The Fixed Stars
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The Fixed Stars
The Fixed Stars were so called by the ancients to distinguish them from the Planets, or Wanderers, which are heavenly bodies moving perceptibly across the sphere of the Zodiac. Fixed Stars do not move across the ecliptic in the same way as planets do and in classical times were believed to be fixed to a gigantic celestial sphere, which twirled in a stately dance around the Earth every single day.
With regard to the interpretation of the fixed stars, the mythical significance of the star, its constellation and indeed its position in its constellation, will provide much insight into its meaning in the figure.
Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos (I:9) declares that the stars are given natures according to their similarities to planetary influences. He specifically assigns stars in sectors of the major constellations to particular planetary likenesses. He lists these without comment, other than to say that these "are the observations of the effects of the stars themselves, as made by our predecessors".
The Elizabethan astrologer, William Lilly, identified about fifty fixed stars in his horary delineations (these are marked in the table with an asterisk *). The fixed stars have an influence when in conjunction, opposition, square or parallel aspect with a planet, or significant point in the horoscope. They are particularly important when in the Ascendant or Angles at birth, or when near the Sun or Moon. They also have an effect when directed to the Angles and can be activated by major transits. Lilly states in Christian Astrology that the planets in some parts of the Zodiac do more evidently declare their effects than in others; and he conceives this to be in those signs and degrees where fixed stars of the same nature with the planet are more in number, and nearer the ecliptic.
Fifteen stars considered especially useful for magical applications (in the mediæval astrology of Europe and the Arab world) are known as the Behenian Fixed Stars (each marked with). The name derives from Arabic bahman, "root," as each was considered a source of astrological power for one or more planets. Each is also connected with a gemstone and plant used in rituals intended to draw the star's influence (e.g., into a talisman).
When a planet was within six degrees of an associated star, this influence was thought to be particularly strong. For Agrippa's table, see the Behenian Fixed Stars; for a different viewpoint, see the Table of Hermes.
Despite the foregoing, the allowed orb for fixed stars is a matter of some dispute among astrologers. Most modern astrologers lean to a very small orb, mainly based on the magnitude of the star (the brighter the star, the greater the orb). Magnitude is equivalent to "class"; so Mg.1=1st class; Mg.4=4th class, etc. Magnitudes of a negative number (e.g. Sirius: Mg.–1.43, or Canopus: Mg.–0.72) are even brighter than 1st Class! You may think this is weird, but science is like that... For a more detailed examination of magnitudes and other factors, check out Anne Wright's very comprehensive site at Constellations of Words.
Traditional astrology uses a smaller number of stars and allows a larger orb, especially for the four Royal Stars: Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares and Fomalhaut, plus Sirius and Spica. Caput Algol is also allowed a larger orb, because it is such a powerful influence for evil. [If you find this a trifle harsh, dear reader, please examine Medusa's Head, a remarkable article by Diana K. Rosenberg – perhaps the greatest modern authority on the fixed stars.]
In my own work, I have found that an orb of 1 degree (one finger's width) is usually quite noticeable, though I'd allow up to 6 degrees for Algol and various sizeable orbs for the other major stars. I generally ignore most of the smaller stars unless there is a very significant reason not to. Experience is the best teacher. Have a look at my article on the influence of the fixed stars on the September 11 attack, American Catastrophe for some insight into the way they work. Fixed stars are also said to "cast no rays" meaning that aspects other than conjunction should not be considered, but this is by no means always the case, as demonstrated by Rosenberg. See also my colleague Ian Thurnwald's article on the 2002 Uranus/Algol cycle The Cycle of Uranus and Algol in 2002.
Sun and Moon have a naturally wide orb (since they actually physically occupy more of the sky). This said, the closer the orb, the stronger the influence. If a star is angular, especially if rising or setting, its influence is the greatest. This requires the use of parans (locationally determined angular relationships between planets and fixed stars in a chart, based on the horizon and the prime meridien, not the ecliptic). Bernadette Brady is the best modern writer on this. Brady's Book of Fixed Stars makes a very useful and readable addition to any astrologer's library. Conjunctions of fixed stars with planets (including lunar nodes) in the natal chart are very significant, especially if rising, setting or culminating, and when stimulated by transits.
It's now (2014) been more than ten years since I first drew up this page. Consequently, several stars in the final degree of their tropical signs have now moved, or are moving, into the subsequent sign. Examples are Scheat, which although still technically in Pisces, entered Aries by a tight orb of influence in mid-2010; Pleiades, already in Gemini; Menkalinan, already in Cancer; Regulus, already in Virgo. You can calculate the movements by adding approximately 50 arc-seconds of a degree per year to the 2000 position of the star as listed. The table up to epoch 2010 is now complete with some new additions, though there are some minor named stars that I have not as yet included. You can see the old version here.
The strength and efficacy of the Fixed Stars is to be considered from their magnitude, their splendours, their natures or properties, their nearness to the Ecliptic, their place in the World, their multitude, their first oriental appearance, the purity of their place, the similitude or agreement of the body or rays of a Planet with them and their circle of position.