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Astrology is the study of the heavens. With our computer programs and printed ephemerides, have we forgotten to look up?

The night sky is the original clock, with dot-to-dot constellations that form the backdrop for planetary cycles. Looking up to the night sky in July, we see the "summer" constellations that paint their stories in the stars. Following the line of the ecliptic—the path of the Sun, Moon and planets across the sky—are the well-known zodiac constellations.

While stargazing, it is important to remember that because of the precession of the equinoxes, the signs are no longer aligned with the constellations they were named for over 4000 years ago. Some astrology systems, like Vedic astrology, make continual adjustments to keep them aligned. Western astrology starts with the sign Aries at Spring Equinox, and the signs are interpreted with a different emphasis.

Leo

Soon after sunset, look to the west to see the dying lion, as the constellation Leo dives toward the horizon, lost in the light of the Sun. Leo is a sickle-shaped constellation looking like a sideways question mark. The curve is the lion’s head and mane; the bottom of the question mark is Regulus, the heart of the lion. One of the four "royal stars," Regulus is the brightest star of Leo, and has long been associated with kings and queens. Remember Richard the Lion-Hearted? A modern leader with Regulus strong at his birth is Bill Clinton. This famous star now aligns at 29 degrees of Leo.

Virgo

Heading up and eastward in the sky, the back of Leo the lion is an elongated triangle of stars. Right next to this triangle is a trapezoid-shaped grouping representing the head of Virgo, the great goddess. When we join the head of the goddess and the body of the lion, so close in the sky, we have the image of the mysterious sphinx: lion-power tamed and directed by wisdom. If you have a planet on the Leo-Virgo cusp, or planets in both of these signs, you are challenged to wield this strong, yet subtle power.

Virgo is the largest zodiac constellation, usually seen on her side as she flies across the night sky. One of the few female images seen among the constellations in Greco-Roman tradition, she is sometimes pictured with angelic wings. The brightest star in Virgo is lovely blue-white Spica, representing a stalk of grain that the Goddess holds, the seed and the fruit of the harvest. Spica is associated with special gifts and talents. Her other arm is reaching out, and her hand, marked by the star Vindemiatrix, seems to be holding a bouquet of flowers. Only on a dark night in a prime star-gazing location can you see this bouquet, which is really Coma Berenice, the hair of an Egyptian queen. It is a stargazer’s reward to see this star cluster, like a burst of blooms. Binoculars reveal hundreds of stars.

Libra

Virgo’s feet land in the territory of Libra, the scales. Joining these two constellations, we see the goddess holding the scales of justice. Our modern goddess of justice wears a blindfold, but the original Egyptian goddess needed no such thing. Maat, Goddess of Wisdom, wore a long white feather in her headdress—the feather of truth. She would place this on one side of the scales; on the other she would weigh your heart or your soul. How light-hearted are you? If you have planets in both of these signs, or on the cusp between them, you learn this balancing act, to weigh experience with light of truth in your heart. Astraea, the starry goddess, is the Greek equivalent of this goddess, who guides the affairs of humankind with wisdom.

Two of the main stars in Libra are named Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. They sound like characters in Star Wars, don’t they? These Arabic star names refer to the southern and northern claws belonging to the scorpion before the Julian calendar set the scales firmly in the sky, effectively cutting off the claws. The star names still carry the memory, handed down from ancient star lore. The claws once held a lamp of devotion or a censor of incense. The Hebrews saw it as a scale-beam, and in the early Chinese zodiac it was a crocodile or dragon.

Scorpio

Scorpio is one of the unforgettable constellations, once you know its shape. This month it rises in the east early in the evening. It starts with a line of three stars under the scales. From the middle star, follow a short line down to red Antares, the heart of the scorpion, another royal star associated with power based on compassion. Its ruddy color reveals it to be a red supergiant star, past middle age as stars go. From Antares, the body of the scorpion curves in a sinuous line down and around into the stinger, a pair of stars named Lesath and Shaula. Many cultures saw this constellation as a scorpion, but in Hawaii there were no scorpions. They saw this as the fish hook of Maui, their great god. In more northern climes, the stinger stays below the horizon. In Hawaii, closer to the equator, it will dip into dark waters, just like a scorpion fishing in the hidden depths.

Star lore is passed down with layer upon layer of meaning through time and human experience. Offering many images to enrich our interpretations of astrology, the eternal stories in the stars continue to guide our lives. As above, so below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. Kelley Hunter has studied the stars as an astrologer, mythologist and amateur astronomer for over 30 years. Co-founder of the Roots of Astrology experiential conferences, she is now astrologer-in-residence for the Omega Institute winter programs in the Caribbean. She leads star gazing nights and astrology workshops, and writes about the sky for various publications. She has mentored adult students at Norwich University and other colleges.

Send an email to the author.

For more information about Kelley Hunter, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Kelley Hunter:

  • Tracking Orion the Hunter   1/4/2001
  • Locating Jupiter and Saturn: Astronomy for Astrologers   11/16/2000
  • Stargazing: Astronomy for Astrologers Part 2   9/2/2000
  • Y2K: How Real Is It?   11/23/1999

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