When studying a birth chart from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Greco-Roman tradition, what is commonly known as “Western astrology”, we see a series of circles with various glyphs (symbols). At the center of the circle, where the Ascendent (ASC on the left side), Descendent (DSC), Mid-Heaven (MC, Medium Coeli, at the top) and Lower Sky (IC, Imum Coeli, at the boot) cross is you, the person or event, we are studying in the chart, and whose natal data (date of birth, location and time of birth) we used to calculate it. For example, this is the chart of the Aries Equinox on March 21, 2021 calculated on the Astro Seek website. Let’s imagine that this is YOUR birth chart, and that you were born a few days ago. You, the seeker, observant, the witness of this birth event, are at the center of this system (I added the arrow and sign to make this clearer):
This is an anthropocentric system, meaning that it is centered around a human perspective (anthropos– human centric– centered). Imagine you are looking at the sky. What do you see? Humans have been staring up at the sky for millennia and we all agree that, according to our senses, we see a vault, as sky dome filled with starts, planets, Sun and Moon, and that THEY seems to move around the sky in patterns that repeat themselves hour by hour and season by season. Also, if we were travelers, we would observe that the location of the stars in the sky would change the closer or further away from the Earthly Equator.
When I teach my Astrology classes and during my sessions, I like to use this analogy to explain how to read a chart: starting from the outer circle, the first set of glyphs we encounter is the one describing the Zodiacal Belt, that is the constellations that we can observe from Earth through our Planet’s revolution around the Sun. Starting from the Ascendent in this chart, they are: Aries (first sign of the astrological year commencing on the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere), Taurus, Gemini, Cancer (bottom of the chart, just after the IC, commencing on the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere), Leo, Virgo, Libra (right side of the circle, after the DSC, commencing on the Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere), Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn (top of the chart, right after the MC, commencing on the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere), Aquarius and Pisces. Twelve constellations of 30 degrees each, giving a full 360 degree circle (we inherit this division of time in 30/60 units from the Sumerians). While constellations correspond to the “signs”, a clarification is needed here: constellations are an astronomical concept (con– with / stellium– stars: a “collection” of stars close to each other in sky), while the “signs” are a culturally specific astrological concept. Signs are archetypes that perform certain roles in a particular storytelling framework. For example, some of the archetypal qualities of the sign of Aries are the warrior and the leader and while these qualities will be recognized across cultures, their specific characteristics may vary.
So here we are, looking up at the night sky and what we see is a dark background with the stars. Right below them we see the moving planets, concluding the Sun (which is, in fact, a star) and the Moon (which is, in fact, a moon/satellite). In the chart above, for example, you will see the glyphs of the Sun and Venus right on the Ascendent (Venus is occulting part of the Sun in this chart) and, another example, you will see the glyph of the Moon at the bottom of the chart near the IC. We say that on the Equinox, the Sun was “in” Aries and the Moon was in “Gemini”. You may refer to the column of glyphs on the right of the chart for learn more about their correspondence with the various constellations. Stars, planets and, lastly, the Houses. These are the numbers that you see in the inner circle, going from 1-12, and which represent certain areas of our lives. Last but not least YOU, in the center.
As a performance artist who taught theatre professionally, I like to use this analogy: you are the center of your life’s story, on a stage at the center of the chart. The Stars in the constellations/signs are the lights (literally), the Planets are the colorful gelatins that filter the light of the stars with their own qualities, projecting their influences in particular areas of your life, the Houses, which are certain areas of the stage. You may then learn to interpret the symbolism and energy of Gemini, filtered through the energy of the Moon, in the 3rd house of communication and their effect on you: your style of communication (3rd House) is magnetic (Moon), filled with emotions and empathic (Moon), and open to learning, teaching, communing with many different people around the world (Gemini).
I was explaining this in one of my astrology classes yesterday and my student Hwamin, who is a yoga teacher at Yoga.Hwamin in Australia and, like me, a student of Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, later wrote to me in an email:
This morning, looking at my birth chart, it reminded me of Dr. Ananda’s video of Jyothi Dhyana. In the center of the chart is Ajna Bindu, within is which jyothi, the luminosity expands gradually from a size of a pin head to fill the whole head, whole body, the room and the locality which we live, (our life, houses) state, country/continent, planets, starts and Universe. Awareness and perspective expanding, merging and connecting with all living and non-living, losing ourself in the light and becoming one with the light. It must be wonderful to feel the energies of the stars and planets and nodes of the moon to truly feel connected with the universe.
Yes! I have been meaning to write about the correspondence between the astrological chart and the Yoga system of the Pancha Kosha for a few months now and Hwamin’s realization gave me the perfect push.
I learned about the yogic concept of the Pancha Kosha from my Yoga Acharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani. The Pancha, five, Kosha, levels, sheaths, are the five layers of human existence. [In his YouTube video, Five levels of our existence, Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani share a traditional teaching on the Kosha. What and how I am sharing them below in relationship to astrology is my interpretation]:
- The first body is Annamayakosha, or the body of cells, Anu, the physical body. In astrology, this corresponds with us, dwelling in our body, at the center of the astrological chart. This is also the body of sensations.
- The second body, enveloping the first, is Pranomayakosha, the body of vital energy, Prana. This corresponds to Planet Earth and its atmosphere, the earth on which we stand, and the astrological Houses, i.e. the places and spaces we interact with in our daily life. This is also the body of emotions.
- The third body is the Manomayakosha, the sheath of mind, Manas, larger than the previous two and more refined in vibration. This corresponds to the Solar system and, in the chart, to the planets and the Lunar Nodes. This is also the body of thought.
- The fourth body, Vijnanamakosha, is the body of wisdom, Jnana. This corresponds to the constellations and the signs. This is also the body of intellect.
- Lastly, the fifth body, Anandamayakosha, is the body of bliss, Ananda, corresponding to the galaxy and the multiverse beyond its spiraling extension. This is the body of no-body, the sphere of peace and non-differentiation.
When looking at your chart, and traveling backw towards the center, imagine you are enveloped, outside of the circle, by the bliss of ALL that IS, the joy of Oneness free from the ignorance of separation which comes from our senses. In this realm of vibration, everything is pure energy. Inside that realm, at a lower speed of vibration is our galaxy which manifests to us as the constellations and the sings of the outer rim of the chart. This is where wisdom resides, in timeless laws through which stars are born and die, and black holes implode. Here, we receive intuitive guidance. Inside this circle is the realm of the solar system, with planets moving, influencing us in the way we thing, perceive and create stories about our past, present and future. This is the realm of thought. Inside this circle is the realm of our “blue” planet and its atmosphere, the world of desires and repulsions, emotions, energy, movement and dreams. And at the center of this “world” is us, in our bodies, with our physical traits and needs.
A true humane being is an integrated being and this is what both yoga and astrology help us achieve, thanks to the expanded awareness of each single layer and the interdependence among them.
Here is a wonderful drawing of the Pancha Kosha by friend and student, Dhivya Hirata (check out Dhivya’s Instagram @dhivyaloha).
Astrology, just like yoga, also conceives an inner manifestation of these realms and Kosha inside the body. Bliss, wisdom, and the impact of thought, emotions and perceptions inside the body is known in medicine as well as in spirituality. The same is true for medical astrology, in whose system we study the correspondence of signs and planets with specific parts of the body, internal organs and systems (nervous, lymphatic, etc.). In this sense we associate colors, stones, gems, scents and foods to enhance or limit the effects of specific planets in the signs, but this is another blog post! For now enjoy this amazing (and classic) video, Powers of Ten, which will give you an introduction on how the galactic and neurological pathways looks exactly the same: