How to Read a Chart, By George

On his list of the eight best books for astrology students, Chris Brennan of The Astrology Podcast includes Demetra George’s Astrology and the Authentic Self published in 2008. I had to cheer when I heard this selection because this is the book that gave me the confidence to begin reading charts for others. I had studied for many years but never until I read this book had all the moving parts of reading an astrology chart fall into place. Demetra George in her lovely, teacherly style walks us through the process of evaluating a chart and then lays out a plan we can follow not just while preparing for the client but during the consultation itself. An added gift is that she combines her wealth of knowledge in both modern and traditional astrology so that we can draw the best techniques from each branch of astrology.


Demetra George begins with the overview that the astrology chart is a map of the intelligence in the Universe at that point in time, and by understanding this map, we can guide our clients towards the unfolding self – the “Authentic Self” – they were born to be, and towards the life purpose which best fulfills their destiny. In her first chapter, she reviews the basics of putting together the planet, sign, houses and aspects into clear sentences that provide a framework for understanding the client’s character and purpose. Chris Brennan suggested this is a good book to take on after learning the more basic books he had recommended, and Demetra George makes the same point. She will be moving on to discuss the chart on much more complex levels in later chapters, so having the basics under our belts keeps us moving forward with her.


To use a sample chart to demonstrate Demetra George’s method of identifying the basics, I chose the chart of Pamela Anderson, a 1990’s popular model and TV star who this past year came back into the public spotlight when she was portrayed in the Hulu series Pam and Tommy – rather against her wishes, from what I understand.


If we look at Pamela’s Cancer Sun – “the intention of the soul and life purpose” – we can state that Pamela’s life purpose is to give and receive emotional warmth and security through her personal money, possessions, and livelihood. Because Mercury, the planet which describes her capacity to think, speak, and reason, is also in Cancer, these energies are united to give and receive emotional security.


Demetra George next looks at the Moon, our emotions, feelings, and habitual responses, which in Aries tells us that Pamela has an emotional need for independence and a drive to develop self-awareness, and it will express through her friendships, group affiliations, and, because she is a public person, through her audience. Saturn is also in Aries, which indicates she will seek to build emotional structures which allow her independence and yet they can become very limiting and even painful. Because Aries is in square to Cancer, we can identify that her lunar need for independence and the Saturn need for independent structures in her life can clash with her Cancer Sun and Mercury and what she needs to build her own security – and develop her livelihood.


Finally, Demetra George directs us to the Ascendant and its ruler, to tell us “What motivates the soul and what topics steer the life on its course.” With Gemini rising in Pamela’s chart, she is motivated by the need to communicate and make mental contact with others. And its ruler, Mercury, brings us back to her second house Mercury in Cancer. This is someone who through communicating and connecting with others seeks to establish emotional security through her livelihood and possessions – and so much of Pamela’s energy will be given to communicating with others to build her financial and emotional security. Given that Pamela Anderson came to fame through her pictures being published in a means of communication – Playboy Magazine – and she has since had a steady career through television and magazine appearances, this does track.


It also accounts for her wild and impetuous marriage to Tommy Lee (her independent Aries Moon) which led in 1996 to their private sex tapes being stolen and exploited through marketed videotapes, magazines, and the then fledgling Internet (all Mercury matters). The notoriety and audience response hurt her badly (Saturn in Aries in her 11th house) and nearly derailed her career and ability to make a living (threatening her Cancer planets in the second house).


Moving forward, Demetra George in Astrology and the Authentic Self directs us to evaluate the condition of the seven traditional planets. Just as we all have strengths and weaknesses, our planets are a mixture of those which function well in our lives and can bring about their purpose, and those which struggle to bring their matters to fruition. It’s important, Demetra George reminds us, to stay nonjudgmental during this process and see each planet’s condition as a simple fact in this person’s chart. She first considers sect, and which planets are most effective for those born during the day and for those born at night. She also considers their dignity by sign, and the strength or weakness of their house position. She evaluates how each planet is treated by the benefics, Venus and Jupiter, and by the malefics, Mars and Saturn. Finally, she identifies a planet’s visibility and speed and its relation to the Sun and Moon. While planetary condition can be explored in deeper detail, Demetra George tells us that following these initial steps will give us a basic sense of how well a planet is functioning in an individual’s chart.


In Pamela Anderson’s chart, we see that she was born at night, or before the Sun rose over the eastern horizon. This would give her Moon ascendancy as the primary light, so while she will function as a Cancer Sun, the Aries Moon and her impulsive emotions can override her need for security. The Moon in Aries has no particular dignity, so we look to its ruler, Mars, for a fuller picture. Mars is in detriment in Libra, so we can conclude that her Moon does not always get the best guidance from its ruler. The Moon is in a “good” house, the 11th, meaning it can see the Ascendant by aspect. It also enjoys a trine by sign from the benefic Jupiter, and a degree-based trine (by 4°) from Venus. But, alas, the malefics play a role as well. Saturn is co-present with the Moon and Mars opposes the Moon (by 4°), which is very close to a condition called “maltreatment.” Finally, the Moon is moving slowly and it is waning, neither of which gives the Moon a boost.


To sum up, we can say that the Aries Moon is a dominant force in Pamela’s life, but her emotions and impulses may often be ungoverned. She will enjoy great benefits around her Moon (her enduring international popularity and freedom to choose a more dramatic and exciting path) but also great difficulties and even painful experiences (notoriety, wild and unmanageable partners, six marriages – and divorces).


The other planets that take a dominant role in a night chart are Venus and Mars. As noted, Pamela’s Mars is in Libra, the sign of its detriment. The Mars desire to assert itself can get mired in the Libran’s need to please everyone and not make waves. It is, however, in a “good” house, the 5th, which can see the Ascendant by trine. It experiences the same mixed bag as the Moon – It enjoys a trine with Jupiter by sign and from Venus by degree and they would almost enclose Mars, protecting it, if it weren’t for the sign-based opposition from Saturn. Again, while Pamela will have many happy and joyful experiences (such as having her children – 5th house) and sometimes be very lucky, the hammer can drop on her life, creating dread and stress. This was evident in Pam and Tommy as she is experiencing the trauma of the sex tape scandal while carrying and delivering her long-dreamed of children.


Venus, the other planet belonging to the night sect, is in better condition. While it has no particular dignity in Leo and its ruler, the Sun, has no dignity and is in a “bad house,” Venus itself is in the moderately “good” 3rd house, meaning it can see the Ascendant by sextile. It has the benefit of being in the same sign as Jupiter, which helps it, and it is not being harmed by a conjunction, square, or opposition from Mars or Saturn. Venus is slow, but visible, so, because of its position in the sect “of favor,” it can bring good but not great fortune to Pamela with very little impediment, especially in 3rd house matters. While her physical beauty was much celebrated and brought her many modeling and even TV acting jobs, her hoped-for career as a movie star like Jane Fonda never materialized.


True to its variable nature, Mercury can belong to either the day or the night sect, depending on whether it rises before or after the Sun. In Pamela’s chart, Mercury rises after the Sun and so belongs to the sect in favor for her. Mercury is also “loud” in her chart because it stationed to go retrograde just five days before she was born and so is in a condition known as “phasis.” A planet is in phasis if it stations to go retrograde or direct within seven days of one’s birth. This retrograde Mercury struggles to learn in a non-traditional way, and because it is twelve degrees from the Sun, it is under the Sun’s beams. One’s objectivity can be lost in the struggle to establish identity. And that struggle is in the forefront of Pamela’s life.


Mercury also receives no benefit from Venus or Jupiter – and it is in a square by sign from Saturn and a square by degree from Mars. In fact, Mercury is enclosed by the malefics – when a ray is shot from Saturn to 11° of Cancer, and a ray is shot from Mars to 22° Cancer, Mercury is enclosed between them, meaning that Mercury is “maltreated.” This is someone who is going to have to learn things the hard way, through painful experience imposed by others and from disastrous decisions she has made for herself. With Mercury in the 2nd house, we can conjecture that Pamela has experienced great stress over finances and her ability to earn, and that her possessions – such as a safe stolen from her house containing a sex tape – have damaged her emotional security.


It’s interesting that this challenged Mercury sits at the apex of a T-Square between the Moon in Aries and Mars in Libra. When the sex tape was stolen and then widely distributed in 1995-1996, Uranus and Neptune were in the late degrees of Capricorn opposing her Mercury – and on the unfinished leg of the T-Square. When the TV series Pam and Tommy was being filmed and then released in 2021-2022, Pluto was transiting these same degrees in late Capricorn, bringing back into Pamela’s life deeply painful feelings she had hoped were forgotten.