UPDATE: I finally received word that I passed the Level 1 exam, with a score of 94 percent, I'm not sure which questions I missed, but I am pretty happy with the score - My apologies for the silence, but one of Life's little dramas has had this Cancer boy sleeping across town - our marriage is fine but a friend needs an adolescent-sitter, and a Cancer out of his home tends to be rattled.
Anyone who knows astrology recognizes that I know my stuff. There is no question about that… and of course, a person who knows no astrology has no idea whether I know what I am talking about or not. It may come as a surprise to some that I have never taken formal training in astrology.
My brother, Carl Smith, taught me the basics of astrology in the mid 1990’s, and taught me the harmonic system he had developed over a period of 25 years using his own criteria for what works and what does not.
I had always taken a profound interest in what makes people tick, and so his astrology meshed with my human understanding quite well.
It was Carl’s philosophy that, if he taught me the very basics, my own interest would drive the understanding home and chart the course of my astrological education. He insisted that I work by hand until I had become familiar enough with the process to find and correct my own mistakes.
The first 20 charts I erected began with a set of tables, a calculator, a compass, a ruler and a few coloured pens. With practice, I could erect one in an hour or so, and then check it for errors a couple of hours later, before I plotted it on blank paper to erect the chart.
When I began using harmonics, (shortly after I started studying astrology) I created a method for calculating potential aspects by hand that took 15 hours per chart…. I think I got it down to 10 or so… I was looking at every potential aspect for every chart object that could exist for every multiple of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, using a proportionally decreasing orb (for the non-astrologer… lots of math and a complex procedure)
Because my handwork with arithmetic is prone to random, seemingly careless errors (though I can swear that what I do looks right when I do it) every process required an arithmetic check, which I also devised.
I was very quick to borrow a computer from another brother (an old Mac Classic) so that my hand-cast charts could have the harmonics crunched on a spreadsheet (which I designed myself) in a fraction of a second longer than it took to input the data.
I eventually began using free astrology software, and was able to cast charts in no time at all.
It turns out that the astrology I thought of as entry-level is a considered high-end specialty in the greater astrological community.
I have spent a lot of the intervening years working out what “mainstream” astrology looks like, and have sought to educate myself on the relative usefulness of the many layers of astrological interpretation that are available out there.
My specialty always was the astrology of personal development. My most recent interest has been in ancient astrology. A study I find to be fascinating because it is so different from what I already knew, and yet it has, at its foundation, the same fundamental mathematical consistency that is the trademark my modern work.
So, to the point of this post.
I sat my first ever astrology exam last Saturday, on my 49th birthday. The most important part of the exam involved the manual construction of several charts.
I had erected about twenty charts by hand in the lead-up to the exam, so that I could again become completely comfortable with the procedure involved and become aware of the types of errors I am prone to make. Finding the errors I made in the practice charts, and resolving them, made it possible to spot the errors I made in the exam and fix them.
Erecting a chart by hand ensures that the student has a working knowledge of the principles that go into chart construction. The student is introduced to time as measured by the clock, and also time as measured by the rotation of the earth. These concepts in time are essential to the accurate construction of a chart. The student is also introduced to how the shape of the earth (more specifically, one’s position on that shape) affects the shape of a chart, and how Southern Hemisphere differs from the North.
In doing the work and understanding the concepts behind the work, the student is more able to conceive the chart as a function of real space and real time. Reinforced with every chart constructed by hand, its the necessity to do accurate work, which is a great mindset with which to approach a reading: because when it comes down to it, there is a lot at stake when an astrologer is are actually reading a chart for a real person. Taking it seriously is always a good thing for a reader.
The rest of the questions were the sort of stuff that one would expect from an entry-level exam. Nothing terribly challenging though you do have to be on the ball.
All up, by my own assessment, the test was a fairly good indicator of whether a person has a basic knowledge of astrology. NCGR have done a great job in that regard and should be commended for it.
The most difficult part for me was trying to "turn on" to a chart that I
have not placed any investment in at all, and for which there is no personal consequence, and nothing at stake beyond a multiple choice answer, proposed by someone I don’t know.
I am fairly sure I passed the exam. A friend of mine likened this turn of events to Evel Knievel taking a driving test. While I enjoy the flattery, I feel I had to work a lot harder than that to make sure I got it right… there again, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t invest a lot in making sure I get it right when there is actually something at stake.