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refers to any of several systems, traditions or beliefs in which
knowledge of the relative positions of celestial bodies and related
information is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting
and organizing knowledge about personality, human affairs and
terrestrial events. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer
or, less often, an astrologist. Historically the term mathematicus
was used to denote a person proficient in astrology, astronomy,
Although the two fields share a common origin, modern astronomy as practiced today is not to be confused with astrology. While astronomy is the scientific study of astronomical objects and phenomena, astrology is the study of the supposed correlation of those objects with earthly and human affairs. Astrology is variously considered by its proponents to be a symbolic language, a form of art, science or divination. Critics, including the scientific community where it has commented, consider it to be a pseudoscience.
The core beliefs of astrology were prevalent in most of the ancient world and are epitomized in the Hermetic maxim As Above, So Below. Tycho Brahe also used a similar phrase to justify his studies in astrology: Suspiciendo despicio - "By looking up I see downward." Although the principle that events in the heavens are mirrored by those on Earth was one generally held in most traditions of astrology across the world, historically in the West there has been a debate among astrologers over the nature of the mechanism behind astrology and whether or not celestial bodies are only signs or portents of events, or if they are actual causes of events through some sort of "force" or mechanism. While the connection between celestial mechanics and terrestrial dynamics was explored first by Isaac Newton with his development of a universal theory of gravitation, claims that the gravitational effects of the planets and the stars are what accounts for astrological generalizations are not substantiated by the scientific community nor are they advocated by most astrologers.
Many of those who practice astrology believe the positions of certain celestial bodies either influence or correlate with people's personality traits, important events in their lives, physical characteristics, and to some extent their destiny - a claim that is often disputed by skeptics. Most modern astrologers believe that the cosmos (and especially the solar system) acts as a single unit, so that any happening in any part of it inevitably is reflected in every other part (thus "as above, so below" is still held to be true).
Most astrological traditions are based on the relative positions and movements of various real or construed celestial bodies and on the construction of celestial patterns as seen at the time and place of the event being studied. These are chiefly the Sun, Moon, the planets, the stars and the lunar nodes. The calculations performed in casting a horoscope involve arithmetic and simple geometry, which serve to locate the apparent position of heavenly bodies on desired dates and times based on astronomical tables. The frame of reference for such apparent positions is defined by the tropical or sidereal zodiacal signs on one hand, and by the local horizon (Ascendant) and midheaven (Medium Coeli) on the other. This latter (local) frame is typically further divided into the twelve astrological houses.
In past centuries, astrologers often relied on close observation of celestial objects and the charting of their movements. Today astrologers use data drawn up by astronomers, which are transformed to a set of astrological tables called ephemerides, showing the changing zodiacal positions of the heavenly bodies through time.
There are many different traditions of astrology, some of which share similar features due to the transmission of astrological doctrines from one culture to another. Other traditions developed in isolation and hold completely different doctrines, although they too share some similar features due to the fact that they are drawing on similar astronomical sources, i.e. planets, stars, etc.
Significant traditions of astrology include but are not limited to:
o Horoscopic astrology and its specific subsets
o Hellenistic astrology
o Jyotish or Vedic astrology
o Medieval & Renaissance horoscopic astrology
o Modern Western astrology with its specific subsets
o Modern tropical and sidereal horoscopic astrology
o Hamburg School of Astrology
o Uranian astrology, subset of the Hamburg School
o Psychological astrology or astropsychology
o Chinese astrology
o Persian-Arabic astrology
o Kabbalistic astrology
o Mesoamerican astrology
o Tibetan astrology
o Celtic astrology
Horoscopic astrology is a very specific and complex system of astrology that was developed in the Mediterranean region and specifically Hellenistic Egypt sometime around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE. This tradition deals largely with astrological charts cast for specific moments in time in order to interpret the inherent meaning underlying the alignment of the planets at that moment based on specific sets of rules and guidelines. One of the defining characteristics of this form of astrology that makes it distinct from other traditions is the computation of the degree of the Eastern horizon rising against the backdrop of the ecliptic at the specific moment under examination, otherwise known as the ascendant. Horoscopic astrology has been the most influential and widespread form of astrology across the world, especially in Africa, India, Europe and the Middle East, and there are several major traditions of horoscopic astrology including Indian, Hellenistic, Medieval, and most other modern Western traditions of astrology.
A computer generated Western natal chart or horoscope chart, a specific type of horoscope created for the moment of a person's birth.
Central to horoscopic astrology and its branches is the calculation of a horoscope or what has recently become known as an astrological chart. This is a diagrammatic representation in two dimensions of the celestial bodies' apparent positions in the heavens from the vantage of a location on Earth at a given time and place. The horoscope of an individual's birth is called a natal chart - horoscope chart. In ancient Hellenistic astrology the rising sign or ascendant demarcated the first celestial house of a horoscope, and the word for the ascendant in Greek was horoskopos. This is the word that the term "horoscope" derives from and in modern times it has come to be used as a general term for an astrological chart as a whole. Other commonly used names for the horoscope/natal chart in English include natus, birth-chart, astrological chart, astro-chart, celestial map, sky-map, star-chart, nativity, cosmogram, vitasphere, soulprint, radical chart, radix, or simply chart, among others.
The tropical and sidereal zodiacs
The path of the sun across the heavens as seen from Earth during a full year is called the ecliptic. This, and the nearby band of sky followed by the visible planets, is called the zodiac.
The majority of Western astrologers base their work on the tropical zodiac, which evenly divides the ecliptic into 12 segments of 30 degrees each with the start of the Zodiac (Aries 0°) being the Sun's position at the March equinox. The zodiacal signs in this system bear no relation to the constellations of the same name but stay aligned to the months and seasons. The tropical zodiac is used as a historical coordinate system in astronomy.
All Jyotish (Hindu) and a few Western astrologers use the sidereal zodiac, which uses the same evenly divided ecliptic but which approximately stays aligned to the positions of the observable constellations with the same name as the zodiacal signs. The sidereal zodiac is computed from the tropical zodiac by adding an offset called Ayanamsa. This offset changes with the precession of the equinoxes.
18th century Icelandic manuscript showing astrological houses and planetary glyphs.
Branches of horoscopic astrology
Every tradition of horoscopic astrology can be divided into four specific branches which are directed towards specific subjects or used for specific purposes. Often this involves using a unique set of techniques or a different application of the core principles of the system to a different area. Many other subsets and applications of astrology are derived from the four fundamental branches.
There are four major branches of horoscopic astrology.
o Natal astrology, the study of a person's natal chart in order to gain information about the individual and his/her life experience.
o Katarchic astrology, which includes both electional and event astrology. The former uses astrology to determine the most auspicious moment to begin an enterprise or undertaking, and the latter to understand everything about an event from the time at which it took place.
o Horary astrology, a system of astrology used to answer a specific question by studying the chart of the moment the question is posed to an astrologer.
o Mundane or world astrology, is the application of astrology to world events, including weather, earthquakes and the rise and fall of empires or religions.