The horoscope cast for the birth of a person, known as the natal chart or radix chart, is a map of the potential that is inherent in that human being. Interpreting the natal chart means drawing a picture of the “potential at rest”. Exactly how the “seed” potential indicated in the chart actually manifests in the life depends on the circumstances in which the life is being lived, the exercise of free will, and that mysterious X factor of consciousness that doesn’t fully lend itself to measurement and analysis.
Looking at the chart divorced from the context of the lived life, there is no way to tell where the owning “native” is in the continuum between saint and sinner. Planets and signs and houses are raw energies, free of the attribution of good or bad. They hold potentials, that’s all. The way we live out the potentials in our chart is completely up to us.
As the life begins to develop, you can start matching the natal chart to its real life expression. You do this by using astrological techniques for timing events, either predictively or retroactively, and relating the timed measurements back to the natal horoscope informed by the actual life circumstance. Life development is an ongoing process, of course. At any stage in life, you can match the circumstances to the astrological winds that are currently blowing, and get deep insight into what is going on, and what you can do about it.
It is not surprising that people typically tend to seek help from astrologers when things are not going well in their life, akin to paying a visit to your doctor only when you are ill. But using astrology exclusively as a shoulder to cry on is a huge disservice to astrology and to yourself. There is a lot of stuff going on in the life that is not dire, but is ripe for introspection. Knowing what is happening in your horoscope now, whether or not you are in distress, can help you see beyond surface appearances. Doing this frequently (like a regular checkup) adds up to getting better at dealing with whatever life throws at you, and appreciating the richness of all experience.
So how do you know what is currently happening in your horoscope? The natal chart remains the same, but what you do is to overlay another horoscope that is cast for the current time, which I will call the event horoscope, or event chart. There are in fact several kinds of event charts you can cast for the current time, but the most important event chart is one that is cast exactly like a natal chart, with the current time and current location.
Once you cast this chart, you then overlay it on the natal chart, and see the relationships between the positions in the event chart and those in the natal chart. The interplay between these chart positions is the foundation of all prediction or forecasting. The neat thing is “forecasting” can be turned around to revisit the past as well, like going back to the future: you can set up the event chart for a past happening, and overlay it on your natal chart to get retrospective insight.
So, about that overlay. Let’s take an example. Here’s the natal chart of U.S. President Barack Obama:
Nov 4, 2007 was election day, with Obama running as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. We are interested in the winds that were blowing at that time, so we can cast an event chart for Nov 4, 2007 at 8pm (right around the time polls were closing in several states), for Washington D.C. Here’s the event chart, on its own:
This chart, by itself, would be the natal chart for anyone born on Nov 4, 2007 at 8pm in Washington D.C. and you could interpret it as such. But here we are interested in what this event chart means for Obama, so we will overlay this chart on top of Obama’s natal chart like so:
This overlay chart, or 2-ring chart, shows the relationship between the event chart and Obama’s natal chart. The periphery of the outer ring, as well as the house divisions are from Obama’s natal chart. The inner ring shows positions in the natal chart, and the outer ring shows the positions of planets, as well as MC (written as M) and Ascendant (written as A), for the event time and place. In other words, these are the transits of the planets, MC, and Ascendant over Obama’s natal chart, as seen on Nov 4, 2007, 8pm in Washington D.C. We will call this 2-ring chart the transit chart for an event over a natal chart. The word transits here meaning the planets in motion or transition as they continue to whirl around in their orbits.
The relationship between the outer (transits) and inner (natal) is primarily seen via what the so-called inter-aspects, i.e. aspects between the outer and inner positions. For instance, notice that transiting Neptune at 19 Aqu 15 is tightly conjunct the natal Ascendant at 18 Aqu 03, with an orb of just over a degree. I will get more into some interpretive details in another post, but you will learn that this kind of conjunction is guaranteed to be life changing because it is the transit of an outer planet to an angle. In other words whenever one of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto conjunct or square an angle (MC/IC, Ascendant/Descendant) by transit, there is going to be a momentous development in the life.
Conjunctions from the transiting planets to natal planets and angles are easy to see, and is the first port of call when analyzing the impact of an event. Once you are done with conjunctions, you want to look at the other aspects as well. This takes some more doing. I have programmed my Lifespan application to show inter-aspects, with the option to choose which aspects to show, and what orbs to use. Here’s the same 2-ring chart as above, with the option to show oppositions and squares, as long as they are each within an orb limit of 2 degrees:
The panel to the right of the chart is where I choose the aspects, you can see that 180 (opposition) and 90 (square) are checked. Against each of them, I have set the orb to limit to 2. This results in the following inter-squares being shown: transiting Mercury square natal Saturn, transiting Sun square natal Sun, and transiting Moon square the natal nodes. Going forward I will abbreviate these to Tr Mer squ Sat, Tr Sun squ Sun, Tr Moo squ Nod. There is no opposition aspect under 2 degrees of orb.
If we increase the orb of the squares to 3 degrees, we catch an additional inter-aspect, which is transiting Jupiter (in the 9th house) square natal Mars (in the 7th house), in short Tr Jup squ Mar:
Question is, what orb limit to use? Also, is there a pecking order in the importance of transits depending on the planets involved? I will answer these questions, and cover lots more ground in later posts. For now I will say that in the case of Obama and the 2007 election, of all the inter-aspects we have seen, Tr Nep con Asc and Tr Jup squ Mar are a lot more important than the other squares. Another aspect that may be a little difficult to see is Tr Sat con Plu in the 7th house, with an extremely tight orb of just 10 minutes of arc. This transit is of enormous importance, and speaks to the far reaching transformation (Pluto) in Obama’s marriage (7th house) as they emerged into public life as President and First Lady of the US.