A Pagan’s Review of Fixed Stars Astrology
Bernadette Brady’s Book
And how to use an Astrolabe with it
With additional online astrology resources at the end
How I got interested in Fixed Stars Astrology… My Book Review
I’ve been working on building an astrolabe, and was trying to find the various uses I could have for it (it’s a sort of medieval circular slide rule/computer). Astrolabes are good for finding sun and star positions on any day, time and location, but they really can’t handle the moon or planets, unless you have an ephemeris to use with it.
I’m Pagan, and interested in divination methods, simple ones I can use in the middle of the woods when I’m communing with nature. I mostly use runes, and a little bit of tarot. Modern astrology didn’t appeal to me, because doing tons of math gets me more on my intellectual side than my intuitive side, and using a computer to make a chart isn’t any better. That, and modern astrology seems to require so much resolution of conflicting influences that it just turns into a big mess. Truly, you need intuition or hundreds of rules to resolve what you’ll say, and all the studies I’ve seen fail to prove any statistical significance to astrology. As a predictive “science”, modern astrology fails.
However, it can work if you think of it as augury, which is one of the newer/older approaches that is called horary astrology. Horary checks the star (or planet) positions for the time at which a question is asked. This sort of randomizing allows astrology to function like any oracle based on synchronicity in randomness, from the I-Ching and Tarot to tea leaf reading, and ancient augury systems like bird and cloud augury. In this case, it’s not the shuffling of cards that creates the randomness, but the time at which the question is asked, and your location on earth.
I can’t really swallow that stars and planets have some sort of influence on us. But, I can consider that there’s a correlation between them and actual situations. The first would be like saying “birds returning from the South CAUSE the weather to warm, and blooming flowers MAKE the crops grow.” No, but birds returning are a *sign* that it’s spring time. It’s a correlation between two events, not a causation. Reading the signs is an ancient practice, which DID lead to science.
Why do I like Fixed Star Astrology? You can go out, look at the sky, and SEE that Betelgeuse is rising on the Eastern Horizon. You can SEE that at the same time, Venus is directly on the line that divides the Eastern and Western portions of the sky. And you can “read the signs” that way, just like many ancients did. It’s very visual, moreso than Visual Astrology, which still uses Too Much Math for my tastes. And if you want to know what the signs were at the time of someone’s birth, you can turn the dials on your astrolabe to that time and find out, which is exactly what astrologers did in medieval times.
I’m reminded of a story from Celtic Mythology. Cu Chulainn heard a Druid say that anyone who took up arms on this day would be the greatest hero, but would have a short life. So he did. And he was. And he did. I don’t know what signs that Druid read to make that statement, but it might have been stars. Fixed Star astrology can answer the question: “What is this day good for?”. And the answers it gives are not so much in terms of one planet fighting over another for influence in some zodiac position, but rather calling upon the mythical stories represented by each constellation. It’s mythical characters drawing you into their story, sharing their brilliance and struggles with you. It’s a system for storytellers and bards more than mathematicians. And that’s why I like it.
Brady’s book is a great introduction to working with the visible stars that way, and bringing mythology into your life and that of others. Older books on the topic (like Lilly) seem to mostly list adjectives, and miss out on the stories that those adjectives are based on. I’m also looking forward to John Frawley’s upcoming book “Reading the Fixed Stars”, which is even more story based. It takes the approach of “If this star in Leo is in the mouth of a lion, then what does the mouth of a lion signify?”. But I think Brady’s book is probably going to be better as a learner’s first book, and that one as a second book to get a deeper understanding of Fixed Stars.
See http://www.real-astrology.com/12.html for a preview.
On astrolabes, you can use “Keith’s astrolabes: a Java program” online. Norman Greene makes and sells some, but they don’t have many stars. A Swedish guy makes some that are thousands of dollars, but they’re reproductions, and don’t really work unless you want to do astrology for someone who lived in the 1500’s. I’m working on designing one with 3d software, which my father can make out of pewter. I’m basing it on Keith’s Equinoctial Astrolabe, because it’s the only one that allows fixed star astrology for any location on Earth, and includes stars of the southern hemisphere. If all goes well, it should be the ultimate astrology toy, and do everything but make coffee for you. And look wicked cool too. I’ll put pictures on my site when it’s done with tips on making your own. And if anyone wants us to make one for them, well, it’ll help cover the cost of molds and such. It should be ready by mid to late 2010 on my hypnoticwishes site under Pagan stuff. Give me a buzz if you’re into this!
Additional resources on Fixed Stars Astrology:
Sounds like a very interesting book! Great reading for seers, as it trains you to think in mythical terms. If your symbol is a lion’s back, what does that mean? He goes through the thinking process necessary for interpretaion of omens and auguries. He’s really pretty funny too! For some reason, I tend to trust people with a sense of humor more.
Constellation of Words is THE reference site for finding just about every bit of information on fixed stars that can be found in books. Wanna know what a star means, or where to find it in a particular coordinate system? Look it up here! They’re grouped by constellations, but many many stars have their own page too. It doesn’t completely replace the need for books, but it’s an awesome reference, especially when your favorite book says nothing about a star you’re interested in.
Quotes extensively from The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson 1923.
Very brief introduction to the concepts of Fixed Stars Astrology with a good table of basic meanings, and also a table of Agrippa’s Behenian Fixed Stars for doing magic.
Seems to be the only site dealing extensively with magical uses of the stars, particularly Agrippa’s Behenian Fixed Stars and the Arabic Lunar Mansions. Has sigils and symbols for all of them, planetary and plant correspondances, and quoted segments from very old manuscripts on those subjects.
You can get some interesting information here, but the main goal of this site is to sell you a) software to do this, b) online courses to do this, c) books to do this, d) CDs to do this, and e) star talismans that they make so you can do this kind of magic. It does give you a sample spells or two of each type with full explanations if you want to make paper talismans to try it out. But for more than an overview, you’ll have to pay.
Now, nothing wrong with trying to make a living (cause hey, so am I), and a lot of the manuscript translations they sell just can’t be found anywhere else, like the selected translations of the Picatrix for doing magic with the Arab Mansions of the Moon. It’s unfortunate you can only buy sections of it, and not the whole thing, but perhaps they haven’t finished translating it, and the other parts just aren’t as useful. In any case, this may whet your appetite, but you won’t be able to get more than an overview for free. The Houses of the Moon talismans have purposes that seem a bit dated, but many are universal.
She sells software to do Fixed Stars Astrology, but for 169 Great British Pounds (currently $270 US Dollars) as a “Christmas sale”, it’s not exactly cheap! You can use the graphs in her book to determine star positions yourself, but it’s a painstaking process, because you have to fix every single star, and then correlate them with each of the planets in your ephemeris. Hours of work!
She does sell The Complete Astrolabe Kit for Astrologers which is a CD that gives instructions for how to make an astrolabe. It probably lets you print out your own paper astrolabe. The image shown is one of Norman Greene’s astrolabes, plus what looks to be the back of her astrolabe. That template seems to have the standard zodiac, calendar, shadow squares, plus an extra circle I can’t identify. It’s a planispheric astrobabe, and includes the designs for both a northern hemisphere astrolabe and a southern hemisphere one, a given since she’s Australian. But a northern planisphere means you won’t see any stars South of the Tropic of Capricorn. If I wasn’t making one myself, I’d probably get that, because it does explain how to use an astrolabe with exercises, history, and how astrolabes work.
My Equinoctial Astrolabe will show all the stars used in astrology, though the tradeoff is that it’s a little more complex to use.
A printout of Keith’s Equinoctial Astrolabe (or his other ones) is a cheaper way to do it. That’s what I’m using right now. It doesn’t have all of Brady’s stars, but there are ways to add them in. I’ll see about adding the positions for them on my Astrolabe page, so you can add them yourself with a permanent marker and use it for fixed star astrology (without the sweat, tears and blood of using the graphs to calculate it all). The calculations for positioning starts on an astrolabe are in The Astrolabe by James E. Morrison, the best book on building astrolabes at the moment. His website, Astrolabe.org isn’t bad either, but is mostly a historical overview.
Not much here. She’s apparently an expert on fixed stars astrology who’s been working with them for 25 years. For 150$, she will give you your personalized fixed star report, and a one hour phone consultation to explain it all.
Or, for 289$, you can get the Fixed Stars Report Writer she’s developped and probably uses for her practice. It’s meant to be used with the Solar Writer software.
It’s not that I object to the price for her services. Maybe she really is that good. But I can’t tell from what’s on her site whether she is or not. The article on Algol is interesting and worth reading. The rest doesn’t make any sense to me, perhaps because I don’t speak Astrologereese. She has a book supposed to come out called “Secrets of the Ancient Skies”, but seeing as most of her articles are not understandable by mere mortals, I’m a not sure how useful it will be. We’ll have to see when it comes out.
Has one page on the topic, with pretty pictures of the major stars of fixed star astrology, and the usual list of adjectives from various authors. Enjoy the pretty pictures.