The Map is Not the Territory

Posted by & filed under Beginners, Learning Astrology, Morning Pages.

map-territoryI’ll tell you a secret. I’ve been reading charts for almost four decades, and every time I sit down with a new one—every time without fail—it looks absolutely incomprehensible to me. The symbols swim before my eyes and refuse to hang together into anything cohesive. It’s only by taking it slowly and methodically, by finding an interesting thread or two and pulling at them, that I’m eventually drawn into the chart.

And I’ll tell you another secret. When I finally speak to someone about his or her chart, the person who shows up is always completely different (at least initially) from what I had imagined. There’s an old saying: “the map is not the territory.” No matter how good the map, it can’t convey the reality of the landscape and what it really feels like to be there.

Keep an open mind. Remember that symbols can be interpreted in a number of ways, so use the astrology chart as your road map. It will help you get where you need to go, but remember, a real, live person has been doing heavy construction on these roads over the course of a lifetime. There may be potholes and roadblocks that don’t showup on the map at all; some roads may have been washed away. So always approach the chart, and the person, with respect, and let them be your guide to understanding the terrain.

© 2011 April Elliott Kent.

Essential Guide to Practical AstrologyExcerpted from my book The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology (Alpha/Penguin 2011). It’s currently out of print, but used copies are available through Amazon’s Marketplace.

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Uranus/Pluto square

Posted by & filed under Pluto, Transits, Uranus.


(1) In times of upheaval, the center does not hold. Avoid putting yourself at the center of things.

(2) Ignore the news.

(3) Don’t try to hold on to what is already gone.

(4) When life sends you an atomic bomb, strap on a saddle and say “Yee Haw!”

On Monday, March 16, 2015, Uranus in Aries made its final exact square to Pluto in Capricorn. Can I get an “amen”?

Pisces Solar Eclipse: Wounds and Healers

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Featured, Lunar Phases, New Moon, Pisces.


“Flight of the Sick Bed” by Claudia Fernety

I have some thoughts to share about this Solar Eclipse in Pisces, I promise. But to get there, I have to begin with Chiron.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Chiron is a planetoid that has become widely used in contemporary astrology. I don’t use it. In fact, I actively dislike it.

Here’s why.

Chiron is inevitably described as symbolizing the “wounded healer.” But too many of Chiron’s most zealous fans embrace only one half of that phrase: wounded. It seems to be a way for some (not all - please hold your email fury) to set themselves apart as special and tragic  – “I’m so wounded,” with the back of the hand pressed to the forehead, sinking to a fainting couch.

And that’s when something cold and hard in me rises up and bares its teeth.

Here’s where I have to come clean. In my birth chart, Chiron is alone in Pisces, in a close opposition to Pluto in Virgo. In a chart heavy with Leo and Virgo planets and many hard aspects to Neptune, Pisces is veiled, mysterious valley to me. Yet my life is filled with scads of jolly, Tigger-like, Sun in Pisces friends who wouldn’t give a fainting couch a second look (except perhaps, a little longingly, as a spot for a good afternoon nap). They tend to symbolize the very best Pisces qualities of empathy, kindness, and flexibility.

But the shadow side to the Pisces archetype is the victim. The martyr. It’s said the things that bother us most in others are the things we deny in ourselves. And while it makes me furious to entertain the notion, I suppose there must be some disowned little part of me that longs to sink to the fainting couch with my smelling salts and hear someone say, “There, there.” It is the part of me that overextends myself and then feels victimized when my contributions are overlooked or criticized. It is the cowering little kid cringing from my inner looming, shouty adult.

Now. Here is what it has to do with you, and all of us, and eclipses in Pisces, which we’ll see more of over the next couple of years. (more…)

Saturn by Sign: Where Does Your Authority Come From?

Posted by & filed under Learning Astrology, Planets, Saturn, Zodiac Signs.

saturnFor a long time, I’d fallen into the trap of thinking natal Saturn’s sign and its house placement meant more or less the same thing (namely, misery). But now, it seems to me that they’re entirely different.

Saturn’s natal house placement does seem to symbolize the life-long, Sisyphean task of rolling a boulder up a steep mountain, only to watch it repeatedly slip backward and nearly flatten you. If you can succeed in moving that boulder a few inches over the course of a lifetime, your life has been a stunning success.

But Saturn’s sign in your birth chart seems to indicate the qualities that make people take you seriously. They are the qualities from which you derive your authority. They are what make others a little nervous at the thought of falling short of your expectations. And they are the qualities for which you are judged most harshly if you don’t act with integrity. (more…)

“What will the eclipse mean?”

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Learning Astrology.

eclipseNext week brings a Solar Eclipse in Pisces, just 13 hours before the equinox. I write about eclipses a lot. They’re an astrological passion of mine, because I’ve seen their dramatic cycles play out in my life, the lives of those close to me, and the lives of my clients. I’ve delineated eclipses moving through the houses of the horoscope, eclipses in aspect to natal planets, and written about how to work with eclipse cycles.

But I rarely write about eclipses in signs, other than as part of my monthly essays. It’s not that I think signs are unimportant. In fact, watch the news in the next couple of weeks and I’m confident you’ll see important stories that relate to the general symbolism of Pisces (immigration, minority rights, infectious disease, faith, a desire for peace and retreat, martyrs, suffering, surrender). Eclipses mean change is coming, that these matters have reached a tipping point and will, over the next couple of years (especially after the Moon’s Nodes move into Virgo/Pisces this fall), bring resolution closer.

It’s interesting to watch this play out in society. But I find it a lot more interesting to watch it play out for individuals. And this is where houses, planets, and your personal relationship with a sign come into play.

“What will the eclipse mean, what will it mean?” we cry. And the answer is that it will mean something a little different for each of us. Much in the same way humans are built from the same essential biological building blocks, we all contain the same astrological symbols as well. It’s how they’re arranged that makes us unique.

So while it would be handy for an astrologer to be able to tell you precisely what an eclipse, a transit, or a progression will mean for you, it would be a fool’s errand to try, because these things never mean exactly the same thing for everyone. For astrology to be most helpful, you have to be willing to do some of the work. You have to be curious and creative enough to adapt astrology’s symbolism to what you know about yourself and your life.

What is your relationship with the March 20 eclipse degree at 29 Pisces? What house does it occupy in your birth chart? Does it make hard aspects to your natal planets? And most interestingly, what happened the last time an eclipse fell at that degree (March 2007, and previously March 1988)?

Not every eclipse brings big change to you personally. But this one, poised on the brink of the Sun’s powerful ingress into Aries, has a question for you: Where in your life have you sacrificed too much for others, and where are you ready to claim something more for yourself? There’s a little something to get your imagination started. Now, see where you can take it from there.

For more eclipse articles and offerings, see my eclipse page.

Signs Aren’t People

Posted by & filed under Beginners, Learning Astrology, Zodiac Signs.


A typically shy, retiring Leo.

When you read something like “Leo is magnanimous and outgoing,” your mind may immediately object that your August-born aunt is, in fact, shy and retiring. This is where the astrological skeptic proclaims victory and changes the subject. But allow me to gently reintroduce the topic, with the explanation that although your aunt was born when the Sun was in Leo, she has an entire birth chart full of planets and placements and aspects that may contradict or mitigate the Leo archetype.

Think of it this way. In the world of film, there are various familiar stereotypes that allow you to grasp the essence of a character without a lot of time-consuming flashbacks or exposition. You know them as the wise-cracking best friend, the crusading cop, or the plucky career gal with the disappointing love life. But the best and most memorable films have a habit of elevating these tired stereotypes to archetypal status, representing something true and universal in the collective unconscious. The star-crossed lovers from opposite ends of the tracks are a stereotype. Positioned in an important historical context, however – such as Rose and Jack on the Titanic, or Scarlett and Rhett during the Civil War – and their relationship may take on archetypal importance, representing the human impact of these historic events.

Signs are not people—they’re characters, archetypes. Placing different planets, like different actors, in a particular sign gives the archetype a different flavor. Signs can be thought of as a costume to be worn. Place Venus, the planet of love and also of attractive young women, in Virgo, a sign of modesty and practicality, and your film character looks a bit like a lovely and slightly shy secretary. Cast Mars, the planet of war, in analytical Virgo, and your character might be a studious young war reporter during World War II.

Excerpt from The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, © 2011 by April Elliott Kent.

Virgo Full Moon: The Editor

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Lunar Phases, Virgo.

DreamOfCeresAs a writer, I’ve worked with my share of editors. I’ve appreciated every one of them. A couple of them, I’ve downright loved.

The editors I’ve loved working with have had something important in common. Their focus was on what was right with my work, instead of what was wrong with it. Eventually we got around to refining the disjointed thoughts and cleaning up the sentences that occasionally trailed off without any ending at all. In this, they were every bit as exacting as their job required. But the process began with their enthusiasm for the best of my writing, followed by coaching designed to help me bring the rest of it up to the same level.

All this is soothing for the writer’s ego, of course. But there’s also a practical lesson in there for any of us who find ourselves in a position of critiquing others, as parents, bosses, coaches, or even friends: most of the time, high standards combined with encouragement inspires better results than criticism alone.

The Full Moon in Virgo is a good time to meditate on one of the keywords commonly associated with Virgo: criticism. Virgo’s criticism is a consequence of two other keyword qualities, discrimination and discernment. Like its opposite sign, Pisces, Virgo is idealistic, embracing dreams of perfection—but Virgo can be a bit pessimistic about the capacity of mere mortals to live up to these ideals.

While Pisces is blessed with the ability to overlook imperfection, Virgo is tasked with seeing each failing that stands between us and the vision. Sometimes, it must be said, Virgo indulges in negative criticism; the world is full of faults and mediocrity, and Virgo’s inability to ignore these things can turn her into a cranky scold. But sometimes, Virgo criticizes because she is enraptured by a vision of greatness that lies only a few punctuation marks away. (more…)

You’re a Mix of All Signs

Posted by & filed under Beginners, Learning Astrology.

all-signsNothing makes an astrologer sadder than hearing you say, “Oh, I hate [insert sign here].” One of the favorite arguments against astrology is, “There is no way that everyone in the world can fall into twelve neat categories,” and you’ll get no argument from me. Gross generalizations about the signs of the zodiac are, to me, as baffling as declaring you hate vegetables just because you’ve eaten a couple of overcooked Brussels sprouts over the years.

The fact is, each of us contains every sign of the zodiac in our birth chart. The horoscope is a representation of the entire sky at the time of your birth. Every constellation along the ecliptic, whether it was visible or not from the place of your birth, is fully represented in the twelve houses of your birth chart. So declaring war on any sign of the zodiac is tantamount to disowning part of yourself.

You have the opportunity to experience each sign of the zodiac in your own life. If Leo falls in the sixth house of your chart, for instance, you get to “be a Leo” in sixth house areas of your life (at work, for instance). As each planet moves through a sign, it activates that archetype somewhere in your life. Some, such as the signs of the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant (cusp of the first house) at your birth may speak through you more strongly than others. But all twelve signs are part of your birth chart, and relevant to your life.

Don’t disown or disparage any sign based on past experience. If you’ve had a number of bad experiences with people born with the Sun in a particular sign, you may decide you “just can’t get along” with people of that sign. But who knows how many people with that sign strong in their charts that you’ve met without knowing it, most of whom you probably got along with splendidly? Signs are not people—and all of them are a part of you. (more…)

Progressed Moon

Posted by & filed under Balsamic Moon, Progressions.

mandala-moon-phasesThe Moon is especially strong in Taurus, and I like the sign a lot. But I haven’t particularly enjoyed having my Progressed Moon here, and I’m looking forward to the greener pastures of Gemini and my 7th house, where my natal Moon has enjoyed itself for years.

The Progressed Moon in the sign behind your natal Moon sign is more or less a Balsmic Moon time. Letting go of habits and reviewing patterns that aren’t working for you, spending time in contemplation, catching up on your rest… these are Balsamic Moon activities. (more…)

Venus and Mars in Aries: Wild horses

Posted by & filed under Aries, Mars, Venus.

aries-cowgirlTransiting Venus and Mars entered Aries last week, and over the past couple of days they made trines to Saturn in Sagittarius. Normally a deliberate and focused worker (with no Aries planets in my birth chart), I’ve had a devil of a time settling down and getting anything done. About all I’ve got to show for my flailing efforts is a stack of printouts, notebooks, and folders, the detritus of a half-dozen projects, taking over one side of my desk.

In my frenzy of Aries enthusiasm, I’ve jumped from idea to idea over the past week, tossing each one aside when it proved too difficult. And while Saturn is normally helpful when it comes to sticking with things, in Sagittarius he’s looser than usual. “Keep those arrows flying!” I heard him mumble. “A couple of them are bound to hit their targets!”

I want to do everything, I want to do it now, and if it takes any longer than 20 minutes it’s getting shoved in the pile just to my left.

I may have no Aries planets in my birth chart, but I’ve got a strong Mars, and I always figured that made me a kind of honorary Aries. But the energy is completely different. My Mars is in Virgo, in the 10th house, trine Saturn; it has energy, but there is none of the jangling, high-octane impatience and restlessness of Aries. It is a horse that is comfortable wearing a saddle.