Category Archives: Software

Astrology with Free Software | Valens is the Best Morinus Yet

Why Free Software?

I try to rely on free and open source software options as much as possible in my work.  Good free software has a very beneficial and democratizing effect on the practice of astrology.  I try to use free software for everything I do on the blog because it allows my readers, of just about any income level, to replicate the charts and information that I use for themselves. Furthermore, there is a wealth of free birth data online, particularly on Astrodatabank, so access to free software which allows for easy calculation of relevant charts and tables also gives readers the ability to test out techniques for themselves, against a wider range of data than I can possibly present in any article.

What is Morinus?

As readers of the blog will know, my favorite free software program is Morinus. I have used the Traditional Morinus for the examples in almost all blog posts, and I’ve discussed using it in previous posts in this series.  Morinus is not just a free traditional astrology program, but it is a great program, as it will allow you to do many things that even some of the most costly programs won’t do (for instance have a wheel in which the terms of the signs, the 7 Hellenistic lots of Paulus Alexandrinus, and the twelfth-parts of the planet are all immediately visible; with quick access to primary directions and zodiacal releasing information). Additionally, Morinus is open source, so it is truly “the community’s software”, in that members of the community with coding experience are free to check out the source code and adapt it to meet their needs, developing their own “versions” of the program which expand upon it.  In this sense, the developers (thanks Robert!) have given the astrological community a truly valuable gift and we’d be fools to pass it up for commercial products with less community potential.  Check out this post for more information on Morinus and free software in general, and this post on how to calculate primary directions with Morinus.

Valens

Over a year ago, in early 2014, a new version of Morinus emerged without much fanfare, which is specifically tailored to Hellenistic astrology.  It is called “Valens“, after the 2nd century Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens, as it was inspired by Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic astrology, in which some of Valens’ timing techniques, especially Zodiacal Releasing, figure prominently.  In addition to the inclusion of Zodiacal Releasing, this version of Morinus also features the ability to easily insert the prenatal syzygy and the 7 hermetic lots (one lot for each planet as discussed by Paulus Alexandrinus and sourced from an early text attributed to Hermes).

I’m a little late to the game, but after trying out the software, I firmly believe it is the best yet for Hellenistic techniques, and will serve readers well as they read the posts on this blog.

You can download the software here (for Windows scroll to the bottom of the page and download the Valensexe.zip).  Follow the installation instructions that you find on that page, as there is one additional step after you unzip the zip file (you will need to install the “Valens” font, located in the “Res” folder, by double-clicking it, or the chart will have letters in place of symbols).

A Few Optimizations

If you want your charts to look like the ones on this blog, here are a few tips. First, right click on the chart and choose “B&W” to make your chart black and white. I prefer the clean look of a black and white chart, though this is a personal preference that does not impact practice. Secondly, you’ll want to set the Moon’s node to the “true node”, which you can do by holding the SHIFT key and pressing ‘W’.  Thirdly, get rid of any quadrant divisions if there are any by holding SHIFT and pressing F1. Finally, let’s go into the appearance options (Appearance from the Options menu or hold SHIFT and press ‘A’).  For typical use, I would set my appearance options as shown in the table below, as I do like to see the two main Hellenistic lots (Fortune/Moon and Spirit/Sun – click for more information on the Hellenistic lots) as well as the prenatal syzygy, and the twelfth-parts (click for more information about the twelfth-parts), but I don’t use the hermetic lots of the planets all that much and I find a round chart easier to read, and generally more intuitive, than a square one. Oh yeah, also hold SHIFT and press U, so that your options will be saved automatically (I think the chart may still revert back to color when you reopen though).

Appearance Table in Valens

You should end up with a chart that resembles the one below:

Prince Charles

For more information on how to use Valens, please see the documentation on the site for the software and check out other articles on this site which explore specific techniques, such as lots and primary directions, as linked to above.

I hope you’ll start turning to the Valens program as the first one that you use to pull up charts. Please spread the word!

Astrology with Free Software | 2. Morinus Updated with Location Lookup

I mentioned Morinus in my initial post on free software options, as it is the best free astrology program available for traditional astrologers.  In fact, for those doing primary directions, it’s important, even among competing programs that cost a lot of money.

Today, I was notified of an extremely important update to the program made by one of its developers, Endre Csaba Simon of Finland.  The program now allows lookup of location using the online geolocation database.  This is a very important advance in terms of making the program easier to use, as one previously had to manually discover and enter the coordinates, time zone, altitude, and other features of a location. The new version can be downloaded from the official site for the program – Morinus: Free Open-Source Advanced Professional Astrological Software.

After entering in the location, you hit “Search”, and if there is just one matching selection, it will automatically plug the correct data into the proper fields on this page.  If there is more than one place then you will get a screen like the following with a list of locations.

This is a great advancement for this program.  It’s important to remember that the program is not only free but also open source.  The nature of open source software is such that the more people use and enjoy the software, the faster and more focused the development becomes to meet the needs of the user community, and the more people will work on the development of the software.  Free and open source software means community property, and this is a program that the astrological community should wholeheartedly endorse, support, and take pride in.

Astrology with Free Software | 1. Best Options

Free stuff for the astrologer!  In this post I discuss good free software resources.

You don’t need expensive astrology software to do great astrology.  In fact, astrology programs are often loaded with various interpretive modules and poor out-of-the-box settings that they often make it harder to think for yourself, turning the program into a very bad “astrologer”, rather than a tool to make things easier.  Some of this is inescapable when using any software program for astrology, free or not, and there are those rare individuals that draw their own charts.  However, I’ve drawn my own charts before, and I find the practice to be very time consuming, and not particularly helpful to the process of understanding the chart, contrary to the claims of some that advocate it.  Therefore, I think that charting should be done with software, but that it should be free software whenever possible, and it is even better if open-source, because then it can be more freely modified to fit the needs of particular astrological practices.

Morinus

I particularly advocate the use of Morinus, a free open-source astrology program with a plethora of settings, the ability to do accurate primary directions, and a traditional version that cuts out some of the clutter.  It is written in Python, which is itself a very popular open-source programming language, so powerful and intuitive that it is the programming language used by NASA, CERN, Google, Yahoo!, and other big names.  Nearly always, the charts on my blog will be from Morinus.  There is a slight learning curve with initial chart entry, compared with other programs that have better built-in atlases, but I addressed installation and chart entry in a past post, which I urge the reader to check out.

Astro-Databank

Additionally, I advocate the use of Astro-Databank for researching celebrity chart data.  However, on Astro-Databank, be careful of using anything that doesn’t have a Rodden Rating of A or AA (at least B), and even then understand that the ratings are a bit subjective, so check the source notes.  For instance, James Randi’s birth data came from James Randi who was quoting his birth certificate but is given a C, because the people writing the entry just don’t want to believe him.  Another example, David Bowie’s mother and ex-wife give 9:00am as a birth time, and one other source gives 9:30am, yet the chart on Astro-Databank shows 9:15am, which is not given by any source, and still an A rating is given.  In another astrology program that I have which I purchased long ago, and which had the Astro-Databank already pre-installed in the software’s database, it gives 9:00am for Bowie, suggesting that someone later switched the time to 9:15am (a time with no source).  In my opinion, Bowie is most likely 9am, with an A rating because it’s from 2 reliable sources.  The 9am time would also put Venus conjunct Bowie’s MC, making good sense as a professional indicator.  So, I advocate the use of Astro-Databank, but I caution against uncritically taking the rating and chart data at face value without reviewing source notes.  In the next post in this series, I will show how to use Astr0-Databank as an aid for building up a chart database in Morinus.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s HORIZONS Interface

The HORIZONS web-interface is a generous offering by NASA.  This is a great resource for generating ephemerides.  It is of particular value to astrologers who use asteroids, but of less value to traditional astrologers.  The reason it is so great for asteroid astrologers is that pretty much every asteroid with an identifying number and/or name can be found, as well as it’s orbital dynamics, and the ability to generate ephemeride tables.  Astrologers are particularly interested in the current position and the position when making a station of a planet or celestial body makes, so be sure to change the “Table Settings” in order to be sure that #31 is checked, so that the table gives the Observational Ecliptic Longitude and Latitude of the planet.  The observational ecliptic longitude is the position in the zodiac, so a position of 270.5* is 270 degrees past 0 Aries, which is 270/30 signs into the zodiac, or has exactly traversed 9 signs already (1. Aries, 2. Taurus, 3. Gemini, 4. Cancer, 5. Leo, 6. Virgo, 7. Libra, 8. Scorpio, 9. Sagittarius), so it is at 0 degrees Capricorn, plus 1/2 a degree, or 0*30′ Capricorn.  I won’t be working with this interface much on this site, but it can be very fun, particularly for those that work with asteroid.

As an exercise, try to find where asteroid Linux is today (9* Capricorn), and try to find the degree of its last 1st (i.e. direct) station by changing the time settings to encompass a much larger past period and finding the day when longitude switches from descending to ascending (July 21, 2011 at 4* Sagittarius).  One day when I spent hours installing Linux operating systems on about a half dozen computers for friends and family, I got a real kick finding out that asteroid Linux was conjunct my MC within a degree the whole day.  Now go find out where asteroid 911 Agamemnon was on 9/11/2001.  And where was the Sun on that day?  Yes, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your traditional astrology – but you’ll find the traditional astrology (at least the Hellenistic and Persian varieties) most useful – trust me on this!

Astro.com

In addition to offering some of the worst new age chart interpretation packages available, Astro.com also offers a very cool online chart calculator and drawer, and the ability to store a short database of chart on their website for easy retrieval from anywhere with internet access.  I’ll address this at greater length in a future post on calculating and storing charts with their online software. Another awesome resource on their site is the section with free ephemerides for 6,000 years.  Every astrologer should print (or even buy) an ephemeris, because it makes it easy to scan and track the planets, observing when stations, eclipses, important aspects, and other such stuff occurs.  Astro.com is also the host for the Astro-Databank, so their contribution to providing free astrological resources to astrologers is a great one, for which I’m very thankful, even though I make fun of the computer-generated readings they sell which help fund their site.

Others

Those above are just my most highly recommended free charting resources.  There are many additional free resources out there for astrologers.  The comments area is a great place to help draw awareness to other free resources that are out there.  Thanks!

Astrologers Should Be on Diaspora* | RIP Ilya Zhitomirskiy

As a long-time user and fervent advocate of the leading open-source, privacy-aware, social network, Diaspora*, I was recently very shaken by the death of Ilya Zhitomirskiy.  Ilya was one of the four original founders of the project and a core developer.  He died this past Saturday.  The cause of death is believed to have been suicide though it has not yet been conclusively confirmed.

What is Diaspora*?

Diaspora_team

Diaspora* is a rather young social network, making its debut in November of 2010 and still in Alpha.  Many people are familiar with the even newer Google+ and its use of “Circles”.  However, few know that Diaspora* had such a feature from its very launch, called “Aspects” which operate in a similar, if not easier-to-use, fashion.  Diaspora* has largely spread by word of mouth, as the project is donation funded.  It was started by four NYU college students with a desire to make a social network that didn’t operate like a panopticon.

 

Other social networks like Facebook and Google+ are wielded by multi-billion-dollar multi-national corporations, building a centralized database of our lives.  Multiple controversies have arisen with these corporations over their use of our information, which are said to be openly accessible to government agencies with specialized interfaces and to enable surveillance, profiling, and identity theft on a scale hitherto unknown.  They are certainly the most effective panopticons of all time, putting everyone in a position to socialize about any and everything together with personal photographs, videos, and information listed in convenient ready-for-database form, without any way of knowing if others are monitoring and what others are doing with this information.

Diaspora_image_1

The founders of Diaspora* set out to make a social network that was quite different.  Their social network demonstrates a commitment to privacy, decentralization, community ownership, and freedom of speech.  Not only does the social network have privacy features like “Aspects” built in and prominent so you can be sure that what you say is seen only by the connections you specify, but it is also decentralized, such that anyone (with the property equipment and know-how) can host the software of the network themselves.  Each instance is called a “pod” and seamlessly connects to all of the other pods on the network.  Diaspora* is not located in any one place on the net, such as diaspora.com but rather is located at any domain hosting a pod.  The main, founders’, pod is Join Diaspora, but is invite only, while there has been an outcropping of more and more pods allowing instant public joining as well, such as Diasp.org (which I’m on) and Poddery, among dozens of others.  Most of these pods are ad-free and donation-funded.

Diaspora* also freely allows the use of pseudonyms and doesn’t require inputting any personal or identifying information whatsoever to use and enjoy, unlike other proprietary social networks.  You can have multiple accounts with different names and that is just fine.  The founders of the social network realized that pseudonyms promote free speech and the protection of personal privacy.

While only 1 year old and in alpha, without millions or billions in funding like other social networks, the network is surprisingly feature-rich.  Convenient tagging functionality, following public posts when you add someone prior to reciprocal sharing, animated gifs, embedded videos and music, messages, email forwarding, tools for rapid sharing through your browser, photo upload (with photos only posting to those who you want to see them), posting to FB, Tumblr, and Twitter from within Diaspora*, public posting, a community spotlight feed, the ability to follow tags, a markup language for formatting text, ability to post very long messages with an expandable preview showing in the feed, posting pictures as clickable links from url, and many other features are already present.

Did I mention that the program is also open-source (i.e. the community can examine the code and take part in its development)?

Why is Diaspora* Right for Astrologers?

Astrologers, as in people who do astrology for a living, as well as hobbyists and people just interested in learning and talking about it, should all be most comfortable on Diaspora* of all the social networks.  Astrologers are one of the few groups that is frequently under attack by both religious fundamentalists as being engaged in something unholy and by the skeptic community for being intellectually deficient or even insane, because astrology is seen to involve supernatural views and concepts largely incompatible with both religious fundamentalism and materialist fundamentalism.

By far, most astrology enthusiasts don’t do astrology for a living, and some are quite involved in serious scientific or intellectual work.  Many jobs also involve extensive work with the public at large.  A privacy aware and decentralized social network can allow them to communicate with others about astrology without alerting the entire world that they are into astrology with all the important personally identifying information.  Talk about science with your scientist friends and astrology with your astrology friends freely on the net, without going permanently “on record” with both, and without setting up a profile of yourself for advertisers, government agencies, and who knows who else.  Social networking is intended to be chatty, informal, and free-flowing, and with Diaspora* it can be like that without all the additional garbage that comes with networks like Facebook. Talk about astrology, or anything you want, with who you want, without feeling defensive, pensive, or like you need to explain yourself to family, certain friends, academic authorities, your boss, your clients, your students, or anyone else you think may pass judgment on you, disadvantage you, or simply not understand.

Astrological Circumstances Surrounding Ilya’s Death

When Ilya passed I was very shaken, and I am still quite shocked that such a bright, charismatic, and innovative person could see the end of life at only 22 years of age.

Astrology doesn’t really help me to change the events of life, as it may for some people.  I look to my will and spirituality to overcome.  However, astrology does  provide me with some insight that everything happens purposefully within a context of rich meaning, known by an intelligence far greater than my own.  For this reason, when unfortunate events occur, I eventually get around to looking at the astrology.

Ilya was born on October 12, 1989.  I don’t know his time or place of birth, thus the possibility for very extensive chart work is ruled out unless such reliable information comes to light.  I do know that he was born with the Sun at late 18 or early 19 degrees Libra, assembled with the malefic planet Mars at 14 degrees Libra, and assembled with Mercury at 1 degree Libra.  Mercury is in phasis, and thus appears to be strong in the chart, showing intellectualism.  This stellium of planets in the socially-oriented Air sign, Libra, is squared (in a sign with a 90 degree relationship with the other sign) by both Jupiter and Saturn (Jupiter and Saturn being opposed to each other in Cancer and Capricorn respectively.

Ilya passed one month after his most recent solar return (i.e. birthday – but exact moment of Sun’s return to position held in natal chart).  The solar return has been used since ancient times as a chart signifying important happenings for the year.  Saturn in his solar return was at 20 degrees Libra, within about a degree or less of Ilya’s Sun.  Saturn is the planet most associated with death, as well as that associated with melancholy, depression, fear, and dread.  The Sun is the planet most associated with the life force.  Ilya’s solar return signified a strong and rare joining of the force of death and dread to his personal force of light and life.  I found this to be a sad and fascinating metaphor for his death, particularly since Saturn’s trip around the zodiac takes about 28 years, and thus Saturn conjoins one’s natal Sun for a period that occurs at most about once every 28 years (the timing of the first conjunction event will differ depending on the particular date of someone’s birth and how far the Sun was from Saturn at that time).  While the event happens about every 28 years, it is even more rare that at the time of one’s solar return for the specific year of the conjunction, Saturn should be within about a degree of the natal Sun.

Rest In Peace Ilya Zhitomirskiy

I thank you sincerely for your dedication to human integrity and liberty.  You will be dearly missed, both by those intimate with your unique spirit and the millions whose lives you will have helped to make a little better.

 

 

Great Free Traditional Astrology Software Program | Morinus – New Version Released

Would you believe that you can do all of your traditional astrology charting and calculations with a free software program?

When I discovered Morinus a few years ago it was quite a revelation.  This program does it all, and its creator also made it available as a special Traditional version that eliminates some of the options one working with ancient astrology won’t need while adding a few extras they’ll like.

The program’s most recent update was on Oct. 2, 2011, and is version 3.5.

If you are absolutely new to astrology and just need to be able to pull up and print charts in a basic way, then I recommend using the free online chart calculation at Astro.com (Astrodienst) instead.  I’ll cover basic use of the Astrodienst charting in another post.

Installation of Traditional Morinus on a Windows machine is easy:
  1. Download your copy by following this link.  The download link (MorinusWin.zip) is at the bottom of that page.  Right click it, choose Save As, and save it somewhere you can find it.
  2. After downloading, then open the zip folder and click “Extract all files”, choose a place you’ll remember and click “extract”.  That is where the program now resides on your computer.  It is installed.
  3. Open that folder, find the file morinus.exe and right-click it, choosing “Create shortcut“.  Then cut and paste or drag and drop the shortcut onto your desktop.

Drawing up your first chart in Traditional Morinus may be a bit different from what you’re used to:

  1. With the program open, click Horoscope then New, or simply hold CTRL and press N, notated CTRL+N.
  2. You will need the following information: Name, Date your charting (for instance birth date), Time (do this in 24 hour time, i.e. 1pm is 13 hours 0 minutes), Place of Birth, and two very tricky things, coordinates and time zone of your location, if you weren’t born in one of the major cities on their small list.  I recommend putting those last two in while adding your location to the list, by clicking on the “Place” button.
  3. With the “Places” dialog box up, you first enter the longitude and latitude of the location.  You can go to this website, zoom out of the special Google map, zoom in on your location, and then click the relative location, and it will give you the longitude and latitude which you can enter here.  To enter the timezone, use this timezone map to find how many hours west (-) or east (+) of Greenwich time (GMT) your place is designated, for selecting the + or – and then putting the number where it says Hour under that.  Also, put the name of the location, and the altitude if known (not significant for most work), then click Add and your location is added to the Places database.  Once the location is there, then in the future just click Place and select it.
  4. Finally, before you do a chart, make sure you know if the location had daylight saving in effect at that time of year.  You may need to do some investigation to find this out, and this link is a good place to start.  If it was in effect then make sure you check the “Daylight saving” box.
  5. Once your chart is up, be sure to type CTRL+S to save the chart for later access.

Have fun!  I’ll explore some of the uses of Morinus in future posts in the Software category (click here for an article on doing primary directions with Morinus).

When dealing with the more ancient varieties of traditional astrology, there is not as much need for software beyond chart calculation. This program will come in handy for primary directions though.
When dealing with the more ancient varieties of traditional astrology, there is not as much need for software beyond chart calculation. This program will come in handy for primary directions though.