The number of books available in and out of print on astrology is mind-boggling and continuing to grow. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “static noise” in the overall stream of information, which can make finding the best books on the subject a daunting task. Astrology is a complex study and practice, which makes beginner books that promise to “make it easy” misleading, giving a rich and deep study short shrift. It is not my intention to review any and all astrology books, but rather to “cherry pick” the best of books based on my work as a professional astrologer and lifelong student of the craft.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book – in practice or for building an understanding of the field. Beginner books will be delineated from more advanced techniques from largely philosophical and or theoretical books. Most of the books will fall somewhere between beginner and theoretical, with an eye towards usefulness. When I began, I read as much as I could from past and current authors and explored many different techniques until I finally settled on my particular way of doing astrology, which has become my signature style. I value labels in so much as they help us move forward, but not trap us in groupthink, regardless of the group.
The Book This Month – The Sabian Symbols in Astrology by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones
The full title of this book is The Sabian Symbols: Illustrated by 1000 Horoscopes of Well-Known People. The cover depicts a rising sun off a tropical island, which represents “Sabian Symbol 27 degrees of Leo ‘Daybreak’ by Delle Fowler French” (back cover).
Next after this publicity
The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0943358406 and it is currently $24.30 USD on Amazon at the time this article was written. If you are a used book junkie, you can find a copy on Alibris for $5.75 USD. Published in 1993, this book provides meaning and explanation for each degree of the 360 degrees of the Zodiac, going 1 degree to 30 degrees for each of the 12 signs. These explanations were not calculated astrologically but derived through revelation by psychic Elise Wheeler with the guidance of Dr. Marc Edmund Jones.
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book and an excellent and thorough index at the end. Jones is a detailed and thoughtful writer who provides several helpful chapters at the beginning of the book before launching into the revelations and explanations of each of the 360 symbols. The first ten chapters provide some invaluable groundwork regarding astrology for both a beginner and professional astrologer. Like any book written in a very different time (1953) than our current one, the author does get trapped in his era with some of the descriptions and language describing the meaning of the symbols, but he does not make prescriptions that would hurt the value of symbols for a modern reader or practitioner.
Once you get to the symbols, Jones provides a nice, repeating schema that helps clearly explain the meaning of the symbol, in both, it’s positive and negative uses. Astrological opposites are used to layout the symbol pages, with Aries/Libra in a section, then Taurus/Scorpio, Gemini/Sagittarius, Cancer/Capricorn, Leo/Aquarius, and Virgo/Pisces. A page covers two degrees, one paragraph for each degree, which includes the visionary statement from Wheeler and Jones interpretation and explanation.
In the case of my Sun, which is at 23 degrees and 14 minutes of Aries, thus 24 Aries as my symbol, my description for the degree is, “An open window and a net curtain blowing into a cornucopia”. Jones then writes, “This is a symbol of mutual prodigality (extravagance) of man and his world whenever he retains his uninhibited enthusiasm and so welcomes every varying and recurrent opportunity opening up to him.” Or, in more modern “speak”, “the person with this Sun or Ascendant can really make things happen if they have a positive attitude!” He also provides a keyword for the symbol; in this case: munificence (or generosity).
Further, and in all cases with all symbols, he provides a positive and negative interpretation. With this degree, Jones says, “When positive, the degree is an irrepressible genius for capturing the richer rewards of life and providing a wider distribution for higher realities, and when negative, smug and petty self-importance in dispensing favors to others.” The book could use updating to more modern language to be a bit more accessible to a modern audience, or prove to be a fantastic primer for improving one’s overall vocabulary!
Get this book and use it. You will see me reference the Sabian Symbols in many of my articles because the insight they offer for the degrees of the Zodiac is truly interesting and useful. It is also interesting to take all the points of your chart and find out what symbol applies to the degree of that point. My Venus is at 5 degrees and 10 minutes of Aries, so Aries 6, “A square brightly lighted on one side”. When positive I relate (Venus) best to others by being authentic and honest and I have to watch out for being impatient with people who do not think or act as quickly as I do (both happen to be quite true). This book is one of the essential reference books you should add to your astrological library.
Knowing the Reviewer
I am biased. I am biased for a well-thought out and fully rendered ideas and techniques that can be put to use in a reading situation, either personally or professionally. I am biased against astrology writers who use a technique effectively in practice, decide to write a book, and are sloppy in the presentation and explanation of the technique, something I have encountered repeatedly with books on Horary astrology. I have a PhD in English, so I am biased for good research, properly referenced in footnotes, endnotes, tables of contents, glossaries, and bibliographies. I am biased against books that are poorly presented in editorial terms, no references when clearly using ideas presented by others prior to the text being written or no way to search the text with key ideas identified by page numbers, especially unhelpful in lengthy books covering several hundred pages of information.
I am an Aries Sun, with Libra Moon, Scorpio Rising, Mercury and Venus in Aries, and Mars in Taurus. Translation – I want the writer to “get to the point”, keep the complexity of the ideas but deliver them in a digestible written explanation, go deep, make it so I can follow the steps of a process or the path of research that lead to the claims in the book, and give me something I can use and build on! My astrology is my lens for, well … everything. So, it is my lens for selecting and recommending books, decks, websites, plumbers, cleaning services, mechanics, and relationships. We all have a point of view we use to interpret information and we really enjoy connecting with others who have similar points of view.
I will be most helpful to you if my point of view and your point of view have significant similarities. If you spend enough time reading music or movie reviews and you explore a number of different reviewers, you probably experience a thrill when you find the reviewer that hits your sweet spot and you can trust him or her to give you a heads up on music or a movie in a way you can trust. When you listen to music or see the movie by “your” reviewer, you know you will not be wasting your time. I want to be “your” reviewer.