A few months ago, a member of our local (Toronto) Astrology Meetup group asked the “professionals” in the community about their process for analyzing a chart. Although I currently practice Vedic astrology, I chose not to go into the detailed pro forma of that system. Instead, because the vast majority of the Meetup audience practices western astrology, I described the routine I learned from the British Faculty of Astrological Studies, and revised during a dozen years of professional practice as a western astrologer:

  1. Calculate the chart correctly. Compare your original data to what you’ve input into the computer, and confirm you’ve entered it right. There’s no more sick feeling than being halfway into a consultation, only to realize that you’ve goofed up in the calculation, and have the wrong ascendant, or even worse, the wrong day, month or year!
  2. Favor the major Ptolemaic aspects (conjunction, opposition, square, trine, sextile) and little else. Many astrologers like to use several if not all of the minor aspects, but the more minor aspects you allow in a chart, the more cluttered with aspect lines your chart becomes. After awhile, it looks like a knotted ball of twine, and then good luck trying to unravel it.
  3. Use relatively tight orbs, seven degrees or less. The tighter your orbs, the fewer aspect patterns you’ll see in your charts, but the stronger those patterns will be. Learn to recognize additional strength via applying versus separating aspects.
  4. Use the major planets and little else but the Moon’s nodes. There’s no place for asteroids and the Galactic Center in my charts. Although I’ve occasionally used the major fixed stars and a very few Arabic Parts, students should leave them alone until they’re competent analyzing charts using the basics.
  5. Evaluate all planets vis-à-vis their essential dignities or lack thereof. Typically, this means recognizing strength via planets in their own or exalted signs, or weakness via debilitation or combustion. (There are other sources of strength and weakness, eg, directional strength and retrogression, but not all conditions are regarded in the same way in different systems of astrology).
  6. Pick a house system and stick with it for awhile. There are many house systems, and they go in and out of vogue depending on their use by popular writers of the day. Knowing the vagaries of astrological opinion, I settled for Porphyry, which simply trisects the arcs between ASC, DSC, MC and IC to get intermediate cusps.
  7. Take careful note of the ascendant lord with respect to its strength, the house it occupies, and the aspects formed between it and other planets. Do the same for the Moon. Do the same for the Sun. Does this suggest any common life themes or personality characteristics?
  8. Depending on what interests you or the client, examine other house lords and occupants for strength and weakness, house placement, and aspects formed with other planets.
  9. Take note of the major aspect patterns, eg, Grand Trine, Grand Cross, T-Square, Kite, etc, and what they mean with respect to their participating planets. Likewise for the patterns popularized by Marc Edmund Jones, eg, Bowl, Bucket, Locomotive, Splay, etc.
  10. Constantly synthesize to find common themes and/or outcomes suggested by the analysis of various houses. Astrology is all about pattern recognition, both in chart configurations and in the meanings attributed to such configurations.
  11. Use progressions and/or transits to identify periods during which latent potential in the chart might be triggered. Fame or misfortune don’t happen in a void – the chart can only deliver in time what is promised at birth.
  12. Ask your client beforehand what they’re interested in, and be prepared to discuss those topics or answer specific questions. Speak in plain language, not in astrological terms or New Age gobbledegook.
  13. Ask for feedback in the form of confirmation or denial when you’re finished your reading. If there were things you weren’t sure of, ask your own questions in order to get the facts. Learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.

Although both the Faculty and my own curiosity introduced me to many other techniques, including things I’ve since rejected, the basic process remains the same – identify strong and weak elements of the chart, recognize recurring patterns, and synthesize their various meanings in order to provide insights for the client in their areas of interest.