Circles, Cycles & Arcs
Since the birth chart is the center of astrology, it’s important to look closely at what the birth represents in the grand scheme of earthly events. Everything that happens in our solar system rides in a circular path; planets circle the Sun, moons circle some planets, asteroids circle in their own belt between planets, and planets spin in their own tight circles as they move around the Sun. As we learn more about the Universe, we see galaxies and black holes that also have the general circular shape.
These shapes create some critical realities for us creatures here on Earth. For example, every day, because of the Earth’s spinning motion we see two arcs: the arc of the Sun’s light from dawn to dusk, and the arc of the night sky including stars and sometimes the Moon. The poetic imagination of the ancient Greeks saw a golden chariot of the god Apollo streaking across the daytime sky, and the Moon was a goddess in her own right. The stars were full of animals, humans and other objects, all in outline form.
But the arc of light and the arc of darkness had been in our consciousness long before those times. They were, and still are, deeply embedded in our view of the world and of ourselves. In darkness we are less certain, and perhaps there we learn that inner dialog that stays with us our whole lives --- the dialog of a more questioning side of ourselves pitted like small stars against the background of uncertainty. This is another ancient poetry, a kind of dancing in the dark.
And there are other circular phenomena, like the cycle; that is, the repetitions of the same or similar events over certain periods of time. Here on Earth there are three cycles that affect us especially: the yearly cycle (approximately 365 days), the daily cycle (approximately 24 hours), and the monthly cycle (approximately 29 days.) In astrology, each of these cycles is represented specifically; the yearly cycle is represented by the signs of the Zodiac, the daily cycle is represented by the system of “houses”, and the monthly cycle is represented by the phases of the Moon.
These cycles are the context of any birth here on earth. I think of the menstrual, conception and birth events as explosions, or perhaps more precisely as expulsions of a kind in which some threshold is reached and potentially crossed to a new reality. Even in our modern world where artificial insemination exists, it’s quite possible that at a cellular level it represents a dramatic event.
The birth of a child represents a dramatic stress as he/she struggles to gain independence by taking a first breath. I hesitate to use the word “trauma” because I’m not convinced that all births are traumatic in the sense that a wound has been inflicted on the mother or child. My partner gave birth to her second child without taking any medication and walked away from the table with her daughter in her arms.
I recently read a poem that speaks of birth as not only the first worldly event, but as a psychological event where we are impacted by that first effort to draw breath. We are so comfortable in the womb before birth and our bodies remember for the rest of our lives the loss of that security. The poet suggests that this is true, whether we realize it consciously or not, and even suggests that the “previous life” may go back before the womb. I have never truly believed in reincarnation, even though I know many people who have. But what I do know is that birth does something to us that lives on with us until the end.
In any case, a birth represents a significant event that leaves an imprint as all significant events do. The newborn child, perhaps more than at any time in her/his life, is open to all the energies available to that time and place.
NOTE: I have to pause here to make an important point: I and other astrologers often use the word “energy” as though there were something scientifically proven for astrology regarding energies --- this is not true in most cases where astrologers like me are tempted to use the word. There are many energies, such as light, heat, gravity, etc., but none of these is all-pervasive enough to explain astrology. When I use the word energy in this book, I am usually referring to what I call “archetypal energy”, a symbolic force that will have to suffice for astrology until (and if ever) science discovers an all-pervasive physical energy that explains astrological validity.
One premise of astrology is that some unknown energy contributes to the formation of character in traceable ways, and the astrological birth chart is the map to those energies. A modern trend in astrology is to call the effect a symbolic one, and since our human consciousness is rife with symbols and myths, we are affected by them on a subconscious level. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but I do know that astrology gives us unquestionable insight into our lives, and I find it useful to use the term “energy” as a way of helping you to understand its effects.
The awareness of cycles is one of the most beneficial gains that astrology offers. Even the simplest of cycles, like the Sun cycle marked by birthdays and the four seasons, can trigger special understandings. When my partner and I decided to get married, I jockeyed around our calendars to put the date on September 22nd for two reasons: first, it was the day when the Sun entered the sign of Libra, which is about relationships, and second because the Sun would be at the same place in both our birth charts where the planet Neptune, representing high ideals and spirituality, would be. Our anniversary has always been a favorite on our calendar.
More importantly, the passing of slower-moving planets over important points in your birth chart represent more life-threatening and potentially life-enhancing events than a Sun or Moon cycle. The key, of course, is awareness, which is what both poetry and astrology are about.