The Second House in Astrology

In astrology, the second house signifies personal property, assets, and resources. It represents that which directly supports the subject of the chart.

Each of the twelve astrological houses represents something different. In a natal chart, they relate to areas of a person’s life. With electional astrology, they signify different topics and how they relate to the event being planned. In horary astrology, they’re used to determine which planets are relevant to the question being asked.

The second house represents material assets, movable property, and financial resources. In other words, regardless of how we’re applying astrology, the second house is all about money.

Let’s look at each of these applications, and see how the second house is used.

The second house in astrology represents money and material resources.

The second house in natal astrology

Natal or birth charts are all about the person for whom the chart was cast. This means that in a natal chart the second house represents an individual’s assets and resources. It shows us that person’s potential for wealth, as well as how they approach or manage their possessions and money.

The planets found in this house, as well as the sign which rules it, “color” all things related to money. If we have a fire sign ruling this house, it indicates rapid movement or some instability relating to finances. When a planet such as Mars is here, this instability will be exacerbated. If we find Jupiter in this house, it’s usually a good indication of abundant resources–especially if Jupiter is well-dignified.

Planets in the house can also give us a clue as to how the person will make their money. If the planet ruling the tenth is here, it means the individual will make their money from their career or reputation. If the ruler of the seventh house is in the second, this can show that one’s partner is a significant source of resources.

The planet which rules the second house shows us in what manner its significations tend to be expressed. And the house where this planet it found? That tells us to which area of life toward which the person usually puts their money.

Electional astrology

When electing the time for something, the second house has much the same meaning as it does for a birth chart. It represents the financial resources or assets of the subject of the event, or the person initiating the action. Going on a vacation? This house shows the financial conditions surrounding the trip. Starting a new business? Again, it’s all about money and assets–in this case, how well the venture will preform financially.

Many astrological elections have financial implications, so the second house is always worth looking at. This is true even when it isn’t entirely obvious the event has anything to do with money. For example, if you’re electing the time for a medical procedure, a poorly-configured second house could mean the bill is much, much different from what you thought it would be.

Horary astrology

In horary astrology, we’re casting a chart for the moment of a question. In most cases, this means that the second house relates to the money or assets of the person doing the asking. It can also tell us about profits and losses from sales or investments, as well as loans or debts. As the second house “supports” the first house (the person themselves), in legal matters it often represents one’s lawyer.

As with elections, questions in horary astrology often implicitly involve money in some way. If someone asks a relationship question, for example, finding a connection between this house and the seventh (the partner) or eighth (the partner’s resources) might signify that financial matters in the relationship are worth a closer look.

Final thoughts on the second house

When you begin studying astrology, you should always start by looking at your birth chart. If you haven’t, use a website such as Astro-Seek to create one. Look at your second house, and the planets you find there. What does the second house have to say about your financial situation or prospects?

Have a blessed day!

The First House in Astrology

In astrology, the first house is the most important house in a chart. It signifies the subject of the chart, whether this is a person, place, or thing.

The first house begins with the Ascendant.

Every one of the twelve houses in a chart carries its own significations. In a natal or birth chart, they represent areas of a person’s life. Looking at an electional chart, they represent topics and how they relate to the event under consideration. With horary astrology, they are used to determine which planets are relevant to the question at hand.

For each and every one of these applications of astrology, the first house is the most personal. This means that in a natal chart, it signifies the person’s body, appearance, basic personality, and motivations. When putting together an astrological election, it represents the event itself, or the subject initiating the event. In horary astrology, it signifies the person asking the question.

Let’s look at each of these applications, and consider how the first house relates to them.

The first house in natal astrology

In a house system such as Placidus or Regiomontanus, the first house has the Ascendant as its cusp. It’s where the chart begins.

In a birth chart, or “nativity,” the first house is sometimes called the “house of life.” Its cusp, its ruler, and the planets located within it, give us a general idea of the life circumstances surrounding the individual. This includes their motivations, mannerisms, and mentality, but also their physical appearance and overall health.

Let’s talk about physical appearance first. According to the tradition, this includes a person’s size and shape, their complexion, and the features of their head and face. For example, if Saturn or Mars is located in the first house, one would expect them to have a mole or some other mark on their face. Or, if not on their face, on that part of the body signified by the sign of this house.

The rules for calculating one’s physical appearance from the chart are well beyond the scope of this article, but they’re all rooted in the first house.

Motivations and mannerisms are also found here. The traits associated with the sign of this house, as well as the planets within it, all give us a clues to these characteristics. If we see a fire sign on the cusp, we would expect an individual who is more extroverted than introverted. If Saturn is positioned here, though, that extroversion would be more moderated.

The planet ruling the cusp of this house shows us the area of life toward which the native directs most of their attention, as well as the manner in which they engage with it.

Electional astrology

The first house is the most critical house when it comes to astrological elections. It, and its ruling planet, represent either the event itself or the person or subject which acts to bring the event to pass. If we’re electing a date and time to start a vacation, it would represent the people going on the trip. If we’re electing a new business, it would represent the business. Breaking ground on a new building? You guessed it, it signifies the building.

When looking for an auspicious time to begin something, it’s vital that the first house and its ruler be in a good condition and free of malefic influences. This is usually the first step an astrologer takes when electing a time.

Horary astrology

In horary astrology, where a chart is cast for the moment of a question, the first house represents the person asking the question. In many horary questions, the answer is found by looking for an aspect between the ruler of this house, and the ruler of whichever house represents the thing being asked about.

If someone asks about a job they applied for, we’ might’d look to see if there’s an aspect between the ruler of the first house and the ruler of the tenth, which governs one’s career. If someone asks if they’ll marry their current partner, we’d look for an aspect between the ruler of the first and the ruler of the seventh.

There are many other rules when it comes to answering horary questions, but the first house is almost always involved.

Final thoughts on the first house

When you begin to learn about astrology, it’s always a good idea to start by looking at your own birth chart. If you haven’t seen your chart before, you can use a website such as Astro-Seek to create one. Look at your first house, and the planets within it. What do they have to say about you?

Remember, every house in the chart has something to say. The first house, though, is particularly important, and it must be studied carefully.

The first is always first.

Have a blessed day!

How to understand sect and hayz in astrology

Sect and hayz in astrology are deeply intertwined concepts. In this post, I’ll explain what they are, how they’re connected, and how to apply them to a chart.

The best way to understand sect and hayz is to go over each of them in turn, because hayz is essentially an evolution of sect. So, let’s get started.

What is sect?

In astrology, charts and planets have a sect, which can be either nocturnal or diurnal. A chart’s sect is diurnal if the Sun is located above the horizon, meaning it’s a day chart. If the Sun is located below the horizon, it’s nocturnal and thus a night chart.

In order to understand sect and hayz, you first need to understand sect.

A planet’s sect, however, is an intrinsic part of that planet and doesn’t change–with one exception.

The Saturn, Jupiter, and the Sun are all diurnal planets. Mars, Venus, and the Moon are all nocturnal planets. The planet Mercury is a special case. Its sect depends on its position relative to the Sun. If Mercury rises before the Sun, it’s diurnal. If it rises after the Sun, it’s nocturnal.

The sect of Mercury illustrated.

A planet is considered to be “in sect” or “of the sect” when it is located in a chart which matches its own sect. So, a diurnal planet in a day chart would be considered in sect. A planet is “out of sect” or “contrary to sect” when it’s in a chart which doesn’t match. A diurnal planet in a night chart would be out of sect.

Is that all there is to sect?

There’s one more wrinkle about sect we need to address before we move on to hayz. Up until now, we’ve only considered charts as being either day charts or night charts. If the Sun is above the horizon, we’ve treated the whole chart as a diurnal or day chart. This isn’t the whole story.

In a day chart, only the top half of the chart (the half above the horizon) is diurnal. That should make sense because the Sun is in the top half of the chart in a day char. It’s what makes it a day chart to begin with. The bottom half of the chart (the half below the horizon) is nocturnal.

What does this mean? It means that a diurnal planet can be perfectly at ease, and in sect, in a “night chart” so long as it’s located below the horizon. If a nocturnal planet is above the horizon in that same chart, it’s also in sect.

Mercury and sect illustrated.

Now, some astrologers disagree on this point. In particular, people who study and practice ancient astrology think of this as only a mitigating factor. That is to say, being in the nocturnal half of a day chart doesn’t make a nocturnal planet fully in sect, it just eases it somewhat.

In later forms of traditional astrology, such as that practiced during the Renaissance, this “mitigating factor” became much more important. Indeed, by this time, many astrologers weren’t considering sect very much at all. Instead, they used the concept of hayz.

What is hayz?

In order for a planet to be considered in hayz, it must first be in sect according to rules of the later tradition. That’s why we needed to talk about sect, first. Sect and hayz are deeply related because hayz includes the concept of sect.

What else is needed for a planet to be in hayz? The gender of the planet must match the sign of the zodiac in which it’s placed in the chart.

Now, I know, the whole “masculine” versus “feminine” thing in astrology is frequently debated. I’m not going to wade into that debate and try to convince anyone of anything. The simple fact is, these are the words we have, and these are the words you’re going to find in traditional texts. That’s the only reason I’m using them here.

The signs of Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius are considered masculine. The signs of Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces are considered feminine.

The planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the Sun are considered masculine. The planet Venus and the Moon are considered feminine. Once again, the planet Mercury is a special case. For the purposes of hayz, Mercury is considered masculine if it’s diurnal, and feminine if it’s nocturnal.

If a planet is both in sect, and it’s located in a sign which matches its gender, the planet is in hayz. If a planet is missing either of these qualities (it’s out of sect or not in a sign of its gender), it’s considered contrary to hayz. That’s all there is to it.

How do you apply sect and hayz to a chart?

According to ancient astrology, when a planet is in sect, it’s more likely to manifest its more positive or constructive significations. If a planet is out of sect, it tends to manifest in a more negative way. It works rather like (and in cooperation with) the idea of essential dignity. A well-dignified planet will still tend to manifest in more positive ways even if it’s out of sect, it just won’t be as positive.

Once astrologers shifted to using the concept of hayz, it was interpreted largely the same way. A dignified planet will be even more likely to act in positive ways, while a debilitated planet will tend to act in less negative ways. Hayz won’t make a debilitated planet awesome, but it won’t be as bad.

Conversely, if a dignified planet is contrary to hayz, it won’t be quite so positive. It won’t act as though it’s actually debilitated, it just won’t be as constructive as it could be.

This is the approach I use in my own astrological practice and consultations. Partly, this is because I tend to stick to Renaissance astrology in general. Mostly, though, it’s because my experience seems to indicate that hayz yields more accurate results.

Not everyone agrees about sect and hayz!

As I mentioned above, different astrologers have different takes on sect and hayz. What I’ve written above is the way that I’ve come to think of these concepts. There are some very good astrologers out there with entirely different views and I respect them greatly.

In fact, the astrologer Chris Brennan has written an excellent book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune. In pages 190 through 197, he writes a detailed (and well-cited) description of sect, as it was actually used in the Hellenistic period. He then describes how it relates to hayz in the later tradition. If you happen to have that book on your shelf, it’s worth reading over his explanation and seeing how it compares with what I’ve written here. If you don’t have a copy of his book, you should get one. I can’t possibly recommend it more highly.

I’ll also add that if you happen to have a different approach or take on sect and hayz, please drop it in the comments down below! I’d love to hear from you.

Have a blessed day!

Learn traditional astrology with these five excellent books

So you want to learn traditional astrology? Here are the top five books I recommend to everyone to help them get started.

But first? Let’s ask the million dollar question…

Do you have to learn traditional astrology from books?

Learn traditional astrology with these five excellent books.

The short answer to this question is no. If you do a search, you’ll find several well-respected and knowledgeable astrologers who offer online classes in traditional astrology. Some of these teachers do require you to purchase a book or two as “classroom” texts, but they bring a lot of themselves to the table.

If you learn best in a classroom setting, an online course might be just the thing for you. Me? I like books, so that’s what you’re getting here.

All five of the books below are in-print and are readily available online. I’ve included an Amazon link to each book, but if you can find them at your local occult bookstore that’d be swell.

On the Heavenly Spheres

On the Heavenly Spheres

I’ve recommended this book before, and I’ll keep recommending it. On the Heavenly Spheres by Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro is absolutely the best introduction to traditional astrology I’ve ever read. Packed with information on history, theory, and technique, it’s not only a great place to start, it’s a reference you’ll come back to over and over again.

It’s definitely information-dense, so it might pose a challenge to people looking for a quick “overview,” but it really is a must-have. And I think it’ll especially shine if you keep it next to you while reading the other books on this list.

Buy it here.

Traditional Astrology Course

Traditional Astrology Course

This is the companion book to On the Heavenly Spheres, also written by Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro. Its full title is Traditional Astrology Course: Essential Concepts and Interpretation Basics, and it definitely lives up to its name.

While this book expands on the material in the first, it does so in a way which will help you learn traditional astrology through practical application. If you only purchase two of the books on this list, these should be them.

Buy it here.

The Martial Art of Horary Astrology

The Martial Art of Horary Astrology

Published in 2002, Dr. J. Lee Lehman’s The Martial Art of Horary Astrology still holds up as one of the best modern works on the subject. In my opinion, when you first learn traditional astrology, it’s best to start with horary astrology. This is the branch of astrology where you cast a chart in order to answer a specific question. It’s the most “divinatory” form of astrology, and one of the most popular forms used prior to the modern era.

This book presents the topic in plain English, and serves as an excellent bridge between the books I recommended above, and the two which I’m about to mention below.

Buy it here.

Christian Astrology (Books 1 & 2)

Christian Astrology (Books 1 & 2)

In 1647, William Lilly published his magnum opus Christian Astrology. Consisting of three volumes, this book was the first major work on astrology published in the English language. He covers theory and technique with equal style, grace, and depth. He’s also quite challenging to read, even in the updated editions of his text now available in two volumes.

This volume contains the first two “books” of Lilly’s original text. The first is an introduction to the theory and techniques of astrology, while the second is his treatise on horary astrology and “the resolution of all manner of questions and demands.” It’s a marvelous book, but I recommend that you have considerable familiarity with those I mentioned up above before trying to tackle this one.

Buy it here.

Christian Astrology (Book 3)

Christian Astrology (Book 3)

This is the third volume of William Lilly’s original work, and it focuses on natal astrology. In my opinion, it provides a wonderful description of how to adapt your knowledge of horary astrology to the interpretation of birth charts. If you’re learning traditional astrology, odds are pretty good you’d like to apply its principles beyond the asking of specific questions. This book will help you do just that.

There is a downside, though, and that is this book just isn’t as readable (or reliable) as his earlier work. If you’ve absorbed Books 1 & 2, as well as the others I recommended, then you won’t have too many issues. Otherwise…you’re in for a bit of a time.

Buy it here.

Where to go next?

Traditional astrology is a very deep and broad topic. Once you start learning it, and you come to appreciate it, there will probably be no end to the books you’ll acquire. My own shelves (and tables, and floors) are filled with texts on the subject.

Consider the books above to be a “good start” to your traditional astrology library. Where you go from here is really up to you.

If you have any books that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below. I still have a few corners of my house that aren’t completely filled yet.

Have a blessed day!

Three ways to find your chart ruler in astrology

Most astrologers consider the planet which rules your first house to be your chart ruler, but that’s not the whole story. There are several different ways to determine which planets have the most significant impact on your life. In this post, we’ll look at a few of these and see how they relate to you.

Does your chart ruler rule your Ascendant?

There's more than one way to find your chart ruler.

In both ancient and modern astrology, in order to determine your chart ruler, most people look to see which planet rules your Ascendant. This planet–and its house placement–will give us an idea of your overall life direction, and where you tend to focus your activities and attention.

Because the Ascendant moves so much more quickly than any other point or planet in the heavens, your first house is your most personal house. It only makes sense that the planet which rules the sign of your Ascendant would also be quite personal. By looking at this planet, and where it falls in your chart, we can get a mile-high view of life direction and focus. If we find the ruler of your first house sitting in the tenth house of career, for example, much of your time and energy will probably be spent pursuing your profession.

That said, I don’t always find this way of finding your chart ruler to be the most interesting or practical. Instead, in my own natal astrology consultations, I use two other approaches which allow us to find your most prominent planet and your most helpful planet.

What is your most prominent planet?

According to the Renaissance astrologer William Lily, one way to find your chart ruler (which he called the “Lord of the Geniture”) is to determine which planet has the most essential dignity in certain places in your birth chart.

Specifically, we look at the places of the Ascendant, the Midheaven, the Sun, the Moon, and the Part of Fortune. We add up the essential dignities (and debilities) of each of the planets in each of these places. Whichever planet has the most essential dignity in total, that’s your Lord of the Geniture or chart ruler. In my own practice, I call this your “Most Prominent” planet.

Why is this? Well, think of this planet as the CEO of a company who not only controls the “Big Picture,” but they insist on being involved in all of the day-to-day affairs of the firm. Sure, the other employees (planets and points) will show up to work each day, but ultimately they have to answer to the boss.

How much essential dignity a planet has in any given place tells us how much influence the planet has in that place. For example, Mars rules the sign of Aries. That means it has tremendous influence not only over that sign, but over any points or planets within that sign. And those five points and planets we looked at above? They’re the five most important places in your birth chart. That makes the planet with the most essential dignities in these places the Big Boss.

What does your most prominent planet do?

Pretty much nothing gets done without your most prominent planet getting involved. This means every situation or event you experience in life is going to be touched by it in some way. Exactly how comes down to which planet we’re talking about, as well as its own placement in your chart.

Some planets are more constructive, others are less so. As a general rule, if this planet is essentially and accidentally dignified, you’ll tend to find the events and circumstances of your life proceeding relatively constructively and with few frustrations and setbacks. If it’s essentially and/or accidentally debilitated, though, then things might be…less constructive or smooth.

The bottom line? Your most prominent planet just is. It’s always there, like it or not. It might not be what most astrologers call your “chart ruler,” but it’ll certainly seem to rule more than its fair share.

Which is your most helpful planet?

In order to find your most helpful planet, we first want to see which of your planets have the most essential dignity where they sit in the chart. The more essential dignity a planet has, the more likely it is to “put its best foot forward.” That is to say, planets which are essentially dignified usually manifest their most constructive or beneficial significations.

However, we also need to look at how free each of the planets are to act. This means looking at accidental dignities and debilities, too. While a planet’s essential dignity reflects the quality of that planet’s expression, a planet’s accidental dignity reflects the quantity. Accidental dignity shows us how much the planet can express itself.

The planet which has the best combination of essential and accidental dignities is your most helpful planet.

What does “best” mean in this context? That’s where you usually need to just use your best judgement. If a planet has lots of essential dignity, but it’s sitting in one of the “weaker” houses, it might want to help out, but it may not always get the chance. A planet which very little essential dignity, but is sitting right on your Midheaven? It has a lot of power to act, but it might not always do so as constructively as you’d like.

Usually, I find there’s a pretty clear winner in most charts, but sometimes, you just have to look at the “numbers,” then apply your “intuition.”

What does your most helpful planet do?

In every chart, a planet has both “natural” significations as well as “accidental” significations. For example, the planet Venus has “relationships” and “love” as some of its natural significations. If, in your chart, Venus happens to rule your second house, it would also have “money” and “personal resources” as some of its accidental significations.

If you think back to challenging times in your life, or times when you were faced with frustrating or undesirable situations, you’ll probably find that whatever help and support you received then came from those areas of your life connected to your most helpful planet. That is, the natural and accidental significations of your most helpful planet are usually there to assist you in times of strife.

Are they always able to save the day completely? Sadly, no. But, this planet’s influence is likely to be apparent whenever you manage to triumph over some adversity or other.

Also, if you happen to be into astrological magic, well…you could do a lot worse than knocking on your most helpful planet’s door when you need some assistance.

Which chart ruler resonates with you the most?

Now that you know how to look for your most prominent and most helpful planets, go find them! Pull up a copy of your chart, do a little math, and see if what I wrote above resonates with you. You might be surprised to see how much more impact these planets have on your life than your expected chart ruler.

If you don’t have a copy of your birth chart, you can use a site like to generate one. And if you’re unsure of how essential and accidental dignity works, I highly recommend you check out the book On The Heavenly Spheres by Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro.

Have a blessed day!

I now offer natal astrology readings

If you’re looking to understand your place in the cosmos, or want a clearer perspective regarding your overall life circumstances, I want you to know that I now provide natal astrology readings.

I try to respond to requests within seventy-two hours, and ask only for a small donation in return, provided that you are completely satisfied with your reading, and you are able to afford it.

If you’d like to read a long, drawn-out version of why I’ve decided to offer natal astrology readings, read on!

Late last year, I began offering tarot readings via email, and the response I’ve received has been incredible. It was my intention to help everyone who chose to reach out to me for a reading, regardless of their ability to pay for my services. To that end, I asked for no money in advance. Instead, after I had answered their question, I would provide a link through which they could send me a donation or gift–provided that they were both 100% satisfied with the reading, and they wouldn’t harm their wallets.

The result is more than I could have ever hoped for. Not only have I been able to help more people than I thought possible, but their generosity has been truly humbling. If you are one of those wonderful souls who have reached out to me for a reading, please accept my sincerest thanks.

It has always been my hope to expand the services I offer through this site, but I’ve been hesitant to do so for fear of not having enough time to answer requests promptly. “Baby steps,” I said to myself. I would only offer those types of consultations which I knew I could handle in a reasonable time-frame, and I would give myself a long time between announcements of new services, so as to avoid biting off more than I could chew.

Now, I’m in a position to offer natal astrology readings, under the same terms and conditions that apply to my tarot consultations. If you’d like a natal consultation, you can request a reading here. If you have any questions, or just want to say “hi,” please email me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Have a blessed day!

Which method of divination should you learn?

I’ve written before about how important I believe divination is to successful magic, but what I haven’t done is to write about which divination method one should use. This is because the answer to that question is: it’s up to you.

In my experience, which system of divination someone uses is a deeply personal choice. Yes, accuracy should be the most important factor in selecting a method of divination, but there’s also the question of feel. When you’re looking for guidance, answers, or knowledge of the future, whichever system or method you’re using should be something you resonate with.

It’s also important to understand that some methods of divination are better suited to certain kinds of questions.

That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this post: which sorts of questions you’re most likely to ask, and which systems of divination might be most suited to answering them.

Asking questions, getting answers

To be clear, regardless of which method of divination we’re looking at, the purpose of them all is more or less the same. You ask questions, you get answers. These questions might be specific, such as: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

Other times, we’re looking for a more “general read” on a situation, such as: “What does the next month hold in store for me?”

The most important thing to remember about any system of divination is that it’s only really useful if it gives you meaningful, actionable answers to the questions you ask. The more well-suited a method of divination is to the question, the better your chances of getting actionable information.

This is why I’ve studied and practiced many different methods of divination over the years. While I do have my favorites, I’m not opposed to reaching for whichever method is best suited for the kind of question I need answered.

With that said, let’s get into it. We’ll look at the kinds of questions we usually want to answer. As you’re experimenting with different systems, consider each of these broad “classes” of questions, and try to sort out which systems are best for answering each.

Yes or no?

One common sort of question we’d like to get an answer to are “yes-or-no” questions. Should I go to the party? Will I get a raise? Should I start looking for a new apartment? These are all questions where we’re looking for a direct “yes” or “no” response.

Unfortunately, many of the more popular methods of divination seem to be almost comically bad at answering direct, yes-or-no questions. For instance, I know relatively few Tarot readers who will even try to get their decks to cut to the chase and answer these questions directly.

In my experience, horary astrology is the best method for getting a yes or no answer to a question.

In horary astrology, you cast a chart for the moment you ask a question, then you follow a set of interpretive rules to determine the answer. You’ll almost always get a definite positive or negative response, along with a fair bit of other, relevant information.

For example, let’s say you were to ask: “Will I get a raise?” You’ll get a “yes” or a “no.” Let’s say it’s a “yes.” You’ll probably get a sense of how large or small the raise will be, as well as a pretty good idea of the time when you’ll get the raise. If it’s a “no” response, you can probably sort out why you won’t get it by looking at other factors in the chart.

The one real drawback to horary astrology (and astrology in general) is that it’s a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance. It can take months or even years to get even halfway good at reading a chart.

This might be why the most common divination tool I see used for getting a simple yes-or-no response is the pendulum.

Do a Google search for pendulum divination and you’ll find hundreds of articles and videos on its use, but the main idea is quite simple. Hold the pendulum by its cord and let it hang straight down in front of you. Make sure you start off with the pendulum still, then ask: “Show me yes.” Watch what the pendulum does. After a little while, steady the pendulum again and ask: “Show me no.”

Repeat this a few times until you’ve “calibrated” the pendulum, then ask the questions you want answered.

I don’t do a lot of work with pendulums myself, but according to those who do, it usually only takes a few sessions before you start getting consistently good results.

Either or? Should I?

Another very common kind of question is the “either-or” question. In fact, many “yes-or-no” questions can be re-phrased as an “either-or” one, particularly if you are asking a question that begins with the words: “Should I…”

For example, consider the question: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

That could probably be better expressed as: “Should I go to the party tonight, or should I stay home?”

In a case like this, I find the Tarot to be exceptional. My go-to way of answering such a question is to perform a “three-versus-three” reading.

I throw down six cards. The first three are to answer the question “What if I go to the party tonight?” The second three are for “What if I stay home tonight?” I look carefully at both situations, and choose whether or not to go based on which set of cards looks the best.

Most “either-or” questions tend to be rooted in this idea of “should I.” These are tricky sorts of questions to answer with most of the divination methods I’m familiar with. Horary astrology doesn’t do well with “shoulds,” unless you can honestly re-phrase the question to be a direct yes-or-no.

For example, let’s say you ask: “Should I invest in my friend’s business, or should I hold onto my money?”

Assuming your main interest in asking this question is growing your wealth, the question you’re really asking is: “Will I make a profit if I invest in my friend’s business?”

Horary astrology can answer that question quite easily.

Natal astrology can also help us a bit with “should” questions, although in a more roundabout way. By looking at your birth chart, and taking into account the current and upcoming transits to it, you can get a reasonable picture of which areas of your life are likely to be easier, and which are likely to be more challenging.

For out investment question above, let’s say that you look at your chart and upcoming transits and see what looks like a pretty hairy period of financial difficulties in your near future. You might want to set that “extra” money aside.


Questions involving the timing of events can be among the most frustrating.

“When will I get married?”

“When will I find a job?”

“How long will it take for my business to take off?”

I already mentioned that horary astrology can usually give you a good idea of when events are likely to occur, but using other divination methods to get answers to a “when” question can be tricky.

In my experience, there are two broad approaches to answering these questions, and both come with drawbacks.

The first method involves trying to get a specific time or date, or at least a very narrow range (down to a few days or hours, depending on the nature of the question). This really is a question horary astrology. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never gotten a reliable, specific time with anything else.

Another method you could try is to use Lenormand cards. This is an oracle deck, as opposed to the Tarot, and some people I know have had good success in getting precise timing out of it. Myself? I only use Lenormand on rare occasions, and when I’ve tried to get a time, it just doesn’t pan out. Things might be different if I really took the time to “master” the deck, but I just haven’t.

The second method of getting a time involves choosing a reasonable one as a starting point, and then asking whether the event will happen before the chosen time, or after it. You can then try for a yes-or-no answer, or try to ask a more general question with an eye toward that time.

For example, let’s say you’re unemployed and running out of money. You’ve put in for a number of jobs, have some good prospects. You want to know when to expect a job offer. Let’s pick a time—say, two weeks.

You could simply ask “Will I get a job within two weeks?” Assuming you have a good system for answering yes-or-no questions, you should get the information you’re looking for.

Taking the more general approach, you could ask “Show me what my work situation will be like in two weeks.” This tends to be the approach I take when using the Tarot.

One more thing I should point out is that, when using a system other than horary astrology for “when” questions, I usually get better results when I use “natural” events for timing. What I mean by this is, instead of asking if something will happen before “next Thursday,” I’ll ask if it will happen before “the next full Moon,” or “in the summer.”

Try it both ways and see what happens.


Sometimes you’ll want to know either where something will happen or where something is. These questions both involve the word “where,” but they’re very different, and they usually benefit from different approaches.

To be clear, “where should I move to,” is one kind of question. “Where are my car keys,” is another one entirely.

For the first kind of “where” question, you can usually sort out the answer doing variations on “either-or.” There are also some specific forms of divination which are tailored toward finding places, such as locational astrology.

When you’re trying to find a lost object (or a person, or a pet), again, horary astrology is a pretty decent choice. It can sometimes be a little tricky to find things using horary, because the methods involved usually give you a list of possibilities which don’t always narrow things down satisfactorily. For instance, if you’re looking for your missing cat, you might get an answer that it’s “a short distance to the north of your house, inside or under something.”

Well, that’s certainly a start, but it’s not exactly “sleeping under your neighbor’s car.”

Despite not using it very often, I’ve actually had a surprising amount of success with the Lenormand deck for “where” questions.

For example, maybe I’ve misplaced my keys. Well, there’s a “Key” card in the Lendormand deck. I’ll take out my Lenormand cards, shuffle them, and then look through the deck for the “Key.” If I find it between the “Book” and the “Letter” cards, I’ll go search my desk. If I find it between “Garden” and “Lillies,” I’ll go outside and check my flower beds.

It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the answers you get from Lenormand really can be that literal.

Getting a general “read” on a situation

We’ve covered several different types of “specific” questions, but in my mind, it’s the “general” sort of question or reading that’s the most useful. I find getting my head around a situation as a whole to be more helpful (and easier) than attempting a “surgical strike” for only the specific answer I might be interested in right then.

The answer to “will I get the promotion,” is less valuable to me than “show me my work situation for the spring.”

Astrology is an excellent tool for this, particularly natal astrology. I can pull up a birth chart, check the current and upcoming transits, and get a good sense of how things are going to go. This is especially true when I want to see which areas of a person’s life are likely to go well in the near future, which areas might be more challenging, and how these areas will affect and influence each other.

And, yes, the Tarot is my very next choice. I usually stick with a five-card spread when doing this sort of reading, but for particularly complex or confusing situations, I’ll use a full Celtic Cross.

Another method of divination which can be used similarly (and which I haven’t touched on yet) is geomancy. Put very simply, geomancy involves creating a series of figures using lines or points either drawn on paper or in sand, then arranging those figures into a kind of “astrologically-themed” chart. You then read this chart according to a set of fairly simple rules.

This is far from an adequate description of geomancy, and I encourage you to look into it yourself, especially if you don’t find yourself drawn to the Tarot. Geomancy was one of the most common forms of divination during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, prior to the rise of the Tarot and cartomancy in general.

Finding what works for you

In case it isn’t obvious, even in this long post I haven’t covered all of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter. For instance, I didn’t even touch upon “who” or “how” or “why.” Whenever you’re experimenting with a system, you’ll want to throw all of these kinds of questions (and more) against the wall and see what “sticks.”

As I wrote way back at the beginning of this overly-long post, don’t go looking for one system which will fit every situation. In my opinion, such a system just doesn’t exist.

Instead, you should study and experiment with several different methods of divination, and learn not only how each of them works, but also which kinds of questions or situations they’re best suited to. You should also consider whether or not you personally resonate with a system.

Some people just don’t like the Tarot. Other people find astrology too complex and confusing. These methods work very well for me, but they’re not for everyone.

Good luck on your search!

The astrological meanings of the planets

When people begin to learn about astrology, they often start by studying the signs of the zodiac. There’s nothing particularly wrong about this approach, but I think there’s a better way. Specifically, I think it’s better to begin by looking at the planets.

When an astrologer looks at a chart, they almost always begin by taking note of the rising sign, but from then on it’s pretty much the planets’ show. Which planets rule which houses, where those planets are in the chart, and which aspects they make to each other are all of crucial importance. In fact, these three basic relationships (what a planet rules, where it is, and which aspects it forms) constitute about ninety percent of the information an astrologer needs to make their interpretations.

Because the planets sometimes get short shrift, let’s take a look at them now. I’ll cover each of their basic significations, where they tend to be stronger or weaker in influence, and how we usually experience their effects in our daily lives.

This won’t be a comprehensive guide to absolutely everything you can know about the planets, but I will try to cover enough ground help you find your feet.

One caveat, though: I generally stick to the seven traditional planets. I don’t exactly ignore the “modern” ones, but I don’t assign them signs to rule, nor do I put especial emphasis on them in an individual’s chart. I’ll cover some of their significations and meanings in their proper place, but you might want to follow up this post with some additional reading if you’re really into learning about them in detail.

The Moon

In astrology, the Moon primarily signifies change, inconstancy, and variability. This is due partly to the speed at which it moves in the heavens, but it’s also because of the Moon’s changing phases. The phases of the Moon are often tied to ideas of birth, life, death, and rebirth. As such, in traditional astrology it is usually connected with ideas about the physical body.

You’ll also find the Moon linked to ideas about emotions, because we tend to experience our feelings as ebbing and flowing rather like the tides of the ocean. And because of its obvious connection with water, the Moon is said to govern those who fish, as well as those who sail.

There’s an unavoidable “gendered” component to the Moon found in most of the traditional literature, which connects to the Moon to midwives, nurses, and “all manner of Women.” Take this or leave this as you will.

People with a strong affinity for the Moon are often perceived as being “soft” or “tender.” They enjoy newness, sometimes to the point of seeming to flit from one thing or interest to another. They usually focus on either the here and now, or else seek comfort and peace in the present, perhaps at the expense of planning for the future.

In magic, the Moon often serves as one of the major “timing devices” for rituals or enchantments It’s phase, the sign it is in, and its overall condition are very important considerations for astrologers and magicians when it comes to choosing dates and times at which to work. For instance, it is commonly thought that the waxing Moon is good for bringing new things into existence, while the waning Moon is good for letting things go or sending them away.

The Moon rules the sign of Cancer, and is exalted in the sign of Taurus. It has its detriment in the sign of Capricorn, and its fall in the sign of Scorpio.


If you observe Mercury closely throughout the year, you’ll notice that this planet not only moves very quickly, but it also changes direction more often than any other planet. Because of this, the astrological meanings of Mercury are bound up in the ideas of speed, athleticism, and the mental equivalent of these: cleverness and wit.

Communication, education, language, and debate are all significations of Mercury. Teachers, scientists, and even astrologers are all counted among the professions which Mercury governs. You’ll also find trade, commerce, and money connected to the planet Mercury (hence the words mercantile and merchant). Of Mercury’s “less savory” significations, you’ll find tricksters, con artists, and thieves.

In our modern age, Mercury is often seen as intricately woven into our electronics, particularly those electronic devices we use for communication. This is why few astrologers are surprised when their computers go on the fritz as Mercury turns retrograde. In a similar vein, Mercury is connected to transportation, especially that sort used for short-distance or daily travel, such as the car you drive to work.

Mercury rules the signs of Gemini and Virgo, and it is also said to be exalted in the sign of Virgo. It has its detriment in the sign of Sagittarius, and its detriment and fall in Pisces.


“She is of a bright shining colour, and is well known amongst the vulgar by the name of the evening Star of Hesperus; and that is when she appears after the Sun is set: common people call her the morning Star, and the learned Lucifer, when she is seen long before the rising of the Sun.”

This quote from the astrologer William Lilly best describes the dual nature of Venus, as the planet is considered in traditional astrology. Venus is usually seen as the planet most closely associated with love, merriment, and all things beautiful. That said, Venus is also associated with the excesses of these. Love gives way to lust, merriment is replaced by disrepute and lewdness, and beauty becomes vanity and pride—this latter being the cause of Lucifer’s fall.

In terms of activities and professions, Venus is associated with artists, jewelers, actors, and makers of all fine and high-quality things with aesthetic value. It rules over love matters, but also friendly relationships in a more general sense. Marriage is another obvious connection, which is why most astrologers like to see Venus well-situated in a chart when they’re using electional astrology to plan the time of a wedding.

Venus rules the signs of Taurus and Libra, has its detriment in the signs of Aries and Scorpio, and has its fall in Virgo.

The Sun

Because “Sun Sign Astrology” became so popular during the last century, people tend to put a bit more emphasis on the Sun than they should. This isn’t to say that the Sun isn’t important—quite the opposite—but rather it shouldn’t be seen as so important that we ignore the other planets.

In traditional astrology, the Sun is in the middle of the planetary scheme, and it is identified with many Solar gods such as Apollo and Osiris. It is associated with kings, emperors, and other nobles. Officers of the court are also under the Sun’s rulership.

The Sun is associated with honor, distinction, and magnificence. It’s also associated with arrogance, pride, and domineering behavior. It’s where we “shine brightest,” but it can also cause a desire in us to outshine everyone else.

In practical terms, many of today’s astrologers think of the Sun as being connected to the “ego,” or otherwise indicative of someone’s basically personality or attitude. More broadly, where the Sun is located in your chart can indicate the approach to life which you tend to “lean into.”

The Sun rules the sign of Leo, is exalted in Aries, and has its detriment in the sign of Aquarius. Its fall is in Libra.


The planet Mars is most commonly associated with war, violence, separation, and conflict. In more “polite” terms, Mars is the planet of energy and action, especially action taken in haste. As a result, it’s usually viewed as one of the more challenging planets in a chart. This is fair, to an extent, but Mars has its constructive side, too.

Mars may rule over conflict and separation, but sometimes conflict is necessary. When there are things in your life which you know you should let go of, Mars is there to cut the ties that bind you to it. Speaking of cutting, Mars also rules over surgery, barbers, and even chefs. Wherever you see fire and knives, Mars is there.

Courage, passion, and the willingness to fight no matter the odds are all very Martial traits. Sometimes these are good things to embrace, and sometimes not.

Mars rules the signs of Aries and Scorpio, and it’s exalted in Capricorn. It has its detriment in the signs of Libra and Taurus, and its fall in Cancer.


In astrology, the planet Jupiter is often called the “Greater Benefic,” and most people tend to experience it in a very positive way. Jupiter represents those things and people which are faithful, ambitious (in an honorable way), and of benefit to all persons. Charity and goodwill, abundance as well as prudence are also common significations.

Jupiter is the planet of good fortune, justice, and it is sometime considered the planet most likely to bring one luck.

That said, Jupiter does have its downsides. As with all good things, too much of them can cause trouble. Charity can become overspending or overextending oneself. Ideas of “justice” can become tyrannical, or lead to someone adopting standards which are impossible to meet. Have you ever seen someone utterly condemn an otherwise “good person” because they held one, single, “wrong” opinion? That’s Jupiter as its worst.

Judges, lawyers, politicians, priests, and scholars of higher learning are all associated with Jupiter.

The planet Jupiter rules the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces, and is exalted in the sign of Cancer. Jupiter has its detriment in the signs of Gemini and Virgo, and its fall in Capricorn.


The planet Saturn is sometimes called the “Greater Malefic,” and while it can be constructive, it is usually experienced in challenging or inconvenient ways.

Of the seven traditional planets, Saturn moves the slowest, and so it’s associated with all things sluggish and difficult to move or move past. In a nutshell, Saturn is the planet which says “No.” It’s the planet of limitations and barriers.

It is associated with death, austerity, suspicion, and old age. Typical professions linked with Saturn include miners, grave diggers, and plumbers. If it’s dark and underground, chances are good that Saturn is involved.

On the positive side, Saturn’s limits aren’t always a bad thing. Structure and boundaries can be very important, both for individuals and for society as a whole. We might not be delighted when we run up against such obstacles, but life would be very hard to manage without at least some organization or structure.

Saturn rules the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, and it has its exaltation in the sign of Libra. It has its detriment in the signs of Leo and Cancer, and its fall in Aries.

Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto

As someone who leans pretty heavily on traditional astrology, I don’t spend a lot of time with the so-called “modern” planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. I definitely see a role for them in the context of mundane astrology (the branch of astrology concerned with predicting world events), but I rarely have a need to look them when looking at an individual person’s natal chart, or doing an election.

In particular, I don’t consider these planets to have any rulership over the signs, nor do I see them as being in exaltation, detriment, or fall anywhere in the zodiac. This is my own opinion, though, and it’s not one which is shared by every astrologer.

Still, it’s worth considering their accepted significations, if for no other reason than it will help you to better understand how some other astrologers (particularly modern astrologers) incorporate them into their practice.

Uranus is usually thought to signify large shifts in thinking. New scientific and social breakthroughs—usually experienced with a sudden or even “violent” energy—are the norm for this planet. The word “iconoclast,” meaning “one who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions” is a very fitting word for Uranus.

Neptune is the planet of illusions, glamours, and dreams. “Abstract thinking” is sometimes attributed to this planet, along with the products of that thought: unconventional art forms, trances, and certain kinds of meditation. Planets making tight aspects to Neptune sometimes see their energy not exactly dissipated, but rather directed toward ends or situations which aren’t quite “real” in the sense that we usually mean that word.

In most of the modern astrological literature about Pluto, the planet is seen as something of a “cosmic wrecking ball.” Like Uranus, it’s broadly disruptive, but whereas Uranus disrupts things by replacing them with something new, Pluto simply ends them. It is frequently said to rule over destruction in general, as well as death. Less hostile takes on Pluto tend to connect it with ideas about transformation, rebirth, or regeneration.

Going forward

As I wrote way back at the beginning, this post isn’t meant to cover absolutely everything there is to know about each of the planets. Instead, think of these descriptions as starting points, or as a simple “life line” to help you pull yourself along as you continue learning, or start to become overwhelmed by their myriad significations.

There’s a lot to learn about astrology, and keeping the planets first and foremost in your mind will help you greatly in your studies.

Astrology, communication, and ways of thinking

This past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about communication, how I relate to others, and especially how to avoid getting into unproductive or disastrous arguments.

So, like any good astrologer, I’ve been looking at what my chart has to say about all of this.

I’m a pretty typical Aries when it comes to patience and persistence. Considering that I have my Sun, Mercury, and Venus all up in that sign—with Leo as my rising sign—this makes sense. I dive into new things with reckless abandon, obsessively engage them with all of my energy, then collapse in exhaustion.

One way this manifests is in how I communicate with others, particularly when tensions rise and conversations turn into arguments. It’s taken me most of my life to learn that I don’t have to die on every hill, or turn every disagreement into an all-or-nothing situation.

When I’m in an argument or disagreement, I tend to focus my energy on “logic-ing” my way through it, and getting the other person to see things my way. Sometimes this works, but usually it just leaves everyone frustrated and angry.

You see, more often than not, arguments between people who are close are best settled when those involved can acknowledge and validate each other’s feelings. This doesn’t mean you should just abandon logic or reason entirely, but rather that instead of spending all of your time saying “I’m right,” you should also be able to tell them “I see you.”

That’s easier said than done, though, especially if you and the other person don’t think or communicate in the same way. Fortunately, astrology can give us some insight here. This won’t be a “deep dive” into everything a chart can tell you about ways of thinking and communication styles, but it should give you more than a few insights, especially if you haven’t looked into these traits before.

Mercury and the Moon

Broadly speaking, how a person tends to think and communicate is most easily seen by looking at where Mercury and the Moon are found in their chart. As usual, we look first to how essentially dignified or debilitated these planets are.

If Mercury is essentially dignified, it tends toward straight-forward thinking, rational observation, and clear communication. There’s cleverness, but it’s more the “honest” variety—the ability to think around corners, and to communicate in a way that is best received by the audience. If Mercury is peregrine or essentially debilitated, the person’s thinking can became less linear, less rigorous, and sometimes leans toward dishonesty.

To be clear, this is a bird’s eye view of one planet observed in isolation. Don’t put too much stock in this general interpretation. Just keep it in mind.

The Moon, on the other hand, is not about rationality or reasoning at an intellectual level. Instead, it’s about instincts and emotional reasoning. It’s how we respond to situations “without thinking.”

When the Moon is essentially dignified, this usually indicates a person who tends to have a positive experience of their emotions. There’s usually an ease or flexibility to their emotional responses, often with an underpinning of kindness. With a peregrine or essentially debilitated Moon, the person may feel more “afflicted” by their emotions rather than “affected” by them.

Now, which of these two planets is most influential in a person’s thinking and communication is best answered by seeing which of them is the most accidentally dignified.

For instance, if Mercury is in an angular house, with the Moon tucked away in a cadent one, the person will usually operate more at the “intellectual” level. On the other hand, if the Moon is in an angle with Mercury in a cadent house, the person likely favors “emotional” reasoning and communicating “from the heart.”

Another piece of the puzzle is whether or not Mercury and the Moon are aspecting each other, and which sort of aspect it is. Easy and flowing aspects such as the trine and sextile mean that the person’s emotional and intellectual minds tend to work well together.

Difficult aspects such as the square or opposition (or no aspect at all), usually implies a struggle between these two modes of thinking and communicating. In such cases, the stronger planet will tend to win out, whether that strength comes from accidental dignities, or if one planet is placed in the essential dignities of the other.

Again, these are just the most basic of considerations, but this is a decent enough starting point to begin understanding how two people will think and communicate when misunderstandings arise.

A Personal Anecdote

Last week, I had an extremely unpleasant interaction with someone close to me. At the risk of being one of those astrologers (one who talks about their own chart all the time), let’s take a peak at a few of my placements and how they compare with the other person’s.

My Moon sits alone in Virgo, and I’ve already noted my Mercury is in Aries with my Sun and Venus. In their respective degrees, both Mercury and the Moon are peregrine, but neither has any other essential debilities. As for accidental dignities, my Mercury sits in an angle, while my Moon is chilling in a cadent house.

And, of course, with the Moon being ruled by Mercury here, it’s not hard to see that I tend to logic my way through things, but it’s not always easy. Also? There is no aspect between my Mercury and Moon, meaning the connection between my intellectual side and emotional side isn’t the greatest. Most obviously, this means I’m frequently caught unaware when my emotions get all up in my business.

As for the person I was trying (and failing) to communicate with, they also have their Moon in Virgo, but it’s not alone. Venus is in that sign, and this person’s Mercury is in Libra with a stellium of other planets.

In the degrees where the Moon and Mercury sit in this person’s chart, both planets are essentially dignified. However, the Moon is in a succeedent house while Mercury is in a cadent one. This means emotional reasoning tends to win out more often than not. Oh, and once again, we have no aspect between Mercury and the Moon.

One last thing to note here is that with so much Venus and Libra going on in this person’s chart, compared with my Mars and Aries, we definitely don’t come at situations in the same way in general. Getting on the same page as this other person can be a challenge. When we do have a meeting of the minds, it’s awesome.

It’s just not always easy to do that.

There are other chart dynamics at work, but the crux of the matter is whenever we disagree, I spend far too much time trying to convince this person that I’m right. What I should be doing is listening to them, understanding and validating how they feel, and trying to relate to them on a more emotional level.

This doesn’t mean setting my own needs or expectations aside, but I need to be willing and able to “yield the floor,” and allow this person to express how they feel. And then I really need to work at understanding and validating those feelings, as well as trying to see how my own emotional state might be affecting me.

Once we’ve connected on an emotional level, that’s where we can start to find common ground and bring Mercury into the picture. But until that connection is made, there’s a very real risk of things just spiraling out of control as an immovable object meets an unstoppable force.

Putting Everything Together

So what should you take from this rambling little tract? Well, if you haven’t done so already, take a look at your chart and see where Mercury and the Moon are sitting for you. Are they in aspect to each other? Is one stronger than the other?

Look also to the elements and primary qualities which your Moon and Mercury signs are affiliated with, as well as their rulers, and which other planets the Moon and Mercury are making close aspects to. You’ll likely find a lot of nuance there, and more keys to turn as you try to unlock your thinking and communication style.

Once you’ve looked at your chart, compare it with how you approach challenging or tense conversations with others. You’ll usually find it’s a pretty close match.

After you’ve gotten a good handle on your own chart and experiences, look at whatever charts you may have for the people closest to you in life. Consider how you both respond when you fall into a disagreement, and see whether or not a match can’t be found there as well.

One thing I should probably point out before closing out this post is that there is no one right way to think or communicate. Don’t make the mistake of comparing charts with the idea that one set of placements is “better” than another. The key takeaway from all of this shouldn’t be to create differences where there aren’t any, but rather to understand where differences already exist, and how to best address them.

Always try to be aware of your own blind spots, to the best of your ability anyway. For me, this means I need to recognize when the other person is looking for emotional understanding and connection, and to slap down my jerking Mercury when I see it.

And maybe one of these days, I’ll figure out how to do that.

Let’s make friends (or, basil and beyond)

I’ve been thinking about the word “community” a lot lately. What community means to me, how communities are formed and grow, and how each of us relate to the communities we find ourselves in.

It’s a big word, which describes our personal corner of the big world. Siblings, cousins, neighbors—if you’re astrologically-minded, you might notice that these keywords are connected to the third house. Indeed, the third house is probably best described as the House of Community.

Messages, short journeys, early education—these are also intrinsic parts of community.

We connect with our community through communication (and note the similarity of those words). Our daily rounds take us through our community, whether for work or play. And what is our earliest form of education? Learning to socialize. Pediatricians in the United States appear universally convinced that teaching children good social skills is critical, especially during the brain’s early development.

So let’s lean into this concept of “community” and see if we can’t do a little magic. Maybe we can try some herbal magic this time.

Magic and herbalism have gone hand in hand for thousands of years. The idea of using of “plant allies” to get things done is found in traditions all over the globe, and the Western magical tradition is no exception. Modern, Medieval, and Renaissance grimoires are full of lists of herbs for all that ails you, and although some of them can be expensive or hard to find, a very good one for this “community” theme is probably sitting in your kitchen cupboard.

Basil: it’s not just for pesto

Basil has been used in religious and magical rituals for thousands of years, and can be found just about everywhere these days. Its culinary uses are legion, but it’s also a very good herb for relationships: forming them, fixing them, and dealing with them when they aren’t meant to be.

Look through any book on magical herbalism, or do a Google search, and you’ll see this property of basil mentioned over and over again. Whether it’s the plant’s attractive, sweet smell; its welcoming, vibrant green color; or its unusual resistance to “pests,” it seems obvious that this particular plant will be particularly good for “community” work.

Grow some

Never underestimate the power of keeping plant allies in and around your home. If you have the window space or a suitable yard, consider growing some basil. Living basil kept in or around your home encourages meaningful, positive relationships which generate little friction. It can also help “keep the pests away,” if you need that sort of thing.

Whenever you grow a plant, from seed or seedling, you’re building a relationship with it. You offer it nutrient-rich soil, water, and daily companionship. In exchange, it offers you its culinary, medicinal, and magical gifts—not to mention its friendship.

Growing your own plant allies is hands-down the easiest way to get to know them.

Buy some

If your gardening chops aren’t up to snuff, or you simply don’t have the space to grow a plant, hit up the spice rack of your neighborhood grocery store. The dried basil they sell in jars is fine.

You might do well to keep the jar on your altar for a while, make some offerings to it, and show some respect to the spirit of the plant before trying to get up to any magic with it.

I mean, let’s face it, it’s sort of rude to ask a total stranger for a favor.

The home

Community starts with your home and those living within it. Whether these people are friends, relatives, or roommates, cultivating good relationships with those you live with seems like a good first step. And the simplest way to use basil in this regard is to cook a meal with it.

Food is powerful magic, and the sharing of food is one of the hallmarks of community. Throw together some pasta and sauce, using and thanking some of the basil you’ve either grown or bought. Invite everyone and enjoy a friendly meal together.

A pinch of dried basil placed discretely in each corner of your home or apartment (or in each corner of every room) is another common way of smoothing out tensions, mellowing everyone, and keeping “pests” away. And if this latter is a significant issue, a good pinch of basil scattered on the welcome mat outside helps make sure that only those things which actually are welcome come in.

The neighborhood and beyond

Basil scattered about the four corners of your block, or at the nearest crossroads can help cultivate good relationships with and between your neighbors. You can also toss a bit of it around your neighbors’ yards, though that might look a little weird if you’re caught.

Another way to spread some “basil cheer” is to write a few greeting cards or short, friendly notes to friends and neighbors in your community. After you’ve composed them, burn a little basil as incense and pass the cards through the smoke. You don’t want to get carried away with this, otherwise the card might smell like a pizzeria. Just a little will do ya.

(As an aside, in case it isn’t obvious, sending cards and small gifts to friends and neighbors through the mail is, on its own, an excellent way to cultivate strong relationships. It’s a fading practice we’d all do well to revive.)

There are endless possibilities for the use of basil in forming and strengthening communities, and I encourage you again to do some digging for other ways to work with this plant. It’s an ally which seems to absolutely love meeting and working with new people, which shouldn’t be surprising given what it’s so very good at.