Fundamentals of ancestral astrology


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The seminal work for ancestral astrology would be Astrology of Family Dynamics, Erin Sullivan, Weiser Books, 2001. The following notes and points from this work are summarised below. 

Erin Sullivan’s work uses astrological aspects/patterns to assist in ascertaining the roots of issues within families.

Underlining premise of ancestral astrology

Sullivan states” that a person is a living, breathing, walking transit, and thus is an emblem of the Zeitgeist into which he or she was born.

We are all of us moments in time, and in this way we individualize a collective circumstance–we are the constellation of the mundane world, and thus are born in- to a very large family.

Our own nuclear family has a long ancestral line of origin and by adopting a genealogical viewpoint, we can go back in time and look at the causes/reasons/origins of family issues which are too entrenched in the nuclear family. The spirit of our ancestral family still resides within us.

We must always remember though that the cultural and historical context of our ancestors does play a certain part as they are always felt and enacted upon.

However, there are factors beyond the immediate sphere of environment and experience and these factors are the psyche and the soul.”

Other authors talk more of the family karmic inheritance.

“Even if we believe that our soul “picks” our family and our karmic inheritance so that we can inherit both the gifts and the challenges needed for our highest soul growth, it’s still hard to understand. Essentially the soul’s choice of when and where to incarnate is a mystery. Yet astrologers believe that the synchronistic moment of birth is the key element in the life story, because it gives us a genetic, or karmic blueprint of the soul; a map of the psyche. By looking at our family members charts, we can decipher emotional patterns that have been playing out for generations.”

So within each person’s chart, is the story of the family.

By looking at your chart, and comparing them with those of your ancestors, you can pick out planets, configurations and chart patterns which tell the family story.

Family indicators come to the fore. As an astrologer, you can interpret them, and as I found, after delving into about 200 years of family history, you can have that enlightened moment or a “that’s why” moment when you realise the family indicators relate strongly to your own personal issues.

Patterns which can become family indicators

Sign patterns- includes same planet in the same sign **Will use the sign of Aquarius

When a predominance of a particular sign is found in a family, we are looking at a strong family myth that is represented by the symbolism of the sign.

The sun and moon in the same sign are most commonly found in families, but they can include a thread of eg Mars in Capricorn, or Venus in Libra, etc.

People are so often attracted to those whose placements match their own family patterns.

Planetary aspect patterns

The solar and lunar links are the most distinctive dynastic patterns which filter through family lines. These patterns are deeply embedded in the emotions, and thus transmitted genetically.

Moon/Venus aspect patterns reveal issues around relationships, femininity, maternity and self worth.

Sun/Saturn, Moon/Saturn –difficult to transform due to the intrinsic nature of Saturn.

In women Sun speaks of a paternal legacy which manifests in women as an issue with the masculine or authority, authenticity, ego development, success, autonomy.

In men, difficulty is found to transcend own father’s success story.

They need to become ‘circuit breakers’ in order to crack the barrier between their maximum potential and possible self-limiting patterns which are dynastic.

The personal planets of Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus with the outermost planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, are indicators that the family dynamic can lend itself to greater, collective service.

These personal-collective planetary configurations – are too big to be contained within the nuclear family. If they do not find outward expression they can result in illness or complexes.

These contacts of inner to outer planets speak of much conflict within families, one which has caused much loss, pain, dissatisfaction and distress, because there has been no outlet for such high-wattage power.

Solar themes

The Sun is the centre of the solar system, and in the family of planets acts in just that way.

It has high expectations of the others, and in itself, the Sun is the most powerful figure in the horoscope. As the focus, the Sun represents how our life- force was received in the family and how our self and ego develops in accord with family values.

The Sun is the archetypal father-image, the heroic principle, and is usually associated with the male role-models in the family and the paternal line.

The solar legacy is one which most frequently runs down through the paternal line, and is then passed on through the next generations.

Sun/Neptune – people are like sponges, they absorb the behaviours of others and often mimic in order to self-discover.

Sun/Mars – more insensitive to critique but instead feel the anger and shame of rejection.

Sun/Jupiter -feel easily deflated or over-exuberant and have such great hopes for approval.

Sun/Pluto – power-orientated family theme

If the Sun/Pluto motif is genuinely strong, that is, if there is a consistent Scorpio, Sun/Pluto or even eighth-house thread that runs back through generations and exists across the family lines and is centred within the nuclear family, we are looking at an exceptionally tense family theme.

Sun/Mars (including solar aspects with Aries)**

The family is heroic and adventurous, and often, competitive energies flow through the family psyche.

High-achievers (or counter with strong conservatives and depressives if Saturn is part of the theme), executive types and self- made men and women.

Individuating through the Sun/Mars family requires brute force – either mental or physical; the timid don’t survive well emotionally, while innovators who have strong originality and a thick skin do. Wanderers, mavericks, renegades and individualists are lovingly, though occasionally grudgingly, respected.

Sun/Jupiter (including solar aspects with Sagittarius) -Jupiter always brings a high moral tone to all situations; hence there is a strong potential for grandiosity and hubris lurking in each individual and within the family as an organic whole.

The family is socially orientated–extraverted in expectation and activity.

A strong religious theme in which orthodoxy is more likely than spiritualism or alternative religions.

Sun/Saturn (including solar aspects with Capricorn) 

This is one of the strongest family links one finds in a working family–the frequency with which Sun- Saturn traits are passed down is startling. One of the strongest repeater patterns.

  • the masculine values of the culture are absorbed and become the mores and values of the family.
  • sensitive to hierarchies both in their own small collective and in society at large. **
  • a high level of responsibility inherent in each member.
  • either high level expectations or ‘poverty-consciousness’

Sun/Uranus (including solar aspects with Aquarius) 

This is a signature found in the disengaged family.

  • encouragement to be oneself at an early age.
  • highly unconventional signature for any group of people who wish to work together, unless it is through the Internet.
  • to others lacks family theme of ‘warm’, loving or overly concerned about the feelings of others.
  • encourages freedom of thought, action and in relationships.
  • The path of finding one’s own way is well developed.
  • difficult for who have a need for a more conventional, type vision.
  • personal ego development is encouraged, can lead to competitiveness necessary to individuate.
  • eccentricity is regarded as a normal and valued trait.
  • thinking, creativity and innovation is valued far above order.
  • individuation requires repeated departures and returns to and from the matrix of the family.
  • for individuals who need more attention, more nurture, more assurance, this is a very uncomfortable home.
  • chaotic or weird to visitors from outside the family is very likely a security system for the individuals within it.
  • the distant, cool and detached aura  will eventually freeze itself out of existence – which often is staved off by importing a Watery, emotionally expressive, yet cool person via marriage or through partnership.

Sun/Neptune (including solar aspects with Pisces) 

The characteristics of the enmeshed family which carries the theme of Pisces, Sun/Neptune or strongly twelfth-house collective planets.

This can manifest from the sublime to the pathological.

For instance, there is always a high feeling-tone, though this nuance is not always clearly expressive of specific emotions or needs, and thus creates an aura of insecurity and ‘checking’ on what someone might really want or what people are really meaning.

 Lunar themes

The Moon shows how our mother acted as a conduit for our ancestral legacy in the emotional realm.

Shows a theme in the family dynamic which holds all the instinctual, primal responses to emotional or survival issues.

Also holds images of the fourth house, and in the fourth house lies the ancestral pool – not just the mother but the blending of maternal and paternal lines.

The Moon in families can cause more discord than any other planetary arrangement. 

Moon/Saturn (including lunar aspects with Capricorn)

This is a difficult and powerful family signature.

The family legacy is usually fraught with suppressed and severely contained emotions.

If Moon/Saturn is a strong and consistent family theme, then the line has actually suffered extreme hardship,culturally, politically, emotionally, vocationally or physically.

Moon/Saturn theme will produce a circuit breaker, a wild person, one who challenges the stifled feelings in his or her environment and thus splits off from the rest.

  • Creates nurturing men due to the “mid-wife” qualities of Saturn
  • The hardships endured by a lunar/Saturnian theme often do produce very successful individuals once the balance between authority and authenticity is found.

Moon/Uranus (including lunar aspects with Aquarius) 

Strong Uranian aspects from the Moon, or even the Aquarius Moon, shows a family in which emotional display is considered to be eccentric and rarely appreciated – unless erratic, flamboyant or dramatic flashes of emotionalism or sentimentality are present, which is also very Uranian.

  • causes, crusades, quests, movements are often part of the connection between Aquarian/Uranian type families.
  • very male and highly paternalistic in its values.
  • there is difficulty in connecting the head with the heart.
  • the signature of a non-domestic family.
  • males do well in this emotional environment if they are secure, females thrive less well, unless they, too, need great spaces around them.

Moon/Neptune (including lunar aspects with Pisces) 

The mother is usually the apparently passive but actually more dominant parent; where her weakness is the hub of the family wheel, she may be ill, alcoholic, a victim, an immigrant, a second-class citizen in a real or psychological way.

Moon/Pluto (including lunar aspects with Scorpio)

the other most powerful repeater pattern.

    • something hidden lurks in the family history.
    • the emotional tone is intense, controlling and compelling.
    • a matriarchal line, wherein the women dominate by psychic and material management ability.
    • this is the strongest indicator that there is a secret in the family, which will emerge through one of the hereditary members who has a Moon in Scorpio, in the eighth house, or hard aspects of the Moon to Pluto.
    • the family line is loaded with healers and magicians, law-makers and law-breakers.
    • perhaps partly because of its incredible emotional endurance, a deep perceptivity, emotional maturing is achieved early, though usually this seasoned, even jaded attitude is directly related to some form of exposure to ‘adult’ experiences and situations, which are incomprehensible to a child-mind and catapult the individual into premature adulthood.
    • it is often necessary for some form of emotional amputation to take place for the sake of survival.
  • myths about the history of the family are populated with eccentrics, rebels, imperialists, invaders, renegades, cowboys/Indians, illegitimate kin, defrocked priests, lapsed nuns, mysterious disappearances, secrets and unexplained deaths.