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By John Townley, September 2012

For some of us, if that’s a moral question, the answer might well be yes. But if it’s an astrological question, the answer is probably yes for everybody, at least as far as natal charts go. And that doesn’t just apply to questionable birth times like those in Mom’s fading memory of just one of several childbirths, or a second-hand newspaper report. It applies to virtually every official hospital time on a birth certificate as well.

Why should that be? Does a birth certificate lie? If a time is accurate, that’s the chart and that’s that, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not, for a variety of reasons, which range from the state of mind and practice of the person who wrote down the time to much larger issues such as when the “birth” recorded in a natal horoscope actually takes place.

What Is Birth?

Let’s start with the biggest issue: what is birth? Most astrologers across history define it not as any of the several stages of a baby’s travel through and exit from the mother’s vaginal canal, but as the moment of first breath, when the child actually begins a separate existence, on its own, independent from the mother. Yet, questions linger…what about birth trauma, especially in breech deliveries, or where the head is too big and has to be yanked out with forceps, sometimes with damage, well before the first breath. Don’t these count, or are they really pre-birth and pre-horoscope? A good question. And the umbilical cord is still functioning until it’s cut, often significantly after the first breath, meaning independence is not complete. How about that? And, some would say (particularly “right to life” proponents) that the fetus has independent existence long before birth, and many abortion laws are based on a cutoff at the moment when a fetus is considered “independently viable” despite still being inside the mother.

What actually constitutes birth? Not everyone agrees, much less on when it happens...

But, assuming the true birth moment is first breath, noting down that time accurately doesn’t always happen. One obvious reason is that unless there is a separate recording nurse whose main duty is to observe and take notes, everybody’s too busy with getting the baby out, clear, and functioning to notice and write down the time, so it’s guessed at in retrospect a few minutes later when all is well and the baby is comfortably cradled in its mother’s arms, which means it’s certainly not accurate, and more likely late than actual. Further, there is another point of view from the modern doctor who believes the baby is not actually born until it’s airway is cleared, vital signs checked, and out of all other dangers, at which time the physician declares it born and notes down that time, also clearly later than the actual first breath.

So, when you combine the actuality that a baby’s often already alive and kicking before its first breath, one of the reasons for the pat on the behind to produce a cry (hey, I’m not breathing yet, but I’m here…oh, ouch!) with the probability that its breath was noted late or not at all, it’s likely that practically every birth time is later than the reality of the life beginning, and so has to be rectified slightly earlier, from a minute or two to perhaps twenty or more. In light of this, it’s not surprising that most astrologers will tell you that the long process of rectification through matching life events many years later most often yields a birth time in precisely this window.

Did the recording nurse get the time right? Or did the doctor decide, based on his definition of birth? Or something else?

But is there any actual, statistical evidence of this? Actually, there appears to be. In Michelle Gaucquelin’s seminal work, he determines that significant planets in famous people’s horoscopes in specific sectors clustered around the horoscope’s angles. But those “Gaucquelin sectors” aren’t right on the angles as would be expected by traditional astrological belief, but rather significantly skewed into the next-door cadent house  (12, 9, 6, and 3) which, if you bumped the birth times back an average of 15-20 minutes, would put the sectors right on the angles, as would be expected. It could be that our very way of recording birth times has skewed the actual facts in an almost universal fashion.

And there’s a further reason to question the Gaucquelin sectors which reflect this phenomenon. In general practice, when significant events (other than recorded births) occur with exact timings, planets tend to be either right on or just before reaching the angles, for pragmatic reasons explained here (see graph). Once a planet is past an angle, the pressure of events falls off steeply, so actual happenings tend to be on the earlier side.

So for all these very mundane and practical reasons, you had better spend some time rectifying your chart, to get it right and the corresponding birth time with it. But that can be a painful and uncertain task, especially since most astrologers compile traumatic events in the life to see if major afflictors were on the proposed rectified angles, and if you’ve had a relatively peaceful life, there’s not much to go on.

Gaucquelin sectors (r) would exactly coincide with angles if actual births were regularly earlier than official given times.

But there’s another, more cumulative way to do it that lots less painful, and my favorite. It’s probably best called rectification by association, and simply requires that you have a lot of charts of close friends and family and, if you’re short on friends, a sizeable set of horary charts will do quite nicely. It’s based on the observation in synastry that in the long term you attract people with planets on your planets and angles (or, rather, like gets shepherded together with like by general events), so that’s what you look for. Where their degrees show up significantly often and it’s not your Lights or other planets, it’s your angles, and there you go. Just watch out that it’s not your solar and lunar Lagrange points, the other often mystery degrees in your chart.

The same goes for daily events, if you just keep a daily log of events, questions, and anything that concerns you. The variable significant events of the day (not the regular ones, like breakfast or quitting time) will tend to have the degrees of your planets and angles show up at a significantly higher rate than chance. And, if it’s not your Lights or planetary degrees, it’s your angles (or those sneaky Lagrange points). And be sure to throw in the axis of the Vertex for either people or events, it being the third angle, as it makes it faster and easier to tally things up. So whether it’s people or events, once you’ve got a stack of them, run them through the frequency analysis of almost any professional astrology software such as Matrix’s WinStar, and you’ll see your rectified angles turn up like magic. The larger your sample, the clearer the picture.

No matter what your official birth time, it probably needs a closer look, for a variety of reasons.

So for most people, with at least some reasonable estimate of approximate birth time, this is not only the way to clear things up, but an explanation of how they got so unclear to begin with. If there is one thing astrology benefits from, it is getting back to simple first principles – which includes not only consistent astrological theory, but simple common sense and observations on the ways people and events organize themselves. The hows and whys of rectification is certainly a prime example.

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