“Traditional Astrology for Today: An Introduction,” by Benjamin Dyke is a clear, succinct book which identifies traditional astrology, examines some of its techniques and concepts, and disabuses readers of some of the negative impressions they may hold of this branch of astrology. Does traditional astrology focus on the “bad” aspects of the chart? Does it focus on only what happens to the native rather than his or her potential? Does traditional astrology deprive us of having free will? The answer to all these questions is no. “Traditional Astrology doesn’t really dwell on the negative, Dykes tells us, “it is just more realistic about how mixed life is.” Wishing does not make it so, and we can only realize what is indicated in our chart. And regarding potential, he states that traditional astrology describes potential in the chart, for good and bad, and is “highly attuned to potentials that can be actualized.” Finally, he asserts that while traditional astrology will predict events and behavior, it can only predict “types.” How we choose to manifest these types is up to us. Meaningful choice can be made stronger once we understand the strengths and limitation of the planets in our chart.
What, specifically, is traditional astrology? Horoscopic astrology using charts with an Ascendant began around the 1st Century BC in the Mediterranean, and went to the 17th Century in England and continental Europe. It began in the Greco-Roman world, was translated by and flourished among the Persians after 226 AD, and then the Arabs by 750 AD, and finally “the flame of astrology passed to the medieval Latins in the West around 1100 AD. During the Renaissance, those who studied astrology followed three separate paths, one following the traditional techniques of Hellenistic astrology, another “reforming” astrology to streamline it by eliminating anything which seemed “old or strange,” and the third being more astronomy based and believing planets have little influence over human affairs except maybe to predict the weather. By the 17th Century, astrology fell into decline largely because, Dykes believes, the reforming astrologers had thrown away the language and techniques in astrology which resonated with people, leaving only an equivalent to what today is our Sun sign astrology. Astrology became popular again in the 20th Century and was often linked to the developments in psychology, beginning the modern school of astrology. Traditional astrology, however, made its return to our awareness in the 20th Century first through scholars who translated ancient Greek texts. Astrologers then built on this rediscovery by themselves translating ancient astrology texts from the Greek, Latin and Arabic. Learning the skills of the ancient astrologers, they then taught traditional astrology to others, creating a revival of techniques for reading horoscope which had slept dormant in dusty texts for centuries.
Dykes distinguishes modern from traditional astrology by stating that while modern astrology focuses on what is in the native’s mind and how he or see thinks about an area of life, traditional astrology is “more objective,” and “most things in your chart are not in your mind.” The second house, for example, reflects simply our assets, not how we value them. Planets in our horoscope can be strong or weak, performing their functions well or poorly, depending upon their sect (whether the native has a day or a night chart), sign, house placement, aspects to the benefics (Venus and Jupiter) or malefics (Mars and Saturn), relation to the Sun, and direction. Dykes quotes Aristotle’s belief that to be happy, “we must try to maximize these goods and minimize the evils.” An astrologer can point a client to a Venus in exaltation in Pisces in the 10th house of a night chart as a key to finding success, and to beware of any hidden enemies with Jupiter in its fall in Gemini in the 12th house. In seeing the good and bad in our charts, we can “align ourselves with the cosmos,” and live a happier life realizing that everything is temporary and we are all part of a larger plan.
Studying the techniques laid out in this book enables us to very easily apply them to our own charts and charts of our clients and enhance our understanding. That someone with a Mars in Cancer in a day chart has always had trouble managing anger and confrontation is further understood when identify Mars as in its fall and combust the Sun and in a cadent house. Have you just turned 38? Then this is your third house profected year. The matters of this house and planets in the house take on a particular significance, and the transits of and the transits to the ruler of this house will have a strong impact. Does Venus, the relationship planet, rule your seventh house but is found in your sixth house? It then is in “aversion” to your seventh house, unable to “see” it by aspect, and so can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and acting without information in the realm of relationships. Following these techniques does give an astrologer a sharp focus on the chart and tools for giving a client practical guidance. And even if you are not interested in adapting the practice of traditional astrologers, reading this book will help you appreciate the labor and intelligence and insight of those who for centuries, like us, loved learning and teaching the language of the stars.