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The Map is Not the Territory

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.

6 comments to " The Map is Not the Territory "

  • Amen to that! I absolutely agree with you! Great reminder!

  • LB

    I so appreciate this open-minded approach to looking at charts. Much as I value the insight astrology (and astrologers!) can bring, it’s both humbling and validating to remember nothing is cast in stone ~ our charts may not reveal all of the mystery and grace unfolding beneath the layers. Thanks, April.

  • Lovely insight and I especially appreciate “…No matter how good the map, it can’t convey the reality of the landscape and what it really feels like to be there.” An excellent description of a wise sentiment.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experiences in chart interpretation so honestly. I’m newer to astrology consultations and of course I feel much the same when I see a new chart for the first time (in fact, I was just looking at a new chart today and feeling bewildered by all the glyphs and patterns!). I always get positive client feedback, but it’s reassuring to hear a veteran astrologer echoing the same feelings! Love your site – so very glad I’ve found it!

  • Silke Bigg

    I especially find myself “lost” to the symbology of the. chart if my own mind is is overwhelmed w/ personal issues/concerns. If I’m in the headspace you describe or not calm, I’ll put chart aside & go back to it when I’ve regained my objectivity.
    But agree it’s unnerving to see “squiggles” on paper w: no clue as to where to start, as if I’ve never studied astrology! So refreshing to see an authentic post like yours because we’re human after all.

  • Jennifer Cobb

    Thanks April. I’m new to charting, and learning by ‘pulling on I retesting threads’. Lovely to hear your experience phrased in a way that resonates deeply with me, a beginner.

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