Queen of the Birth Chart
Ask someone in India, “What’s your sign?” and they’ll tell you their Moon sign, not their Sun sign. That’s because in Vedic astrology, the Moon is regarded as far more important than the Sun. In the absence of a birth time, Vedic astrologers routinely treat the Moon as if it were the ascendant, and then interpret the chart from the relative house positions of the remaining planets. That’s because, after the ascendant, the Moon is the most dynamic, ie, fast-moving, body in the chart and is therefore a more potent individuating factor than the Sun.
Ideally, one’s Moon shouldn’t be found alone in the chart. Like a queen, she should have companions when she goes out on a promenade. Proper accompaniment means another planet in the same sign or in either adjacent sign. If that’s not available in the chart, the next best thing is to have planets in one of the houses angular to the Moon. For example, if the Moon is alone in the 5th house with no other planets in the 4th, 5th or 6th, then we’d like to see planets in the 8th, the 11th or the 2nd houses.
Because the Moon is a lady, she favors elegant associates. The other benefics are, in order of descending magnitude, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury. If one or more of these is with the Moon, or a pair of them in immediately adjacent signs, this is ideal. The converse is true of malefics who are, in order of descending magnitude, Saturn, Rahu/Ketu, Mars and Sun. The Moon accompanied by benefics indicates healthy emotions, a balanced mind, a cheerful disposition, and good health. Accompanied by malefics, we get the reverse.
In a typical chart, a mix of factors can easily come to bear, eg, where the Moon is influenced by both benefics and malefics. In that case, the discriminating astrologer evaluates the strength of each factor, starting with the Moon. Is the Moon full, in its own or exalted sign, or in the 4th house where it gets directional strength? Or is the Moon dark, in its debilitated sign, or eclipsed? Similarly, are the benefics strong by being retrograde or in their own/exalted signs, or weak by being combust or in their debilitated signs? Likewise for the malefics, strong or weak?
After reviewing these many factors, from the strength or weakness of the Moon, to the number and dignity of the influential benefics versus the number and dignity of detrimental malefics, the astrologer can then interpret the client’s emotional, mental and physical states. Although everything sounds easy in theory, it is indeed these very principles of analysis that provide a foundation for interpretation, and thus help the astrologer put theory into practical use.
The Moon Also Rises
Is there anything more cursed in the life of an astrologer than a client without a birth time?
Granted, it’s a splendid scapegoat that allows us to tell the client, “Gosh, without knowing your ascendant, I can’t really tell if you’re ever going to get married,” but for most of us who take our roles seriously, we’d actually prefer to offer some sort of prognosis and/or counsel.
Certainly, specific issues like “Will I ever get married?” beg for the application of horary astrology, but that’s not the topic du jour. Whether or not a horary chart will resolve the marital question, we’d still like to have something approximating the natal chart to get a reading on all the other spoken/unspoken themes in the life of that client.
In western astrological practice, the traditional alternative is to prepare a “solar chart.” Typically, this means calculating the birth chart for the time of local sunrise, which places the sun exactly on the ascendant. An alternate method is to calculate the birth chart for noon, ie, the half-way point of a calendar birthday that’s measured from midnight to midnight. Then we manually rotate the chart to place the Sun in the position of the ascendant.
The only real difference between these two options is that in the approximate six hours between “sunrise” and “noon”, the Moon will move about three degrees of arc. That could move the Moon in or out of orb in certain aspects, but the rest of the planets will be little affected, and you’ll have a reasonable proxy for an accurate birth chart.
Vedic (Hindu) astrologers apply a different strategy, and one that western astrologers could as easily adopt. In Vedic astrology, the Moon sign is far more important than the Sun sign. Not only does the Moon drive the system of “planetary periods” unique to Hindu astrology, but it is seen as more descriptive than the Sun of the client’s physicality, personality and psychology. The Moon represents our emotional mind, a sort of “operating system” that records and assesses all sensory input, and has a huge influence on our likes/dislikes, our day-to- day personality, and our relationship with the world around us. By contrast, the Sun has more to do with our ego, ideals and projections on the world.
Furthermore, the Moon is a more potent individuating factor than the Sun. The reason we want a birth time in the first place is so we can launch our interpretation from the most dynamic, ie, fastest-moving, factor in the chart. The ascendant changes every two hours. Knowing it helps us make distinctions between a dozen people born on the same day. In the absence of knowing the ascendant, the next fastest-moving element in the chart is the Moon. Launching our interpretation from the Moon-as-Ascendant helps us make meaningful distinctions between a dozen Aries-born spread over the period March 21st to April 20th.
So how do we prepare a Moon-rising chart? If the client has some idea of birth-time, say “sometime in the afternoon”, then we can define afternoon as Noon to 6pm, split the difference and guesstimate the birth-time as 3pm. If the client doesn’t have a clue whether his/her birth was morning, noon or night, then we calculate the chart for noon. In either event, once you calculate the chart, rotate it to treat the Moon as ascendant, and interpret from that perspective.
Even when Vedic astrologers know the Ascendant, they still routinely rotate the chart in their minds to treat the Moon as if it were rising. Why? Because this fresh perspective from the next-most-dynamic element of the chart often provides useful corroboration of some natal themes, and in some instances, functions as a tie- breaker in an interpretation that gets otherwise hung up on conflicting evidence from the Ascendant-only perspective.
As my yoga teacher used to tell me: “Why not stand on your head? The worst that can happen is you’ll see the world in a different way.”