Introduction to Traditional Natal Astrology: A Complete Working Guide for Modern Astrologers
By Charles Obert
Charles Obert has written a clear and concise description of techniques used by traditional astrologers. These techniques were learned from reading ancient scripts of astrologers practicing two thousand years ago at the dawn of Hellenistic astrology. With this book, astrologers practicing today can learn to incorporate this traditional approach into their own chart interpretations while coming to understand how ancient astrologers thought and approached an astrological chart. Traditional and modern astrology each has their limitations, Obert writes, but together, they can complement and enrich each other.
A basic difference in the two approaches is perspective. A traditional astrologer sees a planet in a house as something in the native’s outer world. A modern astrologer sees something within the native. The Sun in the 11th house indicates to a traditional astrologer that this person would benefit from eminent and powerful friends. A modern astrologer would see that the native’s identity and sense of self-worth is built through his social connections and network. As Obert tells us, both interpretations are valid and enrich our interpretation.
Obert presents a chart interpretation outline for a traditional approach which is very helpful in guiding the astrologer through a chart. To put his technique into practice, I will follow the steps through the chart of someone very much in the world spotlight today, November 3, 2020, election day - Donald Trump. I used his chart when examining above the interpretation of the Sun’s placement. To look further, one should:
First, scan all planets for their condition:
Are any planets in their rulership or exaltation? Or are any planets in their detriment (opposite to the sign they rule) or fall (opposite to the signs in which they exalt)? We see in Donald Trump’s chart that the only planet which falls into one of these categories is Saturn, which is in detriment in Cancer. This planet becomes “an important focus” in the life and presents advantages when in rulership or exaltation, and challenges when in detriment or fall. So with Saturn in detriment, matters involving discipline, authority, self-control, or restriction are issues Donald Trump will grapple with throughout his life.
Second, notice if any planets are on or near the angles.
These planets become “strong, viable and important.” We see that Mars lies within three degrees of Donald Trump’s Ascendant, enhancing his personality with Mars’s tendencies towards anger and aggression as well as self-assertion and courage.
Another consideration in describing the personality of the native is the mode of the Ascendant, whether cardinal (initiating), fixed (sustaining), or mutable (changing). Donald Trump’s Ascendant is fixed, giving his personality great persistence. Obert also suggests that the mode of the Midheaven should be considered, to see if the same force will be present in the native’s calling. With his Midheaven in Taurus, Donald Trump will display the same fixity when pursuing his aims in the world.
Third, examine the sect of the chart.
Was the native born in the day or the night? If the Sun in the horoscope is above the Ascendant/Descendant axis, this is a day chart; if the Sun falls below the Ascendant/Descendant axis, this is a night chart. Donald Trump’s Sun in the 11th house deems his chart to be day, or diurnal. His information gathering, communicative Gemini Sun dominates as the sect light, while the justice and adventure loving Sagittarian Moon takes a secondary role. The reverse would be true if he had been born at night.
Venus and Jupiter, which Obert refers to as “The Good Guys,” are benefics which bring ease and advantages to the native. Mars and Saturn, “The Bad Guys,” are malefics which bring difficulties and obstacles. In the day sect, Jupiter is the primary benefic, and Mars is the more powerful malefic; in the night sect, Venus is the primary benefic and Saturn the stronger malefic.
In Donald Trump’s chart, Jupiter in Libra residing in his third house suggests benefits coming from expanding (Jupiter) his popularity (Libra) in the realms of communication, such as the media. He has successfully created himself as a “brand,” sold a number of bestsellers, starred in his own reality TV shows, and, with the support of the conservative media and his abilities to communicate with an audience, become President of the United States.
His primary malefic, Mars in Leo in the first house, suggests difficulties around the Leo-sized personality he projects into the world, with his blatant self-interest creating more enemies than friends.
Fourth, examine the Lord of the Ascendant and any planets in the first house.
Since the first house represents the native in traditional astrology, the planet ruling this house and occupying this house will tell us much about our subject himself. Donald Trump’s Leo first house is ruled by the Sun in Gemini in the 11th house, giving more emphasis to an already dominant luminary and telling us that communicating (Gemini) to an audience (11th house) is very important to his sense of identity.
Because traditional astrologers use a whole sign house system, any planet in Leo is considered to be in the first house since Leo was the sign rising at birth. Mars is there, of course, adding a need for self-assertion and conflict to build the identity. And if the traditional astrologer blends some of a modern astrologer’s techniques as Obert does later on in his own interpretations, Pluto will also be read as part of the native’s identity, giving him an almost primal need for dominance and control.
Fifth, look for a balance or imbalance of mode or element within the planets.
Obert says to look only for a distinct imbalance. Most software prints out charts with the modes and elements of the planets identified, so determining this requires only an easy, quick scan. We can see from Donald Trump’s chart that the modes are in balance and the only significant lack is earth planets, which Obert describes as representing material reality and practicality, which may explain Donald Trump’s need to build enormous structures and his tendency to believe something is real because he declares it so.
Sixth, identify the planets in closest aspect to each other and those in square and opposition to each other by whole sign aspects.
We see that Venus and Saturn form a conjunction to each other by 2 degrees, blending the energies of what Donald Trump enjoys and appreciates (Venus) with challenges and difficulties (Saturn). This is someone who relishes a struggle and overcoming the odds. Obert reminds us to reflect on the condition of the planet as well. This Saturn, remember, is in detriment, so these struggles become more pronounced. And if we bring in the outer planets, Jupiter and Uranus are in an almost exact trine, bringing Donald Trump unexpected and surprising (Uranus) luck (Jupiter) throughout his life, especially considering that Jupiter is the greater benefic of the chart.
Planets in 90 and 180 degree aspect to each other are called “in the stakes,” meaning that create energies which need to work against each other before a resolution can be achieved. We see in Donald Trump’s Sun-Moon opposition the tension between the solar principle of needing to shine and dominate against the lunar need to listen and receive. And yet in order to achieve the draw the audience he craves, he will need to tap into their hopes and wishes.
The three planets in Cancer are also “in the stakes” with the Libran Jupiter (and Neptune), pitting Donald Trump’s need for emotional security against the impulse to expand his base. In doing this, he gives others the power to either meet or deny his innermost needs.
Charles Obert does include descriptions of other techniques which fill in the picture but are not of as great a consideration as the techniques described in this outline. Obert concludes this very useful book by sharing his experience in combining traditional with modern astrology. Ancient astrologers thought of planets as gods external to us while to modern astrologers planets were considered to represent psychological forces within us. Obert has discovered them to be forces larger than himself which manifest in both his inner and outer life.