Astrological Techniques and Uncertain Birth Times
The new astrology programs are dazzling in their range of features. We astrologers can now do planetary returns, locational astrology maps, tertiary progressions, harmonic charts, and many other techniques that we couldn't do by hand. We can easily fall into the trap, however, of trusting the accuracy of software too much, without realizing that an inaccurate birth time can destroy the validity of many astrological techniques. And astrology software is not a savior. It cannot compensate for data entry errors or birth time uncertainties.
A. Natal Charts. With a 15 minute error in birth time, the degree of the rising sign for a chart with a Pisces or Aries ascendant can often shift by 7 degrees, and up to 15 degrees for latitudes far from the Equator like Stockholm, Sweden. In other words, the more Northern or Southern the birth place, and the faster the ascending sign rises (Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, and Taurus Ascendants rise the fastest North of the Equator and Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio Ascendants rise faster South of the Equator), the more critical it is to have a very accurate birth time. Otherwise, house positions will be off, one won't be able to tell which planets are strongest (which are near an angle), and the all important Ascendant may even be in the wrong sign.
B. Astro-Mapping. If a birth time is just 10 minutes off, the Astro*Carto*Graphy planet rising and culminating lines are about 135 miles off! A 15 minute birth time error causes Local Space map lines to shift from 40 miles to as much as 300 miles or more! This means that these methods are totally useless unless the birth time is very accurate. For astro-mapping to be completely reliable, the birth time cannot be more than 5 minutes off. Astrologers shouldn't even try to do Astro*Carto*Graphy for a person with a rounded off birth time (e.g. 1 AM) unless they first perform rectification on the chart.
C. Solar Returns (aka Varshaphal). If a birth time is 15 minutes off, the Ascendant of the Solar Return can be 5 and a half degrees off, rendering many of the planetary house positions questionable.
D. Transits. Most astrologers consider the transits by Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto to the angles – the Ascendant and Midheaven – to be among the most important transits in a person's life. What they don't realize is that an error in the birth time of just 15 minutes can make these transits to angles off by a minimum of two months (when the outer planet is moving quickly and the ascendant sign is of long ascension -- like Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio in northern latitudes) to over one year if the outer planet is moving slowly, to a maximum of over three years for someone with Pisces or Aries -- short ascension signs -- rising! In other words, unless the birth time is very accurate, the timing of transits to angles must be considered impossible to determine with any precision.
E. Vedic charts. Most Vedic astrologers use whole sign houses. When a 15 minute error in the birth time changes the rising sign, the chart changes drastically because every planet changes house, ashtakavarga values are completely altered, and the entire reading becomes invalid. Even when a 15 minute shift does not change the rising sign, the onset of Vimshottari Dasa and Bhukti periods can shift 3-4 months, Varga charts become useless, and the very important Nakshatra of the Ascendant (Lagna) will often change. That's why many professional Vedic astrologers will rectify charts before conducting a session.
I recently did a birth chart reading for two twins. Because they were born only 10 minutes apart, both their Western and Vedic birth charts were identical with each other's. However, their Bhava charts, Navamsa charts, and a large number of their divisional charts were very different. And their life courses, as a result, as read by Vedic methods, will be very, very different. It again showed me how great a difference of 10 minutes in the birth time can make in a person's life. Every professional Vedic astrologer knows that there are birth times where even a couple of minutes change will radically alter all of the charts, and the person's life represented by them.
In short, if the birth time is at all approximate, one cannot use any astromapping techniques, harmonic charts, most Vedic methods, or outer transits to angles with any degree of confidence, and in some cases even the natal house positions become unreliable.
Note: This article first appeared in my newly revised, Optimal Use of Astrology Software, but it is so important that I decided to also make it the single article in my December 2004 astrology tutorial column.
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