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An 11th House “Trick” for Friendships and Groups

In Vedic Astrology, the 11th house represents friends and groups.* I’ve found this representation to be consistent in the charts of people I know well and the charts of famous people I’ve studied whose lives are mostly public record. It’s also related to a sort of astrological “trick” that can help us find the friends and groups that are most likely to increase our fulfillment and happiness.

Planets that are either located in the 11th house or aspecting the 11th house lord impact our experiences with friendships and groups in two specific ways. They provide information about how fortunate we are in these matters and they also suggest which qualities will result in positive experiences with friendships and group activities. For example, a tight aspect from Saturn to the 11th house lord will probably result in at least some significant problems related to friends and groups as just an unavoidable part of life. However, choosing friends and groups that represent the positive qualities of Saturn can allow somebody with this aspect to make the most out of it and have many fulfilling experiences in these areas, as well. This might mean consciously spending time with people and organizations that are serious-minded, reliable, older than them, etc. Utilizing this sort of Saturn influence to form bonds with deep thinkers you can really trust and count on could be quite a blessing.

On the other hand, somebody with (for example) exalted Venus in the 11th house, absent other influences, will naturally be more inclined than average to have positive experiences with friends and groups. Yet, such a placement is hardly a “free pass,” as the Venus person could potentially end up with friends who are materialistic and self-centered – instead of artistic, devoted and refined – if her priorities are off the mark. Once you understand which planets are influencing your 11th house, you’ll be able to see how those planets have been represented by your friends and groups throughout your life. Then it’s up to you to emphasize the qualities that will enhance your life and avoid the ones that might drag you down. Mars in or aspecting your 11th house? Make friends with athletes and people with strong competitive drives, but try to avoid violent people and groups. Jupiter? Find knowledgable, generous friends but watch out for rigid ideology and fundamentalism. You get the idea.

Indications regarding friendship will be essentially “mixed” in many charts. To interpret a chart with multiple 11th house influences, just remember that they all count and nothing “cancels out” anything else. The late musician Prince had Pluto in his 11th house and his 11th lord conjunct Mercury in his 8th house. As one might expect, some of his friends were prominent or famous (represented by Pluto). His involvement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (represented by the 8th house’s connection to unusual-seeming religious groups, which some people may consider “cults”) and his close friendships with people in the communications industry (represented by Mercury) were also important parts of his life. Prince was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, attending Kingdom Hall services regularly for the last 15 years or so of his life, and two of his closest friends were CNN political commentator Van Jones, who founded a program – with financing help from Prince – called “Yes We Code” that teaches inner city kids computer skills, and NBC anchor Tamron Hall, who was on the cover of one of Prince’s last single releases and took time off work to grieve following his death. Earlier in Prince’s life, many of his friends were fickle – (one of the less admirable indications of Mercury) – he even wrote a song in the 1980s called “Old Friends 4 Sale” with lyrics referencing people he trusted who betrayed him in unexpected, hurtful ways, such as selling personal information, mixed with salacious lies, to the National Enquirer.

If it wasn’t clear already, the point of this article is not to check your 11th house and rejoice if you have Jupiter and Venus there or mope if you find Saturn and Mars. While the state of the 11th house and its lord does help point out the likelihood of potential problems (or lack thereof) regarding friends and groups, the most important part of knowing about your 11th house is how you use that information to build a more fulfilling life. Difficulties and challenges can become our most important growth experiences, and if friends and groups are entirely “smooth sailing” for you in this life, I imagine it’s because your karma this time around is to focus on growth experiences in other areas (such as career, romance, spirituality, etc.). Besides, if you actually do have Saturn and Mars conjunct in the 11th house, that makes it easy – just befriend retired athletes 🙂

*Other areas of the chart can also give us relevant information about friends and groups – a few examples of this include general happiness and comforts (4th house) and, for many people, peers and competitors (3rd house and Mars) or business partners (7th house) – but the 11th house is the primary factor. 

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A Tip About Exaltation and Debilitation

Most people who have a cursory knowledge of astrology think of exaltation as the best position for a planet and debilitation as the worst. From this starting point, it would seem logical to figure that a horoscope with exalted planets is “better” than one with debilitated planets.

This isn’t necessarily accurate and, in fact, debilitated planets may do quite well in certain ways. For example, since the Sun is traditionally a planet of leadership, self-esteem and charisma, when debilitated in Libra it can’t function in its natural manner as easily and, thus, is likely to become more focused on fairness and working well with others – the “debilitation” isn’t a handicap as much as it is an adjustment away from the planet’s archetypal state of functioning.

However, even if the assumption that exaltation is the most desirable position for a planet and debilitation is the least desirable is taken as a rough starting point, meaningful analysis of these placements involves an important – and often forgotten – factor.

Exaltation points and debilitation points are exactly opposite one another in the zodiac and every planet aspects the position opposite itself. This means if, for example, Venus is in Virgo (its debilitation sign) in the 4th house of a horoscope, then Venus aspects its exaltation sign (Pisces) in the 10th house. Such a person might flourish in a Venusian career, since the 10th house, which represents career and status, receives Venus’s aspect onto its sign of exaltation. In fact, this example comes from the chart of a professional artist I know.

Remembering to look at the aspects from exalted or debilitated planets and not just the planets themselves is an easy way to add more specificity and depth to chart analysis. The symmetry involved with this concept also extends to placements other than exaltation and debilitation. Planets in their own signs are opposite their “detriment” (i.e. one step up from debilitation) and vice versa, while a planet’s “friendly” signs are opposite “enemy” signs and its neutral signs are opposite other neutral signs.

One of the great lessons of Eastern spiritual traditions is the concept of perpetual balance in the universe. To give a common example, this can be visually represented by the yin-yang symbol, which shows us that there is no light without darkness and no darkness without light.

In this same manner, exaltation and debilitation naturally incorporate each other’s energy at the most basic level.

 

 

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Vedic Chart Reading Basics: Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I discussed some basic chart-reading guidelines for those new to astrology (or just new to Vedic-style charts). While those with Vedic astrology backgrounds will prefer to check out some of the blog’s more advanced posts, my hope is that this post and its predecessor will be a useful reference for beginners.

Since the first post in this series discussed the initial steps in chart reading, such as locating the ascendant, learning abbreviations for planets and signs and identifying the 12 houses, this post will go into a bit more detail about how planets, signs and houses work astrologically, while also introducing the concept of “aspects.”

In another earlier post about astrology fundamentals, I discussed the importance of viewing the planets as people. Like people, each planet has specific personality traits and, in the same manner that we respond in certain ways to different environments and lifestyles, planets respond differently to the energy of each astrological sign.

The 12 houses represent the different parts of our lives, as discussed in this other early post. For example, the 6th house represents our daily labor, debts, enemies and health or illness, while the 7th house represents our partnerships (including most notably – but certainly not only – marriage).

Let’s look at the big picture this way:

  1. Planets are people.
  2. Houses are the different parts of our lives.
  3. Signs are the types of energy (think: adjectives) connected to each house. Signs always match up with houses in the same clockwise order (i.e. Taurus always comes after Aries, Gemini always comes after Taurus, etc.), so as long as you find the ascendant in a chart, it’s easy to match up the houses and signs.
  4. When planets are close to each other in a chart (a “conjunction”) or reflect on each other at a direct angle (such as 180 degrees, which is called an “opposition”) they impact one another. Conjunctions and oppositions are both types of “aspects,” which is the broader term for all the ways planets reflect on one another and impact each other with their energy.

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The Astrology of Terrorist Attacks

World events tend to provide especially clear examples of astrological patterns. The chart for a declaration of war, an economic crash or a terrorist attack will normally contain fewer variables and mixed signals than natal astrology. This is because an individual person is generally a combination of a wide variety of personality traits and influences that manifest over many decades, but (for example) the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City is primarily a snapshot of a single major occurrence.

While viewing the chart for the recent Paris terrorist attacks* (on November 13, 2015), I noticed an aspect of less than three degrees between Mars and the nodes (i.e. Rahu and Ketu)**. The September 11, 2001 chart, analyzed in this post, includes an aspect of less than one degree between Mars and the nodes.

Since I wondered how consistent this sort of placement was in the charts of major terrorist attacks, I looked up the July 7, 2005 London attacks, as well. The day of the London attacks included Mars aspecting the nodes by less than one-and-a-half degrees. To put this information in context, an aspect of three degrees or less between Mars and the nodes only occurs for an average of less than two weeks per year.

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Charles Manson Horoscope Analysis

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Until now, my horoscope analyses have focused on celebrities who interest me in an artistic or cultural sense.  Sure, they’re no strangers to controversy, but Donald Trump is a current news phenomenon, Woody Allen is one of my favorite filmmakers and he’s had a colorful life, to say the least; Taylor Swift is the world’s biggest pop star and a talented, interesting person; Ben Affleck is an accomplished actor, director and screenwriter who has been in the news recently. Those were “fun” profiles for me.

The subject of this profile, Charles Manson, is much darker and I was on the fence for a while about whether to publish it. My concern with profiling dictators, serial killers or other reviled figures is that it’s human nature for people to keep an eye out for astrological features they or those close to them share with the chart being discussed. It’s important to remember there are gentle, peaceful people who have conjunctions in common with Manson, idiots who share aspects with Einstein and introverts with placements similar to Trump. We study the specifics in charts so that we can better understand the puzzle of an entire human existence, but each chart is a single entity made up of innumerable factors combining in a unique manner. To understand the human body, doctors learn about all of its parts… but you only have a human being when those parts work together as a whole.

So, this profile is different from my past ones. It’s about a crazed cult leader and mass murderer who experienced bizarre delusions… someone who, at first glance, would seem far too unhinged, dangerous and disheveled to attract any sort of following or support. Yet, Charles Manson not only befriended Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and other music industry figures, but also had an odd, almost hypnotic appeal to some disaffected young people, especially young women.

Venus, the planet of love, the arts and aesthetics, is in Manson’s 7th house of partnerships and relationships, in its own sign of Libra, contributing to his unlikely charisma. However, Manson’s Venus is deeply combust, as the Sun is barely a degree removed from it. I discussed the controversy and uncertainty surrounding combustion in my previous post, but in this instance, it certainly seems to fit, contributing to a significantly darker and more confused representation of Venusian qualities than usual.

Manson’s 7th house is actually quite crowded, with a four-planet stellium, including the aforementioned combust Venus, the Sun, which represents authority, power and dominance; Jupiter, which symbolizes his role as (false) guru; and Mercury, relating to communication and “getting the message out” about the cult’s deranged, homicidal vision. Mercury also has an important opposition aspect to Uranus, suggesting the strange and chaotic nature of Manson’s communication.

With a 7th house this impactful, it’s no surprise that its owner focused very seriously, in his own warped manner, on cultivating partnerships and relationships… in fact, this occurred to such an extent that, to this day, those who followed Manson while committing atrocities are generally referred to as “the Manson family.”

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A Close Look At Combustion

Combustion, which refers to a phenomenon that occurs when planets are considered too close to the Sun, is a topic that seems to be interpreted differently by many astrologers I’ve learned from and respect. Some say they’ve either never found it to be the case in their practical experience or, at least, that it’s not the case with Mercury (the most common planet to be located so close to the Sun) and/or has mixed results. Some astrologers also feel the Moon cannot become combust, while others list it along with the other planets. I’ve also heard more than one astrologer suggest combustion is very real but that the required orbs are just much tighter than indicated in classical texts.

Those texts state specific orbs of combustion for different planets – (although the orbs vary a bit depending on which text is referenced) – and generally take a very negative view of combust planets. James Braha mentioned in an ACVA (American College of Vedic Astrology) lecture that he feels combust planets have a multi-layered effect that both brightens and agitates, giving the example of models with a combust Venus, who, despite their beauty, often have difficult love lives. The late Narendra Desai mentioned in another ACVA lecture that he felt Mercury, being so used to closeness with the Sun, doesn’t actually become combust. Chakrapani Ullal’s ACVA lecture on the topic is informative but also interestingly ambivalent; he suggests his own observations regarding combustion have been mixed.

It’s been my own observation that an unusual percentage of highly intelligent people have a very combust Mercury… and also that an unusual percentage of these people are anxious and neurotic. Possible anxiety and neurosis aside, it would be difficult for anybody to convince me that a combust Mercury makes one more likely to be intellectually slow or have trouble communicating, which I’ve heard from other astrologers whom I respect (but disagree with on this account). Even in regard to anxiety and neurosis, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean much; highly intelligent people may just be more likely to be anxious or neurotic. Similarly, without considering astrological factors, there’s plenty about modeling that seems as if it could make one’s love life more difficult. The number of variables involved in life is enough to make pinning down the facts about certain topics problematic at times… and that applies to most fields, not just astrology.

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Evaluating Transits: Ascendant or Moon?

Jupiter recently transited into Leo, using Vedic Astrology’s sidereal zodiac. Since Jupiter is the greatest natural benefic and only changes signs about once a year, many people are discussing the transit and what it means for each sign. However, some astrologers discuss transits based on the Ascendant, while others focus on the Moon sign.

Here’s a quick guide to the difference:

The Ascendant represents what’s actually happening. So looking at houses/signs from the Ascendant is probably the most fundamental way to judge a transit, and certainly the most accurate predictive method.

The Moon represents how we feel about what happens. So looking at house/signs from the Moon is important in its own way and shouldn’t be ignored. For example, if you get into a romantic relationship, what really matters is how you feel about it, not that it occurred. It’s not like you’re going to date an asshole, have your self-esteem plummet, become a nervous wreck and then look back on the time fondly, thinking, “Well, who cares how I felt – the important thing is I was in a relationship!”

Other situations are more matter-of-fact, such as predictions about finances or what a transit may be like for your children, if you have any. The simple reason for this is that people are usually happy to make more money or see their children thrive, but dislike losing money or seeing their children suffer.

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Jupiter & Donald Trump’s Future

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Donald Trump is out to an early lead in polling for the Republican Presidential nomination, and just about everywhere one turns people from either major party (or neither major party, for that matter) seem worked up about it and insistent he’s a joke candidate with no real chance; yet, he’s not just ahead, but way ahead of any other Republican candidate, as of the timing of this article. To be fair, Trump’s disapproval ratings are far higher than the other candidates, too. He’s a big personality who often evokes “love him or hate him” reactions, but he’s already affected the race and proven to be more than a sideshow.

What makes Trump’s Presidential aspirations interesting from an astrological perspective is that a study of his chart strongly suggests the best is yet to come for him and – wait for it – that period of his life is scheduled to begin in November, 2016. That’s election month. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll win – for one thing, he has to remain a viable candidate for more than a year just to have a shot – but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence.

Trump’s strongest planet is a near-stationary Jupiter, which was moving at less than 1% relative speed at his time of birth. (Near-stationary planets in one’s natal chart are often extremely important and powerful.) His Mercury in its own sign of Gemini, located in the 11th house of fulfillment of desires, social circle and networking, has surely played a major role in his success, as well.

However, Trump’s overall life-path may be most defined by his 4th house-10th house axis, which includes both luminaries (i.e. the Moon and the Sun, which is also his Ascendant lord) in a tight opposition orb to each other and in close conjunction with Ketu and Rahu, respectively. This indicates Trump’s career in real estate, as the 4th house represents the home environment (including homes, in general, not just one’s own living space) and the 10th house represents career and status. However, Trump’s near-stationary Jupiter suggests that he was destined to be “larger than life” in some way or another, even if his other planets were in different locations. The role of his 4th house-10th house axis wasn’t to ensure his success (which his Jupiter and Mercury had already heavily weighted the deck in favor of), but instead to point to the area where he would apply most of his energy and resources.

And in November, 2016, Trump’s Jupiter mahadasha (major period) begins. Jupiter is likely Trump’s most important planet, but he hasn’t even experienced its mahadasha yet. This mahadasha should be highly positive and benefit him in a number of ways, no matter what happens in his current campaign; however, he’ll have to remain a relevant Presidential candidate long enough for Jupiter’s energy to kick in or the timing will be too late to help his chances in the 2016 election. In the meantime, upcoming transits of a number of important planets and a change in antardasha (minor period) from Moon to Mars all seem lined up to benefit Trump in the near future.

Yet, Trump may still encounter obstacles relating to much of the populace, as a substantial part of his personality seems driven by a need for expansion and power. While Trump’s Jupiterian strengths have led to positive relationships with his grown children, given him an instinctive sense of generosity at times, and helped him to employ thousands of people, some of the less desirable manifestations of that Jupiterian energy, as channeled through his current Rahu mahadasha – such as potentially harmful expansion, over-the-top self-promotion and a bombastic attitude – have also played a role in defining his identity to the American public.

However, he’s just finishing up his Rahu mahadasha, which began all the way back in 1998… and that’s the sort of thing Rahu can do to people, especially if they’re prone to such tendencies before entering its mahadasha. Rahu, the north node of the moon, focuses on more, more, more; it represents insatiable desires and, in Hindu mythology, is depicted as a head without a body. Picture that image for a moment – it’s always hungry, not equipped to digest experiences or process them, only to continue craving them. As that sort of craving is quite a motivator, (albeit an inherently unsatisfying one), Rahu plays a substantial role in the lives of many people who are famous and/or achieve worldly success. Rahu’s also hell on impulse-control, which fits with Trump’s tendency to speak first and think later. And if he seems obsessed with status and career, well, he has Rahu in his 10th house, which represents those very things.

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Ben Affleck & Rahu’s Rollercoaster

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At first glance, Ben Affleck’s chart looks like a dream come true. Venus is right on the ascendant in the intelligent, creative sign of Gemini, opposite Jupiter in its own sign of Sagittarius and trining a 5th-house Moon in Venus’s own sign of Libra (in the nakshatra of Svati, which is often associated with the wealthy and socially adept). Mars is located in his 3rd house, which has a strong connection to the arts, and is in the sign of its great friend, Leo (which, once again, represents the arts). In other words, it’s a fitting chart for a multimillionaire movie star who is also sharp enough to become an elite screenwriter and film director.

Most movie fans are familiar with “Good Will Hunting,” which Affleck and Matt Damon famously wrote together and starred in, jumpstarting their careers. However, in my view, Affleck’s career artistic peak and one of the best movies of the new millennium is “Gone Baby Gone,” which was co-written (adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane) and directed by Affleck. I can’t remember a movie in the past few years that likely resulted in more couples arguing as they left the theater… and that’s a compliment, if it wasn’t clear 🙂

Then there’s Affleck’s substantial humanitarian efforts, which he’s kept rather low-key compared to the amount of effort and attention he gives them. Considering the lifestyles of some movie stars, it’s a bit ironic that a clearly talented artist who invests much of his time on charity work to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (which constitutes way more personal attention than writing some checks or showing up at a few banquets), seems to trigger intuitive suspicion and negativity among much of the general public. Affleck clearly understands how he’s often seen and even incorporated this view of himself into his art when he starred as a philandering husband framed for murder in the recent blockbuster “Gone Girl.”

He’s also had one of the most unlikely career trajectories in film history. He was celebrated as a screenwriter in his 20s, unfairly mocked as a tabloid headline for years, reemerged as one of the world’s top directors (and, suddenly, a respected actor), won an Oscar and now his pending divorce is all over the news, with most accounts essentially blaming him for drinking and gambling away his marriage. Of course, who knows if that’s true? However, the point is that it’s on every supermarket shelf, and while it’s likely especially personally painful for Affleck, it’s really just a dip on the Rahu-driven rollercoaster he’s been riding for a long time.

Rahu is the north node of the Moon and considered especially troublesome in Vedic Astrology. It represents our insatiable desires – the areas of life we are relentlessly compelled to experience but must eventually realize are maya (illusion) to continue on our spiritual path. Rahu is specifically responsible for all forms of mass hysteria, which include both fame and public derision. So far, I’ve done celebrity profiles on Woody Allen, Taylor Swift and Affleck and I’ve ended up writing about Rahu extensively in each one. None of these people were originally chosen to profile with the idea of focusing on Rahu, but it turned out to play a huge role in all of their lives.

Affleck’s Moon nakshatra of Svati and his Ascendant and Venus nakshatra of Ardra are all ruled by Rahu, so it’s bound to be a substantial influence throughout his entire life. As it’s placed in his 8th house, it represents sudden ups and downs, secrets and the esoteric or occult. Since the Moon nakshatra determines which mahadasha (major period) one experiences first in life, Affleck grew up during a Rahu mahadasha; then he initially became famous during the mahadasha of his strong 7th-house Jupiter in Sagittarius and antardasha (sub-period) of Rahu. In this instance, Jupiter, which is generally considered the planet best able to work with Rahu’s energy, was able to channel the more positive elements of Rahu into a sudden rise.

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Is It Your Karma to Change Your Karma?

Karma probably confuses people from Western and Judeo-Christian cultures more than any other Eastern spiritual or philosophical concept. Most just seem to dismiss it as the simplistic idea of “what comes around goes around.” I remember a friend – a loyal, well-intentioned guy who could, nonetheless, get quite worked up when he felt somebody had taken advantage of him or personally wronged him – exclaiming about the downfall of a man he felt had cheated him in some way, “That’s karma! Karma will always get you!”

I almost brought up holocaust victims or school shootings, but decided I could get across the same general point without creating such an awkward mood. Making it into a bit of a joke, I asked, “What happened? Was this guy mean to you, so he got eaten by a tiger?” My friend knew I was teasing him – and probably also knew I was trying to get him to think more deeply about what he’d said. His reply was something along the lines of, “Come on… of course he didn’t get eaten by a tiger, but he screwed me over, and now it’s his turn. What do you think karma is?”

The problem with many people’s conception of karma is that “bad things” happening to “good people” seems unfair to them (and “fairness” is a modern cultural ideal), so some just dismiss the idea of karma completely because they see “unfairness” happen too often throughout the world; others, perhaps even more misguided, figure there must be reasons that fit their limited frame of reference. (e.g. “That baby must have really been an asshole in a past life to end up with spina bifida!”) The concept of some sort of inevitable “punitive” karma destined to smite evildoers is also used as a comforting mechanism by many who feel bitter and/or vengeful.

However, what we think of as “good” and “bad” is actually quite subjective. Most people have no problem eating animals kept in horrible conditions and slaughtered for (unhealthy, unnecessary, environmentally problematic) food or with buying products made by child slave laborers. If you want full disclosure, I’m quite careful not to do the former and pay very little attention to the latter. Maybe a tiger will only eat half of me?

A hundred years ago, a doctor willingly performing an abortion would be seen as an evil act by most people, but now the majority of developed nations feel abortion should be a woman’s personal choice. Blasphemy is considered a serious crime by most Muslims, yet perceived as an indispensable element of free speech by most Westerners. Social programs Americans and Europeans currently take for granted, such as emergency medical care and public schools, used to sincerely worry well-meaning traditional capitalists.

Still, you may ask, what about more “basic” morals, such as not killing, stealing or committing adultery? Well, what about other old standbys involving specific rules for how to sell one’s daughter into slavery or the correct way to torture witches to death? Stuff changes. And we have far more trouble predicting what will change, why and when than most people like to admit.

In other words, the world is in flux. Constantly. And that’s okay.

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