by Steven Forrest, copyright 2000.
This article first appeared in The Mountain Astrologer
“I don’t know the time of my birth.” Any working astrologer hears that line a few times a month. In rectification—the craft of discovering the true Ascendant of a birthchart—the first rule is never accept an “I don’t know” statement on face value! Always, without fail, make a strenuous attempt to discover the recorded birth time…which is often actually available, many times quite easily. Don’t let a client’s hesitation to search compromise your work!
The technical procedures of rectification are valid and useful, but they are not foolproof, especially when the birth time is completely unknown and the window of possibility is twenty-four hours wide. Since a wrong birthchart is every astrologer’s nightmare, it is both wise and ethical first to exhaust all the time-sleuthing possibilities available.
Any information helps. As we will be discovering, even narrowing down the birth moment to something as vague as “in the morning” or “it was still dark” can be immensely helpful. Encourage your client to press information from his or her parents, older siblings or anyone who might have been around at the critical event. Often they’ll give you invaluable clues, especially when encouraged to re-live the event in their memories.
In America, generally your best bet for finding actual records of the birth time, assuming that there are no immediate family records or memories, is at the state level. Hospitals aren’t often much help, but each state has a Department of Vital Statistics or something similar where birth certificates are stored. Often these official birth certificates contain more information than the ones issued to the parents, especially for births dating to the time before xeroxing.
For a complete listing of all the relevant state offices, with their addresses and phone numbers, for all fifty U.S. states, click here . By the way, if you find something inaccurate there, please let us know! The information changes periodically and we’re dependent on people around the country keeping us current, as they often do. We’re maintaining this as a kind of public service to the astrological community, and we rely on your help.
Once you’ve exhausted all these possibilities and you’ve still come up empty, it’s time to start the actual technical procedures of rectification. The process will drive you half-crazy, but mastering it will make you a better astrologer—and not just because you’ve absorbed a new technical skill. Rectification also brings you right into the heart of the way transits, progressions, and solar arcs actually operate.
IN A NUTSHELL…
In a nutshell, what you are doing in rectification is working backwards through astrology’s predictive techniques. Normally, we have an accurate birth time and we use transits, progressions, and solar arcs to predict the timing of events or developments in a person’s life. In rectification, we do it the other way around: we use the timing of events that have already happened to “post-dict” the time of birth—in other words, we come up with a chart that would have predicted the timing of major developments in the client’s life, developments which have already occurred and whose times are known.
THE CLIENT’S TASK
The client’s task is to provide you with a list of the dates of major events spread out through the length of his or her life, with very brief descriptions of them. For example, “I got married on January 7, 1984” or “my first child was born on June 27, 1978.” Emphasize that there’s no need for long confessional biography here; all you need is a phrase and a date.
I find it helpful not to be too directive. Seeing how the client defines “major events” is often illuminating. If it’s all professional developments, that suggests the possibility of a big Tenth House focus, and that can be a helpful clue, corroborating the results of all the technical procedures we’re about to learn.
I ask my clients for a list of about ten such events, but the number isn’t really critical. The only constraint here is that the events must be spread over a wide period of time. Nine events within a six month period will foul up the rectificational process for reasons we’ll soon explore in detail. It’s better that no two events are closer than within a couple years of each other at a minimum. A wider spread is even more helpful.
The more accurate the date of the event, the better. Thus, births, marriages, and significant deaths tend to play a big role—people usually remember those dates exactly. Sometimes a client will say “I moved to Seattle in May 1996, but I can’t remember the date.” See if they can remember if it was the first or second half of the month—anything to focus it a bit. “Dates” vaguer than about a month are not really useful, unless you restrict yourself to progressions or solar arcs, which move relatively slowly. Even there, a year or two is about the outer limit of usefulness.
Once you have the list of dates, the real work begins. The fist step is to set up a hypothetical birth chart as a starting point. Don’t make any guesses here. If you have zero idea what time the person was born, erect it for noon. If you have a range of times (e.g., “between 3:00 pm and dinner”), split the difference—say 4:30. Remember that this is just an approximate chart; make a real effort not to become enamored of it!
The next step is to run transits, progressions, and solar arcs based on that chart, for the dates the client has supplied. Now I recommend a cup of coffee.
In essence, here’s the idea: you know that big changes tend to happen for people when there are major transits, progressions, and arcs to the four Angles of the chart—the Ascendent, the Descendent, the Midheaven, and the astrological Nadir.
If you see that there was a tendency for planets to be in the middle of Capricorn when big changes were happening for the client, then it’s a good bet that mid-Capricorn might be one of those four Angles…assuming you can’t explain that mid-Capricorn sensitivity any other way.
Thus, the crux of the rectification process:
A. Eliminate all the sensitive areas in the hypothetical birthchart which you can explain away through natal planetary contacts…
B. Then assume that any other sensitive areas are related to the Four Angles…remembering that if you know the Angles, you know the birth time.
Now, if the client has a natal planet in that mid-Capricorn hot spot, then we really haven’t learned very much; we already know people’s lives change when a natal planet is heavily aspected by transits, arcs, or progressions. So, to repeat the core principle, what you are seeking is a set of points to which the client is astrologically reactive that can’t be explained through passing aspects to any natal planet.
The foundation of the whole rectification process lies in the fact that House cusps are time-sensitive, whereas planets will generally move relatively slightly in zodiacal terms during the day. Every four minutes, the Midheaven moves through about one degree. The numbers vary a bit for the other cusps, but they’re all in that range.
What about transits, arcs, and progressions to the Succedent and Cadent Houses? In practice I’d suggest focussing strictly on hits to the ultra-sensitive Angular cusps and ignoring the intervening ones. One benefit of this approach is that it neatly by-passes all arguments about which system of House division is best—with only a few minor exceptions, all of them agree on the Angles and disagree only on the cusps of the other Houses.
In working with secondary progressions for rectification purposes, use the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The Moon is a little dicey because, unless the birth time is reasonably accurate for starters, like within a couple of hours or so, the initial position of the Moon is too uncertain for us to trust it. Using the progressed Ascendent or Midheaven would be a major blunder, since the absolute uncertainty of their initial positions is the crux of the problem we are addressing. Never use the progressed Ascendent or Midheaven in rectification!
In Buddhism, there are "three poisons." The root poison is Ignorance - and it is Mercury's job to dispel it. Ignorance spawns two more poisons. One is attachment and desire. Purifying that soul-disease is the result of achieving a highly evolved response to Venus. Anger and fear are the third poison, and getting past them brings us to the process of elevating our relationship with Mars.
In this workshop, you'll follow Steven into an important area that is too easily dismissed as merely basic astrology. Understanding the deeper purpose of these planets is a significant part of the foundation upon which our evolutionary possibilities rest.
With solar arcs, use everything except the Ascendent, Midheaven and Moon.
With transits the situation is a little bit trickier. You can always use Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the Lunar Nodes. When the dates that the client has provided are accurate within one day, add the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars.
When the dates are not that accurate, then those faster planets have blurry positions due to their rapid motions—while Pluto will move only a fraction of a degree in a month, Mercury can cover a wide arc in that length of time. The faster transiting planets lose their usefulness unless the dates of the critical events are known accurately. You may have to make some judgment calls. If, for example, your client moved to New York “during the first week of February 1997” while transiting Mars, Venus, or Mercury was making a Station, you may have detected something useful. That would be a particularly powerful inner planet event, and more importantly we would know its position pretty accurately for that week, since a Stationary planet won’t shift far within that short time-frame.
I never use the transiting Moon in rectification.
THE POWER OF THE FOURTH HARMONIC AND THE MODES
Fourth harmonic aspects—the conjunction, square, and opposition—are very dynamic and reliable. They correlate powerfully with biographical events. I’d suggest using them exclusively for rectification work, forgetting all other aspects, at least initially. Thus, we are looking strictly for squares, conjunctions, and oppositions to the Ascendent/Descendent axis, and ditto for the Meridian/Nadir axis.
In practice, what this means is that you’ll be noticing a pattern like this: “there’s a tendency for things to happen in this person’s life when planets get to the fifteenth or sixteenth degree of Mutable signs.” The key is that the four Mutable Signs form a cross—a fourth harmonic structure. (And of course it’s the same for the other two Modes, Cardinal and Fixed.) If you have 16 Gemini rising, then activity around 16 degrees of any one of the Mutable signs will trigger events since 16 Sagittarius would be an opposition and 16 of Pisces or Virgo would be squares. And if there are no natal planets in any of those degrees, you’ve probably found a major clue about the position of the Ascendent, Descendent, Midheaven or Nadir.
This “fourth harmonic” thinking is a very practical, effective approach—for me, it preserves just enough essential data. Looking for conjunctions alone wouldn’t do that. Meanwhile it eliminates just enough less-important data, such as the milder effects of the trines, sextiles, and minor aspects, for clarity—and perhaps your sanity—to be maintained.
AN ACE IN THE HOLE
On a given date at a given birth place, a specific Midheaven will dictate a specific
Ascendent. If, say, the Midheaven is 9 Cancer at a given moment, then the Ascendent must be, say, 17 Libra at that latitude. In other words, a specific Midheaven degree and a specific Ascendent degree are linked at each latitude. You can’t fudge that Ascendent back five degrees and still maintain the same Midheaven, even if the rectification data seems to be begging for it. Nature constrains us here, and that’s actually helpful in practice because it narrows our range of possibilities and helps us out of a variety of jams, as we will soon be seeing.
Say 9° Cancer happens to be the Midheaven of our hypothetical chart. We have no real reason to believe it’s accurate—we came up with it simply by splitting the difference between the earliest and latest possible birth times, which were a couple of hours apart. Now, through transits, arcs and progressions we observe that both eleven degrees and nineteen degrees of the Cardinal signs are really hot—things happen in our client’s life when planets arrive in those degrees. We’ve probably hit paydirt….just assume an 11 degree Cancer Midheaven and a 19 degree Libra Ascendant, and it all works out neatly. Nature “permits” that chart, and it now fits the actual timing of events in the client’s life. We just assume that our client was born about eight minutes later than our starting-point chart, advancing its Midheaven and Ascendant by about two degrees. Sometimes rectification is that easy, and we’re done.
How close does a planet have to be to an exact aspect for it to “work?” We know from more general astrological practice that the answer varies with the speed and nature of the planet as well as its innate strength in the chart. Progressions and Arcs generally operate in tighter aspectual orbs than do transits, but none of them require exactitude to be effective. Might someone get a big professional promotion with solar-arc Jupiter one degree off their true Midheaven? Sure. This inherent “slush” fuzzes the rectification process somewhat.
The immediate effect is that someone whose true Midheaven is 12Leo17 will show an array of significant transits, arcs, and progressions within a couple of degrees on either side of that point—and probably a few outlying Saturn or Jupiter transits as well. As common sense would dictate, you are basically splitting the differences among the positions of these hits, determining a point that seems to be nearest the center of the activity. Gradually the various traces of evidence will converge on a single degree. Some practitioners claim a level of accuracy beyond that. Perhaps they’re right, but I personally suspect there’s often an element of wishful fantasy in such claims. Orbs are an astrological reality; there can be no doubt about that. And logically they constrain the accuracy of the rectification process, although if we push it far enough, averaging out the errors that orbs create, we can get extremely close to the true moment of birth. And of course, for the lion’s share of practical astrological work, if the House cusps of a chart are accurate within a degree, you’re in good shape.
In an accurate natal chart, a planet might very well happen to be conjunct an Angle, or in a fourth harmonic aspect to an Angle. This is of course a common occurrence, and it threatens the rectification process with a serious pitfall. The planet can effectively hide the Angle. Here’s how: From routine astrological practice, we know that arcs, progressions and transits to the planets themselves are extremely energetic events. In rectification, we ignore all passing aspects to natal planets because we are only interested in locating the unknown, time-sensitive points: the Angles themselves. If someone’s Sun lies in 5 Cancer, when we check out our “hit lists” around those sensitive dates the client supplied, we know we’ll very likely see a lot of events connected by fourth harmonic aspects to 5 Cancer…a moving planet conjuncts, squares, or opposes her natal Sun and her life gets colorful. Initially, we ignore that data because it isn’t telling us anything we’re seeking to know—we already knew where her Sun was and that it would be sensitive to getting clobbered by a Pluto square! But if her true Ascendent happens to fall in 5 degrees of a Cardinal sign, then those aspects to her Sun would be effectively hiding it! An Ascendent in 5 Aries, or 5 Libra, or 5 Capricorn, or even conjunct the Sun in 5 Cancer would basically disappear, hiding “behind the Sun.” We’d be looking right at it, but we wouldn’t see it. We’d think we were just seeing arcs, progressions, and transits triggering her natal Sun.
Explore the most dynamic representation of physical space in the birth chart - the four angles. These crucial points to understand are the Ascendant (ASC), Midheaven (MC), Descendant (DSC) and Astrological Nadir (IC). Mastering their interpretation is key to chart interpretation and addresses the most compelling topics of life.
How do we sort that one out? Well, we know that her Ascendent and Midheaven are somewhere, and that they are likely to be implicated in major life-events for her. If, after a close analysis of several events, we seem to be getting nowhere, there’s an excellent chance that we’re in a “hidden Angle” situation. Our confusion becomes useful information, in other words. If nothing is working, probably the Angles are hiding. That little insight will save you a lot of headaches.
Go a little further. Due to astronomical realities, especially outside the tropics, it’s relatively unusual in practice to see the Midheaven actually square the Ascendent. This helps us as well because if one Angle is hidden, it’s less likely that the other one is hidden too. We’ll see a big unexplained spike in only one Modal area—and immediately suspect that the other Angle is hiding behind a planet. Pursuing our example, maybe there’s an unexplained cluster around 12 degrees of the Cardinals. We give her a 12 Aries Midheaven, and then the Ascendent happens to fall in 5 Cancer, conjunct her Sun. We’ve got a good candidate chart.
THE INCALCULABLE USEFULNESS OF VAGUE HINTS
Way back in the first paragraph of this article, I rhapsodized about the incredible helpfulness of even a vague hint as to the time of birth. Wring the client for anything and everything in that department. Maybe he or she tells you, “I can’t find my time of birth….but mom says it was definitely in the wee hours.” One learns to take everything with a grain of salt, but that provides a really useful head start. Set up a chart for 1:00AM and another one for 5:00AM, and you’ve got a strictly limited arc of possibilities for all four Angles. The right chart is going to be in between those extremes. That’s only a four hour spread—already six times more precise than starting with just the birth date. Somewhere in there is the right chart, and you’re six times closer to a right answer than you would be if you only knew the birth date.
It’s even better than that. Continuing with this example, maybe you’ve got an unexplained cluster of events around 10 degrees of the Fixed Signs. Your assumption is that it must correspond to either the Horizon or the Meridian axes of the chart. Between 1:00AM and 5:00AM on that day, there was probably only one possibility for a Fixed sign on the Midheaven—say, arbitrarily, Leo. There was also only one possibility for a Fixed sign on the Ascendent—say Scorpio. One of those is probably your answer…but which one? Is it 10 Scorpio rising? Or is it 10 Leo on the Midheaven? It could be either, and those are two different charts. But, there’s good news: unless we’re dealing with an Ascendent-Midheaven square, it won’t be hard to sort it out. Here’s how: Look at the 10 Leo Midheaven chart. It will dictate a specific Ascendent, depending on the latitude of the birthplace. Maybe it’s 19 Scorpio. Now, the critical question—does that Ascendent also correspond to a “hot spot” for the client? If it does, get out the champagne. You’ve found the Midheaven—and an Ascendent that agreed with it! That’s the Holy Grail.
If it doesn’t agree, then experiment with that 10 Scorpio Ascendent. It too will dictate only one possible Midheaven—is that a hot spot? Yes? Champagne! No? Well, don’t despair. Read on.
By the way, we made this example a little easier than some real-world situations in that we assumed we knew something about the time of birth—that it occurred during the wee hours. If we hadn’t had that helpful clarification, we would have had to try out 10 degrees of every Fixed Sign on both Ascendent and Midheaven…which is exactly what you do if you are rectifying within a 24 hour range. That represents a lot more possibilities, which makes it a lot more challenging in practice. The techniques remain the same, though. Gradually, the erroneous charts are eliminated and the truth emerges.
You sometimes get into confusions generated by polarities—is that 10 Taurus or 10 Scorpio on the Ascendent? Unless you are dealing with an Ascendent-Midheaven square, then the Midheaven-Nadir hit-clusters will usually clear that up—they’ll support one Ascendent and preclude the other.
COMMON SENSE AND ASTROLOGICAL EXPERIENCE
Avoid ’em both as long as possible. “This person really looks like he’s got Leo rising —check out that hair!” In the end, impressions and intuitions like that may cast tie-breaking votes, but beware! “What a career-driven person! She’s got to have a big Tenth House!” There is a real place for these kinds of judgements in rectification, but that place is at the end of the long, hard process of actually looking at the data. Deeper astrological experience reminds us that Pluto in the First house can effectively masquerade as Scorpio rising. Venus conjunct the Ascendent can be mistaken for Libra rising. And mature common sense tells us that neurotic insecurity and a controlling, materialistic early family life can correlate with tremendous career drive, even with nothing in the Tenth House. But transits, arcs, and progressions to Angles never lie.
CLOSELY SPACED DATES
Or almost never lie. In one situation, transits, and especially arcs and progressions, can lie to you with great authority, and that is when you are working with events that are closely spaced in time. Here’s a cardinal rule of rectification: Never do that! If your client gives you ten dates that all fall within a five year period, you’ll get guaranteed false results. Why? Because in five years, none of the progressions or arcs will have moved very far. You’ll see “clustering” all right, but it won’t have anything to do with the Ascendent or Midheaven! Of course everything is clustered—nothing had enough time to move anywhere!!! You’ll imagine you’ve found this incredible hot spot when all you are seeing is a trick you’ve played on yourself with the numbers.
I generally ask my clients to give me around ten dates, none of them closer than two years to any other. I encourage them to include events from their childhoods, if possible—big family moves, parental divorce, births of siblings, and so on. That spreads it out. Ideally, I’d get something from every chapter of their lives.
One obvious corollary is that it’s easier and more accurate to do rectifications for people over, say, thirty years of age. Under age five or ten, the process would be quite dubious. In between, it’s worth a shot, but it would be foolish to take any result as final.
Sometimes a rectification just falls neatly into place. When that doesn’t happen, just setting it aside for a couple of days can work wonders. Failing that, then the next step is to go back to the client and get another set of dates. By random ill-fortune, the first list might have neatly demonstrated the positions of the client’s Sun, Moon, Venus, and so on, but simply not involved anything that revealed the Angles—big events can happen in a person’s life without major Angular influences. The odds are long against that, but it does happen. Nothing for it except a fresh start with a new set of events.
Many times, despite your admonitions, a client will have given you a longer list of events than you requested, or one that you had to weed out because of too many closely-spaced events. In that case, work with the unexplored events—but, if you are using those closely-spaced events, make it a fresh start! Don’t add the new ones to the previous events, or you’ll get those “instant amazing results”…which are totally wrong for reasons we discussed a couple paragraphs back.
A FEW PRACTICAL WRINKLES
Let’s say you are torn between a Taurus and a Scorpio Ascendent. Maybe the Meridian axis is square to the Horizon, and you’re just tearing out your hair trying to decide which Ascendent is right. At this point, common sense and astrological experience can legitimately enter the equations. Does the person have that penetrating intensity we associate with Scorpio? Does his or her professional life corroborate that (presumed) Leo Midheaven? What about the placement of planets in Houses? Which arrangement best fits existential, observed reality? As we said earlier, this kind of thinking does have a place in rectification—and we just defined it specifically.
That much is fairly obvious and intuitive, but we have another technical ace in the hole here. If Scorpio is rising, then Pluto and Mars are the co-Rulers of the Ascendent. We know that the planetary ruler of the Ascendent is always a very sensitive point. When we were compiling our hit lists for the big events in the person’s life, did we notice that Pluto and/or Mars really stood out? Did anything contacting either of them virtually always correlate with major fireworks? Do they seem more reactive than the rest of the planets? That would argue powerfully for Scorpio rising in this scenario. Or was it Venus that seemed to be at the center of every hurricane? Maybe we should consider that Taurean ascendent after all….
Here’s another trick. Most astrologers have observed family patterns in charts—you got your father’s nose and your mother’s Moon. We are not talking simply about Sign positions here—it’s generally down to areas two or three degrees wide. It might not always be the same planet in the particular degree area; very commonly, for example, a child’s Ascendent will be the Moon or Sun position of one of the parents, or vice versa. If your client has children whose birth times are known, set up those charts. Ditto if parental birth times are known. Are there degree areas that leap out as a family pattern? Are they close to any of our suspected Angles? Even if the birth times are unknown, we can almost always at least get their birthdays, which gives us the position of the Sun and planets to within about a degree of accuracy, and a good guess about the Moon.
Very similar patterns apply to the charts of people outside our families with whom we have serious or pivotal relationships. Getting the charts of “significant others” can often help us build confidence and precision in our rectified chart—”her lover’s Moon is smack on the Ascendent I’ve come up with!”
I emphasize that none of these tricks is a substitute for the more technical procedures we’ve outlined. But after you’ve done the technical work, you might still be torn between a couple of possibilities…or just need some extra confidence in a chart you’re thinking is probably right. That’s where these pieces fit into the puzzle.
Transits, solar arcs, and secondary progressions provide a lot of data. Probably they are enough. But you can also work with converse solar arcs and converse progressions, which are surprisingly active and effective. One can extend out into the realm of Minor and Tertiary progressions as well. All these are powerful techniques, and arguably they are under-used in modern astrological practice. In my interpretive, counselling work with clients I prefer a simpler approach, but I’ve commonly used all of the above techniques in particularly teeth-gnashing rectificational procedures.
One insight that will be brought home to you in this work is that it is very hard to know from a biographical event which planet was the trigger. Over and over again, you’ll see deaths connected with Jupiter or Venus, promotions connected with Saturn, humiliations connected with the Sun, and successes linked to Neptune. This is a good reminder that we should never be too literal about the outward, concrete “predictive” meanings of the planets. What they really do is tell us what the event meant to the client. If you’re interested in going more deeply into that idea, I’d recommend you have a look at my book, The Changing Sky. (ACS Publications, San Diego.) The bottom line here is that any planet’s passages can coincide with almost anything in our outward lives, but when any of them hit Angles, things do happen. It’s the timing of the event more than the nature of the event that helps us in rectification.
THE ROLE OF COMPUTERS
A computer definitely makes rectification easier. Even the crudest of programs allow one easily to set up an array of possible charts and “hit lists” for the relevant biographical dates. Most of the major programs also support some kind of “rectification” sub-routine. Generally, they enable the adjustment of a chart through altering the birth time and either the Ascendent or the Midheaven. In practice, I usually wind up with a big pile of paper charts and lots of pages of scribbled notes. Still, the computer, while not strictly necessary, is as useful in this branch of astrology as it is in any other.
A.I.R. Software (115 Caya Ave, W.Hartford CT 06110, (860)232-6521), in its old DOS-based Star Trax program, offered a wonderfully simple rectification module which I love very much—in fact Jodie and I maintain an ancient lap-top simply because it holds that program. You enter the approximate chart and the critical dates the client provided, select transits, progressions, and arcs, punch a button, and the positions of the moving planets are instantly “binned” by fourth harmonic degree, just as I’ve been describing in this article. Various parameters can be adjusted, and the whole program is a very helpful adjunct to the processes we’re exploring. If you can find a copy of that older program, grab it. A.I.R.’s fearless leader, Alphee Lavoie, in the Windows versions of their Star Trax programs, has replaced that rectification module with a newer, more complex and powerful one. I’m not a computer guy, and I have to say it’s too complicated for me, even though Alphee has explained it to me. If you are computer-friendly, I’d heartily recommend trying it—I know the program works incredibly well, because Alphee sat in front of me and used it very convincingly to adjust my own earlier rectification of my own chart, and Jodie’s rectifcation of her chart, by a few minutes. Alphee is a pal and he’ll probably murder me for saying this in print, but I really wish he would include the older, simpler rectification sub-routine as an optional module for the cyber-challenged in any new updates of his excellent new Millenium Star Trax For Windows .
There may be other good rectification programs out there; please forgive me if I’ve not mentioned them. As I said, even though I use computers, I’d serve pretty well as a worst-case customer scenario for any software company. If you are computer-less or computer-phobic, you can do everything in this article, to a high degree of professional precision, with nothing but an ephemeris, a Table of Houses, some time, and plenty of coffee.
All these procedures are laborious, but they work. If you are still stuck after a long effort, you can repeat the above procedures as long as you and the client both have the patience and interest. If you pursue them diligently, you won’t hit the wall often. When you do, remember what the Father of Medicine said: “First do no harm.” At some point, frustration sets in, and that can lead to “settling” for a chart in which you don’t really have much faith. This is the moment for some reflection on the terrible responsibilities being an astrologer entails. If you don’t feel good about the chart you’ve created, it’s probably best simply to say that straightforwardly to yourself and to the client, and put the whole project aside at least for a few months. It’s smart, of course, to have alerted the client to that possible outcome right from the start.
THE TERROR OF HAVING TWO WATCHES
Someone very wise once observed, “A man with a watch knows what time it is, but a man with two watches is never sure.” As you get into rectification, inevitably you’ll be drawn to check out your own chart, even if your birth time is allegedly “accurate.” It’s usually disconcertingly eye-opening. Even a birth time given to an odd minute, which sounds so convincing, can be off by surprising margins. My own birth was listed on my hospital birth certificate as 3:30 AM. Using the procedures I’ve described in this article, I rectified it to 3:21, and Alphee Lavoie convinced me it was 3:19:25. Clocks are simply wrong sometimes. Pediatricians and nurses have more pressing tasks than recording birth times accurately. Outside astrology, nobody thinks accuracy here is very important. Astrologers themselves don’t even really agree on exactly what we mean by “the moment of birth.” Errors in this absolute bedrock of our craft are far more common than we like to believe. In the best of worlds we would rectify every chart. Given the paramount importance of an accurate chart to the accuracy of any subsequent interpretation, I suspect our astrological descendants will look at us the way we now look at medieval doctors doing surgery with dirty hands.
In closing, I’d like to make it clear that I basically no longer do rectifications. The process is enjoyable in the same way that doing a crossword puzzle is enjoyable, but it’s time-consuming. I’m overwhelmed with the rest of my work and, sadly, I’ve had to set a limit in this department. I hope that someone out there with a taste for this kind of procedure will soon place an advertisement for a rectification service in the Mountain Astrologer classifieds. It could be a good basis for a profitable professional astrological business, and it would certainly provide an excellent support to the community.
Meanwhile, let’s all dare to trust a peek at that confusing “second watch” we’re carrying: the actual evidence of planetary motions as they impact the birthchart. It’s a lot more reliable than the clock on the hospital wall, and not that hard to read with a little perspiration and patience.
copyright 2000 Steven Forrest.