How in God’s name do you make sense out the cryptic symbols of an astrological chart?
First of all you have to learn what each individual planet, house and sign represents. You can’t skip that.
So let’s say you learned that and are pretty comfortable with your understanding of it. You still look at a birth chart and get cross-eyed with confusion. You start chasing fading footprints of what this planet in that sign means, or what might happen when that planet is in this house; when planet a aspects planet b, etc., etc., etc. An avalanche of facts comes crashing down around you, and you try to dig your way out and somehow turn all that rubble of raw information into some sort of coherent and accurate unified interpretation…. but (except for a few essentially lucky guesses) you pull your hair out and resort to crying.
This is, clearly, not the right way to go about interpreting a chart. The biggest problem that we face when we look at a horoscopic chart is the question of where to start. If you start in the right place you will get an accurate reading. It’s like building a home. You can’t start by painting a wall. You have to start by preparing the lot, then laying the foundation, etc. Even though these initial steps will be forgotten more or less by the time someone moves in, if you don’t get them right you wont be able to even make a house that can stand through a rain and breeze.
Before you start picking out the individual pieces of the horoscope, you first need to prepare the lot and lay the foundation: which means you must first asses the entire chart as a whole.
To do so, you have to employ pattern recognition.
Pattern Recognition - Nabhasa Yogas
Look at the chart with a “soft focus” – from “far away” – just recognize the general patterns and shapes in the chart as a whole. This will not help you make any specific conclusions or predictions in and of itself, but it will allow the things you do later on in your interpretation of the horoscope to be accurate and real.
In Vedic Astrology there is a collection of about 1,000 patterns you should try to recognize, called the Nabhasa Yogas. If you are unlucky you will have someone tell you to memorize them all. Consider yourself lucky because I would never do that to poor old you!
Four Pattern Types
All of the myriad patterns of nabhasa yogas fit into 4 simple categories
- “Refuge” Patterns
- “Camp” Patterns
- “Visibility” Patterns
- “Numeric” Patterns
Refuge Patterns – “Ashraya Nabhasa Yogas”
Refuge patterns classically involve recognizing which modalities are predominant in the chart as a whole (fixed, moving, or dual), by evaluating which signs the planets and ascendant occupy, or “have taken refuge in”. I also like to extend this to recognize the elemental character the chart (earth, water, fire, air).
Camp Patterns – “Dala Nabhasa Yogas”
Camp patterns classically involve recognizing the predominance of either benefics or malefics in the chart as a whole. I also extend this to recognize the rebellious vs. authority camps of planets.
Visibility Patterns - “Akriti Nabhasa Yogas”
Visibility patterns have some important subgroups…
- Long Arcs
- Short Arcs
Long Arcs cover the hemispheres of the sky / chart. There are four hemispheres – above, below, east and west. If you are looking at a chart were most or all of the planets are in a specific hemisphere, then the nature of that hemisphere must become an important foundation for how you interpret the rest of the chart.
The pattern is strongest when the planets form a continuous chain in a single hemisphere. Technically there is a 5th pattern which forms if you get a string of planets covering 7 houses, but not falling entirely into one of the four hemispheres.
Short Arcs cover the four quadrants of the sky: Houses starting from the East, West, Above and Below. Take a step back from the chart and see if most of the planets clump up or string together in one of these quadrants. If so, it will define a strong underlying theme which will help you make decisions about how to interpret the rest of the chart.
Angles involve prominent patterns occurring in the angular houses of the chart. There are two groups of angles – the quadrants (kendra) which are houses 1, 4, 7, and 10, and the triangles (kona) which are houses 5 and 9 (and 1, technically house 1 is both a quadrant and a triangle).
Checker patterns form when all the planets are in odd houses (or conversely if they are all in even houses).
Numeric Patterns - Sankhya Nabhasa Yogas
These patterns involve simply counting the total number of houses that the planets occupy.
Effects of these Patterns
I am going to reiterate here that these patterns do not create definite effects in and of themselves, anymore or any less than a plot of land and a foundation define the appearance and utility of the house built upon them. The effects of these patterns is where you go first when starting to interpret the horoscope – to get the general color and context upon which you can build the rest of your more specific interpretations most accurately.
Here’s the next important thing to say to you: you have to ignore rahu and ketu (the lunar nodes) as well as any sub-planets or modern planets when trying to recognize any and all of these patterns. These patterns only involve the placement of the 5 real planets and the 2 luminaries, the Sun and Moon.
The next thing I need you to understand is that I am going to describe the most extreme case of each pattern. If you get close to the pattern it will start to become recognizable. It doesn’t have to be an exact match to my description, though the more exactly the pattern in the chart matches the classical pattern I describe here, the more throughly it will color and set the tone for the rest of the chart.
For example, an Opposite Quadrant 1&7 pattern forms if all the 7 planets are in houses 1 and 7. So lets say you are looking at a horoscopic chart with 6 planets in houses 1 and 7, and just one somewhere else. Don’t be silly and think that you are not going to get quite an effect from this pattern anyway. The strongest effect would be if literally every planet were in houses 1 and 7, but if one or even two or three planets stray from this axis, you will still get the patterns effect, although it will not be as intense.
Refuge Pattern Effects
If you have a chart with a predominance of planets in signs of a single modality that will significantly influence the overall nature of everything else in the chart. Here are the modalities and their characteristics.
||Likes to move & travel
||Stays in one place
||To achieve goals
||To strengthen foundations
||Makes them quickly
||Minimizes need for
||Decides not to choose
||Seeks new ideas
||Cherishes old ideas
||Sees multiple points of view
The more you see a buildup (or lack) in specific modalities, the more the nature of those modalities will set the tone for everything else in the chart.
I will also note that if you find charts with evenly distributed modalities, that is arguably another pattern in and of itself.
In this example chart, 5 planets (include the ascendant, heavily in fact) are in cardinal signs. 3 are in fixed signs. None are in dual signs. You immediately get the feeling that the rest of the interpretations you make will favor a lot of rapidity, movement, and questing. And things which require flexibility, neutrality and dispassion will not be favored elsewhere in anything you interpret (due to the lack of dual signs). The native’s stability will pertain to his emotional and intellectual experiences because of the planets in fixed signs, the Moon is one and is exalted in a prominent house. The native’s instabilities will pertain to physical and material things because this is the primary mode in the chart, and because the ascendant is in this mode.
You can and in my opinion should do this same sort of assessment for the elements predominant in the chart. I also suggest that this evaluation can be extended through the 6 important varga sub-charts – particularly when evaluating the Moon and Ascendant.
Camp Pattern Effects
If there is a predominance of malefic planets in the kendras you will be able to favor interpretations of the rest of the chart which involve the use of strength, ambition, competition, distress, strife and challenge. If there is a predominance of benefics on the other hand, color your interpretations to highlight the role of grace, morality, harmony, and blessings.
In the example chart above the kendras (angles) hold 4 planets: 3 malefics (Saturn, Sun and Mars) and 1 benefic. It appears that the malefic camp is somewhat more prominent in this chart. In fact, the native does experience life mainly in terms of challenges, struggles, and ambition to become strong and overcome distress. Malefics work more in one’s favor when the rising sign belongs to a malefic, as is the case here, with Saturn’s Capricorn rising and under the aspect of Benefic Jupiter. It is impossible to tell from the illustration here, but Jupiter sits more or less exactly at the heart of this 10th house quadrant and therefore get’s his “weight” amplified in this pattern assessment.
Visibility Pattern Effects
- All planets under ground: Color the rest of your interpretation to favor themes of privacy and accumulation of goods and wealth.
- All planets above ground in the sky: favor themes of visibility, extroversion and lack of secrets.
- All planets to the East: There is a theme that the native will want to take foreign or external things and internalize them. Color your interpretations accordingly.
- All planets to the West: The theme is the use of inner powers and secrets to obtain external results.
In this chart all the pattern forming planets fall between house 4 and 10. Therefore they are all in the Western hemisphere. The theme of the chart therefore should be using inner powers and secrets to obtain external results.
The native spent significant time and effort as a leading member of a movement for social change based on spiritual and internal secrets and principles. Most everything in the native’s life is colored by this theme of connecting the inner self to the outer world.
- Planets start in the East: Planets all fall in houses 1, 2, 3, or 4 – everything in the chart is far more likely to take place within a domestic, hometown scope.
- Planets start at the Nadir: Planets all fall in houses 4, 5, 6, or 7 – the rest of the chart is colored by the motivation to use the emotions and intellect to fulfill material desires.
- Planets start in the West: Planets all fall in houses 7, 8, 9, or 10 – Interpret the rest of the chart understanding that the native is a fighter who can survive difficulties and be fierce.
- Planets start at the Zenith: Planets all fall in houses 10, 11, 12, or 1 - Give preference to other interpretations which favor a spirit which wanders to distant places, cultures and ideas.
This example chart does not have a strong short arc pattern. But if pressed you can recognize that 5 of the 7 pattern forming planets are in houses 7, 8, 9 or 10. Therefore there is some extent of the West Short Arc pattern (called Shakti Nabhasa Yoga in Sanskrit).
In fact the native has travelled all over the globe multiple times, has adopted a foreign culture and has a wandering spirit. This pattern colored the chart such that other more specific placements to this affect could easily make their effect known (for example, Rahu in the 2nd house and the 12th Lord in the 10th house).
Angle Pattern effects
- Two consecutive quadrants. This pattern forms when all / most of the applicable planets are in just two quadrants, and those quadrants are “square” to one another, not opposite. The effect colors the chart to favor things which promote a person who has strong desires and greeds, as well as the power to conquer and fulfill those desires.
- Opposite quadrants, 1 & 7. This pattern forms when all / most planets are in houses 1 and 7. The effect is challenging and brings to the fore themes of life vs. death and self vs. others.
- Opposite quadrants 4 & 10. Formed when all / most planets are in houses 4 and 10. Makes the chart more prone to facilitate challenges involving public vs. private and home vs. office.
- A spread of malefics in 4 & 10 while benefics are in 1 & 7. The effect makes the chart more supportive of placements causing the native to be likable and attractive while still being ambitious and brave. The public persona is strong, but he is clearly a good person.
- A spread of benefics in 4 & 10 while malefics are in 1 & 7. Makes the chart more supportive placements making the native philanthropic and self-controlled. The public persona is benefic and he is strict towards himself.
- All planets occupying the quadrants. This is an extremely powerful pattern. The more planets you have in quadrants the more the person becomes famous, appreciated, beautiful and powerful
- No planets occupying the quadrants. This is not as powerful as the previous but still very effective as a pattern. It promotes humility and similar good qualities.
- Triangles. If all/ most of the planets are trine to one another, you should recognize one of four variations on this pattern – which is very strong and indicates a person of great power in a particular area.
- All planets in the fire triangle (1, 5, 9) – Promotes dharma power. The chart becomes more supportive of socially active persons.
- All planets in the earth triangle (2, 6, 10) – Promotes artha power. The chart becomes more supportive of financial accumulation.
- All planets in the air triangle (3, 7, 11) – Promotes kama power. The chart becomes more supportive of enjoyment and perceptivity.
- All planets in the water triangle (4, 8, 12) - Promotes moksha power. The chart becomes more supportive of a need for self-understanding and realization.
The example chart does not show any strong patterns from the above, but one can note a mild accumulation of 4 out of 7 planets in the quadrants, causing the 6th pattern above to start being felt. This pattern somewhat helps the chart take advantage of opportunities for fame, power and good looks.
In evaluating the triangles, one finds 1 planet in the fire triangle, 1 in the earth triangle, 2 in the air triangle, and 3 in the water triangle. Therefore the chart is most fertile towards anything which indicates a drive towards self-understanding and self-realization.
Checker Pattern Effects
If you have a chart where all / most of the planets are in odd houses, or all/most are in even houses, you have a chart with a very strong foundation that can support any other indications for fame, power, rank and blessing. This pattern creates a wheel of sextile aspects and is therefore known in Sanskrit as the chakra. Technically, chakra (meaning “wheel”) is the name for the checkerboard pattern occurring in odd numbered houses, while the name for the same pattern occurring in even houses is samudra (indicating the waves of an ocean).
Numeric Pattern Effects
These patterns are subordinate to the others mentioned already. Let’s say for example that you have a chart where all the planets are in two houses / signs. That forms a numeric pattern: the two sign pattern. But it also might form an angular pattern from the Visibility group described above. If that were the case you should ignore the numeric pattern because the visibility pattern will be more dominant in it’s effect.
For example if Capricorn rises when all the planets are in Capricorn and Cancer you will have a numeric pattern – all the planets are constricted to two houses. But you will also have an angular pattern – Opposite Quadrants 1 & 7. The Opposite Quadrants pattern should be the one you primarily focus your attention on.
Here are the numeric patterns -
- All planets in ONE house: This is very rare and promotes extreme imbalance. It is one of the most difficult patterns possible.
- All in TWO houses: Still very difficult, making the chart very vulnerable to any interpretation involving problems with wealth and parents.
- All in THREE houses: Difficult, but at this point the native can more easily fight against the difficulties and turn the challenges into opportunities. This pattern therefore promotes other chart indications that paint a picture of a person who fights against others, is commanding, even dictatorial, and who protects and defends herself.
- All in FOUR houses: Balance. This pattern promotes the ability to benefit by living life in a balanced way.
- All in FIVE: Passion. This pattern makes the chart more fertile for indications of material desires and accomplishments.
- SIX houses : Honest worker.
- SEVEN: If each one of the 7 pattern-forming planets it is a separate house in the chart, the pattern promotes anything else in the chart indicating that the native would be able to become learned, skilled, well rounded and helpful towards others.
The example chart here shows a pattern of the 7 planets occupying 5 houses. Therefore the exalted Moon in the 5th house should be colored with an interpretation that is more consonant to the procreative and fertile nature of that house. The same of the planets in the 8th and 7th house. In fact from nearly all angles this chart appears to belong to a person the late great sexologist Dr. Kinsey would have really gotten a lot of good material from.
- Vic DiCara