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How Archetypal Astrology is different (and why it is my fav)

For most of my life I was a skeptic of astrology--I didn't resonate with being a Taurus, and the overgeneralized descriptions of zodiac signs went against my own experience of complexity of personality. I didn't understand astrology's appeal and was pretty condescending to those who liked it (um, though now I know that was another part of my chart).;)

It wasn't until I came across archetypal astrology in my coursework with philosopher Richard Tarnas more than 13 years ago that I became "a believer." Suddenly I felt all of my complexity have a space at the table through focusing on the planetary relationships and combinations. I wasn't just a Taurus. My Taurus Sun was also next to Chiron and across from Uranus shaking things up and trining Mars giving me more momentum than stuckness. My push pull between wanting stability and needing excitement felt seen and made more sense.

Obviously archetypal astrology isn't a perfect system. I'm not sure it fully acknowledges the faults of the patriarchal and colonial constructs of early philosophers and astrologers and even its own founders. Without some of the traditional, historic astrological focuses such as on the house systems, chart rulership, or timing techniques beyond transits it has felt missing some things to me. So I've spent more time understanding these aspects of Hellenistic astrology on my own.

Archetypal astrology has also been critiqued for its very academic and intellectual approach to something that perhaps doesn't need to be validated. Of course this can add an elitist lean or have it be inaccessible, though the traditional part of me really appreciated the research and desire to "prove" astrology through the intellect.

The lineage also tends to gender planets as archetypes, which I do my best to get away from. While the archetypes and mythological figures have a gender, I prefer to relate to the planets without that lens.

Despite these things, for me archetypal astrology has offered to me the most insight into how to evolve with the current collective psyche. (That and Rick and I have Sun-Uranus signatures and the same degree of an Aries moon, so his lens to me seems resonant with my own.;))

As a philosopher, I understand the tradition comes from very Western, white background with the Greeks. I might even name they were in many ways the founders of white supremacy and patriarchy. And as a white, Western person, I also want to stick to my lane and that's what I've got. The early Greek philosophers were also astronomers and astrologers, they were asking the larger questions of what it means to be human and questioning the human relationship to the sky.

These were my people, their worldview, particularly Plato evokes the romantic in me. Imagining the early days of gazing at the stars and night and studying which ones moved and which ones stayed in one place--a planet (asteres) planētai meaning wandering star.

For me, archetypal astrology helps me understand myself through planetary combinations that also relate to psychological complexes and ways of relating to the personality in parts rather than absolutes.

With so many astrological lineages it can be tricky to discern which one might suit your soul best. While I combine some aspects of other lineages such as with the Campanus House system and some predictive techniques, archetypal astrology remains my main lens for chart interpretation. And of course my own intuition and medial nature.

I also want to give credit to Post-Colonial Astrology from Alice Sparkle Kat, as a reminder of the implicit bias in astrology.

Other astrological lineages to explore:


What is an archetype?

This could be a question as old as time, the word "archetype" has evolved over time. Though I see the main influences as Plato and Jung.

Plato's ideal form, also known as his Theory of Forms, is a philosophical concept that refers to the notion that there exists a realm of abstract, perfect, and unchanging entities or "forms" that exist beyond the physical world. He believed that the physical world we experience with our senses is merely a flawed copy or imitation of these perfect forms, which he believed to be more real and more permanent than the physical world. The physical objects that we perceive in the world are merely imperfect reflections of these ideal forms, which he believed are eternal and unchanging.

For example, Plato believed that there exists an ideal form of a perfect circle, which is not found in the physical world. The circles that we observe in the physical world are only approximations of this perfect circle, and are therefore imperfect. Plato's knowledge of these ideal forms was that the the pursuit of knowledge should be directed towards understanding the eternal and unchanging forms rather than the ever-changing physical world. His cosmology was transcendent and focused on above, and in that way holds an enchanted worldview that captures my heart.

Overall, Plato's ideal form represents his belief in the existence of a higher, more perfect reality beyond the physical world we experience with our senses.

This ancient concept of forms evolved with Carl Jung who developed the concept of archetypes as a way to explain the universal patterns of behavior and symbols that are found across different cultures and societies. He believed that these archetypes were inherited from our ancestors and were a part of our collective unconscious. Jung identified several archetypes, including the persona (the social mask we present to the world), the shadow (the repressed or denied aspects of ourselves), the anima/animus (the masculine/feminine aspects of the psyche), the self (the integration of all aspects of the psyche), and many others.

Jung believed that exploring these archetypes could help individuals understand their inner world and lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth. His ideas about archetypes have had a significant influence on fields such as psychology, anthropology, and literary studies.

Most simply, an archetype is a universally recognizable symbol, pattern, or character type that represents a particular idea, theme, or concept. These are often recurring patterns in literature, mythology, and other forms of art and culture that are deeply ingrained in the collective unconscious of humanity.

Archetypes can take many forms, such as the hero, the villain, the wise old man, the mother figure, and the trickster. They often have certain qualities or characteristics that are associated with them, and they can be used to convey complex ideas and themes in a simple and powerful way.

Archetypes are often used in storytelling and other forms of art to create a connection with the audience or reader. By tapping into the collective unconscious, archetypes can evoke deep emotions and resonate with people on a subconscious level, making them a powerful tool for communication and expression.


What makes Archetypal Astrology different?

This focus on archetypes defined in archetypal astrology orients to the planets as cosmic expressions for these overarching symbols recognized by souls across cultures. Keeping an eye on the archetypes means the relationships between the archetypes helps us understand the layers of influence in a chart. Therefore, knowing the aspects of a chart in many ways means more than knowing the zodiac sign and for me helps overidentifying with the sign itself.

Here are some other major differences in the archetypal lineage:

  • Less focus on houses: There exist around 20 different house systems for dividing up space and time in the chart. Figuring out which system to use can be a very personal process by lineage and preference. While I adapted Campanus over the more popular and traditional Whole Sign or Placidus, this can be an amazing way for people to explore what feels most true for them based on these placements. Archetypal astrology focuses less on house placement because it orients to the planetary relationships first and foremost.

  • More emphasis on aspects: To describe my chart I would say I'm a Taurus sun conjunct Chiron, opposite Uranus, and trine Mars. My moon is in Aries conjunct Venus opposite Pluto and Saturn trine Neptune and I'm a Cancer rising conjunct my North Node. It can be a mouth full for sure, but it helps me remember to keep the bigger picture of my natal chart rather than over identifying with one specific part or placement.

  • Large focus on collective planetary transits, particularly of transpersonal planets: When astrologers speak of Saturn moving into Pisces or a Mercury retrograde cycle, they are speaking to a collective experience not necessarily a personal one. And most likely it is their own chart speaking through them as well. I do my best to stay away from talking about transits for individuals unless we are looking at their chart, because each planetary shift will impact people differently.

  • More interested in synchronicity rather than predictions: While I sometimes use Hellenistic predictive techniques with clients, I focus on themes or what Jung would call "acausal connecting" or "meaningful coincidence." This way of thinking of astrology doesn't blame planets for causing things to happen and instead looks for patterns and magic in how things line up.

  • Detrimental placements don't exist: The first time someone told me my moon in Aries was a detrimental placement, I cried/then got angry.;) In traditional astrology, certain planets in certain signs can be considered bad or good. This and/or thinking makes it difficult for me to find the space for holding the paradox of the entire chart and every placement having both more negative and positive expressions.

  • Honoring modern sign rulership: In Hellenistic astrology the sign of Scorpio is ruled by Mars, and in archetypal astrology it is Pluto. This difference can be attributed to for me astrology needing to evolve as planets were discovered. At the time of a lot of astrology information there was only discovery of planetary bodies to Saturn.

  • No chart ruler: In traditional astrology, the rising sign's ruler is your chart ruler and gives larger clues for interpreting a person's personality, life path, and characteristics.


For me the beauty of studying astrology comes from holding all the lineages with their own truth and offering to the practice. Over time, we all find our own ways of relating to what we value and the things we resonate with.

I don't expect that archetypal astrology is for everyone, but my hope is that the complexity it offers can resonate with anyone. And who knows...maybe I will find something else I like more as my astrological practice evolves.:)


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