While sitting in the train the other day, the people sitting around me were all speaking Russian. Their conversation was a continual stream of sound with a pause now and then. Different in rhythm and tonality from the Chinese family that sat near me the day before. Nevertheless what they said was entirely without meaning for me. What caught my attention though, is that I understood one of the words, it literally jumped out of the tapestry of sound. No need for translation. Instantaneous comprehension. The word was “krasny” which means beautiful, or pretty and most likely in the context of the rest of the conversation – I can only conjecture – probably meant ‘nice’. This got me thinking about language, how wondrous it is, and inevitably, with you dear reader in mind, how this experience can be related to astrology.
Now and then someone speaks of the ‘language of the stars’, usually with pathos and sentiment. But what if we take this literally, from a modern view? First there must be speakers: in this case the ‘stars’, then there must be those who listen, either other ‘stars’ or such entities as ourselves who are not balls of gas engaged in complicated fusion reactions or those roughly spherical conglomerations either of gas or matter around an iron/nickel core which are the planets, or the wandering stars. Does the Sun communicate with other stars or the planets in its system through the solar wind? Do the planets communicate with one another through the reflection of the Sun’s light? Who is to say? Do we hear the Sun or the Planets? I should think not. There may be isolated mental disorders where this is possible! But anyone who says they understand the language of the stars is from this point of view clearly insane. So dear reader I must put the question to you, and be careful how you answer, do you understand the language of the stars?
Let us return to my Russian speakers. They were exchanging thoughts and feelings by means of words. As I have only learned a few Russian words in my lifetime (I can count them on one hand, da, nyet, doshvedanya, glasnost and krasny) the combination of sounds that conveys meaning was totally unintelligible, I could just as well have been listening to wind rustling the leaves of a tree. Only where I had already learned meaning, did one combination of sound lift itself out of the sound tapestry with a clear contour:
Notice something? I’ve used Cyrillic glyphs to convey the sounds. And so we come closer to general astrological practice. We also use funny, curly glyphs for planets and aspects and so on.
But let us return to the language of the stars. A language imparts meaning. It has speakers and listeners, or readers. Those who speak have something to say, and must have some level of intelligence to be able to use language in the first place. This means that we as astrologers assume that the movement of the planets in the sky and the stars visible to us convey meaning and there must be Intelligence (or Intelligences, depending on your astrological tradition) that gives it coherence. This means that when we are looking at a chart with its glyphs and numbers, we are doing something not unlike reading a prose or poetic work. Is it a monologue or dialogue, tragedy or comedy or even a grocery list? We are looking for meaning. If someone with some astrological knowledge says to you, “Tomorrow Uranus transits my Ascendant and this is square to the Full Moon that is conjunct Mars which also is in opposition to Saturn”, they are essentially telling you that they are worried and that they are expecting something catastrophic! They see meaning in this and expect you to immediately understand all the unspoken implications.
At the moment a chart appears to me like this:
xxxxx xxxx eclipsex xx xx sun and moon
xxxxxxx no good xx xx. xxxxxx xxx xxdom xx Nature
xxx reason xx thus, xxx nature finds itself scourged xx
xxx sequent xxxxxxx. Love cools, friendship xxxx off,
brothers xxxxxx: in cities, mutinies;
in xxxxxxxxx, discord; in palaces, xxxxxxx;
and the xxxx cracked ‘twixt son and xxxxxx.
I hope that one day I shall be able to read the text better. More like:
These late eclipses in the sun and moon
portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of Nature
can reason it thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by
the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off,
brothers divide: in cities, mutinies;
in countries, discord; in palaces, treason;
and the bond cracked ‘twixt son and father. (King Lear, 1.2.103 – 110)
And not only that, but to be able to put what is read in greater context and fathom the many levels of meaning. I think I have a long way before me. And the works of master astrologers seem like dictionaries filled with the words of the language I am trying to learn and in which I am not yet fluent.