Not Your Typical Traditional Astrology
Seven Stars Astrology is dedicated to traditional astrology. The site pertains to critical application of traditional methods, as well as general education regarding contextual and methodological issues. However, it is not your typical traditional astrology blog. Seven guiding principles distinguish Seven Stars Astrology from more common, and often less compelling, approaches to astrology. Seven Stars Astrology is astrology that is traditional, open, systematic, progressive, applied, critical, and exoteric. These guiding principles are encapsulated in the acronym “TO SPACE”.
1. Traditional Astrology
Seven Stars Astrology takes the “traditional” part of traditional astrology very seriously. The focus is on the foundational texts of the western astrological tradition. Hellenistic astrology, or Greco-Roman astrology, is a type of astrology which emerged in the 2nd or 1st century BCE. Its practice peaked during the Roman empire, and declined after the fall of that empire. The surviving Hellenistic works date from the 1st to 7th century CE. This astrology was unique in its introduction of the use of a set of topical houses based on the rising sign. It also introduced the particular 4-fold system of planets, signs, configurations (aspects), and places (houses and lots) that had not been seen prior.
Why Hellenistic Astrology?
The reason for the focus on early material may surprise you. It is not due to an admiration with all things Greco-Roman, distrust of modern spiritual communities, fundamentalism, or denial that modern astrology has anything to offer.
Hellenistic astrology is the foundation of western traditional astrology. Through its texts we can find clarity regarding the meaning of planets, signs, houses, and configurations. It is also a period of voluminous output on principles, predictive techniques, and special approaches to specific topics. The material of the era is richer, more complex, and more diverse. It is ideal for astrologers who are looking for ways to expand or refine their astrological art. You will find plenty of new old techniques.
Focusing on the Chart
Ancient astrology also tends to be more astrologically-centered, By this I mean that the focus is on the correspondence between astrological signs and experienced reality. This contrasts with the more modern focus on the correspondence between astrological signs and assumed metaphysical realms, such as archetypal agents of the soul or subconscious mind. In ancient astrology if a factor doesn’t seem to reflect some aspect of a person’s identity or personality, it is probably because that factor does not symbolize it.
The focus is then on explaining how and why certain factors symbolize situations or personality more than others. This contrasts with the more common focus, which is not to compare the chart and reality but to explain the chart in light of assumptions about what is going on in unmanifest regions of the soul. That approach is not open to critical analysis, and thus not very open to change and improvement. By contrast, a focus on interpreting the symbolic language of the chart itself, in its own terms, is open to critical analysis and improvement.
What about Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto?
Uranus, Neptune, and dwarf planets like Pluto, Eris, and Ceres are not examined on the site. This is not to say they have no symbolic significance or are astrologically useless. I actually do extensive work with Uranian and asteroid astrology as well, but omit modern factors on this site. Why? Only by focusing solely on the rich tradition of the first thousand years, without the significant distraction of modern factors and techniques, can we truly understand and experience the potential of traditional astrology on its own terms.
Traditional astrologers had lots, twelfth-parts, aspects by antiscia, and many additional tools at their disposal to significantly expand their symbolic palette. The omission of modern factors highlights the symbolic richness of the traditional ones. The point is to show that traditional astrologers had at their disposal and extraordinary rich set of tools for symbolizing a diverse range of complex human experience. While additional planets, asteroid, and midpoints can add spice to your practice, the meat and potatoes remains the traditional factors and they are sufficient.
Moving Away from Cliché
Modern astrologers tend to over-rely on three outer planets as malefics (i.e. challenging factors) in a somewhat two-dimensional and clichéd way. Uranus, the sky god, is not just about shock and innovation. While its conventional mythos is associated with ambush and violent disruption that leads to a new order, it is also the sky god. As such it is associated with the sky quite prominently, including astronomy, astrology, meteorology, and aeronautics. Additionally, it is one of the best astrological symbols for castration that we have.
Uranus doesn’t have to mean all these things all at once, or one of things always, in any chart. Like any factor, it can symbolize across a range of its associations depending on connections in the chart. Actually, as a non-traditional factor, I’d say that its meaning is even more dependent upon its particularly strong connections within the chart. However, it is too often assumed to be this two-dimensional force of societal revolution and rebellion.
Many astrologers have grown tired of the same cliched tropes about shock/revolution (Uranus), delusion/confusion (Neptune), and transformation/abuse (Pluto) that modern astrologers churn out. If you’re one of those, then I think you’ll find traditional astrology to be liberating.
With medieval and later traditional astrology, we can hit dead ends when our “winner” approaches to significators don’t work out or when life gets complex and contradictory. There is little room for the astrological art to progress in such situations. Instead, we defer to extra-astrological esoteric explanations (magick, spirituality, religion). Similarly, with modern astrology there can be a subservience to psychological or spiritual explanations for the limitations of astrology.
The foundational traditional material of Hellenistic astrology is diverse and rich in tools. We find enough diversity in opinion and approach to adjust our understanding and application of basics. The rich tool set ensures there are plenty of new things to try if we reach a dead end or find fault in a technique.
Diversity and Complexity
The basic foundational principles of the early material are relatively clear and coherent, allowing us to read what the chart says and compare that with objective reality. The earliest material has multiple volumes of techniques waiting to be explored and tested. There is enough diversity within and between the early astrologers for us to compare different approaches to the same life topics. We can test and choose among them or synthesize approaches. From different emphases in planetary assessment to a plethora of predictive techniques, there is immense diversity.
Hellenistic astrology has the tools necessary to deal with the complexities and contradictions of life. Can someone start shy and introverted, then become outgoing and extroverted? Sure, and the chart can show that. Can someone have a violent and religious father symbolized by the Sun in their chart but have an ego that is neither violent, nor religious, nor even particularly concerned with their father? Sure, and the chart can show that. Hellenistic astrology is a goldmine for those who appreciate the complexity of life, love applied astrology, and want to improve their art to better capture it.
Why Early Medieval Astrology?
The site also looks at later Perso-Arabic works of the first thousand years CE. These works grew directly out of those early foundational Hellenistic texts. The later Hellenistic astrologers and the early Perso-Arabic astrologers of the first thousand years were much like us. They were grappling with the principles and techniques of the early horoscopic astrology. Their methods of synthesizing principles and approaches to topical inquiries are often insightful.
Only the Traditional Traditional Astrology
Later medieval astrology, Renaissance astrology, and early modern astrology have typically been the focus of traditional astrologers. However, these later approaches rely increasingly on innovations introduced in the Middle Ages. Relying on these innovations tends to distance us from the original Hellenistic source material. Therefore, if it’s not based on teachings of the first thousand years of the tradition with precedence in Hellenistic astrology, it will not be explored on the site. There are many other sources of information on later traditional astrologers from Bonatti to Morin.
2. Open Astrology
Open astrology is astrology that aims to be verifiable and accessible to those of any means. It is also astrology that is transparent as to how it is approaching the chart. Seven Stars Astrology is open in at least three ways. First, free software is preferred and promoted. Second, public chart data is preferred. Additionally, the sources and rationale for principles and preferences are transparently outlined in lessons and essays.
Free software can be downloaded by anyone with a computer and an internet connection. You are never required to fork over hundreds of dollars for software to check that the charts or predictive material are correctly calculated and presented. Don’t “trust us”. You are invited and urged to start working with the same software, to reproduce the results shown, and to explore the techniques on your own with more charts.
Many articles on the site explore free software and how to use it. When possible, chart examples are produced with free software. In a similar vein, Seven Stars Astrology also highlights free online resources, including free astrological texts available online.
Open-source software is truly “community software” that can be modified by programmer astrologers to satisfy our calculation needs now and in the future. Promoting open-source software is about promoting the development of community tools for exploring and enjoying astrology. Therefore, astrology itself benefits from the use and promotion of open-source software, whether or not one has the programming experience to work on its development.
Public Chart Data
Seven Stars Astrology prefers chart examples with verifiable birth information. Astro-Databank provides unprecedented access to publicly available birth chart information. Celebrity examples with accurate birth times are preferred because the birth information can be verified on Astro-Databank and the biographical information is familiar or accessible on the web. Occasionally, personal or anonymous chart examples are given as well but the stress is on verifiable data.
It is not uncommon in astrology today for someone to present a technique as Hellenistic or traditional without actually referencing its origin. Without quotes or references to sources it can be difficult to verify to what extent someone’s techniques are traditional or Hellenistic. That approach closes off the astrology from critical examination.
Seven Stars Astrology aims to open up source texts to readers. English translations of relevant ancient texts are quoted often and heavily in support of the methods used. Sources are cited and references are given at the end of articles. Often links are provided to free copies of texts available online. Again, the reader is not expected to “trust us” but is encouraged to explore source texts. The aim is to aid the reader to approach source texts directly, as Hellenistic astrology should not just be learned second-hand.
The use of quotes (or even photos of actual pages of texts!) without proper citation is a worrisome practice. Unfortunately, it is all too common on the net. However, it is unethical and often violates copyright laws. The articles on this site always include proper citation. The use of relevant quoted material is aimed to promote the work of translators, scholars, and astrologers while stimulating astrological interest and exploration.
While there is a cohesive consistent central system to Hellensitic astrology, the art is diverse. Every Hellensitic astrologer stressed different methods and preferences in their work. Therefore, in practice there is no one Hellenistic astrology. Any applied Hellenistic astrology will be the approach of the practitioner, informed by their preferences and experience. However, by providing sources, others can confirm that what is presented is indeed firmly rooted in Hellenistic astrology even when it departs from preconceptions.
The site aims to explain the techniques used by linking to articles on them. Seven Stars Astrology provides lessons, the first seven of which outline the meanings of the most important elements of the chart. Additionally, articles are provided that outline the predictive techniques used and how one can apply them to charts. Finally, when certain principles or techniques of Hellenistic astrology are preferred (e.g. twelfth-parts) and others discouraged (e.g. the use of sign dignity for beneficence) in contrast to common approaches, the rationale is extensively outlined in essays.
3. Systematic Astrology
Traditional astrology is plagued by cherry-picking and inconsistent approaches to the chart. For instance, with one chart an astrologer may take sign dignity to be very important and indicative of success or good circumstances, while in the next chart it is viewed as relatively unimportant or over-ridden altogether. Similarly, the methodology for carrying out special techniques to assess things like character, profession, sexuality, and more may change with every chart example. However, a systematic and consistent approach to the chart is absolutely vital to being able to evaluate any method or technique.
A special technique is an approach to a life topic that incorporates multiple factors in an attempt to gather information and draw some definitive conclusions about a specific topic. Ancient astrologers differed in terms of their preferred special techniques for various topics. Therefore, if we are to compare different special techniques or create our own special techniques, it is important that the rules are laid out clearly from the outset and systematically applied to multiple and various chart examples. Seven Stars Astrology emphasizes multiple examples in the exploration and testing of techniques.
Multiple Predictive Techniques and Confluence
In traditional astrology, multiple timing techniques were used and compared against the natal chart. Something had to be both symbolized in the natal chart in important ways and shown through multiple activations by timing techniques to be indicative of a “significant event”. However, it is too often the case that astrologers today use a single predictive method or a single randomly cherry-picked predictive configuration to explain the timing of important events in life. By contrast, the systematic approach looks for a confluence of indications between the natal chart, activations, and timing techniques to explain significant events.
Open Principles and Techniques
As noted above, the main principles of chart interpretation are outlined in the first seven lessons on the site, and predictive techniques are also outlined in dedicated articles. These lessons and articles outline the most important considerations for things like which indications pertain to benefit vs. challenge, which pertain to prominence, the meaning behind indications, and how factors become activated. Articles applying these principles and techniques stick closely to those references.
Seven Stars Astrology is astrology that aims for systematic analysis that can be replicated by the reader and applied to unfamiliar charts. When a systematic application does not produce the desired analysis it still bears fruit. Counter-examples allow us to tweak our ranking of principles and techniques, leading to better systematic analysis. In other words, only through those charts and events where our astrological system fails us can we be alerted to where it needs improvement.
4. Progressive Astrology
Progressive astrology is astrology that recognizes it is still weak and has plenty of room to grow. It is amazing to me the extreme contrast in worldview between astrologers and the general public. Many outsiders believe that astrology is simply a hoax and of no value.
Many astrologers believe that their astrological art is advanced enough for them to counsel someone on the inner workings of their psyche and tell them what decisions they should make with their life. By contrast, progressive astrology is astrology that is honest about the state of the astrological art. As a program, astrology is rather buggy. There is a lot of room for improvement. Use with caution around heavy machinery.
Anything is Amazing
Astrology should be impossible given our current preferred scientific models of reality. It is so important that astrological analysis be consistent and systematic because only if we can say anything accurately against many charts can we hope to say that thing accurately against an unfamiliar chart. However, even the simplest assertion about objective reality, such as “your dad is religious”, becomes astonishing when it is rooted in the astrology of someone’s birth chart.
Progressive astrology is about starting small and attempting to get clear and consistent information from the chart. Thankfully, Hellenistic astrology provides some promising avenues for gleaning clear astrological indications.
Astrology is Young
It may sound weird to declare that a two thousand year old form of astrology is still rather young, but it certainly is in terms of development. Hellenistic astrology provides some of the clearest and most accurate indications regarding objectively observable life circumstances. However, the chart (and life) is complex and there is much work to be done in developing systematic accurate approaches to topics. Progressive astrology is about drawing on the diversity of ancient astrology to find ways to improve the accuracy of chart reading.
Developing Special Techniques
Ancient astrologers recognized that a light look at one or two factors were insufficient for accurately evaluating and predicting important life circumstances. Analyses of things like money, marriage, health, and character require a synthesis of indications from multiple factors. These indications have to be prioritized, differentiated, and worked with predictively. This is a difficult task and it was not sufficiently completed by ancient astrologers, legends and hero-worshiping aside.
Progress involves recognizing that we are not psychic wizards and neither were the ancient astrologers. We need to hone our techniques as they did. Unfortunately, too often astrologers never get beyond basic symbol interpretation to the level of special technique development. The real work comes in synthesizing basics, making tough decisions about symbolic priority, and developing a cohesive predictive toolkit.
Progressive astrology is astrology that is centered on astrology itself, not an external dogma. It is best to approach the chart without unnecessary assumptions about how factors correspond to occult forces or faculties. Progressive astrology remains agnostic about the role of consciousness, spiritual development, the will, fate, God, and angels in modulating astrological indications.
This is not to say that such things play no role, nor that astrologers cannot believe in such things. However, deference to metaphysical assumptions is too often at the expense of astrological progress. There are far too many avenues available for the further development of the astrological art for us to assume we’ve taken astrology as far as it can go. Progressive astrology does not pin astrology’s shortcomings on supernatural causes. Rather, it works to systematically refine the art in order to overcome those shortcomings.
5. Applied Astrology
By applied astrology, I don’t mean counseling and consultations. Applied astrology in the context of progressive astrology is the hard work of honing techniques and sizing up their indications against the real world. In other words, it is the art of comparing our interpretation of the symbolism above to the experience of circumstances below. This should be contrasted with consultation, recitation, and theory.
Seven Stars Astrology has many articles on textual issues and theoretical or interpretive issues, but the focus of the site is on applied astrology. Applied astrology is a search for how astrological signs can be sufficiently used to account for the occurrence of some states or events. It is not enough that one or two things in the chart seem to indicate something true. Anyone can cherry-pick random factors that appear to indicate something. Instead the focus is on how multiple factors confirm and reinforce each other in a systematic way to indicate something about objective reality.
The “Art” is Not Counseling
Astrologers often make off-the-cuff predictions and give “advice” lightly and regularly. They does so before they can systematically apply an approach to a topic against even a dozen charts. Astrological organizations ensure that astrologers have an understanding of the principles of chart elements and consultation etiquette, not an ability to critically and systematically develop accuracy.
Good counseling is often helpful on its own, even if accompanied by bad astrology. Before you equate productive talk therapy sessions with astrological heights, remember that even a psy-fi religion founded by a con man has attracted millions of loyal followers through the benefits of talk therapy. Successful counselors with some familiarity with astrology are all too often confused for being good at applied astrology, even when their actual knowledge and use of astrology leaves something to be desired.
Benefits of Counseling
This is not to put down counseling or the use of astrology with counseling. There are many great astrologers who are also great counselors, able to play both roles. As noted, any accurate indication can be amazing and inspiring, especially to someone seeking a reading. Also, counseling itself can be immensely therapeutic, sometimes for both parties. Additionally, astrologers can get lots of hands on experience and data from counseling people and being exposed to many lives and charts.
Correlation is the Art
Still, the art of astrology is not to be confused with counseling. As astrologers we seek to systematically correlate celestial indications with earthly events. How you incorporate that into the way you make a living is largely irrelevant to the art of applied astrology. This site is focused on the art of astrology but not on successful counseling, ethics, business practices, etc. There are plenty of good sites on the net for those matters.
The “Art” is Not Recitation
I once had a reading from a Jyotish practitioner who would consult an ancient text for the interpretation of important placements in my chart. She would read from the old text things like “the native frequents prostitutes”. She’d then warn me that I shouldn’t take the negative statements in it too seriously because it reflected that old traditional way of life. Interestingly, she would then proceed to tell me something similar but in a much more pleasant and modern way.
I had some familiarity with ancient texts, so the language of the old astrologer didn’t bother me. Still, it might bother some clients and it was probably inappropriate for her to read it aloud. What bothered me was that she was basically trusting the old astrologer. I wasn’t getting a reading from her, but one she was translating from her favorite traditional Indian astrologer into a more modern interpretation. Additionally, in ancient astrology a stray indication is insignificant without it being reinforced by similar indications. By contrast, she was taking each indication as significant in describing me.
Beyond the Look-Up
It is important for us to acknowledge the contributions of the ancients and to study their techniques and advice. Admittedly, that alone is not an easy task. However, we should not blindly trust the ancients as infallible. Additionally, applied astrology involves synthesis. Perhaps ironically, cookbook approaches bring the ingredients with little sense for how they are transformed by their integration in the chart.
Applied astrology goes beyond reciting our favorite passages from our favorite astrologers. We critically apply the methods of the ancients to see where they are strong and in what ways. Even the best memory for recitation in the world is no substitute for the wisdom gained by applying astrology to charts and seeing what works and in what ways.
The “Art” is Not Theorizing
Learning astrological techniques involves a lot of conceptualization. How do we perceive concepts like dignity, weakness, and ruler? There is a lot of theorizing inherent in the task of learning astrology. Theorizing, like familiarity with source material, is an important part of learning astrology. However, learning astrology should not stop once you have a theory that makes sense to you.
I have met too many well-versed and intelligent astrologers that simply try to hunt down charts that confirm their theories (or those of the ancients) and stop there. It is good for something to make sense, but that alone doesn’t make it work. Applied astrology is about critically applying theories to see what works and what doesn’t. Counter-examples are valuable. If your theories explain counter-examples by means of metaphysics or cherry-picking rather than with systematic astrological interpretation then they are dogma rather than insight.
6. Critical Astrology
Critical astrology does not adhere to any principles or methods uncritically. We use the ancients as our starting point. If something they suggest does not work in the way some ancient astrologer says it should then we question it. Sometimes other ancient astrologers give us alternative interpretations that work better. Other times we must come to our own interpretations through theorizing.
We may need to simply drop certain elements from our approach in order to emphasize things that work better. For instance, I’ve seen some issues with the way dignity is typically emphasized and interpreted by traditional astrologers. This has led me to mostly de-emphasize dignity as a factor, but also to seek alternative interpretations that still accord with tradition.
Many astrologers are reticent when it comes to discussing techniques critically. They may feel it opens them up to criticism from non-astrologers. Also, they may worry it will call into question doctrines upon which their products or consultations are based. However, in order to have an applied and progressive orientation toward astrology, we must also adopt a critical mindset. Other fields advance due to open critical thinking and experimentation. Unfortunately, astrologers tend to coalesce into camps for cozy pats on the back, often to the detriment of any critical progress.
This is not a site to promote a better public trust of astrologers. It is a site to promote the development of a better critical astrology. Hopefully, such an astrology can earn the public’s trust as being a worthwhile and sober field of inquiry, and do so on its own terms.
Critical astrology suggests a focus on natal and mundane astrology. Those two fields of astrology give one ample opportunity to compare the indications of a chart against objective reality. The site has had a particular stress on natal astrology for critical chart work. This is simply because natal astrology was the main focus of Hellenistic astrology. The bulk of Hellenistic astrological material concerns natal astrology. Natal astrology also allows us to compare different periods of people’s lives fairly easily and to compare similar indications in the charts of different people. Additionally, natal data for celebrities is plentiful.
7. Exoteric Astrology
The concept of exoteric astrology involves an intersection of open, progress, applied, and critical approaches. It takes the idea of astrology-centered astrology to its most extreme. Astrological factors are a set of conventional symbols, not entirely unlike words in a language. The “game” of astrology is to propose how these symbols can systematically be combined to reflect reality and experience (their grammar). A proposal that works against one chart or time period but fails miserably on others is flawed and needs amendment. The game is open to atheists, monotheists, polytheists, and spiritualists alike; to psychologists of controversial schools of thought and those skeptical of those schools of thought; to new agers and skeptics. You don’t even have to “believe” in astrology to participate and contribute to the game.
As soon as one seeks extra-astrological explanation for why symbols don’t systematically correspond to reality, one is no longer practicing exoteric astrology. Appeals to souls, past lives, gods, psychological faculties, or free will for how or why astrology works are departures from the exoteric to the esoteric. However, there is a subtle but significant distinction to be made. I don’t mean that an appeal to a factor’s associations with gods or psychological faculties is esoteric. Rather, I mean making up for astrological weakness or error by appeal to extra-astrological factors, such as gods, souls, free will, spiritual evolution, etc. Associations with gods are often simply part of a factor’s symbolism.
For instance, the association of Mars to the god of war tells us that it can readily describe war and violence. Therefore, if that symbolism of Mars is emphasized in the chart and it accurately describes a violent reality in some instance, that is all exoteric. It concerns only the symbolism of the chart factors, how they are read/interpreted together, and how that interpretation corresponds with reality.
By contrast, an esoteric appeal to gods uses the chart to provide a clue as to what Mars, god of war, is up to. For instance, Mars will bring war or violence to these things he is associated with unless you appease him. This view asserts a cause (Mars the god) and many assumptions (gods; religious practices; spiritual relationships) that are not necessary. These causes and assumptions have not been substantiated and close the reading of the chart off to critical analysis.
Fate and Free Will
Exoteric astrology does not assume fate. Similarly, it does not assume that people are static or don’t change; nor that the chart determines one’s character. The chart can only describe, not determine. Until and unless it is describing very accurately, there is little basis for discussing how or whether it determines anything. Too often, astrologers put the chart before the horse when it comes to astrological determinism.
Exoteric astrology also does not assume that things are not fated. The more accurate descriptions get, the more it may inspire questioning regarding the nature of reality and fate. When we assume free will too strongly, we again move away from how the chart itself describes. We move away from working to better interpret the chart, comparing it with reality. We too readily enter into more speculation and assumptions about causes and determinism.
A Working Assumption
The only assumption necessary for astrology is that the chart and predictive techniques can “speak” about real circumstances in an accurate way if the astrologer is skilled enough to interpret them. This website takes this to be the barest and most fundamental assumption necessary for astrological work. Sometimes it’s best to make the least assumptions. As the saying goes, when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.
Interestingly, even the core assumption can be just a working one. A person can adopt this assumption simply to play the game without actually believing in it. Someone who does not believe in astrology can make great progress with it. This parallels how someone in physics who adopts the working assumption that everything real supervenes on the physical can make great strides in that science whether they believe the working assumption reflects ultimate reality or not.
The critical exoteric approach is a pragmatic one. It is not nihilistic or contrary to any particular set of spiritual beliefs. You’re not told what to believe but just to stop bringing so many preconceived beliefs to the art. There is simply a suspension of projecting too much belief into the interpretation. Like any musician will tell you, learning to listen is more important than learning to riff on well-rehearsed scales.
Esoteric approaches bring so much noise to the chart before reading it that I believe they fail to listen to it. They may assume the Sun’s significations pertain to a central aspect of your ego or the South Node to your prior damage. The currency is confirmation bias. In such an approach two good examples far outweigh 8 counter-examples. This is because the good examples show the surfacing on the hidden reality, whereas the counter-examples may just show its suppression, transcendence, or transmutation. By contrast, in exoteric astrology, counter-examples are crucial to development as they reveal weak points in interpretation.
This is not an approach that will appeal to everyone. Many do not want to suspend their beliefs about astrology as they feel those beliefs are absolutely vital to correct interpretation. That is understandable. I think even those people will find something of value on this site. However, the approach promoted of this site is proudly critical and exoteric. Hey doubt, come on around any time – just don’t think you can stop the astrology.
Compass. Reenactment of the 400th Anniversary of the First Landing (1607) of the Virginia Company colonists at First Landing State Park in April 2007. Photo (cropped) by Virginia State Parks staff [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons