The fixed stars in astrology are perhaps the most forgotten part of the whole art. It’s disappointing to think that they’ve been mostly forgotten, when it’s the stars themselves that are the very foundation of the astrological art. There are several misconceptions about the fixed stars, ranging from their usage to their mechanics, hopefully we can correct some of these misconceptions.
Mechanics of the Stars
The fixed stars are hardly fixed. They all move, and the astrologers of the Hellenistic, Classical, and Ancient times all knew the stars moved. The fact of the matter being that the stars moved incredibly slowly. This is not to be confused with the apparent motion of the stars in the sky which is daily motion, that’s something completely different. Everything makes a rotation through the sky in a 24 hour period which is most usually seen in the rising and setting of the sun and moon. However, the other planets and stars do the same thing, or at least they appear to, but for argument’s and simplicity’s sake, we’ll just say they do. Thanks to procession, the stars appear to move through the sky in their own circle, independent of daily motion and the motion of the other planets.
In the Ptolemaic universe, the earth is thought to be at the center with the planetary orbs circling around it. The orbs go in order from fastest to slowest planet effectively assigning the orbs in the order of Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. After the orb of Saturn is thought to be the firmament, wherein rests the realm of the fixed stars. The final orb in the universe is called the prime mover and is the orb that pushes all of the other orbs along in daily motion. This is the only orb whose motion affects the lesser orbs and is the culprit of making the stars and planets appear to rise and set above and below our horizons. The rest of the celestial spheres are thought to move on their own accord at their own speed.
Many skeptics of astrology will cite procession of the equinoxes as a reason for its dismissal and seem to automatically assume that the ancient and classical authors were oblivious to the phenomena. However, the Ptolemaic universe itself is evidence enough that procession was known about and acknowledged during this time, the fact that the fixed stars have been allotted their own orb of motion shows that the knowledge of their motion (however slow that motion was) was common knowledge. They just apparently didn’t care enough about procession to have it dismiss astrology since most were using a tropical zodiac anyway.
Calculating Stars in Charts
A horoscope is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional sphere of space. Now, obviously one dimension has been sacrificed for easy representation on paper, that dimension being depth. While planets are located in the sky by zodiacal longitude represented by their position in the zodiac, they are also further located by their location north or south of the celestial equator, this is called declination. Use of these two calculations is a useful way of locating planets and stars astrologically. However, the idea that planets and stars are neatly lined up along the zodiac is just plain incorrect, they are also located above and below the zodiac. Now, declination is not to be confused with inclination. Inclination is the distance north or south of the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the sun. As you can tell, they have two different bases, one being the celestial equator (which is the earth’s equator projected onto the celestial sphere) and the other being the ecliptic. Be careful not to get confused.
The lack of declination in the horoscope has created some interesting controversies as per the actual position of stars. While it is easy to see the zodiacal position of stars listed on some websites and books, that’s not quite where they are. It would be easy to see the stars Hamal and Shedir on a list of stars located in 7° Taurus 40′ and 7° Taurus 47′ respectively and assume that they are right next to one another, the truth of the matter is that they aren’t. As you can see by the picture, they do seem to be located right next to each other, but Hamal (in Aries) is significantly closer to the ecliptic (that red line under the ram’s feet) than Shedir (in Cassiopeia) is. In instances like this, the stars that fall north or south of the ecliptic are projected onto it. Basically it’s a process of grabbing the star and pulling it straight down until it hits the ecliptic, and putting down where it is once it does hit. This method has its difficulties, as it misrepresents the actual location of the star.
There is another method of using stars in charts which was created by the author Bernadette Brady which is called a paran. This is based off of the idea of the relationship between a star and planet touching horoscopic angles at the same time. It’s based off of the four angels of the horoscope being the way the Earth interacts with the sky, the horizons and the zenith and nadir being arms that reach out and touch space. When a planet approaches the IC and a star reaches the descendant at the same time (or a planet on any other angle and a star at any other, it’s not just set to this example), a paran is formed as both bodies are “touching the earth” at the same time. This creates a different sort of planet/star relationship.
There is one problem that should be addressed in this section, that being the visibility of stars. There are some stars which don’t rise above a certain degree of latitude and these stars are said to not hold any influence there. So, if in a nativity or horary, there’s a star on an angle or planet, but that star doesn’t rise at that degree of latitude, the star holds on influence. In order to discover if a star rises in any location, you simply take the degree of latitude for the location, and then take the individual star’s declination then you add the two numbers together and if the sum of the declination and latitude is greater than 90, the star doesn’t rise there.
The Light of the Stars
There is a bit of a problem when it comes to reading stars, just how is it done? When it comes to the stars, only the conjunction counts. When a planet comes to conjoin with a star in zodiacal longitude, they are then under the influence of that star and can thus come to alter the benefic or malefic nature of that planet depending on context. The other aspects don’t count because stars don’t cast or receive rays as their light is too weak to do so.
Since we are discussing an aspect, there must be an implied orb. The orb of a star is a variant based on the star itself, as more important and brighter stars are given more of an orb over their less brilliant and significant brethren. Famous stars such as the four royal stars are oftentimes given a comparatively large orb of 3°, while the common stars of a first magnitude shine are given about a 2° orb. Past this, stars usually aren’t considered unless the conjunction is exact, there are, though, sometimes exceptions in the rule where the principle or alpha star of a constellation is given an orb of 1°-2° to emphasize its important in that particular area of the sky.
There is a bit of a problem with the idea of planet/star conjunctions, because they aren’t really conjunct. As you can see in the picture, the conjunction of the planet Mercury and the star Betelgeuse isn’t much of an apparent conjunction, they aren’t anywhere near one another. In reality, they’re over 15° apart in declination. However, them being in the same zodiacal position is what’s most important as far as the astrological conjunction goes, especially since Mercury doesn’t have the ability to go much farther from the ecliptic to meet any star north or south of it. This is also mimicked in planetary conjunctions, wherein they aren’t always right on top of one another, but instead are said to be in conjunction as long as they occupy the same zodiacal degree. Here’s a picture of the recent Mercury and Mars conjunction. Not much of a literal conjunction, but being in the same degree of the zodiac is the most important consideration asfar as this goes.
Below is a list of the top ten fixed stars that I suggest putting into any chart. To be honest, I personally recommend running a chart against an entire backdrop of the known fixed stars, just to add an extra depth of flavor into the interpretation; however, these are the ten “most important” stars in the sky either for fame or brilliance, but oftentimes both. Ten spots in the zodiac are pretty easy to remember and recall when looking at a chart, so this might be the best start for those just getting into starlore, I suggest giving all of the stars listed below 3° orbs.
Sirius, The Dog Star: This star is positioned in the mouth of the constellation Canis Major and is zodiacally located at 14° Cancer 05′ with a magnitude of -1.4, effectively making it the brightest star in the sky. This star is said to be of the nature of Jupiter and Mars, making it much more a fortunate star than a negative influence in a chart. The nature of Jupiter makes the star very fortunate and is indicative of great wealth and honor when well placed, however, the negative Martial influence is seen when the star is afflicted or placed unfortunately, being that it inspires anger and danger. (Sirius doesn’t rise about 73° Latitude)
Algol, The Gorgon’s Eye: This star is located in the eye of the head of Medusa in the constellation of Perseus. It’s a variable star, sometimes being of 2nd magnitude and sometimes as 3rd, and is zodiacally located at 26° Taurus 10′. This star is of the nature of Saturn and Mars, showing its extreme malefic nature. This star is said to be the most evil star in the sky, related to violence and unnatural death through decapitation and mutilation. (This star is not visible over 49° Latitude)
Spica, The Maiden’s Corn: This star is represented by the ear of corn in the hand of Virgo the Maiden. This star has a magnitude of 1.0, making it the eighteenth brightest star in the sky. It’s at the zodiacal longitude of 23° Libra 50′ and of the nature of the star is of Venus and Mars, and besides being unfortunate for marriage or love, is one of the most fortunate stars in the sky, especially for focusing on arts and sciences. This is mostly due to Spica being associated with a basic need; nutrition. It’s represented by an ear of corn being offered by the constellation figure of the maiden. (Spica is not visible over latitudes of 79°)
Antares, The Heart of the Scorpion: This star is the principle star of the constellation Scorpio, being the heart of the constellation. It has a magnitude of 1.0 and is the eleventh brightest star in the sky. Its current zodiacal longitude is 9° Sagittarius 46′ and the star is of the nature of Mars and Jupiter. With Mars as the primary nature of the star, it is colored with a certain intensity and invasion quality. This star is linked to extremes and is either an all or nothing star, Jupiter being secondary nature tames it some, by being able to bring great wealth and power under the star, but usually the star gives people a stubborn and willful personality with the danger of being overwhelmed by the Martial influence and destroying themselves through their stubbornness. This star is also a famous star, being one of the four royal stars, Antares being the watcher of the west.(Antares is not visible above 64° latitude)
Regulus, The Lion’s Heart: Regulus is the principle star of Leo, being the heart of the constellation. It has a magnitude of 1.4 which makes it the twentieth brightest star in the night sky. It is currently at 29° Leo 50′ and has the nature of Jupiter and Mars. Unlike the previous star Antares, Regulus being primarily of the nature of Jupiter makes it a very beneficial star and often promises great honor and glory as well as the ability and will to lead. Already some of the Martial principles come through, but are even more flavored in the tint of Mars when considered that the glories are usually of the military nature. Negatively, this star can give one an autocratic and even tyrannical manner of rule. Regulus is the second royal star, being the watcher of the north. (Regulus is not visible above 78° latitude)
Aldebaron, The Bull’s Eye: Aldebaron is the principle star of the constellation Taurus, representative of the bull’s raging red eye. The star has a magnitude of 0.8, making it the fourteenth brightest star in the sky due to its variance that oftentimes makes it dimmer. It is located in 9° Gemini 47′ and has a nature closest to that of Mars. Unlike the previous stars, this one is only influenced by Mars and thus has a great pronouncement of physical strength, success in conflicts, and enterprise. The negative being that is has the ability of being a very physically violent star when left uncontrolled. Being the third royal star gives it the ability of being a very fortunate star, as it can bestow honor, preferment, and wealth. However, the unfortunately violent aspects of the star are often more than enough to overshadow whatever promises of glory it may hold. (Aldebaron is not visible above 73° latitude).
Formalhaut, The Fish’s Mouth: This star is the principle star of the Pisces Austrailius, the southern fish, located in its mouth. It has a magnitude of 1.2, being the seventeenth brightest star in the nighttime sky. It’s located in 3° Pisces 52′ and is of the nature of Venus and Mercury. This star is also the final member of the royal stars, being the watcher of the south, it has a beneficial influence behind it, due to its secondary nature of Mercury, it is said to be of great help to those who are studying sciences and the arts. Also, the fortunate magician aspect of the Venus/Mercury combination is evident as Formalhaut is indicative of an interest in the occult or theology. Unfortunately, it is negatively linked to birth defects or genetic illnesses. (Formalhaut is not visible above 60° latitude).
Canopus, The Oar of the Ship: This star is the principle star of the constellation Argo the Ship, being the oar of the ship itself. It has a magnitude of -0.7, making it the second brightest star in the sky. It’s located at 14° Cancer 58′ and is said to be of the nature of Saturn and Jupiter. The star is said to mostly pertain to navigational matters and voyages, but is also responsible for journeys of the soul. A star that is closely associated with waters and finding one’s way, Canopus is a very favorable star signifying weath, glory, and beauty. (Canopus is never visible above 37° latitude.
Arcturus, The Herdsman’s Knee: Arcturus is the principle star of Bootes, the Herdsman, this star being found in the herdsman’s knee. It has a magnitude of -0.04 and is the fourth brightest star in the sky. It’s located at 24° Libra 14′, and is said to be of the natures of Jupiter and Mars. The brightness of the star and the principle nature of Jupiter make it a fortunate star, linked with honor and riches, however the martial element of the star comes through with its unfavorable weather patterns (said to always bring a hailstorm upon its rising) leading to destruction. This often leads the star manifesting itself by bringing fortune to the native, but having them live in fear and worry. (Arcturus is never visible above 71° latitude)
Bungula, The Centaur’s Left Foot: Bungula is the principle star of Centaurus, the Southern Centaur and is represented as the centaur’s left foot (also called Rigel Kentaurus). Bungula has a magnitude of 0.0, making it the third brightest star in the sky. It’s located at 29° Scorpio 30′ and is said to be of the nature of Venus and Jupiter. The star has a beneficial influence due to its brightness and association with both benefics, it assists in gaining its native power and authority and success. However, regardless of its beneficial nature, it has a negative effect upon relationships due to unnecessary stress and conflict. (I almost didn’t include Bungula in this list, even though it is the third brightest star in the sky, it’s not visible above 29° latitude, making its influence in most of the northern world nonexistent)
Examples of Influences
It may be difficult at first to figure out how the rather strange and specific influences of the stars can be easily translated into a chart reading. Oftentimes it’s best to remember that the fixed stars usually serve some metaphorical sense as opposed to literal meaning. Such as horary charts were significators are conjoined with Algol. In those instances, it’s best to not assume that Algol will kill whoever the significator stands for. More like that this person isn’t operating in full control of their faculties. They’ve “lost their head” in the metaphoric sense that makes them confused or act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
Natal astrology is an interesting branch to see the fixed stars utilized. Oftentimes the classical texts no longer apply to how the stars manifest themselves in today’s world, as they often refer to professions that are really no longer around. However, they still find a way. A chart has Mars conjoined with Regulus, normally this would show advancement and success in military affairs. However, it instead manifested itself by making the native someone interested in Chinese martial arts.
The fixed stars will force you to think outside of the box, but their influence is very real. In traditional natal interpretations, the placement of fixed stars was paramount in ascertaining the destiny of the native and by adding their own flavor to it, they revealed so much more than normal, planetary based interpretations would yield. Hopefully the stars will be around for much longer so that people can rediscover their meanings and usefulness.