Why do we need to learn the calculations? In this day of modern computers where various astrology software applications enable us to throw up a chart on the screen after a couple of clicks of the mouse, this is a good question and one, I might add, students very often ask me.
My answer is, simply, that the calculations required to construct an accurate natal chart or horoscope, are the very core of our craft. Omitting this essential step is to lose that understanding of our place in the scheme of things our planet earth as a member of the solar system, and our place on planet Earth; the Moon and its ongoing cycles marking the rhythm of our daily life; and how, like cogs of a cosmic wheel, the Solar, Lunar, and Earthly cycles resonate with the other planetary cycles of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
There is a picture entitled The Vital Moment it is a woodcut made in 1587, says it all to me. In the background we are shown two astrologers preparing the horoscope of the child about to be born. Their instruments are the tools of the navigator the compass and the sextant and the knowledge gained from years of observation of the sun, moon and the planets in the heavens.
No printed tables, planetary almanacs and computers for these astrologers, all their calculations were done by hand, and these calculations were amazingly accurate to boot!
The birth chart shows our unique perspective of the heavens from our little corner of the world and of the universe. To lose sight of this perspective is to lose touch with the chart, and the person whose chart this is cast for.
I am not saying that once you have learned the calculations you must calculate every chart by hand! Not at all. Computers have made this easy for us. But even the most expensive computer software is not infallible and a knowledge of and experience with, the calculations, enables you to intuitively "know" when the computer has made a blue.
A knowledge of, and experience with, the calculations enables you to troubleshoot:
I wonder how many people are aware that NZST as applicable to NZ Summer Time was effective only until 1 January 1946 and corresponded to a time zone of 12 hours ahead of GMT. Before that period, summer time was only half and hour advanced on the standard or mean time of the day being 11h 30m. On 1 January 1946 what effectively had been NZ Summer Time became New Zealand Standard Time (12h ahead of GMT). So from that date NZST refers to NZ Standard Time not summer time.
Since 1974 when daylight savings was again observed in New Zealand, the time was advanced by one hour corresponding to a time zone 13 hours ahead of GMT. That time zone is officially known as New Zealand Daylight Time: NZDT.
Not recognising this essential difference could mean your chart being wrong by one hour - always check your Time Changes information before doing any chart!
Two other really scary glitches that have been brought to my attention recently are:
There is lots of very reasonably priced astrology software for computers on the market, but do remember the old adage "you get what you pay for". I have seen some appallingly incorrect charts calculated by cheap computer programs. Even the most expensive astrological software is not immune to the odd bug or three - but buying only the best astrological software recommended and tested by fellow astrologers is the best way to go that is for sure.
I am passionate about astrology - and getting the calculations right! My wish is that once you have the calculations under your belt, you will venture forth into the world of astrology with a deeper respect for those astrologers before us who cast their charts directly from the heavens. This understanding will give you a sound base from which to work, one which will enhance your subsequent astrological interpretations, and instil in you a sense of confidence and pride in being blessed with the gift of astrology.
Then venture forth and buy your astrology software! It has certainly made my life easier and I am able to do lots of things I never had the time to do before. But always, I am very, very grateful that I never missed out on those important first steps, the calculations.
All these above points have been brought home to me, not only through contact with my correspondence students but also from teaching Chart Calculation classes. In response to their need for a suitable calculation reference manual, I have written The Astrology Manual of Chart Calculations and this is now available to all those who are not only fascinated by our very astrological foundation but continue to ask 'Why'.
For further reference read the New Zealand Time Changes page.
By Carol Squires, PMAFA, DTASNZ, AMAPA.