Re-Learning Astrology


Many Darkstar readers have inquired about my influences and have wanted recommendations for astrology books so they can start learning astrology for themselves. I draw from many sources which can be found in THIS LIST, but I have yet to put together a definitive booklist. The following article explains how I got to where I am now.

In June 2015 I completed a certificate course in Horary Astrology with Deborah Houlding who owns the amazing website Skyscript. I had been moving slowly towards integrating techniques of traditional astrology for a while, inspired by Demetra George’s approach.

Like myself, Demetra started from a psychological perspective and places great importance to the goddess principle. What I love about Demetra is that she has managed to marry traditional and modern in a way that does not dilute or compromise either approach.

We are at a time now that we need to acknowledge that with an ever-expanding solar system, it is essential to return to the foundations of the craft of astrology. The solar systems ‘expansion’ is probably the reason for the resurgence of traditional astrology techniques in the last 10 years. Astrologers require an anchor!

Back To The Future

As I said earlier, I came to astrology from a psychological perspective, but in 2009 was introduced to the world of the fixed stars. This was the spur for me to go deeper into astrology and eventually to go full time with it a profession.

The fixed stars interest brought me to Deborah Houlding’s site which in turn introduced me to the fact that traditional astrologers took great note of the fixed stars within the context of a tropical zodiac. In this way, one does not need to ‘go sidereal’ to connect with the galactic realm.

I also became interested in Horary astrology which is a crash course into the rules of traditional astrology. Of course, like many psychological astrologers, I baulked at the complex system of dignities and alien terms such as whether a planet was in hayz, combust, occidental or oriental of the sun etc. Describing a planet as malefic or in detriment seemed way too fatalistic, so I went scuttling back to psychological astrology still clutching a bag of fixed stars. I couldn’t quite let them go!

The fixed stars are so rich in mythology, but the interpretations do tend to be very specific and either ridiculously over-the-top positive or totally fatalistic which modern astrologers have a real problem with. We must bear in mind that the fixed stars were used at a time when natal astrology was not the primary form of astrology.

We really can’t afford to take the fixed star meanings too personally and try to see them from that higher, galactic perspective. Pre 20th century birth times were not noted, so Horary was widely used to answer pressing questions. The birth chart was taken as representing twelve areas of life, with the ascendant and its ruler, really being the only house to describe the native. With precise birth times rarely being recorded, very few people knew their actual rising star, unless they were royalty or otherwise notable.

Holistic Astrology V Cookbook Approach

The traditional chart is far less ego-orientated and is refreshing as it considers the person as part of a whole, the 7th house described your partner, not you, not ever. Traditional astrology also obeys the rules of natural law in that the signs are more descriptive of the months of the year rather than the constellations. Tropical astrology works because the suns height in the sky when we are born is like a seed moment.

Western astrology reflects the westerns northern hemispheres very clear and distinct seasons. Seasonal plants bloom best under certain conditions and at different times of the year. We all have our personal best seasons, so all astrology does is describe our body clocks response to cycles. We all have peaks and troughs, so there is no good or bad really. The fixed stars give a wider, galactic perspective within the seasonal framework.

traditional astrology

Because tropical, horoscopic astrology is so holistic it is quite difficult to pull one aspect out of it without considering the rest of the chart. Unfortunately due to the modern need to sell books and make astrology accessible, astrologers are forced into constructing cookbook interpretations.

As far as these go they can be helpful, but sometimes a little knowledge can be worse than none at all. It can give beginners a very false idea of how astrology works, a bit like modern medicine only treating a symptom.

Looking at isolated parts of a chart, like a Sun in the 8th house, or a Venus in Aries (in its detriment) can be misleading and sometimes lead to very negative interpretations in those who have a very poor self-image. We are fragile beings all told, so when we read that we have some grim aspect to our natal chart, it tends to stick out like a sore thumb.

With the cookbook approach we forget about the whole and see ourselves as fragmented again. So my job, as an astrologer using the cookbook approach on this site, is to constantly remind readers that these Sun and Moon aspects, or planets in a decan, are just ingredients. One chilli does not a curry make!

In terms of making predictions in the form of yearly horoscopes, the movements of Jupiter and Saturn are the key. It is helpful to liken a human being to garden, we all seek to evolve and grow. Astrology is available for us as a guide to when we should plant certain seeds in our lives. The cosmic weather gods do not rule over us! They are just tools.

So let’s say Jupiter is the endless summer sun and Saturn is the winter frost. Saturn is not deliberately being a punishing malefic, it has no agenda one way or the other. Saturn rules the winter signs Capricorn and Aquarius. Winter is important for, pruning, weeding, tilling the earth and resting the soil so it can recharge itself for the spring. Without the arduous prep work of Saturn, nothing can grow well in the summer months.

‘Malefic’ Saturn & Natural Law

Saturn rewards hard work, but usually in our modern heads, Jupiter gets all the glory, because we want instant gratification. We also don’t see all the invisible hard work that Saturn is doing underground in laying the foundations for Jupiter’s impressive castle. Traditional astrology, once you learn the language of natural law is rich in the symbolism of nature.

Planets, houses and signs are either hot, moist, cold or dry. The signs are like the seasons. Cardinal, fixed and mutable. For example, the month of Aries is cardinal, it’s the spring equinox, the sap rises, there’s a quickening, this is a very active month.

Taurus is fixed, the season stabilises, settles into its groove, then Gemini, a mutable sign, the weather becomes changeable as it starts to mutate into the next season of Summer. Sorry about the northern hemisphere bias, but astrology was developed in the northern hemisphere which has very distinct seasons.

The world has shrunk due to modern technology and air travel, and many northern hemisphere folks have relocated down under. This might also explain why astrology moved away from seasonal bias towards a more psychological approach which is inclusive of everyone. Many in the northern hemisphere still have a seasonal disconnect though, since we don’t even eat seasonally any more thanks to modern supermarkets and exportation.

So I believe a return to traditional astrology might be timely, and help us connect to natural law and the seasons. Another reason I love this approach is that it is a very visual form of astrology and helps us connect to the sky above as well as the earth below. The term ‘combustion’ describes the fact that any planet within 8 degrees of the Sun is invisible to the naked eye until it slowly becomes visible when it come out from ‘under the beams’ of the Sun at 15 degrees.

There is a difference in interpretation when Mercury and Venus are morning stars (rising before the Sun) to when they are evening stars (rising after sunset). This important distinction is usually not considered in modern astrology. Sometimes this distinction becomes very important when Venus or Mercury are the chart rulers or when trying to interpret the effects of a retrograde cycle. (particularly Venus)

Celestial Light Lumen

The visibility of planets is important. Traditional astrology uses the term lux for visible light and lumen for celestial light. Traditional astrologers stressed the importance of being able to receive the beams of celestial light when a planet is visible in the sky. Celestial light is not visible, however, but one must still be able to tune into to it, presumably through the third eye ‘reading’ the planet, like tuning into a radio station. Possibly the visible planets have measurable effects because you can see where they are on the tuning dial?

Of course I still use the modern planets, but now regard them as being like slow-moving fixed stars. There is the danger of getting lost in space beating ourselves up about our say, Moon square Pluto. Indeed I have written a detailed post about Pluto in aspect to the ascendant and also have a section on Moon/Pluto aspects.

It’s important to remember these aspects are most likely to be played out for the collective. I don’t think this kind of energy can even be felt that personally.

That might be quite a controversial thing to say from such a Plutonic site and after writing so much about Pluto.. Having had the experience of reading many client charts now and think there is a case for revaluation.

I see far more Plutonic behaviour from those who have say Mars conjunct Saturn that I do from Sun conjunct Pluto. The same goes for transits. A Saturn transit is extremely tangible, whereas Uranus and Pluto transits are variable.

I have seen clients untouched by Uranus square Pluto aspecting their ascendant, while others are devastated because at the same time they have had Saturn square their Moon. In our enthusiasm to jump into the new discoveries, we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Having said all that, I think Ceres might well be a contender for the new Pluto! Ceres is the core of a (some say) destroyed planet that lay between Mars and Jupiter. She would have certainly been visible to the naked eye when she was complete. I will have to update my Ceres post at some point because her fragmentation is telling. Ceres’ destruction could relate to how humanity has been left traumatised after thousands of years of religious persecution and abuse.

Ceres Is The New Pluto?

No wonder we are like Isis, forever trying to find our ‘other half’ and our ‘twin flame’. We are trying to re-member ourselves in many ways! Ceres is a very important planet, but I believe we have been distracted by the wealth of asteroids and new planets out there, each new discovery becomes like another novelty. I myself have been guilty of becoming fascinated by exotic new editions to the solar system without considering that the exiled goddess that we have been looking for, was right under our noses all along. VENUS!!! or more specifically, Venus Retrograde.

Modern astrology has tended to see Venus in one dimension. Again this is due to her not been examined in all her permutations. She can be direct and retrograde, or in her morning and evening phase. This goes back to her Babylonian guise of Inanna and Ereshkigal. Venus can also be Eris, all the attributes I have given to Eris could equality be true for Venus in her retrograde/Lucifer stage.

So back to basics. Once we look deep into traditional astrology, we see that this gnosis that has been tried and tested for thousands of years works with just a little re-translating. Nature doesn’t date, but you might say there has been modern developments like GMO, but is that really progress? Remember the modern form of astrology is only about 150 years old. Now, thanks to Project Hindsight and the translation of ancient texts we now have far more information about how the traditional methods were used.

Technology is great, but it can overwhelm one with too much information. This is the problem we have as humans with the internet as well as with our astrology tools. There are thousands and thousands of asteroids. They can be great for just seeing how humorous the universe can be with us. (See Demetria George for her comments on Charles having asteroid Camila on his descendant!) But there is a right and wrong way to use them.

I advise that if you really resonate with an asteroid and it happens to be on your Ascendant or your Midheaven, then research into the myth as deeply as you can. Draw up its discovery chart and let the chart speak, but no other astrologer can tell you what that asteroid means for you. This is why I am revising the asteroid section. The long term plan is to move towards teaching and building a course curriculum on Darkstar astrology that will incorporate traditional methods with a modern twist. Quite appropriate for my Chiron return wouldn’t you say?

traditional astrology

There are many astrologers now who are developing online introductory courses to traditional astrology and I will add more traditional books to my list as I go, but I have included the modern books that got me started too. Special mention goes to Parkers
‘The Compleat Astrologer’ (Now renamed and republished), because that was the very 1st proper astrology book I possessed.

Funnily enough, I recently found out it was one of Debra Houlding’s first books too, so if you are an absolute beginner it might be a good start. Then you might want to experiment using just the traditional planets and get familiar with the dignities. That’s a great foundation to build on.

If you go deep into traditional astrology you will see that it is just as ‘Spiritual’ as evolutionary astrology, in fact, I’d say it is even more so. It might seem that the complex rules of traditional astrology can impede the intuitive reading of the natal chart, but like driving a car, after a while it becomes second nature.

Thanks to technology we have the advantage that William Lily didn’t have. The horary setting in Solar fire or Janus gives tables that show a planets dignity score and other factors that determine planetary strength. One other important factor is that traditional astrology was really big with the influence of fixed stars, something which is only slowly influencing psychological astrology.

Asteroid Soup

Adding fixed stars into the evolutionary soup of asteroids just means newcomers don’t see the wood for the trees and some don’t know the difference between an asteroid and a fixed star even. The movement of Regulus into Virgo, however, was one event that modern astrology picked up on quite strongly. This was mainly because it provided great symbolism for the new age paradigm shift or nanosecond or whatever you want to call it. The common theme is the return of the exiled goddess (Persephone/Eris), which is NOT about matriarchy taking over the world btw..

The obsession with asteroids might be symbolic of a need to piece together the mythical planet that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is the core, and I think it’s very interesting that Pluto was demoted around the same time that traditional astrology started becoming a little more mainstream. Pluto was demoted in August 2006, while according to Chris Brennan, Astrodienst put Whole houses onto its chart maker sometime between May and July 25, 2008, after he made the case for Whole Sign houses at the UAC conference in May of that year.

Looking at the astrology at the time. On June 11, 2008, Ceres was aligned with fixed star Betelgeuse opposite Pluto. I think Pluto is a pretty good symbol for modern psychological astrology, while Ceres is pretty symbolic of the cyclical, seasonal astrology of Hellenistic Greece. So at this time, there was a face-off between the two, just like in their struggle for possession of Ceres’s daughter Persephone. Ceres on Betelgeuse is interesting as this star represents the evolution of the divine masculine.

I see traditional astrology as having a divine masculine property as it represents the left brain in all its best qualities. It is about the logos and reason. It is about natural LAW, and nature is governed by laws whether we like it or not. Modern astrology is very right-brain oriented because it allows a creative licence. At the same time, it can go so Neptunian that you can make a chart mean anything with the number of asteroids and elastic interpretations of planets in aspects.

Archontic Planets ~ Neptune, Pluto and Beyond…

So back to poor old demoted Pluto. I think this planet along with his outer planet cohorts could feasibly represent Archonitic influences over the planet and by extension over our natal chart. The hilarious thing is I think is that these ‘planets of crisis, change and transformation’ only have power over us if we think they do! What if the outer planets simply ceased to exist, how would you read your chart then? Refreshing huh? If the new age teachings say that your life is a manifestation of your beliefs and daily thoughts, then how much free will do we really have when gnawing in the background we are aware that we were born with a supposedly cursed Venus/Pluto conjunction?

Every time we attract another abusive Pluto bad-boy dark cupid relationship we put it down to our natal chart. This is similar to believing we are doomed by our genes also. (See epigenetics!) Another bonus when considering not to use outer planet transits is that their transits are so long. A Pluto transit will last over 5 years depending on the retrogrades. Saturn will be over in 1 year and sometimes will only last a month if it happens not to retrograde over the planet in question. No wonder modern astrology can resort to sugar-coating, who likes the thought of Pluto square the Moon for the next 5 years! Don’t worry it’s Transssfoorrrmmmation! Oh god, but aren’t we all transforming every day?

I will continue to use the outer planets in my readings because we need to see where centuries of mind control have taken root and where we need to plunge the exorcist’s stake. But that’s all! These planets are the fake gods, the wizards of Oz and demons without a physical body. They have no power over us what so ever. We cannot see them with our own eyes, they are just smoke and mirrors. What are telescopes but supercharged MIRRORS.

So Eris, you have done us a great favour. It was Eris who put a limit on yet more alien interference. I mean just look at the astrology, the further out you get the worst these demons become. Look at Sedna….gruesome, and don’t get me started on Orcus. The further removed we are from the source, the SUN, the more the energy becomes refined but then synthesised. Pharmaceuticals are a good example, and heroin, (refined Poppy milk). Humanity is at a point where it could go strongly cyborg or be forced into a position where it has no electricity at all. Imagine that!? Think we are at the tipping point. The internet is a double-edged sword and so is astrology.

Back to addressing learning the foundations of traditional astrology. Once you go down that rabbit hole you find reams of philosophical and magical material that makes sense of the natural world around us while connecting us to the cosmic world. ‘As above, so below’ is even truer when using traditional methods. Once you have that gnosis it becomes very easy to interpret a chart without having to read a ton of modern astrology cookbooks.

A Mars conjunct Saturn interpretation can be useful, and every astrologer will have their own take on it, but it’s just one slice of the cosmic salami. Another thing you will notice about traditional astrology is that is hard to ‘sell’. Moon conjunct Mars in Libra in the 8th house in one birth chart will be totally different from Moon conjunct Mars in Scorpio rising in another. In the first example, Mars is in detriment in a weak house, the second example Mars is dignified in a strong house. You simply cannot pick an aspect out of context and give someone an idea of what it means for them personally with traditional astrology.

Cook Book Approach

traditional astrology

I once thought that aspects were the bare bones of a chart and they were all that mattered, which is why there is a whole section on aspects on this site. It is true that whether you use sidereal or tropical, the aspects will stay the same, but the dignities will change.

Aspects, like horoscopes, are popular search terms! Many a long term client found me through googling Moon conjunct Black Moon Lilith, so I will not knock cook-booking aspects.

I just need to re-write all the Sun conjunction the planets to include the meaning of combustion, I have made a start with Sun conjunct Mercury. I’m not sure what to do with the aspects to the outer planet demons yet! Maybe I have to revise them with a caution.

Modern ‘pop’ astrology certainly has its place and it is often the first step in a very, very long journey of awakening. Chris Brennan describes Sun Signs as marijuana, a gateway drug to hardcore astrology. I also think Sun signs are a cunning plan to keep occult wisdom off radar. Aaaaah it’s just harmless ‘entertainment’…

Eris Revelations & Invisible Yods

Interestingly the principles of basic Sun sign astrology are actually closer to traditional astrology than they are to the modern/evolutionary approach. This is because, with the use of whole sign houses, when a planet enters a new sign, it also enters a new house. So reading the year ahead for your rising sign will show a true (within the limits of sun signs astrology) representation of the planets sphere of influence in your natal chart. Reading horoscopes will also work for the other luminary, the moon. This is because traditional astrology bases everything on a planets whole-sign aspect to the ascendant within a 12 sign framework.

So therefore there are no quintiles, sesqiu-quadrates, semi-squares etc etc. Only the Ptolemaic ones which make the aspect through the signs/houses. So therefore you get; 1st house/conjunction, 3rd house/sextile, 4th house/square, 5th house/trine and 7th house/opposition. I still think there is a case for the new discoveries resonating with certain signs, however, so I still hold by my Ceres is related to Virgo, while Eris is related to Libra argument, you just cannot use Eris and the other outers as rulers as they move far too slowly and therefore cannot work using Hellenistic Timelord systems.


The quincunx is conspicuous in its absence in traditional astrology. But it does have a meaning in the fact that there is utterly no Ptolemaic aspect connection to the ascendant. The ancients called it the inconjunct and it is not counted as aspect. I do use quincunxes (and even semi-sextiles as they are a variant) in natal charts, but not for transits and horary. I find it interesting that the Huber school also use the traditional aspects, plus the quincunx and semi-sextile.

And even Deborah Houlding conceded during the horary class that the quincunx has some effect. Maybe it has similar qualities to the 6th and 8th houses from the ascendant. Illness and death….hmmm. Modern astrologers call it adjustment or karmic rebalancing. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

A quick word on the Huber school. I am not a traditional astrology purist so will probably continue to use the Huber chart wheel style and aspect patterns because I find them visually stunning. They work for me in a very right-brain way that I feel unlocks the doors to some kind of sacred geometry that resides within a client.

I have been writing this post over my holiday in Ikaria, Greece, inspired by the view of Artemis’s temple below me. The timing is quite appropriate, spending 10 days in the birthplace of Hellenistic astrology the day after I completed Deborah Houlding’s course. So I’m pretty much infused with the spirit of Ceres and her connection to the earth right now. I had the impression that traditional astrology was a pretty dry, intellectualised form of astrology that I couldn’t see working in practice and in this modern world.

Thanks to Deborah Houlding’s horary course, I saw traditional astrology come alive in a way I couldn’t imagine. So currently I’m in a kind of twilight zone, assimilating and integrating what I have learnt. The great thing about learning the very foundations of our craft is that you can then see where the modern interpretations come from and why they mean what they do. Once you have that solid foundation you can go as crazy as you like with the fixed stars and asteroids. I mean Demetra George uses all 20 000 asteroids. (Not all at once!) So I hope some of you will join me in re-learning astrology from the very beginning. I close this post on September 17th 2015, 1.08 pm Greek time. UT +2. Mercury is about to go retrograde in Libra. Mercury the planet of study, wisdom and astrology. How very appropriate.

UPDATE 2022 I have not gone entirely traditional. For a while I tried using some of the ancient techniques in my readings but in the end I found they were so complex that they got in the way of my intuition. As I said in this article, knowing the foundations is essential before you can go off piste!

If you like my approach, go to my readings page where you will find testimonials and an order form.

Main Image ref: Josh Rangel on Unsplash