourth Lord:

Placement: The Fourth Lord is placed in the 8th house: very negative

Condition: The Fourth Lord is aspected by the Planetary War planets Jupiter and Saturn. While we notice the aspect of a strong benefic Jupiter, even it is destabilized by the War with Saturn. And Saturn is a very negative influence here on Mercury. Note also that Mercury's dispositor is Venus in the 6th house in an enemy's sign. = mixed influence leaning negative

The Moon:

Placement: The Moon is placed in the 11th house = mildly positive

Condition: The Moon is aspected by the same troublesome Saturn that aspects its house, and since the Moon is in Capricorn, there is a Sambandha from Saturn to the Moon (Saturn both aspects and disposes the Moon) = very negative

And the distance from the Fourth House to the Moon in the Eleventh House is Eight Houses, which is considered to be very negative in the context of the placement of a Karaka representing a person from the house representing that person. = very negative

I hope that this analysis helps you to see that the theme of mother in John Lennon's chart does definitely skew negative, and help you to begin to apply this principle.

General Thoughts on Skew

Vedic astrology is embedded within the Hindu religion, and as such endeavors to not only describe the person's nature and events in a person's life, but the path to freedom from negative karmas. The extensive range of Upaya, from chants to charity to gems to talismen, all enforce the idea that Jyotish is a path to liberation.

So give thanks and utilize the positive skews in your chart and do the work to burn the karma and learn from and transform the negative skews.

A focus on Nakshatras

Classical Jyotish is anything but objective and balanced in its delineation of Nakshatras. Some Nakshatra are almost worshipped, like Pushya, while many are so reviled, like Ashlesha, Jyestha, Mula, and Purva Bhadrapada, that their meanings are often completely negative and even warped to the point of complete inaccuracy.

It's as if the reviled Nakshatras are interpreted as if they had a very negative skew.

I have three friends who have Ashlesha prominent in their charts: Ascendant, Lagnesa, or Moon. And none of them are accurately described by any of the primary Nakshatra books. Why, because the nature of each Nakshatra is extremely morphed by whether the point in the Nakshatra is positively or negatively skewed.

One has about as perfect a positive placement and condition as possible, and she is a phenomenal being with a very deep spiritual practice, penetrating insight into her clients issues -- to great effect, and a rock solid and steady commitment to supporting others on their paths to enlightenment.

The other placements are more mixed, but because neither is predominately negatively skewed, the pejorative descriptions of Ashlesha are not manifest.

Another person very close to me has again an incredibly positive placement of her Moon in Mula, and she's so much better than any Mula description would indicate.

So please take all Nakshatra interpretations with a giant "grain of salt", especially in all cases that don't skew negative.


How each chart factor manifests in a person's life depends largely on skew. Negative placement and condition elicit the more challenging qualities of a factor, while positive placement and condition elicit the best from the factor.

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