Astrology and Alchemy: How Do You Learn To Read a Chart?

Now when I came across that tribute to Grant Lewi, I was thinking still thinking about the alchemy blog and CK’s comment. For some reason that comment deeply penetrated my psyche, which I really appreciate by the way. Nothing I like better than being pregnant!

So struck by the comment my mind flipped into gear and I started thinking about learning astrology and more specifically, how for me it was an alchemical process. And I have always thought it was this way for everyone. I’ve thought that this is how everyone learns anything.

Take astrology. You want to learn astrology so you read a book. If you’re lucky it’s a good one. It’s not too boring so you figure you’ll read another. Next thing you know, if you get the bug, you’ve read four or five or eight books and right about here you consider really cracking down.

And if you do that… well pretty soon you’ve read ten or twenty or thirty books and things are starting to gel. And at some point you want to try out your new knowledge, so you start to talk to people. You look at their charts or your talk about your own. And if you keep it up, eventually you start “reading” charts.

And at first you’ve got to have your books there so you can look things up and offer up pieces. There is no synergy. You can’t really read a chart, you can just look it up quickly! You fumble along but if you keep this up things improve.

Eventually you become familiar with certain things. Certain aspects you understand. Or maybe you get the 2nd house, or Jupiter really well. But you still have no ideas of your own. And by now you can recite what other people have said or written… you need your books less, but still none of it originates inside of you.

But if you keep it up… if you try and try, eventually there a tipping point and things start to open up for you. It’s like this: Eureka!

And then some more time passes… more time, more time, more time and more time. More time passes, more books, more watching, more reading, more studying and then one day… one glorious day, you have something of your own to say about something you see. You have something original to say about a house or a planet, or an aspect or an entire chart, or whatever it is in your hand when it happens for you.

And at that point you’re becoming an astrologer. Astrology is no longer something you have memorized but something you have absorbed and assimilated… and this to me, is an alchemical process. Everything goes into the pot. Soup, nuts, snails and puppy dog tails and it boils, boils, boils, boils. And you boil, boil, boil, boil. And if you get out of the pot you lose!! If you quit, you lose!

But if you stay in there… if you stay with it, alchemy takes place. And all the sudden you can look at those symbols and know exactly what they mean. And how this occurs is completely mysterious.

So this is how I learn. It’s a completely visceral experience and it’s fairly painful. It hurts me. And I wonder if this is universal. So is it? I have always thought so but now I wonder. Is there a more detached, intellectual way to learn?

How do you learn?



Astrology and Alchemy: How Do You Learn To Read a Chart? — 13 Comments

  1. I tend towards learning by observing others at work. I hate “labs” where I’m expected to learn by trial. I want to see someone do it “right”. Personally I find little value in bumbling through something when I can watch and learn and do it competently on my first physical try. I’m not saying this is the way to go; it’s just MY way.

  2. I learn by doing. So I’ve been poring over people’s charts from the very beginning because I’ve got to make it Real to me in order to understand it. I have to have living, breathing examples of the signs to understand them. I observe the people and look at their charts and it slowly starts to make sense. Very slowly. *lol*

  3. This is how I learn too, only it isn’t painful. I go through the gathering experience phase for a while and if it’s a life long learning experience like astrology there’s a whole lot of learning before the melding starts.

    But this how I cook too. I google a dish I want to make and read how everyone else does it, then formulate a plan and go to the kitchen and add ingredients and cook until it’s right. When I learned to spin and weave, same thing. Checked out every book from the library and eventually put it all together.

    Why is it painful for you? I just assume that learning new things takes a while. Other areas of my life are very painful at times, but not learning a new skill like astrology.

  4. What is pain? Not to sound like a pretensious dipshit. But I think of some wickedly awful experiences and think, wow, that was painful…but I seemed to climb out of it okay. Pilot mode, anyone? Deal now, process later?
    I have no sense of time as in “I feel old” but I do feel like I have no time to waste to meditate on the painful side of things.
    As for how I learn, I used to think that everyone paid attention to the same details, but was ignoring them. Which upset me constantly!
    If you’re paying attention and have learned something that is new or can help someone else, it is good to share it. It is a bit like kids. They learn something new, and then preach it to you: See, this is how you move the pawn. Not that I condone preaching to people (annoying!) BUT I love people who share what they know with generosity. Like you, Elsa, and a lot of people here.

  5. This could be another poll: how do you learn, what does your 9th house look like. 🙂

    I learn in a caotic way. uranus in the 9th. I learn whatever interests me first, and then the other things eventually stay in my mind, when i’ve read them enough times or when they sink in. In astrology I learn first about the things in my chart, then in the charts of people close to me.
    I read about it, then see charts, and ask people how they are living some particular aspect. as an astrology apprentice i’ve found that is a great way to learn the essence of each symbol. I’ve found interesting things this way, e.g. people with quiron let’s say, in the third degree below the ascendent (house 1) had some serious health problem when they were 3 years old. I’m sure this is in astrology books, but I didn’t have to read it. I interview people =) OF course i know the ascendent is about birth, and house 1 is about childhood, so it isn’t far fetched. Learning astrology is a great adventure!

  6. PS- even if were far fetched, I don’t come up with the interpretations, people tell me what happened when they were 3 and I look at the chart, and see chiron at 3 degrees, and it makes sense!
    Also I tend to learn by osmosis to some degree, when i know nothing about a subject, especially. Hard to explain how it happens though.
    If I hear someone experienced talking about astrology, and I know nothing about it, and want to learn, I will hear many implicit things in what the person is saying, secondary things in their speech but important for me, and I get the “atitude” they have towards that subject. Does this make any sense? this might me my moon in sag conjunct neptune.
    *good night*

  7. I learn the same way, but never heard it described like that! I’ve just went back to school this quarter and still can not get over how interconnected things are. Seeing the bigger picture, is how I eventually ‘learn’. Where it all comes together, how it intertwines (when I do see it, this doesn’t always happen). but with all my Sag, it doesn’t surprise me. (I’m on my 5th astrology book now).

  8. I learn like this too. But in my experience,I’m surrounded with many intellectuals who have a very different way of learning, and who do not get why I am so absorbed emotionally and physically into this process. And the release is physical too. It is not linear in any way, although my environment insists it SHOULD be.

  9. I also just found a Grant Lewi and Robert Hand book in the used bookstore! Yay!

    I also wanted to mention that I learn a lot through mistakes and simple trial and error. Sometimes really big errors, and I tend to make the same mistakes a few times before I learn, even if I am aware of them, I still make them. Especially emotionally in relationships. (7th house Pluto??)

  10. When I was in middle school I remember someone asking me what sign I was, and my response: “Uhh…I think I’m a Cancer, but I don’t believe in that crap.” I always associated Zodiac Signs with phony horoscope predictions in magazines. I thought it was a big joke. My freshman year of Highschool, I started noticing my last two boyfriends were Capricorns and I seemed to have a lot of Sagittarian friends. A coinsidence, I thought. Then my Sophomore year, a girl handed me a book in class for that mandatory 30-minute reading thing. I didn’t have one so I took whatever I could get. It was called “Sex Signs” by Judith Bennett (i think) and I swear, after I read that book I was completely HOOKED. I remember reading the Cancer pages and thinking “Oh my god… how did she know that?” “That’s exactly how I feel!!” I was totally shocked. Astrology turned into a crazy addiction/obsession for me. I started buying books left and right. Reading allll the time. Finishing them super quick and saving up my money to buy another one. Then I discovered online Astrology communities. Particularly the one on Livejournal ;] And from there I got to see how experienced Astrologers worked.. how they interpreted everything, etc. And they would always be there to help with my questions. To this day, I’m STILL obsessed with Astrology and the more I learn the happier I get.. It’s so fascinating to me.. “EUREKA” and “A-HA!” is what I feel when I learn something new or figure out a pattern :] Everything started making sense.. The people I’ve been with.. My experiences.. who I was, blahblahblah. It all fell into place. It was a gradual thing like you said, first memorizing the different signs, then the houses, then the planets, aspects, etc. At first I’d hold the book in my hand and flip through the pages to figure out the meaning but then I started memorizing and interpreting on my own…I can finally look at a chart now and understand it as whole, just by looking at it. And there’s still A LOT to learn.. It’s very complex, and that’s what I love about it. I’m planning on going to Kepler when I finish with my bachelors here in Miami… can’t wait 😀

  11. I started learning long back (1983) with books,
    I stumbled along with few initial successes. This spured me on. Then one day I found a teacher (or rather a group) and instantly realised what I had missed. Traditional Indian Astrology has unfathomable depths and i am learnig to dive and come up again (not drown)with the help of an expert diver.
    I feel a personal teacher is indispensable to learn the depht and breadth of Asrology – Jyotish (the light of God)as we call it in India.

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