Michelle and I lost our beloved Norwegian Forest cat, Wally, in January. By summer, we were emotionally ready to invite a kitten into our lives. With Covid-19 raging, the search was mostly on the Internet, which is a shaky place when it comes to falling in love with anyone, including a cat. One little guy did catch our hearts and our eyes though – a kitten named Benny. He was living in a shelter in a city called Hemet a couple hours’ drive away. We headed up there on Michelle’s birthday, August 12, to have a look at him. We were immediately smitten, and Benny came home with us that same day..
Naturally, as astrologers, we were curious about his chart, but his birth data was not available – he and his four brothers had been dumped unceremoniously at a kill shelter at the tender age of two weeks. They had been picked up by the saints who run a no-kill shelter where it was “estimated” that they had been born “around May 8.”
Astrologers are often confronted with situations such as this one, where there is no time of birth available. After all possibilities for finding a recorded time have been exhausted, the final option is to undertake a rectification. Basically, one works backwards through astrology’s predictive techniques to come up with a chart that would have predicted events that have already happened in the person’s life. Rectification is a tricky process, fraught with risks of error. Here’s a link to a more technical article about the process. It’s free.
Would the rectification process work with our Benny? There were many problems, starting with the fact that he was only three months old. That meant that there were not yet many events in his life. Rectification works best with people in midlife. They have longer stories to tell, which means more clues. I also like to have the dates of events widely spaced over time in order to spread out the transits, progressions, and solar arcs a bit. Too many events clustered in the same year tend to generate “false positives.” Benny was so young that most of the planets were still “conjunct themselves.”
Just to be crystal clear, let me be the first to admit that in this newsletter I’m going to indulge in some monumentally bad habits when it comes to rectification. I’ll at least label them for you. This is a “do as I say, not as I do” situation, for sure. We will come up with a possible chart for Benny – and we will label it “tentative.”
As I mentioned, the people at the animal shelter told us that Benny had been born “around May 8.” That was all we knew. For rectification purposes, this was an absolute worst-case scenario -- not only did we not have a time of birth for our kitten, we didn’t even have a reliable date. Usually with rectifications, you have a birth date, along with at least a hint about the time – “mom says it was in the evening,” or something along those lines. That’s not good enough for setting up an actual chart, but it does narrow down the possibilities. We didn’t even have that much. So, undaunted (even though we should have been), we set up a noon chart for May 8, 2020 in Hemet, California. That was a beginning.
What about events in Benny’s life? We had only one, and that was our first meeting with him. It was a big day for him as well as for us – not only did he meet his future “parents,” but he was also neutered on that same day. In fact, when Michelle and I arrived for our appointment at the shelter, the staff apologized that Benny was at the veterinary hospital and would not arrive back until “around 3:00 pm.” We took the delay in stride, did some shopping, and arrived back there at 3:00. Benny was still not there. He actually showed up a bit later. Fortunately, we had sufficient presence of mind to look at our watches. We met him at 3:47 pm-pdt, and that gave us a timed event chart in his life. That, plus our initial impressions of him, were all we had to go on – not enough, but all we had.
By the way, those “initial impressions” can lie to you with terrible authority. Beginners may “just know” this person must have Leo rising – only to discover a true birth time later on which reveals the Sun or Jupiter conjunct the Ascendent. Impressions are helpful, but only if you are careful. Never trust them uncritically. Astrologically, there are many different ways to say the same thing. Jupiter can look like Leo. Saturn can resemble Capricorn. Miss that, and you will resemble a monkey.
Another rectification trick that doesn’t involve events is the fact that people (and pets!) who are drawn together usually have strong astrological connections. Would Benny’s chart link via synastry to mine or Michelle’s? We can safely assume that to be true, but of course that too entails a great many possibilities.
“May 8” being vague and approximate, we didn’t even have certainty around the sign of Benny’s Moon. It was in Sagittarius on that day, but it easily could have been in Scorpio or Capricorn if May 8 was off by a couple of days. Synchronicity to the rescue: as we stood there watching Benny in the cage with his brothers, he attempted a bold athletic leap and wound up somersaulting into the water bowl. With all due respect to you dignified Sagittarians out there, that did give a point to Sagittarius.
In practice, rectification is all about the four Angles – the endpoints of the horizon and the meridian. They are time-sensitive. We are looking for those Angles to reveal themselves through transits, progressions, and solar arcs. The chart of our first meeting with Benny had 20 degrees 51‘ of Sagittarius rising – that’s very close to my natal Venus and for me it was love at first sight. That was my own transit, but was it Benny’s transit too? Was the transiting Ascendant triggering his Moon? The noon chart for May 8th had the Moon earlier, in about 7 degrees of Sagittarius. We liked the Sagittarian Moon for him, but we wondered if maybe it fell later in the sign. Could his Moon be lined up with the Ascendant of our first meeting, and thus also with my own natal Venus? That would have him born the next day, May 9, which was of course completely possible.
That “first meeting” chart also had 7 degrees 12’ of Libra on the Midheaven. I immediately wondered if either of the axes in that chart – the horizon or the meridian – might parallel any of the Angles in Benny chart. That didn’t narrow things down very much, leaving us with points in Sagittarius, Gemini, Aries, and Libra as possibilities.
With so little to go on, we next resorted to the perilous practice of cataloging our impressions of Benny. We had already leaned toward a Sagittarian Moon based partly on his behavior and apparent attitude. As you just saw, there were also some astrological arguments to be made in support of that Moon sign. Nothing to lose, so we took it further by engaging our astrological intuitions. Benny is a really pretty kitten – and if you disagree, please don’t email me about it or I will have to kill you. More tellingly, he is friendly – even though, being a kitten, he is still half Velociraptor. He likes people and he quickly charms them. From the first day we had him, and every night since, he has slept between Michelle and me, purring away and eager to interact. He doesn’t like being left alone, although sometimes for me to get any work done, he needs to be shut out of my office and Michelle’s painting studio. He hates that, but seems to get over it quickly when we emerge. He doesn’t seem to hold a grudge.
All of that made me wonder if possibly that Libran Midheaven in the chart of our first meeting might also be Benny’s natal Ascendant. We set up that chart, putting that 7-degree Libran Ascendant on a May 9th chart.
Then I had one of those serendipity moments that always seem to happen in astrological practice. I noticed that at the instant of our first meeting, transiting Venus was just a kitten’s whisker under five degrees of Cancer. I realized that if Benny had been born just a few minutes earlier than the chart I had just set up, then Venus would have been transiting his natal Midheaven when he arrived in our arms. Perfect! Additionally, the Sagittarian Ascendant would be triggering his Moon. Even better, the transiting Moon in Gemini would have been smack on the cups of his 9th house (long journeys), and he was just about to embark on a two-hour car trip.
It all fit perfectly – and that is the most dangerous moment in any rectification. You start to get excited that you have found the answer. And maybe you have. But maybe you have made a fool of yourself by letting your excitement blind you to other possibilities.
In what I have written here, I have relied upon one single event. That is a huge no-no in rectification. My only defense is that I only had one event to work with. Another shaky element in what I have done here is to rely heavily on personal impressions. That is not a no-no, exactly – but it should never be the starting point. The starting point should always be the life event data itself.
So, formally, I would hesitate to declare that this is Benny’s true chart. I’d call it plausible speculation – and, as a bonus, a fun way to present something of the real world of astrological rectification in this newsletter.
Let me take all of this one step further. As an evolutionary astrologer, I am always interested in the karma underlying any situation. And cats have karma, as do all sentient beings. We see anyone’s karma most clearly in the south node of the Moon – not to mention in the shape of the person’s life, especially when “fate” seems to take a hand in things. That‘s how karma works. Benny was born very close to the time when the south node switched from Capricorn to Sagittarius. His south node (and I always use the Mean node, not the so-called True one) was in 1 degree 22’ of Capricorn. (Remember, the nodes are always retrograde.) In my speculative chart, that would place the south lunar node in his 3rd house in a reasonable conjunction with that Sagittarian Moon. Tellingly, his south node ruler – Saturn – was in Aquarius in the 4th house. As we mentioned earlier, poor Benny was dropped off at a kill shelter at the tender age of two weeks, along with his four brothers. That is a hard start in life. Where was his mother? He was obviously still dependent on her for his survival. He was nowhere near ready to be weaned. Had she died? Had some monster simply decided to “get rid of” the kittens, taking them from the mother? We don’t know the story. We do know that the kind people at the no-kill shelter where we found him had rescued him, and that some human angel had bottle-nursed him until he was ready for regular cat food.
Think about it though – with that Capricorn south node his karma was hard and it involved lack and privation. That’s Capricorn. His karma also involved chaos and unexpected events – those are 3rd house correlates. Another 3rd house correlation is siblings – and Benny had four brothers sharing his hard fate. In discerning karma, we always pay a lot of attention to the ruler of the south node, which is just as telling as the south node itself. In this case, it is Saturn, there in the fourth house. Saturn echoes Capricorn and means the karma is difficult. The 4th house correlates with family. Did Benny have hard family karma? Maybe the karma of death and loss in the family? Saturn is conjunct Jupiter, which might imply some element of help in the darkness – but then it is also conjunct Pluto, which deepens all of the nightmarish themes.
Does any of this sound like being separated from your mother at the age of two weeks and sent to a kill shelter to die?
As I mentioned earlier, I am partisan to relying on the Mean node rather than the True one. Usually they are very close together, and so generally the distinction does not matter very much. But Benny is a test case. His so-called True south node is actually in Sagittarius. Given the facts of his early life, do you like Saturn or Jupiter as the ruling planet? Which one tells the “true” story? That seems like an easy question to me – and this is a pattern I have seen repeatedly: when someone is born with the True south node in one sign and the Mean one in another, it is the Mean node that tells the story.
With that Cancer north node of his, Benny has come to a stage in his own evolutionary journey where he needs healing, a loving home, and something to eat. I’ve never seen such a hungry cat. Even the vet was astonished when he gained one full pound in only two weeks. His shelter name, Benny, seems to have stuck with us. But formally he is Benito Mangiamo, which is Italian for “Let’s eat.”
Once again, I have not only demonstrated some of the fundamentals of rectification here, I have also demonstrated some really bad habits. Beware of relying too much on personal impressions and jumping to astrological conclusions. Always use multiple dates of events, and let the hard facts of astrological reality reveal a pattern. The work is actually fun in a Virgo sort of way. It’s time-consuming though, and for that reason I basically no longer do it as part of my professional practice. I can recommend people if you need one.
On another note entirely, I want to report that we are making very rapid progress with the Forrest Center for Evolutionary Astrology. Thanks to Covid-19, I have shot over a hundred instructional videos. They, along with my books, will support a structured, guided learning process. Students in the FCEA can start at zero – or start wherever they are in their own astrological journeys. The aim is to learn evolutionary astrology at a professional level, although everyone is welcome, even if you have no desire to become a “pro.” Our main FCEA website is not quite ready for prime time, but click on www.forrestastrology.center for more information. There’s an in-depth interview up there now about the School with comments from Catie Cadge, Jeff Parrett, and myself. There’s also a video I’m really happy with – it’s just me talking about the joys, rewards, and practicalities of being a professional astrologer. It’s just seventeen minutes long, and comes right from my soul.