Astrology | Editing | Awesomeness

Do charts live on after death? A chat about posthumous astrology

What happens to our charts after we die? Do they continue on without us? What would something like posthumous astrology look like? These question has kept me quite busy in recent months. In November, Nina Gryphon approached me to share my thoughts with her new series, Rubicon, happening this Sunday, January 10. And in December, I had a chance to catch up with my colleague Dr Alexander Cummins and chat about it. Here’s some of our back-and-forth to whet your palate:



Jenn: So I’ve been researching the astrology of the afterlife for this upcoming talk…

Alexander: Oh SNAP. Sounds ace

Jenn: As in, how can we tell if someone is going to become prominent again after they die, Van Gogh style? Just a hypothesis…a public thinking out loud – a stab at a countermeasure to all the past life focus in astrology.

Alexander: Reputation and reception. Interesting…

Jenn: When I spoke with Nina about doing Rubicon, she asked me if I had any Saturn thoughts floating about because the topic for her January event is Saturn. So I told her, not exactly, but I have been thinking about a kind of post-Saturn problem… What happens to our charts after we die? I hypothesize that birth, as an ontological event, creates a chart that lives on after the native dies, so that techniques like zodiacal releasing also apply to the legacy of the lived life of the individual. And fixed star astrology has a way to predict your reputation after you die. Then we can talk about more predictable timing techniques like transits to the natal chart as the native’s products of life outlive it (companies, films, stories, inventions etc).

Alexander: So a lifetime might be longer than a lifespan.

Jenn: Precisely.

Alexander: So, to ask crudely, those same configurations in the nativity can be read as remaining pointing out into the world instead of into the native?

Jenn: What do you mean pointing out into the world?

Alexander: I’m just interested in how the nativity can be read in the legacy on the world, in impact.

Jenn: Yeah… I’m developing the short answer for that now, but don’t have it ready yet. The idea goes like this: if we look at Valens’ rule for prominence, and see that in your chart it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, but you have it happen 84 years from now, after you’re dead, will the things you made (companies, stories, inventions) become prominent at that time?

Alexander: Ahhh. How does Flying V define prominence?

Jenn: I’d say known to the world, fame of sorts, becoming the highest authoritiy in your field. For example, as Chris Brennan has shown, according to this technique Al Gore has seen his most prominent days. They are over, and he is receding from the global stage. The specific reference is in Book IV of his Anthology.

Alexander: How is a prominence date or period arrived at?

Jenn: The specific technique I am discussing now is called zodiacal releasing. Do you know it?

Alexander: Don’t think I do.

Jenn: Ok, well it is not very easy to describe at first because it isn’t well known yet, but in the tradition of medieval epic poetry, let me try. You know the Lot of Fortune, yes?

Alexander: …no?

Jenn: Hah! OK! The Lot of Fortune is a mathematical point arrived at by taking the arc distance between the Sun and Moon at your birth, and appling that arc to the ascendant. The rules are slightly modified depending on whether you were born during the day or during the night (known as the Sect of your chart). The Lot of Spirit, which comes up in my talk, is the inverse of the Lot of Fortune, when you apply the rules.

Alexander: Got it. So what does that have to do with zodiacal releasing?

Jenn: Zodiacal releasing is a Hellenistic astrological technique used to track periods of activity in someone’s life, and calculating these periods depends upon knowing where someone’s Lot of Fortune or Lot of Spirit are. Once you have the Lot figured out, then you apply the planetary periods in a regular temporal scheme. These planetary periods are fixed: so Mars = 15 years, Venus = 8, and so on… So, using zodiacal releasing you can basically create a road map, an outline of the chapters of someone’s life. My friend Kent and I designed an app for it, here:

If you click that website, you can see the general map as laid out from 1/1/1970 (birthdate of the UNIX operating system).

Alexander: Lol

Ebertin Example in the ZR app
Data for zodiacal releasing periods as seen in the ZR app.


Jenn: Here’s how to read what you see. The stripes are the periods by planet. On the left, you have the major cycles (referred to commonly as L1 and L2). On the right you see a breakdown of all the levels (L1/L2/L3/L4) side by side.

In zodiacal releasing there are four levels: so you have a major period based on the perfection of the 360 days of the Egyptian year, and then sub periods, which are 1/12 of the amount of the time of the major period. When you see the little mountains, those are what Chris Brennan has been calling “peak periods,” but, to quote Curtis Manwaring, “Valens used the word ‘chrematistikos’ and [Hellenistic astrologer, Robert] Schmidt has translated it as having the meanings ‘busy’ or ‘telling’.” I prefer to think of them as periods of maximum intensity for an individual, without evoking the type of positive imagery Western culture associates with the term “peak” because these times are not alway subjectively positive for the person living through them.

Notice: the stripes that the mountain peaks appear in are always the same color. This has to do with Valens’ interpretive principle regarding prominence using the signs angular to fortune. I’ll go over that in my lecture, suffice it to say, I designed the color coding this way, so that once you know the technique, you can basically instantly identify periods of intensity for your client.

So the period before a mountain peak is leading up to that peak, and the period after, is the denouement, so…you prep, you perform, and you wrap up, loose ends and whatnot. Like that zen koan: First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is a mountain.

Now, not everyone sees the major L1 peak in their lifetime. That is, will this plebeian will remain unknown forever? However, mathematically these cycles continue after people die. So, does the chart – as an ontological reality – live on past the human life? You can identify peaks by hand using the lists generated by other available software, but this software does the heavy lifting.

Alexander: Amazing

Jenn: Do you see it now?

Alexander: Yes, I see the truth of it. What are the lightning bolts?

Jenn: Those are another facet of this technique called “loosing of the bonds.” As Demetra George once shared with me, think of Saturnalia. Put roughly, whatever you were up to before that point changes. It is as though your bond with fate is broken, and you are set free to do something totally different.

Alexander: Fascinating. Points of severing and rearticulating.

Jenn: Yes. It is a pretty fabulous technique.

Alexander: That is cool.

Jenn: Chris Brennan and I ran Van Gogh’s chart thru it, and found that his most impressive record breaking painting sales occurred during his postmortem major peak periods. Chris talks about that in his latest module for his Hellenistic Astrology course.

Alexander: Ahah

Jenn: So for my Rubicon talk, I want to look at that more closely and posit that the sheer factor of our birth creates an ontological shift, and that our charts outlive us, that is, our personal astrology does not stop working once we do. What say you, stalwart theoretician!?!

Alexander: I think you make a strong case for it. I like this phrase ontological shift. The virtue of birth itself. Like the virtue of death itself contagious making somewhere unpleasant, not merely the existence of a ghost there.

Jenn: Well it also then begs the question… if our astrology works after we die, what about before we are born? !!!! We are always someone else’s transit.

Alexander: !!! The 4-dimensional literal family tree.

Jenn: Yeah but I mean I’ve been curious about this, because death appears to be a boundary, but our experience of loved ones dying is not so cut and dry, is it? They are still present to us, and if we look, we may find that transits to their charts manifest events for us (or those of us close to them).

Alexander: Right. What is a presence? Or what forces interplay to allow that person to, well, be-personing. Accrued patina of virtue remaining like a kirlian relief.

Kirlian Leaf

Jenn: I mean, for example, people often talk about past lives in evolutionary astrology, but if we “live on” after our deaths – if our charts are still active, meaning our SOUL is also – then how can we have a “next life”?

Alexander: I like thinking about death as prismatic when considering eschatology of the soul.

Jenn: Go on…

Alexander: Well, I just mean, splits you off into various different modalities. Both local haunts and ongoing elevations. Maybe like leaving behind various living serpent skin shed impressions in various astral wossnames of yourself. Like the yew tree, whose branches root and roots branch in an amphibious interplay of life and death.

Jenn: You, more than most, pay attention to this boundary (or seeming boundary). The topic of that day’s talks is Saturn, so I wanted to burst past Saturn and show that another kind of legacy possible.

Alexander: Sure. Still seems very apt.

Jenn: Yeah it’s still so hypothetical. I have no answers here. I’m just playing publicly, seeing what sticks to the wall, inciting new research and maybe some productive anger.

Alexander: Right. importance of public thinking, especially public thinking aloud…

Jenn: Yea, and owning the uncertainty, allowing others to meet you halfway. To have a chance to collectively think about the roots of what we are doing when we read astrologically. We assume certain things about death, but what do we really know? And what can we know through astrology? Can we come up with a posthumous astrology?



I hope you’ll meet me halfway. My Rubicon talk takes place online this Sunday at 12PM PST. Register by clicking the image below:



Rubicon III

Cover photo credit: © 2015 Dan Koperski

If astrology hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom when it leads to further thought”
—James Redfield, ‘Herodotus the Tourist,’ 103



On June 3, 2015, Stephen Morgan wrote an article for the Digital Journal titled, “Scientists show future events determine what happens in the past.” In this article, Morgan outlines a number of experiments showing that future events affect the past expression of subatomic phenomena as a particle or wave. That is, “whether [an atom] continued as a particle or changed into a wave wasn’t decided until a future event had already taken place.” This is a compelling thought, which Morgan also extends to our very own human bodies: “To bamboozle you further, this should all be going on right now in the subatomic particles which make up your body.” A fascinating thought experiment.

On June 14, 2015, my colleague Wonder Bright tweeted a link to this article, suggesting, “sounds like a good reason to get your chart read to me!” Wonder, a writer and astrologer who sees clients for extended periods of time, uses memoir and other narrative strategies to help people examine and rewrite their life stories. Through this process, her clients find comfort and healing, compassion and empowerment.

The implications of Morgan’s article suggest that even at the subatomic level, we are able to use knowledge of the future to change the past. If we apply this to astrology, as we get acquainted with our natal promise, encoded in the horoscope, we are able to see ourselves in new ways, and reimagine how we have crossed through space and time to arrive at our current point. Sensing the majesty in Wonder’s suggestion, I then retweeted this a day later, adding “Absolutely! Quantum insight!”

I would like to spend more time considering the unspoken assumptions of what Wonder and I shared with each other, to extend Morgan’s article to apply to other areas of human knowledge. The scientific (or scientistic) explanation of reality is merely one way to go about trying to decide what is “real” and how we know what we know. What Wonder and I are alluding to is another qualitative level of examining reality.

If we take the Hermetic correspondence theory “as above, so below” as a foundation, we can extrapolate from Morgan’s article that if optical observation and future manipulation of light/wave movements determine their past expressions at a subatomic scale, that, when applied on a human scale, meaningful observation of our life circumstances can change our experience of the past.

Wonder and I were discussing this just last week, while she visited me in Seattle. Remembering memories changes them, and thereby changes how we know the past. As we actively recall a memory, we transform our brains. The storage of the memory gets rewritten and the memory shifts to emphasize whatever we find prominent or noteworthy in the present, as we relive it. This is how it is possible to over-remember something and have it eventually fade. In this way, our present imperceptibly changes the past.

Since our discussion concerns changing the (meaning of the) past, let’s revisit Herodotus, the Father of History, that academic discipline of the remnants of time, and recall his distinction between facts and truth. In his tome The Histories Herodotus suggests facts may be what actually happened, but the truth is what people agree happened. Already we have story, narratives of human design, determining meaning, which we call truth. This may or may not be based on facts. But my point here is that “facts” and “truth” are not the same.

But the past is not what’s at stake. It’s the future’s effect on the past, so let’s turn now to the realm of astrology, that guardian science of the future. Astrology, broadly defined, is a mode of relating celestial events with human experience to generate qualitative meaning. Properly understood, astrology is not a single practice, but a convenient noun to describe a diverse set of practices that emerged across human cultures as they sprouted, flourished, and perished on earth. It is also frequently misunderstood, as I outline in my article on understanding astrology. For this discussion, let’s limit ourselves to the Western astrological tradition—the ancestor of the astrology Wonder and I and many of our peers practice today.

What does an astrologer see when he or she looks at a natal chart for a client? The initial data consists of a two-dimensional map of the celestial realm at the time of an individual’s birth relative to the place of birth on earth. The life led by this person takes place entirely on earth (astronauts excepted), which is why our model of a heliocentric universe is not directly applicable to this person’s lived experience. This summer, when our clients look up at the night sky, they will see Jupiter and Venus forming a conjunction in relation to their vantage point on terra firma.

Venus and Jupiter in Leo

Venus chasing Jupiter after sunset in Bellingham, WA, June 2015

Thus, by association, the planetary movements, as visible to us, are the locus of generating meaning for our lived lives on this planet—not the Sun. I have not met a single astrologer who thinks that the current scientific model of the solar system is not real or scientifically valid. This model is just not applicable to the way we generate meaning for our clients and ourselves using astrology.

When a client sits down with an astrologer, and asks questions about their current state of affairs, or their future, the astrologer looks at the natal chart, that snapshot of the planets at a certain point in time, as well as the projected movements of planets and other significant mathematical points in space. The planets themselves move along predictable orbits, which themselves can be plotted as waves along various axes of measurement. My colleagues Gary Lorentzen and Tony Dickey research the effects these wave patterns have on events on earth, a field of astrology known as mundane astrology, as it concerns the affairs of nations and peoples as opposed to the life of a single individual.

Astrologer Shannon Garcia recently turned me on to a visualization tool on called the “Transit Rhythmogram” that shows you planetary intensities relative to the natal chart. These waves are generated and ranked based on their relative position to the planets and points in the birthchart.


Sinusoidal visualizationOne of the various ways to look at waves in astrology.
Personal planetary data removed to protect the innocent.

This visualization is not a typical way to practice astrology. I am including it here to show a correlation between the familiar depiction of planetary orbits (or any orbits) as sinusoidal waves relative to the data contained in the natal chart. These planetary positions show us meaningful relationships between the sky when one was born and a future sky.

All of this curls back to the individual’s lived experience. Planetary transits, being regular, recur. Most people know about the Saturn return (Saturn takes ~28.5 years to return to its natal position), but it gets more intricate. For example, when someone turns 32, Mars will be in the same place in the sky in celestial latitude and longitude with respect to the Sun, as when they were born. My colleague Adam Gainsburg has been doing amazing research on this phenomenon. When this “phase return,” as he calls it, happens, the native is given a chance to revisit their natal Mars expression. A major* phase return occurs at the age of fifteen. If a client can sit down with an astrologer and consider what took place at fifteen, they may reimagine how they can choose to deal with what will come up for them at 32. Various other recurrence transits happen with frequency, and if you are keen to pay attention, they can not only help inform you about the qualitative nature of time and give you options about how to respond this time around, but they can help you make sense of what happened before and reframe it.

In the West, the germ of our scientific past began with this tradition of direct celestial observation and correlation to human affairs. For seven centuries, the Babylonians observed the night sky and mundane events, and collected data in a text known as the Enuma Anu Enlil. It is from this archive of observation and correlation that we have derived and developed many of our current symbolic meanings in astrology.

Morgan suggests that at the subatomic level observations and future actions have an effect on the past. What Wonder and I are suggesting is that our ability to glean knowledge of future potentiality, through the traditions of astrology, has an equal ability for us to change (our experiences of) the past.

The relationship between chaos and complexity theory and astrology has been explored at length by figures such as Rick Levine and Bernadette Brady. In Brady’s most recent work, Cosmos, Chaosmos, and Astrology (disclosure: I edited this book for the Sophia Centre Press), she suggests that planetary alignments act as strange attractors. On page 111 of her book, a table outlines the various ways in which astrology and complexity theory correlate with one another. The birth data (time/date/place) forms the “initial condition” for being able to look forward and backward from a rooted orientation (in many cultures the natal chart is referred to as the “radix,” Latin for root). From there, the predictable transits of the planets, various forms of progressions, and other mathematical permutations help to orient one in space/time, predict the patterns of life and the crossroads coming up, and contextualize them in what has already occurred.

When the client comes forward and asks about the future, they are asking to peek into the fundamental source of mystery in our universe, much in the same way a subatomic physicist may peer into instruments that also claim to reveal the fundamental source of mystery in our universe. We have known for nearly a century that the very act of looking changes reality, and thanks to the most recent scientific research outlined in Morgan’s article, we now have a new temporal spin on this process: the very act of looking into the future also changes the past.

How does this all come together in the way Wonder and I referred to in our tweets? By visiting the astrologer, and asking to see into this source of mystery, the person is petitioning to gain information about the trajectory they have been on. The wave/particle analogy enlarges to a human scale: am I a victim or a survivor, will I stay a victim (or become one!) or emerge a victor?

The moment of astrology allows for this reorientation on the wave/path of human life. Our interpretations of ourselves can change when we step into that sacred space to look, with a cosmological sensitivity, at our lives and where we are in them. How we have acted? How do we choose to act from here on out? And what does that choice mean for how we interpret our past (and what we chose then, and what was chosen for us)?

As Wonder and I exchanged tweets, it occurred to me that others may not fully understand what we were referring to exactly. Hopefully this clears up just how we meant exactly what we said. I’d like to close this article by putting a small spin on Niels Bohr’s quote—“if quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” If astrology hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.

*Edited to reflect that this is, in fact, a major phase return, not minor. Also, Adam shares that at 32, one has a major phase return of both Mars and Venus. Thank you, Adam! [6/18/2015]

Culture and Cosmos: On Astrology and Literature

The current issue of Culture and Cosmos focuses on the interpenetration of literature, astronomy, and astrology. This is a topic that has been close to my heart for more than half my life, and it encompasses many of the questions that drove my PhD research at Berkeley. When the editors of Culture and Cosmos and I sent out the call for papers, we received a wide response, and this issue showcases the breadth and depth of the field.

One of my favorite parts about putting this issue together was choosing the cover image. Reinhard Mussik contributed an article analyzing one of my favorite books from the German Democratic Republic, Weltall Erde, Mensch. This textbook was the curriculum for the GDR’s secular confirmation ceremony, the Jugendweihe. East Germans were still getting confirmed in the Catholic church throughout the GDR years, but the Jugendweihe was a way for the State to encroach upon and control that religious practice. While I lived in Leipzig, Germany as an exchange student in 1998–99, my host family recounted their Jugenweihe experiences to me, and I ended up getting my own copy of Weltall, Erde, Mensch. While the text does not include any astrologers, per se, it is definitely a Marxist-Leninist cosmology wrapped onto the natural, social, and political histories of the world—definitely a fantasy narrative of extreme proportions. The cosmological perspective of the cover illustration orients the reader in the space they are about to enter in issue 17.1.

The editorial I wrote for the issue follows here:


Astrology and Literature

More often than not, the researcher interested in astrology will be challenged in the academy with questions of veracity: Is astrology true? Do you believe in it?[1] Yet, researchers in literary studies are rarely asked whether or not their material is true, or whether they believe in it. Fiction provides a modicum of shelter from such enquiry. When astrology is examined along the lines of and alongside narrative, the question of truth can be sidestepped and a rich array of cultural knowledge can be explored. This issue of Culture and Cosmos presents a collection of articles that delve into the intersections between textuality and cultural astronomy and astrology. I have deliberately chosen not to organise the articles according to temporal logic in order to resist any teleological connotations a chronological ordering may imply.

The issue opens with a robust collection of verse concerning the discovery of new astronomical bodies at the turn of the nineteenth century. Clifford J. Cunningham and Günter Oestmann present many of these works in full while demonstrating how poetry was used as an ‘intellectual tool’ of science, not only to memorialise the new bodies being discovered, but also to negotiate naming rights, often along political and linguistic lines.

While these nineteenth-century writers openly touted their findings, the next article discusses a potential covert encoding of astronomical observation in poetic form. Dorian Knight looks to the structure of the Eddic myth Hávamál, to reveal a verse description of the lunar cycle. He shows how allegory encodes astronomical information, and in turn, how this astronomical knowledge aids in unraveling the mythological content of the narrative.

In the next article Karen Smyth discusses the role of technical astronomical and astrological expressions in medieval literature by authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Adelard of Bath, among others. She argues that these terms become a site both for the comprehension of the temporal cosmos and the exercise of poetic experiment and the demonstration of its mastery.

Then, Kirk Little performs a literary analysis of Washington Irving’s 1832 tale, The Legend of the Arabian Astrologer, a tale that is curiously void of technical astrological terminology. Little situates his reading in the context of early nineteenth–century astrology in England and America, and argues that we can read Irving’s short story about an Egyptian astrologer as a litmus test for the status of astrological knowledge at the time—a useful model for future research into other tales.

Moving from a fictional Egypt to a real one, Guiliano Masola and Nicola Reggiani examine a curious papyrus, dated to 194 CE, that offers insight into the role astrology may have played in everyday life in ancient Eygpt. They explore the implications of this letter between two friends, in which precise and advantageous astrological advice is dispensed concerning an economic transaction.

Finally, continuing with the theme of economics and cosmology, Reinhard Mussik presents a research note about a fascinating text from former East Germany in terms of the Marxist cosmology embedded in it.

Together these articles display the myriad angles from which one can approach the intersections of literary analysis and cultural astronomy and astrology.




Jennifer Zahrt,
Deputy Editor,
Culture and Cosmos,
School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology,
University of Wales Trinity Saint David.



Head over to the Culture and Cosmos website to get a copy of the issue!



[1] Nicholas Campion, Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), p. 85.

Launching The Ascendant Vol. 1

Introducing, The Ascendant:

The Ascendant Vol 1

This past summer, astrologers Austin Coppock, Nicholas Civitello, and I curated and produced the first volume of The Ascendant. This journal is the official publication for the Association for Young Astrologers. Here’s a brief description of the journal from the AYA website:


The Ascendant is unlike any astrological publication you have seen before. Not quite a  journal, and not quite a magazine, it features 72 full-color pages of probing articles alongside the photography and artwork of living artists. The articles offer a balance between theory-driven inquiry and practice-based evidence. Philosophy, historiography, and new takes on tradition are presented with a tone of openness, inviting you to join in the thought experiments for expanding upon our astrological knowledge. While the Association for Young Astrologers is aimed at supporting the entry of younger generations into the astrological community, there is something in The Ascendant for everyone.


Our issue includes works by Gary P. Caton, J. Lee Lehman, Eric Purdue, Tony Bruno Mack, Ian Waisler, Gary Lorentzen, Leisa Schaim, Andrea L. Gehrz, and Kent Bye. We feature artwork and photography by Wonder Bright, Katie Grinnan, and Yvette Endrijautzki.



We launched our magazine at the International Society for Astrological Research conference in Arizona (ISAR) this past September:


Ascendant Editors


There are 144 limited edition copies in print. Half of them sold out at ISAR alone. In November of this year, astrologer Matt Savinar interviewed me about the making of the journal. He and I also discuss articles and authors that appear there, as well as some history of astrology. Have a listen here:



There are still some copies of the limited edition left. Head over to the AYA website to get yours before they’re all sold out!



Mars in the House of Death

While I finalize the touches on my talk at AYA’s pre-conference workshop at NCGR this Thursday, enjoy this post I wrote for their blog:

Elsbeth Ebertin (1880–1944) was a German graphologist and astrologer famous for once predicting the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, as well as for being the mother of cosmobiologist Reinhold Ebertin (1901–1988). Few people know, however, that she also wrote a novel. …

Continue reading here: Mars in the House of Death




Upcoming Events

On August 15th, I’ll be participating in the Association for Young Astrologer’s pre-conference workshop at NCGR.

This September, I’ll be in attendance at the international Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, where Ouroboros Press will have copies of my translation of Zoroaster’s Telescope (now available for pre-order). 

And at some point this fall, I will resume my workshops at the Public School in Oakland. Last Spring’s “Romp through the History of Astrology” was a major success. I’m looking forward to more!