Recommended Books on Astrology
New to the subject? Do not know where to look for good books? Well, here is a list of high-quality books I have found to be user-friendly and helpful in my understanding of astrology. Do bear in mind, however, that this is a highly personal set of recommendations, so it is possible that your particular areas of interests may diverge from mine. Nevertheless, I hope you find this list interesting and helpful. I hope to keep on updating this list as other books of interest emerge, in the wake of the discovery of more planetary bodies and redefining of these.
Robert Hand - Horoscope Symbols.
An unassuming cover, but not to be underestimated in the scope of what it has to offer, and the superbly balanced approach he has towards the ten planets and Signs in particular. He also covers what is known on midpoints and harmonics admirably. Robert Hand has written other tomes, one especially for young people - 'Planets in Youth' and another extremely helpful set of readings on transits, called ’Planets in transit.’
It has to be admired for its humanism, as here at least is one astrologer who has no need of Grand Designs and Heirarchies. His descriptions of the Sun and the Moon are among the best I have ever come across, both treated evenly and fairly as equal partners within the inner being of each individual.
Tracy Marks - The Astrology of Self-Discovery
Tracy Marks uses Psychosynthesis as her 'beacon' in life, and through this, Assagioli's tendency to go on about 'lower' and 'higher' egos and selves tedious, but that is by no means all she has to offer. Tracy Marks comes across as someone who has truly had to face her own demons (or her planetary subpersonalities) and work with and through them, so she is far from being an unbalanced New Ager. I particularly liked her chapter on the Moon and how she suggests using lunations in transitting work and there is also an interestng section on the Moon's Nodes with advice on how to find creative ways to resolve the challenges presented at both ends of the axis. Her essays on dealing creatively with outer planet transits are excellent, and are a great antidote to all those negative fears which can creep up when we know from our ephemerises that we've got some difficult transits and progressions coming up! She does not spare you, however, all Astrologers: trying answering honestly her questions about why you are using Astrology, and whether or not your use of it truly is constructive, either towards yourself or towards others. Astrology seems to prefer to have things cast in stone, and quite possibly may appeal more to individuals who like the reassurance, or the sense of power and control - to employ a little of Tracy Marks's stringent introspection - a relatively 'fixed' method of character delineation and divination can bring. This is 'magical thinking' indeed, except of course, that the magic here is real. Unfortunately.
Liz Greene - Saturn, Relating, The Astrology of Fate
I first encountered her earliest books very early on and felt incredibly inspired by them. She has such a sublimely poetic way of writing! It can perhaps blind you to the fact although individuation can seem an incredibly romantic adventure, in practise it can be painful - how does looking at Saturn within you, dealing with its tougher transits 'really' make you feel? In her debut on Saturn, her main achievement is arguably making us want to look at the most unpleasant side of this planet in all its ramifications: at aspects of ourselves we might normally perhaps not wish to have to examine too closely, because it shows up those aspects of ourselves we like least, by making it seem like a great adventure.
'Relating' is even better-written and avoids some of the vices of her first book, where there is just a little too much of a whiff of esoteric contempt for the merely ordinary and uninitiated soul. Here instead there is a great deal of respect for the many differences between different psychological types; here, she looks in depth at the contrasexual aspects of the psyche, and how these are played out within the synastries of individuals over a life-time. Once again, she makes the Jungian path towards self-discovery seem most seductive, a romantic Quest, even though in real life, most people would probably not want not be reminded of their shortcomings in dealing with other people. As a qualified Jungian psychologist, her knowledge of mythology is incredibly scholarly. As an agent for the individuation of her Clients, she is ambitious, intensely Hermetic and comes across as confrontational in the quotes taken from her ’live’ case studies. This is doubtless where her special approach to Astrology would cease to be a romantic exercise at all for those on the receiving end of it.
Although professing to be ’tolerant’ of all differences between people, whatever their sexual orientation, however, she still comes across as being somewhat reactionary – I believe other astrologers have been critical of her essay on her homosexual case in her book ’Relating’ Victor, for example. Whilst she was too much the esotericist in Saturn, now she is a little bit too much the Jungian disciple.
Sometimes she also seems to want to 'push' the facts to make a point a little too much. Her case study on autism, for example in The Astrology of Fate draws some fairly dodgy conclusions - specialists on autism, for example, may certainly object to her quoting Bettelheim on the subject, where the parent is 'blamed' for the child's condition. (Erin Sullivan also undertakes a case study on autism in a family, and she appears to go a step further than Liz Greene in understanding its ramifications, though the conclusions she makes seem rather more ambiguous) Even more dodgy is the orb she allows for a Mercury-Saturn square within the case study, but never mind - the books still makes some very interesting points about fate and free will.
She has also collaborated with Howard Sasportas on other tomes, no doubt likewise containing a wealth of insights to be amassed by the discerning reader.
More recently, I have had occasion to read a book based on workshops she held on Uranus – or, Prometheus. She is her usual lugubrious self as far as looking at the ’darker’ side of the planet, for example, she points out that Hitler, with Uranus so close to the Ascendant was, after all, trying to usher in a Uranian Brave New World himself – which is why she emphasises that – as a collective force, it does need to be well-integrated within the psyche if it is not to work destructively.
She casts a rather more critical eye on Jung and his attitude to the women in his life when looking at his chart. She also revisits the cycles of Saturn, more or less to the grave – luckily, blending these with what concurrent, and more liberating, Uranus transits can tell us within these cycles of unfoldment.
The case studies were also interesting, studded with provocative insights into the charts brought up for discussion, though at one point, the quibling over orbs seemed to be getting unnecessarily psychoanalytical, when probably it may wellhave truly been a technical point.
The Gods of Change - Howard Sasportas
Howard Sasportas also wrote a book about the Houses, which is a much-neglected topic. In this book, he looks at Outer Planet transits, including all those infamous mid-life ones, such as the Uranus half-return, the Neptune-Neptune square and so on. He does, however, look at earlier cycles made by these planets too – and of even later ones, at even later stages in life.
This book is probably most suitable then for those who are seeking to make more sense of their lives within a larger – and, for that matter, a more transpersonal – framework.
Being a lunar type in a solar world - Donna Cunningham
I only managed to pick up the first edition of this book and her main focus is to look at ways to accommodate those 'normal' human needs for community and emotional support shared by all human beings. As the book explores, easier said than done where, as Tracy Marks also remarks, we live in societies and infrastructures that appear to be markedly at odds with the lunar principle. Anyway, within this context she examines the difficulties in getting these needs met within the larger context of historical cycles and the (dysfunctional) horoscopes of nations – particularly that of the States. This analysis of the bigger picture is possibly the one of the more interesting contributions the book has to make – it has to be remembered that people do not live their lives, disconnected from larger socio/economic, and astrological forces! It is perhaps also a pity that the book did not also touch upon the possible relevance of Ceres, where examining more questions in relation to agricultural matters.
She looks at all the main problems traditional accociated with lunar matters and possible ways to resolve them – problems to do with addictions, weight problems, and the menstrual cycle of women, whilst not neglecting the issues men may face in confronting their more vulnerable side, where society expects them to be macho in the stereotypical Mars sense.
Her herbal recipes and recommendations may certainly appeal to the more Pagan-orientated astrologers, though there are other Pagan writers such as Sally Morningstar and Teresa Moorey who have also managed to make a virtual Hufflepuff-style cliché of this kind of book, where I might have longed for some of the Gnostic insights of Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle. It is a pity she had to rewrite the book and bring out another edition before making this one as inclusive as it could be – the first edition does not include these - something of a trap for the unwary. Donna Cunningham, however, also confesses to some unease in writing the book - there are not a great deal of books about 'our closest celestial neighbour' - even now, I see writers on Net forums discuss astrological Moon matters with a certain Victorian disapproving prurience that perhaps can be difficult to overcome. This book, therefore, is something of a pioneer in this direction, not being written by one of the card-carrying'Earth Mothers' so maligned, for example, by the likes of Dennis Elwell.
Donna Cunningham's other books and manuals are also very user-friendly and accassible.
Working with Astrology - Michael Harding and Charles Harvey
This book makes midpoints and harmonics just so much more accessible! The charts it draws on makes its arguments powerful, and convincing: the case study on the phenomenon of Janis Joplin, whose chart is otherwise a total enigma without the wealth of insights that a knowledge of insights can bring, therefore being very much a case in point. Herein too, is one other very basic lesson: the importance of one midpoint in particular, the Sun/Moon midpoint, which, the book assures us, 'is as important as any major planet.' There are books that pay lip service to the idea that these two ideas in the chart are meant to be equals, as a dyadic pair where the one cannot be considered without the other, but in practice, it is not really the case. But if you are looking within yourself for the fusion of body and soul, spirit and mind, your own capacity for the mysterium conjunctionis, albeit on a rather less mystical dimension than Jung might have intended in his magnum opus: well, welcome to the science of midpoints and smell the evidence, as presented in this book.
The chapters on harmonics are also most interesting, though occasionally these are a little less convincing - perhaps because it is still relatively 'new' to Westerners and its practitioners are still feeling their way with it.
Mike Harding wrote an interesting book called 'Hymn to the Ancient Gods' a few years, now out of print, which is something of an attack on certain perspectives - especially Jungian and New Age Ideas (e.g. if you get cancer, then you must have wanted it), which he suggests have been followed too blindly by most astrologers. Mike Harding so often brings a new and often totally unexpected perspective to both mundane and natal astrology, it is good to have 'dissidents' - he is the only Astrologer I know of to declare himself to be a Marxist and an Existentialist. Astrologers all loudly proclaim to be Uranians, but I suspect sometimes that they do no not know what the word means, as most of them seem to be so conservative, with both a large and a small 'c.'
On a more 'beginner' note, Charles Harvey co-wrote an excellent book on the Sun-Moon blend, with some excellent case studies.
Reinhold Ebertin - Applied CosmoBiology
Ebertin wished to distance himself from astrologers - an understandable enough sentiment in many ways - but the professional integrity of the man really shines through. He presents many case studies of how use of midpoints alone can be applied not just in making predictions, but in helping young people cope with school, choose a career, choosing the right time in business to launch a new product.
He does not seem to have much of a bedside manner though! - what he has to say about aspiring artists is bald enough, if he judges that your midpoint trees to show no evidence of possible fame or success. What he has to say about the 'timing of surgical operations and choosing a career are also, surely critical when using Astrology in it more predictive mode.
Michel Gauquelin - The Planets and Human Behaviour
What a strange man this was! - a man who did not believe in Astrology, yet compelled by an inner sense of integrity to be absolutely sure that it could be totally discounted - and then finding out that it couldn't be.
He concentrates on the four planets whose influence on human behaviour is truly measurable: on Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon. Lots of tireless, exhaustive research on Martian athletes, Jupiterian actors, Lunar writers, Martian athletes, and so on, and all with that superbly refreshing lack of received wisdom: his perspective on Jupiter is especially salutary. He also includes case studies on the Nazis, with the disturbing correlation between these and angular Moons and Jupiters, but still warns in applying what he calls 'planetary racism' to these findings. (Harvey and Harding have a great deal more insights to offer in their book, however, on what made Hitler what he was, according to his harmonic/midpoint structures.)
Altogether, more entertaining than Geoffrey Dean, as Gauquelin truly is 'l'astrologue malgre lui.'
The Case for Astrology - John Anthony West
Getting tired of having to explain that it isn't all hogwash, and you are not a con artist whenever it gets to asking for the old palm crossed with silver? Had your astrology course invalidated at the local tech because it's Astrology?
Well, here are the arguments for and against. The first edition of the book – which is still in my bookcase – includes the name of Jan Van Toonder of a co-author. He must have died since the updated version was published – unforutnately, I do not know how updated it is. In the first edition, the research of Gauquelin, along with that of Jonas, for example, was presented as being incontrovertible evidence that there is something to astrology, although it seems that this has been challenged more recently by the likes of Geoffrey Dean and Rudolf Smit – perhaps discussed still futher in Garry Philipson’s book Astrology in the Year Zero. The book is almost fanatical in condemning the shrillest voices against astrology, as well as being something of a gloom-and-doom prophet into the bargain. However, it does make the point that just as we cannot tell the level of awareness at which any native is operating, so Astrology does have its 'levels' - and some of them on a foolish enough level to explain why many of the major religions come out as anti-astrology. Many clients, the authors rather cynically remind us, are not really that interested in personal evolution or growth. They want to know when their lives will improve for the better, In practice, this may mean wanting to know when they will win the lottery, when their spouse/aged parent is going to die, if their operation will be a success, and so on.
Their case studies on time twins are really very interesting.
Astrology, karma and transformation - Stephen Arroyo
I am not really that interested in seeing everything in view of karma and take an agnostic position on the subject of reincarnation, so this book is a little off-putting for me in places. Stephen Arroyo, however, is a very fluent and entertaining writer, and the way he treats transits and progressions here is superbly presented and readable. If you do like to operate as an astrologer from a more spiritual perspective, you could do worse than check out his books - he is reasonably balanced./span>
Astrology: Evolution and Evolution, Alan Oken
Part of a trilogy. I do not really care for the kind of esotericism Alan Oken promotes, yet in this book, an exposure to Vedic Astrology perhaps made him more open-minded than he might otherwise have been. It is, however, a good introduction to the influences of fixed stars and to vedic astrology along with the lunar asterisms.
There was something very fresh, youthful and engaging about his style, and his comments on the outer planets and how these shaped the more way-out generations of the late 20th Century were fun to read (he didn't get as far as punk, goth or techno, these being a little ahead of his time at the time of writing), as were his ideas offered on the astrological 'ages.')
There is something rather prudishly voyeuristic about his tour through what he calls 'sexual variations' as seen through various charts, but his synastries are interesting studies. Sade rears his head, as does the chart of a transexual, Bonnie and Clyde and John and Yoko Ono. Unfortunately, he often has to resort to noon charts. It is worth bearing in mind that there are many astrologers who believes that it is not possible to 'blindly' guess the sexuality of an individual through birth data alone.
Synastry – Penny Thornton
This book tends to over-emphasise a little the marriage between Charles and Diana, though the book was, after all, published soon after the event, but it did foresee the infamous divorce some years later. As a whole the book is written in a sparkling, accessible style, giving several other interesting case studies.
It also looks takes a good look at how to set up a composite chart and how to read it, using still more real-life case studies.
Chiron and the Healing Journey – Melanie Reinhart
It is still difficult to know for sure how important Chiron will be seen to be in a few years from now, especially in the view of the discovery of still more planetoids, comets and so forth. Pluto, however, may lose its status as full planet within the astronomical community, whilst it would be unthinkable now for that to happen within the world of astrology, despite its small size and distance.
This book looks at every combination of Chiron signs and aspects in considerable depth, though it is sometime difficult to know how much is being ’read’ into each of these ramifications, and how much from a genuine sense of the unique signature of the planet. Whatever the case, it is all thoroughly and densely Jungian but whenever waded through, there may be some new insight to be gleaned, and it is a pioneering book of new research.
Asteroid Goddesses – Demetra George
The criticisms of above could well be applied to this one – it is easy to be confused within a thoroughly Virgoan welter of detail as refined as the tiny asteroids themselves. Ceres, as in Chiron of the book touched upon immediately before this one, could easily have its symbolism confused with that of lunar symbolism – an issue which George, to her credit, actually confronts. She reminds us that the asteroids all ’emerge from the silvery ground of the Moon,’ but that they – or at least the main ones, which are all ’feminine’ goddesses, still have a unique signature of their own and as such, can provide new information on the chart that cannot be gleaned from the Moon alone - nor for that matter, from any of the other major players in the natal chart. (This is a point that Robert Hand also makes.)
Obviously then, the task is to get a feel for them, if they really do add additional information that the rest of the chart does not supply in their absence.
I cannot claim to have made the asteroids my life study, but there are ephemerides supplied here for many more than just the Big Four. This book is therefore at least entertaining, if not for speculating what it can mean to have Psyche and Eros both on my Asc/MC midpoint.
Mythic Astrology – Internalising the Planetary Powers – Ariel Gutman and Kenneth Johnson
There seems to be a much more recent sequel to this book, but this has proved to be an interesting source book on myths, planets and the Gnostic quest to work with and through the archetypes the planets represent. It is lavishly illustrated and includes chapters on all the major asteroids – alsas, however, writtn too long ago now to include anything on any of the Centaurs other than Chiron, or on Eris or any other the other Kuiper belt ojects besides Pluto.
The comments the book has to make on the Lunar Nodes and the natal Moon did harmonise with ideas I have set out in other articles I have written here on the subject, though possibly the writers, whilst touching on this, could perhaps have made more of the point of the alchemists, that the Pholisopher’s Stone comes out of union of both Sun and Moon rather than Sun alone, along with the known importance of the Sun/Moon midpoint.
A source book well worth dipping into whenever needed.
The Node Book – Kevin Burk
I managed to get a look at this book on the Lunar Nodes whilst on holiday in the UK recently. Unlike others, it also included delineations not just for the Sign, but also the House positions of the Nodes with the combinations, although there did not seem to be anything on synastry combinations.
It set out, as the original article did, to take a ’fresh look’ at the nodes and why they behave the way they do – starting with exactly what they are as mathematical points in the sky and their connection with either lunar or solar eclipses.
The stance of the book is firmly humanistic – what Burk calls ’supportive’, meaning that it tries to get beyond any polarised thinking of either nodal point as being all ’good’ or the other all ’bad.’
In practise, it perhaps does not give as much material that is as truly perceptive as other writers on the subject, but this does also mean that there is nothing that could be experienced as being destructive or damaging either to anyone reading it either – which to me, is always the danger that can emerge where any one planetary factor gets labelled as being definitely ’bad.’
For those who feel that there is no merit in reading anything that does not put the boot in somewhere – and perhaps, lazy, cruel, selfish people that we can all be sometimes – the boot is most certainly deserved sometimes, then I could still recommend Maria Elise Crummere books on the 12 sun signs. This one is truly perceptive, truly accurate, though with none of the saving humour of ’How to spot a ’B”+!%d’ for example. The lady who wrote this did not come across as a particularly happy bunny. Perhaps this is why it did not stay in print long, rather than the fact that she does not spare anyone’s finer feelings.
Sex Signs - Judith Bennett
Sex Signs is a book for beginners, really, as it takes an in-depth look at each of the 12 'signs.' They are intended as blended portraits in which the subject could have either the sun/moon/ascendant within, or simply be going through a transit or progression-type phase, and therefore be more typical of this 'new' sign than of any other. In this way, she has succeeded in producing a good introductory book suitable for beginners on the subject that describes the 12 signs - or rather archetypes as I have heard them called more recently - without lapsing into over-zealous sun-sign steroptyping. You do not need to know any more than your sun-sign, however, in order to benefit from the book, the check-list of Sign characteristics gives you the opportunity to 'feel' your way into each Sign, in order to choose which one seems to ’fit’ you most at the time of consulting it. Judith Bennett then describes a 13th type - the cosmic woman - someone who, no doubt, has managed to transcend the natal chart as a whole.
The Compleat Astrologer - Derek and Julia Parker
Once again, I cut my teeth on this lavish, coffee-table book, and it is even more lavish than when I first got my own copy, to include midpoints and harmonics now, and lots more case histories.
It is superb on Aspects and chart patterns - splays, buckets and so on.
My main objection to the book is in the fact that appeals to laziness, because of the simplified ephemerides - but then, when I first got the book, there was not much in the way of computer software, that is infinitely more accurate, and still saves you from doing much in the way of mathematical calculations.
It is still a lovely, user-friendly introduction to the whole subject of Astrology. The information on corresponding herbs and precious stones to each Sign is also a pleasant touch.