Book review: Horoscope Symbols

Published in 1981 by Whitford Press, it is one of his first books, but this does not mean it is obsolete. More, I would say it is the first book that should be studied when someone starts to learn astrology. That’s why I chose this book to be the first reviewed.


Here Robert Hand explains what he wants to achieve with this book: a deep understanding of the astrological symbols, their relation and also an interesting idea that everything is happening to us (even it seems an exterior event) has his roots in our actions, in our behavior.  I agree with this point and we can think that in Hinduism and Buddhism it’s a basic notion named “karma”. This signify our future but, attention!, is produced by our past actions. So, basically, it is the same idea. We generate what is happening to us, even it seems exterior. And a lot of people (at least Hindus and Buddhists) are pretty comfortable with this idea.

1. The Horoscope: a Map of the Psyche

Here we can found a piece of history and see, for example, where and when appeared the first astrological activity (it was Mesopotamia), when the Ascendant began to be used or other interesting facts. Also there is some philosophy here. Rob express some points of view about astrology and religion and is repeating that our experiences are created by us and even more:

“You create not only the experiences of events involving you with others, but also the experiences of events involving others with others”.  

And you can find another beautiful idea out there:

“The needed knowledge, wisdom and experience are not learned in school. Rather, they are acquired from living life consciously and with understanding. They may also be acquired from doing astrology: the study of astrology feeds itself”.

This is great and is true. Very important, when you study astrology you change your way of thinking. You see how the things really are and understand them, gaining wisdom. You understand that if something bad happens you must search your actions first and not to blame others. You understand to be responsible, to assume your actions and, finally, your life.

2. The Symbol Systems of Astrology

In this chapter, Rob tells that planets must be seen like patters of energy. We should not assign planets to some kinds of people or entities, but to some kinds of actions and energies. And those planet energies in a chart are being seen subjective, every person perceive a chart from her position. For example, I see a woman in a way and for you the same woman means something different. Because her energies are connecting different with your energies than with mine. So, every human perceives the same people, the same events differently, subjective, from his point view.

Then Rob says: “If planets can be likened to verbs, signs can be likened to adverbs”, which means that planets signify energy and signs can change this energy, but not fundamentally.

In the final part of the chapter there is some astronomy and I would like to remark the explanation for celestial latitude, which is something that we are not using very often. Celestial latitude means the distance between the body and the ecliptic and when is used can change the position in house and also the power of manifestation. For example, Pluto may seem a whole house below the horizon and in reality is above. The problem appears especially when you use asteroids and fixed stars because they have great latitudes.

I think would be a good idea to use celestial latitude, most astrology software calculate this value and we could easily see if it has any relevant significance.

3. The Planets. Introduction

Here are presented some features of the planets viewed linked one with another. We found out about planetary pairs like Sun-Earth, Moon-Mercury, Venus-Mars or Jupiter-Saturn. Sun and Earth are two centers of the Solar System, Sun the objective center and Earth the subjective center (from our perspective). Mercury and the Moon are two modulators for the Sun and Earth. Mars and Venus are also linked, Mars represent “I”, the energy that separates one from another and Venus represent “Thou” and the development through relations.  Jupiter means support, social expansion, social order and Saturn signify resistance, rules, tests.

Then, the transcendental planets, represents energies that are out of the ordinary reality, so not everyone can express them. In fact, these planets require a telescope to be seen.

The last part is about retrograde planets, the whole mechanism of being retrograde is explained and we can see, for example, that retrograde planets are always closer to the Earth and generates greater involvement and a sort of lack of vision. All the explanations are there!

4. The Planets: Core Meanings

It is, probably, the best chapter from this book. Mainly we found that planets are not just some spots on the sky who generates some good or bad things to us. Ntzzz…

It is here, in this chapter, a much deeper explanation of the planetary energies. Rob writes about the Sun like a “yang” symbol, the hero archetype and the Moon like a “yin” symbol (the origin and the medium where energy can manifest). And beginning with these ideas he explains many things about the relation between those two planets, what happens when one have a strong Moon and a weak Sun or vice versa. Also we can see this relation in the world: generally speaking, we lost a lot of “yin” values and appreciate only “yang” values (we can see that firms hires only young people who are dynamic, full of energy, leaders) which is bad and make us lose until we won’t evaluate yin and yang, the Moon and the Sun with the same measure.

The explanation for Mercury it is really special. He sees two functions for Mercury: communication and the power of symbol-making. Signifies the nervous system because the nerves enable the organs to communicate. Signifies sensing, experiencing or language because all these processes are made by assigning symbols to some things. When we see a tree it is, practically, our visual impression of a tree, not the tree itself. It is what is focused on the retina of the eye. So it is a symbol of the tree. And when we say “tree” we use another symbol. The word “tree” it is a symbol for the symbol assigned with what we think is a tree. This is Mercury… Assigning symbols to enhance communication, learning, discovering the world, get information, create maps.

Venus is about unifying  two things, persons for a better creation. Mars, contrary, individualize, magnify differences.

Jupiter has two types of energies: expansion and integration and Saturn is the planet who says stop to Jupiter expansion. Saturn sets bounds, structures, rules. Saturn shows age and death is the moment when you have nothing more to develop, when you must stop.

Then, the transcendental planets, destroy the order created by the former planets. So, when you learned the lessons for the material world, when you are fully developed here, know to act, to love, to work, to think, to take a social position comes those energies and tells you: “No, you are not good. And even more, you must destroy everything and take a new way, this world it is not real, just seemed to be real” And here we learn about Uranus, Neptune and Pluto energies, who are all destroying Saturn`s reality (Earth reality) and connects us to other realities.

Here is an interesting quotation:

“Neptune is often described as illusion, while Saturn is said to represent truth. The relation is actually the reverse: Saturn is the illusion  that there is a reality that is true; Neptune is the truth that there isn’t”.

And a last idea from this chapter:

“If one really masters Neptune, one probably does not incarnate into this world”.

In chapter 5 Other Points in the Chart are presented briefly other positions that deserve attention in a chart like node-type points, planetary nodes, asteroids, fixed stars etc. and some points that are not giving important results yet like Vertex, the East Point, the Aries Point or the hypothetical planets. Arabian parts, planetary pictures, midpoints and antiscia are also presented here.

6. The Aspects. Introduction

Excluding three pages about parallels there is nothing special in this chapter, are just well-known general characteristics of aspects.

7. The Aspects: Core Meanings

Here the aspects are explained in connection with numbers. We can read about “the two series or hard aspect” which means opposition (360/2), square (360/4), semisquare (360/8), sesquiquadrate (360*3/8), “the three series or soft aspects” which are the trine (360/3), sextile (360/6), semisextile (360/12), quincunx (360*5/12) and other harmonics like the five-series, seven-series or nine-series. It is a logical approach for explaining the meaning of the aspects because when you have an aspect you have a number and if you know what this number means you know how the energies work together.

The two series generates instability and change. So, a person with many squares and oppositions in her chart should expect to have a lot of difficulties, experiences, risks. In this way they can gain wisdom by learning many lessons in life or if can not handle the energies they seem to have no luck, to lose most challenges.

The opposition is different from square because generates a conflict whit something that seems exterior and also it has a greater awareness. The square energies can be only from inside and are forcing us on a certain direction, we do not have many options. We must understand what is the path to choose because if we resist to this aspect the problems will appear over and over again.

The three series give stable energies that resist to change and keeps the balance. If one has too many trines or sextiles he may not evolve a lot because is always self-satisfied and this is a trap on long-term.

The sextile (60) is 360/3*2 so has 3 but also 2. This means is not only like a trine but also like an opposition. It results opportunities, situations where you must act in order to take advantage. It is a more dynamic aspect that the trine.

Then, Rob tells a couple of words about the five series aspects (are like Pluto, bring destruction and concrete creation), the seven-series (mental and emotional difficulties, inspiration, religion) and other harmonics.

In the final part are presented some special configurations like: multiple conjunctions or oppositions, grand trines, grand crosses, T-squares, grand-quintiles, grand-sextiles, kites, mystic rectangles, minor grand trines, yods.

8. Midpoints: Introduction

These is another technique that is not very often used nowadays. Rob writes that he gets good results with midpoints and a planet conjunct with a midpoint is colored with the influence of the other two planets involved. I didn’t get very clear results with this technique until now but I will be testing it in the future.

In chapter 9 Brief meanings of Planetary Pairs is presented every possible pair with the related explanations. This should be helpful especially in analyzing midpoints.

10. The Signs: Introduction

Here are explained very nice the four triplicities. Fire means will, activity, energy, yang, optimism, dynamic emotions, operates within the universe by energizing and transforming.

Earth signifies concern with physical, practical, common-sense matters. No ideas, no philosophy. Earth is stable, passive and resistant to change.

Air is a yang element, positive, interested in exterior matters, who needs freedom, likes abstractions, organizing. It is objective, sometimes insensible and more practical, more efficient than fire.

Water is a yin element, has difficulties in communication, in expressing the feelings in words. All the experiences are taken very personal.

You will find all these characteristics detailed and very good explained in the book.

Then Rob tries to link the four temperament types (thinking, feeling, intuition, sensation) of the psychologist Carl G. Jung with the triplicities but the conclusion is that they are not matching. It is normal, because astrology can show everything much more realistic and in a complex manner than could Jung think.

After that are the explanations for cardinal, fixed, mutable signs and dignities. Rob has a different position about dignities than others. He does not use terms and faces and even for the important dignities (rulership, detriment, exaltation and fall) he has great reserves. Let see a quotation:

“For example Saturn is exalted in Libra, the sign ruled by Venus, even though Saturn is considered to inhibit Venus. And while Mars is exalted in Capricorn, Saturn`s sign, Saturn is said to be in his fall in Aries, Mars`s sign. Why should one combination  of Mars-Saturn symbolism be beneficial while the other is not. Of course part of the answer is that planets are not identical with the signs they rule: Mars is not Aries and Saturn is not Capricorn. But one would logically expect Mars in Capricorn to be just as conflicting as Saturn in Aries. Clearly, whatever logic there is in the assignment of planets to rulership is lacking in the assignment of planets to exaltations”.

11. The Signs: Core Meanings

Here is detailed each sign. I will briefly show what seemed to be more interesting and original for each sign.

Aries. To manifest his yang energy he must establish a good relation with others, be a social person. To be antisocial is easier for him, but in this way he will not be realized. He does not want social power to rule other people, he just wants to be what he thinks he can be and doesn’t need others approval. Planets in Aries act more decisively, quickly, ego-oriented and is not a good position for Venus, Neptune and the Moon.

Taurus. It is a sign that totally belongs to the material world, is satisfied with what he is, does not need the social world and is very interested in sexuality. Interesting supposition here by Hand “Not Venus rules Taurus, but Earth!”. Planets in Taurus act more slow, precise and are practically oriented. Is not a good placement for Mercury, Uranus and Mars.

Gemini. Understands very quick, is sociable but when it comes to deep emotions is reluctant. It is not constant or consistent, loses interest quickly and tries to avoid problems instead of confronting them. Planets in Gemini act more quick and work at a more abstract level which is bad for the Moon and Neptune.

Cancer. The emotional faculties are very strong putting one back in contact with one’s source, roots. He can’t express in words what he feels. It is not a good position for Mercury, Uranus, Mars.

Leo. Here the basic structure of the individual entity is complete. Mainly what started in Aries with “I want to become what I am” is actualized here with “I am”. But if he is individually complete, socially is not. He wants everyone to be impressed by what he realized. Is not selfish, is honest. Planets here are more stable, steady.

Virgo. She is socializing and wants to be integrated there. She is not enough for her like Leo is. She wants to be accepted, needs social recognition and for this she conforms to social standards and does not resist to social pressure. Rob does not think Mercury is the real ruler for Virgo, more suited would be the asteroids Ceres, Vesta, Pallas and Juno. Planets here act more precise, efficient and carefully which is not good for Mars, Uranus, Venus.

Libra. This sign has some skill in relations, thinks in term of relations and often become dominant in a couple. Planets here act more toward others which obviously it is not good for Mars.

Scorpio. Is the first sign who is aware of the heights and depths of the universe. He likes to live intense, likes drama and mysteries. Is the only water sign that fights. Planets here acts more intense and in a stubborn manner.

Sagittarius means thinking free, idealism, a new social order, abstractions. Planets here indicate desire for freedom and is not a good position for the Moon.

Capricorn. Is very socially orientated and feels completely at home in society. He is interested only by what he can experience. He would like to say to the world “I did that, I build that”. Planets here are more reality and social oriented which is not good for Venus and the Moon.

Aquarius. These people are gregarious and enjoy social interactions. They need to be part of a group and then tend to become the dominant member like Libra in relations. Rob thinks that Mars and the Sun are not bad placed here! Personally I saw that in many charts. I think he is right, especially the Sun is not bad placed in Aquarius. Planets here are socially oriented which is not good for Venus and Moon.

Pisces is the final stage of evolution. “Pisces symbolizes the surrender of the soul to God”. Planets here act with more empathy and receptivity toward others which is not good for Mars and Saturn.

In chapter 12 The Horoscope Angles is presented, for example, the importance of planets that are angular.

In chapter 13 The houses: Introduction Rob express his questions about the best house system division. He uses Koch system but is not sure that this is the best.

14 The Houses: Core Meanings. Like the title say here are presented the meanings for each house. Mainly are the generally-known characteristics for each house.

In  the last chapter 15 The Houses Two Alternative Views we can read something very interesting. Rob presents the situation of derived houses and explains why they are not useful on natal charts. His arguments are that the natal chart show a subjective reality! So, for example, the second house from tenth can’t tell you about your father’s money because the tenth house is you father from your point of view, not the real father! I think the explanation is logical.


Conclusion. This is a very good book and her first part is excellent (especially chapter about the planets). It is a well documented book, written clear, precise and with a logical structure, easy to assimilate. I think it is a must for everyone who wants to study astrology and it is very good to read this book when you begin astrology. It helps you a lot to set healthy bases and strong structures for your future astrological thoughts. Also you will understand astrology more quickly and, as a result, will help you to save time! The evaluation just represents the book – 9,7 – extraordinary!