Introduction to Astrology
Astrology is the study of celestial bodies interpreted as affecting personality, human affairs, and natural events. The primary astrological bodies are the Sun, Moon, and planets, which are analyzed by their aspects (relative positions to one another), by their placement in 'houses' (spatial divisions of the sky), and their movement through signs of the zodiac (spatial divisions of the ecliptic). Astrology in its broadest sense is the search for meaning in the sky, the acquisition of significance being drawn from a combination of observation, correlation, philosophy, logic and lore. The word astrology comes from the Latin astrologia, deriving from the Greek noun αστρολογία, which combines ἄστρο astro, 'star / celestial body' with λογία logia, 'study of / theory / discourse (about)'. Belief in astrology holds firm today in many parts of the world: in one poll, 31% of Americans expressed belief in astrology and according to another study 39% considered it scientific. According to Gallup opinion polls, around 25% of adults in the UK and USA accept that astrology or the position of the stars and planets affect people’s lives, whilst other sources report the figure to be much higher. Astrology has had an influence on both language and literature. For example, influenza, from medieval Latin influentia 'influence', was so named because doctors once believed epidemics to be caused by unfavourable celestial influences. The word disaster comes from the Greek δυσαστρία, disastria, derived from the negative prefix δυσ-, dis- and αστήρ, aster 'star', meaning not-starred or badly-starred. The adjectives lunatic (Luna/Moon), mercurial (Mercury), venereal (Venus), martial (Mars), jovial (Jupiter/Jove), and saturnine (Saturn) are all used to describe personal qualities thought to be influenced by the astrological characteristics of predominating personal planets. In literature many writers, such as Chaucer and Shakespeare, used astrological symbolism to add subtlety and nuance to the description of their characters' motivations. More recently, Michael Ward has proposed that C.S. Lewis imbued his Chronicles of Narnia with the characteristics and symbols of the seven planets that govern the heavens in medieval astrology. In 1978, notes from Margaret Mitchell’s library revealed that she had based each character from her classic prize-winning novel, Gone with Wind (1936), including the central star-crossed lovers, Scarlett (Aries) and Rhett (Leo), around an archetype of the zodiac. In 2010, a detailed personal horoscope analyzed and illustrated by J.K. Rowling at the time she was writing her first Harry Potter novel, came up for sale. The auctioneer commented that Rowling “displays a detailed knowledge of Western astrology which was later to play an important part in her books". Often, an understanding of astrological symbolism is needed to fully appreciate such literature.
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