How Data Collection Improves Astrology

Frank Clifford podcast

In this episode, Tony talks with Frank Clifford about his love of astrology data collection – which means tracking down accurate birth times for notable figures. We discuss his start in data collection, some of the pitfalls encountered, as well as some of the benefits to astrology. Accurate chart data not only improves our craft, but elevates our understanding. For as we study hundreds, and thousands of charts, we find that astrology is less deterministic than we think. Tune in to find out if astrology can predict your fame and fortune!

How Data Collection Improves Astrology Transcript

Tony Howard: Well, hello and welcome to this episode of the Astrology University podcast. I’m really happy to have Frank Clifford with me here today, and we’re gonna talk about data collection. So thanks for joining me today, Frank.

Frank Clifford: Hi, there, Tony. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.

TH: Yeah, I’ve been wanting to have this podcast for a while, and I’ve been wanting to talk to you about data collection ’cause I know it’s a passion of yours, and it’s been a passion for a long time. And I think you’ll have some really great info to share with people today about that. So, let’s just jump right in if you’re ready.

FC: Okay, I’m ready. Thank you.

TH: Awesome. So I thought we could just start by talking about how you got interested in data collection.

FC: Gosh, that’s interesting, ’cause I guess I started teaching myself astrology at 16, so that was 30 years ago, and one of the first books that I picked up was one of Lois Rodden’s books, the Profiles of Women book. And I’m always, as you know, I’m always saying you learn astrology with a biography in one hand and a chart in, a birth chart in the other.

And her book was just a treasure trove of charts and biographies of people that interested me and they were really my first teaching tool. So I wasn’t so much of a collector at that point, it was more that I wanted to learn and I wanted to learn from real-life examples, and so I ended up collecting because it was just a thing I wanted to do.

I realized that if I wanted the data I would have to go out and get them. And over the years, found all sort of ways of managing to get hard-to-find data through people, through birth registries, writing to celebrities, just jumping on them in public, all sorts of things that you learn to do as a shy but bold Aries. Yeah.

TH: That’s the person who would do it. That’s great. So yeah, I guess we should maybe rewind just a tiny bit and just explain what data collection is and that’s just collecting chart data, usually of famous folks, or notable folks that you’re trying to study or learn about, or that you’re interested in.

And so it sounds like you just got started by doing the work of looking at charts and that just naturally led to collecting them. But it seems like to me, like one of your first books here is this “British Entertainers: The Astrological Profiles,” which is a really, if you guys haven’t seen it, it’s a really great book to kinda get you into looking at several charts with kind of brief snapshots from the bios, so definitely check that out. But you got a little bit more interested in the data collection than the average person, I’d say.

FC: I did. I mean, Lois used to call us data freaks. Because we were people that would just spend hours and a lot of time just going further. There’re not many of us left, really. I mean, Lois died in 2003, Ed Steinbrecher died, Dana Holliday, and there’s Sy Scholfield, who does a lot of work for Astrodatabank, and a few others as well now, scattered around.

But, yes, at the time, there were just probably a good dozen of us that were meeting up, exchanging data. And Lois was the central hub for it, really. People sent her data from all over the world. When I stayed with her, the phone would be constantly ringing with people wanting data and she’d charge them for it and then give them the data.

And this is long before PayPal and everything else, so goodness knows whether she really got paid for the phone calls that she answered, but it became her life’s work and I didn’t want it to become mine. I was always interested in data, mainly because I wanted to learn astrology and I wanted to learn it through examples of people living and breathing rather than textbooks telling me what chart placements meant. So, it led to hopefully a better understanding of placements and a realization that people can’t so easily be categorized by their charts.

But I think she, I wrote to her a letter once, saying, or an email or fax, one of… I forget what it was, it was many years ago, saying that I had other things I wanted to do. And she wrote back, devastated. She said, “Ed and I, Ed Steinbrecher and I were ready to basically adopt you as our astro-child, and now you wanna do something else? You wanna go off and do other types of astrology?”

I think she was hoping I’d dedicate my whole life to continuing to collect data, and I didn’t wanna do that. I wanted to do other things. So I probably, without knowing it, turned down all sorts of things that could have been left to me, etcetera, with the data and all those things, but hey, it wasn’t my life work, it was certainly hers.

TH: Right. And how did you meet Lois?

FC: Well, I wrote to her originally, and we, I just ended up sending her a lot of data and then I had a bit of spare time, which is back in the ’90s, I haven’t have much since. And I promised, I said to her, “I know you’re finishing the second version of Profiles of Women.” It was an amazing, amazing volume of work. Next to my data, data books. And I said, “I know you’re doing that,” I said, “I’ll very happily check the data and add dates and life events and things of all the people in the book.” So she sent me basically, this was, again, it came by post, and I went through and I edited.

And I added, ’cause I’m a big reference book fan, I added hundreds and hundreds of dates. So if she’d say this person was married in 1987, I’d be able to give her the date for that. So the book filled out. It was great, it was a great project to work on. And… Yeah, I did a profile recently for TMA on Lois and I mentioned quite a bit about that as well. I might attach that with the data article for everybody, because it was a, it was just a nice warm tribute to Lois.

And that’s what, yes, so that was her life’s work. And so we chatted, we communicated, we had great fun. She was very Gemini, she loved all sorts of observations and compliments and loved all the data coming through.

I helped her with her data news as well and getting that sorted, doing a lot of editing for her. And then I went over to see her just before her Profiles of Women book was re-published, which I think was… just after actually. It must have been probably in 1996/97, something like that, ’96.

And we spent a week together having fun and she gossiped about everybody and I heard the gossip about people that I had yet to meet. And I wish I had written down all the gossip she told me. Because I then met everybody she spoke about and couldn’t remember half of it. It was just more interesting to be listening to her stories and details about clients and life and living in Hollywood. As she did for many years, her stories of meeting Mae West and all sorts of interesting things. And she was fascinating.

Not an easy lady. And she’d been through so many cancer operations as well, so she’d had a really tough time and she had a very protective shell around her, but we got on well most of the time and we had fun exchanging data and I really understood her dedication. So this is one of the reasons why I put a lot of effort into working with her and loving what I do.

So we’d write off, I’d write off for birth certificates from all sorts of places. Nowadays, everything changed after 9/11. And all the birth data, all the birth registries that you could write to for data just shut down overnight. And there was a real sense of protecting people’s privacy and all of a sudden, places where you could get data or a birth certificate, should I say, just shut down almost overnight because of the whole Homeland security development in America.

But before then, Lois and her friends were getting data from places they really never should’ve gotten it. And for example, there were a great husband and wife team, Tom and Thelma Wilson, who got data from New York by I think probably being very charming and chatting to registrars and people. And then somebody just wrote to the registry and said, “They’re getting data, why can’t I?” And it just shut off the whole avenue. So a lot of different things happened.

And Lois would tell me who was getting data, in what ways, and again, a bit more gossip about how people got away with things. So it was great fun. It was, but it was an expensive pastime writing and getting certificates from all sorts of states in America, Texas and Ohio and California, etcetera. But it was, yeah, I missed it in a way. I’d love to have more time to explore and investigate, but no, I haven’t. So I’ll leave that to Sy Scholfield to do it and other people who can do it.

TH: Yeah. Well, and I hope this podcast inspires some other people to pick up the task, ’cause we really need it. There’s huge segments of chart data that’s just not in Astrodatabank. And I’ll have you tell people about Astrodatabank here in just a minute, but as I was doing research on out of bounds planets and even with Hollywood directors’ charts, that’s just an area that maybe people haven’t been as interested in as the actors for some reason because we’re missing huge chunks of data. There are just tons of famous directors that we don’t have any data for.

FC: It’s tough to get in touch with people in film because people in the film industry have so many people between you and them. One of the best ways of getting data, and we can talk later about this if you want, but the reason I did British entertainers is that most of the people I either could connect to, there are about 700, 800 people in that book, and we had obviously about probably half of them, and I wrote to hundreds of people.

I have again, somewhere in here I have a box filled with all their replies and all the answers, etcetera, that they wrote back. But actors are much easier to get in touch with. You just write to their agent. The agent automatically passes on the fan mail, and very often if you include a stamped addressed envelope, they’ll reply back to you within days.

So when I did my first mail out, probably in 1995, ’96, I sent it to about 700 people and got a really amazing response rate. Musicians are far more difficult; again with agents and managers and people who are protecting them. Actors tend to just answer their mail and read it. The other difference is that if somebody has written a book, I would say instead of, if like a sports person has written a book or a film star or anybody in the public eye has written a book, don’t try to find their agent, write to the publisher and they’ll forward it.

That’s much easier, because whoever it is, if for example, Madeleine McCann, whose mother wrote a book about the disappearance of her daughter, I haven’t written to her, but she’s one of those people that may not reply to anybody. She’s had a lot of flak and a lot of all sorts of media intrusion. But I would write directly to the publisher that published her book and ask them to forward it. That’s how I would work nowadays.

Or nowadays, I mean, Sy Scholfield from Australia literally goes onto Twitter and writes a note and then gets a lot of… People get data off Twitter all the time from celebrities. Whether it’s the real celebrity, whether they really know it, data is unpredictable in that way, unreliable sometimes. Over the years I’ve written to people, and they’ve given me one time and then we’ve discovered their autobiography says a different time or the birth certificate says a different time. So it’s people’s memories, all these things can be fallible, including birth certificates.

TH: Yeah, definitely. Well, can you tell people a little bit about, for those who don’t know what Astrodatabank is and how it got started.

FC: As much as I do know about it, really. Astrodatabank originally was a computer program that Lois bumped in… I think, again, just before I actually met her in person, Lois bumped into a computer operator, a computer programmer, maybe that’s the right word, called Mark McDonough who came up to her at a conference and said something like, “I’m gonna be important in your life,” and he said, “I’d like to take all your data and make a databank of it. And she was delighted, as you can imagine, because she tried it with ISAR, and it became political, as sometimes these things do when you’re part of a committee. And ISAR had built this amazing databank of Lois’ data and then it just ground to a halt, I gather.

And so she met with Mark, they created a program, she emailed me. Well, not email, she faxed me one day and said, “I’ve got no idea what to call it.” And I said, “All of your books are called Astro Data, 1, 2, 3 and 4, why don’t you call it Astrodatabank?” And she was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

So it became Astrodatabank, and Mark created this program, which I still have a copy of, it’s pretty amazing. But then it got sold, to Richard Smoot, if I’m not mistaken, who I’m not sure what he did with it, but he sold it to Alois from who then made it free and accessible. So it’s now online. And he has a number of editors doing it. And really, as you say, it doesn’t contain everybody in the world, sadly, but it does contain, I think, about 30,000 time data.

The thing to remember, and I say this in my 101 class when I’m teaching in London, is always make a note of the source, when you’re doing your own chart, other people’s charts, make a note to that. Because when somebody says 6 PM, it literally could be their guess of what early evening was, or it could literally be on a birth certificate.

So from very early on Lois inspired me to make notes of sources, so I could trust the data maybe more than a simple estimate or guesstimate of some time between 6 and midnight, or something. So I’ve always done that always put in data sources, and it just makes us, I think it makes us better astrologers if we’ve got time data and we’ve got an idea of what we’re looking at, what we can rely on, and if we can’t rely on the angles, we can’t rely on the houses and perhaps, we can’t rely on the moon, so I’m a big fan of flat data charts that just looking at them.

But I do love a time chart, of course, an accurately timed chart. But it’s something I think that when you’re learning from day one you need to be aware of the differences between rectified, and I talk about this in, I did an article on rectification a few years back. And the idea of how astrologists rectify is horrendous.

I’ve heard, oh, well, I’m sure he’s a Capricorn rising, because he looked like my brother, or he looks like somebody. And you realize that that may well be, but it’s perhaps not the most scientific way forward. And rectification is incredibly personal. And the way we read charts is the way we see the world, and so when we start to rectify people’s charts, it’s what we expect, what we’re encountering in that client, what we expect to see in the chart.

FC: So if they seem quite Mars-like, we might put Mars on the ascendant and rectify it that way, but it could very simply be that they have a Mars that’s aspecting our chart, and we really tune in to that. So all sorts of pitfalls with rectification. I know Steven Forrest has written about it as well over the years, and so accurate data, when we start off with that, it may be wrong, it may have been recorded incorrectly.

And over the years, I’ve got files up here, right there, I’ve got four, five lever files full of birth certificate photocopies and things that I’ve picked up, and where registrars would cross out the AM and circle the PM or do the opposite sometimes, and you wouldn’t know what was what. So, it’s volatile data. And being an investigator, challenging the information in front of you is often useful. I know I’m skipping around the place talking about all sorts of things, but it’s, start with accurate data. But also question that too, I’d say.

TH: No, those are all great tips, thanks for that, Frank, and really fascinating story with the start of Astrodatabank. And you know, one of the things I think that was a little bit sad up until recently, with Astrodatabank being converted from the software version to the… Well, it’s kind of like the cloud version, is that some of the features from the software weren’t brought over, so you can search by a person’s name in Astrodatabank online, and for those who don’t know, just Google Astrodatabank, all one word, and you’ll find this amazing database online that you can search. But the search is limited, you can just search by the name, basically. So if you know the person’s last name, you can type that in.

In the software you used to be able to search by aspects, look for everybody who had Moon in Cancer in the Sixth House or whatever. And so, that’s missing from the online version. But recently, a couple of years back, David Cochrane from Sirius incorporated the Astrodatabank data into Sirius software, so that you can now search using just about anything you can think of. And that’s what I use to do my out of bounds research.

It’s probably been more than a couple of years now that I’m thinking about it. Time goes by so fast, but it is in there and it’s a feature that people miss, sometimes. He does his best to keep it updated. But they’ve been doing a lot of work with Astrodatabank, and I find that there’s charts being added every day.

FC: It is an amazing, it’s an amazing team effort, really, and it’s an amazing tool and I’ll often go on there to find data that, just to… It’s easier to go on there than to look in my files of data that I’ve collected and to be able to just go in there and check. There are different tools. It’s maybe no point of me saying this but Sy helped me find, you can search under names but you can also search under… Right at the bottom, you can search under things of Sagittarius ascendant or you can do people born on that particular day. But you can also do other research of people whose data is more accurate than others.

So there are things you could do when searching for a name, but I forget how to do it now. He told me how to do it once, when I was creating the music book, so. Yeah, it’s interest, David Cochrane, of course, having put that together is won… That’s wonderful, to be able to do that. Because the old Astrodatabank software, you could give scores as well, you could find a chart that was very Taurean, by maybe giving three points to the Sun, to the Moon, to the ascendant, two points if Mercury is in Taurus, and then work out who are the most Taurean people in the Astrodatabank.

So you can use all the same data with a strong Mars. It had amazing astro-signature capabilities. So I missed that, but I’ve got it on an old computer, and I still have a fiddle every now and then, looking for particular charts that might appeal, so.

TH: And you can do that in Sirius too. And Sirius, he also includes a lot of other chart data that isn’t in the Astrodatabank. For instance, there’s this huge, huge amount of baseball players’ charts, which threw me for a loop when I first used the software, because I did my first search for Venus out of bounds. I was like, “Whoa! This is really… So many baseball players have Venus out of bounds, this is amazing. What does that mean?” And then I wrote David and he’s like, “Oh, that’s just because there’s a bunch of baseball players in the database.”

FC: Yeah. Like 5,000 of them…

TH: Yeah, so. So there’s a lot of extra chart data. I think there’s maybe, there was 40,000 at one point, I think maybe there’s 60,000 charts in there now. There’s a lot of charts.

FC: I’ve got to get that program.

TH: Yeah. It’s a great, it’s a great resource. So, can you tell folks who don’t know about it, but just about the Rodden rating system and what that is and how?

FC: Right. Yes. Well, what Lois did was, she created a four-tier system. Five-tier system. A, B, C… Yes, yes. And now it’s six, actually. And it was a way of classifying the source of the data. So she made it originally A, and then she made it AA, so double-A rating means that it comes from an official record, or something usually that’s been created at the time. You do get birth certificates that are filed 20 years late. But generally the birth certificate, birth record, hospital record are all considered AA rating and it doesn’t mean it’s infallible, it just means that it’s come from a source at the time that registered it.

And so it could be notations in a family Bible, the baby book, family written record. But it’s the best evidence of the data being accurate. And then she made A data, which is from the person themselves, or a friend, personal manager, family member. It can also be, you can often see things in newspaper reports where they say 5:00 PM today, so-and-so had a baby, or 5:08, or something like that. And that’s A data, that’s not birth certificate level, but it’s been given by somebody in the know who could know it.

And then there’s B data, which is really, she wrote that because it’s connected to biographies. And biographies sometimes have a lot of artistic license in them. So biographies, autobiographies, personal websites are all B-rated, where you’re not sure where it’s come from directly, but it’s come from somebody involved in reporting biographically.

And then C, the C data, is caution, it stands for caution, because there’s no source, it’s been rectified perhaps, it’s speculative, approximate, like “early morning” or “around dinner time.” The only approximate birth times or quotes that I would listen to are usually the ones around midnight, because people often have a story. You were born just before midnight, just before April Fools Day, or you were born 20 minutes into the new day.

They tend to be more accurate than noon, or afternoon, or morning. When people say they were born in the morning, I always say, “What does morning mean to you? Or what does it mean to the mom? Is it 5:00 AM? Is 9:00 AM?” Me, getting up in the morning means about 9:00-10:00 AM. So, C is caution, because the data hasn’t been validated.

And then DD, double-D or “dirty data,” means that there’s a conflict. It’s like C data, but there were a few of them. So the person maybe has contradicted themselves. They said that were born 5:00 AM, and then they told somebody else 2 o’clock in the afternoon. For example, Hillary Clinton is a great example of dirty data because we have a number of sources saying that she said 8:00 PM, other people have been quoted for AM times and all sorts of people. So when you have dirty data, it means there’s a lot of unsubstantiated quotes, at least two unsubstantiated quotes of date, place or time, and data that’s unverified or have been contradicted.

So, AA, A, B, C, and DD are the Rodden Rating systems. And very useful to… Mountain Astrologer or many newspaper astrology periodicals and journals all insist on people giving the source now. And the source doesn’t mean Lois Rodden, that’s just simple reference; the source is birth certificate or from that person, and, yeah, it’s important to recognize where it’s come from.

Over the years there have been a few data collectors who make things up. You just have to Google that and see a little bit of that, that’s what came up with the Hillary Clinton data a few years ago. And I don’t know, maybe it’s about we astrologers so wanna be the person who got the data, and it may be about people needing to be recognized for that or wanting to be quoted, etcetera.

It’s a funny thing, I understand that, it’s nice to be recognized, it’s nice that somebody writes an article and says where the information came from and the 20 bucks that you invested to get that is recognized in a nice way. But I’d never go far as to fake data, just to be the one that found the data. I think I’d… My Saturn in Gemini would be too scared and my Moon in Virgo would be too scared of losing my reputation for honest, reliable data as much as I can, but it happens. So, occasionally, there have been data collectors who’ve sort of gone to the dark side, shall we say.

TH: Right, which is why it’s important to look at that source in Astrodatabank and know what that source is, ’cause if it’s just some… Even if it’s just a data collector saying, “I got it from X, Y or Z person,” that’s not as infallible as an actual copy of a birth certificate.

FC: It’s true. And astrologers have been rectifiers for many, many years. And we all do that with our own birth charts as well, we’re all keen to look at that and change it. And yeah, I’ve been to a few astrologers over the years who have literally rectified my chart and taken half an hour off the time and I think, “Well, why have you done that?” And they’re, “well, I just think you’d be more like this,” and I think, “You don’t even know me yet.” Right?

TH: That’s true.

FC: It’s a strange thing that astrologers do, we make a huge number of assumptions about people and their charts. So it’s a interesting, shall we say, interesting field in some ways.

TH: For those who don’t know, I’ll rewind this one as well. Rectification, if you haven’t heard that term, that’s where we try to figure out what the exact birth time is, if we don’t have any clue, or some people just get really specific, I’ll say, about trying to determine what minute they were born in.

If you think about the moment of birth, even if you do have an exact time on the birth certificate, mine is 12:54 AM, which seems like, well, somebody was paying attention to the clock on that one, it’s a pretty specific time. But still, was the clock off by a couple of minutes? You don’t know. Did they glance at it when the birth kind of started or was it when it was over? There really can be nuances, even with the birth certificates. So some people will do a rectification just to kind of prove the time, so to speak, and maybe we can have another podcast some time and talk about all the pitfalls and issues with rectification, Frank. But I know that you like to use solar arcs to do your own, is that right?

FC: I do, I think, I wouldn’t say most, ’cause I haven’t spoken to most astrologers, but I get the impression that a lot of people who rectify use solar arcs because they tend to be clearer, more obvious in that way. They’re not like transits, where transits will go over three to five times over a point. Solar arcs just hit a point and then move on.

And so, if you give an orb of half a degree like I do, you can you usually fine-tune the birth time or you can test it in a way. But even then, you know, I have a mutable Mercury. My feeling is that I know people with fixed Mercurys are like, well, it’s absolutely right, and I… I never think anything is absolutely right, I’m always aware that my understanding, and after discovering birth certificates and charts of people you thought they were one thing, and then they turn out to be born on the other part of the day.

You have to be relatively flexible and realize the charts, people use their charts in ways that we might not expect or the charts manifest or show up in ways that we wouldn’t necessarily expect. And also the bottom line, I think, is that astrology explains so much about who we are, it’s not completely who we are, but there’s also, let me try and focus on this, there’s also the simple issue that what you imagine to be confidence or generosity in a chart may not be what you imagine it to be.

So you might think, oh, I’ll give them a Sag ascendant or the Moon should be in the fifth ’cause they like to gamble, and it could be quite a different motivation for why they like to gamble, or are lucky or etcetera. And the chart has many, many ways of showing the limited language we have to describe people. So we might call somebody confident and there could be 150 ways of seeing that in the chart, not a simple way of, oh, they must have something in Leo or lots of fire, and stuff like that. And an idea of what confidence means anyway is variable, confidence comes from experience sometimes, from expertise, it could be a Capricorn thing.

So I think that we have our language and our ability to describe people is limited and the chart appears unlimited in many ways. So this is part of the reason why rectification is problematic, because one word that we use can be seen in so many other ways in the chart.

And it’s like that dreadful umbrella word “creative” as well. “Oh, oh, they’re creative,” and you’re like, “Well, yeah, you’re creative or you’re destructive. What do you mean by creative? Do you mean artistic, do you mean intuitive? What do you mean? Do you mean are you a painter, are you an astrologer?” Whatever. Yeah, so language is limited and astrology, perhaps… As one actress once said to me, “You’re only as intelligent as your interviewer.” And maybe people are only as remarkable as the astrologer to describe them in that reading in that moment.

TH: So many good points, and that was actually getting at something I was hoping to hear you talk about on this podcast. Just that I’ve heard in your teachings, you talk about looking at so many charts, having looked at thousands of charts has taught you that you can’t really pin down one specific quality, trait, event to a particular chart signature sign.

I’m thinking about this meme that’s going around right now in social media, Facebook and Instagram, where they’re like, “Serial killers are more likely to be these signs than these signs.” And if you actually look at the charts of a bunch of serial killers, all of the signs are represented. Everything is represented. If anything, the chart might describe how they like to kill people, but it doesn’t describe whether somebody is going to kill people.

FC: No. I remember being told when I was teaching myself and went to places… I think it was Stephen Arroyo, it might have been somebody else. But he was looking at a chart of a mass murderer and a woman who chopped up his victims. And a student in the class said, “That’s pretty much my son’s chart, too.” And Stephen Arroyo, perhaps, it could have been somebody else, said, “Well, what does your son do for a living?”

And she said, “Well, he’s a butcher at the moment,” which made everybody laugh. But, yeah, we find different ways. I don’t think the chart shows morality. And if we do, we make moral choices. We make choices not to steal from other people, not to abuse other people, not to kill, etcetera, perhaps.

So, yes, it’s interesting. There are always these Facebook groups, there are people who are saying, “Well, what do you think this means,” or, “How can you see this, or sexuality or whatever?” And they really are as varied as the people.

So the serial killers… Interesting, I mentioned Dana Holliday earlier. I’ve written about serial killers in my Heart of the Chart book, and she said they’re all mutable. And pretty much, she did a big research on their Sun-Moon ascendant and inner planets, and found that they were heavily, heavily mutable, far more. And so I investigated this. And serial killers, the idea of the mutable signs, like to repeat things and like to evade detection.

They like to play in their own way, and all sorts of things that you can associate there. But we know with astrology, you look at two or three charts, and you think you’ve found a signature or the answer to something.

And then somebody just dumps another 50 charts on your desk, and none of them has what you’ve been looking at. And you realize that there is no simple answer to a group of people. And yet, people really want that. And you’re still seeing well-known astrologers or respected astrologers give these out as though that we found it. And you just haven’t… And as I say, the more charts you look at, the more you realize that, really, what you’re seeing in a chart is somebody’s energy.

And you’re not seeing the thousand people that have impacted them in their lives, and their charts, and where they were born, and their opportunities or lack of opportunities, all sorts of other things that are not written in the chart that impact how much you use that potential, the choices in whether you use that energy creatively or destructively.

And this is the big issue, I think. And thinking that the chart is going to tell you what somebody does for a living, whether they’re gonna be rich or famous, a serial killer or even an astrologer is, I think, probably not the way to go. It’s reassuring to think that astrology might tell you that, but it’s naïve, and I don’t think it does.

And I was in Turkey recently. Turkey has a history of quite strong traditional astrologers teaching there. And I was trying to undo some of the, “You’ve got a debilitated Mercury,” full stop, period. Nothing else, no creative help to look at what that might mean, etcetera. And then a student came in from Turkey, and she was almost mesmerized.

She came in for a free class at the school in London here, and she couldn’t believe that it was more open than this idea of the chart just tells you who you are, and you’re stuck with it. And she said, “Well, I couldn’t even get into one of the schools in Turkey,” because apparently, I don’t know who this was, but apparently, the person who runs the school actually checks your chart to see whether you’re going to make an astrologer before you’re allowed to come in.

So you’re vetted. And I’m thinking, again, my mutable Mercury says, “Isn’t life about having every type of astrologer, rather than my fixed view of what somebody should be, or what attributes they should have?” And I didn’t even ask what they should have had, ’cause it would have just enraged me further.

Because how ridiculous to block people from doing a subject that is gonna be empowering, enlightening, because you don’t think they’ve got the signature that you believe makes an astrologer.

TH: Well, maybe that was a blessing in disguise for her, ’cause it doesn’t sound like that astrology was gonna be very empowering.

FC: Exactly, exactly. And as I said, she came to the school in London, and she was open-mouthed that her chart could mean a variety of things and wasn’t this fixed bit of awfulness that she’d been led to believe. And I think we do such a bad job as astrologers when we pigeon hole people. And it’s not even our pigeon holes.

The only debility is the astrologer’s inability to describe something with a creative possibility, yeah? And I’ve been saying that for the last few weeks. If you think something is debilitated, no, it’s the astrologer that’s debilitated. They have an inability to describe something well that is creative and helpful for you and your life, because whatever age you are, whether you’re 20 or whether you’re 80 years old, you’ve been living with that image already, before you were told it was limited or debilitated.

If you’re gonna talk those sorts of things, at least have an idea of what you can do with it that’s positive and helpful. And every placement has a wide range of possibility. I’m not trying to say everything is positive and wonderful, I’m just saying think outside the box and don’t be limited by some ridiculous association from hundreds of years ago.

TH: And maybe that’s the whole point of that debilitated placement, that you have to use it in a different way than might come easily. Well, I’m a big fan of research, which is one of the reasons why we’re having this conversation, because I think that if you do a lot of chart research, and look at a lot of charts, you come to the same conclusion that you just did.

Somebody out there should do a study of debilitated Mercurys. I learned a little something about that one when I did… Was researching out of bounds Mercury, and I thought, “Oh, I wonder how that shows up in the charts of rappers? And I wonder if we’ll see certain types of rappers having out-of-bounds Mercury,” and in most cases my assumptions were blown apart.

But I learned a lot of other really cool things too, like a debilitated Mercury does not make you a bad rapper.  In fact, there are rappers with Mercury in Taurus aspected by Saturn, who are known for their speedy delivery and articulate, sharp, popping sounds. Astrology is more descriptive of how than what in a lot of cases, like we were saying earlier.

FC: And you put a so-called debilitated position in a garden that waters that possibility of families that give you books, give you education, get you to explore that, and it grows to something quite remarkable. You just have to look at the chart of Steve Jobs to realize what somebody with a so-called difficult Mercury did.

You could end up doing all sorts of other traditional or classical things, “Well, it happens to be elevated because of this and that and whatever.” But ultimately, this is what people get stuck with. And what we know about Steve Jobs is that what he was taught didn’t speak to him. He needed somebody, literally, to say, “You think differently. Let’s ride with it.” Yeah? And this is perhaps what the people with so-called debilitated positions need. They don’t need that drumming in of education that most people have and they’re actually looking for something different. And we really mustn’t label them that, which people do.

Mercury retrograde, Mercury in certain signs, all sorts of things, and you just see. As I say, you see brilliant people do things with so-called debilitated. They do brilliant things with debilitated positions, classically debilitated positions. And they do very little with pristine planets in wonderful, shiny, condition.

And it’s all about motivation, it’s all about the 101 other factors around us that help us grow and develop. So astrology gives you part of the picture, it doesn’t give you all of it, and if you think it’s gonna give you all of it, you’re gonna be disappointed. You’re gonna come up looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you start declaring things on YouTube, or Facebook, or to clients. And you’re gonna look like an idiot really, if you think it’s gonna tell you everything.

TH: Or worse, doing harm to someone. What if this woman wasn’t motivated to continue searching that came to you, and she went to that astrology school, and they said, “I’m sorry. You’re not gonna make a good astrologer. Just give it up”? And what if she said, “Okay. I guess I will. I guess I’ll give up my dream.”  I’m hoping to do another podcast on how astrology can be harmful, so we won’t get into all that today ’cause I can really go off on that one. But, yeah, you and I have both heard even more stories than that.

FC: I think there’s a difference between so-called eminence or doing well in it according to traditional astrology rules, and just enjoying something as well. And if your chart doesn’t show traditionally that you’re going to be the world’s most famous astrologer or singer… Not that I think the chart can show you that.

But if it doesn’t according to those rules, what about just encouraging somebody to do astrology because they love it? To sing because that they love it. So the idea that they’ve got to be eminent is so short-sighted. Again, it drives me nuts, and I think it’s very, very limited. But that’s another podcast.

TH: Yeah, for sure. We’ll have to do that one, ’cause I recently heard Michael Myers… Or I read Michael Myers wrote a rant in the ’90s that’s really wonderful about humanistic astrology and what it has to offer this particular conversation. So we’ll talk about that in another podcast. Well, Frank, I thought we could just wrap up by asking what advice would you give to a young person who is hearing this podcast and gets interested in doing some data collection themselves? What are some of the pitfalls that they’ll encounter and some of the challenges with data collection?

FC: Well, it depends on what they wanna do with it. I think the key is to go online to Astrodatabank and other places and to see if it’s available first, somebody you’re looking for, and to do some research. But if it’s not, if you Google Astrodatabank along with the Data Collector’s Handbook. I don’t think it’s been updated for a number of years, but some years ago Lois created this Data Collector’s Handbook and she collected this wide range. And I rang up every one of the 50 states to find out the date they put birth times on the certificates, ’cause there’s no point in writing off and spending your money and then getting something back that doesn’t have the birth time on it.

Like Ohio, for example, went in the ’60s without recording, they just created a new form that didn’t have the birth time on it. So anybody born in the late ’50s to the late ’60s in Ohio tend not to have their birth time on the certificate, and then it was put back on. So it’s worth looking at the Data Collector’s Handbook, that I helped Lois compile all those years ago, just to get an idea whether the birth time is available. That’s the first thing to do.

And then to get in touch with Astrodatabank or people like Sy Scholfield who can really give them a good start in where to go, what to write off for, to realize that if you go into some of these places you can spend an hour, for example, in the California database looking people up, and you can get a certain amount of data free, or you pay for an hour’s time, rather than writing and paying $20-$25 for each birth time you want.

So there are lots of things to discover first. And the Data Collector’s Handbook is probably the place to start to get an idea if it’s available. And if you live near a registrar, or birth registry, going in, asking the rules, the regulations, might be really, really useful because some places, used to at least, allow people to come in and do some research. You’re just not allowed any more, generally, to have somebody’s birth certificate because of fraud and individual losing their rights and people when applying for Social Security numbers, all sorts of things.

But you probably can go into certain registries and speak to registrars about collecting data. So there are lots of different ways forward. They can email me, they can email Astrodatabank and, hopefully, contribute if they wish.

TH: Thanks so much for chatting with me today about data collection, Frank. Really appreciate having you here.

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Christine Cook

Rapper Riz MC, I believe has an out of bounds Mercury in Sagittarius, Tony.

Great lecture – thank you!

Astrology University

Thanks Christine!

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