Astrology as a divinitory art is predicated on the measurement of time, which is as an integral part of the system, unlike other divinatory and oracular systems, and is very different in the way we interract with it to seeks answers to our questions. Astrology’s unique time component is something that I’ve often mused upon.
When I decided to seriously learn astrology I came to it with a background of having explored various other divinatory techniques such as Tarot, I-Ching, bibliomancy. At the beginning of my journey with astrology I explored some of the philosophies underpining it, in additon to questions that are common for students of astrology to engage with, such as ‘Are the planets causal or a-causal?’. Those in themselves are fascinating topics and cause much debate, but this isn’t the aspect that stood out most to me.
What has always struck me as so unique about astrology as a system of divination is its basis on time as we measure it. Other divinitory techniques do factor time into into readings in the general sense of what’s happening tomorrow, next week, or next month or next year. But here’s the thing – they do not include the requirement to be aware of time as an integral part of the divination. Astrology does.
The key basis of a chart is the time of birth or the ‘first moment’ of something: a person’s birth time in natal astrology, or the start of an undertaking or venture in inceptional astrology. In electional astrology the most favourable time is sought to carry out an event or action. In Horary astrology the ‘birth time’ is when the astrologer receives and understands the question from the querent.
You can’t do the same thing with other systems. For example if I want to know the best time is to start a project using tarot cards I can ask questions that will give me a general sense of a favourable time. For example I might pose the question “Would it be beneficial for me to start this project this month?” I could of course narrow that down to ask regarding today or tomorrow, but tarot is not a primarily time based divination system in the way astrology is, and although you can signify time symbolically through the numbering of the cards or correspodences with seasons for example, tarot and cartomancy aren’t best suited to asking more granular timing questions.
The other aspect that I find interesting is how other divination techniques are utilised through direct interaction with the diviner themselves. For example, to do a tarot reading the diviner has to physically draw the cards and cast the spread. In bibliomancy the diviner physically and randomly selects the page then sentence or word. In I-Ching readings the diviner has to cast the coins themself.
An astrologer does not physically cast anything. He/she will write down or draw what has been ‘cast’ on paper, or call it up with software, but the ‘casting’ is done by movement and forces which exist outside of them i.e. the planets, Sun and Moon which are moving through the heavens. Movement is inherently connected with time. Tarot cards or I-Ching coins are not moving before they are drawn and put into meaningful positions, and thereafter they are motionless. The planets however are contantly in motion in time and space, and the moment of symbolic relevance to what we are seeking is like taking a freeze frame of that motion for further analysis. We record the birth time, or consult an ephemris and record where the planets will be at a particular time and date in the future.
I like to think of it as a 3D oracle!