Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ophiuchus, the 13th sign - part one

In my last entry, I described the difference between the Tropical and Siereal Zodiac Systems in Astrology. (I adhere to Sidereal Hellenic and Roman methods of astrology and augury, by the way).

In this installment of my journal, I will tell you all about the forgotten thirteenth sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus

If you'd like to learn more about Traditional Greco-Roman Astrology or the constellation and zodia Ophiuchus, read on!

The Zodia Scorpio is actually composed of TWO constellations, Scorpius and Ophiuchus.

In order to understand the above statement, you need to understand the definition of and difference between three things:
1. "Sun sign"
2. Constellation
3. Zodiac

Let's unpack each of these terms, so that we can understand what they really mean - both astronomically and astrologically.

"sun sign" - this refers to the sign or zodia against which the sun appears in the chart; it takes about a month for the sun to traverse a particular sign or zodia. This concept is based upon our view from here on Earth and is often refered to as "geocentric" because it appears as if the sun, moon, asteroids, and planets are moving around us.
NOTE: If one uses the Tropical zodiac system, the "sun sign" of the person isn't even related to the actual constellation (see below) of the same name - but rather where the constellations were hundreds or thousands of years ago!

constellation - in modern astronomy there are 88 constellations; these constellations are "official" in that the IAU declared them to be the official way to divide up the sky in 1930. Different cultures throughout history have had different constellations - and myths associated with them - but the ones used by the IAU were predominantly from the Greek and Roman cultures. If you want to learn more about the different constellations here is a good list of online star charts.

Zodiac - the imaginary belt of the heavens, which extends approximately 8° on either side of the ecliptic, within which are the apparent paths of the sun, moon, astroids and principal planets. It contains thirteen actual constellations which are divided into twelve divisions called signs of the zodiac or zodia. Each division, however, because of the precession of the equinoxes, now contains the constellation west of the one from which it took its name.

Now let's look at the constellations that compose the zodia of Scorpius.

First, here what Scorpius looks like:
See that blue line? That's the ecliptic - now look at how narrow the white area is at that point... that means that it takes only about six or seven days for the sun to move through this region of the ecliptic. This means that if you are born during the first six days of the zodia Scorpio, the constellation that the sun was in was Scorpius.

This corresponds closely to the system of Decantes which the ancient astronomer/astrologer Manilius proposed in his work Astronomica. What are decantes you ask? They are a way of dividing the zodia into 3 decans or decantes of 10° each; each of the decans is associated with a zodia sign, ruler, and particular feeling or mood.

The decan of the zodia Scorpio that the constellation Scoripus is associated with has the following qualities according to Manilius:

First Decan of Scorpio = Decan of Scorpius
constellation Scorpius
decante degrees 0°-10°
decante ruler Saturn/Kronos
decante zodia Capricorn
decante association labor, cruelty, or suffering

Now let's look at the constellation of Ophiuchus:
See how much more white area there is in Ophiuchus? Ophiuchus' section of the ecliptic is approximately twice as large as that of Scorpius. This corresponds neatly with Manilius' second and third decans of the zodia Scorpio:

Second Decan of Scorpio = First Decan of Ophiuchus
constellation Ophiuchus
decante degrees 11°-20°
decante ruler Uranus/Ouranous
decante zodia Aquarius
decante association transformation and rebirth

Third Decan of Scorpio = Second Decan of Ophiuchus
constellation Ophiuchus
decante degrees 21°-30°
decante ruler Neptune/Poseidon
decante zodia Pisces
decante association the supernatural or Numinous

In my next installment, I will discuss the myths associated with each of these signs, how those myths relate to the attributes of each constellation in astrology, and catasterism.

An Intro to Traditional Hellenic and Roman Astrology

Tropical vs. Sidereal Zodiac or: "What do you mean the astrology chart doesn't match the stars overhead?!?!"

The first - and most important way that the ancient astrology practised by the Greeks and Romans (as well as the systems practised by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Hindus) differs from typical Western modern astrology is that we look at the skies overhead in two totally different ways. We each divide the sky up differently, which is important. The systems use two different ways of dividing the skies - or zodia. This is a difference between what I call zodia and topoi in the Classical Pagan system, and what you would call "signs" and "houses" in your zodiacal system.

So what is the difference between the two systems? Let's find out!

First, if you look at an astrological ephemeris or table with the positions of the planets according to the tropical zodiac division system of the sky for today, 7th May, 2008, this is what you would see:
  • Sun 17 TA 18
  • Moon 15 GE 39
  • Mercury 07 GE 22
  • Venus 08 TA 32
  • Mars 28 CN 45
  • Jupiter 22 CP 22
  • Saturn 01 VI 42
  • Uranus 21 PI 40
  • Neptune 24 AQ 09
  • Pluto 00 CP 50

Hmmm.... now let's see what is in the sky overhead. Since most of us probably live in cities - where light pollution is a problem - or even in regions far, far apart from one another, let's find an applet to use to illustrate this point! Head over to SkyView Cafe Astronomy - an online Planetarium - if you wanna check out the positions of the planets in relation to the skies above.

Here are the planets in their actual locations in the sky above:
  • Sun 21 AR 57
  • Moon 13 TA 12
  • Mercury 11 TA 47
  • Venus 13 AR 04
  • Mars 03 CN 37
  • Jupiter 27 SA 30
  • Saturn 06 LE 50
  • Uranus 26 AQ 47
  • Neptune 29 CP 17
  • Pluto 05 SA 59 R
Whoah! There's a BIG difference there! Before you think something like "THIS IS HUGH!! I'M SERIES!!!!!" and run amok, let me explain what's up with the stars and planets - and the two zodia systems.
There are two main types of equal-sign solar zodiac. The one used by most modern Western astrologers, the Tropical Zodiac, and the one used by Classical Western and most Eastern astrologers which is called the Sidereal or Vedic Zodiac. (Oh, and this is'nt the same as the different ways of dividing the houses and topoi, one of which is called the Fagan-Bradley version... which I will discuss in a future lession).

Soooo, "what's the difference between these two zodiac systems?" you ask... Well, there's only one difference really, and that is where they begin. The Tropical Zodiac begins in the "sign" of Aries on March the 21st whilst the Sidereal systems currently start with the zodia of Aries about a month later (the actual dates can be found in form here, at a nifty sidereal astrology site). This one point makes for a HUGE difference - according to the Tropical zodiac system you may be a Sun-Sign of Sagittarius and under the Sidereal zodiac system, an Ophiuchus*! This is the effect that a simple disagreement over the zero point of Aries can cause.

Here is a graphic that illustrates the difference between the zodiac systems: The Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac Systems comparedThanks to "Vedic Astrology Helpline" @ (This graphic is not meant to be offensive to farmers, ranchers, or others who might use the term "cowboy" or "vaquero" to describe themself... I just liked this because I imagined the illustration being of me telling Prez Bush about sideral astrology.)

So now you are probably wondering how there can be TWO places in the sky called "Aries"... Well, the Sidereal zodiac system's Aries corresponds to where Aries is in the sky overhead. If you use a sky map or astronomical ephemeris, there will be agreement between where the planets are in the chart and where they are on an Sideral astrology chart. There is no disagreement between astrology, astronomy, and the stars overhead when using a sidereal zodiac system.

The Tropical zodiac system's sign of Aries corresponds to where Pisces is in the sky - and to where Pisces is in the Sidereal zodiac system. This is important, because (for example) the Sun is seen to be in the constellation Pisces when the Vernal Equinox occurs around March 21st each year. This is why Classical Astrologers and other people say that this is the Age of Pisces. The Sun is in Pisces at the beginning of Spring - which was the beginning of the year on some ancient calendars. The Tropical zodiac system can be seen to be from the Age of Aries since it expects the Sun to be in that constellation at the beginning of Spring... and this shows us that astrology is very, very, VERY old.
So... now that you see the difference between the two types of Zodiacal Systems, let's talk about another difference between Classical and Modern Astrology - the "zodia" or "signs" of astrology.


The next most important concept to understand when studying or using Hellenic Astrology is that of the zodia. Zodia are what are called "signs" in modern Astrological systems - the 30 degree divisions of the Tropical Zodiac which are named Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. I will give their full characteristics in another post, but for now it's enough to just know that "zodia" are the same as "signs".
Hellenic Astrology uses house=sign chart design. This is different from many of the house systems used in most modern Astrology. In Hellenic Astrology, the houses are called topoi or topos in the singular; this is Greek for "place" and has the same connotation as "house" does in modern Astrology... for example, the second topos is the topos of land, material goods, and talents. Because each topos = a single zodia, it becomes very easy to see the relationships between planets based upon the relationships between their polarity, modalities, and elements. It is the interactions between these qualities of the planets that provide the key to understanding and interpreting an aspect pattern within a chart (either personal or mundane).
The major difference between aspects as used in Hellenic Astrology and aspects used in Modern Astrology is that aspects are determined according to topoi and zodia as opposed to individual planets. For example, all planets within a single zodia and topoi are considered to be aspected to all of the planets in another zodia and topoi. The aspects that are discussed within Hellenic Astrology are often referred to as the "Platonic Aspects" as they were first outlined and described in Ptolemy's work Tetrabiblos.
The Ptolemaic aspects are:
The Opposition:
  • the planets are separated by six zodia (or 180 degrees)
  • the planets share the same polarity and modality
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the line
The Trine:
  • the planets are separated by four zodia (or 120 degrees)
  • the planets share the same element
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the triangle
The Square (also known as Quartile):

  • the planets are separated by three zodia (or 90 degrees)
  • the planets share the same modality, but have different elements
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the square
The Sextile:
  • the planets are separated by two zodia (or 60 degrees)
  • the planets share the same polarity, but have different elements and modalities
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the hexagon
The Conjunction:
  • not an "aspect" as such in Hellenic Astrology, but rather a sharing of the same Zodion by two or more planets.
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the point
The conjunction is important (even more important than all of the other aspects!) in that the planets that share the same zodion or "sign" are seen to work together and will influence each other within the life of the individual or during the event being studied.
The planets within the shared zodion may work together so well and with such a common mind that they combine their energies. Because the two planets (like the two Gods that represent them) are united in their goal and motivation - differing only in their personalities - they can become intimately connected. The closer that the two planets are to each other (based upon the number of degrees between them) added to whether or not they are applying (moving closer to each other) or separating (moving apart from each other), can cause the two planets to actually fuse into one force within the chart. This is especially important because even when the two planets separate later, they will still be acting in one force - just in two different places in the chart. (For example, consider an individual who has Venus and Neptune in the same zodia at birth... for their entire life, where ever Venus or Neptune are in their chart, it will act as Venus+Neptune. This means that they will often be feeling the influence of Venus+Neptune in two different topoi! In a future post, I will discuss polarity, the elements, and modalities - which will help to illustrate the different dynamics that each aspect will produce within a chart.
* - What? What the heck is this "Ophiuchus" you speak of? Well, that is what my next entry will be about... the 13th sign of the zodiac that you've prolly never even heard of!

'Till next time...
Peace, Blessings, and may you and yours be in Harmony with the Skies!

--Claudia Iuliania Minervina

Monday, April 21, 2008

See Mercury after Sunset!

As I have mentioned earlier, we are entering a period where it will be possible for visual amateur astronomers to get a glimpse of the most elusive of the heavenly bodies, the fleet-footed messenger of the Gods, Mercury. Joe Rao, in his latest article has written an excellent overview of Mercury and how to view this planet in the evening skies for both Hellenic Pagan Astronomers and Astrologers:

See Mercury, the Elusive Planet
by: Joe Rao, Skywatching Columnist
(visit )

The planet Mercury is often cited as the most difficult of the five brightest naked-eye planets to see. Because it's the planet closest to the Sun, it never strays too far from the Sun's vicinity in our sky. It is often referred to as "the elusive planet." And there's even a rumor that Copernicus, never saw it, yet it's not really hard to see. You simply must know when and where to look, and find a clear horizon. And for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, a great "window of opportunity" for viewing Mercury in the evening sky is about to open up.

Mercury is called an "inferior planet" because its orbit is nearer to the Sun
than the Earth's. Therefore, it always appears from our vantage point to be
in the same general direction as the Sun. In the pre-Christian era, this
planet actually had two names, as it was not realized it could alternately
appear on one side of the Sun and then the other. Mercury was called Mercury when in the evening sky, but was known as Apollo when it appeared in
the morning. It is said that Pythagoras, about the fifth century B.C.,
pointed out that they were one and the same.

A bright evening "star"
Mercury just passed superior conjunction on April 16, but in the days to come it will bolt out to become easily visible low in the west-northwest at dusk. On Wednesday evening, April 23, Mercury should be visible within about 30 minutes after sunset if your sky is quite clear. Mercury will be shining at magnitude -1.6, slightly brighter than Sirius (the brightest of all stars). In fact, at that particular hour of the day, Mercury will be the brightest object in the sky!
So, if your sky is free of any horizon haze and there are no tall obstructions to your view (like trees or buildings) you should have no trouble in seeing it as a very bright "star" shining with just a trace of a yellowish-orange tinge. By April 30,
Mercury will be setting as late as 85 minutes after the Sun. That evening,
binoculars may show the Pleiades star cluster 4 degrees directly above it. (Your
clenched fist held at arm's length measures about 10 degrees in width.)
In the evenings that follow, Mercury will slowly diminish in brightness, but it will also slowly gain altitude as it gradually moves away from the vicinity of the Sun. This is just the start of Mercury's best apparition of the year for mid-northern viewers. On the evening of May 6, be sure to look for a delicately thin sliver of a 1.5-day old crescent Moon sitting just a couple of degrees above and slightly to Mercury's right.

Pinnacle: May 14
Mercury, like Venus, appears to go through phases like the Moon. Right now, Mercury is a nearly full disk, which is why it starts off appearing so bright. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation, 22 degrees to the east of the Sun, on May 14. Shining at magnitude +0.4 (as bright as the star Procyon in Canis Minor), it will set nearly two hours after the Sun. By the time it arrives at its greatest elongation, it will
appear roughly half-illuminated and the amount of its surface illuminated by the
Sun will continue to decrease in the days to come. So when it begins to turn
back toward the Sun's vicinity after May 14, it will fade at a rather rapid
In fact, on the evening of May 22, Mercury's brightness will have
dropped to magnitude +1.7; only 1/20 as bright as it was on April 23. In
telescopes it will appear as a narrowing crescent phase. This, in all likelihood
will be your last view of it, for the combination of its lowering
altitude, plus its descent into the brighter sunset glow will finally render Mercury
invisible by the final week of May.

Orbital peregrinations
In old Roman legends, Mercury was the swift-footed messenger of the gods. The planet is well named for it is the closest planet to the Sun (at an average distance of 36 million miles) and the swiftest of the Sun's family, averaging about 30 miles
per second; making its yearly journey in only 88 Earth days. Interestingly, the
time it takes Mercury to rotate once on its axis is 59 days, so that all parts
of its surface experiences periods of intense heat and extreme cold. But we
cannot say that a solar day on Mercury lasts 59 days because its highly
eccentric orbit causes an effect known as a 3:2 spin�orbit resonance. As a
consequence, because Mercury rotates three times for every two times it revolves
around the Sun, the time it takes from one sunrise to the next is equal to about
176 days.
So for 88 days, the Sun is constantly above the horizon and surface temperatures soar to nearly 900 degrees F (482-degrees C). Daytime temperatures are high enough to melt zinc and tin. Then comes 88 days of darkness, with surface temperatures plummeting to -300 degrees F (-184 degrees C) — the greatest range of temperatures of any planet.
In fact, on some parts of Mercury's surface, it is even possible to see the Sun briefly reverse its course in the sky. This happens around the time that Mercury arrives at that part of its orbit which places it closest to the Sun (called perihelion), where it's orbital speed can briefly exceed its rotational speed.
At sunrise, this strange effect would cause the Sun to appear to rise above the horizon ... then slow to a halt ... then reverse direction and drop back below the
horizon. At sunset, the Sun would drop below the horizon, then pop back up into
view before resuming its normal course, ultimately setting again for a second
time within a week.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

Monday, April 7, 2008

4 Mounykhion

Today is sacred to Hermes, Aphrodite, and Eros.

Orphic Hymns of the Day:

Moon in Taurus: The key words for the Zodia of Taurus are feminine, fruitful, intellectual, inflexible, of short ascention (in the Northern Hemisphere), earthy, and nocturnal. It is easy to see why Aphrodite was seen to "rule" this Zodia according to traditional Greek and Roman Astrology. This Zodia is much more amenable to fair Aphrodite, and it will provide a relief from the past two days' stay in Aries; we are to recognise what it means to be persistent in matters and to reconnect with our earthy, practical side during this period.

Moon in Taurus sextile Uranus and North Node in Aquarius: The Zodia of Aquarius is considered to be masculine, sterile (like the ocean was thought to be before scientists learned what we currently know about the variety of the benthic biome and marine biology), scientific, inflexible, giving eloquence, attuned to the path of serving, airy, and spiritual. This is an excellent space for Ouranos to express himself. The message of this aspect is that the Gods want us to begin to use our humanitarian natures, universal tolerance, scientific knowledge, and beliefs to solve the problems - such as the Iraq/Afghani occupation, the economy, global warming, pollution, and problems with the educaitonal system - that affect the entire community of mankind. This aspect encourages us - much like the commentary of Al Gore - that we can solve the problems that face us with innovative thinking and hard work.

Moon in Taurus sextile Mars in Gemini: this aspect continues.

Moon in Taurus square Neptune and Chiron in Capricorn:

Moon in Taurus trine Juno, Pluto, and Jupiter in Sagittarius: This is a modification of the aspect we experienced on the 2nd Mounykhion. Juno and Jupiter have joined Pluto in the Zodia of Sagittarius. This is a particularly powerful aspect as we have Zeus, Hera, and Hades together in a sign that has the following attributes: masculine, fruitful (a powerful placement for Chthonian and Olympian dieties), reproductive, flexible, of long ascention (in the Northern Hemisphere), fiery, energetic, bicorporeal and ambitious. These are the Gods who have rulership over the created order and the realm of the dead traversing through the Zodia which deals with the mind, religion and faith, journeys, and the environment. This aspect is the Gods' way of calling us to become aware of the importance of these subjects in our lives; the Gods are asking us to each discover who we are, what we believe, and what our gifts are so that as we enter this time we can work together to effect change in cultural and religious awareness, social justice issues, and public policy. It is crucial that we act now, or we will experience the ill effects of ignoring the promptings of the Gods.

Moon in Taurus trine Saturn Retrograde in Leo:

3 Mounykhion

Today is sacred to the Birth of Athena.

The Moon is still in Aries and is sextile Mars in Gemini: This aspect placement combines the properties of Moon in Aries (which I described in yesterday's entry) with the properties of Mars in the Zodion of Gemini. The Zodion of Gemini is classified as being of short ascention (in the Northern Hemisphere), airy, spiritual, bicorporeal, communicative, and can be volatile... which is an interesting place for Ares to express himself. When Ares experiences the Gemini Zodion, he reacts in a more mental manner than we are accustomed to seeing in the God of War.

If we want to handle this aspect and be in harmony with the Gods today, we should consider how our thoughts and communications will affect others. Before we speak too quickly, it is wise to consider how the feelings and emotions of others might be impacted by our statements. If we work to balance the energies of Ares, Demeter, and Hermes in our lives today, we can enjoy quick thinking, innovative solutions to problems, creative insights and the energy to carry them out, positive communications and a drive towards intellectual achievements and goals.

If we do not seek to balance these energies and honor the gods, we will likely experience fluctuating energy levels, frustration at those around us, argumentativeness, malaise, a lack of energy to follow things through, and a possibly malicious tongue.

From the Gods' places in the skies to our lives!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

2nd Mounykhion

Moon in Aries: Today Selene and Demeter are in the zodia of Aries, which means that we need to be aware of what they are telling us. The Moon in Aries has the positive effects of allowing us to experience, according to which topos - or house - Aries occupies in our birth charts, strong emotional responses, the ability to react and respond to stimiuli and events, and the ability to change behaviour and habit patterns. The negative effects of The Moon in Ares are that we may be more impatient and irritable than usual - as our feelings and emotions are in danger of being affected by Ares, the God of Conflicts and Struggle.

Today it is important to identify when we want to be short or irritable with others, and then try to temper that with the kindness and understanding of Selene and Demeter. This mindfullness will help us to use the creative energies of this aspect between the Gods to our advantage.

Venus in Pisces: Let's learn what this powerful combination of Planet and Zodia means for us in light of Hellenic Paganism and Astrology; this placement encourages us to be loving and sympathetic to those around us. When Aphrodite is found in Pisces, she encourages us to do or make something artistic, musical, or otherwise creative. This is a time when we can call upon the Goddess, and the Muses along with her, to help us give birth to acts of art, beauty, creativity, and unconditional love. Venus in Pisces is a time in which we are called to serve others and to provide inspiration to those who need comforting and encouragement.

Venus in Pisces can have some negative effects however, and we must be on the guard against these excesses: seeking egotistical or narcissistic ends in serving others - as in helping others merely to recieve kudos or accolades, seeking to find spiritual comfort and fulfillment through merely physical or romantic relationships, self-deceiving ourselves in our relationships (not just romantic, but all relationships!), self-pitying, and a feeling of "poor me" during this aspect. People who have personality disorders are apt to be particularly unbalanced and/or neurotic during Venus in Pisces, as it is a particularly powerful Zodia for the Goddess to inhabit.

Venus in Pisces is square Pluto Retrograde in Sagittarius: This aspect, even though it is a square or quartile, is a good one for us as Hellenic Pagans to learn from. Modern astrology has given some aspects, such as squares and oppositions, a bad wrap. Let's review the properties of squares in Hellenic thought before we discuss the properties of this particular aspect.


  • the planets involved are separated by three zodia and topoi (or 90 degrees)
  • the planets involved share the same modality, but have different elements and polarity
  • this aspect represents the Platonic form of the square

This means that Aphrodite in Pisces is in a Zodia that is feminine, fruitful, flexible (also called common), of short ascention (in the Northern Hemisphere), watery, and serving. This is in full harmony with the nature of Aphrodite, and allows her to express herself fully, without conflict or restraint. Pluto in Sagittarius is also in a Zodia that is especially compatable with his nature - his Zodia is masculine, fruitful (a powerful placement for Chthonian dieties), reproductive, flexible, of long ascention (in the Northern Hemisphere), fiery, energetic, bicorporeal and ambitious.

This is a good aspect - despite how "modern astrologers" view it, as both Gods involved are acting comfortably within their respective Zodia while complementing each other in terms of elements and polarity. This aspect is the Gods' way of telling us that we are entering a time when we can all work together to effect change in cultural and religious awareness, social justice issues, and public policy.

From the Gods' places in the skies to our lives!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Meditations for the New Moon in Pisces

Areas where I can improve during this Moon cycle:

  • I want to assert myself constructively and turn my visions into reality

  • I want to take control of the course of my destiny

  • I want to find a true soul-mate with whom I can share my dreams

  • I want to grow in my relationship with my soul-mate

  • I want to develop self-confidence in everything that I undertake

  • I want to deal with my friends and acquaintances with compassion in my heart

Affirmation for this Moon cycle:

Listening to my inner voice will show me the way