Robert Asks:

“In reading your book, [Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart], I noticed, in determining the balances for the elements, modes, hemispheres, and quadrants that 1) you divide the points into groups of personal planets, personal angles, and outer planets and 2) you include the Part of Fortune, North Node, and South Node, and 3)you include Chiron in outer planets, and 4) it seems that the points are not weighted for scoring of the balances.

In Solar Fire, the default method of scoring the balances is weighted. The Sun, Moon, and Ascendant are multiplied by 3, Mercury, Venus and Mars by 2, and Jupiter through Neptune by 1. Chiron, the Midheaven, the Nodes, and the Part of Fortune are weighted 0—that is, they don’t effect the scoring of the balances at all.

Having great respect for Kevin Burk and for Solar Fire, whose methods seem to be slightly at odds, I am confused as to whether some points should be weighted, and if so, by what factor?”

Kevin Answers:


Thank you for your kind words! Point systems are entirely a matter of choice. Astrological interpretation is an art, and ultimately, you simply need to choose what approach works best for you. I personally do not find the point systems (or at least the point systems you described) to be useful, so I don’t use them. I do use other point systems, however.

Let me take a moment to clarify what we’re talking about here, before I go too much further. When I look at a chart, the first thing I want to see is the balance between the four elements and the three modalities. I find this information valuable in assessing a person’s temperament and beginning to create a context for more detailed and specific interpretations of the chart. The most important elements to me are the “personal planets” which in this case include the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These seven visible planets are the ones that are the most directly involved in influencing individual personality traits.

I next consider the angles and the personal points, including the Midheaven, the Ascendant, the Moon’s Nodes, the Part of Fortune, and frequently, the Vertex. These points, while important in their own right, are not as influential as the planets. The planets are physical bodies and represent our essential nature. The angles, on the other hand, are sensitive points only; they do not radiate light, and they do not represent urges or needs. Rather, they represent perspective and points of view. As such, they’re important to take into consideration (particularly when there is a significant difference between one’s perspective and one’s nature—say a person with no fixed planets, but primarily fixed angles). Finally, I include the outer planets (and Chiron, which I consider to be an outer planet) but since they represent generational influences, I do not pay much attention to them in this context.

Solar Fire (and most other astrology programs) offer a variety of ways to “weight” the scores based on the planets and angles. Depending on the program or the point system, you could have a chart with a “Water Score” of 8, or a “Fixed” score of 3. I personally do not find this to be useful, because the weighting factors are too subjective.

The chart weightings are used as a way to identify certain “themes” or “signatures” in the chart. I classify these as “temperament” and address them to start building a context for the rest of my interpretation. The weightings are not about which planets or points are more important than others, because that’s not really a question that can be answered. Each planet in the chart has equal importance. One can’t question if Mercury is more important than Venus, for example, even in the context of one’s personality. Both Mercury and Venus contribute significantly to our personal expression; they simply represent different arenas. In terms of how our personalities form and express, the “personal” planets are unquestionably the most important, but I personally don’t find making relative distinctions between them to be helpful.

The fact that the settings that Robert mentions are the “default” settings is important: Solar Fire is one of the most customizable programs you’re likely to find. If you don’t like the point system, or want to include or exclude certain points from your calculations, you can easily do so. Play with it to see if you can find a set of parameters that helps you to gain important insight into your charts. Or ignore the point systems completely.

Where I do use points and find them helpful is when evaluating a planet’s essential dignity. Here, I use the standard 5 points for rulership, 4 for exaltation, 3 for triplicity, 2 for term and 1 for face, with –5 for detriment, -4 for fall, and –5 for being peregrine. Even this system has variations, however! You can choose to award triplicity points only for in-sect triplicity, or to include out-of-sect triplicity as well. [And if you have no idea what I’m talking about here, see Chapter 6!]

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