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Astrology as Language

I first ran into the idea of astrology as a language in the work of Alice Sparkly Kat. Ace presents this in Astrology + Storytelling which was/is a profoundly foundational book in my practice and learning experience. I haven’t been able to shed that framework, even after diving headfirst into the vast textual history of astrology. Notably, these astrologer-authors so often begin their works by defining their terms and providing access to the “alphabet” that formed the basis of the work. In order to understand anything that will be written in the subsequent pages, the reader must first be introduced to the language that will be used.

Here’s a relatively mundane example of astrology as language. One of my roommates is an astrologer and we often get carried away in intense conversations about the current astrological motion, the chart of some individual (or our own), or some other astrological topic of interest. My other roommate is not terribly well-versed in astrology and at times will interrupt to have a term defined in order to better follow our conversation. This occurrence is always a helpful reminder of the nuanced language that astrology is. Those who “speak the language” are able to reference complicated ideas via simple terminology. Those who don’t may feel similar to hearing someone speak in a language not their own.

Of course, this isn’t unique to astrology. Many technical fields and sciences also act as “languages” to some extent. At the very least, they possess large portions of a necessary vocabulary that only hold meaning within that field. Sports with their various rules, terms, and abbreviations immediately come to mind. Complex sciences like quantum physics are also good examples of this phenomenon. It is seemingly a human tendency to develop shorthand vocabulary to discuss complicated issues. For astrology, this becomes even more intense when you look at its history and its various transmissions through cultures, languages, and centuries.

The diversity of astrological vocabularies can be recognized by listening to the particular phrases and terms that different astrologers utilize often. Even in just a few hundred years, certain terms fall fully out of use and brand new ones pop up. Certainly, this is evidence for the ongoing reform project that astrology has undergone, but it also reveals to us its linguistic nature. Just like a language, words fall into and out of use over time. Phrases change meaning, gain context, or are forgotten by disuse.

If astrology is a language, that means it is our job to speak it, write it, and keep it alive. I find this both exhilarating and terrifying. Words have incredible meaning and value. Using them properly is a way to have clarity about what you are truly saying. But at the same time, choosing your language intentionally is a powerful tool for education and liberation. Presenting astrology as a language is a way for me to both raise up its historical tradition on a pedestal and to call every technique and tendency into question. Astrology only works so much as it is understood. Thus, our job as people engaging with astrology is to be intentional about the way we use this language. It means questioning our words and their etymology (in an astrological sense, their origin and history). It means being willing to change how we discuss and refer to things to make them more effective. It means being willing to walk away from certain perspectives because they have little basis in truth. It also means trying to understand why something resonates even if it has no standing within tradition. It means being open to everything but skeptical at the same time. It means actually thinking about how you engage with astrology instead of just accepting truths and repeating memorized definitions.

Astrology is a language and no language is ever stagnant. Through the writing here I hope to engage with this language, question its use, and discover the most effective ways to discuss the influence of stars both fixed and wandering in our lives.

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