Astrology as a Language
Getting back to the horoscope: Looking at a chart, the Vedic Astrologer studies the interaction of the planets, signs, houses, and the aspects between them. This is the language of the stars. Everything known is in the portfolio of one or more planets, signs, or houses. And, it is by studying the interactive trends in the chart that the astrologer can ascertain so much information about a person.
The various elements in the chart--planets, signs, nakshatras (lunar mansions), houses, elements, modalities, polarities, and aspects--are the components of this divine celestial language and act like nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc., with rules of grammar and syntax just as in a regular language, but far more complex, as one might assume. To give an idea of what we are dealing with, consider the following very cursory meanings of the planets and houses. And, please note that complete books have been written about any given planet, sign, or house; so what I am presenting only skims the surface yet does give a fair picture of what is transpiring.
The planets represent the following:
Sun: Atma (soul), self, self-realization, influence, prestige, power, valor, health, eye, general well-being, heat, splendor, father, king, royalty, royal favor.
Moon: The heart, understanding, inclinations, emotions, sleep, happiness, good name and fame, facial luster, mother, royal favor, affluence, travel, water reservoirs.
Mars: Stamina, courage, desire, anger, scandal, diseases, enemies, opposition, controversies, weapons, commander of an army, land, immovable properties, younger brother, relations such as cousins.
Mercury: Intelligence, discrimination, speech, expression, education, learning, mathematics, logic, astrology, medical knowledge and profession, writing, publishing, acting as a middleman in trade or politics (diplomacy), dancing, mixture of things, leafy trees, testing of precious stones, charms (amulets), maternal uncles, friends.
Jupiter: Wisdom, learning, corpulence, acts of religious merit, devotion to God, ancestors and superior beings, holy places, scriptures, proficiency in learning, philosophy, giving alms or donations, benevolence, wealth, respect, sons, religion, preceptors, fruit, fruit trees.
Venus: Spouse, marriage, sexual matters, pleasures of the senses, singing, poetry, scents, ornaments, jewelry, all articles of luxury, cooperation with and from others, flowers, flowering trees, beauty, buying and selling, cows, watery places.
Saturn: Longevity, life, death, adversity, calamities, disrespect, diseases, poverty, livelihood, servility, unrighteous conduct, learning of sciences and foreign languages, agricultural pursuits, minerals, oils, things buried deep in the ground and coming out there from, servants (male and female), service, theft, cruel deeds, malice, lameness, very old, persons.
Rahu (North Node of the Moon): Paternal grandfather, fallacious argument, harsh speech, gambling, movement, travelling, out castes, foreigners, snakes, snakebite, theft, wickedness, widow(er), intrigue with a widow(er), skin diseases, itches, eczema, acute or sharp pain in the body, hiccoughs, swelling in the body.
Ketu (South Node of the Moon): Maternal grandfather, consumption, pain, fever, wound, witchcraft, causing trouble to enemies, horned animals, dog, cock, birds with spots or of variegated colors, philosophy, salvation.
The meanings of the Signs of the Zodiac are well known to most everyone and can be researched easily, so we will not explain them herein. The following brief meanings for the twelve houses of the horoscope are suitable for our basic educational purposes:
First House: self, head, body, personality, mental temperament, health.
Second house: eyes, face, teeth, upper part of the throat, speech, wealth, family.
Third House: arms, lower part of the throat, shoulders, brothers, sisters, valor.
Fourth House: chest, heart, mother, landed property, friends, conveyances, happiness.
Fifth House: stomach, education, intelligence, sons, daughters.
Sixth House: the region of the navel, illness, enemies, debts, distress.
Seventh House: partnership, sexual relations, spouse, the part of the body below the waist and down to the genitals.
Eighth House: genitals, anus, death, legacies.
Ninth House: hips, thighs, religion (dharma), devotion to God, prosperity, religious preceptor (guru), father.
Tenth House: knees, back, status and position in life, activity, honor from government.
Eleventh House: calves of legs, friends, income.
Twelfth House: expenditure, loss, sexual enjoyment, left eye, feet, confinement.
The above information is grossly simplified but gives an idea of what we are dealing with. Considering that there are nine planets, twelve signs, and twelve houses, one can easily imagine the extent of possible combinations and permutations of these. (And, this without taking into consideration the individual degrees and divisional charts.) The energies of the planets, signs, and houses interact with each other in myriad ways. By studying the combinations, a well trained astrologer can know an amazing amount of information about the subject of a chart--a remarkable feat, considering that the original input data consisted of only the date, time, and place of birth.
The natal chart is the birth chart. The reading of this chart is what most people consider to be the sum total of astrology. With regard to Vedic astrology, the metaphor I like to use is that of photography. In photography there are different kinds of lenses that one can use. A wide-angle lens lets one see the big picture, the whole panoramic view, but will not allow one to see much detail. It does, however, give one the general scenario, from which one can see interesting points. If one wants to scrutinize further, he would use a zoom lens, which focuses on a much narrower field of vision but with the advantage of greater depth and detail. And one could go even finer into detail by using a microscopic lens. Vedic astrology has similar tools that can take us from the macroscopic to the microscopic level of inquiry.
The general reading of the natal chart would be like the wide-angle lens in our photographic metaphor. In it, the astrologer is able to paint your life with broad brush strokes, showing the general aim and trajectory of your destiny, the field in which you will exercise your free will. In this initial reading one should expect to be told who he is, where he has been, what his potentials are, and where his current actions will take him. Depending on what that destination is, one may want to change course.
In truth, most people do not understand themselves, and in fact are quite confused about who they are, how their mind works, why it works that way, etc. The vast majority of people don't really know who or what they are, on either the psychological or spiritual plane. Therefore, the first thing the Vedic astrologer does is analyze the general configuration of the chart.
This analysis will give a good indication of the person's psychology, character, and life potential. The astrologer will discuss the person's qualities, intellectual abilities, and aptitude; people skills and relationships with family, friends, and loved ones; financial acumen and status; education; travel; health; etc. Life potential indicates a person's predisposition and predilection in certain areas. For example, a certain combination of planets may indicate a person with acute intelligence and love of knowledge; this would give a strong potential for academic achievement or a career in research, teaching, scholarship, etc.
This initial analysis serves several functions: 1) To bring the seeker a big step closer to achieving the Socratic ideal of "Know thyself." 2) To verify the accuracy of the birth time and the horoscope. (A good astrologer will be able to paint a picture that should be instantly recognizable by the seeker. The seeker should feel illuminated by the knowledge, as well as secure and confident that he is dealing with a qualified astrologer. This is especially important, since in most cases this will be the first time that the seeker will have met the astrologer.) 3) The astrologer will also understand the psychic nature of the seeker and be better able to guide him.