by Joelle Steele, Astrologer


Q. I am in a stressful job at a troubled corporation during a difficult economy. Pluto is transiting my midheaven, and is going to be there a long time. And now Saturn is going to hit my sun. What can I expect to happen?
A. Astrology is a tool for managing your life, so use that tool to fix whatever is wrong and/or to build a better career for yourself. Whatever you do, don't just let it spin out of control because you expect it to under certain transits. Every transit can be used for good or bad depending on your actions. Pluto on the MC is an opportunity to analyze and solve career problems, and Saturn provides the focus to make it happen.

Q. My astrologer says I should be pursuing a different career, but I don't want to switch. I like what I do. What went wrong?
A. Probably nothing. If you like what you do, keep doing it. Many things can impact on career choices from early on, including family influences, marriage, and relocations.

Q. If a person has a grand square pattern in their natal chart, will they ever be able to find happiness?
A. People with difficult aspect configurations often do better in life than do people with the grand trine configurations. When you have to meet obstacles and challeneges in life, it tends to build character, and makes for a good deal of ambition, resilience, strength, and achievement. While a stereotypical grand trine life might seem desirable, it is more often accompanied by fear, anxiety, depression, boredom, and failure. If a person has a grand square, they should ultimately be able to achieve anything in life, including happiness.

Q. Should I be worried about having four empty houses?
A. Empty houses are not really empty. In addition to transits and progressions of the sun, moon, and planets through them, they each have a planetary ruler, and the location of that ruler and any aspects to it will impact on that house, on that area of your life.

Q. How can you be an astrologer and not believe that astrology can be used to predict earthquakes?
A. Easy. Astrology requires dates, times, and places for making predictions. Earthquakes, like any other natural disaster, can be easily charted after they occur, but are impossible to predict accurately because they do not happen to one specific set of geographical coordinates or even in one instant. For example, an earthquake may be epicentered off the shore of Alaska, may be felt onshore for 10 minutes from Anchorage to Fairbanks, may be felt several miles beyond that area, and there may be damages throughout that entire area. In addition, there could be a tsunami, a part of the earthquake event itself, but the wave may not reach and create damages or loss of life in Santa Cruz, California until 20 to 30 minutes after the time the quake occurred in Alaska.

Q. How do you determine whether a person would be good at being self-employed?
A. This would really take far too long to answer thoroughly in this column but, in general, I would look for Saturn and how it aspects the 10th or the ruler of the 10th. I would want to see some indications of self-reliance and independent thinking, as well as a strong Mercury. Also, I have found that charts with grand square and T-square aspect patterns often make people good problem-solvers.

Q. What is the best way to predict an event, by transit or progression?
A. Both. A transit alone is not the most accurate, particularly if there is only one significant transit occurring in a chart. The same is true of progressions. I look for more than one transit to mark an event, and I also look at secondary and sometimes tertiary progressions to back up those transits. In addition, I progress solar returns to look for more confirmation of possible events.

Q. How do you pick a career when there are so many options in the Midheaven?
A. The Midheaven is only one part of the chart to examine when picking a career. It tells you the career field, and in that case you would probably automatically gravitate to a particular field that most appeals to you. But as for the specific job or position within that career field, you have to examine the rest of the chart to see what skills and knowledge you possess and how they would fit with the known jobs in that field.

Q. If my 7th house is empty (has no planets in it), does this mean I will never marry?
A. The absence of planets in the 7th house does not mean you won't marry. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Each house has a sign and a ruling planet that is somewhere in your chart, and you can look at that to get a better sense of how the 7th house will work in your life. Sometimes an empty house just means that there is no great emphasis on that house, no problems with it, and no particular strength to it. Everything depends on what else is happening in your chart. You can't just look at one house alone and predict marriage, divorce, or being single forever. Also, just as a footnote to this, every chart will have at least one or two empty houses because there are 12 houses and only 10 bodies (8 planets, the Moon, and Sun) to fill them.

Q. What is the astrological significance of the Mayan calendar dates that signify the end of the world in 2012?
A. I'm glad I've lived long enough to recognize when something is just plain silly sensationalism. There is absolutely nothing significant happening astrologically or astronomically on December 21 or 23, 2012, particularly not anything that would signify a great global catastrophe. Also, despite what some people say, the Mayan calendar does not end on those dates and has no fixed ending at all. The world is not ending, the apocalypse is not coming.

Q. What was the purpose in changing from the Julian to Gregorian calendar system?
A. The Julian calendar was a reform and change to solar-based calendaring from the lunar-based Roman calendar system. This required an adjustment of two months that were added to 46 BC, the year when the change from Roman to Julian was made. Fast-forward to 1582 AD, and the vernal equinox had regressed by 10 days. So, the Gregorian calendar was established to correct the length of the solar day and 10 days were dropped from that year. A good deal of confusion arose and many countries did not immediately begin using the Gregorian calendar. England didn't start using it until 1752 when it dropped 11 days from that year; Russia waited until 1918; and Turkey was the last to adopt it, in 1926. It continues to be an issue that astrologers and historians alike must deal with when working with historical data.

Q. My fiancé and I have only two chart-to-chart aspects, and yet we seem to love each other and get along very well. Should I be concerned?
A. I don't know how long you have been together, but I would probably do a little wait-and-see before I got married, just to make sure you aren't merely "in love with love" and seeing only what you want to see in each other. In the majority of all couples' charts that I have ever reviewed, there are usually a lot of chart-to-chart aspects that bind the two people together. You could be the exception, but I would want to be sure before I tie the knot.

Q. When a person has most of their planets in only a few signs, are they doomed to failure?
A. Of course not. They may have to work harder at some things, and they may have to look for ways to utilize the "empty" houses of their chart. Perhaps they will need to find other people with whom they can align themselves to achieve their goals in life. But no one is doomed to failure, and many who struggle with difficult charts achieve the greatest successes.

Q. Is astrology considered a science or an art? Does it make any difference?
A. I think of it as both a science and an art. The science of astronomy is used to erect the charts, and the interpretation is an art that requires practical and psychological knowledge of human behavior and the world at large.

Q. Since you specialize in careers, can you tell me what the best career is for someone with Capricorn ruling the 10th and Mars in the 10th conjunct the midheaven?
A. Nope. Can't help you at all. Determining someone's best career requires a lot more than just looking at the 10th house. All planets, signs, and houses have an influence on career choice and one's success or failure in a career. Also, your age, your work and life experience to date, your current financial situation, and your personal goals must be considered when selecting a career that is best for you.

Q. Is there any value in learning to interpret the decans?
A. The decans or decanates were considered very influential in a chart during ancient times, but we tend to pay less attention to them nowadays. I personally think they are worth knowing about, especially if you need greater detail when interpreting a part of a chart. Do keep in mind that there are at least two different decanate systems, one of which does not recognize the planets found in modern times.

Q. When a planet is exactly conjunct a house cusp — to the minute — does it carry any special significance?
A. No. How significant a planet is depends on what sign it is in, whether it rules the house it's in, what kinds of aspects it makes/receives, etc.

Q. Should you be able to tell what a person looks like from their rising sign? I don't think I match the descriptions for the rising sign, and my birth time is correct.
A. The ascendant is one place to look for personal appearance, but I would also look for clues to appearance in any planets that are rising (before or after the ascendant). I would also look at the Sun and how strong that sign is, and I would look at the highest-elevated planets in the chart for clues to appearance.

Q. I have been a professional athlete for almost 20 years, but I've sustained a lot of injuries and can't continue competitive activities the way I once did. I'd like to make a career change and make my hobby (woodworking) into a business. My friends think I'm crazy. I say that my Mars in Pisces in the 10th is where this is coming from. My MC is Aquarius and I never saw where sports fit into my chart for that at all.
A. I don't know what sport you participated in, and since I don't have your chart, I also can't say why athletics isn't prominent, if that is the case. As for turning a hobby into a career, an Aquarius midheaven would do nothing to prevent that from happening. There are so many things to consider when picking any career. You're an adult, so you should know yourself pretty well by now. Look at your chart as more than just the midheaven to see what skills your new career requires and if you have what it takes to succeed.

Q. Can death be accurately predicted using astrology?
A. No. I have examined the charts of many people for whom I have dates and times of death. So far, I have seen only a few reliable indicators for any of them. Examples: a drug overdose occurred on a Neptune station on the Ascendant; my mother's death from cancer on a Uranus station in her 4th house that exactly sextiled her Moon and her Jupiter; and a sudden death by heart attack when Uranus exactly squared natal Jupiter in the 8th house, Jupiter also being the ruler of the person's 4th house. But, I have seen examples of these same aspects in charts where the person did not die and was never even ill.

Q. Are there magnetic forces or any kind of emanations from the planets and stars that affect people or influence them?
A. No.

Q. Will I ever be able to stick to a career with a Pisces midheaven?
A. Of course. If you can't stick to a career, it has to do with aspects to your midheaven, your work habits as expressed in the 6th and other houses, aspects to your Sun, etc. A mutable and "double" sign (the fishes), Pisces can denote flexibility and multiple careers.

Q. I keep reading conflicting information about the rising sign and first house. Some astrologers say they represent the personality and others say it is the way we appear to others. Your thoughts?
A. It is the way we appear to others. Your personality is represented by your Sun. But, if you really want to get technical about it, your entire birth chart is the sum of your personality and not any one planet, sign, or house.

Q. Is an unaspected planet always going to be a problematic planet?
A. Not necessarily. You can't interpret a planet solely by the fact that it is unaspected. How it behaves will be dependent on what sign it is in, whether that sign is compatible with it, and what house it is in. If it is a happy planet that just happens to be unaspected, then it will probably express itself in its best light. If it is not happy, it will likely cause problems because it will not be able to draw on the helpful energies of other planets in the chart. However, an unaspected planet is more likely to feel the effects of any transits and progressions more strongly.

Q. I have a transit that is creating a T-square in my chart. I have heard that this is interpreted differently than it would be if the T-square occurred natally. Can you explain?
A. A fixed T-square in your natal chart would be a challenging aspect pattern that you would experience all the time (and learn to live with and handle), and it would be further activated by transits and progressions to it. A transiting (or progressing) T-square is more likely to indicate a period of time during which you are forced to deal with things you have not been facing up to in the past. Just remember that this aspect does not take place in a vacuum; there is the rest of your natal chart and all the other transits and progressions in effect at the time, and they must be considered too.

Q. A friend of mine has been encouraging me to study sidereal astrology, but when I look at my chart in that system, it doesn't sound like me at all.
A. Yeah, I hear you. I don't look like me in the sidereal zodiac either. But, I think we should always study everything and then be able to make good decisions about whether we use that information or not. I have studied the sidereal system and have done many charts using it, but I don't put much faith into it because I have never been able to match the sidereal charts to anyone I know. Perhaps you will have a different experience.

Q. When I read a reference to an astrological glyph, is this the same as a sigil?
A. Yes, but only astrologically speaking. A sigil is a graphic symbol and a glyph is an embossed, etched, or engraved symbol. "Glyph" is a term that is widely misused in astrology, but has fallen into common usage by astrologers.

Q. Does having the Sun in Scorpio in the 8th house mean that a person will be preoccupied by death or that their life will be shortened by early death?
A. No to both parts of your question. That person might be preoccupied by death, or not. Other influences in the chart have to be considered, especially aspects to the Sun. In any event, a shorter life is not indicated by the mere placement of one's Sun in that position.

Q. Can a person be born with a bad chart and overcome it?
A. There are no "bad" charts. Every planet and sign has positive and negative traits. It's all about how you use these polarities. Many of the factors attributed to creating a "bad" chart are not specifically bad at all. For example, a grand square may sound ominous but, in reality, they often make for highly successful people who learn early in life how to troubleshoot their lives and achieve their goals. On the other hand, a grand trine may sound ideal, but they can easily result in laziness and wasted potential when a person never learns how to forge a life or deal with obstacles. Using the positive traits of a hard aspect or planetary placement is the way to overcome any negative astrological activity, whether it is in your natal chart or occurs by transit or progression. As an example, if Saturn is going to transit your midheaven, start planning your career change, revamp your resume, or arrange for a small business loan, because Saturn rules structure, discipline, and planning — all positive traits that will help make a successful transit.

Q. Years ago I had a book that interpreted the degrees in each sign. I can't recall its title and I can't find anything like it. Can you help?
A. I think I might have the book you are referring to: Practical Astrology by Jerryl L. Keane. You can probably find it used somewhere on the Internet.

Q. What is the best way to use Tarot with astrology?
A. There is no best way or any way to legitimately combine the two. Astrology stands on its own and does everything you can possibly want it to do all by itself. Mixing methods, especially with something that is merely intuition and chance, is for amateurs and people who don't know what they're doing. Best to stick to one or the other.

Q. I heard you speak once about Saturn-Moon conjunctions in the 4th house. I have that aspect and I have been unable to get pregnant. Does it always imply sterility?
A. No, there are plenty of people who have procreated with this aspect. I think it more often results in someone whose emotions are suppressed or intellectualized. It can also account for sterility, and I have had several clients — both men and women, myself included — who had that aspect and were sterile. Like everything else in astrology, you have to look at the entire chart, and not just one aspect, to see what is really happening in a person's life. Study your chart hard enough, and you may be able to discover the reason for your sterility or infertility, and there might be a solution for it along the way.

Q. How can you believe in astrology when there isn't any rational, scientific premise behind it?
A. I questioned astrology when I first started studying it many years ago. But that "study" — years of it — is what has allowed me to ignore the lack of scientific evidence. Having practiced astrology for almost my entire life, I see proof all the time that it works. I just can't explain why. But, I also know that many things are proven to be valid by the very same scientists who once disputed and disproved them. Maybe some day that will happen with astrology. If it doesn't, it will make no difference to me.

Q. How do I decide when I am ready to start offering astrological services to people? I have been studying for three years and have only practiced on my family and friends.
A. Studying astrology is like buying a great computer and learning how to use it. But practicing astrology involves more than just using this wonderful tool. It demands that you have superior people skills and some knowledge of life and psychology and how to trouble-shoot problems. These mainly come with age and experience. This does not mean that a young person cannot practice astrology. From my personal experience, I have found that people in general lack these non-astrology skills. If you've got both, go for it! If not, maybe take some psychology classes and live a little longer before you hang out your shingle.

Q. Why don't you answer personal chart-related questions in this column?
A. Because this is a short-answer advice column and not a consulting forum. Before I can accurately answer a question about someone's chart, I need to see their entire chart, not just the part they are asking a question about. If I answered those types of questions without the entire chart, it would be unethical and unprofessional of me, and it would certainly be unreliable and misleading to anyone who reads this column.

Q. If a planet is retrograde in a chart, does that change the way it is interpreted?
A. No. Retrogradation is merely an illusion, since the planets do not really go backwards and then go forwards again. This is an astrological old wives' tale.

Q. Why do we use the birth date to erect a chart, rather than the date of conception? If we are to believe that life begins at the cellular level, then shouldn't we be paying attention to dates of conception instead?
A. Great question. Most humans simply don't keep that close track of their sexual activities to make this a possibility. Are you really going to keep a log of each time you have sex and the exact moment when conception may have occurred? What if you had sex twice in the same day? How do you know which time was the one that resulted in a pregnancy? How often can you take a pregnancy test? Just not a very practical method, and the time of birth — when the first breath is taken — has been in use for centuries and seems to work rather well.

Q. When my son was born, an astrologer told me he would not live past the age of 30. He is 28 years old and I worry about him constantly. Is there anything I can do to prevent him dying young?
A. Your astrologer was a cruel idiot, plain and simple. No one can predict death with any degree of certainty. Stop worrying and enjoy your son and your time together. In the future, try to be a little more discriminating when you select an astrologer.

Q. How can astrology be real when the 12 signs would mean there are only 12 kinds of people in the world? It makes no sense to me.
A. Doesn't make sense to me either. If astrology was only about the 12 Sun signs, I would certainly not be paying any attention to it at all. But a person's Sun sign is only one of many, many, many other things to be considered astrologically in their horoscope (birth chart). There are the Moon, the planets, the aspects (relationships) between the planets and Sun and Moon, transits, progressions, and the list goes on and on. Don't be fooled by reading those ridiculous sun sign books or horoscope forecast columns. No legitimate astrologer is going to write those, much less practice astrology in that way. All they do is give astrology a bad name by misinterpreting it.

Q. When I looked up my birth date in an astronomy almanac, it indicated that I was a Taurus. But according to an astrology book I have, I am a Gemini. Which is correct?
A. Astronomers use the sidereal zodiac, which places the planets in their actual relationship to the constellations/fixed stars. Astrologers are viewing the constellations from earth, so we use the tropical zodiac. That means that you are a Gemini, since you are on earth.

Q. Can you tell me whether the 10th house represents the mother or the father? I'm reading different answers to this everywhere.
A. The 10th house is often the father, but not always. It is the parent who has the most influence in your life, whether good or bad. So it can be either parent.

Q. Is it called the "part" of fortune or the "pars" fortune?
A. In English it is the "part of fortune" and in Latin it is the "pars fortunata."