“Astrology and the Authentic Self” by Demetra George emboldened me to venture out of my comfort zone and read charts for people who were not my friends or family. Functioning more as an intermediate text for students who know the basics but have not yet taken that solo flight, this book guides us through the process of setting up the chart, sitting down with the client, and opening up a dialogue with the purpose of helping clients discover their “innate authentic nature” and understand their purpose in the cosmos. “In a universe that is conscious and alive,” George tells us, “everything emanates from the mind of the cosmos.” Astrology is a language which enables us to perceive and communicate this deeper intelligence. While providing us with much practical information, this book also teaches us reverence for and appreciation of astrology’s gifts.

Also striking is George’s ability to blend techniques of ancient astrology with those used by modern astrologers. Readers are not in a position of having to choose a type of astrology in order to follow the systems George proposes using. While she uses whole sign houses, for example, she will add, “if you are using quadrant based house systems . . . .” In describing the 12th house, George writes, “Traditionally, the twelfth house signifies suffering, loss, affliction, enemies, and confinement. Modern astrology has added the meanings of karma, the collective unconscious, solitude, retreat.” While she uses traditional rulerships, she includes outer planet aspects as well as several major asteroids in her analysis.

Throughout the book, George stands at our shoulder as a wise and systematic counselor, guiding us as we review the basics, establish the “framework” of the chart by evaluating the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, and timing through transits and progressions, adding to the framework with lunation phases, Part of Fortune, lunar nodes, eclipses, aspect patterns and solar returns and annual profections, and then finally meeting native of the chart. The preparation for a consultation is the easy part, she instructs us, “the hard part is facing your clients and saying something meaningful about their lives.” We meet a mythical client named Bill as we progress through the book, and see how each technique applies to his chart.

I developed a checklist from Demetra George’s study guides at the end of each chapter which I still use when approaching a new chart. I may not follow it step by step in order, but it is a good way to check that I did not miss something important:

  1. Note the sign on Ascendant, planet conjunct the Ascendant, and the sign of the ruler of the Ascendant. Then note the sign and house position of the Sun and Moon. What elements dominate? (Fire=freedom; Air=change; Earth=stability; Water=emotional safety). How well do the Sun and Moon work together?

  1. Determine the lunation phase and progressed lunar phase, and the dates of the most recent progressed new Moon.

  1. Evaluate the strength and weakness of the planets. Are they strong in their own domicile or in exaltation, or weak in detriment of fall? Are they strong in angular houses, of medium strength in succeedent houses, or weak in cadent houses?

  1. Notice whether there are any stelliums? T-squares? Grand trines?

  1. Assess whether any areas of the chart are receiving challenges from outer planets, either natally or by transit.

  1. Determine positions of progressed planets.

  1. Circle conjunctions or oppositions of progressed angles or inner planets to progressed or natal angles.

  1. Circle conjunctions of progressed outer planets to progressed or natal planets or angles.

  1. Note sign and house of progressed Moon.

  1. Indicate whether a progressed planet has entered a new sign or turned retrograde or direct.

  1. Write in transits and note if they are making an exact aspect to natal planets, and note whether the transiting planet is retrograde or stationing.

  1. Evaluate whether any eclipses aspect natal planets, and what houses do the eclipses activate?

  1. Note the profected house and its time lord, and identify its position in the solar return chart.

  1. Add the lunar nodes and the Part of Fortune to the chart.

  1. Insert any of the basic asteroids (Ceres, Juno, Vesta, Pallas Athena or Chiron) to the chart if they closely aspect a natal planet or angle.

Demetra George has even laid out a time frame for a 60 minute consultation, which, while a bit stilted, does demonstrate how we can best give our clients a good overview of their chart while connecting them to their life purpose. For example, if M.P. arrives at 2:00 p.m., the session could proceed as follows:

2:00 – 2:05: Ask M.P. a bit about her background and explore what concerns have brought her to an astrologer at this time. Perhaps she needs some career direction for a creative project and has questions about a 2-year relationship.

2:05 – 2:10: Discuss the lunation phase in her natal chart. M.P. was born with the Sun in Capricorn and the Moon in Libra, the last quarter phase. M.P. was born with the energy that reevaluates beliefs, tears down old structures, and identifies what in the past has outlived its usefulness. Inquire how this energy is working in her creative project and her relationship.

2:10 – 2:15 Move to the progressed lunation phase. M.P. has a progressed Sun in Pisces and a progressed Moon in Aries, just 15 degrees ahead of the Sun. She is still in a progressed New Moon phase, which indicates a new vision or activity emerging. Discuss how she can meld her last quarter phase energy with the New Moon energy of a new project and relationship.

2:15 – 2:25: Go over the Ascendant and its ruler, which is the “helmsman” of the chart. M.P., with a Gemini Ascendant, is ruled by Mercury, in the sign of Aquarius and placed in the 9th house. Mercury is not in its domicile, exaltation, detriment or fall. It is placed in a cadent, or weak house. Her “capacity to think, speak, learn and reason” (Mercury) guides her life, but she will need to work hard to give it expression (cadent house). Her ways of thinking and speaking will function best when she is striving to be innovative and original, and to create social change (Aquarius), and her thinking and communicating will flourish with long-distance travel or when studying religions or belief systems or other kinds of higher education (9th house). Discuss with her how this energy is being utilized in her creative project, and whether she is finding the space she needs to do this work in her new relationship.

2:25 – 2:30: Talk about the Sun. M.P., with her Sun in Capricorn in the 8th house, faces some challenges in that her Ascendant cannot “see” the Sun. Her “basic identity, will, and conscious purpose” (Sun) contain a “need for structure, organization, and discipline” (Capricorn), and this need is most expressed in the area of “death and benefits gained from death and money received from others” (8th house). We find from our discussion that M.P. is dependent upon grants to bring her project to fruition, and that her efforts to obtain this money in order to create a work for others is part of her life path. We also assess that the issue of joint finances in her relationship should be approached in an organized and systematic way.

2:30 – 2:35: Cover the Moon. M.P.’s “emotions, feelings, and habitual responses” (Moon) are very much tied up in her “need to relate to others and create harmony and balance” (Libra). This need is best expressed in the area of “children, romance and pleasurable pursuits, and the creative arts” (5th house). Her creative project, then, with all its frustrations, fulfills an emotional need in her life, and a romantic, or at the very least a harmonic, relationship is also a core need.

2:25 – 2:40: Evaluate the aspects in the chart. M.P. has a stellium of Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury in Aquarius in the 9th house, giving originality (Aquarius) and travel and higher learning (9th house) a particular emphasis in her life. These planets are in trine to a 5th house Mars and Neptune in Libra, heightening her energy (Mars) and creativity (5th house) in the arts (Libra). M.P.’s Capricorn Sun works harmoniously (in trine) with her “capacity to create order, form, and discipline” (Saturn). Her Sun and Moon are in challenging aspect (square), though, creating a tension between her identity as someone who is organized and structured (Capricorn) and her need to relate to others in a harmonious way (Libra). These strengths and challenges can be discussed in both her creative project and her relationship.

2:40 – 2:45 Review any timing aspects in M.P.’s progressed chart. We see that the progressed Sun in Pisces will be moving into Aries in the upcoming year, and so her evolving identity (progressed Sun) will transition from one who is “committed to a dream or ideal” (Pisces) to one who has a “need to be independent and develop self awareness.” Inquire how she perceives this shift will effect change in her life.

2:45 – 2:50: Discuss any timing aspects from transits, profections, and her solar return. We see that Pluto, the “capacity to transform and renew,” is conjunct, or intermingling, with her natal Sun, her basic identity. Explore what in the way she has always thought of herself is being “shed,” and what about her identity is being transformed. We see that M.P. is in 9th house profection year, with Saturn as the “Lord of the Year.” Saturn during her solar return fell in her 8th house, a weaker house. But it was strong in its own domicile of Capricorn, conjunct Mercury, and sextile the Moon, providing her with the disciplined (Saturn) mental effort (Mercury) and emotional support (Moon) needed to accomplish her goals.

2:50 – 3:00: Ten minutes are then left for client questions and further discussion, with the aspiration to “give the client a positive and spiritually uplifting vision for living a life that has purpose and meaning for themselves and also benefits others.” This is when we truly need to light a candle (as Demetra George does with each session) and invite Spirit in. M.P., who may have come to the reading frustrated over her project and wondering about taking on a new relationship, can certainly be assured that she is living a full life, truly in alignment with her chart, creating, building, connecting and loving.

Demetra George in “Astrology and the Authentic Self” provides us with an invaluable road map for carrying clients through the exploration of their place in the divine order of the cosmos. As with all maps, though, the execution of the journey depends on the dedication, skill and faith of the person behind the wheel.