As an astrologer, I am very conservative about adding new techniques into my practice. In my experience, when reading an astrological chart, in many ways less is more. I have found that the more techniques I throw at a chart, the harder it is to interpret, and the fuzzier my reading becomes. For this reason, I was not immediately ready to jump on board when I first heard about an Ancient Hellenistic technique known as Zodiacal Releasing. This past February, however, the Hellenistic Astrologer, Chris Brennan released a podcast and YouTube video on this technique which included a good basic description of how to use it. You can find this video here.
What is Zodiacal Releasing and How Does it Work?
Zodiacal Releasing is a Time Lady technique. Time Lady techniques divide a person’s life into sections, with a planet or planets ruling each section. Zodiacal Releasing is a little different than many of these techniques in that it uses zodiac signs rather than the planets.
It is a rather complicated technique, and the division takes place on four different levels, with Level 1 spanning years and sometimes even decades and Level 4 spanning days or sometimes only hours. This technique uses the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune as the launching point depending on what you are using it for. Chris Brennan describes it as dividing one’s life into chapters and paragraphs, but it makes more sense to me to use the analogy of trilogies and story arcs.
Evaluating New Techniques
Before I go into my thoughts about Zodiacal Releasing, I would like to explain my process for evaluating techniques to determine whether I will incorporate them into my practice. The practice of astrology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ready availability of computers has made casting a chart much, much easier than it was when I was twelve years old and learning to cast a chart by hand on the kitchen table using my mother’s astrology textbook. Furthermore, everywhere you look on the Internet, there is someone talking about a new (or old) technique or practice. If one were to learn and use everything available, it would be chaos. To manage this, I have a process I go through to sort through techniques that I encounter.
1. Is the technique sound on a metaphysical or philosophical level?
While some astrologers take a purely pragmatic approach to our craft, it is my own belief that we cannot separate what we do from our philosophy. Sometimes, with older techniques, it is not possible to know their metaphysical basis; however, from my perspective, the older the technique is, the more likely it is to be sound on a metaphysical level, even if we do not know the underlying philosophy.
2. What is the lineage of the technique?
I think it is very important to know where a technique comes from to the extent that it is possible. Now, while I am not one who believes that we must trace every technique to an Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance text, I do tend to favor techniques with a deep historical lineage. There is a problem, though. In the West, we lack a living tradition. At most, we have remnants that have survived through the ages. So, when we uncover older techniques, we must reconstruct them, and we are very likely to get it wrong.
So, from my perspective, the best techniques are the ones that have stood the test of time. Given how broken the astrological tradition is, there is a surprising amount that has survived relatively unchanged. For example, with the exception of granting the Outer Planets rulerships over signs, the rulership system has remained largely unchanged since the Hellenistic Era.
With respect to modern techniques, I do not reject them out of hand; however, to me, the burden of proof with respect to them is extremely high.
3. How well is the technique understood?
In the past several decades there have been many dedicated translators and researchers who have worked hard to recover traditional astrological texts, including the late Robert Schmidt, who founded Project Hindsight, and Robert Hand. Even so, the process of recovering and understanding techniques is not an easy one. In many cases, all we have are incomplete texts without a living teacher to explain them properly. So, even when we have ancient techniques with a solid pedigree, we must still proceed with caution.
4. Does the technique work?
While this is not my first consideration in evaluating techniques, I am a practicing astrologer and not a researcher. If I am going to use a technique, it needs to work, and it needs to work reliably and consistently. Most of the time when techniques are presented, the astrologer will give example charts, and of course, it is important to carefully listen to the examples presented. That is not enough, though. The technique needs to work for me.
I first test a technique on my own chart. The reason I do this is that I know my own chart the best, and I have the most information about my own life. There is a disadvantage in that it is hard to be objective about one’s own chart, but I have long experience as an astrologer and in testing techniques on my own chart. If the technique does not work on my chart, and I cannot see a good reason why it would not, I usually reject it out of hand.
From there, I test it on other charts that I am familiar with, and then move on to charts of celebrities and famous people. I am a bit ruthless when it comes to these things. For me, the burden of proof is on including a new technique, not excluding it. I generally expect a technique to work at least 80% of the time, and for there to be a good reason why it did not work on the other 20%.
5. Does it tell me something I did not already know?
I already use a number of different techniques, and it is hard enough to juggle the sometimes confusing amount of information that can be gleaned. While there is something to be said for getting the same information from several different techniques, life is short. If a technique does not improve my readings, even if it meets all of the above criteria, I will not take the time to incorporate it in my practice.
Evaluating Zodiacal Releasing
So, now that I explained my process for evaluating techniques, how did Zodiacal Releasing do? The short answer is…very well! For the long answer, let’s go through my criteria.
1. Is Zodiacal Releasing sound on a philosophical and metaphysical level?
The technique of Zodiacal Releasing was found in Book 4 of the Anthology of Vettius Valens, and he attributes it to Abraham. Generally, when a technique is attributed to a religious leader by a Classical text, it is an indication that the source is Ancient revealed knowledge. As such, it can be presumed to be sound on a metaphysical basis, even if we do not fully understand it.
Yet, the details of the technique also suggest its philosophical basis. In using the technique, one moves the Lot of Spirit, which is related to the mind and the will through the chart. In doing so, one pays attention to its relationship to the Lot of Fortune, which is related to bodily matters as well as luck or chance. In other words, this technique considers how one’s will interacts with the forces of fate or chance.
2. What is the lineage of Zodiacal Releasing?
As mentioned above, the technique is found in Vettius Valens’ Anthology and is attributed to Abraham. On the other hand, the technique had largely been lost, and as far as can be known at present, there is no mention of it in the texts from later traditions.
So, by necessity, we are dealing with a reconstructed technique. This is not an ideal situation, but if it passes all of the other tests, it is certainly not a reason to exclude it from consideration.
3. How well is Zodiacal Releasing understood?
There have been astrologers, including Chris Brennan, who have been researching and working with Zodiacal Releasing for over a decade. While there is a lot of work still to do, this seems to be a good start.
4. Does Zodiacal Releasing work?
When I watched the YouTube video explaining this technique, I was impressed from the beginning. With just a superficial understanding, the technique captured the major turning points in my life. The more I learned and the more I played with the technique, with my own chart and the charts of others, the more impressed I became. I think I can safely say, even with the limited understanding that I have, it is by far the most accurate timing technique that I have come across.
5. Does Zodiacal Releasing tell me something I did not already know?
Yes, it does. In applying this technique, I understood things about my life and my life direction that had long baffled me. When I practiced the technique on a couple of my friends, they reported that it really helped them understand the meaning of things that they had gone through in their lives.
How to Learn Zodiacal Releasing
Zodiacal Releasing is one of the more complicated techniques that I have come across. I would definitely classify it as an Advanced technique. I would not recommend it to a beginning student of astrology. A good understanding of astrology in general and at least some familiarity with Traditional/Classical Astrology is necessary.
As mentioned before, the technique is described in Book 4 of Vettius Valens’ Anthology. A full translation of Anthology translated by Mark Riley is available for free pdf download here. The technique is also described in great detail in the last chapter of Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology.
On the other hand, this is one technique I would not recommend learning on your own, even if you are an experienced astrologer. If you are interested, I would start by watching the YouTube video I linked to above. From there, I would highly recommend Chris Brennan’s course.
He teaches this technique as a part of his Hellenistic Astrology course, but he also has a stand-alone course on Zodiacal Releasing available. It consists of an 18-hour video lecture plus a great deal of bonus material. While you do not get individualized instruction, there is a comments section, and he does answer questions that way.
As you might imagine, it is not often that I incorporate a new technique into my practice, so it is always exciting when I do. I still need to work with and practice this technique before I fully incorporate it.
For a while now, I have been considering a new project. I got this idea when I listened to the full soundtrack for the musical Hamilton. The final song talks about Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and all that she did after he died to preserve his memory. I thought about the many other stories of feminine bravery that we know nothing about. My idea was a site specifically devoted to telling these stories. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I did not know how I would find time for another site.
Yet, with this new technique, it occurred to me that I could combine this project with my research of Zodiacal Releasing. My plan is to write a biographical article about each woman, and then to include bonus astrological articles about them whenever possible, using Zodiacal Releasing and other techniques.
The new site is live, and its name is Quiet Heroines: Celebrating the Power of the Feminine. I plan to have the first article up on Sunday, April 7, 2019, and it will be about the woman who inspired the site, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.