On the Efficacy of Horoscope Columns, Generally

authored by Pam Frank

Horoscope columns, also known as sun-sign columns, are a much debated topic among astrologers and lay people alike. What the two camps have in common is the tendency to rebuff them based on generalization. Some astrologers fear that the broad format of sun-sign columns undermines the integrity of the deeper, more incisive understanding of which astrology is capable. Lay people point out that a particular horoscope was "off" for them, so the whole field of astrology must be off-the-wall. Bottom line, whether generalization occurs before or after the fact, horoscope columns can easily provoke negatively broad-based views.

In contrast, I think generalization is the key to understanding the efficacy of sun-sign columns, because it is in their very lightness that they possibly offer their greatest gift. So let's explore what horoscope columns provide, acknowledging some degree of specificity; embracing that they are indeed only the tippy tip of the astrological iceberg compared to personalized astrology readings; and admitting that while we are not chiseling very deep, that is not grounds for dismissal, but a more lucid, even holistic understanding.

Horoscope columns categorize people into 12 sun-sign types. It's certainly a lot more than Carl Jung's widely used dual classification of introvert and extrovert, and a third more than the lesser known Enneagram's nine-point personality system as pioneered by G.I. Gurdjieff. Based on numbers alone, we can say that astrology's 12 character types offer the public comparatively greater breadth and distinction, not to mention centuries of empirically-based understanding behind them.

The emphasis in horoscope columns on the sun in a particular sign, versus the moon or a planet, stems from the fact that the sun is the central light bearer of our universe. In the birth chart, a map of the  universe at the moment of the first breath, light is equated with consciousness. Therefore, the sun in a particular sign represents the most conscious part of a person's psyche. It symbolizes their sense of identity, and thus constitutes the obvious single choice of horoscope columnists in their work. While the sun ( Sun Glyph 10pt) is all- important, however, notice below how much more information about a person is contained in their birth chart, the chief tool used by astrologers in personalized readings.


Thus while the sun is central to a person's sense of self, it represents only one of the many factors that symbolically makeup an individual as a whole. Saturn Glyph 10pt   

When it comes to prediction, the real hook of sun-sign columns, generalization again is called for. Astrologers use the same tool of transits, the movement of the planets in the sky at a particular time, for columns as they do for individual readings. The difference is that in a column, the whole 30 degree range of a particular sun sign is commonly taken into account when describing the affect of a moving planet on the sun sign. Whereas, in a personal reading, astrologers normally tighten the orb of influence from a 30 degree range to a one degree range. Horoscope columns, then, can really only address the influence of an astrological event on a sun sign in relatively diffuse terms compared to the more poignant understanding articulated in personalized readings.

Houses, representing environments of life, are distinguished in horoscope columns not by the time of birth (obviously), as with individual chart readings, but by placing the sun sign on the first house cusp, with the natural sequence of signs following numerically. So that if the sun is in Aries, the first house is associated with Aries, the second house with Taurus, the third with Gemini and so on. If the sun is in Taurus, then Taurus is associated with the first house, Gemini the second and around again. These are called solar houses. The thinking for linking the sun and the first house is that they each represent the self, albeit somewhat differently, and are thus allied. As the planets in the sky change signs, they are regarded in horoscope columns as also changing solar houses, the exact house of which depends on the sun sign being discussed.

So the mechanisms for creating sun-sign columns are grounded in traditional astrological understanding of the personality and its moment, yet speak more to general resonances affecting a part of the self rather than the whole. Given this understanding, the key to responding to horoscope columns is to stay light on your feet with them, for it is in their very lightness that you may catch a glimmer of something more. It's been said that enlightenment has to do with lightening up. I certainly can't promise you that any astrological tool can offer you enlightenment, but I can tell you that the lightest one, in focus and content, is the horoscope column. By its very nature, then, it may be closer to offering a glimpse of the truth of our oneness than may first be apparent. After all, there are 12 distinct signs, but only one sun—out there and in here. Sun-sign columns can therefore serve as doorways to the universal, to that which is common and thus unifying to us all. In that light, they can be seen as generally efficacious indeed.

Saturn Glyph 8pt In modern times, the term "horoscope" refers to a person's entire chart, not just their sun sign. Thus the term "horoscope column" is a misnomer, given that its focus is solely on the sun sign. To resolve this discrepancy for myself, I've named my column "SOLscope" in acknowledgment of its specifically solar orientation.

Astrology Not

If you want to consistently engage in lively social conversation, become an astrologer. My response to the inevitable question "So, what do you do?" almost always peaks curiosity and opens further dialogue. Often I find myself more in the role of debunking what astrology is not than characterizing what it is. It's really quite down-to-earth in its application. It honors the talents and challenges you've been given in this lifetime and looks at the timing to identify what part of your life is being stimulated to greater awareness. The good news, I think, is that you have the power to choose your response, regardless of what outer circumstances show up. An astrology reading could therefore never be separate from you or dictated to you, but only co-explored with you. 

Indeed modern humanistic astrology is "person centered." Its purpose, to paraphrase revered astrologer Robert Hand, is to help you find where you are within your own universe, for then you can get back in touch with the creative process of making your universe work. Hand goes on to add, "...the horoscope seems to act as a schematic diagram of [your] intentions in life....It is a description not of what is going to happen (that is, destiny), but of what [you are] and what shape [you are] going to give to [your] life....astrology is in no way a retreat from individual responsibility. Rather it acknowledges responsibility on the highest level." Saturn Glyph 10pt     

Simply put, astrology is a tool for enhancing self awareness so that conscious choices can be made, often leading to a happier, more fulfilled state of being. The greater the personal awareness you cultivate, the less outside events need to occur in order to prompt your attention. Astrology demonstrates, however, that outer and inner are really one. The macrocosm of the universe mirrors the microcosm of you because everything in existence is a reflection of the One made manifest to know Itself. Of course I don't get into that conversation until at least the second question "What is going on with the planets lately?" - - - Not!

Saturn Glyph 8pt Robert Hand, Horoscope Symbols, West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1981, p. 18.

 Email Pam Frank            Visit Pam's website, Planet Astrology

Back to Astrology        Home        Email Us