A Dynamic Synastry Study

January 28, 2009

I have recently been studying dynamic synastry contacts between long-term partners. I’ve looked at a small collection of couples, around the time of their initial romantic involvement. The charting constraints are fairly tight: 1-degree orbs and limited sets of aspects and planets. I’ve used just one type of planetary contact: major aspects between each partner’s solar arc positions and the other’s natal positions.

I selected solar arcs because this method is easiest to demonstrate when it comes to calculating statistical measures, such as the expected frequency of a specific type of aspect. I am not suggesting that this is the best method for doing a synastry analysis, and in fact I plan to present other methods as well, to illustrate the use of objective measures to compare different astrological methods.

So having studied several cases, looking at aspects from each partner’s solar arc planets to the other’s natal planets, I find that the Sun, Venus, and Jupiter are very often present in these aspect contacts around the time of their initial romantic involvement – so often that I have come to expect these contacts in this kind of synastry scenario. But this kind of initial analysis can’t help but overlook important distinctions between the circumstances of individual cases. Consider, for instance, a couple such as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, where the first romantic impulse is delayed or denied, due to the fact that one of them is already married. A Venus-Saturn contact would be a natural indication of this situation.

In fact this Venus-Saturn contact was present in this case; this was just one of their solar arc synastry contacts around the time they met. I’m only looking at solar arc aspects to the partner’s natal positions, and in fact a few are within half a degree. Paul’s SA (Solar Arc) Saturn was squaring Joanne’s natal Venus at the time; also his SA Jupiter was trining her natal Jupiter. Meanwhile her SA Venus sextiled his natal Sun. He was married at the time they met, when both were performing in the same stage production.

The next step is to look for any similar contacts between their natal charts. Here we find that his Saturn is trining her Venus within a degree, and so the square from his SA Saturn to her natal Venus starts to look more fruitful. In this case it appears that the contacts between Sun, Venus, and Jupiter aren’t enough to describe their situation. So we can include this distinction by adding this one Saturn contact to our model. But then we might find that leaving Mars out of our model will miss those couples who are first bound by their violent passions. One such couple, who ended up as long-term friends, were Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

To take these distinctions into account, the next logical step would be to group all of the couples into well-defined categories, based on the circumstances of their meeting and becoming a couple. However, to continue refining this kind of distinction will eventually lead to a logical endpoint at which each couple defines their own category, according to their circumstances.

At the same time, each refinement introduces more synastry contacts, so that ultimately, the model leaves nothing out. It becomes essentially the same model that an astrologer uses for a synastry analysis; given any pair of charts, it includes all the particulars of the synastry contacts between charts.

Where does this leave us? For one thing, I have yet to introduce any statistical measures at all. I’ve been describing some kind of model without saying anything about what kind of model it is – other than that a planet can be added to it or omitted from it. I’m just showing how the concept of a model need not be confined to a statistical meaning. In fact, the content of this model — namely, the chart configurations — is no different from that of a statistical model. From this perspective, an informal astrological study, such as this one of synastry contacts over time, may not be so very different from a statistical study of the same subject matter – if one can accept that a statistical study may in fact be different from what is usually meant by the term. That will have to wait for another post.


Astrological Research Goes Native

January 24, 2009

During the late 1970’s, having become a student of astrology in ‘74, I began to pursue the goal of becoming a research astrologer, which struck me as very promising. This was one of my motivations for earning a graduate degree in biostatistics, which I completed in 1980. This was also, I believe, the year of the first ACT conference, at the AFA convention in New Orleans, where I first met Michael Erlewine and other remarkable people. After a couple of years as a statistician I left the public health field to join Matrix Software in ’82, where I found a strong connection that continues to this day.

My original intention in studying research methods was to demonstrate the statistical significance of astrological findings, which was clearly a worthy goal. But the scientific method requires the researcher to stand at a great mental distance from his or her familiar astrological mindset. Making the transition from one mindset to the other, one could hardly help but feel that “everything you know is wrong.” I guess it’s not surprising that few astrologers get interested enough in research to pursue the fearsome study of statistics.

For years my own research interests were confined to a few obscure issues that I felt must be better understood before much sense could be made of anything. These are philosophical questions about the nature of astrological knowledge – questions that begin with the hunch that things are not what they appear to be. We have to deal with this kind of problem somehow, but as the late British astrologer Roy Alexander once wrote: “The first thing that we need to confront squarely is that astrology is profoundly non-rational… it only looks as though it could be dealt with rationally and scientifically.” Despite this sense of being engaged in a surreal pursuit, it is possible to explore some real problems in a straightforward way, up to a point.

In recent years, I’ve taken a more practice-oriented view of research methods that I will be presenting here in some example case studies. These studies are meant to show how one can evaluate and compare charting methods from the views of both practitioner and researcher.

More to come shortly…