This is an except from Chapter 25 of my book, Unlocking the Meanings of a Horoscope, the textbook for my course of the same name. Everything mentioned in summary below gets a treatment of full explanation in that book and, especially, in the course.
Getting the Sculpting Material
I started out with the metaphor of an astrologer being like a sculptor, and I want to return to that metaphor now. The first step in making a sculpture is to get reliable material to sculpt, and to figure out what that material is best suited for. What you can do easily with clay you cannot do easily with marble, and similarly what marble can accomplish cannot be accomplished easily with clay.
The first step in unlocking a horoscope is to get an accurate and reliably calculated birth chart, and review the rising sign in full scope down to the lunar mansion and navamsha subdivisions, as well as the sign, mansion and navamsha of the Moon. This is analogous to getting your sculpting materials set up and assessing what final product these materials is inherently more suited to produce.
Crafting the General Outline of Form
The first bit of actual work a sculptor does is to start to carve out the basic shapes of various areas of the sculpture. In astrology, you feel-out and define the basic outline of an individual’s horoscope by individualizing the rising sign. This requires you to asses the elemental and modal balance in the individual chart, the placement of the first house ruler, the overall situation regarding key houses, and the friends and enemies in the birth chart.
Once a sculptor is satisfied with the basic form of his or her sculpture, she begins to work on smaller units in it, bringing out the first details in the sculpture’s main elements: the shape of an eye, lips, nose, etc. The Astrologer does this by doing a planet by planet overview considering their signs, houses and lordship placements from a wide and inclusive angle.
Combinations of Motifs
The sculpture starts to become a work of art when the artist connects themes and motifs across more than just one element. A curvature of line in the eyes repeated in the carving of the hair, for example, makes both elements far more dynamic and artistic then they would be on their own. The next step of unlocking a horoscope is very similar, because it requires the astrologer to look for connections between multiple elements in the chart. I call these “combinations.” The astrologer first identifies all the mutual links the planets form in the horoscope, and evaluates if these links constitute Power, Wealth, Health, or other types of important combinations. The astrologer also need to become aware of the basic depth and intensity of any combinations he or she uncovers.
The greatest amount of artistic skill and craftsmanship is in the very finest details of the sculpture. Analogously the final phase of unlocking the horoscope is the most detailed and will make the difference between a “pretty good” reading and a “life changing” one. To polish out the fine details in the horoscope – details which will give the final definition of all the shapes, elements, and motifs you have unlocked so far – the astrologer must asses each planet in three dimensions: motive, strength and influence. To do so, he or she will examine the True Dignity, outstanding subdivisions, Sixfold Strength, dispositors, and exact aspects for all the planets in the horoscope. This information allows a complete and thorough final definition of every note previously made during the process of reading the horoscope.
Putting the Art on Display
When the sculpture is done, the artist puts it on display somewhere. For an astrologer, this is analogous to actually delivering and communicating a reading to the client. By following the steps above an astrologer can fully process all the facts of a horoscope and succinctly distill exact effects and outcomes. All the interpretations of the horoscope will be at your fingertipes, and you can freely discuss it with your client in whatever format you choose to work.
I will stop short of teaching you how to communicate this information to your client, because that very broad and important subject is a course of study unto itself. (I am working on the textbook for that course now: VA 102: On Being an Astrologer.)
At first you will want to go through every step for every planet in every horoscope. This is a lot of work, but it is part of what you have to do. “Practice, practice, practice.” Later on, after you have successfully read perhaps a hundred or so charts, you will be more free to follow specific threads of meaning relevant to the concerns and questions of the querent without having to explicitly go through each end every step. The reason you will be able to do this is that your mind will be able to process these steps much more quickly. It is not that you will ever depart from these steps, but when you become seasoned they steps will come more naturally, and sometime without being explicitly noticed.