The Birthchart as a Template of Cycles
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Any birthchart describes the moment in time when an individual is born, but it is also a frozen snapshot of a multidimensional clock that is always turning. Like the old analog clocks with second, minute, and hour hands, the astrological clock has a number of “hands” – represented by the planets and/or additional bodies or abstract points – that move at various rates of speed around a 360° dial or circle. The Ascendant – the point marking the eastern horizon in any birthchart – moves about 1° every 4 minutes and completes a cycle in about 24 hours. The Moon moves about 1° every 2 hours (give or take), and completes a cycle in 27-28 days. The Sun moves about 1° a day and completes a cycle a year. Pluto moves an average of only 1-2° a year, and completes a cycle once every 248 years. And so on. Such cycles – called sidereal periods – are measured in relation to the zodiac: i.e. a planet or point moving from 0° Aries all the way around the zodiac to 0° Aries again completes one sidereal cycle.
In addition to the movement of individual planets through their sidereal cycles, planets move in relation to each other – again at varying rates of speed – through what are known as synodic cycles. Synodic cycles are measured from conjunction to conjunction. Each month, for example, the lunar cycle begins at the New Moon – which is a conjunction of the Sun and Moon – then moves through its various phases to another New Moon the following month. A natal square between Mars and Saturn represents a cardinal point of a synodic cycle between these two planets, taking approximately 26 months – from conjunction to conjunction – to complete.
If we consider the natal chart to be a reference point for everything else that subsequently happens in a life, then a third type of cycle emerges. These are essentially cycles of transiting planets (or planets in motion) in relation to natal planets (which are stationary). Or we might just call them transiting cycles.
With any planetary pair – whether represented by an aspect in the natal chart or not – we have two potential transiting cycles: the transit of the faster moving planet to the slower moving natal planet considered as a reference point; and the transit of the slower moving planet to the faster moving natal planet considered as a reference point. Thus, for example, if we are exploring the relationship between Neptune and the Sun, we have a short cycle of about a year as the Sun transits in relation to natal Neptune; and we have a long cycle of about 168 years (give or take) as transiting Neptune moves much more slowly in relation to the natal Sun.
Other cycles are possible through the symbolic equation provided by various progressions. Secondary progressions – the most popular – equate one day of motion (different for each planet) to a year of life. Solar arc progressions move all planets forward each year at the rate the Sun moves in a day. Tertiary progressions equate one month to a year. And so on.
By finding the appropriate cycle related to anything that is happening in a life – any source of pain or suffering or any issue that a client brings to an astrological session – you then have a template for tracking the evolution of a pattern through a life. As you track a pattern, you then begin to understand how this purely abstract astrological indication in someone’s birthchart is manifesting in the actual living of a life. You can also begin to understand what level of consciousness the client is bringing to their pattern, what they are learning – or not learning from it – and what opportunity exists within the current or impending crisis for growth. It is this growth, or the possibility of this growth, that makes their experience – and the birthchart that mirrors it – meaningful.
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