by Graham Dawson and Bernadette Brady

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Important Note:: The following review was for an earlier version of JigSaw. The latest version -- 2.1 -- is enhanced significantly by being bundled with a 5 1/2 hour set of tutorials on using the program, compatibility with Solar Fire 6 files, automatic ACS atlas lookup, Swiss Ephemeris accuracy, the ability to copy research results to other programs, and more. You can now run JigSaw 2.1 under Windows XP and Windows Vista, but can no longer run it under Windows 3.1.

Graham Dawson, the author of the program Solar Fire, and Bernadette Brady, the author of the book, "The Eagle and the Lark," have designed and programmed the first astrological research software for the Windows environment, called JigSaw. The program runs under the Windows 3.1 in the 386 enhanced mode, and under Windows 95, on IBM- compatible systems with a VGA or better monitor.

JigSaw is an incredibly powerful research tool, with four different sections: data files, rectification, family, and research. In the data files section, you can call up (or create anew) a file containing either a single person's chart -- with a list of important life events attached to it -- or a collection of several people's charts (like the sets included with the program: U.S. astronauts, U.S. presidents, the Kennedy family, popes, poets, actors, British royalty, musicians etc.). The single person's chart and life events are used in the rectification module, while the collections of charts are used in the family and research modules. You can also import charts from Solar Fire, Nova, Blue*Star, and QuickCharts.

While JigSaw will take some time and care to learn, it helps you along the way, with a well-written manual that explains both the general approach towards each procedure and the specific steps of each process; and with its well-designed context-sensitive help. You simply drag the help indicator (a cute paw print of the "JigSaw dog") to any function you don't understand, and an clear explanation immediately pops up.

Rectification is the process of determining the exact time of birth for charts where the birth time isn't known. JigSaw's rectification module is by far the most sophisticated and effective tool ever designed to help astrologers to rectify a chart. To use this feature, you start by entering a new natal chart, with the possible range of birth times, and then add a list of important life events, such as deaths, moves, marriages, achievements, etc. JigSaw is very flexible and forgiving, and allows the date of each event to be approximate, with no time and/or place specified, and even with a range of plus or minus any number of days. The program is very intelligent, and disqualifies any events that are too uncertain to be of value. It also evaluates whether you've entered enough dates to do a valid rectification. Ideally, event dates should be at least six months apart (to prevent slower moving planets from artificially loading certain degrees) and cover the entire lifespan. You can manually turn on or off any individual event, i.e. tell JigSaw to include or ignore it.

Using the life events, JigSaw creates graphs showing the number of times each degree of the signs was occupied by transiting planets when the events occurred. The degrees that were most often hit during important life events show up as peaks in the graphs. JigSaw finds the pairs of peaks that are the same number of degrees apart as an Ascendant and Midheaven would be, at the latitude of the person's birth. From these pairs of peaks, JigSaw proposes possible birth times.

After the program has shown you the possible times, you can then instantly view a chart for any of these in JigSaw's dynamic chart screen. Here JigSaw displays the planets for the proposed time in the center of the wheel, with the transiting (or progressed) planets, at the time of the first of the life events, around the outside of the wheel. It also shows all of the aspects made to the natal planets. You can quickly explore a biwheel for each of the life events charts and the aspects made to the natal chart. This is a wonderful feature. You can also adjust the time of the chart backwards or forwards, and even view transiting, secondary progressed, or Solar arc planets as they move around the chart, either one week at a time, or in an animated display moving around the chart quite rapidly.

I tested the rectification module's effectiveness with my own accurately timed chart, and it was able to pinpoint my birth time within one minute! You can also use this module to discover what degrees in anyone's chart are most sensitive to transits. This is clearly an incredible tool.

The research module graphs the distribution of specific astrological factors in a collection of charts. You can explore positions in zodiacal longitude, declination, Right Ascension, and altitude/azimuth. The zodiac divisions you can select include signs, elements, modes, decanates, degrees, polarities, and more. The house divisions include searches by hemisphere, quadrant, house, house ruled, accidental dignities, and house mode. JigSaw allows you to investigate essential dignities in great detail too, such as factors adding strength, like exaltation, rule, triplicity, face, and term, and factors adding weakness, like detriment, and fall. One could explore, for example, whether athletes had Mars in exaltation more often than in fall. The program can also analyze groups for Gauquelin sectors, phases, harmonic aspects, and time and year of birth. In one of my searches, I wanted to see if musicians had Venus in Taurus more often than in other signs. JigSaw made it simple to test this. It displayed a bar graph of Venus in each of the twelve signs, and by clicking on any of the bars, showed the likelihood of that bar being its height (e.g. one chance out of two). (And no, there were not a significantly larger proportion of Venuses in Taurus than in other signs.)

You can exclude uncertain birth times from searches, create new divisions of the zodiac (any starting point and any number of slices), and specify old or modern rulerships. Once you've set your search criteria, you select the points (e.g. planets, asteroids, and angles) you want used. With remarkable speed, JigSaw tabulates the results of your search as either a bar graph, polar (circular) graph, or a table. By clicking on any of the graph's peaks or a table's cells, you can immediately see if the results are statistically significant, and to what degree. JigSaw can even create a control group, matching your current group's size, date range, etc., to help you to make sure your results are significant. You can also save any cell of charts to it's own file, for further research. The research module is a fine tool for analyzing group phenomena.

The family module of JigSaw is designed to help you to view and explore what patterns exist within groups. Simply put, many groups have a common theme, either a planet that links them all, or a degree area (like 25-26 degrees). JigSaw searches for major harmonic patterns formed between the charts, like kites, yods, grand crosses, grand quintiles, mystic rectangles, etc. You can select any point(s) and midpoint(s) to include in a search, any range of harmonics, and the harmonic orb used, and the minimum number of matches that must be found before the program displays them. You can specify whether to look for point to point connections (e.g. Sun to Sun) or combinations (e.g. if you'd selected Mars, Venus, and the Mars/Venus midpoint, then any contact by Mars to another chart's Mars, Venus, or Mars/Venus midpoint would count).

After finding a pattern, JigSaw then displays the planets for each chart that fits the pattern. To help in finding patterns, JigSaw can also display all the charts in the group one underneath the other in strip form, with the planets for each chart proportionately arrayed on one line from left to right by increasing degrees. You can position a vertical line at any degree and scroll down through the charts to see what planets in each chart occur at the same degree. JigSaw also allows you to highlight any single planet in red for all of the charts, and can switch from displaying planets to displaying midpoints for each chart. In addition, you can take any chart to JigSaw's dynamic chart screen (described above in the section on rectification) and instantly display any of the other charts in the group around the outside of the wheel, noting aspects between the two charts.

As I said before, JigSaw requires careful study of its manual, and a bit of time to understand and fully utilize. Nevertheless, its power, flexibility, and range of features are superb, and any astrologer interested in rectification or research will find it quite invaluable.

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