This three part series appeared in 2001 in the AstroTalk Online magazine. It combines a consideration of Ireland's national horoscopes with a discussion of some distinctive features of astrology when applied to a collective level. In addition, thoughts on the role of the astrologer in determining the form of the astrological process are given an airing.
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The Observer Observed part 1
Bill Sheeran is well known in the European astrology world, has written numerous articles, and is particularly well known for his work in mundane astrology. A citizen of the newly resurgent Ireland, the history of his native land quite naturally holds his attention and inspires much of his research.
The editor hopes that the passion, pungency, erudition and clarity of his writing may inspire more astrologers to investigate mundane astrology. This article expands the discussion begun by Mary Downing in "Will the Real Birth Chart of the U.S.A. Please Stand Up?" which appeared in an earlier edition of "Astro Talk Online Astrology Magazine." In addition, the discussion impinges upon the question of whether astrology can (or should) ever have an objective and scientifically "respectable" basis – a matter of great concern to astrologers who wish to enhance society’s perception of this discipline, many of whom believe that scientific respectability is or should be the main avenue for accomplishing that improvement in status.
This is a two-part essay [- it subsequently turned into the 3 part essay! Bill]. The first part, which is the text below, can be read on its own. However, it will be followed in Part Two with an example of an astrologer in action. This first part emphasises the crucial and central role of the astrologer in horoscopic or judicial astrology. The choice of charts and techniques is an individual act which either suits or reflects the astrologer's psyche. This is a very personal thing.
For the second part, I will be using a striking example from my mundane political work to demonstrate this principle, and show how a chart I have chosen to work with—a lunar eclipse in 1791- acts as a root horoscope for the story of the quest for Irish independence and the eventual setting up of politically autonomous structures. This eclipse happened two days before a meeting which is retrospectively considered to have inaugurated the movement towards Irish independence. It is not in itself, though, a timed horoscope for the birth of anything, and yet it was still singing loudly up to 1994 at least.
The overall approach I will be using in that story brings together the traditional mundane use of an eclipse chart (whose relevance extends over 200 years!) plus horoscopic event charts with what might be considered national horoscopes. I will present ideas on what I think these national charts mean. One interesting feature which emerges is the re-appearance of tight degree zones containing similar symbolism in horoscopes for milestone events which describe an historical lineage in the story of Irish Republicanism. This is what led me to coin the term 'structural coupling', which describes how planetary transits, etc. activate a whole family of historically linked charts at the same time.
This work provides an example of how I think as a mundane astrologer—a window onto a stylistic approach which is personal and effective for myself. It may have no necessary intrinsic value for another astrologer other than to make them reflect on their own style. But that in itself is important. Or it may resonate constructively with others on a theoretical and/or practical level. Or it may simply be of interest to a casual observer pondering astrologers rather than astrology. The second part is not a crash course in Irish history, rather, an exploration of a thought process. I think there is room for articles on how astrologers work, rather than how astrology works. The diversity of styles is so huge that I believe it is fruitless to try to model astrology without acknowledging this and factoring it into the hypotheses. There is no universal method as is the case with science. While individual scientists may not be considered a variable in the scientific method, astrologers sure as hell are.
The Observer Observed part 1
We each have a birth chart or horoscope with which we are associated. The dominant form of astrology today—natal astrology—is concerned with revealing meaning in such charts. For the most part, natal astrologers focus almost exclusively on the singular horoscope drawn for the precise moment of birth. While occasionally supplementing it with charts for events such as marriage, solar returns and so on, these never supersede the overriding significance given to the horoscope for one's birth moment.
Astrology however is multifaceted and covers a wide field. Many astrologers also engage in other branches of the craft, such as horary, financial or mundane astrology. The latter two practices in particular entail working with multiple charts or a family of related horoscopes. They also often require working with non-horoscopic elements (see below). Anyone who has worked in these fields realises that the situation pertaining in natal astrology—the focus on a unique birth chart—is a special case in the broader astrological scheme of things. Because a human life is a self-contained and easily differentiated unity with a beginning, middle and end, it lends itself to such an approach.
The astrology of national groups—of their political and social processes—presents some challenges to modern astrologers in this regard. The logic of natal astrological practice, should it be applied to this branch of astrology, would naturally lead one to try and identify a unique national horoscope associated with beginnings. In recent times, much effort has been expended in trying to identify such charts. There are problems though. If astrology operates continuously on a collective level, then how do we describe and explore the astrological situation of a national group prior to the date of the chosen national chart? For the national group itself has no birth date. What horoscope do we use to explore the astrology of the people living in America prior to 1776, for example? And if we can postulate one, in what way can we rationalize the extinction of its validity when it is superseded by a new horoscope or birth chart as the national group experiences a major societal or political symmetry break? One has to ask what exactly it is that such unique national birth charts represent, and question whether the concept has any real value. Are they simply an erroneous artefact of the application of natal astrology perspectives to the collective level?
Nicholas Campion, in his thought-provoking introduction to The Book of World Horoscopes, explores this issue in great detail. He mentions that the concept of the nation state itself only really evolved into its current form from the end of the 19th century. It is perhaps not surprising then that the concept of national horoscopes is also a relatively recent one. Traditional techniques entailed using ingress and lunation charts set up for capital cities. National differences were elaborated upon using Ptolemaic style zodiacal rulerships, whereby, for example, England was given to Aries, Scotland to Cancer, Wales to Gemini, and Ireland to Taurus. At the same time, national events such as coronations or political elections were marked out and charts cast for them, while much attention was paid to the horoscopes of political leaders and monarchs. However, there were no such things as horoscopes for moments when nations gained independence, which is how national horoscopes are generally perceived today. This evolutionary leap was precipitated by the glaring failure of astrologers to predict the onset of the Second World War using the traditional methods.
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Copyright: (2001) - Bill Sheeran