"What is a horoscope?"
It is simply a map that appears as a two dimensional chart. It shows the position of the Sun, the Moon, and planets at the precise moment of your birth. The planets are frozen in their position at that initial moment of birth. That is why this type of horoscope is known as the birth chart or the natal chart. A correct interpretation of these birth positions exposes much about you. It can be thought of as the "hand" that has been "dealt" in life. This doesn't suggest that your life has already been decided. A horoscope can never show how you are going to "play" this hand. It's largely up to you to decide that. While you usually have freedom of choice or free will, the horoscope does reflect the natural inclinations you have, the lessons you have to learn, the issues to be faced, and the problems to be solved. It may be thought of as merely an abstract formula showing the energies you've been given, or perhaps tasked. The use that you make of these energies, or opportunities, if you will, depends upon you, the individual. Astrology can provide incredible keys to understanding, but it doesn't necessarily provide clear and simplistic answers to any problems with which you may be dealing. Obtaining information about your horoscope may give you some insights and understanding of the reasons why you behave as you do.
To have the horoscope of another revealed allows the reader to understand that person better. You can see and understand him or her more accurately, objectively, and with a much greater tolerance. Understanding your horoscope may allow you to more clearly understand and accept yourself, and therefore do what you can with your natural attributes.
Probably a quarter of the earth's population believes in astrology to some extent, and a 1997 survey for Life magazine shows that about 48 percent of Americans believe that astrology is valid. Upwards of 30 percent believe it to such an extent that they mold their self-image on their astrological sign (which means that if their sign says that they are "aggressive," they view themselves as aggressive).
At least three-quarters of the newspapers in the United States carry daily horoscope columns. Upwards of 90 percent of people in the United States have described themselves as "open minded" about the veracity and usefulness of astrology.
But what is astrology? Where does it come from? What does it do, and how? Does it even work?
History & Basics
What is Astrology?
Astrology is a type of divination based upon the idea that information, usually either about the future or about a person's personality, can be discovered through an examination of "heavenly bodies" - stars, planets, the moon, comets, etc. Read about the different types of astrology and what they are supposed to do.
History of Astrology
Astrology is an ancient belief system, with the earliest records of astrology date back to the Babylonian Empire in the 19th century BCE. However, not a great deal has changed over the millennia, with various doctrines and ideas continuing almost unchanged down through today.
Vedic culture is extremely ancient, at least 5000 years old by conservative estimate. (For more information on the antiquity of Vedic culture please see Puranic Time and the Archeological Record in PDF format: English, German.) Vedic culture has its own unique theology, philosophy, arts, sciences, and literature which exists to this present day. Vedic astrology is an integral part of this culture and has been practiced since time immemorial. The Vedas have six supplementary appendixes known as the Vedangas, limbs of the Vedas. One of these is the Jyotish Vedanga--Vedic astronomy and astrology. For thousands of years many Rsis (sages) maintained the tradition of Vedic astrology on a parallel track with the Vedas. Portions of these have been extracted at various times and put into the Jyotish Vedanga.
Many Rsis such as Vashistha, Bhrgu, and Garga were masters of astrology and taught it to their disciples in the Guru parampara (disciplic succession). Before the beginning of the present age, Kali-yuga, which began in 3102 B.C., Parasara Rsi milked the essence of the various schools of Vedic astrology present at his time and distilled it into his text known as the Brhad Parasara Hora Sastra. Parasara Rsi spoke this text to his disciple Maitreya Rsi, and Maitreya taught it to his disciples and it was passed in this way through the ages. Thus, the basic school of Vedic astrology practiced in India is called the Parasara school of astrology. Parasara was among the last of the Rsis (great sages) of the Vedic age. After him it was humans who preserved the line of Vedic astrology. Notable amongst them was Satyacarya and in particular Varaha Mihira who wrote several important texts on astrology. After them several other texts were composed which are also considered "classics" of Vedic astrology, such as Saravali, Jataka Parijata, Sarvartha Cintamani, and Horasara. All of these texts follow Parasara in their teachings.
There are six main branches of Vedic astrology:
Gola -- positional astronomy
Ganita -- mathematical diagnostic tools for analyzing the results of Gola
Jataka -- natal astrology
Prasna -- answering specific questions based upon the time the question is asked
Muhurta -- selecting an auspicious time to start something
Nimitta -- omens and portents.
There are also many sub-branches. The sages following Parasara have written texts on all branches.
From India, Vedic astrology spread to the Persians, and from the Persians to the Babylonians, and from them to the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. With the rise of Islam the Arabs learned astrology from both the Greek Hellenistic astrologers on one side (the West) and Vedic astrology from India on the other side (the East).
In the West astrology has had its difficulties. Periods of time when it was in favor, and times when it was politically out of favor. During the Dark Ages it practically disappeared from Europe and reappeared during the Renaissance. It disappeared during the so-called "Age of Reason" in the 1600s only to reappear again in the last 120 or so years. This fractured history of Western astrology has not helped the continuity of learning or building up of experience over the ages. Consequently Western astrology is fraught with many lacunae; blank spots, missing parts, and discontinuities. By contrast, Vedic astrology has an unbroken tradition over 5000 years long. And, its practitioners reap the benefits of such a long unbroken tradition such as a large body of classical literature whose content is understood by its practitioners.
In ancient India and even up to modern times, astrology was taught to students in schools and universities. The Bhaktivedanta College School of Jyotish carries on this tradition of offering Vedic astrology as a serious intellectual discipline taught at a university level. These are serious courses for serious students. This is the first time since the 16th century that degrees in astrology have been offered in a Western institution of higher learning. And, this is the first time ever that an institution of higher learning outside of India has offered degree courses in Vedic astrology.