UNDERSTANDING TEMPERMENT TO ENRICH A CHART READING

Among the ancient techniques discovered as centuries old astrology texts have been translated into English is the identification of the chart native’s temperament. Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum’s Temperament: Astrology’s Forgotten Key guides astrologers towards integrating the understanding of temperament into chart interpretation to help clients better understand their “inherent nature” or “disposition.” Temperament is our inborn response to what life throws our way. Are you quick to form opinions, or do you hold back and deliberate? Do you eagerly seek out new experiences, or do you hesitantly dip in one toe? Are you always adding more experiences and interests and new friends, or are you always pruning away commitments and relationships so as not to become overwhelmed? Greenbaum writes that our predilections in these directions are the result of our temperament, baked into who we are, and they do not change with age or experience.


To understand how early astrologers identified temperament from a chart reading, Greenbaum first explored ancient Greek philosophy, which identified four essential qualities in our physical life. There is heat, and the absence of heat, cold; and there is moisture, and the absence of moisture, dryness. These qualities build from one to another in a cycle. Think of dew on the ground:


  • At sunrise, with dew on the ground, the basic quality is wet, and the movement is toward hot as the Sun grows in strength.

  • In the middle of the day, with the Sun overhead, the basic quality is hot, but it is moving toward dry as the Sun burns off the moisture.

  • At sunset, the basic quality is dry, but it is moving toward cold as the source of heat disappears.

  • In the middle of the night, the basic quality is cold, but it is moving toward wet as the air becomes heavier with moisture, which returns to the ground as dew.


Each phase in this process describes an element of life:


· Wet and hot describe Air.

· Hot and dry describe Fire.

· Dry and cold describe Earth.

· Cold and wet describe Water.


Heat was considered to speed things up while cold slows things down. Wetness leads to greater connectivity, and dryness tends to separate things. These qualities are reflected in our seasons:


· In Spring, seeds connect with the earth (wet) and the growing process quickens (hot)

· In Summer, plants continue to grow quickly (hot) but develop separate parts (dry)

· In Autumn, plants are divided into parts as their fruit is harvested (dry) and their growth slows (cold)

· In Winter, plants are dormant (cold) but their seed is preparing to connect with the earth once again (wet).


You can see, then, how early Greek astrologers could incorporate this basic understanding into their chart interpretation, identifying certain temperaments with signs and planets:


  • Air signs, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, are wet and hot, and their temperament was identified as SANGUINE and allied with the season of Spring. This nature likes to initiate, is optimistic, curious, friendly, with a tendency to start more projects than they finish. Their impulse is to hurry (hot) and connect (wet).


  • Fire signs, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, are hot and dry, and their temperament was identified as CHOLERIC and allied with the season of Summer. This nature likes to dominate and take charge, tending to be impatient and willful. Their impulse is to make things happen right away (hot) and to divide and conquer (dry).


  • Earth signs, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, are dry and cold, and their temperament was identified as MELANCHOLIC and allied with the season of Autumn. Melancholics analyze, worry, and study a situation before taking a leap and believe they make their own luck through hard work. Their impulse is to be self-reliant (dry) and slow and deliberate (cold).


  • Water signs, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, are cold and wet, and their temperament was identified as PHLEGMATIC and allied with the season of Winter. They procrastinate, hoping things will workout somehow, have a deep feeling nature which is usually hidden, and tend to be contemplative. They are usually in no rush and will get around to things when they are ready (cold) and yet have great empathy for others (wet).


Planets, too, were assigned temperaments:


  • The Sun is hot and dry, or Choleric

  • The Moon is cold and wet, or Phlegmatic

  • Mercury, true to its dual nature, is:

  • Wet and hot (Sanguine) when it rises before the Sun

  • Dry and cold (Melancholic) when it rises after the Sun

  • Venus is traditionally hot and wet, or Sanguine, although Greenbaum has found it works best to consider Venus cold and wet, or Phlegmatic, if it rises after the Sun

  • Mars is hot and dry, or Choleric

  • Jupiter is hot and wet, or Sanguine

  • Saturn is cold and dry, or Melancholic.


A temperament was also assigned to Moon phases:


  • Those born from the New Moon to the 1st Quarter Moon are in a Sanguine phase.

  • From the 1st Quarter Moon to the Full Moon is considered a Choleric phase.

  • From the Full Moon to the 3rd Quarter Moon is the Melancholic phase.

  • From the 3rd Quarter Moon to the New Moon is the Phlegmatic phase.


So, how to put this all together? Greenbaum does a very thorough job of exploring how elements of the chart were put together in different ways by astrologers through the centuries to arrive at an understanding of the client’s temperament, and then she lays out the system which has worked best for her. Greenbaum also acknowledges that many people do not have one dominant temperament and she includes her analysis of people with blended temperaments as well.


I will share Greenbaum’s chart for analysis of temperament so that you can try it on your own chart:



Sanguine

Choleric

Melancholic

Phlegmatic

Birth Season (2)





Asc Sign (2)





Asc Ruler (1)





Asc Almuten (1)





Moon Sign (2)





Moon Phase (1)





Sign of Moon Ruler (1)





Totals





I will use as an example a client with a Capricorn Sun, Scorpio Moon in the 3rd Quarter to New Moon Phase, Mars in Pisces and an Aquarius Ascendant:



Sanguine

Choleric

Melancholic

Phlegmatic

Birth Season (2)




2 (winter)

Asc Sign (2)

2 (air)




Asc Ruler (1)



1 (Saturn)


Asc Almuten (1)



1 (Saturn)


Moon Sign (2)




2 (water)

Moon Phase (1)




1 (3rd Q-New)

Sign of Moon Ruler (1)




1 (water)

Totals

2


2

6


So this is an example of someone who has a predominance of Phlegmatic according to this system, and this could be brought into the client consultation by discussing such topics as motivation, living at their own pace, and the role of empathy and boundaries in their life.


Here is an example of someone with Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Capricorn in the New to 1st Quarter phase, a Gemini Ascendant, and Saturn in Scorpio:




Sanguine

Choleric

Melancholic

Phlegmatic

Birth Season (2)



2 (Autumn)


Asc Sign (2)

2 (air)




Asc Ruler (1)

1 (Mercury before Sun)




Asc Almuten (1)

1 (Mercury before Sun)




Moon Sign (2)



2 (earth)


Moon Phase (1)

1 (New to 1st Q)




Sign of Moon Ruler (1)




1 (water)

Totals

5


4

1

This client has a nearly even blend of Sanguine and Melancholic, which Greenbaum said could indicate “good social skills, but may be standoffish when faced with deep intimacy” and “laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.” A client consultation could include a discussion of the conflicting impulses to connect and to withdraw, or to alternate between extreme optimism and pessimism.


Temperament is a very useful addition to the techniques we use to analyze charts, more of a grace note than a major chord, but something which adds enlightenment. We are much more than a temperament and events do not swirl around us because of our temperament, but it is reassuring to connect ourselves to the cycles of our physical world and feel ourselves to be part of a greater whole.