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The Fixed Stars and Astrology

May 2012

By Astrologer Steven Stuckey

Moon - Saturn - SpicaA number of branches of Jyotish, including Jataka, Prashna, Muhurtha, and Mundane, derive their underlying meanings from groupings of stars and the planets that are placed amongst those stars.

There is both a twelve-fold and a twenty seven-fold division of stars in Jyotish. The seven ancient planets plus Rahu and Ketu, with their basic characteristics, are colored and modified when tenanting the various constellations and nakshatras. This means that the stars themselves, separately and in combination, impart their own unique influence upon the planets.

Even the many Varga or harmonic charts, such as the Navamsa and Dasamsa, although derived charts, have their ultimate basis in the Rasi chart and are thus based upon real physical, astronomical positions.

Vedic astrology, being a sidereal or star-based system, has a star as its demarcation point. In the most commonly used Lahiri ayanamsa, the star Chitra or Spica, is designated as 0 degrees of Libra. The point directly opposite to Chitra is 0 Aries, the beginning of the sidereal zodiac. This differs dramatically from the starting point of the western or Tropical zodiac. In Tropical astrology, 0 Aries is always coincident with the Vernal Equinox, where the ecliptic and celestial equator of the Earth intersect. This is a point in space, rather than a star. The Tropical signs are divided into twelve equal segments from this point along the ecliptic and each division or sign is given characteristics based upon its numbered segment. For instance the 8th division of 30 degrees, which begins 210 degrees from the Vernal Point, is always the sign of Scorpio and the 10th division, which correlates to 270 degrees, is always the sign of Capricorn. From a Tropical perspective, it makes no difference whether there are stars or not in the background of the signs because the division of the zodiac is based upon space rather than upon stars. Each 30 degree division of space is assigned its particular characteristics and the stars therefore are essentially superfluous with respect to the meaning of the 12 signs. Tropical astrologers however also make use of the meaning of individual stars when interpreting a horoscope.

The two great zodiacs, Sidereal and Tropical, are generally believed to have converged sometime in the 3rd century CE. Using Lahiri’s calculations, both zodiacs exactly coincided at the Spring Equinox of the year 285 CE. From that point they have continued to diverge up to the present time at the rate of approximately 1 degree every 72 years. The Vernal Point or Spring Equinox, with respect to the stars, is now in the early degrees of Pisces and in the millenniums to come, will continue in its backward transit against the backdrop of the stars. In 3,000 CE it will be found in the constellation of Aquarius, in 5,000 CE it will be in Capricorn and in the year 7,000 CE will be in Sagittarius. Throughout the future course of the Vernal Equinox’s backward ‘migration’ through the various constellational star-fields however, Tropical astrologers will continue to define the Vernal Equinox as 0 degrees of Aries.

Unlike the Vernal Point, which is ever moving backward along the path of the ecliptic, the stars are relatively stable and therefore ‘fixed’ from the Earth’s perspective. The cluster of the Seven Sisters or the Pleiades, the stars of the great Scorpion, and the Big Dipper that points the way to the Pole Star, look much the same today as they did to our ancient ancestors. Why ‘relatively’ stable?The Big Dipper
Because the stars also have what is known as 'proper' motion and they move slightly over very long periods of time relative to the Earth. Stars of course are Sun's, much like our own Sun, and they are moving throughout space at their own rate, as we on Earth move along with our Sun, but because they are many light-years away from Earth, their motion is barely perceptible.

Every nakshatra has a yogatara or primary star. This is often the most brilliant star in the particular cluster associated with the nakshatra. A star’s brilliance is defined by its magnitude. Magnitude is a term used by astronomers to describe the relative brightness of all celestial objects. The term is generally credited to the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived in the 2nd century BCE. Hipparchus designed a system of defining the stars on a scale of one to six, one being the brightest and six the dimmest. Since then, astronomers have expanded upon and refined the definition of magnitude. As brightness increases, the magnitude number becomes smaller. The brightest object in the sky, from the Earth’s point of view, is the Sun. The Sun has a magnitude of -26.74 (minus 26.74). The Moon, being less bright, has a magnitude of -12.92, and Venus at its brightest, has a magnitude rating of -4.67. Saturn, the dimmest of the visible planets, is magnitude -0.49 at its brightest.

The brightest star in the heavens is Sirius, with a magnitude of -1.44. This is followed by Canopus at -0.62 and Alpha Centauri at -0.28. Chitra, also known as Spica, is the 15th brightest star in the heavens with a magnitude of + 1.04. Stars classified between -1.0 to +1.5 are called 1st magnitude stars, while stars between +1.5 to +2.5 are referred to as 2nd magnitude. Normally stars up to magnitude +6 are visible to the naked eye under optimal clear sky conditions.

Night SkyThere are a total of 88 constellations in the heavens, as defined by modern-day astronomers. Only 12 of these however are used in astrology. Why? Because astrologers are mainly concerned with the constellations that fall close to the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth (in reality the path of the Earth around the Sun). The zodiac is defined as a band of space that extends about 8 to 9 degrees on either side of the ecliptic. All of the visible planets will always be found within this band. Degrees north or south of the ecliptic are called celestial latitude and are similar to the bands of latitude that we use here on terra firma or Mother Earth. ‘Terrestrial’ latitude is measured on
the Earth as north or south of the equator. 'Celestial' latitude on the other hand is measured north or south of the ecliptic. When you see two planets together in the sky you will notice that they are rarely on an equal horizontal plane. One is usually placed above the other. The planet that is 'on top' is considered to have more northerly latitude than the planet beneath it. The ecliptic is always defined as having 0 degrees of latitude. Since the Sun and the Nodes of the Moon are exactly on the ecliptic, they are always at 0 degrees. The planets however are usually somewhere north or south of the ecliptic and sometimes they are exactly on the ecliptic as well. All the visible planets can always be found within the zodiacal band, that is, 9 degrees north or south of the ecliptic. The Moon has the most eccentric movement with respect to latitude and can go as far as about 7 degrees on either side of the ecliptic. Naturally the 12 astrological constellations or signs and the 27 nakshatras also generally fall within the 18 degree-wide band of the zodiac (allowing for 9 degrees north and south of the ecliptic) and that is why they are important for astrologers, as opposed to all the other various constellations in the heavens.

The characteristics of a particular planet will be modified by both the sign and nakshatra that it occupies, but individual stars can also have an influence on the planet if that planet is in a very close conjunction to the star. ‘Close’ means that the planet should be within about 1 degree or less from the star. While many stars that are in use today by astrologers fall within the band of the zodiac, many are also ‘extra zodiacal’, i.e. their respective latitudes are greater than 9 degrees north or south of the ecliptic and therefore they occupy constellations that are not part of the 12 zodiacal divisions. As an
example of this, Ardra nakshatra’s main star is Betelgeuse, in the constellation of Orion; a brilliant 1st magnitude star with a + 0.42 rating. Betelgeuse’s latitude is a little over 16 degrees south of the ecliptic (-16) and is therefore outside of the zodiacal belt as it is greater than -9 degrees. However, as it is the closest 1st magnitude star to the early degrees of Gemini, it was probably taken by ancient astrologers to denote Ardra for this reason.

It is important to note here that when using individual fixed stars, astrologers do not limit themselves to the confinement of the zodiacal belt, but make use of stars from all over the vast heavens and the many extra-zodiacal constellations.
Betelgeuse

Knowledge of the astrological characteristics of individual stars has been passed down to us from many ancient cultures, including Greek, Chinese, Persian, Hebrew, Arab and Hindu. Much of what we know of the stars comes through the myths that are associated with them. Often the meaning given to stars is very similar across cultures. As an example, the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo is the yogatara or main star in the nakshatra of Magha. Regulus, one of the most brilliant stars in the night sky (magnitude +1.35) is also very close to the ecliptic (+0 deg. 27 min. north). To the Hindu’s it was Magha, the Mighty One. In Babylonia, it was Sharru, the King. "In Arabia it was Malikiyy, Kingly; in Greece, Basiliskos Aster, Little King star.." (from Anne Wright's wonderful site at: www.constellationsofwords.com - quoting "Star Names--Their Lore and Meaning" by Richard Hinkley Allen pages 255-256 -- Dover Publications 1963).

Let us take Regulus as an example of how stars can be used in astrology. Regulus is located at 5Leo58 in the Lahiri ayanamsa. A planet or point (like the lagna or mid-heaven of a chart) should be within 1 degree (it can be slightly more than 1 degree) of Regulus to be considered as conjunct. (A good reference book and/or software will be necessary when trying to determine not only the location of stars but the meaning of various planetary conjunctions to stars.)

(Please see Jyotish Star’s information below on Diana K. Rosenberg’s new book on stars which will give all positions for Lahiri’ s ayanamsa). As stated above, Regulus has always been associated with kings or greatness in some way for many centuries. If one has a planet in close conjunction to Regulus, then generally that planet should stand out in a special way, perhaps more so than just its simple occupation of Leo or Magha would indicate. Naturally one would assess the planet in the normal way in terms of its overall strength or weakness, house placement, aspects, strength of its dispositor etc. before trying to render a judgment on the significance of its conjunction to a star.

Frank SinatraMars conjoined Regulus, according to astrologer Vivian Robson, is supposed to give “honor, fame, strong character, public prominence, and high military command.” Singer and actor Frank Sinatra is a good example of this placement. Sinatra was known as the ‘king’ of swing and the ‘king’ of the crooners. He had a Libra lagna with Mars conjunct Regulus in the 11th house of gains and friends. Mars rules over the 2nd house of the voice in Sinatra’s chart and exchanges with the Sun in Scorpio. This combination led to not only gains from his voice but gave him abundant opportunities in life and friends in high places.

Venus with Regulus can also give friends and partners in prominent postions, but is supposed to lead to disappointments in love affairs. Monica Lewinsky, who had an affair with former US President Bill Clinton, has this placement in the 12th house. Venus in the 12th is
generally not a bad placement, as Venus does well in the 12th and here Venus is also a benefic for Virgo lagna. However Venus does occupy an enemy's sign of Leo and Saturn also throws a full aspect to Venus from the 10th house, which may indicate losses connected with love affairs. One might conclude from the above facts that she has difficulties in relationships anyway. But without considering Venus' conjunction to Regulus, one might not guess she had an affair with the 'king'!

Planetary conjunctions with stars can also be used in mundane charts to help make predictions about current events. An example of this was Mercury’s conjunction to Regulus on July 25th, 2004. Mercury is generally considered to rule over the sports of running and cycling. July 25th was the final day of the Tour de France in Paris and Lance Armstrong was crowned ‘king’ of cycling on that day after winning his sixth consecutive victory, smashing the previous record of five wins. Armstrong also went on to beat that record with his seventh consecutive win in 2005.

The Tour de France has been held since 1903, with a couple of breaks in-between due to World Wars I and II. In that entire history, Mercury was in exact conjunction to Regulus on the final day of the race in
Lance Armstrong
only two of those years, 1919 and 2004. The Tour de France of 1919 had a low participation rate due to it being the first race since the beginning of the First World War. Mercury and Saturn were both exactly conjoined to Regulus on that day but Saturn's presence may have affected the results of the race, in that it was not noteworthy in terms of a record breaking performance. 2004 was the only year in the race history where Mercury stood alone with Regulus and was therefore poised to crown a new 'king'. Although the current record is seven wins, the 'Mercury / Regulus award' at the sixth victory suggests that the record of six wins may hold for a very long time.

Fixed star meanings have the potential to add much depth, richness, accuracy and insights to all astrological readings and I would heartily advise that all astrologers take up this very rewarding practice.

Steven StuckeySteven Stuckey Biography:

Steven Stuckey (Shastrakara das) began his study of astrology in 1968. He started teaching classes in both western sidereal and Jyotish techniques in 1979 and was instrumental in the initial introduction of Jyotish in the United States.

He currently resides in southern Oregon where he continues to teach and advise an international clientele.

He may be reached by email at: shastra@gotsky.com

Diana K Rosenberg

DianaRecent recipient of Saptarishis Astrology’s Lifetime Achievement Award, author and lecturer Diana K. Rosenberg has been acclaimed as the world’s foremost authority on Fixed Star’s. A founding member and Vice-President of The Uranian Society, she has written articles for the Mountain Astrologer, NCGR Journal, Geocosmic News, The Traditional Astrologer, Astrology Quarterly, Ingress, Heliogram, Urania, Dell Horoscope & American Astrology magazines. She is the author of The New Fixed Star Workbook, Nakshatras, Manzils and Hsiu: Hindu, Arabic and Chinese Lunar Mansions Research Workbook, a Correspondence Course in Fixed Stars and Constellations, and a new Fixed Star Secrets of the Ancient Skies
Report Writer for professional and personal use. Her book "Secrets of the Ancient Skies" on Fixed Stars and Constellations, the culmination of 30 years of research, is available now!


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