Thoughts on a few fixed stars…

I have always thought of the fixed stars in natal astrology as operating at a deep stratum in the psyche. That impression was in part formed by experiences of people in my life with Menkar, the brightest star in the constellation Cetus the Whale, in a prominent place. The early myths of this constellation connect it to a massive sea monster that is destructive and all-powerful. He arises from the depths of the sea, unannounced and terrible. We understand that the sea is a symbol of the unconscious. Of Menkar, Bernadette Brady writes: “The unconscious becoming conscious. The sudden emergence of deep unconscious issues.” (1)

I have seen Menkar (13°37’ Taurus) conjunct the Sun in the radix of someone who suffered from devastating mental illness and someone else who is an astute psychological astrologer. Another person has Menkar conjunct Jupiter (the Ascendant ruler); this is the nativity of a psychologist who focuses on bringing the unconscious into consciousness in quite dramatic ways.

I heard John Frawley say once that the fixed stars influence the body, not the soul (except in rare situations).

I was inspired by Serbian astrologer Aleksandar Imsiragic’s talk at UAC 2012 on the fixed stars. He articulated the idea that the fixed stars operate at the unconscious level; they speak of qualities that are deeply embedded in our psyche, which he also related to our biology and physiology. They are parts of ourselves that we don’t understand, the deepest part of ourselves. This is a view I currently am exploring.

Fomalhaut, from the Arabic for “fish’s mouth,” is in the constellation of the Southern Fish, i.e., Piscis Australis, near the constellation Aquarius. (It is one of the Royal Stars of Persia, the Watcher of the South opposite Regulus, now at 0° Virgo, after 2,160 years in Leo.)

The Four Royal Stars of Persia are often seen as the most important stars in the sky, with rich mythological histories. They confer charisma and a special gift or task when pronounced in a chart. Fomalhaut (at 3°52’ Pisces) is connected to creativity, musical talent, and idealism.

I know five people very well with Fomalhaut on the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant. The idea that a fixed star is not easily understood, but has a powerful pull on the psyche, holds true in all of these cases.

My friend has the Moon and North Node at 3° Pisces conjunct Fomalhaut. He has always had a profoundly sensitive and idealistic nature that has confused and bedeviled him all of his life. He struggled early in life with periods of feeling very strange and unable to make any sense of himself. It was quite an odd experience for this man, who is athletic, practical, and has a very discriminating intellect; he was often overwhelmed by states of tremendous confusion. He found his way into a very suitable career as an exquisitely sensitive body worker, directing the gifts of the star to help others. Talking to him recently about the presence of Fomalhaut in his horoscope was deeply moving for us both.

Another friend with the Sun at 3° Pisces is a metaphysician, a musician, and a poet, who has had a hard time with the material demands in life.

Two people with 3° Pisces on the Ascendant are both charismatic healers and physically attractive. Both are gifted seers, and have found their abilities to often be misunderstood by others, or misapplied by themselves. (Brady makes the point that the Royal Stars are hard to manage; she says that especially those with Fomalhaut strong must stay very attentive to their motives. “If the ideal is a noble cause, the person will find personal happiness or success for the benefit of the collective. However, if the ideals or dreams are corrupt in any way, then the downfall is total.”) (2)

Traditionally, the fixed stars are used with a very small orb and are used primarily when conjunct a planet or angle in the horoscope (although the opposition and parallel are also important).

Working with parans is an additional method. Basically, any planets on any angle (i.e., rising, culminating, setting, and nadir) at the same time a star crosses any angle links the two bodies in a paran, “rising side by side.” Some sources believe it is the most ancient way of working with fixed stars, and Bernadette Brady explains it in her opus, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. What is especially interesting is that the stars become activated at different stages of life. It’s a bit too complicated for this blog, but definitely something to investigate if you haven’t already. (When I first looked at the parans in my natal chart that were active in childhood, I had to put it away for a while; it was too scarily accurate. And, I had the distinct sense that unconscious memories were being awakened.)

The fixed stars are potent and evocative, telling stories within the fabric of the horoscope. I am thinking of someone else I know well with Canopus (14°43′ Cancer) conjunct Mercury. Canopus is the brightest star in the very large southern hemisphere constellation Argo, the Ship. The Egyptians saw Argo as the vessel that carried one on mysterious journeys to far lands. It is noted in writer’s and actor’s horoscopes, as well as conferring a sense of being on a long trip before arriving at the destination. I certainly more fully recognize and appreciate the inner world of this gentleman by remembering the stories of Argo and its navigator and guide, the great star Canopus.


(1) Bernadette Brady, Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, Samuel Weiser, 1998, pg. 32.

(2) Ibid, pg. 197.


Here is a wonderful 319-page thesis on The Use of Fixed Stars in Astrology by Anthony Writer. He compiles the history and use of the fixed stars, and offers very detailed case studies.

Marina Partridge at DarkStar Astrology has a detailed look at Fixed Star Fomalhaut.

Deborah Houlding writes on Cetus: the Whale and Argo: the Ship.

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