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Overview of Western Astrology
"By looking up, I see downward." --Tycho Brahe
The core belief behind astrology is that the positions and the motions of the heavens influence the lives of the people on Earth. The 360 degrees of the sky are broken up into thirty-six Decans of ten degrees each. These decans are grouped in sets of three. Each set is associated with an astrological sign. The positions of the planets are mapped over this grid. Using a chart or computer program called an Ephimeris, an astrologer charts the positions of planets, the sun and moon, and the constellations at the time of the birth of the person receiving the reading. Once the positions have been charted, the astrologer can then calculate the relationships among them.
The astrologer looks for several things. First off, the position of the planets and constellations are of utmost importance. Then the each planet's position is noted, with special attention paid to its relation to other planets, the House, and horizon. Together, this information will tell the astrologer many things about the person the chart is being written for.
The angles formed by the planets are called Aspects, and they influence human relationships. The two most powerful aspects are the Conjunction (where the planets are closest to each other) and the Opposition (where they are furthest apart).
The Houses were originally defined in ancient Babylon. Each of the twelve houses covers an aspect of our lives and experiences. For example, the first house is about Life, and the second, Finance. Each house is also associated with one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. When a planet appears within a house, then that planet is said to "rule" that house, and to influence that aspect of the person's life. Charts can be drawn for both people and events.
A History of Western Astrology
The history of Astrology begins around 2000 BCE, in ancient Babylon. There, they began to develop a complex system of celestial omens. The priests used the positions of the planets and the stars to state the desires of the gods. They would document the movements in the sky and the earthly activities that followed them, and build a list of good and bad omens. For example, if a full moon and a cloudy sky were followed by a great victory over an enemy the next day, then "full moon with clouds" would be recorded as a good omen. Over time, this system spread across the ancient world.
The Egyptians were very focused on astronomy, with good reason. The Sun and Sirius were used to predict when the Nile would flood. Traditionally, Rameses II is credited with defining several of the signs of the Zodiac. Horoscopic Astrology made its first appearance in Alexandrian Egypt. This new version of Babylonian and Egyptian astrology focused on the positions of the planets and constellations at the time of a person's birth. Ptolemy codified the system in his work "Tetrabiblos," and very little has changed to this day.
Through the middle ages, astrology and astronomy were almost interchangeable. The majority of the early astronomical observations of sun, moon, and planets were all done by astrologers. Where much of astrology was forgotten in Europe during the dark ages, the Persians kept the knowledge alive, and returned it to Europe with the Renaissance. With the Scientific Revolution starting in the 17th century, however, the two began to split apart, with astronomy becoming a science and astrology viewed more as occult superstition.
In the twentieth century, astrology became popular in the United States around 1900 to 1950. Astrology writers also tried to simplify some of the more confusing parts, which made astrology more available to the general public. As a result, today there is a market for astrology books and "sun-sign" predictions.
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