Astrology is an ancient tradition, certainly 2000 years old and likely to be much older. The recognition of patterns in the heavens and corresponding patterns in life must surely date back to the earliest origins of mankind. This is certainly true of the motions of the Sun and Moon and early man would have seen these against a background of the stars.
Astrology today includes the planets, several complex approaches to the problem of house systems and many techniques of interpretation. Computerisation of the basic calculations have enabled astrologers to work with greater precision than ever before, progressing charts to any point in the future or past at the touch of a button; transiting planets to look at configurations hundreds of years hence. Mid-points; harmonics; dynamic analysis are all new techniques of often ferocious complexity. But the basic material has not changed - Sun, Moon, planets and their relationship to the Earth in time and space. Greater complexity does not lead to a deeper understanding. In a way it is as if we are trying to understand the shape of our bodies from a minute examination of our internal organs. The way to understand the shape of the human body is to view it from a point outside. This is the aim of Galactic Astrology.
The current Astrological chart is an Earth based view of the solar system for a given point on the Earth at a given time. The Ascendent, Midheaven and houses represent the daily turning of the Earth. The signs represent the annual motion of the Earth around the Sun. The planets move through the signs at different rates and as such represent those aspects of life that operate on a similar timescale.
The Ascendent traverses the whole of the Zodiac in 24 hours, about two hours in each sign. It is the clock on our day and as such governs those functions of the body and mind that operate on a similar timescale - body functions and associated feelings, impressions, attention. (Two hours is about the limit for most entertainments - films, concerts, spectator sports).
The Moon takes twenty eight days to go once around the Zodiac, spending only two days in each sign. It governs those aspects of life that change from day to day, the many faces of our everyday personality that may seem consistent to ourselves but may seem to wax and wane to others.
Mercury takes about three months to circle the Sun but because it is so close to the Sun it follows it around the Zodiac, moving backwards and forwards around the Solar position on a three monthly cycle. At its fastest it passes through a zodiacal sign in a fortnight and covers affairs of this nature - our pattern of work, our weekly routine, our immediate plans. In the course of a year Mercury marks out the seasons.
Venus takes about eight months, 18 and 2/3 days in each sign. On this timescale we see a curious relationship with the Moon with its 18 and 2/3 year eclipse cycle or Saros. Venus covers the rise and fall of feelings, the span of desire. In the sky it is moon-like in that it can be seen in the evening or morning, and it waxes and wanes. In the way that the moon is the reactive feelings, externally stimulated, Venus is those feelings that are internally generated over time. Advertising campaigns usually run for about three weeks before their impact can be assessed.
Venus, Mercury and Moon are the three planets that lie between the Earth and the Sun - the Inner Planets - and as such govern our mundane existence of thinking, feeling and acting. They cover activities of less than a year - short terms goals and aspirations.
Mars takes two years to traverse the Zodiac. It is the last of the local planets - there is quite a leap to Jupiter - and as such sets the limits of our practical existence. Mars covers our strategies for life, our perceivable building blocks. Most educational courses are based around two years. Most martial arts require two years to attain Black Belt. It is the cycle of skill acquisition. One theory of learning is that understanding lags learning by two years.
Jupiter takes 12 years to traverse the Zodiac, about a year in each sign. Now we have a marker on life itself. The seven ages of man would give a lifespan of 84 years, which some astrologers take as the natural span of human life. Jupiter then rules those events that take years to unfold, a timescale beyond the perception of the inner planets.
Saturn takes 29 years on its journey through the Zodiac. This is the span of a single generation. Based on our 84 year life, humans just about cover three generations. This is supported in fact; child, parent and grandparent are usually co-existent. Great grandparents are usually near the very end of their span. Saturn therefore rules the generations and acts on a scale of this magnitude.
With Uranus and its 84 year journey we complete the full cycle of life. This is the level to which Uranus applies - the life's work, the changes that echo down three generations, the wisdom passed from the very old to the very young. The inspiration of Uranus may not be recognised in a lifetime - it may require death to give the perspective.
Neptune's cycle of 165 years goes beyond a single life to cover two lifetimes. It is the maximum extent of living memory - your grandfather's flickering memory of his great grandfather - six generations of Saturn on the limit of human recall. So all that you were in life collapses to just a handful of memories that will be all that is left of you in living memory. And with the years that too fades. Neptune cares not for individuals.
Pluto takes 248 years on its journey around the Zodiac. Three lifetimes, nine generations, the period of total renewal. This is the timescales on which nations rise or fall, over which enemies become friends, over which profound change works through all society. 248 years ago the industrial revolution was just gaining momentum. Now we enter the completion of that cycle with its consequences.
These are the cycles of Sidereal Astrology - the astrology of the world and the cycles of change that drive human affairs.
Sidereal astrology operates on scales from everyday life out to several generations. But what is beyond Pluto? There may be a tenth planet, but if so it is likely to be small and have a very eccentric orbit. But by reference to the inner planets, we may need a full lifetime to fully understand the 12 year patterns of Jupiter. Or the timespan of Pluto to understand the cycles of Saturn. So are we looking for a very distant planet, with such a long journey through the Zodiac that many cycles of Pluto can be understood? Or are we looking for a wider shift of perspective that puts the solar system in a different perspective?
To answer these questions, we need to look at the astronomical entities. The Earth is a planet like the other planets of the solar system. All of them following orbits with the Sun as their centre. The Moon is not a planet but a satellite of the Earth - it goes around the Earth in the same way that the Earth goes round the Sun. The Sun itself is not a planet but is a star - that is, it produces its own power which in turn powers the planets. Consequently, in the way that the Earth is one of nine planets in the solar system, the Sun is one of millions of stars in the Milky Way. The Milky Way is how we see our family of Stars, the Galaxy. There are many Galaxies in the Universe of which ours is one particular type, a spiral. It is shaped like two dinner plates placed face to face. The Solar system is located to one side of the centre. Because of the flat shape, there are more stars in the night sky in the plane of the galaxy than there are away from it. This appears in the night sky as the Milky Way, a fuzzy white band across the sky. At the present time the centre of the galaxy is in the direction of 26 degrees Sagittarius.
The Galaxy is immense in comparison with our solar system. The nearest star to the Sun is 1700 times further away from us than Pluto. And the other side of the galaxy is 25000 times further away than the nearest star. The galaxy contains over 100 million stars. Immense distances, immense numbers of stars. The Sun orbits the galactic centre, but the time taken to do so is immense compared with human experience. It takes about 100 million years, meaning that in the life of the Earth, the solar system has rotated around the galactic centre about 40 times.
The great distances have an interesting implication for time. We see the stars by virtue of the light they give out. The speed that their light travels to us is great, about 300000 km a second. But the distances are so large that the light from the nearest star takes nearly four years to reach us - we see the star as it was four years ago. We see the stars at the edge of our galaxy as they were 100000 years ago. Conversely, a being on a planet on the other side of the galaxy, having a super powerful telescope, would see the Earth as it was 100000 years ago. With stars ranged at all distances from us, such beings equipped with supertelescopes could observe the whole of human history for the past 100000 years as it actually happens. In other words, the whole of the recent history of man is currently happening live at some point within the galaxy. The galaxy is a repository of all human history. The past 100000 years covers the period from when the competing prehuman races became Homo Sapiens to the present day.
By extending our Astrological frame to encompass the galaxy we are moving from an Earth based system to a Sun based system, and are increasing the scale of our experience to a level that embraces humanity rather than humans. This is the aim of Galactic Astrology.
The next question is how to relate the sidereal zodiac to the realm of the galaxy. Because the galaxy lies in a plane the Milky Way forms a band in the sky similar to the band of the zodiac or ecliptic. Astrology relates the local horizon of a given place on Earth to the zodiac by means of the house system. A similar approach is taken of relating the band of the Milky Way to the zodiac. The galactic circle of the Milky Way crosses the zodiac at two points - 26 degrees of Sagittarius in the direction of the Galactic centre and 26 Gemini at the opposite end. The Galactic circle is then divided up into twelve equal divisions and circles through each of these and the galactic poles divide the sky into twelve equal segments, like an orange. The sections of the Zodiac that fall into each of these segments can then be determined. Conversion tables have been produced that enable zodiacal positions to be converted to galactic positions.
In converting a chart to a galactic chart the first important point is that the galactic chart is Sun centred. In the sky, if we see the Sun in a particular position in the zodiac, the sun will see the Earth at the opposite point. So an Earth position is located at the opposite point to the Sun in a Galactic chart.
The question of what constitutes an Ascendent is not so easy. The sun based system has moved away from the Sidereal concept of the degree of the zodiac rising on the western horizon - the definition of the Ascendent. To answer this question it is necessary to make reference to the meaning of Galactic Astrology.
The twelve fold division of the Galactic circle mirrors that of the zodiac. The Sidereal houses and signs are 12 based; the houses represent mundane human affairs, the signs represent psychological states. The twelveness carries into the Galactic plane a representation of 12 underlying principles of human interaction - transpersonal but human nonetheless. The symbolic representation is based on the principle behind the planets - with the clothing of the planets stripped away, that which is left.
The traditional rulerships of the chart follow a familiar pattern:
Cancer Moon Leo Sun Gemini Mercury Virgo Mercury Taurus Venus Libra Venus Aries Mars Scorpio Mars Pisces Jupiter Sagittarius Jupiter Aquarius Saturn Capricorn Saturn
These are the traditional rulerships. The outer planets seem to have been added haphazardly until it is noted that they double up with the traditional planets coming back in towards the Sun:
Cancer Moon ? Leo Sun Gemini Mercury ? Virgo Mercury Taurus Venus ? Libra Venus Aries Mars Pluto Scorpio Mars Pisces Jupiter Neptune Sagittarius Jupiter Aquarius Saturn Uranus Capricorn Saturn
The six fold principle is maintained, and implies that perhaps there are three more planets to be discovered.
If we strip away the clothing of the planets to leave the principle of six, this is used to derive the symbols of the Galactic plane. The connection of six points unicursally, that is so that the connecting line only passes through each point once, produces twelve shapes called Sigils. The Sigils are the most fundamental expression of that which clothed and embellished becomes the planets.
Sigils are not unique to Galactic Astrology - there is a body of literature on their derivation and relationships. Within that it is demonstrated that sigils relate to each other in particular ways; and that these relationships can form a larger pattern involving all twelve sigils - the Septor. The twelve houses of the Galactic plane form a Septor whose internal structure is based on the fundamental principles of Astrology.
The Houses of Galactic Astrology represent fundamental human activities and are ruled by the principle of that activity. These are:
House Ruler Rewards and Punishment Law Explorations and Evasions Explore Growth and Decay Nurture Construction and Destruction Build Trading and Stealing Trade Gaining and Losing Collect Health and Sickness Heal Mastery and Slavery Rule Interpretation and Delusion Interpret Teaching and Learning Teach Offence and Defence Protect Creation and Destruction Art
The framework now includes tables to erect the Galactic chart, divisions of the Galactic circle and meanings for those divisions. The key advantage of Galactic Astrology is that it deals with the realms of the stars. The fixed stars have always been a misfit in Astrology - some Astrologers never use them, some occasionally. Clearly, the Galactic plane is the domain of the Stars, and it is in Galactic Astrology that the stars can play a role. Of particular note are those bright stars that actually appear on the Galactic circle. There are many but the main ones include: Deneb, Altair, Sirius, Capella, Agena, Procyon - some of the brightest stars in the sky.
Interpreting the Stars has a starting point in Arab astrology that catalogued and gave meaning to many of the stars. Now is the time to dig back into old and discarded texts to uncover the body of literature on the stars.
To return to the question of the Ascendent. In Sidereal astrology, the ascendent is the first rising of the Zodiac at birth - a point unique to a given time and place. It is an individual's initial glimpse of the world and throughout life will always be the window through which the world is viewed. It is the point at which the Sidereal chart begins to operate.
If a chart is drawn up at the point of conception, it will describe the development of the Physical body. At birth, the natal chart describes the development of the psychological or Sidereal body. The Galactic chart describes the Galactic body of man, that is, man's place in the development of humanity. It is associated with what Buddhists call Karma. In the Gurdjieff tradition, it is man number five; it is the awakening of the true self. The Galactic chart describes the unfolding of an individual's potential.
Clearly, a natal chart cannot be drawn up before birth. Similarly, a galactic chart should not be drawn up until the Sidereal body is developed. The Astrological Society apply the Rule of Hermes to create the Galactic Ascendent. If the Moon in the natal chart is waxing (between new and full), then the Moon position in the natal chart becomes the Galactic Ascendent and the natal Ascendent becomes the Galactic Moon. If the Moon is waning (between full and new) then the position of the Moon in the natal chart becomes the Galactic Descendent and the Natal Descendent becomes the Galactic Moon.
This is speculative. A more symbolically correct approach may be to consider the Nodes of the Moon. These are the points in the Natal chart where the orbit of the Moon, which is inclined to the Zodiac, crosses the ecliptic. If the Moon is on either Node, it is exactly aligned with the Sun and Moon and an eclipse will result if the Moon is full or new. The Nodes precess around the Zodiac (ecliptic) every 18.6 years. As a result eclipses occur on an 18.6 year cycle, known as a Saros. In traditional Astrology, the Nodes are associated with good or ill fortune on the mundane level, and an individuals Karma on a more profound level.
The Nodes therefore have a traditional association with a more profound level in astrology. These may form a more symbolically correct starting point for determining the Galactic Ascendent. The first point of note is that the Nodes traverse the ecliptic every 18.6 years. They will therefore return to the natal position when an individual reaches that age. At this point, the individual has reached physical maturity and is at the beginning of adulthood. This would be a symbolically significant time to cast the Galactic chart.
The following approach is suggested. The Nodes are an indicator of the eclipse cycle but an eclipse will only occur when the Moon is full or new on the Node itself. An eclipse has always been a significant event - Sun, Moon and Earth in alignment. This represents the three levels of Physical body (Moon), Sidereal body (Earth) and Galactic body (Sun). Consequently, the point of Ascendent is the point at which there was an exact eclipse nearest to the completion of the first Saros. This requires further research but can be calculated from standard astronomical tables.
In interpretation, the natal positions are converted to Galactic House positions where they are interpreted in terms appropriate to that level.
Galactic Astrology is relatively new, less than 15 years old as a technique. It is still developing and the body of experience that gives natal astrology its richness is still developing. But in application it has profound implications. It can allow the true path of an individual in the course of human history to be charted. For events, their place in history can be assessed and their long term consequences understood. And ultimately, no longer being exclusively Earth based, the principles can be applied to charts drawn up on other bodies in the Solar System, for that time when humanity may venture beyond the confines of Earth.
To conclude, I would like to return to the origins of astrology to speculate on whether or not Galactic Astrology is really new. To the builders of the early stone circles and barrows, some five thousand years ago, the motions of the Sun and Moon seemed to be understood. Stone circles show alignments to key Sun and Moon positions, and the striking stone rows of Kintraw and Carnac point towards a simple but effective predictor of lunar eclipses. The motions of the planets may have been beyond them, and in appearance they would seem to be moving stars. But the stars themselves would have been very apparent, and the Milky Way even more so. Perhaps they related the Sun and Moon to the background of the stars and that rather striking band of the Milky Way. Perhaps they made larger arrangements of their monuments to mirror the stars. There are certainly many groupings of stone circles that seem to form a pattern that has not yet been explained. For example, three large circles in Derbyshire, Arbor Low, Bull Ring and Wet Withers, form a well defined triangle that is at the centre of a complex of many smaller stone circles. At about the time of their construction, Vega was the Pole star, much brighter than the current pole star. Near it, the bright stars of Deneb and Altair form a triangle that straddles the Milky Way. Perhaps those early builders created a model of the sky on the ground, to enable them to set up relationships on the physical plane that mirrored the stars, the realm of the Galaxy.
This is not a fanciful speculation. Such peoples led a harsh existence. Death lived with them. Average life expectancy was around 30 years - no more than one Saturn cycle. To come to terms with the harsh realities of life they may have looked to the greater - the constancy of the stars that, no matter how the Sun and Moon changed, followed their courses. It was only when life expectancy extended to more than one Saturn cycle that humanity became more interested in the smaller picture. As death receded, so we tied ourselves to smaller issues.
Perhaps with Galactic Astrology we are rediscovering a level of understanding that has been lost. But with the advantage of having a greater scope for acting in that realm, having conquered the often oppressive difficulties of that time.
For more information on Galactic Astrology, see the Introduction to Galactic Astrology from The Astological Society
This page, and all contents, are Copyright (C) 1995 by Saros. The material may be used freely providing the source is acknowledged.