"Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?" ~ Stevie Nicks
For most of my professional life, I've been attempting to untangle the thorny issue of timing in astrology by painstakingly analyzing different timing methods and comparing and contrasting their chart contents. The problem is basically that we have many timing methods but can't really outline our most significant life changes in the order in which they will occur. In these last 20 years, I've hoped that the natal chart alone contained within it an outline of "the seasons of our life". What I mean by that, is what the the majority of the lay public already believes: that an astrologer can just pick up a natal chart and see the most significant life events that will befall an individual. While I secretly wished this was possible,I had little hope that things were that simple. The sad reality is that we astrologers just keep collecting more and more timing techniques into our repertoire and drowning in the data they produce, coming no closer to outlining the major milestones of a person's entire life.
The exciting news is that the most recent research that I've conducted has begun to deliver on the pie-in-the-sky belief that the natal chart alone does actually contain a timeline for our life. It seems that we may in fact be able to easily and quickly read "the seasons of our life". But before elaborating on the actual technique, I should say a few words about how our testing hypothesis emerged. First, we have to go back to the Babylonians to understand a crucial piece of the astrological puzzle that has been missing in our work.
In 2010, I presented a talk at the United Astrology Conference in New Orleans entitled: Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography: Time and Place in Gilgamesh. It was the 2nd part of a two part presentation on the significant interplay between land and sky that was part of Babylonian worldview, particularly its astral religion. In this 2nd presentation, I illustrated the presence of this sky/earth connection as it is told in the Epic of Gilgamesh. My thesis was that this story is actually a solar hero's journey (the first in history), which (much like the Greek 12 labors of Hercules, which was later based upon it) chronicles the exploits of our hero Gilgamesh as he travels the known world. But the interesting thing about the Epic is that it is told in a 12 tablet structure, with each tablet not only chronicling Gilgamesh's activity in time, as measured by the changing monthly constellations, but also in space, as he walks his annual circuit over a circular topography of the earth, something the Babylonians observed the Sun to do. My colleague Dieter Koch (of Swiss Ephemeris fame) had already noted the correspondence between the monthly tablets and the corresponding constellations in the sky, which he wrote about in his seminal work, Der Stierkampf des Gilgamesch. But since my MA thesis focus was on geography, I wanted to examine potential connections between the text's lands and any correspondence with the house meanings in astrology. [Because the first known Ascendant appears only later in Hellenistic Egypt, most researchers consider the houses to be a subsequent development of Hellenistic astrology. However, meaning has always been associated with place. And the research seems to bear out that much of the meaning given to the astrological places can be traced back to the earliest known astrology in Mesopotamia.]
There is an immense amount of astrological insight to be gained from the Epic of Gilgamesh and it is an archaeological treasure that I routinely go back to when I feel stuck. That was so in this case. What had already emerged in my thesis is that the Babylonians clearly looked upon the Sun's annual trajectory over time and place as a metaphor for the passage of an individual's life, and that those 12 months represent different "seasons" or periods in that life. Given this metaphor, we might reasonably conceive of the start of a person's life also beginning in Aries and progressing in the natural order of the Zodiac toward its finale in Pisces. But if this basic Zodiacal ordering of the seasons of our life does exist, how might it be reflected in the chart as a timing system?
One simple way to test this idea was to take an average lifespan in the developed world of say 80 years, and to divide it into 20 year quarters, giving each quarter to 3 signs. Thus, the first quarter of the year (corresponding to ages 0-20) would be given to Aries, Taurus and Gemini; the 2nd (to ages 20-40) to Cancer, Leo and Virgo; the 3rd (to ages 40-60) to Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius; and the 4th ( to ages 60-80) to Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Within each quarter, each sign would then last approximately 6.667 years (6 years and 8 months), or to simplify things, roughly 7 years. Resetting each annual quarter to 20 year multiples, rather than giving 7 years to each sign, keeps the rounding error from accumulating over time. Obviously these are all approximations, since an 80 year lifespan is merely a working average. But these approximate chunks of time should be sufficiently evident in testing, given the strict delineation rules that we use. The idea was that by following our already established linguistic rules for delineating a sign and its rulers, we should be able to clearly read the most significant themes and events for each corresponding period of the life. By doing this across all signs, we should in theory, be able to quickly outline the most significant changes in one's entire life.
I first tested this idea in 25 individual charts, examining a single, randomly selected sign and its significance in that corresponding age. Later on, I examined all the signs in 5 individual charts. [Because of the subjective nature of the delineations obtained, it is important to always test hypotheses out in charts of people who can confirm the events and motives interpreted in the chart. Celebrity charts are not always the best sources, since their biographers do not always manage to capture what is most subjectively significant in their subject's lives. However, a good biography written with the subject's collaboration can be of use in some cases.] Here, I will illustrate this procedure using two celebrity charts. [In future articles, I will illustrate this technique in greater detail in client charts]
Virgo - ages 33-40
Our first example is of the Virgo period and comes from the chart of Princess Diana of Wales. I selected this chart because her private life was extremely scrutinized and this period in particular, is quite well documented by Diana herself. Her birth places her Virgo period roughly between 1994-2001. She died in August of 1997, at age 36, never having completed her Virgo "season".
Diana has Virgo on the 10th house cusp. We start by delineating the sign. All signs indicate needs that drive actions. They are compensatory signs in that we have them in our chart because we are addressing something that is missing or lacking in that area of our lives. Virgo is a sign that tells us there is a problem that needs to be fixed or a situation that needs to be improved. In the Gilgamesh story, Ishtar plays a significant role in the 6th tablet. She sees Gilgamesh bathing in a river (this is an evocation of the rising constellation in the 6th month called the River and of the festival to Ishtar during Elulu or Ululu, the 6th month of the Babylonian calendar) and becomes enamored of his prowess for having killed Humbaba. She proposes marriage to him and is viciously rejected, upon which she pleads with Anu to unleash the Bull of heaven upon our hero. Virgo represents an innocent maiden. Ishtar (aka Venus) is a goddess of love, lust and fertility. The rejection of Ishtar in the story relates to a pun involving the month name Ululu, which signifies "a man giving a negative reply". But the astrological imagery here is also that of the fall of Venus in Virgo, that is, of the maiden losing her purity or innocence. Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar on the grounds that her wanton desires have caused suffering for all of her previous lovers. We will see that there are echoes of "the fallen maiden" in Diana's Virgo season as well.
Over the 10th house, Virgo tells us that there is a problem in either our occupation or our public status. For Diana, and wealthy celebrities in general, public status often plays a larger role than the occupation one actually holds. Mercury, (as domicile lord of Virgo) which created her status , did so by communicating and recording a familial relationship that was a source of anxiety for her (Mercury in Cancer in the 7-8th. See my article on how to read the 8th house). Mars, which is overseer of her existing status (that is, triplicity lord of the 10th), is in Virgo with Pluto in the 9th-10th. This tells us that in order to correct or improve upon the problem, she finds that she needs to separate or divorce from its legal status (9th-10th). But this separation will be accompanied by quite a power struggle (Mars with Pluto).
Up until her divorce in 1995 (at the start of this season), Diana's official title had been her "Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales"; a title which came to her by virtue of her marital status to Prince Charles. By 1992, Diana and Charles had already separated but were still legally married. So she starts the Virgo 10th house season at the tail end of a turbulent marriage and the removal of her royal status. In an online biography about her final years, the author comments on the public relations battle that ensued after the separation: "Diana and Charles were a zero-sum game: Diana had to be seen as emotionally volatile in order to explain Charles' actions. All this made Diana determined to reveal her side of things once more." After her divorce, Diana was on a quest to remake her life and find "normalcy", says this article. Part of this quest involved defending her public reputation, since it had been getting quite smeared in the tabloids. Like Ishtar in the 6th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, Diana's overall love life was publicly put on trial. Astrologically, during this period, Diana felt she needed Mercury to communicate the truth of her problematic status to the public (Virgo's domicile lord in Cancer in the 8th). The tendency is for us to seek to repair the Virgo problem, by using the domicile lord of the sign. This is interesting because the natural seasonal ruler of the 10th place is Saturn (ruler of Capricorn)and in her chart, Mercury and Saturn are opposite one another. [This tension between the lords of the natural sign of a house and the sign placed there, seems to be significant in parallel on-going research. We'll have more to say about this in the future.] Furthermore, Saturn rules her 3rd house of the media (as well as of old money - Capricorn on the 2nd). So there seems to be a love/hate relationship being set up between her need to fix her image and her challenges with the media (as well as with her financial divorce settlement with the crown). This struggle was indeed present during her Virgo "season" and it eventually became apparent in her death as well: the car (Mercury) she was in, literally hit a wall (Saturn) while being chased by the paparazzi (Mercury) in a Parisian tunnel. While astrology cannot foresee death, knowing that the natal Saturn and Mercury opposition was the major timer during this season, one would have advised caution during any travels during those 7 years. So we have quite a good fit between the events of this period and the sign and rulers that correspond to it, both by seasonal age (Virgo) and by place location (Capricorn).
Sagittarius - ages 53-60
Now let's examine a different season: Sagittarius, which comes to all of us roughly between the ages of 53-60. As the glyph for this sign indicates, Sagittarius represents the need for a direction. In the the Gilgamesh story, Enkidu has died and been buried and Gilgamesh has become obsessed with his own mortality. By tablet IX, he is in foreign lands and has been told to seek out Siduri, the alewife whose name means "wisdom", in order to find someone who will lead him to the plant of immortality that he seeks. Thus, in tablet IX, Gilgamesh is seeking not only a geographical direction, but also a direction in his life. The reason Sagittarius needs a direction, is because he is often all over the map, searching different paths in vain, but always thinking that the current path is "the" correct one, only to find a better one later on. In Sagittarius we finally find the arrow and settle on the path that will lead us to where we want to go. This imagery is present in the story because it is a common metaphor for this age in our lives. It is not uncommon to find those who go through "a mid-life crisis", that is, they abruptly change direction into a completely different path from the one they were previously on.
Now let's look at the Sagittarius season in George W. Bush's chart. Bush turned 53 in 1999; so it would have run roughly from 1999 to 2006, the period which covers his election to US president in 2000. We find Sagittarius on the 5th house cusp. This house has to do with free time, leisure, hobbies, entertainment and retirement, as well as children. Having Sagittarius on the 5th means that there was up until this time, a lack of direction (remember the signs are compensatory, they shows us what we need, not what we are) in our leisure time. Leading up to this time in Bush's life, he had been re-elected for his second term as governor of the state of Texas in 1998. His campaign had emphasized education and faith, two themes that align well with Sagittarius, particularly in the 5th house of children. But he was facing the end of his last term and must have been considering what to do next (leisure time). As the son of a US President himself, his own life had been a painful search for a direction that would live up to his family pedigree. In college he struggled with dyslexia and average grades, and later with alcoholism, until his wife and a new-found religiosity saved him. A failed early run at the House of Representatives in 1978 had dashed his hopes at following in his father's footsteps and he then turned to an oil business that failed and then to the purchase of a baseball team that left him rich but embroiled in accusations of insider-trading. The one thing constant throughout his life was his luck and the connections that safeguarded his future, irrespective of any failures encountered.
In 1994, luck would place him back into the political path as governor of Texas, but this time it would lead him to where he wanted to go. One biographer explains:
"Under the quirky Texas constitution, the governor of Texas is primarily a ceremonial position, somewhat akin to that of the president in a Parliamentary system. The true political power in Texas lies with the lieutenant governor, who acts as a prime minister (or provincial premier in Canada) in that that he/she runs the legislature. In a life characterized by luck, the capricious Bush was luckier still in that he was told by the lieutenant governor, a Democrat, that he would make Bush a great governor if he would let him. Bush did and established an enviable reputation, one that crossed both party lines in Texas, where it would have been futile for the governor to act in a partisan fashion."
In 1999, with the reputation that was created for him, the backing of his party and his father's enviable connections, Bush announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He would follow in his father's footsteps after all. This background helps to explain why Sagittarius might appear for Bush in a house characterized by frivolity. It is from this place that he will find a direction. Jupiter in Libra seeks to fulfill the need for direction by acting directly from the 3rd house. This tells us that his ability to convince others (Jupiter) through his communications (3rd) will mark his chosen path. The presence of the Moon also tells us that his capacity to invest in and embrace these communications will help him shine. Neptune adds a degree of obfuscation, lack of clarity or outright deception to these messages, but also a the surrender of one's will to them (Karl Rove, Bush's campaign director, was known to have said that "All politicians operate within an Orwellian nimbus where words don't mean what they normally mean, but Rovism posits that there is no objective, verifiable reality at all. Reality is what you say it is." All of this activity in Libra argues in favor of a need for fairness and equanimity and it is a sign that comes up in any proceeding involving opponent rivals, whether that be in a contest, a legal battle, or a war. We know that Bush was elected in 2000 after a heavily contested legal battle against Al Gore, which involved confusion at the ballots (remember the hanging chads?). We also know that Bush's first term involved a protracted media campaign to convince the public to start a war with Saddam Hussein; a campaign that also involved a large degree of deception. We should also point out that the 5th house is the house of values derived from the land (the 2nd from the 4th), which according to the Sagittarius sign, is the direction that leads Bush as president. It is now well-established that the war with Iraq was largely fought over oil and that the value extracted from the land is perhaps the ideology giving Bush his direction. This then ties back to his earlier experiences as founder of Arbusto Energy (an oil company), which occurred in his Leo period (1973-1980).
This brings us back to what we pointed out above: that the sign that would naturally appear in the seasonal sign's house is often involved, as is its domicile lord. For those with Sag. in the 5th, Leo is the natural sign of this house and it is the rising sign! This angularity, automatically makes it a very significant time for the native. It means that his search for direction involves his identity, his need for validation and prominence. Because Bush has 3 planets in Leo at the angle, it is a time with a great amount of activity and impacting many areas of his life, including establishing material value in his public status and fairness in communications (VE rules the 10th); improving his finances and communicating with affiliations (ME rules the 2nd and 11th); and power issues over his image as well the need to suppress who he really is (Pluto in 1st). This reminds us that Dick Cheney played a large role in running Bush's White House. Additionally, the angular relationship between the Sun and Jupiter becomes very important since these are the two planets that are being reconciled in the manifestations that come to him now. The Sun is in the 10th place from Jupiter, which is traditionally known to be a very "potent" placement. But what it actually means is that his Sun functions at this time as a 10th house Sun relative to the information he's revealing. That means his newly found direction will involve leadership in a very prominent way.
I have studied this chart many times in the past, and although I argued astrologically for his victory over John McCain during the primary election campaign of 2000, prior to this study, I had been hard-pressed to find in it indicators of prominence at the level of a national presidency using the traditional spear-bearer technique. This new seasonal technique not only highlights the areas of the natal chart that combine to indicate an identity in a position of prominent leadership, it does so at the correct time in his life! This is something no other technique has so far been able to do.
Of the 25 chart periods examined in this preliminary study, 100% of them were found to describe the most objectively observable events in the life for that period of time. In the 5 charts, where all signs were examined as a timeline, 84% of the signs were found to correspond to their respective periods, the remaining 16% were inconclusive. And all of the inconclusive signs involved periods of early childhood (Aries and Taurus signs) for which little biographical data was available to corroborate the events in the lives of these particular subjects. In the 2 cases where data was available for every period of the life, all 12 signs (100%) corresponded to significant observable events for those periods.
Apart from the remarkable results, there are several important conclusions that can be taken from this study and elaborated upon in future research:
1. Every 7 or so years, we all enter into new periods of our lives. These periods are driven by needs that are different from the ones that came before. These periods are universal, since we all seem to experience their needs in a similarly timely manner. Thus, I call them life seasons. The sign that governs each season has a motivating influence over our actions during its period and its domicile lord becomes integral in the way we negotiate the fulfillment of its need. Thus, between the ages of 13 and 20, our Cancer season, we are all dealing with a need for protection, shelter and a sense of belonging. But where this sign and its domicile lord the Moon, is placed will differ and indicate how we each specifically negotiate that need.
2.Additionally, there seems to be an important relationship playing out between the seasonal sign and the sign that would naturally occur in that place if Aries were rising. The nature of this relationship is unclear, although it appears that the seasonal sign is the impetus for the events described in the sign that would naturally be in that place. In other words, the natural sign of that place seems to be the outcome we tend to seek, even when the driving force comes from the seasonal sign for the times. If that is the case, then there is a tension that pulls us in the direction of the natural order of the Zodiac. In other words, in the chart of a Leo rising person like Bush, in order to resolve a Sagittarius 5th house seasonal sign, he will unconsciously seek out Leo, the natural sign of the 5th. Perhaps that is a way to create balance out of the irregular order of most charts. As of yet, I have not looked at enough cases where the native has Aries rising, since my initial sample only contained one case. So we can't say that events taking place in those charts are more intense or greater, or more fortunate. As in the case of a planet in its own sign, it may be that they are more autonomous, but this remains to be confirmed through further testing.
3. Finally, because of the mathematics of the circle, the rising sign will dictate what kind of angle each sign makes to that place's "natural sign". For example, if someone has Libra rising, then all of their signs will be 7 places from the sign that would be there in the Aries rising chart (which I have been calling "the natural chart"). If someone has Gemini rising, then all of their signs are 3 places from their natural places; Leo rising, 5 places; Scorpio rising, 8 places, etc. This is not meaningful in and of itself. It is just a curious by-product of the mathematics of the circle. What is more important is to examine the relative angular positions of their domicile lords to each other, just as we did in the two examples above (Mercury opposite Saturn for Diana; and Sun square Jupiter for Bush). As we've stated elsewhere, the "hard" or "soft" quality the aspect is meaningless. The planets involved are more indicative of the difficulty or ease of the interaction. And because angle is place, what the aspect does pertain to, is the topical involvement of that interaction. For example, closing squares (10th house angles) will involve occupations, oppositions (7th house angles) will involve relationships, opening sextiles (3rd angles) will involve communications, etc.