What’s in a Chart?

June 23, 2013

 Years ago, I’d occasionally find myself in a position where someone would push a chart into my hands and ask “What do you see?”  …  Well, I’d be flummoxed.  I’d see squiggles and lines and hopes and expectations on the person’s face–and go totally blank. It all looked like gobbledygook to me.  It took me years –and a similar confession of the same reaction from astrologer Rick Levine who’s a personal hero of mine,  to realize WHY this was true.

Why??  Because a chart doesn’t TELL us anything.  Nothing at all.  First of all, there’s no way to “see” if the chart is a human being, a dog, a building, or a chicken.  Given that level of ignorance it almost goes without saying that we can’t detect the “soul level” of the being represented by the chart. The chart doesn’t “tell us” ANYTHING!  We have to ASK.

A chart might be simply a moment in time.  Every moment in time has an astrological signature.  The issue is that no chart has MEANING without CONTEXT.   That’s where the intimate and intricate dance between astrologer and client begins–in creating the context.

 Along the way, I also discovered that “gift-readings” were often sadly empty, offering little to the gifted client but the satisfaction (or not) of mild curiosity. What is the CONTEXT?  What is the issue to explore?  Like you, most likely, I’ve wondered why there’s such a difference between the readings of different astrologers.  I mean beyond the issue of skill and competence in the astrological language.

After pondering these questions for a long time I finally realized the explanation to all these issues was the same.  The astrological chart tells us nothing until we engage with it by asking QUESTIONS.  Without the question, there’s not an answer.

Astrologers, by nature, are fascinated by the variety of ways people meet their lives.  As a result, each astrologer has areas of curiosity that become implicit questions.  When I read a chart, I’m curious about the psycho-spiritual growth and development of the person, what prompted their growth, how they’ve handled crises in the past, what innate resources they may be under-utilizing in dealing with the present. I’m also curious about timing when challenges arise and detecting the best way to meet those challenges for peace and personal growth.

I remember going to the “vacation home” of a referral client.  Located in one of the most exclusive spa resorts in the country this person clearly had a lot of money if this was her fourth home.  I correctly identified that she married and divorced within six months when she was “barely legal”.  I assumed this kind of issue would create an internal crisis that would precipitate a growing period.  She looked at me blankly.  I could see great generosity flowing to her from people who could be seen as teachers or spiritual mentors.  She agreed that generosity came to her from a man who married her, at her father’s request, solely to provide her with money,  but blanked out on learning from him.  I went through her chart crossing out all my assumptions as she showed them to be faulty.  I was looking for what gave meaning and purpose for her life and it turned out she wasn’t looking for meaning or purpose!  With what was left, and without any sense of irony, I finally said.  “It looks like you’re here on earth to enjoy life, go to parties (yes, that was there), and have a good time!”  Her face lit up!  “That’s it exactly!,” she beamed.

It’s also hard to read charts for ourselves or for people we’re close–because we don’t ask the right questions.  We think we know the person and fail to ask the obvious questions.   When we’re in love we don’t ask “will my instinctive way of approaching new situations clash with his?” (hard aspects between Moons or Ascendants will trump whatever sweet conjunctions may be there) or “Will what I don’t know about this person hurt me? (Do any of their planets fall in your 12th house?  How do those planets aspect your chart points?)

As I think about Questions, I realize that asking the right question is an art.  My sister can meet a person and instantly ask a dozen questions that bring that person into a stimulating conversation.  When looking at life itself, we all ask different questions, and the questions we ask of life are important.  We get answers that relate to our questions.  We don’t get answers that don’t relate to our questions.  I have a friend who always asks “Can I do more” in any situation.  It didn’t surprise me that she hit a wall of life-changing exhaustion.  I remember my mother’s implied question when I was a toddler:  “What amazing thing is this child going to do next?”  I thank her for this.  My life is a lot more interesting that it might have been had my mother asked “What trouble is this kid getting into now?”   A doctor who asks the right questions will make better diagnoses.  A teacher who asks the right questions can stimulate learning.  What questions do you ask of life?

As a practicing astrologer, not only do I bring my questions to a chart…  I also look for questions my client brings to me–which finally gave me the answer to those who hand me a chart and expect me to say something.  Now I take a guess at a question.  Maybe it’s  “Surprise me!”  “Tell me something about me that I haven’t thought of.”  Or, if I notice their planets involved with slow-moving transits “Why is my life going crazy at this moment?–and how long will it last?”

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