Chapter XXII: How to Learn the Practice of Astrology

Magick Without Tears

By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXII: How to Learn the Practice of Astrology

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

“Up guards, and at 'em!” First, you must know your correspondences by heart backwards and upside down (air connu.) They are practically all in The Book of Thoth; but “if anyone anything lacks,” look for it in 777.

Then, get a book on Astrology, the older the better. Raphael's Shilling Handbook is probably enough for the present purpose. Get well into your head what the menu says about the natures of the planets, the influence of the aspects, what is meant by dignities, the scope of the houses, and so on.

Dovetail all this with your classical knowledge; the character and qualities, the powers and the exploits, of the several deities concerned.

Next, learn how to set up a figure of the heavens. This need not take an average intelligent person more than an hour at the most. You can learn it from a book. Lastly, get Barley's 1001 Notable nativities and More Nativities. Also any other collections available. Practice setting up the horoscopes. Use the Chaldean square system; it shows at the first glance what is happening in the angular houses, which are the keys of the whole figure.

Compare and contrast what you know of the natives, from history, with what is said of the aspects (and the rest) in the books you have read.

Put together similar horoscopes; e.g. a dozen which have Sagittarius rising, another lot with Jupiter in the mid-heaven, and so on; see if you can find a similarity in their lives with what the books will have led you to expect.

Don't be afraid to criticise; on the contrary, do some research work on your own, and find cases which seem to contradict tradition.

Instance: Saturn in the M.C. is said to cause a spectacular rise in a man's career, ending in an equally notable crash. Examples: Napoleon I and III, Oscar Wilde, Woodrow Wilson, Lord Northcliffe, Hitler. Look for figures with Saturn thus placed, whose natives have jogged along equably and died in the odour of sanctity. Find out why what worked in some cases failed in the others.

By the time you have studied (say) 500 nativities you will be already a fairly competent judge. Work your bloody guns! as Kipling says; get a friend—just this once I allow you human intercourse—to set up for you figures of historical importance, or with some outstanding characteristic (e.g. murderers, champions of sport, statesmen, monsters, philanthropists, heresiarchs) without telling you to whom it refers.

Build up the character, profession, story from the nativity. It sounds incredible; but more than a score of times I have been actually able to name him!

By the time you have got good at this game—and a most amusing game it is—you may call yourself a very competent astrologer.

Sometimes, even now, you may assign the figure of the Archbishop of York to Jabez Balfour or Catherine de Medici; or mix up Moody and Sankey with Brown and Kennedy; don't be discouraged; perhaps there may be something to be said for you after all!

I believe, as I hope, that you will be surprised at the speed with which you acquire proficiency.

All this time, moreover, you have not been wholly idle. You will have been running about like a demented rabbit, and trying to spot the rising sign of everybody you know. Look at them full-face, then profile; and note salient characteristics, pendulous lips, receding chins, bulbous noses, narrow foreheads, stuck-out ears, pimples, squints, warts, shape of face (three main types; thin, jutting, for cardinal signs; square, steadfast for cherubic; weak, nondescript, for the rest); then the stature, whether lithe, well-knit, sturdy, muscular, fat or what not; in short every bodily feature in turn; make up your mind what sign was rising at birth, and stick to it!

Now to verify your suspicions. The conversation may run thus:

You: “Can you answer a question without answering another which you were not asked?”

It, surprised: “Why, yes, of course I can.”

You: “Good. Then, do you know the date of the Battle of Waterloo?”

It: “1815.”

You probably have to explain! In any case you begin all over again, when he has contented himself with “Yes” or “No” you say “Do you know the hour of your birth?” If he says “No,” you ask if he can find out, and so on. If he says “Yes;” “Then tell me either the hour or the day and month; but not both.” If he gives you the hour, you calculate a bit, and say: “Then you were born on the nth of Xember, within a fortnight either way.”

If he tells you his birthday, work it out as before and then: “You were born at P in the morning within an hour either way.” (This makes it about 11 to 1 against your being right, in either case, on pure chance.)

Again, you can practise this in cafés, when you visit civilized countries, and it is often possible to scrape acquaintance with people who look specially interesting, and do not, as in England, instantly suspect you of dishonourable advances, and get them to play up. This is sometimes easier when you are already with that friend which I was so lax as to allow you; and it is, I own, very helpful to discuss strange faces if only to make it quite clear to your own mind why you decide on one as Virgo, another as Taurus.

A strange thing happened once; I had explained all this to the girl that I happened to be living with: that is, I taught her the names of the signs; she knew no Astrology, net even the simple correspondences. After about a month, she was better at it than I was! (“Why strange?” you mutter rudely. “Quite right, my dear! I have always been a wretched reader of character. Bless my soul! there was a time when I had hopes of you,” I savagely retort.) She had picked up the knack, the trick of it; she could select, eliminate, re-compose, compare with past experience, and form a judgment, without knowing the names of its materials.

When you have got your sea-legs at both these parts of your astrological education, you may (I think) put out to sea with some confidence. Perhaps a fair test of your fitness would be when you got three people right out of four, in a total of a score or so. Well, allow for my being in a “mood” to-night; call it two out of three. If it were guesswork, after all, that means you are bringing it off at seven to one. Obviously, when you do go wrong, set up the figure, study it more carefully than ever, and find out what misled you.

Remember constantly that the Statistical Method is your one and only safeguard against self-deception.

Within the limits of a letter I could hardly hope to go into matters much more fully or deeply than I have done; but 'pon my soul! I think that what I have said should be enough for an intelligent and assiduous student.  Let me insist that all that is worth while comes by experience. Learning one thing will give you the clue to another.

Well do I know to my sorrow how hard it is, as a rule, to learn how to do a thing solely from written instruction; so perhaps you had better arrange to see me one day about the actual setting-up of a figure.  Probably, too, there will be a few points that you would like to discuss.

I will end by betting you six clothing coupons to a pound of sugar that in two years' concentrated work on these lines you will become a better astrologer than ever I was. (This is very cunning of me; in two years we shall all be getting clothes without coupons.)

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


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