Understanding the role of Fixed Stars in astrology

The great paradox of astrology is that as much as it talks about the stars, it doesn’t really deal with actual stars. Astrology mostly deals with the planets and other bodies that travel around the Sun. Can the real stars, also known as the fixed stars bring an additional dimension to astrological interpretations?

Astrological reports and horoscopes tend to romanticise the notion of “stars” that are often seen as the forces influencing personal luck, fate and destiny. Yet paradoxically not much is actually said about the stars themselves. Most of astrology is actually dealing with the planets. Let’s discuss what do the real stars, traditionally called the “fixed stars”, bring to astrological charts.

In the recent story “Influence of the Fixed Stars, an astrological interpretation of Notre-Dame de Paris fire, 15 April 2019” we have already covered a certain amount of knowledge about the fixed stars, the reader is welcome to have a quick look at that story.

Everything begins with a star

Both astronomically and astrologically speaking, every star is the source of all matter in its own system. Planets, comets and meteors are the by-products of the birth of a star. Just like every child is “made” out of his or her mother, so the composition of every planet is specific to the star from which it originated.

Here we are not only talking about planets like Mars, Venus, Saturn, etc. We are actually talking about all possible planets, in all possible stellar systems. The planets that are outside of the Solar System are called “exoplanets” or “extrasolar planets”.

Proxima Centauri is a small star that is the closest to the Solar System
Proxima Centauri is a small star that is only 4.2 light-years away from the Sun. The star is currently moving towards the Solar System and in 26,700 years it will be at its closest distance to the Earth of only 3.11 light-years.

The Proxima Centauri system has at least one planet called Proxima Centauri b with the mass of about 1.3 times of the Earth’s mass. There is a probability that water in liquid state could exist on the surface of the planet. A year on Proxima Centauri b is only 11.2 Earth days. Image source: ESA/Hubble

Astrological energies of each planet are therefore can be seen as a part of the total energies of its host star. It is not meaningful to talk about an influence of any planet without referring to the totality of the star energies around which the planets travels.

The point is that the Solar System planets like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and many other smaller bodies cannot be truly understood without seeing them in the context of the Sun and its “energetic profile”.

The Sun — our own star

An interpretation of any astrological chart always begins with the analysis of its source of energy, the star around all bodies rotate. One may say that the chart interpretation is an analysis of how the solar energy gets distributed between the planets, taking into account factors that both help and obstruct the fullness of solar energy.

Proxima Centauri is a small star that is the closest to the Solar System
The Sun imaged in 3D by Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft. Modern name “Sun” was derived from the Old English word “sunne” that is thought of possibly describing the south direction. In the Greek tradition the Sun is personified by Helios (Ἥλιος or Ἠέλιος), a surprisingly minor god. The Roman tradition significantly elevated the role of the Sun and used the gods Apollo and Sol to connect with the solar principle.

Every astrological chart can be sourced back to the undivided unity of the Sun.

The reality is such that fullness of energy is scattered across many bodies that constitute the Solar System, resulting in ebbs and flows, surpluses and deficits. Every human life is pretty much an exercise in incompletess and misbalance, and a good astrologer can be of huge help advising the client about possible venues to achieve a better balance.

The Buddhist idea of the Middle Way (or Middle Path) can be seen as a method of balancing the inherently imperfect chart.

Avoiding both these extremes, the Perfect One has realised the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana.

The Buddha describing the Noble Eightfold Path, by Piyadassi Maha Thera, 1914 – 1998

The Dharma Wheel and the zodiac wheel
The Buddhist symbol of the Dharma Wheel or Dharmachakra (on the left side) symbolises the Noble Eigthfold Path principle consisting of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Image source for Dharma Wheel: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Shazz

There is a certain structural and symbolic similarities between the Dharma Wheel and the Western astrological chart. The Dharma Wheel depicts the state of wholeness as the result of carefully balanced components. An astrological chart is inherently a map of misbalance between the forces that need to be returned to the initial state of unity.

Perhaps that path is the one that leads to the undivided unity of the Sun energy in which all competing forces become equalised, harmonised and joined in the ever greater totality of creative force. That is the function of the Sun and of each and every other star for that matter.

Extrasolar energies of the fixed stars

Every star in the heavens has a unique set of qualities. There are no two similar stars just like there are not two humans with identical fingerprints. Each star expresses its quality via its light that is the carrier of astral energies that are projected across vast interstellar spaces.

It should be understood that we are not likely to fully comprehend the energies of distant stars simply because we and our consciousness are “made” out of a different star, the Sun. Humans have a different reference system, the one that is defined by the Sun and its energetic profile. In many ways it’s like trying to understand the hieroglyphics of a completely unfamiliar language.

Yet, observing the fixed stars is something that the ancients did a lot and they came up with a system that allows to approximately translate distant stellar energies into familiar principles of the Solar System.

Before continuing to the astral forces of the fixed stars, let’s have a brief detour into the topic of constellations.

The constellations and their influence

The ancient observers noticed that different areas of the sky exhibit markedly different influence. Certain fixed stars seemed to form a group with some uniform qualities. Thus the idea of constellations and their mythological associations.

Constellations have an astrological influence of their own. It has been noted that the most influential constellations will be those where:

  • the Sun
  • the Moon
  • the Ascendant

are positioned on the astrological chart.

Note that the constellations should not be confused with the Zodiac signs. Along the path of the Sun — the ecliptic — there are twelve Zodiac signs and twelve constellations sharing the same names: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.

The twelve ecliptic constellations and the twelve Zodiac signs are of different nature and require different astrological interpretation. Constellations are irregular groups of stars, the signs are regular clock-like divisions of the ecliptic measuring 30º each. Constellations can be easily observed while the Zodiac signs are purely mathematical in nature and only exist in our imagination.

To complicate things even further, there are two Zodiac types, one is equinox-aligned and another is star-aligned. If you wish to learn more, read our story “The Sidereal Zodiac in astrology, its strengths and weaknesses”

For the purposes of this story we will not venture into constellations any further and will return back to the astrology of the fixed stars.

Astrology of the fixed stars

The key observation is that each of the fixed stars has its own “idea of completeness” meaning that the energetic balance of any given star will be different from the one of the Sun, our own star.

And since the fixed stars, when observed from the Earth, are point-like objects on the celestial sphere, their influences are of very precise and focused nature, not unlike a laser beam of light.

If we were to compare the influence of the planets of the Solar System to the influence of the fixed stars, a good analogy would be to see the planetary energies akin to a cocktail of fluid ingredients that develop slowly and gradually with time.

Actions of the fixed stars are more akin to a sharp and precisely timed caffeine shot. A star acts like so:

  • suddenly raises the person to extreme heights
  • then suddenly drops him or her to the opposite extreme.

Graph illustrating a point-like influence of the fixed stars in astrology

There is a difference from a caffeine analogy, though. The initial extreme of a fixed star influence can be of any kind, it can be either luck or a complete disaster. The opposite extreme would depend on the star’s nature and planets on which it will operate.

Classification of the fixed stars

As we have explained above, the stars uphold “other worlds” of their own making and that fact introduces a major difficulty as to how one can characterise their influences.

While we may never be able to fully decipher the astrology of the remote stars, we can certainly build some parallels between the nature of the star and the world we live in, meaning the familiar planets of our Solar System.

Most of our current astrological knowledge about the fixed stars rests on the works of Ptolemy, an ancient astrologer who lived in Alexandria during years AD 100 – 170, approximately of course.

In his foundational work on astrology called Tetrabiblos (Τετράβιβλος, meaning “four books”), Ptolemy describes each star nature in terms of planets of the Solar System.

Let’s take an example of the constellation of Orion and its two most remarkable stars — Betelgeuse and Rigel.

Constellation of Orion, astrophography by Rogelio Bernal Andreo
The constellation of Orion is one of the several major hallmarks of the night skies. Its easily recognisable shape provided rich foundations for myths and legends in all major cultures since time immemorial.

Betelgeuse is the red star at the top left of the photo. It is a red supergiant star that is at the last stage of its life. Betelgeuse may explode as a supernova within next million years. Given that the star is 640 light-years away from us, the light from any event takes just over half a millennium to reach us.

Rigel is diagonally opposite at the bottom right. It is a massive blue supergiant approx. 840 light-years away. Rigel nature is very complex and not well understood partially due to its variable luminosity.

Image source: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Interpretations of the stellar energies according to Ptolemy:

  • Betelgeuse has qualities of Mars and Mercury
  • Rigel has qualities of Jupiter and Saturn

Note that the order of planets does matter. The first planet signifies the dominant energy followed by modifying additional qualities of other planets. The example above can be further expanded into:

  • Betelgeuse has a dominant quality of Mars with some Mercury undertones
  • Rigel has a dominant quality of Jupiter with some Saturn undertones

Using the example of Betelgeuse, its dominant Mars — that can express itself as overly direct and headstrong — receives a modifying influence of Mercury which brings the sense of relativity, ability to embrace both sides of conflict and youthful curiosity.

Rigel with its dominant Jupiter may go “out of proportions” by overextending, overspending and generally being too much of everything, but that is nicely compensated by Saturn that brings cooling and structuring influence, making Rigel a true astral pillar connecting to the worlds of high ideas and profound cognition.

To make the matters even more complicated, later authors questioned some of Ptolemy’s classifications and suggested alternative matching planetary influences. The table below shows those alternative descriptions.

Star Description Ptolemy Alvidas Others
Betelgeuse Orange Mars and Mercury Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter in good aspect  
Rigel Bluish white Jupiter and Saturn Mercury, Mars and Jupiter Jupiter and Mars

Ultimately, it’s up to each astrologer to train their own perception and develop an intuitive understanding of each of major fixed stars. This is only possible if one is actually observing the night skies with one own eyes — something that the ancient were perfectly capable of. The modern astrological knowledge is often lacking a direct experience and thus prone to cliches and oversimplifications. Thus our advice to the aspiring astrologer — never hesitate to spend time observing the celestial bodies and stars.

How the fixed stars modify planetary energies

The fixed stars predominantly work through their aspects with the planets. A star can greatly magnify and modify a planet it’s conjunct with. And this is something that may throw an astrologer completely off balance: the client’s psychological profile doesn’t quite match their natal chart. It may be a good hint to look at the influence of the fixed stars!

The important principle is that the stars emphasise qualities of the planets rather than dictate energies of their own. Remember that each star speaks a very different language that may not make much sense in the context of the Solar System.

Let’s take an example of the star Spica that is only 2º south from the ecliptic plane and thus a very powerful source of distant astral energies.

Star Spica, Alpha Virginis
The star Spica is located a mere 2º south of the ecliptic, making it a really powerful source of astral energies.

Spica is one of the 15 Behenian “root” stars especially suitable for magical applications.

The influence of Spica can be summarised as “predominantly Venus accentuated by either Mars or Jupiter and Mercury”. The table below is a quick reference to alternative astrological sources:

Star Description Ptolemy Alvidas
Spica Brilliant flushed white Venus and Mars Venus, Jupiter and Mercury

To a planet that is conjunct to this star, Spica will add a strong Venusian influence with some addition of either fiery Marsian energies or expansive and oscillating Jupiter-Mercury flavour.

Notice that a planet with similar nature to the star primary influence will receive a very significant extra boost. Just imagine what Spica will do if it’s conjunct to your Venus. The Venusian qualities will achieve some truly thunderous proportions, both for good and for bad, as it always happens in astrology. Using the classical interpretation of Spica influence:

Spica gives success, renown, riches, a sweet disposition, love of art and science, unscrupulousness, unfruitfulness and injustice to innocence.

Notice how the description encompasses both extremes — highs and lows, a very typical profile for any fixed star influence.

The stars also point at your resonance with others, especially in cases when the Moon is conjunct to a fixed star. Using an example of a Moon – Spica conjunction:

Success, wealth and honour from Mercury, Venus or Jupiter people.

In other words, the fixed stars can define your “luck factor” when dealing with certain categories of people. Knowing this is a very powerful clarifying tool that help you to pinpoint the areas where you may be more successful and the areas where you better be extra vigilant, realistic and don’t expect much gain. Perhaps that explains where “the lucky star” idea originated from. Both luck and failure have more to do with the fixed stars that with any of the planets.

What to look for in a chart

When it comes to analysing the influence of the fixed stars on the planets, there are two primary factors to look for in a chart:

  • conjunction
  • parallel

Other significant factors, in the order of influence:

  • opposition
  • square

Aspects like trine and sextile are of very minor influence, and it’s up to an astrologer to investigate if there is some kind of resonance happening due to those aspects.

If we now depart from individual planets and take a look at the chart as a whole, we could intuit that the stars that rise above the horizon are an extremely powerful indicators of the overall stellar influence on the chart.

The language of interpretation

Over the course of centuries the astrological thought has evolved from an overly prescriptive and exceedingly fatalistic language to what we currently describe as “humanistic astrology” that focuses not on what may go wrong, but on the bigger picture of human development.

When modern mind reads works by Ptolemy and other pillars of classical astrological thought, we most likely smile at certain descriptions like blindness and problems with the Church and numerous other archaic problems. Take those indications into perspective, bring modern touch to their symbolism: blindness becomes lack of creative insight and outright ignorance, trouble with the Church may signify conflicts with the government and the corporations in general, especially the latter as they could be seen as the forces that are working hard at indoctrinating their agenda and replacing the fading establishment of the Church.

This brings us back to the core Buddhist idea of the Middle Way, the balance that every individual can achieve in the constant pursuit of self-improvement.

Where to learn more about the fixed stars

The fixed stars is an expansive astrological discipline in its own right and it takes time to grow your experience and understanding of how the stars project their influence onto natal charts.

Perhaps the most complete work on this topic is “The Fixed Stars And Constellations In Astrology” by Vivian Robson, the book was published in 1923 and is still surprisingly up to date when it comes to astronomy and astrology.

But by all means, spend as much time as possible observing real stars with your own eyes. They can tell you a lot!

Fixed stars in astrology

Introducing Time Nomad add-on: Fixed stars

The Fixed Stars add-on for Time Nomad astrology app allows for further exploration of fixed stars, including their aspects to planets, parallels and rise, transit and culmination for any chart.