There are lots of different approaches to astrology, what it is, where it comes from and why, but there is one umbrella phrase which unites most students and practitioners, and that is: “astrology works.” That is to say, if you see a lot of charts over a long period of time, there are certain elements and characteristics of signs, planets, and houses that stand out individually, which repeat over and over again, enough to show you there’s something to it. Recognition of those elements and how to spot them is what being a good astrologer is all about, and it is what the eager student most fervently seeks.
That’s what you see in the details of Jodie Forrest’s book on the Ascendant, especially in its “cookbook” sections of how different signs, planetary rulers, and their house positions show up in unique, identifiable patterns and quirks. You’ll find yourself immediately recognizing the modes of dress, action, style, and substance (or lack of it) that characterize the individual Ascendant and its modifiers, the most obvious and physical manifestation of the horoscope. This includes fun and insightful peeks at national character, physical appearance, rectification tips, and all kinds of other observations that help clarify what makes up any given personal appearance.
The author also goes into what a personal appearance really is — how much of that physical interface with reality comes from what’s behind it (your Sun and Moon) and what’s in front of it (other people’s reactions and expectations) and how you craft and maintain your borders in order to make the best of what you’re born with. She suggests a variety of thought experiments that are particularly useful in figuring it out for yourself and applying and building on what you learn from your observations. Thought experiments – from Newton’s apple to Einstein’s elevator and Schrodinger’s cat — are often the most approachable entry to the more seemingly complex areas of how things work, and Foster makes good use of them.
She also uses practical metaphors for the Ascendant like the “vehicle” (are you a Land Rover or a Buick?) and good movie and acting citations (though it helps to have seen the movies). Try, she suggests, turning the sound off on a good movie you’ve never seen and watch how skilled actors using their Ascendants say so much more than just what’s in the script. Suggested associated costumes, environment, and types of behavior are included for a variety of Ascendant sign/planetary combinations. All these approaches help you see what actually comprises the Ascendant, how people use it, and how the language of astrology helps better to observe, explain, and understand it.
The only shortcoming here may be the attempts to attribute these wonderfully clear and obvious external personality characteristics to some deeper structure, specifically either Jungian psychology or reincarnation, or both, which muddy the waters a bit, but can be skipped without mishap. The fact is, since the planets and their rhythms predate all human activity and subsequently gave rise to it, it is more likely that our psychological “archetypes” and experience of spirituality are simply current ongoing reflections of them, not the other way around, and we may be better off dispensing with 20th-century pseudoscientific self-absorption and get back to our planetary roots.
Fortunately, Forrest suggests something similar, herself, in Chapter 11, noting that you don’t have to buy any particular doctrine for the details to work — which is encouraging, since her details work so well. Jodie Forrest is, above all else, an astute astrological observer of habits and behavior, which manifest so vividly at the human boundary line that is the Ascendant. She goes at it with heart, open eyes, and an instinct for wisdom that doesn’t require a theory to legitimize it, even though she suggests a couple. To quote the David Pomeranz song, made famous by John Denver and The Muppets:
“It’s in every one of us to be wise,
Find your heart, open up both your eyes,
We can all know everything, without every knowing why,
It’s in every one of us, by and by.”
That’s what, ideally, astrology does for you, if studied and taught well. It’s certainly a good wrap to describe the thrust of this effort, the best book about the Ascendant to come along in many years.