Part 1

by James A. Eshelman

(Originally published in Black Pearl, Vol. II, No. 1. Copyright College of Thelema, 2002, All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with permission of the author and College of Thelema. The original has been somewhat edited for this reproduction.)

“I have yet to see a single piece of statistical work... which gives the slightest indication that the twelve signs, in either zodiac, are valid entities in the sense that they are normally thought of.” —John Addey, 1961
“...observations again indicate the uselessness of the astrological zodiacal wheel.” —Michel Gauquelin, 1973
“Numerous statistical and psychological studies show the signs as traditionally applied appear to have negligible validity.” —Geoffrey Dean, 1977
“The method of science — the aim of religion.” —Aleister Crowley, 1909

Is there really a zodiac? For thousands of years the encircling band of familiar stars with their chimerical images has underlain the body of astrological practice. In modern times, from half to two-thirds of the populations of major Western countries read daily pre-packaged astrological forecasts based on no more astrology than the natal sign-placement of one celestial body. Despite a tendency among astrologers in the latter 20th Century to reconsider priorities in astrological interpretation, it is the rare and exceptional manual on practical horoscope delineation that does not lay substantial emphasis on the twelve zodiacal signs.

However, in the last half of the 20th Century, there arose a tumefying wave of doubt that these dozen ecliptical sectors actually exist as astrological verities. It began slowly, with signs playing an ever lesser role in the writings of certain key astrologers. From Germany came the Ebertin school which vastly underplayed signs. Certainly many astrologers had their confidence shaken when Cyril Fagan, “The Father of Sidereal Astrology,” began saying we were nearly a whole sign off in our zodiacal labels. A decade later, England’s John Addey was claiming that, while some ecliptical effects were measurable, these have nothing at all to do with neat 30° signs, but, rather, with rhythmic, overlapping wave-forms to which he gave the name “harmonics.”

Yet, of all the challengers to the sanctity of sign symbolism, none delivered a more worthy blow than the French statistician Michel Gauquelin. For decades, Dr. Gauquelin, in conjunction with his wife, Françoise, gathered and analyzed thousands of sets of timed birth data for eminent professionals in diverse fields. The name Gauquelin has become so well-known among astrologers, in fact, for his work with professional groups, astro-heredity, and the statistical correlation of planets with character traits that I shall not digress from our topic longer than it takes to mention his superb summary work, Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior, and to say that in numerous close examinations of his research by some of the nit-pickiest statisticians on the planet, Gauquelin came away usually on top and, on balance, substantially vindicated by replication. His pristine data collections have been the foundation of an enormous amount of statistical work over dozens of years. Even the fastidious Dr. Geoffrey Dean admitted, “Gauquelin has covered every possible non-astrological source of error so thoroughly that his results seem beyond doubt.”

In 1955, Gauquelin published his analysis of over 16,000 professionals by zodiacal sign-typing. The results were disastrous to traditional astrology. “We got few significant results,” he told me in 1980 when we discussed it, “and those we got were very contrary to what was expected.” An infamous example is the study of over 3,000 well-known military men. Most astrological authorities on the matter indicated that Aries should be the chief sign of the soldier. Furthermore, the Gauquelins already had determined empirically that Mars is the key planet of this professional group (by its presence at or near rising at their births, with a frequency far exceeding what chance would allow). Yet, when Sun-signs were tabulated, not only was Aries the least represented of the twelve, but the peak fell in Taurus, ruled by the pacific, tranquil, gentle planet Venus! Where Aries did manage a high score, however, was among painters, an equally humiliating blow to established astrological tradition.

All of these investigations, of course, were conducted using the Tropical zodiac, the only one with which the Gauquelins were familiar during the 1950s.

Another time they selected from their data files those famous athletes whose biographers described them repeatedly as active, aggressive, courageous, determined, and the like — trait-words already proven to belong to a prominent Mars (i.e., Mars at or near rising and culmination). Only 95 champions qualified for this elite sampling. Pure chance would have allocated about eight of them to each Sun-sign. When the counting was over, it was found that Mars-ruled Aries had a mere two, the least of the bunch, with Mars-ruled Scorpio second from the bottom, with four.

For almost half a century these results have been without successful challenge. To this day, there is no way the data can be numerically twisted, bent, stapled, or mutilated to produce contrary results in these areas. Data gathering by the Sorbonne-trained Dr. Gauquelin was always conducted impeccably. His statistical methodology was rigorous and sound. Even the whining arguments from the wings that astrology isn’t amenable to statistics, that we shouldn’t expect positive results, or that Sun-signs are not what indicate a person’s profession do not begin to explain the long line of contradictions, of results diametrically opposed to what would be expected from what were previously the least doubted of astrology’s tenets.

As usual, it was Michel Gauquelin himself who took the next step and, in the process, not only gave us a chance to resolve this decades-old problem regarding zodiacal signs, but also produced, for the umpteenth time, one of the most important sets of research findings yet to appear before the astrological community.

It’s All in the Stars!

January 4, 1980 was, with a strange appropriateness, ten years to the day after Cyril Fagan departed his flesh for more rarified celestial realms. Coincidentally, on this anniversary of the passing of Sidereal astrology’s progenitor, I sat across a table from Michel and Françoise Gauquelin, and Tom Shanks of Astro Computing Services in San Diego. Tom, using the awesome ACS computer facilities, had just produced a 2½-inch thick stack of computer output, which Michel looked very eager to show me. It was an analysis of their professional groups and most common character trait-words in terms of the Sidereal zodiac.

Michel peeled back a few sheets to a page headed MILITARY. “Look,” he said, fingers pointing to columns of planetary distributions in Sidereal signs. “Sun and Moon in Aries.”

Actually, as it turned out on closer examination, while these raw scores showed the Sun most frequently in Sidereal Aries for these 3,047 eminent military figures, it was not quite frequent enough to impress a statistician — especially one of Gauquelin’s seasoning, I suspect. However, the placements of the Moon and Mercury in Aries were indeed significant, and that Aries Sun, even in its statistical normalcy, became a token (of great symbolic worth) of the excitement, discovery, and downright pleasure that was to come from studying these thirteen professional groups in the months ahead.

I have had these studies in my possession for over 20 years, occasionally bringing them out to fortify a lecture or check an interpretive perception. Until now, though, they have never been published. Their contents, however, are some of the most compelling and important in all the history of astrological research, in my opinion. [Note: The tabulations discussed in this series were prepared by, or under the direction of, Michel Gauquelin, and are published with his permission. All interpretations of the data, however, are my own and not to be taken necessarily as those of the late Dr. Gauquelin, or of anyone else.]

For instance, among the 1,094 eminent scientists, the Sun occupied the constellation Aquarius 117 times rather than the expected 89. That can only happen by chance one time in 416. [FN: Statistical “significance” is usually considered to commence at the 20-to-1 or, in some more stringent cases, 100-to-1 level. Lesser variances, in the 10-to-1 level, may be taken as inferential.] The Midheaven was also in Aquarius an unusually great number of times. These scientists’ Marses strongly preferred intellectual, skeptical Gemini, while avoiding the dreamier, more nebulous region called the constellation Pisces. All of these findings conform pretty exactly to what astrologers generally would predict would happen, though the results do not exist in the zodiac most Western astrologers use. They only exist in the Sidereal zodiac.

By the way, one of the most important practical findings of this study was the way the sign placement of Mars rose from the reams of computer paper to display itself as a far more important astrological factor than most had ever guessed it to be — certainly ranking alongside the Sun and Moon in character description and plotting chief themes of one’s life.


Figure 1 displays the Moon’s distribution for the 1,408 actors in the Gauquelin collection. The darkened zone represents the skimpy 10-to-1 level of significance in this instance, to better dramatize the prominence of Leo and Sagittarius for these performers — exactly what “the books” have always told us to expect from a viable zodiac. (Leo is the constellation best known for self-dramatization. Sagittarius has a traditional relationship to the stage, and is ruled by Jupiter, the planet Gauquelin previously had demonstrated is most commonly rising or culminating at the births of great actors.) Those same books support the poor showing of Taurus, too. Incidentally, Sagittarius was the Moon-sign claiming most kudos in this baker’s dozen professions, supporting a fact on which Tropical and Sidereal astrologers can agree: that the portion of space simultaneously designated Sidereal Sagittarius and Tropical Capricorn is the zone of professional power in general.


Cast your eyes next toward Figure 2, the distribution of Venus for 1,473 eminent painters. We have restored the cut-off point to the 5% (20-to-1) level. It is deeply gratifying to one’s scientific sensibilities that Venus’ own constellation, the sensual, esthetic, artistic Taurus, should lead. In second place only by a nose is Venus in Aquarius, to which even the Tropical likes of R.C. Davison granted “harmony through painting.” The utterly non-venereal Virgo and Scorpio take bottom honors at the 10% (10-to-1 odds) significance level.

Venus’ sign placements for various professions are nothing short of astonishing, from her high in popular, wordy, Mercury-ruled Virgo for eminent journalists to the soaring Sagittarian prominence for eminent aviators. Could it be, in these people who represented the very top of their fields, that the constellation of Venus at birth represents what they love most, and, therefore, that in which they are most likely to succeed? That Venus in Virgo has far more than its share of journalists but a rather scanty supply of painters, while Venus’ own sign Taurus calls its mistress home for painters but not for writers, should be enough by itself to indicate that these zones own up to their Sidereal symbolism. To call them by their Tropical titles — Libra for journalists, and Gemini for painters — is to reverse the symbolic significance entirely, and give the sort of nonsense results that led Gauquelin and so many others to discredit the (Tropical) zodiac in the first place.

I am taking some casual liberties in presenting this vocational material since it is the lesser of two areas we have to discuss — the other being character traits. A full report on all these career matters will be offered later in ways that, hopefully, will satisfy both the statistician and the field practitioner. For now, let’s examine one more vocational tabulation, and then proceed to other matters.

Moving to the Top

This last vocational tabulation is of Midheaven signs for our thirteen occupational groups. Most standard textbooks refer to the Midheaven as an important clue to career, though published examples often are far from convincing. The following Sidereal listing simply provides the most common culminating constellation in each profession. Italicized entries surpass the 5% level of significance; the others do not.

ARI: sports champions
TAU: painters, actors, politicians, aviators
GEM: writers, journalists, sports champions, military, (physicians)
LIB: military musicians
SCO: musicians
CAP: physicians, journalists
AQU: scientists

Sports champions are listed twice because two separate groups of athletes were studied. If these two lists are combined, Aries comes in first and Scorpio places. The parenthesized entry is a close (and statistically significant) second-place high for physicians, worth mentioning due to its technical statistical significance.

Note how prominently, and how simply, these indicate professional bias as though the sign ruler itself were on the Midheaven. Athletes are thus seen as martial (strong) and mercurial (fast); painters, actors, and politicians as venereal; journalists and soldiers as mercurial; scientists as uranian; and physicians as mercurial (remember the Caduceus?) and saturnine (as Gauquelin previously had discovered). Such a list reads much like a typical vocational astrologer’s shopping list.

Of course, there are also some surprises and mysteries. Aviators, theoretically, would fit Tropical Gemini better than Sidereal Taurus, since Taurus is expected never to get his feet that high off the ground; and a Libra Midheaven for military musicians was a real puzzler until it was noticed that this coincides with a Sagittarius Ascendant, one of only four significantly high-scoring Ascendant placements in the entire professional study. (The others were Gemini for scientists, Aquarius for musicians, and Capricorn for politicians.) Since Venus and Mars also fell unusually often in Sagittarius for these melodious marchers, it seems justified to associate a rising Sagittarius with the pomp, formality, and prancing of military musicians.

There were also some fascinating low scores for Midheaven signs. Of these, the most intriguing is the observation that a Sidereal Pisces Midheaven is either neutral or remarkably absent for every profession studied. It does no good to say that its lows for military musicians and actors disproves the Pisces label in favor of the Tropical zodiac, since its equal lows for athletes, soldiers, and (again) military musicians would equally “disprove” a Tropical Aries label. No, the one common denominator here is the absence of major professional achievement for Pisces Midheavens taken en masse. This noticeably resembles the expected results for a 10th house Neptune influence (Neptune rules, i.e., is of the same nature as, Pisces), known to frequently produce confusion regarding life-direction, self-doubt, diffused application, or even public scandal.

On the other hand, you won’t be able to find a Tropical textbook that would predict this result for an Aries Midheaven — and, in the Tropical zodiac, that’s exactly where most of these would fall!

Astral Linguistics

Chief among possible criticisms of these vocational findings is the relatively minor magnitude of the results. We have been listing findings that could be produced by chance one time in 20, or occasionally one time in ten, whereas we might prefer no less than 100-to-1 odds against a random occurrence for a fully impressive figure. When we move from examining professions to analyzing character traits, this problem happily ceases.

No horoscopic mechanisms reveal career directly, any more than the horoscope actually shows any other specific event in life. Rather, the profession an individual professes is more of a directed fluke of his or her character interacting with the social and economic environment of the time and place. What a birth chart truly displays is the nature of that character, allowing a skilled vocational astrologer — an endangered species — to make a good estimate of job types most suited to an individual’s nature, and best designed to help actualize the full scope of that person’s particular genius. Sun in Sidereal Aquarius, for instance, does not label one as born to be a scientist; but, if years of private observation and clinical experience by numerous astrologers mean anything, it does identify an inventive, analytical individual who delights in investigation and discovery. A professional leaning arises only as a secondary effect of a characterological inclination.

Therefore, it is not surprising that vocational studies produce statistical output inferior to that of character trait studies. Nor is it even disturbing when examinations of the same profession (as it existed in different time periods and environments) should show different patterns. The psychological profile of a profession certainly will change with time and clime. There is considerable difference, for instance, between the country physician of half a century ago and the modern doctor in today’s urban HMO. Yet both are practitioners of medicine.

Thanks to Tom Shanks, the late Neil Michelsen, and Michel and Françoise Gauquelin, we have the distribution of the ten planets, Midheaven, and Ascendant in the twelve constellations for every descriptive word that appears more than 50 times in the vast Gauquelin character trait catalog. These words originally came from the biographies of the thousands of professionals whose birth data comprise the Gauquelin data collection.

Such a gathering process is not without its flaws, of course. How a person is perceived by others, and how those others are willing to describe him in print, are not necessarily the same as, say, how the individual experiences himself or herself. So what we have is a catalogue of words approximating how these individuals appear to be. There is a further problem of proper translation, since these words are given to us in French without the context in which they originally appeared. Should passione, for instance, be rendered “passionate,” as that word usually is understood in English, or “impassioned,” which carries substantially different connotations? Thirdly, there is a possible cross-cultural problem since these are European birth records and biographers. This cultural concern primarily seems to show in any words relating to sensuality or romance, these being areas where American attitudes are frequently quite different from the European. Such matters must simply be reported as they fall, and addressed individually as it becomes necessary.

Despite these reservations, the Gauquelin birth data and character trait files represent the most extraordinary opportunity astrologers have yet had to determine (a) if the zodiac really exists in anything like its traditional form, and (b) what the nature and structure of that zodiac is.

All character trait material presented in this series, incidentally, has been corrected for astronomical, seasonal, and other demographic biases using the original data collection itself, in a clever way selected by Shanks and Gauquelin, to generate a synthetic control group to establish normal expectancies. Any traits mentioned in what follows exceed the 5% probability level at least. Usually, they fall far outside this.

Figures 3 and 4 show solar distributions for the character traits “charming” and “powerful.”


The 423 eminent writers, actors, scientists, and champions whose biographers called them “charming” or “delightful” (charmant) have an unmistakable tendency to have been born with the Sun in Sidereal Taurus or Libra, the two constellations most like the charmingest of charmers, Venus herself. Virgo’s charmlessness is documented by the fact that only 23 of these people, compared to an expected 45, had Virgo Suns. That’s half! And Virgo is the fall of Venus, one of the constellations expected to be of an opposite nature. Odds exceed 1,300-to-1 that this is not a random deficit. A chi-square of 105.70 for all twelve constellations [Note: Cumulative chi-squares were employed to obtain an overall measurement of significance of the study of this character trait across all twelve Sun-signs, rather than simply the measurement of a single sign-result in that study.] overwhelms the mind, since a figure one-fifth as large would be extremely satisfying. These are not accidental results!


Comparable in its intellectual and emotional impact is Figure 4, the Sidereal Sun-sign distribution for 225 “powerful” people. Scorpio’s high and Libra’s low — both comfortably beyond the thousand-to-one range — need no comment. Gemini’s strange presence is probably related to the unfortunate use of the trait puissance d’esprit, “powerful mind,” for the forty scientists included, rather than simply puissance as for the writers, actors, and athletes.

For this same group of “powerful” professionals, the Moon was found in Sagittarius more than twice as often as expected, with only one likelihood in many billions of so large an occurrence. This is quite credible for what is traditionally the most ambitious placement of the Moon in the zodiac. This Sagittarius Moon was also the only placement out of ten planets and two angles in twelve constellations to have a significant score for the word “courteous,” a very characteristic trait word for well-mannered Jupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius.

Is it difficult to see why Sidereal writers quickly exhaust the thesaurus, wear out their exclamation point keys, and still find themselves in need of new superlatives? The elegance and wonder of results such as these have no precedent in natal astrological research. The voice of heaven truly begins to touch the heart in this moving exposition of astral linguistics, this recitation of stellar poetry.

Maybe there really is a zodiac after all!

This page last updated 25 Nov 2008 E.V.