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Joseph Crane (b. 1954 Brighton, MA) is an American astrologer and psychotherapist who practiced astrology since the late 1980's and is the co-founder of the Astrology Institute. His main interest is to understand and teach Hellenistic astrology or, even more, "to reformulate modern astrology by using methods from astrology's traditions". The most significant results of his work are his books: A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology (1997) and Astrological Roots: the Hellenistic Legacy (2007). The last one is the most comprehensive study about Hellenistic astrology that we have nowadays.
In the Preface the author gives a beautiful definition for astrology:
"Astrology is one of the great adventures of human civilization and has contributed greatly to people's lives and to our culture over time. Astrology's purpose is to use the positions of the planets and stars in the sky to gather information on the individual and on humanity. Astrology is a system that enables us to understand the past, present and the future within a universe full of meaning."
and then starts to criticize modern astrology as being too focused on speculations, too much connected by modern astrologers with different spiritual ideologies like supposed previous lifetimes, Jungian psychology etc., resulting in difficult, fuzzy, confusing interpretations. On the other side traditional astrology, the subject of this book, has clear concepts, gives better results and is easy to apply. He wants to help us reestablish contact with, what he calls "astrology roots".
Introduction: Astrology then and now
First, Joseph Crane makes a brief incursion in the early evolution of astrology starting from Mesopotamia in 400 BCE until 400 CE when Christianity became a fierce enemy for astrology. Then, he discusses the most important critics regarding astrology: why many astrological predictions do not pass, how the planets can scientifically influence humans, how astrology match with different religious beliefs, why ancient astrologers judgments are fatalistic etc.
Chapter 1: Astrology's Bricks and Mortar
The author explains that in ancient astrology the relation between the astrologer and the visible sky was much more important that in modern astrology because now we use computers, software and forget to look at the real picture, on the sky. With this idea in mind, he presents several important matters in traditional astrology like: sect, the seasons and their relation with signs, the whole sign houses system, the planetary joys, triplicities, quadrants and a little piece of practical astrology. About the houses, he mentions that in ancient tradition the houses were not associated with signs (House 1 with Aries, House 2 with Taurus etc.) like in modern astrology. This is a good point to remember. Also, he explains very well the relation between seasons and signs, for example:
"Cancer is the sign that begins with the summer equinox, and the season is hot. Hot increases activity and can also go to extremes of expression. Cancer, however, is a water sign and we tend to think of signs in the water triplicity as sensitive, emotional, and imaginative. Cancer, more than Scorpio and Pisces, has hot qualities of dramatic emotionality. Cancer wears its heart on its sleeve, despite its desire to hide within its shell. Libra, which begins with the autumn equinox, is in the dry season of the year. Dry separates and sees things as distinct. Unlike Gemini and Aquarius, the other signs in the air triplicity, Libra discriminates carefully between it and others, and defines itself by form and protocol. Capricorn is an Earth sign in the cold season. Cold is subdued and self-contained, sometimes brittle. Capricorn's reticence, sobriety and curmudgeonly qualities are legendary, especially in contrast with the restlessness of Virgo (in the hot and drying time of the year)and the sensuality of Taurus (in the wet and warming time of the year)."