I’ve been doing a deep dive into my astrology studies this summer and plan to have paid reports available this fall. As I work through my approach and what people are finding useful, I am confronted with the balance between talking about individual pieces of a chart and the chart as a whole.
So, let’s talk about the phrase “cookbook astrology.” It is usually used as an insult and refers to the types of computer-generated “readings” you can buy that are nothing but a list of placements and descriptions. But I think the cookbook approach of looking carefully at each ingredient is a very important part of reading a chart.
Cookbooks are bad end points, but they are excellent beginning and mid points. If someone was hungry and ordered a meal at a restaurant, being presented with a recipe and a box of ingredients is frustrating, not helpful; they paid for food, but instead must do the work to process all the ingredients into something edible. It’s the same with paid astrology reports that are nothing but lists of ingredient descriptions, the purchaser must do the work of figuring out how they all fit together.
On the other hand, if you have a meal you love at a restaurant, it can be very difficult to recreate without a recipe. Some flavors blend together so well it can be impossible to distinguish unless you are told what all the ingredients are. Some ingredients are very similar and unless you are very familiar with the type of cuisine, you won’t be able to tell which was used. This is also the case with astrology, the parts create the whole.
As I create practice reports, I have been assembling “cookbooks” of planets, asteroids, points, signs, houses, and aspects. Writing my own version of what “Sun in Cancer” and “Sun in 8th house” means to me (as an example) helps me learn the meanings on a deeper level and, I think, is somewhat useful for people to read. Once I have all the individual ingredients described, I begin doing the actual cooking. I look for things that flow together and things that clash. I look for subtle changes, like how retrograde motion will affect the expression of a planet. I look for patterns and things that will either increase of decrease the power of each of those ingredients.
That integrated report becomes the “meal”, but I still like to include the recipe along with it. This is because putting together the report involves a lot of educated guesswork. Sometimes I choose to highlight an aspect of a chart that turns out to be not all that important. Astrology charts are maps, they aren’t terrain and we all make choices in our lives that affect how that map is traveled. By including descriptions of all the ingredients I used, the client can see nuances I might have missed.