Learning Astrology: the essentials of Jyotish chart interpretation
Interpreting horoscopes is both simple and complex. According to the rules of Jyotish, there are some simple rules one can follow to create a schematic picture of a person's life and the path they are likely to follow. Many of rules of Jyotish use basic parameters such as whole sign houses and full sign aspects. In traditional Hindu astrology, aspects do not have orbs and houses do not have cusps. Since I like to blend the best of both systems, I take full advantage of both aspect orbs and house cusps.
But chart reading is also complex. There are many factors one has to incorporate in order to give an accurate and complete account of the horoscope. There are a plethora of techniques available for interpretation and it is easy to get lost in them. I try to stick to a few basic reliable approaches. For this reason, I do not use any Jaimini techniques and tend to stick with a blend of Parashara, simplified KP, and Western astrology.
Determining the basic personality
How can you tell what makes a person tick? Usually, one has to take into account a range of factors, but the most important influences on personality come from the ascendant/1st house, Moon and Sun. A person with Mars closely conjunct the Moon and has Cancer rising (which is ruled by the Moon) will generally exhibit many Mars attributes such as high energy, extraversion, fondness for sports and competition. A person with Saturn on the ascendant with Sun in Capricorn will probably be fairly reserved, introverted, and lack spontaneity.
The 1st house
The most important part of a chart is the first house. The influences on the first house and its lord or ruler (ie. the planet associated with its sign) will exercise a disproportionate influence on the person in terms of basic orientation. Aspects to the first house are also important. These can be read as if the person has the planet actually in the 1st house, and they will exhibit their influence the closer they are to the ascendant itself. The first house lord rules the whole chart so it merits special attention. Besides the moon and the ascendant, this is one of the most important planets in the chart. Take note of the sign and house it's in and any planets it is associated with. Orbs are very important in deciding what planets exercise the greatest influence. For example, a person with Venus 15 degrees from the ascendant will likely be less Venusian if their Moon and first lord are conjunct Jupiter within 5 degrees. While all influences will show up in some way, the Jupiter influence will likely predominate.
Next examine the situation of the Moon. The Moon represents the mind and the emotions and therefore plays a big part in describing the person as a whole. The stronger the Moon, the better chance the native will have a happier life. If the Moon is bright, (ie. opposite the Sun although the general rule of thumb is the further from the Sun, the better, particularly where the Moon is more than 90 degrees away), then the person will tend to stand out in a crowd or have a more pleasing manner about them.. A Moon in the first house often confers this quality and can make the native physically attractive. A Moon associated with Jupiter is usually good for success and can make the native generous, and interested in following society's conventions. A Moon with the nodes, Rahu and Ketu, on the other hand, can make the native unconventional and in some cases, mentally unbalanced. More generally, the Moon associated with the nodes will make a person sensitive and perceptive to the people around them. The Moon is dussthana houses (ie 6th, 8th, 12th) will generally make the native shy or retiring and will often make them prefer their own company. Aspects to the Moon are also important, as is the Moon's dispositor (ie. the ruler of the sign the Moon is placed in).
The Sun in Vedic astrology does not hold the same power as it enjoys in Western astrology. Although it is still important, it is usually relegated to third place in terms of important horoscopic points. The Sun shows vitality and ego and where energy is used to project the self onto the world. And strong Sun confers confidence, good health, and leadership. A Sun with problems such as dussthana house placement may show lack of self confidence. If the Sun is afflicted by malefics (Rahu, Ketu, Saturn, Mars) may be aggressive or egotistical. Since the Sun represents the father, a Sun with afflictions and otherwise bad placement may also show difficulties with the father, either through the native's relationship with him or more specifically, hardships borne by the father such as bad health, poverty, or criminality. As with the Moon, aspects to the Sun help to describe the essence of the person. A person with a close Saturn aspect to the Sun will display many Saturnine qualities such as being methodical and pragmatic and desiring order and control. Similarly, the Sun's dispositor also provides an important clue about the kind of Sun the person has. For example, George Bush's Sun is in Gemini in the 12th house which suggests someone who is uncomfortable in the limelight. While this may be true to an extent, it's important to include the fact that Sun's dispositor is Mercury which sits exactly on the ascendant tightly conjunct powerful Pluto. This is one way we can see that Bush's Sun really does account for some of his high public visilibity and the power-laden nature of his position.
Love and Marriage
Our love lives can be seen through a comprehensive assessment of the 7th house, the 7th lord, Venus, and in the case of women, Jupiter, which is the significator for the husband. Any close afflictions to these points in the chart will cause either delays or hardships connected with married life. This is especially the case with Saturn. If Saturn falls in the 1st, 5th, 7th, or 10th houses, the native will often have real difficulties in married life. These problems may range from delays in marriage (after 35 years old) to divorce. Generally, the closer the aspect, the more problems Saturn can create. A native with Mars in the 7th house, for example, will have problems relating to the partner in a loving way. They may also attract more aggressive martial-type partners. Hitler, for example, had numerous afflictions to his 7th house and he never married and had a very odd and disturbed love life. If the nodes are associated with the these love significators, it will also cause problems such as persistent disagreements or instability in married life. Prominent Rahu or Ketu may also indicate a preference for foreign or unusual partners.
House placements of these key marriage planets also play a role. Whenever the 7th lord or Venus are placed in the 12th house, we can begin to think of multiple marriages, or perhaps foreign partners or even secret affairs. Generally, the placement of the 7th lord in dussthana houses is bad news for married life, although there are many ways which can compensate for these inititally troublesome placements. A Venus placed in the 6th will generally be fine if it receives the aspect of Jupiter or Mercury and is not afflicted by a malefic planet such as Saturn, Mars or the nodes. Hard aspects from outer planets to these marriage planets are also problematic and create difficulties symbolized by the planet involved. Pluto in hard aspect to Venus or the 7th lord will signal a marriage that is a power struggle. With Neptune, there may be deception or illness in the partner. With Uranus, there may be an avoidance of partners or an inability to stay with one partner.
The navamsa chart or the Vedic 9th harmonic chart provides special insight into married life. If the ascendant and 7th houses of the navamsa are unafflicted, then this can often offset some afflictions in the natal chart. And since the navamsa chart is said to govern the second half of life, a good navamsa chart may also point to a gradual improvement of relationship karma if the natal chart is troubled. Conversely, a navamsa chart with Mars and Saturn in the ascendant will invariably create problems and will point to conflictual relationships. If this occurs with an otherwise unafflicted natal chart, we can still expect some significant aspect of the affliction to manifest in the native's life. If the natal chart is strong, however, it may not lead to divorce and might only betoken periodic troubles.
Children are seen through the 5th house and its lord and Jupiter, which is the significator for children. It is also useful to exmaine the 5th house from the Moon, since the Moon is associated with fertility. Generally any close affliction (less than 10 degrees) by Mars, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu to the equal 5th house cusp or the 5th lord will reduce the number of children. Often, if the affliction is close enough, say less than 3 degrees, a single contact by these malefics will be enough to deny offspring altogether. Rock Hudson, the gay (and childless) movie icon who died of AIDS, had Ketu very close to the equal 5th house cusp. Another dimension to this question is found in the house rulerships. A 5th house ruler placed in the 12th is not helpful for children and will usually signal the presence of some 12th house matter (adoption/loss, foreign countries, spirituality) with the child. Most often, there is a mixture of positive and negative qualities to these chart factors. That is where the good judgement of the astrology is most needed.
The Saptamsa or 7th harmonic chart is also useful to explore the native's experiences with children. A good saptamsa chart can't fully offset a deeply afflicted 5th house, but it can provide a boost to a mildly afflicted natal chart that will show some offspring. The saptamsa chart can also provide clues for the timing of childbirth according the dasha system.
Employment and career prospects are seen through all facets of the chart, with special attention paid to the 10th house. The 10th house is associated with career matters and whatever planets are placed there deserve careful assessment. A native with 1st or 2nd lord Sun placed in the 10th house, for example, will often excel in leadership positions where frequent decisions need to made. Conversely, an afflicted Sun in the 10th may show someone who wants the power of lthe executive position but lacks the ability to do the job well. The placement and condition of the 10th lord is also critically important. A 10th lord Moon that is aspected by Saturn may be evidence of a person who needs routine work to feel comfortable in the workplace. The house placement of the 10th lord may also reveal some element of the native's profession or work environment. A 10th lord placed in the 12th house may signify a job involving secrets or spirituality, or may suggest going abroad for employment. The 10th lord in the 2nd house may be linked to finance or communication, depending on other chart factors. In jazz singer Billie Holiday's chart, the 10th lord is Venus, the planet of art, and it is placed in the 2nd house of the voice.
In terms of vocational selection, one has to incorporate all the key factors of the chart. Someone with an angular Mercury in a kendra close to the house cusp will have to find an outlet for that Mercury in terms of communicating, writing, teaching, etc. If it is associated with Saturn, for example, then perhaps intense and measured thought should be part of their employment scenario. If associated with Jupiter, then a more creative bent is indicated, especially with writing.
The dasamsa chart of 10th harmonic is often associated with career and status matters. Planets in the 1st and 10th houses of the dasamsa will exercise a stronger influence on career. Likewise the sign and house placement of the 1st and 10th lords will provide clues about vocational aptitude. Also, planets associated with those houses will usually yield career success in their dasha periods.
Sample Chart: William Burroughs
The American writer William Burroughs (Feb 5 1914 7.40 am St Louis, MO) is perhaps just as famous for his life as for his art. Frequently addicted to drugs and living in several far-flung foreign locales, Burroughs led the itinerant life of the hipster, junky writer and wrote numerous influential works including the postmodern novel Naked Lunch.
His horoscope suggests an intellectual through Mercury’s placement near the ascendant in Aquarius, an air sign. It’s also telling that his ascendant lord Saturn is closely conjunct Moon. Moon gives great imagination that was necessary for his genre-breaking fiction. Burroughs was also famously taciturn and depressed for much of his life, another symptom of the Moon-Saturn conjunction. Another artifact of this pairing is that it occurred on the IC, or unequal 4 th house cusp. This emphasizes the role of these two planets in his personality and also intensifies his public profile since we have a conjunction of 1 st lord and 10 th lord both aspecting the 10 th house. This is a powerful yoga denoting fame and reknown.
Burroughs is also infamous for accidently shooting his wife in a drunken game of William Tell while living in Mexico. For marriage karma, we look to the 7 th house, the 7th lord, and Venus. Ketu is placed in the 7 th house suggesting a fundamental instability with married life (NB. any time you see the nodes along the 1-7 axis, one can expect a married life that is outside the norm in some way either with respect to the partner or the marriage itself). 7 th lord Sun is in the 12 th house indicating a loss of the spouse. Significator of wife, Venus, is also in the 12 th house conjoining the Sun along with Uranus and a fallen Jupiter. These factors together support the general weakness of married karma. Moreover, violent Mars casts its most malefic 8 th house aspect (210 degrees) to these marriage planets and foreshadows the early death of Joan Vollmer Burroughs.
Burroughs was addicted to heroin and various other opioids throughout his adult life. This can be seen by piecing together several relevant factors in the chart. First, Neptune is the modern planet of delusion and escape. Here is it poorly placed in the 6 th house, exactly aspecting the ascendant. (ie it falls on the equal 6 th house cusp) This is an afflicted Neptune that will tend to show its bad side of delusion rather than inspiration and beauty that one can enjoy with a Neptune that is well-placed. It may also suggest Burroughs warped and disturbing aesthetic side which found their way into his often bizarre and shocking writing. Also note the four planets in the 12 th house of loss and escape. Even more specifically, we can see that the Moon closely conjoins 12 th lord Saturn suggesting a fundamentally 12 th house orientation to his mind. He wants to escape in any way he can. He often liked to call Earth “the prison planet” from which there was no escape. And with that 12 th house influence on the Moon, the significator also for the home, it’s no surprise that he lived outside of the USA from over 20 years.
The 5 th house shows karma of children. Here we find malefics Mars and Pluto, both retrograde. It should not be surprising to know that Burroughs only had one son, William Jr, who died in his early thirties after also battling addictions to drugs and alcohol. Also 5 th lord Mercury comes under the malefic influence of both Saturn by 10 th house aspect and Rahu. Clearly, Burroughs had a poor horoscope for children.
Despite being married for a short time, Burroughs was also a homosexual. This is a trickier thing to spot in a chart, and yet there are some general indications worth noting. Usually there is some connection between Venus and Mars in the chart. Here we see that Mars aspects Venus. There is usually dussthana houses involved. Here Venus, afflicted by Mars, sits in the 12 th house suggesting hidden love. The 7 th lord Sun is closely conjunct the afflicted Venus in the 12 th house. 7 th lord Sun and Venus both in the nakshatra of Shravana which is ruled by Moon. Moon is closely conjunct Saturn, a malefic influence that introduces some distortion from the normal course of things. Ketu in the 7th house exercises a similarly disturbing influence. Its effect is greatly magnified here because the 7 th house cusp falls in the nakshatra of Magha, which is ruled by none other than Ketu. Ketu tends towards erasing or breaking through boundaries, which is implicit in homosexuality.
Burroughs career choice as a writer can be seen through several mutually supporting chart factors. First, the angular Mercury on the ascendant in an air sign gives the person a cerebral disposition interested in communication. The fact that Mercury is 5th lord is also significant here since the 5th house is linked to intelligence and giving advice in a general sense, and to authorship specifically. 10th lord Mars is placed in the 5th house -- another excellent placement for a writer. Writing is associated with the 2nd and 3rd houses, with the second being more closely linked to the act of expression and knowledge and the third linked to creativity. Jupiter rules the 2nd house and it is placed in the 12th in the sign of debilitation. This is perhaps a clue to Burroughs strange style and subject matter. 2nd lord Jupiter is however conjunct Sun, Venus and Uranus which shows how important writing and self expression was to him. 3rd lord Mars is placed in the 5th house, which as already noted, is associated with authorship. Having any connection between the 3rd and 5th houses is usually helpful for all sorts of creative work including writing, music, theatre, and art.