The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 41, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guests Nick Dagan Best and Patrick Watson
Episode originally released on August 11, 2015
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Gulsen Altay and Andrea Johnson
Transcription released September 15, 2019
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. For more information about subscribing to the show, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. If you’re a fan of the show and you want to help support it or encourage me to record new episodes more frequently then please consider becoming a Patron of the show through our page on the website Patreon. By pledging as little as a dollar an episode, you can get access to some exclusive benefits such as a private discussion forum for the podcast, early access to new episodes, higher quality recordings and more.
Today is Sunday, August 9, 2015, at approximately 1:39 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 41st episode of the show. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with astrologers Patrick Watson and Nick Dagan Best about birth times and improving data collection efforts in the field of astrology. For more information about Patrick, please visit his website at patrickwatsonastrologer.com, and for Nick, visit nickdaganbest.com or check out his new podcast at iloveastrologypodcast.com
Hey guys, welcome back to the show.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Hey, Chris, thanks for having us.
CB: All right. I think this is the first time that the three of us have been on together, even though we’ve been long-time collaborators and friends, so this is kind of exciting.
NDB: It is. It was meant to be. It’s 2005 all over again.
CB: Right, our 10-year anniversary. All right, well, let’s get started. The genesis of this was Patrick was recently having a conversation with Leisa Schaim about birth data collection, and she was just asking some basic questions about what states can you get birth certificates from and how do you go about doing that and different things related to that.
I realized that this would be a good topic, sort of a broader topic for a podcast, to talk about the broader issue of birth times in astrology–why they’re important, what they‘re used for, to some extent, as a precursor–specifically, the history behind birth data collection–what sort of instruments or what sort of establishments are in the field today that are helpful for going to in order to find out where you can get birth times for different people, whether they’re celebrities or normal people–and then what are some different ways that we can improve and help to spur birth data collection efforts today in 2015, in the early part of the 21st century.
So you are my two birth data experts. so I couldn’t really think of a better team of people to have on this show. So why don’t we start out right way by talking about and addressing the question of what is it about the birth time, or why is the birth time so important in astrology.
What do you guys think?
NDB: Well, it’s with the birth time that we can determine the rising sign and Midheaven of a given horoscope which ultimately provides the most precise context for an astrologer to do what they do.
CB: Sure. Yeah, for basically the past 2,000 years, since astrologers started using the Ascendant and the Midheaven in the early Hellenistic tradition, it’s always required the birth time. And then from that–from the Ascendant to the Midheaven which are important points in their own right–you derive a bunch of other things, including and not limited to, or perhaps most importantly, the houses, or the 12 houses.
NDB: Yes, and even, of course, the degree of the Moon, the placement of the Moon which can vary quite a few degrees over the course of a day.
CB: Yeah, that’s actually a good point because I remember when Obama’s time wasn’t known in the run-up to the 2008 election. There was actually a debate because his was one of those charts where the Moon changes signs, and it was either going to be in Taurus or Gemini. And I remember some astrologers strongly arguing for one or the other since it changed during the course of the day that he was born.
Patrick Watson: And that actually matters for all the planets really, I mean, obviously to lesser degrees the outer planets. But Mercury can change pretty quickly, even the Sun. People who say that they’re born around a cusp don’t actually know that they’re not born on the cusp. They actually are born on either side of a given ingress of the Sun, or the Sun leaving an egress from a sign. So yeah, the birth time is important for even people who aren’t initiated with astrology to actually know what Sun sign they are.
PW: You hear a lot of talk about cusps, and it’s actually a bit more precise than that. So for anyone listening, that’s reason alone to know your birth time.
CB: Sure. And just yesterday, Mars ingressed into Leo late in the evening here, at least Denver time, whereas earlier in the day, it was still in Cancer, so that sort of drives your point home in terms of certain planets. It doesn’t even have to be very fast ones, but sometimes slower-moving planets can be in one sign during one part of the day and another sign during another part of the day.
NDB: Yeah, that’s a perfect example. If someone born August 8, 2015 didn’t know what time they were born, they wouldn’t necessarily know what sign they have Mars in, it’s as simple as that.
CB: Sure. And that’s a huge difference, Mars in Cancer versus, let’s say, Mars in Leo.
NDB: It’s pretty big, yeah.
CB: Okay, so one of the things is planets can change signs, and then of course the Ascendant and Midheaven are two of the most sensitive points in the chart, the most personal points in terms of time changes and that sets up the houses; but derived from the houses themselves, you get the topics or the 12 areas of life.
You also get the rulers of the houses, which is very important in more intermediate and advanced forms of astrology, in terms of studying specific topics. You would look to the ruler of the 7th house for marriage, or the ruler of the 10th house for career and so on and so forth for more specific information about how that area of the person’s life will go.
And then finally, you also have things like angularity, which determines prominence in a chart in terms of planetary placements, where unless you know the birth time and you know the angels of the chart, you don’t know which planets are angular and thus more prominent or are succedent or cadent and thus somewhat less prominent.
Let’s see, other than that we have things like Lots or Arabic Parts which are derived from the degree of the Ascendant or other house cusps, and thus, without the birth time, you can’t calculate those. We have another big one which is sect, which is the difference between day and night charts–which I’ve talked about a lot on this podcast, especially over the past few episodes with Rob Hand–and then some earlier episodes talking about the Saturn return with Leisa and how it changes interpretation based on if it’s a day or night chart. And you can’t know if it was a day or night chart if you don’t have the birth time.
And then finally, there’s also timing techniques that require the birth time in order to calculate them, and without that you cannot apply some of these more advanced timing techniques to a person’s natal chart.
PW: Like annual profections where you need the sign of the Ascendant. You need to know which sign was rising in order to profect from it.
NDB: Or zodiacal releasing when you need to have the Lots in order to know what sign you’re releasing from. I mean, really, you need it everywhere. There are very few areas of horoscope analysis where an accurate birth time isn’t required.
CB: Right, those are both ancient or traditional or Hellenistic techniques. But even a lot of modern techniques like, let’s say secondary progressions, if the Moon can move as much as 12 or 13 degrees over the course of the day then your secondary progressed Moon would be way off if you didn’t have an exact birth time.
PW: And Solar Returns as well. You wouldn’t know exactly when the return would be timed for, so every Solar Return would be unknown or inaccurate.
CB: Yeah, that’s a great point. So just a ton of techniques in Western astrology are very closely tied to birth time, and so that in and of itself tells you why the birth time is so important from the perspective of astrologers. And in terms of why that is, some people then bring up the question of why the birth time is so important.
And from the research I’ve done, it seems like ancient astrologers believed that the baby begins its life as an independent entity from the mother at that moment or at the time of birth, and so there’s something about that that’s symbolically significant as the inception or the commencement or beginning of the life at that point, at the moment of birth.
And I think from a philosophical perspective that’s the reason why we use the moment of birth rather than the moment of conception or what have you. That sort of goes along or is tied into this other set of reasons why we need it from a technical perspective in terms of what things we can and cannot do with a chart if we don’t have a birth time.
PW: Although there are some prenatal events which can figure in into interesting ways into interpretation of the nativity and where it fits into a broader context. But yeah, the birth itself kind of fits into a continuum of trends and events that led up to it and is the key symbolic movement of an individual’s existence. Yeah, I guess that’s what I would say to someone who, for example, would argue that you need a conception chart, that there’s some other pre-existing chart that should be used instead of the birth chart.
CB: Sure. Conception charts can be used and astrologers have used conception charts as far back as–I think there are some from the 5th century BC. So as old as some of the oldest natal charts, we have references to conception charts. But Ptolemy, in the 2nd century, for example, said that conception charts are useful for studying that period between conception and birth, but in order to study the life itself and the native’s life, you really want to focus on the birth chart itself as the inception or the commencement of a person’s life.
CB: So moving on from that in terms of why it’s important from a technical perspective, that gets into a broader question of why is birth data collection important. After the invention of natal astrology or the introduction of it by the 5th century BC in Mesopotamia, and then after the advent of Western astrology as we know it today in the Hellenistic tradition about the 1st century BC, ever since that time, astrologers have been collecting birth data both from individuals and from people they know–from clients and people they’ve read charts for–but also from notable figures and from celebrities or politicians or powerful people. And it raises the question of why is birth data collection important as a broader topic or endeavor in the field of astrology.
So why is it important? You two are both people that engage in that practice of collecting birth data where you don’t just collect data for people you know or people in your immediate circle, but you actually make it a regular practice to collect other people’s birth as well, right?
NDB: Yes, that’s been really a compulsive drive that it is equal to my fascination with astrology. I suppose the reason I’ve sought out data for myself is the desire to look at horoscopes that were relevant to the world I live in. I wanted to know the horoscopes of the musicians whose music I listened to, or the horoscope of the politicians governing the world around me etc., etc.
And at the same time, today’s life is tomorrow’s history. So much as I benefit from astrologers past who’ve collected data that I wanted to study–whoever it was who secured Napoleon’s horoscope, or Edgar Allan Poe’s horoscope, or what have you–that served me, and hopefully the data that I’ve collected over my lifetime will be useful to astrologers in the future.
We’re part of a continuum. Astrologers like Watson and myself, who have built our studies and our work off the research of others, we also have something to contribute for those who will follow us.
CB: Sure. So in the long term, it becomes important for historical research since the birth times of famous figures can only be known if they’re collected by their contemporaries. So that’s why we have the birth chart for the Emperor Nero because it appeared in the technical manual of the 2nd century astrologer, Vettius Valens. He actually had Emperor Nero’s chart as one of his chart examples, and we would only have that because this astrologer collected it.
In the same way, there may be famous people who are alive today who we have access to or somehow could get access to their birth data, but only because we live in this time, in this place, whereas somebody 2,000 years from now, if they don’t have the birth time for that person then they may be out of luck.
PW: Yeah, it’s a communal good which extends across time.
CB: And so, this is part of the broader issue or broader theme which is just that birth data itself, like a birth time as well as a birth place, is the primary source for research for doing studies in natal astrology, and this applies to both public figures like celebrities or notable people, but also to regular individuals as well.
I guess one of the things underlying this or behind it is just the realization that natal astrology is still something that astrologers are researching and is continuing to grow and develop as a field of research. But in order to do research in that field and continue to expand our ability to understand it and become more effective with it, we have to have the raw data to use in order to continue to research it. And if you don’t have that raw data in the form of birth times then you’re kind of out of luck in terms of testing it, and in terms of just doing what it takes to do additional research in that area.
NDB: Exactly, yeah.
CB: Okay. So other than that some other reasons why birth data collection is important is because it’s important for studying and understanding current events in the world. So sometimes an event will happen or some famous figure will do something, and then one of the first things that all of the astrologers do is scramble to find out if we know that person’s birth so that they can look at the event or look at the action from the perspective of the person’s astrology. And sometimes you luck out and we do have the birth time for that person, but other times, or most of the time really, we don’t.
NDB: Indeed, that is probably the grayest area when it comes to this whole operation. While I do always want to have birth data for whoever is making headlines at a given time, the feeding frenzy that one witnesses from time to time when astrologers get very excited about some news story–especially ones that are particularly sensational but not necessarily consequential to history, if you will–astrologers, being human beings can get very excited by these stories.
CB: I think that the historical significance of, for example, my series of articles many years ago when I was trying to write celebrity charts on Paris Hilton going to jail and the astrology behind that was quite consequential, so I would beg to differ.
PW: The ‘most’ consequential. There’s also another side to this which is that sometimes astrologers don’t always have the most sensitivity for how soon we aggressively search for birth times, such as in tragic events.
NDB: That’s more of what I was getting to. Yeah, if there’s a murder that has just occurred, everyone wants to race to the murderer or the murderee’s horoscope and find it all. And don’t get me wrong, I use astrology to study the history of all kinds of violent crime; it’s as interesting an area of study as anything else. But sometimes, well not sometimes, you generally want to wait for the body to get cold before you start ripping it apart, so to speak.
I mean, part of what we do as historical astrologers has a clinical feel to it. When you’re reading a living individual’s horoscope, there’s a lot of compassion and empathy involved. When you’re analyzing news figures or historical figures, there isn’t necessarily that. I mean, one can approach those areas with compassion, but still there’s something kind of clinical and antiseptic about that area. And consequently, when it comes to things that have a lot of impact–like say a violent crime–yeah, I think an astrologer can conceivably be a little less than compassionate about how they pursue that study.
CB: Yeah, I guess that’s a general trend in society just in terms of the sensationalism in the news, but also the obsession with celebrity and paparazzi-type culture and stalking of celebrities. I guess one of the shadow sides of this you could say is that astrologers also take part in that by engaging in the same, almost paparazzi-type mentality in terms of chasing stories, especially over the past 10 years in terms of bloggers doing that, in terms of wanting to write on topical things that are going on in the world.
But I guess there’s probably pros and cons that can be said for that just in the sense that astrologers are doing what everyone else is doing in society, but they’re just doing it from their own personal access point or viewpoint, which is their personal attempt to make some sense of and understand and analyze the events that are going on in the world today.
And sometimes, I’m sure that’s really deep and profound things like the Uranus-Pluto square over the past several years and the deep, societal and cultural changes that went along with that, and other times, maybe it is somewhat more shallow-type stories, but there’s a question about where one could draw the line or where it’s appropriate versus where it becomes inappropriate to talk about those things, I guess.
NDB: Yeah, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with researching the birth time of someone who was recently the victim or perpetrator of a violent crime. I think it’s the frenzy of the blogging of astrologers wanting to be seen as being very topical and with the times, which is fine in a lot of areas, like say politics or the arts. But when it comes to areas like that, yeah, suddenly we risk being less than humane.
NDB: The thing is astrology is a fringe interest. Relative to the larger world, there’s only a small group of us who are interested in this, and we’re discussing it, and we’re writing blogs, and we needn’t feel too precious about how the world regards us because the world is mostly flat out ignoring us. But astrology is growing in its scope, in its visibility, in its popularity. I see a real renaissance coming on that I never sensed in the 20th century, certainly not in the ‘90s.
And with that in mind, I think the danger is if someone’s murdered tomorrow, and astrologers go on a frenzy for the birth data and they write a bunch of blogs about it, chances are the family or the victim won’t even know that it happened. They’re dealing with stuff that’s way bigger than what a couple of astrologers are discussing. But the time could come when astrologers having conversations like that online could be enormously consequential if people actually start paying attention…
NDB: …and I think that’s where it could start to get ugly.
CB: Yeah, or potentially embarrassing on some level.
PW: This whole thing, there is a bit of an ethical gray area. I think I’m much more sensitive to that kind of sensibility when it’s with private individuals than it is with public figures, but I guess that’s a question for us to think about. I think we can probably all agree that private individuals definitely have some might to privacy regarding their data and how it’s used. What about a public figure?
CB: Well, let’s actually come back around that towards the end of this discussion. Let’s establish a few more things…
NDB: That’s a good idea.
CB: …because I want to get into it just in terms of the ethics of birth data collection as a broader issue.
PW: Okay, I wondered if we were going to go to that and then go back.
CB: Yeah, I think it was a good digression. But let’s outline a few more basics, and then we’ll transition into that broader discussion because I think that would be a good way to end the show.
PW: All right.
CB: Okay. So yeah, one way or another, regardless of what you’re doing, it’s important for studying and understanding current world events. One thing connected with that, and one thing that astrologers often engage in either publicly or privately is making predictions like, for example, in presidential elections.
So 2008 was a famous example of a presidential election where the birth data of the candidates was really up for question. We didn’t have Obama’s birth time, and then astrologers got lucky that his birth certificate was released due to this separate, absurd controversy about whether he was American or whether he was not really an American.
But the point is that for things like presidential elections, in order for astrologers to issue predictions, they really need a birth time in order to do that effectively. And while there’s some techniques that they can use without the birth time, there’s a lot more that they can use with it. And therefore, even if they’re not going out to make that prediction publicly, even if they just wanted to look at the chart for themselves and come to some conclusion about who they think is going to win, they’re going to feel a lot more confident about that with the birth time.
Patrick, I think you recently wrote an article during the 2012 election. And I think you wrote another one more recently just looking at what birth times we do and do not have for different candidates, right?
PW: Yeah, it’s a mess. We only have verified times for a very scant, few candidates, so this is going to be an interesting election. I feel like in 2008, the issue was that we had times but there was some weird issues surrounding them, and then in 2012, we actually did have times and everything kind of worked out.
And this time, we either don’t have anything and no access, or we have conflicting reports, so it’s going to be very, very interesting. It’s going to be very interesting to see how we all respond as a community to these conflicting times. Especially for several of the front runners, there are many, many issues that it’s almost a separate conversation.
CB: Yeah. 2012, I felt like I got a birth data collector’s wet dream because the president at the time was literally printing his birth certificate on the side of mugs. You could buy a Barack Obama mug with his birth certificate printed on the side.
PW: It’s weird how astrologers become like strange bedfellows with the so-called ‘birther’ movement.
NDB: I’ve never felt more served by a political opponent than in that instance. I mean, that really was a gift to us.
PW: You know, there was even talk of passing a law to force presidential candidates to release their birth certificates, and I practically creamed my jeans.
PW: I mean, that was just amazing. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
CB: Yeah, I think Shelley Ackerman sent out some sort of petition to that extent sometime in the past few weeks, right?
PW: Yeah, I remember seeing that.
NDB: I recommend that everyone listening to this podcast get their signature on that petition, if only for very selfish motives.
CB: It’s like you can. I don’t see that as being a plausible thing that’s actually going to work.
PW: Well, because it’s founded on ridiculous notions, not that our notions aren’t somewhat ridiculous too.
NDB: You guys are right. What am I thinking trying to introduce a ridiculous notion to the political process?
NDB: What was I thinking?
PW: I mean, the undercurrent of these charges are I believe to be based on xenophobic notions, racist sensibilities, and so, ugliness is the root of these movements. But yeah, it does have a really quirky benefit for us obviously.
CB: Sure. And just to back up a little bit, my first real intimate exposure to birth data collection was working on those two elections with you, Patrick, and seeing your process in terms of trying to collect birth data for different candidates, but also trying to verify birth data for candidates that we thought we had and then sometimes finding out that it’s not as strong as we thought it was.
CB: That’s one of the things that’s coming up a little bit in the birth chart of Hillary Clinton, just in terms of some of the sources listed for that not being as strong as people think, and then there may be a similar issue with Jeb Bush’s time, although it’s not quite clear yet. But even during the previous election, sometimes you can kind of luck out or you can kind of anticipate things and get birth data and be in the right place at the right time, like when you were able to obtain the birth data for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate about a month before he was announced as the candidate back in 2012, right?
PW: Right. Yeah, I wasn’t tipped off or anything by the Romney campaign; I just knew that he was one of the people being considered. So yeah, I just wanted to take this opportunity to state that I didn’t actually predict that he was going to become the vice presidential candidate or something; I knew that he was in contention. I noticed that he was born, I believe in Wisconsin, which is one of the states which is considered an open state, and so I just filed the application and I got it, and I just happen to be the first person to do that. So it was, yeah, very good timing.
CB: And one of the things that always drives me crazy in retrospect is that I didn’t spend a lot of time analyzing it. Because we published it about a few weeks before it was announced, but if we had applied some of the timing techniques–like the Hellenistic timing techniques that we were applying to the President’s charts–we’d realize afterwards that it showed him being in a major transition on election day.
PW: That’s right.
CB: Right, which very closely indicated that he was going to be the VP candidate, or that we could’ve known that ahead of time if we had obtained his birth chart and then apply the correct techniques; but we only went, I guess, halfway there.
PW: Yeah, yeah, that was a missed opportunity.
CB: But nonetheless, a good example of a good opportunity and how that could work out sometimes if you’re active with your birth data collection efforts. So yeah, presidential elections and big events like that, it can be important for. But also, it can be important in terms of scientific studies and attempting to validate astrology through science if that’s part of what you want to do. One of the things that’s really important for this is having the right data to test.
So for example, most large-scale study tests, scientific studies on astrology that have been done by Michel Gauquelin in the mid-20th century resulted in the famous ‘Mars effect’. And the ‘Mars effect’ was entirely predicated on using timed birth charts; it said that eminent athletes were born with Mars either rising just after the Ascendant or culminating just after the Midheaven at the exact moment of birth. And so, of course to test those results or in order to come up with that, he needed a large sample of several hundred thousand timed birth charts in order to do that study. So for similar reasons that’s another good reason–if one wanted to test astrology–that you would need timed birth charts to do that.
So those are some of the different reasons why that data collection is important, and I’m sure that there’s dozens of additional ones that we haven’t added here. But I wanted to talk a little bit now about what are some of the current ways in which birth data is collected, and what are some of the primary repositories for birth data that make it a point to collect this on the behalf of astrologers or for astrologers. And the primary one, pretty much the only one, or virtually the only organization or business dedicated to it as known as Astro-Databank.
Astro-Databank was founded by the late astrologer, Lois Rodden, who was born in 1928 and passed away in 2003. She was like a really hardcore, birth data collector, and she would collect birth data for all sorts of different people–sometimes notable figures, but sometimes not-notable figures; just people that fell into certain groups or categories–and she would publish those in compilations in books filled with birth data for different people that astrologers could use for research purposes. And she published these books at different points I think from the 1970s all the way through the 2000s until she passed away in 2003.
You had some of those books. Did you use some of those books during your early studies, Nick?
NDB: Oh yeah, yeah. I used the ones that were in the Joanna Shannon Library in New York City, in Michael Lutin’s office. They had a collection there, and I used to borrow those books from the library. That was the best you could get at that point. It was pretty good, but nothing compared to what awaited me down the road with the internet.
CB: Yeah, so by the mid-‘90s, computers start becoming more common and more prominent in life. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, some different software companies started to pop up where you could do computer-generated charts to calculate them quickly or calculate them automatically if you only had the data.
And I guess there was some ISAR conference in 1996 that was specifically on astrology and computers. And at that conference, Lois Rodden met up with and subsequently partnered with another astrologer named Mark McDonough–who had a background in database programming and just computer programming in general–and they ended up forming a partnership to form essentially a software company to create a software program centered around Astro-Databank; so that the software would have all of the birth data and the hundreds of thousands of charts that Lois Rodden had collected at that point, but it would also contain some additional functionality to have search features so you could search through the data.
You could search through to look for different types of data, like different groups; show me all of the charts in the database of women, or show me all the charts in the database of men. You could search through it in order to look at chart placements, so you could say, show me every person in the database that has Mars in Taurus, or show me everybody in this database that has the Moon in Leo and Jupiter in Pisces–and all sorts of other complicated things like that in order to make it so that it wasn’t just a database that collected birth data, but it started being something that astrologers and researchers could use and sift through in order to do specific studies.
Unfortunately, I had a few interactions with the program but it was a little bit before my time. But you used it a lot, right, Nick?
NDB: Oh yes, yes, I still have it; it’s clunky though. It’s come to the point where Astro-Databank can’t really continue to support it, the software is so ancient at this point. I mean, we’re talking about a computer program that was designed in the ‘90s.
CB: Sure. So what happened just in terms of the history of that was the program was developed in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. I guess the story I’ve always heard was that it wasn’t profitable, so Mark McDonough sold the program to Richard Smoot in 2005, and Richard Smoot had problems keeping it going because of so many overhead costs that were associated with it.
CB: And so, eventually he sold it to the Swiss company Astrodienst in 2008, and they subsequently put it online. Instead of continuing to maintain the program itself, they decided to take the raw data from the program and put it online for free using the Wikipedia software to create a Wiki basically that different editors could edit and change, that would be instead of a standalone program that worked on your computer would be a website where all of the data was online and available for free.
NDB: Yes, it’s a terrific service really, Astrodienst, founded by Alois Treindl. He’s a German astrologer living in Switzerland, and he started working with computers and astrology back in the ‘80s, at first collaborating with Liz Greene. I know the first time I ever calculated a chart using a computer, it was using Astrodienst–as we know it, astro.com–a website, back in 1998, before I had my own software, when I was just a student.
CB: That’s how I started calculating charts.
NDB: Exactly. Most burgeoning astrology students I know that’s the website they go to; it’s a fantastic service. What’s amazing about Astrodienst is they do offer services–it is a business–but less than 1% of people who go to their site to buy something. And yet, it’s a very, very successful company, successful enough that they could take on Astro-Databank, put it all online. There’s not a dime made from that.
Astrodienst really did this out of the spirit of preserving the work, which is very interesting and important and crucial and must be preserved and built on, and it was really only in that spirit that they did it. While they are a profitable company, there’s nothing in the data collection business to make a penny, so it’s terrific that it’s there.
PW: And how awful would that be if you wanted to find someone’s birth time and they charged you for it? That’s just nuts. It’s a communal good. It’s a public good for the astrological community, so it wouldn’t be great to monetize that too much.
CB: I mean, it does draw traffic in for them; it’s largely altruistic. Anytime you do a search for a famous celebrity name and birth time, Astro-Databank comes up first. And so, that directs you to the Astrodienst website–which indirectly at least does help them in terms of some things–but it is otherwise largely a hugely beneficial thing for the astrological community. And certainly, I was one of the first people to commend them and really freak out for back in 2009 when it originally went online and I wrote a blog post about it.
NDB: Yeah, there’s no question about it. It was a huge step up for everybody to have that available suddenly, like night and day really.
NDB: Yeah, I had the software but I knew a lot of people who didn’t, so this was good.
CB: Right. And ultimately, the problem is that a lot of people didn’t buy the software, or at least whatever the business model was didn’t end up being profitable or didn’t end up being as profitable as perhaps the original programmers had hoped, and so this software was given up and the company was sold. And yeah, luckily Astrodienst saved it and rescued Astro-Databank, this huge repository for hundreds of thousands, if not more pieces of birth data, they put it online.
So that’s the primary source for birth times, for reliable birth times for celebrity and notable charts as well as some other, not-notable people, where we have their birth data and it falls into different specialty subgroups if you want to search for different demographics and things like that.
NDB: Correct. I will add, in 2013, Astro-Databank got a real shot in the arm when they started collaborating with Sy Scholfield, who is of any individual on the planet probably the most driven and most accomplished data collector alive. And for a little while, Astro-Databank was using Sy’s data but there wasn’t a full agreement, so I think he was holding some things back, but now he’s a contributing editor to Astro-Databank.
He does also post new data on his own site astrodatablog.blogspot.com.au; he’s an Australian astrologer. And that is also worth checking at, especially if you want to be a little ahead of the curve of what eventually winds up being new one on Astro-Databank, but Astro-Databank is still the centralized and really final authority I’d say on finding good birth data.
CB: Sure. And so, besides Astro-Databank, there are other individual, private data collectors that go around and build up their own private databases which they sometimes share or contribute to the larger databases such as Astro-Databank.
CB: Right, and those are people like Sy Scholfield that Nick just mentioned, but also Nick himself who’s built a huge database of birth times, and not just birth times, but also timed events for other things. And then there’s other data collectors such as Frank Clifford who publishes data collections and so on and so forth.
NDB: Yeah, indeed.
CB: Okay, so despite there being individual collectors, Astro-Databank is the primary game in town in terms of large repositories of birth data that’s publicly-accessible and available, and the only other quasi-rival is Astrotheme, the French company which also comes up very high in the search results.
But as I talked about earlier this year, they evidently appear to be not a very reputable company because they appear to be making up false birth times and putting those out there directly onto their website, which astrologers start using and unfortunately sometimes end up on Astro-Databank.
PW: Yeah, they’re lame.
NDB: Well, they are. I know from conversations with Alois Treindl that he’s interacted with the Astrotheme people, and they definitely sound completely ambivalent to using proper documentation. Astro-Databank will post data that’s sketchy but they’ll let you know it’s sketchy; that’s why the rating system is involved which we’ll discuss in a bit.
But the important thing, I mean, yes, it’s important to get good data. But regardless of whether the data’s good, it’s also important to document the source for data so that every astrologer can determine the context of what they’re looking at and that we’re not simply operating on trust.
CB: Sure, and that was the big thing that Lois Rodden really introduced into that field, that was one of her primary contributions. In addition to being one of those individual birth data collectors–like you, or like Frank Clifford, or Sy Scholfield–she also tried to institute some standards in terms of saying that it wasn’t good enough to just give a birth time or to come up with a birth time, but you also had to list the source; and not just where you got the birth time from and what its source was, but how to categorize it in terms of reliability and to create a system or a standard for that. That’s known today as the Rodden Rating System.
So the Rodden Rating System has several different levels. Do one of you want to explain what the different levels are?
PW: Sure. Yeah, so AA is the exact data as recorded by the family or the state. An A rating…
CB: Hold on. So A data is exact data recorded by family or the state. What does that mean?
PW: That was AA.
CB: AA, sorry. So AA is the highest rating and that’s the best rating you can possibly get according to the Rodden Rating System, and that’s things like…
NDB: Birth certificate, family diary, anything that was written down the day of the birth.
CB: Okay. Are there any other things, Patrick, that you can think of that would fall into sources that are AA sources?
PW: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Although I think even with an AA rating sometimes you can’t always trust what is on the birth certificate. I’m actually more inclined to believe something that’s in a family diary or a baby book or something because that was written down by the people who were actually there. Sometimes there can be mistakes recorded by the doctors who mark it down in the hospital. Maybe we can talk about that a little bit later.
CB: No, this would be a good time.
NDB: I wanted to bring it up earlier because it is a double-edged sword; I was waiting for the right time. Watson’s bringing up an excellent point. The rating system should not be taken as a complete metric for the quality of the data. Primarily, the rating system is to give you an idea of the source of the data.
NDB: And then the merit of the data needs to be determined in its own right. Now typically, yes, a AA rating is preferable to any of the others because it implies that you’re quoting a contemporary document of the birth which conceivably is as good as you can do. But like Watson says, yeah, indeed a document can be poorly-written. I know of a jazz pianist named Bud Powell whose birth certificate gives the wrong year of birth; whoever was writing it down that day didn’t seem to know what year it was.
PW: Yeah, my own birth certificate was actually wrong. On my official UK birth certificate, it’s off by like 20 minutes, and the only reason that we got the right time is because my Mom was really into astrology and wanted to make sure that she got the right time. And my Dad noticed that the clock was wrong on the wall, and the nurses said, “Oh, that’s been wrong for the past month.”
PW: They had known that it was off.
CB: That’s like a nightmare that some astrologers wake up in a cold sweat with.
PW: I know. Beware all astrological researchers: All people born in High Wycombe General Hospital, before October 23, 1987, you might need to correct the time a little bit. But that incorrect time actually ended up on my certificate–and it’s actually not right–so that would be AA rated by Rodden. But I I can tell you, and my Mom and my Dad can tell you, that that’s not correct.
NDB: All right, High Wycombe, you’ve got to get your stuff together.
PW: Yeah, right?
NDB: Be like the folks down in Low Wycombe, they know what’s what.
CB: Yeah, so sometimes birth times on certificates can be wrong, but typically they’re still taken because they’re official and because it was theoretically documented by somebody the day the person was born. They’re taken as the highest or one of the highest things you can get in addition to something that’s written by the family at the time or around the time of the person’s birth like a baby book or something like that.
CB: But in terms of the accuracy of those times, there’s a separate issue which is that sometimes, or oftentimes, those birth times can be rounded or only approximate.
CB: This seems especially true in the earlier part of the 20th century versus later, which I assume must have been the transition to like digital clocks or something like that, or maybe just people being more specific. But I seem to see, especially presidential charts, a lot of rounded times early in the century and then at some point we start getting exact times.
NDB: Yeah, you come across a lot of older birth dates that someone’s born at 8:00 PM or 6:00 PM and you have to wonder, well, was everyone really born at the top of the hour, or were they just rounding things off?
I remember even a few years back, Chris, when you and I were talking about Queen Victoria; I was documenting all the birth times of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren from her diaries. And she had those times probably rounded off to the quarter-hour–and this is in the 19th century–and you even felt that that was probably a little too rounded off for your liking, and yet, that was four times more precise than what seemed to be the general standard in much of the early 20th century.
CB: Sure. Yeah, at that point, I was trying to research zodiacal releasing where you need an exact time otherwise the Lots can sometimes change signs.
CB: But that’s actually a tip-off that most people need to realize. Even today, a time that is exactly at the quarter-of-an-hour–let’s say 8:00 or 8:15 or 8:30 or 8:45, or let’s say 9:00–it could be a rounded time. If it’s rounded to the nearest hour, if it’s exactly on the hour, or if it’s exactly halfway through the hour, it’s not always the case, but there’s a heightened possibility of that being an approximate time versus one that’s exact and says 8:32 PM as being an exact recorded time.
NDB: Yeah, and even then someone could have written down 8:32 PM erroneously; it might have been 8:31 but they thought it was 8:32. No matter what, we’re standing on faith to some degree. And my approach to this, anytime I’m looking at any chart, I look at the rating of a given piece of birth data, but I look at the context in which it was collected, what the source is. And even then if it’s something that looks like a rounded-off birth time or what have you, I’m just in the habit of looking at a chart, and I’ve taught myself to know what that chart would look like if it were five minutes earlier or five minutes later, etc., etc.
And so, I’m always looking at the chart not as this fixed, set-in-gold, kind of absolute answer, but something that is fluid, a moment in time that we’re trying to capture and get as close as possible to perfect accuracy. And my astrological work is built around understanding that there’s vague layer of detail that we can never perfectly penetrate and we have to work our way around that.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, especially if somebody has something very close to a cusp or a sign boundary like the Ascendant.
CB: Every practicing astrologer has that really annoying experience of pulling up a chart and the Ascendant being at 29 degrees of a sign.
NDB: Right. And some people must have their Ascendant at 29 degrees of the sign, but you have to wonder, oh shoot, do they actually have the following rising sign?
CB: Right. Well, our good friend, Austin Coppock, is one of those people who has the Ascendant at 29 degrees Cancer and Jupiter I think at 29 degrees Cancer as well. And I remember that being a discussion we had at one point years ago where it almost turned into an argument because I was like, “Maybe you’re Leo rising,” and he was very certain that he was not Leo rising, that he had 29 degrees Cancer rising.
NDB: Just to tease him, we ought to start nicknaming him ‘Leo Rising’.
NDB: Austin ‘Leo Rising’ Coppock.
PW: My son was born with 29 degrees Taurus rising and he will never have that problem. He’ll never have to worry about whether it’s actually 0 Gemini; it is absolutely 29 Taurus.
CB: That is the benefit of having an astrologer as a father.
CB: You’re there with like an atomic clock.
PW: Yeah, my wife was a little angry at me for almost being concerned about the time as well. The fact that she’s actually suffered through everything, I’m holding her hand and holding the clock; yeah, bad luck.
CB: Yeah, and we discussed that I think in the podcast about the ethics of timing or using electional astrology to time a birth much earlier in the podcast, so people can hear that whole story.
NDB: That’s another one of the great questions: Is the moment of birth the exit from the birth canal? Is it the cutting of the cord? That’s a whole other question because sometimes those things can be a few minutes apart.
PW: That’s true.
NDB: Which really underscores what I was saying before that even precision is not precise in this game. Let’s not kid ourselves. We’re being as approximately precise as we can and that’ll just have to do, at least until we know more, I guess.
CB: I mean, that’s true in terms of our ability to know from an objective standpoint the recorded time and whether that’s accurate and stuff, but at least when looking at the astrology, there are things you can do. And this gets into rectification, just in terms of seeing a really noticeable difference between somebody that has let’s say the Ascendant in late Scorpio versus the Ascendant in early Sagittarius, or using an advanced timing technique like zodiacal releasing and having the Lot of Spirit move from one sign into another and thus changing their timing periods.
I don’t think with some of this that the techniques of astrology themselves can’t be precise and accurate with an accurate time, but just that at least when you’re first starting out with a time, there is always this ambiguity about whether it’s an exact time or whether it needs some adjustment.
CB: And that brings us to a really sticky question that I’m not sure we can fully address today. But there are some astrologers that believe–for example, Axel Harvey believes that every single birth time or birth chart that a person works with, before you do anything with it, you should start attempting to rectify it in order to establish what you think is the accurate time based on your techniques. And that’s a whole issue and topic in and of itself in terms of whether astrologers should be in the habit of relying on and using and taking for granted the time that was recorded or if they should be in the habit of rectifying the chart to be what makes the most sense to them, and it seems like there’s pros and cons for that argument.
PW: I think that’s a response to the fact that we can’t necessarily fully trust every documented time, so I understand the feeling behind it; and I think when in doubt, it’s not the worst idea. But I think opening that door also might cause you to think differently about a chart in terms of putting your own perceptions on it, and then you might want to engineer the time more than it should, so I think that’s tricky.
NDB: I know. I was just interviewing Kim Farnell for my podcast, and we were talking about Alan Leo. We were talking about his chart and how all the charts in 19th century British astrology were rectified by Sepharial and Alan Leo. Kim thinks that he was likely a Virgo rising, but his birth time was rectified by Sepharial to reflect a Leo rising because Alan Leo was so into being a Leo, so into being a Leo that he made it his name.
CB: I have this joke where I’ve seen that happen before. Only a Leo rising could rectify their chart in the opposite direction to be better with Virgo rising or vice versa. Like only a Leo rising would rectify their chart to make it better.
NDB: Right, right. Well, it seems in that context it was just something that was done. As soon as you were involved in astrology, Sepharial wound up rectifying your chart; it was automatic. That goes back to this thing that we’re talking about, like how compulsive does this need have to be.
I mean, rectification is a whole other subject. Indeed, Chris, it could be a podcast subject. To me, rectification is an intellectual exercise. It’s an exercise in possibilities. It’s never an authority. The closest you can come to having an authority is having that recorded birth time on a piece of paper somewhere, and as we’ve been saying even that has its limits.
So I think it’s all within moderation. Rectification for any serious astrologer I think is a really worthwhile exercise to pursue, but that doesn’t mean it should be the driving mantra behind everything. Sometimes one has a really good chart to look at and one should know enough to be satisfied with it.
CB: Yeah, and I could see how in the late 19th and early 20th century it would be more of a necessity if birth times were commonly rounded and commonly very wide or approximate that you would need to rectify charts more regularly. I guess the problem I run into in modern times with doing that–when you’re working with what otherwise is recorded as an exact time and doing it in every chart–I run into this issue where sometimes a person will rectify a chart that’s an exact time because whatever techniques they’re using at the time they won’t understand how the chart makes sense.
But that doesn’t mean that through other techniques the exact recorded time doesn’t make sense or isn’t still accurate. It just may be that there’s something about the astrologer’s perspective at that time that’s giving them the wrong impression or making them things differently than what the chart actually is. So the astrologer could be mistaken in their rectification basically.
And one of the big issues that’s actually very common and very frequent is that rectification is not something that most astrologers excel at, and for that reason, I really don’t like the idea of like all astrologers commonly rectifying charts. Most of the time, the recorded birth time works just fine, and if people start tinkering with it too much then they end up with something that’s more about their perspective.
NDB: Yeah, that’s exactly true, and that’s why I don’t give rectification anymore sway than it being a worthwhile exercise. It’s an exercise; it’s not an authority.
PW: I appreciate that Astro-Databank will list when a time is a rectification.
CB: And that’s actually something that’s coming up lately as kind of an issue at Astro-Databank. For some reason, they’re listing a lot of rectified times and that’s basically next to worthless as far as I’m concerned. There’s like hundreds of different astrologers that could all rectify coming up with different times, but for some reason they’ve decided to list like one astrologer, two or three astrologers rectifying…
NDB: No, it’s just one. I think it’s just one; it’s just Isaac Starkman who’s doing it. I’m kind of mystified by it too. At least, like Watson said, they’re telling you this is a rectified time so you and I have the option to disregard it as we do.
NDB: So while I don’t agree with the practice of doing it, at the same time, it’s fundamentally not doing too much damage I think.
PW: It would be rated C. Well, how would that be rated?
NDB: Or S, ‘speculative’.
NDB: Let’s add a rating to that. You know, it is what it is. Welcome to astrology, folks.
CB: Sure. And they do have primarily one astrologer that they’re frequently listing times for that for some reason, which is weird. There’s other chart examples I found–and this may be old, like from Lois Rodden’s previous databank, I don’t really know–but for Hillary Clinton, for example, it lists two or three different rectified times for some reason that different astrologers have given for her, and they’re all completely different.
NDB: Yeah. But see, that is something I don’t object to documenting that this astrologer thinks this thing, this other astrologer thinks this other thing. Again, it’s Lois Rodden’s approach to treating data collection like a work of journalism, and her background was journalism. So accuracy, knowing your sources, knowing how solid a given piece of information is, this all comes from her training in journalism. I lost my train of thought, sorry.
CB: No problem. So let’s go back to–we cut off the rating system…
CB: …discussion. So the highest one is AA, and that’s a document either from the government or from the family that lists what is pretty much an exact time or some sort of specific time.
NDB: A contemporary time is what I would say. Sometimes they’re in letters, too. Sometimes someone writes a letter saying, “Dear so-and-so, she gave birth this morning at 10:00,” so anything that’s documented on the day of the birth pretty much.
CB: Right. And that was–yeah, okay. And then the next one is A data. What is A data?
NDB: A data is when it’s quoted by someone: either the person in question, or a family member, or some kind of friend or associate who would be close enough to the subject to know. A data is, of possibly of any of the data rating possibilities we have, the one with the greatest potential for being either really solid or really, really weak.
I do sometimes see astrologers looking at that letter A and treating it like it’s better than the letter C on a piece of data, which is not necessarily the case. Some people know exactly what time they’re born when you ask them, and some people are just guessing when you tell them. But either way, that data is going to go down as an A-rated piece of data, unless the person you’re asking is specifically quoting their birth certificate, but that’s usually not the case when a lot of A-rated data comes.
Things like I’ve done where I’ve just approached celebrities in person or online and asked them what time they were born, and if I’m lucky enough that they’ve answered me, that’s an A piece of data; I’m taking the person on their word. It might be a really solid piece of information, it might not, and one doesn’t always know.
CB: Sure. The point is that it’s coming directly from the person or somebody connected with them, but you still don’t have an official document that says that specifically.
CB: Okay, so the next is B, which is biography or autobiography which is pretty straightforward. Sometimes if somebody writes an autobiography about their life then they’ll say, oftentimes, right at the beginning that, “I was born on such-and-such date at such-and-such time,” and that’s taken as B data.
NDB: Which again can be really solid or really weak; it varies.
PW: Yeah, depending.
CB: Sure. I mean, with all of these essentially there’s going to be major plot holes, but for the most part, we rely on this and this is taken as reliable or this is reliable as we can possibly get.
CB: C data is ‘caution, no source’. I very rarely see C data. Is this used much?
NDB: Yeah, C data is for ‘no source’ or ‘source not known’ more specifically; but yeah, it gets used quite a bit. Also, sometimes when people give an approximate time, you use C; that’s the other instance where you would use C as a rating for a piece of data. If someone says, “Well, I know I was born at night,” or “I was born at sunrise,” “I was born at lunch time,” those sort of answers will get a C-rated time.
PW: Typically, Astrotheme’s entire collection almost is C.
NDB: Yes, exactly.
CB: I don’t even know if I would go that far at this point in ranking it high as C just because so much of their data has been shown to be false. But yeah, C, ‘caution, no source’. That’s an interesting one that comes up because John Kerry’s birth time originally was collected by– Patrick, what’s the name of the famous…
PW: Frances McEvoy.
CB: Yeah, Frances McEvoy from Massachusetts. She was a very prolific birth data collector, especially for politicians, and she collected John Kerry’s time. But it seems like what was originally said was that he was born sometime around sunrise.
PW: Yeah, that’s what he told me when I asked him because I checked him again. He came to my college and I got to speak to him afterwards, and I got to ask him. And he threw me the weirdest look I’ve ever received but he did answer me. And everyone around me was just like, “What the bleep?” “So what time were you born?” And he’s like, “Uh, around sunrise.”
I think it’s important to sometimes recheck. With Hillary, she’s been asked a few times and sometimes she’s given different answers. So I think it kind of helps us evaluate sometimes whether a given person should be trusted with their answer on something. Sorry, that was a different thought.
NDB: No, very important though, very important.
PW: But Kerry, yeah, he does answer to sunrise; that’s his answer.
CB: Okay. And so, that’s an example of one where it sort of falls in between C and A in that it’s a response that the person is saying and he’s quoting it, but it’s really more of a general time of the day almost…
CB: …around sunrise.
NDB: Yeah, I think you would only give a data an A rating if it was reasonably precise. This is just a personal judgement call, maybe someone else would do it differently, but I would still treat it like A-rated data if someone said, “I was born close to 8:00 at night,” but I would give it C-rated data if they said, “I was born at night”…
NDB: …or, “I was born at sunrise,” in John Kerry’s case, yeah.
CB: Got it. And then next we get to the DD data which is known as ‘dirty data’.
CB: And what is ‘dirty data’?
NDB: ‘Dirty data’ is when there is conflict, when we have two or more birth times put forward and their relative merits cannot be determined. I’ll give a good example of a weak piece of ‘dirty data’. This again comes from a conversation I was just having with Kim Farnell about Evangeline Adams.
Evangeline Adams was an astrologer, and she put on her own birth chart in her books and what have you, and that should be an A-rated piece of data. But her old astrology teacher, Catherine Thompson–with whom she had fallen not long before than Evangeline Adams died–wrote a letter to a British astrology magazine accusing Adams of having lied about her age and suggesting she was 9 years older. And incidentally, Catherine Thompson was 10 years older herself than Evangeline Adams.
Consequently, if you go to Astro-Databank, you’re going to see a DD rating for Evangeline Adams. I’m sorry, this wasn’t Kim Farnell; this is Karen Christino who wrote about Evangeline Adams. Karen Christino went and looked at census records and what have you and determined, yes, indeed Evangeline Adams was an infant in the year that she would have been an infant according to her own data.
It’s reasonably solid; it probably should be considered an A-rated data. But because Catherine Thompson probably lied about this, we have to treat the data like DD. We have to responsibly give it a DD rating even if we all feel that we know the solution, so there are things like that.
I think another good example of sort of a weaker ‘dirty data’ example is Sammy Davis, Jr. For his birth data, we have DD. He was either born at 1:20 PM or at 1:11 PM. So it’s a 9-minute difference. It doesn’t change his rising sign, it doesn’t change his Moon degree, it doesn’t change any of the fundamental Lots, but there is a discrepancy. There is a 9-minute discrepancy that an astrologer would want to be aware of while looking at the chart, but it’s not a useless piece of data.
Very often you see DD on a rating and then astrologers are immediately tempted to just reject it out right, which is fair enough in most cases. But in cases like Sammy Davis, Jr. or Evangeline Adams, this is why the rating system should not be in itself the final authority. It’s the context behind the rating that really comes closest to being an authority. I think Sammy Davis, Jr.’s chart is totally workable despite being ‘dirty data’, whereas there are a lot of other charts that I effectively treat as being untimed because we have such conflicting data.
CB: Sure. So Patrick just mentioned another contemporary one which is Hillary Clinton’s birth time and the many different supposed times surrounding that that’s led it to be labeled as ‘dirty data’.
NDB: Yeah, but that’s more legitimate and that’s more typical of ‘dirty data’, Hillary Clinton’s case, where we really just don’t know. We have a bunch of suggested times or reported times, but there’s a conflict and no real way of determining the truth.
CB: Right. The speculation supposedly surrounding Hillary was that she’s putting out different times deliberately which is interesting because it makes it a similar case sort of like the one you mentioned first with Evangeline Adams, where the reason why the data is ‘dirty’ is because the person has said different times to different astrologers either deliberately or maybe indeliberately.
Maybe a celebrity got caught off guard and they just came up with some random time, but then later at some point they thought about it more carefully and gave an accurate time. It’s like, who knows? All you know is that there seemed to be conflicting times, so you need a pursuit with caution.
PW: And that also shows why it’s important to sometimes recheck, re-ask if and when it’s possible just to make sure.
PW: If she hadn’t been asked more than once then she probably wouldn’t be considered ‘dirty data’, but I think it’s better to be sure than not.
CB: Okay. And then there’s two other classifications–I don’t know if this was originally in Rodden’s system or if this is just what’s in Astro-Databank now–but it’s X data which is data has no time of birth and then XX data which is data without a known or confirmed date.
NDB: Yeah, those are from Rodden as well.
CB: Okay, got it. All right, and so that’s the Rodden Rating System, and everybody really needs to memorize this because everybody should be using it. It is one of the standards that really good publications institute and continue like TMA, or The Mountain Astrologer magazine, for example. Whenever you have birth data, you have to give the birth data and you have to list the Rodden rating if it’s AA data or if it is B data or what in your footnotes.
NDB: Yeah, that was my point much earlier. I kind of disagree with having to give a rating but not the source. I don’t approve of using the rating as shorthand for quality. Without the source accompanying the rating, the rating is no authority. It’s a general authority; it needs to still be taken on a case-by-case basis. That’s just my two cents on that.
CB: Yeah, and I think that shows one of the flaws in the rating system. I personally would like to see a better rating system, for that reason as well as others, that’s more specific, but also does integrate those other levels of reliability, as well as indicating the source. Her primary thing here obviously seems to be categorizing the source whereas categorizing the reliability is almost a separate but connected thing as well.
NDB: Yeah, but it starts to get slippery; I agree with you in principle. I’m not sure if we need a new rating system so much as astrologers just need to be very, very aware of context, and that astrologers are prepared to deal with every new piece of data on its own merit and not just as part of the group of a rating system. I think it can lead to some lazy thinking I guess is my point.
CB: Sure. All right, so that’s the Rodden Rating System and Astro-Databank in general. And at this point, there’s some pros and cons in terms of Astro-Databank. I mean, there’s some things that they do extremely well, like the fact that they post the entire database online for free at this point, and anyone can access it from anywhere in the world and you don’t have to pay anything.
Additionally, they use the Rodden Rating System in order to give a rating and give sources for birth times. It’s not just some random time that’s given with no source which is typical of some other websites, but it actually tells you where it comes from and how it was obtained for the most part with varying levels of detail depending on the entry and who collected it. But there’s still some areas where Astro-Databank has room for improvement either internally, or in order to continue to move this field forward in terms of the general study and process and practice of data collection where other databases could perhaps innovate.
So for example, one of the things that annoys me is that there’s generally no submission dates on sources so that if you look at, especially some of the older entries, you don’t know when that birth time was obtained or submitted to the database, either in terms of being entered in the database itself or sometimes even just in terms of when it was collected by the person. So sometimes it mentions a date but in other instances it doesn’t. It doesn’t seem to be a standard thing that’s commonly done, to list the submission date.
NDB: A lot of times, the collection date is mentioned when it was known. I think when it’s not mentioned it’s just that the person didn’t submit it with the data. As for knowing when data is entered into the database, there is a history tab on the Astro-Databank website; that is actually quite easy to determine. One can track the whole history of a piece of data within the Astro-Databank system: how long it’s been there, how often it’s been modified, how it’s been modified. That’s all very easy to monitor for any Astro-Databank editor.
CB: Right, just in terms of new or recent entries. I guess I was referring primarily to some of the older ones. For example, we ran into this with Hillary Clinton’s birth time or with Jeb Bush’s time where there’s different times listed there but it’s not at all clear when the people that asked them the time, when they collected those times, or how spaced out they were, or anything like that that would give additional context and information about how the data was collected and when it was collected and how reliable it was in some sense.
NDB: I think that’s good, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a failure on Astro-Databank’s part. Those are oversights that were made before the data arrived at Astro-Databank.
CB: Sure. But that’s a good point, and I realize you can look at the backend, but it might just be useful to make that more–the sources section itself typically tends to be kind of a jumble of several paragraphs. And when there’s a new thing that’s added, they just add a new line or a new paragraph, so that it’s not really formatted very well in terms of the chronology of when different sections were done typically; maybe I’m just not looking at more recent entries.
I mean, I realize some of that’s in the background and you can look at it in the Wiki, but it might just be nicer in terms of the average users’ use of just going to the page itself and taking a look at it–if it was clear when there were different shifts in terms of different data being obtained at different points–and it was more of a chronology of the history of the collection of this birth data rather than just a jumble of different times from different people that looks like it was all added there almost at the same time.
NDB: I’m not a hundred percent sure that your average user can access the history actually.
CB: No, they can if they look at like the history tab. I guess it’s just not clear why that’s not automatically done on the page itself, and why the page itself is just like a huge paragraph.
PW: New time is being submitted from here going on. Perhaps that could be something that Astro-Databank can work out, like write when it was submitted.
NDB: That is required with new submissions.
PW: Excellent, excellent, that’s great.
NDB: No, that’s definitely required. These oversights, it’s like everything else, this is incomplete information; we’re working with the best that we have. But certainly, any new submission to Astro-Databank, a date is required. Certainly, any piece of data I’ve acquired I’ve always submitted the date and circumstances of how I obtained it. Yeah, it’s very important for any collector to include that information.
CB: Sure. So other than that one of the things that they are starting to institute and is changing that’s nice is that a lot of the older entries rarely include the original documents–if there was a document being cited that they were using in order to corroborate the sources– and they are starting to integrate this into Astro-Databank over the past few years, although there’s still just tons and tons of entries where we need more of this. And I think it’s more of an opportunity where the technology has changed so much in the past 10 years where we now have the opportunity to do it; I really don’t see why we’re not.
I think that this would be the way forward over the course of the next century, which is you not just go up and ask somebody the time. If you have an audio recording, or if you had a video that you happened to have–if a friend was taking a video of you at the time you were asking somebody their birth time–or if you had the picture of the actual newspaper article that you found the birth time or something like that, any related media that can be attached in addition to just saying it and taking your word for it should be attached to the entry itself in order to provide additional confirmation that this is legitimate,
NDB: I agree. That would be great to be able to incorporate new media for new data collection. I do know for the existing collection, even a few years ago, back in 2012, Alois told me that Astro-Databank had scanned every single birth certificate that they have in the archive that comes from Lois Rodden’s archive. They’ve scanned them, so there are digital copies available.
I can easily answer why each and every one of those copies has not been included on the Wiki page. It’s because it’s simply too time-consuming for them to engage someone to do that. Any available time and energy spent on the database is, for the most part, updating it and taking care of that day-to-day maintenance. But the potential is there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point the Astro-Databank site doesn’t include, where possible, scanned images of every birth certificate or record that they’re quoting.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think it’ll be nice, and I’m sure we‘ll continue to see that over the next century. It’ll be interesting to see how databases continue to grow and develop in the future now that we can do things like that, like if Patrick had a friend holding a cell phone and just recording a video of him going up and asking John Kerry what time he was born, and John Kerry giving him this weird look and replying and saying around sunrise. That’s additionally important because one of the things that’s missing oftentimes from these entries is context…
CB: …and this separate, subtle, implicit thing about how reliable does the source appear to have been according to other metrics or other metrics that might be very subtle. Was the person sneering and look like they just came up with some time off the top of their head, or did they stop and think about it and then appear to very genuinely tell you such-and-such time?
That to me seems like it might be more relevant when we’re running into issues–especially when it comes to people like politicians who may not want to give you the accurate birth time, or who may actually want to give you a not reliable birth time–just in terms of understanding the whole interaction that took place in the process of trying to obtain the birth time and that providing anybody who subsequently wants to use that time some additional information about how reliable it may be.
CB: So things like that would be nice. Unfortunately, one of the things that’s a loss is not having the features that the old program had so that we can’t search that database as easily. Although that’s something that you’re trying to do with your database, Nick, in terms of building it in Solar Fire so that it is searchable.
NDB: Yeah, but that’s something that’s just sort of in my hands. And indeed, the general public is not able to search the Astro-Databank site for things like who’s got Sun square Mars or who’s got Jupiter in Pisces and that kind of stuff.
PW: It’s very limited, you can see like…
NDB: There are few, yeah.
PW: …if you have the Sun at 15 Cancer. If you’re looking at a specific chart then at the very bottom of page, you can sometimes get a couple of planetary positions. I think it’s just the Sun and the Moon, the Ascendant or something like that; it’s very limited.
NDB: The year of death, the vocation, things like that.
NDB: The year of birth. Yeah, there’s a few categories like that but not much. That is a loss and it’s really valuable. But in order for me to have the database I do, it’s just taken daily maintenance. It takes a lot of maintenance because stuff is being updated all the time.
And yeah, I transferred a lot of data from the old software into my Solar Fire, and then when new data gets added, I add that into my Solar Fire database and keep track of it there. And so, I can do all that fun stuff that people could do with the old software, and I definitely set myself up so that I would be able to do that. And there’s things that Solar Fire does that the old Astro-Databank software couldn’t, so I even have more options than people did, but that’s a lot of work.
CB: Yeah, and I’ve had to do a similar thing when I was trying to do a research project on the rulers of the houses and interpreting them. I wanted to be able to search a database of, let’s say, everybody that had the ruler of the 10th house in the 7th house and show me everybody that has that chart. I had to rebuild my own database in Solar Fire of timed reliable charts just so I could search for those placements.
But it would be nice in the long term. Hopefully, someday there’ll be a similar program to what the old Astro-Databank program used to be that incorporates both a huge database of accurate data that you can filter in different ways, with the ability to cast and generate the charts so as to pick out specific placements.
NDB: You know what I hope? You know what my fantasy is? I hope that astrology can merge with genetics and that we somehow find a way to determine a person’s time of birth from their DNA, and we could even exhume bodies and find the horoscopes of many important historical figures because it can be retroactively determined through DNA. That’s my fantasy. That’s a pure fantasy, but, boy, would I love that to happen.
CB: All right. That sounds like a Michael Crichton novel, but yeah, maybe someday we’ll see.
PW: Horoscope Park.
NDB: Yeah, or do the horoscopes of dinosaurs. Sure, why not?
CB: All right. So the very last thing that would be nice also is that some people have pointed out recently, for example, Demetrius Bagley has put out some feelers about starting a project to collect more birth data for African-American and for black individuals just because he felt like there was a lack of data for black individuals in Astro-Databank; either that there was a lack or that it wasn’t categorized very well so that you could sift through it and identify black Americans with certain placements or what have you.
To some extent that’s true for other under reported groups like gays and lesbians, or people that identify with different genders or different sexual orientations and things like that. There’s all sorts of other categorizations that it would be nice to be able to use as filters in order to just do different types of studies in astrology with different types of birth charts.
NDB: Yeah, I think the thing that Demetrius is touching on is not specific at all to the category of being African-American in the database. A lot of those categories are not applied. They’re not thoroughly applied; they all need to be streamlined. I mean, things like sexual orientation, there are some people who that is a category in Astro-Databank but not everyone who is gay or lesbian is necessarily included in that category. Whoever entered the data might have overlooked adding that category, and the same thing goes for African-Americans.
I know a few months ago, Demetrius pointed out, “Hey, Richard Pryor’s not included.” He’s an African-American in the database. I think that was one of the first ones that we noticed, and so I went and changed that. But yeah, the thing about the database is that it does need to be updated and those standards need to be applied thoroughly and not just in places; that’s definitely true.
CB: Sure. So those are just some areas to grow and develop in the future. And despite any of these issues, Astro-Databank is still the only game in town, and it’s still hugely important and a positive influence on the community. So astrologers generally owe them a great deal of gratitude for everything that they have done and continue to do with that program in keeping it out there and available for free and keeping it maintained for astrologers to use and to draw on.
NDB: Indeed. Why don’t we get onto how people can obtain birth data…
NDB: …because we need to grow this.
CB: All right. So yeah, one of the things we wanted to do with these show is we wanted to get people interested in birth data collection. Because one of the issues that Patrick and I were talking about a few weeks ago is that it really seems to me like some of the newer and younger generations of astrologers are not as good or active about collecting birth times from notable figures as the older generations seem to have been.
And so, we have a lot of birth data for people that were celebrities or famous people from the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s, and maybe even into the ‘90s, but it’s starting to drop off pretty dramatically, and that’s because there aren’t younger people that are out there doing this. And by younger people, I’m including Pluto in Sagittarius and Scorpio and Virgo and Libra, pretty much people into their 40s and 50s at this point.
And the younger generation, anybody under the Pluto and Leo generation haven’t quite been as active–with some notable exceptions like yourself Nick, or like Frank Clifford or Sy Scofield–about collecting birth data in a large group as I think they could. So we wanted to spur some of that and get people interested and involved in the process of data collection as a community effort and give you some tips for doing that.
So what are, Patrick, some different sources for birth times? Where can people get birth times from, or what are the core sources?
PW: Well, if you’re looking for a birth certificate produced by the state then you’re going to first have to find the state where the person was born. And you’re going to have to find out the county where they were born because sometimes the birth certificates are only available from the state, sometimes they’re only available from the county, and so that can be a way that you can obtain birth certificates. However, if you’re looking for birth certificates in the United States then there are only certain states in which you can apply as someone who isn’t related to the person who you’re trying to find the birth certificate for.
In the United States, at least, they have what we call ‘open’ or ‘closed’ states. A closed state is a place where access is restricted to the person themselves, or their legal representative, or their guardian, or their family, their parents. So these states, it’s basically a no-go, unless the person has been dead for a certain amount of time, or it’s 125 years past the point of birth. Every state has their own policies; you can’t get into those states.
There’s about 16 open US states, and open states are where someone who isn’t related to the person you’re looking for can get an uncertified copy. That’s kind of an important point. You’re not looking for a certified copy, you’re looking for an uncertified copy. All that means is it’s not useful in a legal sense; it’s just a document that has the information that is on the birth certificate. So those states in the United States are California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
CB: So all of those are open states where if you know somebody that was born in one of those states, you can order a copy of their birth certificate which hopefully contains their birth time from some official government-affiliated organization.
NDB: Correct, but there’s always a caveat because within those open states there’s still different standards. Washington state, for instance, sure it’s open, but they weren’t recording birth times at all until 1967 or ‘68, something like that; so there’s a lot of people, even though Washington’s open, we can’t get a birth time. Minnesota is open, but you have to have the mother’s maiden name, whereas Vermont is very easy no matter what. Massachusetts is relatively easy; so even within the states it varies.
PW: Yeah. Like if you wanted to try to get a birth time today–if you know someone who is born in one of those states–you can go to vitalchek.com; that’s probably one of the most common sites that US states and counties use. They partner with this service which basically does all the bureaucratic stuff for you, but you do have to pay. There’s usually fees associated even if you were dealing with the vital statistics office directly, but VitalChek kind of acts like a middleman.
And their services can cost–I’ve seen the prices be pretty wild. They can be anywhere from my 20–that would be really low– to 80, and it’s usually more than 20. I mean, most times I’ve tried to do it, it’s been in the 30-plus range. And as Nick said, you do sometimes need extra information like the middle name of the person you’re looking for and the actual first name–sometimes celebrities and politicians go by nicknames–but you really do need the full name; and then sometimes you need the full names of the parents, including the maiden name of the mother at times. There’s another state I think where they require that, not just Minnesota. I’m trying to think of what that is.
CB: VitalChek is the primary private organization that the government uses to hire out orders for birth certificates at this point, right?
PW: Yeah. There are some other sites, but I think VitalChek is actually doing direct business with these vital statistics offices. Now when you start ordering a birth certificate from them, you often have to provide a reason. So if you’re doing it from an open state then sometimes they’ll ask you why you’re searching for a given certificate. So you have to select the option that says ‘informational’ or ‘research’ or ‘genealogical’, and you also have to make sure you’re requesting an uncertified copy.
And sometimes you have to send additional information. Sometimes you have to send a state ID, like your driver’s licence by fax, which is just crazy in 2015 that anyone is sending anything by fax; like what am I, a sorcerer? You have to go to the library; you actually have to set foot in a place with books and actually do the thing with the fax.
Yeah, so that’s really annoying. It’s set up to be extremely obnoxious most of the time, unless you can actually walk in. But even when I tried to collect Scott Brown’s birth date in Massachusetts–which was stupid because he’s actually born in Maine; I don’t know why he’s born in Massachusetts–it was like trying to hit a really small target. It’s only open on certain days, at certain times for a small amount of time, and if you’re not far enough ahead in the line then don’t get in; they’re pretty cagey about it.
But if you familiarize yourself with all these rules in the given state you’re dealing with then it can be a somewhat smooth process. Some states are less slower than others; I know that New Jersey has a very slow turnaround time. If you want to find a list of all the US birth certificate policies, there’s actually a handbook on Astro-Databank, on the Wiki, if you type in ‘Astro-Databank Handbook Chapter 7’.
NDB: Data Collector’s Handbook. Yeah, it gives you…
PW: Yeah, we’ll make sure we put that link in the description for this podcast so you can click on it. But sorry, Nick, go ahead.
NDB: Just they have in that Data Collector’s Handbook a list of all the different states, which ones are open, which ones are not, and what their general policies have been; although that list does need to be updated. 9/11 did change some things. That list was written before 9/11, so it does need to be taken with a grain of salt; although it is basically in my experience up to date.
CB: So people can just do a Google search for ‘Astro-Databank Handbook’ and it’ll come up pretty high.
NDB: Yeah, Data Collector’s Handbook.
PW: And it’s Chapter 7. There’s a lot of good information in there, but Chapter 7 is the one that has all the different US state certificate policies.
NDB: Now, of course, this is American data, not everyone we need is American. Being from Canada, I can tell you that I don’t know of anywhere in Canada where you have an open province, where you can apply for someone’s birth certificate if you’re not actually that person or in their family. And Canada is also really uneven in terms of who records birth times and who doesn’t. I can’t claim to know the absolute rules around all of that, but it doesn’t seem to be terribly consistent. Even within the same cities, it might be something that varies from hospital to hospital.
CB: And in terms of other countries?
NDB: In terms of other countries, Europe for the most part records birth certificates with a couple of exceptions. Most of Great Britain does not, although, Watson, you have a birth time on your birth certificate which is really unusual for England, I have to say.
PW: Interesting. I had no idea.
NDB: Yeah, I used to work for a UK-based astrology service, so I’ve done a lot of British horoscopes. Unless they’re born in Scotland–Scotland, bless their hearts, they record their birth times religiously–but everyone else, if they’re English, Welsh, or Irish, chances are it’s not recorded which is really unfortunate.
Some of this seems to come down to Napoleon. Countries conquered by Napoleon were subject to Napoleonic law which required birth times be recorded on birth certificates. Hence, the other really bad country for astrologers is Russia because Napoleon wasn’t quite so successful there.
CB: That’s a bit of an understatement.
NDB: A bit of an understatement. On the subject of Napoleon, I have gotten a roomful of British astrologers to agree that it is a shame that Wellington beat him because if he hadn’t… That’s quite a feat to get a bunch of British people to admit that it’s a shame Napoleon didn’t conquer them.
CB: We would have recorded birth times.
NDB: We would have recorded birth times. So Russia, and for the most part, Great Britain are not that reliable. The other countries in Europe, most of which were conquered by Napoleon at some point do record birth times; some of them are open, some of them are not. For instance, I used to live in the Netherlands, and even though Dutch birth certificates record birth times, you cannot access them unless you happen to be the person or someone close enough to do it.
And I believe the same is true for Germany from what I understand, although it might be a bit more varied there as well. France does seem to be available in that Gauquelin was able to obtain birth certificates for his research, as you mentioned, Chris. And even more recently, more contemporary French astrologers have shown that they seem to be able to get birth certificates when they want them.
PW: And you would think Astrotheme would have it more together then.
NDB: Right, irony abounds; but yeah, France seems to be pretty solid. When it comes to other European countries, I’ve never tried. I don’t know who’s open and who isn’t, but I do know in general, they do record birth times on birth certificates there.
PW: Oh, I actually just thought of another country that records birth times, and that’s India.
NDB: Well, that’s not surprising.
PW: It’s culturally-enshrined. I mean, that’s a huge deal; I just thought of that.
CB: I don’t know–does Australia record birth times?
PW: They must.
CB: I think they do.
NDB: Yeah, we seem to have a lot of Australian data. Again, I’ve never tried personally to obtain any, but we seem to have a lot. It seems to be possible for Australians to get Australian birth certificates, so I’m going to go with the presumption that it’s open. Again, it might be something more like the United States or Canada where different regions, different hospitals, different provinces, what have you, have different rules; that’s always a possibility.
PW: I might be just speaking completely out of turn here, but I would also venture to guess that countries in Africa, if they were previously French colonies, there might be a greater chance that they might record birth times, and then in places where they were formally English colonies, they may not.
NDB: A.K.A. Canada.
PW: Right. And then I’ve never tried to get birth times from Asia. I have no idea what Japan and China are like.
NDB: Me neither.
CB: Well, I think some of that’s listed on Astro-Databank. But hopefully, some of our listeners can chime in, in the comments section and let us know if they happen to know if birth times are recorded in their country or in their area, and if they know if they can be accessed openly or if there’s restricted access.
PW: What about South America?
CB: I don’t think–I was looking into what’s his name, the head of Tesla.
NDB: He’s Croatian.
CB: No, he is not. He’s from South Africa.
NDB: South Africa, Elon Musk, yeah.
CB: Yeah, Elon Musk.
NDB: I just tweeted him the other day asking his birth time but he didn’t respond.
CB: Okay, that’s surprising. Yeah, so I think they said that they were not recorded and if they are that it’s heavily restricted.
PW: Oh, I actually meant South America.
NDB: Yeah, he said South America.
CB: Sorry, I misheard it.
NDB: Yeah, I’m not sure about South America. Brazil seems to have a pretty strong astrological community and people from there do seem to know what time they’re born. So it seems like they’re recorded, but whether or not they’re obtainable is not known to me.
PW: Yeah, that’s not known.
CB: Sure. Well, hopefully that’s something like I said that people can write in and let us know and we can start expanding our horizons and knowledge about.
CB: Okay, so that’s kind of how it’s done in terms of collecting birth data.
PW: Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I just wanted to point out that Chapter 7.2 has information about different countries; not a ton but a bunch…
PW: …of countries in Europe, so there is that.
CB: Excellent. Okay, so yeah, the primary route that you want to try and go is to get the birth certificate if you can. If you can’t, other options are looking for announcements of the birth, for example, sometimes newspaper announcements will carry a birth time; interviews with the person or newspaper profiles; a baby book. So for example, one of the presidential times for–who took over for Nixon? I’m blanking on his name?
NDB: Gerald Ford.
CB: Gerald Ford, we have his birth time from his baby book.
NDB: Yes, that’s right.
CB: And that was in Astro-Databank, but I wanted to follow up on it to confirm it. So I actually wrote to the Gerald Ford Library where they carry all of his documents, like documents throughout his life, and they were actually able to send me a picture of that page of his baby book that had the exact birth time recorded in it. So baby books, biographies and autobiographies are really great sources for this.
Facebook and different social media accounts, you can sometimes have direct interactions with either celebrities or other notable people, or at least people that are working for them, you can ask them directly through those things. What are some other good sources or other things I didn’t mention?
NDB: I do like Twitter. I haven’t had any success with it yet, but I do like the idea of it in terms of reaching out to people who are really unattainable, someone like Elon Musk. Who knows? He could’ve answered, it could’ve happened. The chances were slim, but I can’t think of any other way to reach him.
PW: There’s also Reddit AMAs which are forums, open forums which a given famous person might take on, and they basically field all these different questions. That’s almost better than Twitter because they’re actually online and they actually are looking for questions to answer. The hard part is knowing when one is happening.
For example, there was an AMA with Bernie Sanders which would have been a perfect opportunity for someone or a bunch of people to have plugged him with the same question and he would have seen it. He would have read it, and he would have been aware of it enough to perhaps answer, so that’s another one.
Another thing I wanted to point out about Facebook is in the future, I imagine that astrologers will be able to mine the social media accounts of the parents of the person they’re looking for because so many people post the time. And even if they don’t say the time, the time of the post would eliminate certain possibilities. If the post happened early in the morning and they have said, “They were born today,” then you know that the birth time could only be in the morning, and it would have to be before a certain time because it would have happened before that post.
Yeah, so it’s kind of interesting. I mean, in some ways, data collection in the future looks like it could be easier in some ways.
CB: Yeah, definitely. I think people probably will have better luck shooting for lower-level celebrities with things like Twitter and Facebook where the celebrity themselves is not getting inundated with hundreds of thousands of tweets each day and is still managing their own account directly. But certainly, sometimes, you never know, it’s always worth a shot.
And the thing that astrologers–actually the younger generation–have to start getting into the mindset of is just taking shots and giving it a chance and seeing if it works because that was what the older generation was doing, except they were going up to people in person, or they were calling or…
PW: …writing letters. I think that probably explains a lot of why data collection has kind of gone down. I think, especially celebrities, they’re much more insulated and cloistered today than they were previously. People don’t really write letters anymore and e-mails are easy to ignore and tweets are easy to ignore. If someone’s taken the time to write you a letter, you’re more likely to write back. And I think there have been some cultural changes which have accompanied these changes in the way we communicate. I think it’s made it harder in some ways to get a real response from someone.
NDB: I was going to chime in just to go back a bit. My most recent successful acquisition of valuable birth data was Nate Silver who was doing a Q&A forum on Facebook. Demetrius actually wrote me and said, “Hey, Nate Silver’s doing a Q&A forum right now,” and I just went to the forum, asked him what time he was born, and in less than 10 minutes, I had an answer. So that’s another example of what we’re describing, the things that are available today that were not available back in the days of letter-writing.
As for diligence, I can say I once waited outside in the rain for over three hours for Elvis Costello to walk out of a concert venue in the pouring rain just to ask him what time he was born, and only to have him tell me dismissively that he had no idea and jump in his limousine and take off, so that kind of thing that can happen. I’ve had a number of celebrities just look at me blankly and tell me they don’t have a clue.
And it takes a lot to work up the nerve to ask someone, and the odds are good that you won’t be successful, but it’s worth it to just keep trying. 10 shots at it might only get you one result, but that one result, you’ll be happy you have it when you get it.
CB: Yeah. Another funny story to go along with that, back in 2010. It’s timely; he just retired the last Daily Show on Friday.
NDB: Oh yeah.
CB: Back in 2010, some astrologer in the audience attending a Daily Show taping asked Jon Stewart his birth time, and Jon Stewart actually referred to it on the air in that show.
NDB: He made a joke about his mother’s vagina not having a clock on it.
CB: Yeah, I have the transcript because I wrote a blog article about it at the time. It was so funny that was like some astrologer trying to get the birth time, and you know as soon as you hear that why they were asking…
CB: …as astrologers we know. But Jon Stewart says on the show, “I had the greatest question I’ve ever had in the audience today. A gentleman stood up and very quietly said, ‘What time were you born?’ Now I don’t know if your mother’s vagina had a clock in it, but I obviously was born in the early 1960s, because back then it was just sundials.” And then he whispers, “I have no idea what time I was born. How the hell should I know?” and that was the end.
So that was like a failure, but it was still somebody taking a shot. And even though they got turned down, at least we took the shot. We know now at least that he at this point doesn’t know what time he was born, at least personally.
NDB: Yeah. And the greatest shame is even though he grew up in New Jersey where birth times are available and recorded and open, he was born in New York City where it’s restricted and we’ll never be able to access the records ourselves, at least not while he’s alive and probably sometime afterward.
CB: Yeah, New York is the worst in terms of being a closed state because so many people are from New York and it’s locked up pretty tight.
NDB: Yeah, Michigan is another tough one. Good luck with Michigan. Good luck with Illinois.
PW: I’m reminded of a story. I went to see a show with Ben Folds, the musician, the pianist…
PW: …and I stayed after the concert to where he would be coming out. I got him to sign my book of his songs and I asked him, “Mr. Folds, when you were born?” and he said, “Oh, I don’t know. They don’t issue birth certificates in Kenya,” but then he went on. He actually told me that he knew he was born 12 PM or 12 AM but he wasn’t sure which one it was. And he said that he actually went to an astrologer and tried to get them to rectify his chart. I mean, here I am like gobsmacked because I never thought I’d be talking to one of my…
PW: …about astrology. But yeah, he told me all this stuff about how he was trying to get his birth time figured out, and how the astrologer told him that if he was one time that he would be famous but not wealthy, and then with the other time he would be wealthy but not really successful. And he wasn’t really sure which interpretation made sense to him, although he had an inclination about one.
But I thought it was just really interesting; you really don’t know what will happen if you actually ask them. Sometimes they’ll be really responsive and actually you tell you that they’ve actually thought about it. I said, “Don’t you have a birth certificate?” and he said, “No, I have no idea where it is.”
NDB: It happens. Yeah, I was lucky. My favorite musical artists in the whole world–this band called Fugazi–I was fortunate enough to get to ask all four members of that band what time they were born, and all four of them knew. Well, three out of four of them–one of them was a little too busy–but the other three were actually interested in discussing it, one after the other. It was a great night in my life, and it was not long before they broke up a couple weeks later. So you get moments like that that are amazing connections with people you would have no other reason to approach for conversation.
PW: Right. I mean, hey, that’s one reason for the younger generation to get with data collection, you get to talk to celebrities. Come on, it’s a good story. You get John Kerry to glare at you. You get Secret Service people to look at you like they’re getting ready to get their guns out.
CB: Yeah, I asked a presidential candidate recently within the past year, and the Secret Service guys got real nervous like right about the time that question came out of my mouth. I realized it was time to be very careful and wrap it up, but I got an answer. Anyway, every astrologer listening to this, whatever generation you’re from, needs to get in the mindset of collecting birth data.
It’s going to be hard. It’s not an easy thing. It takes practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And every once in a while, you’ll be successful, and then you’ll have a new piece of birth data to play with and to test and potentially to share with other people, so that you contribute to this community effort that’s been going on for over 2,000 years now.
So let’s start to wrap this up by addressing and bringing it back to the topic that we skipped over which was the ethics of birth time collection. It’ll be kind of a weird area to end this on, but what are the ethics of collecting birth times from people, or from celebrities, or from notable people? It almost seems like kind of an ethical gray area in some way. What do you guys think?
PW: People have the right to know.
NDB: The one time where I think it’s kind of gray is people who have not sought fame but it sort of landed on them. If someone’s a movie star or a politician then, no, I’m sorry, I don’t respect your privacy enough to not look for your time of birth. When it comes to other areas, I wouldn’t say don’t pursue it, but pursue with compassion and sensitivity.
If someone’s child has just been murdered, you don’t want to write that person the next day and ask them what time the child was born, things like that. Or even with grown adults and something not as serious as death but traumatic enough that you’ve got a human being who’s going through a traumatic experience, you don’t want to be adding to their misery with your, to them, pointless questions.
But at the same time, my metric for this is we should be operating on the same code as journalists. Lois Rodden was coming from a journalistic perspective; I approach astrology from a journalistic perspective. For the most part, you’re out to get information. And if someone’s picture can be printed in a newspaper or online in a news story then your finding their time of birth is a relatively small infraction or intrusion compared to what they’re already going through.
So I think it’s all relative, but there certainly are instances where an astrologer could be doing someone harm or at least traumatizing someone unnecessarily by pursuing this. And I would say that that requires thought, if nothing else, some thought in how thought can modify your behavior in that regard.
CB: Sure, so just don’t be a jerk, basically.
NDB: Don’t be a jerk. Yeah, I’d say that’s the easiest way to put it. Go for it, but don’t be a jerk.
PW: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s not just the mere collection of it though, I think a large part of it too is what’s done with it. I guess it is sort of depends. If you’re looking for the data of a killer, and they haven’t gone through the trial yet that actually determines, yes, they’re guilty, even if it’s a case like the Aurora shooter or something…
CB: Whose data we did actually go out of our way to obtain and were successful in.
PW: Yeah, we actually do have his data. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if you try to analyze his chart in terms of the day that he killed a ton of people and discussing the terrible allegations against him of the terrible things that he did. But especially in politics, especially if–sorry, I’m having trouble with my words here.
If an astrologer had a personal feeling about a candidate, and then they use the birth time in order to advance a political viewpoint as opposed to trying to actually demonstrate or discover something astrologically pertinent to that person, then I’m not sure that’s the absolute best use of getting the birth time.
Say it was a more sensitive case, maybe even in a private individual, and someone used the birth time to justify an excoriating view of something that they perceived this person did which is awful and terrible. I just think there could be bad ways in which…
NDB: What you’re describing is something I think that astrologers could conceivably fall in–a trap they could fall into even if they weren’t specifically collecting data.
CB: I’m sure, just in terms of misuses of astrology.
PW: Yeah, fair enough.
CB: Yeah. You mentioned the Aurora shooter for example, and I remember when we got that because I think I told Nick. I noticed that he was born in California–which we knew to be an open state–even though he did the shootings in Aurora, which is actually my hometown, which was one of the things that made it personal and sort of interesting for me beyond just the usual new story or tragedy.
NDB: That’s right. And I sent Kenneth Miller over to obtain that in person, so I wouldn’t have to wait for it in the mail.
CB: Right, he went to the office directly.
NDB: He went to the office and got us the record, and I put on Astro-Databank. I mean, we’re talking about a killer. Again, this is where it sort of gets a little gets gray.
CB: And I wasn’t using that to justify it. I was saying that, from a technical standpoint, that’s a really unique moment in time and a unique thing to have done. I was curious from a purely technical and conceptual standpoint what that looked like in his chart because I thought it could teach me something about astrology and about the nature of astrology, and how to look at different people’s charts and understand what their motivation is, or why they would do certain things.
And it’s become one of my stock examples of one of the original conditions of maltreatment because he actually had this very difficult, very potentially negative condition in his birth chart, which is one of the seven original conditions of affliction or maltreatment which were a highly specific thing. So it actually worked out and ended up being a very interesting and useful example for me to learn something about astrology.
And despite all of the privacy and other ethical issues that might come up when it comes to birth data collection as a general thing, I think the underlying thing for birth data collectors and for astrologers in terms of our justification has to be that what we’re primarily doing here is trying to expand our understanding of astrology and do additional field research on this subject; and what we need in order to continue to expand our understanding of the subject is birth times.
NDB: Yeah, so go for it, folks.
CB: Do you guys feel like that’s worthwhile? Is that a sufficient justification for the ethical or other privacy issues that are raised by birth data collection?
NDB: I think that’s often the motivation–what you outlined right there with that shooter–is to further understanding of astrology. It goes hand-in-hand with how topical a story is and how sensational a story is. Someone who’s a mass murderer like that, everyone just immediately wants to tear into the case. And so, that enthusiasm can sometimes inspire some people to overreact or behave in ways that maybe they shouldn’t.
But for the most part, I think, well, yeah, the motivation’s absolutely sound. But I think that’s the reason that we’re always doing it–whether it’s someone who’s contemporary or some historical figure–it’s to understand it.
CB: Right. Exactly. Yeah, we don’t have to come into any hard and fast, finalized conclusions here when it comes to the ethics of this whole thing, aside from some of the conclusions we’ve come to here. But I hope that that can act as a useful starting point as this continues to grow and develop, and as some of the different advances in technology make birth data collection easier and astrologers can do more things with it over the next few decades, or over the next century.
And hopefully, this will at least act as a good starting point for that discussion about some of the broader issues connected with this. Yeah, so thanks to both of you for taking part in that with me, and for hopefully setting a good foundation for future generations of astrologers who engage in birth data collection.
NDB: Well, thanks for having us, Chris.
PW: Yeah, thank you for having us.
CB: All right. Did you guys have any final words before we sign off in terms of things you wanted to leave people with?
CB: Okay. Go ahead.
PW: Yeah, this isn’t like a final thought but it’s something I forgot to say. For example, with former Texas governor, Rick Perry’s birth time, we apparently received that birth time by someone calling the vital statistics office directly to Haskell, Texas and getting the time directly from the clerk.
Now Texas is a closed state, so for a long time, I thought that perhaps certain counties, or perhaps just in Texas that you can kind of play fast and loose with the law a bit like that, so I tried that. I tried that myself with Jeb Bush, who was born in Midland County, Texas, and I actually have the call recorded. But I just want to let you know, for anyone listening, they take invasions of privacy pretty seriously. They would not let me know Jeb Bush’s birth time just by calling and asking if they could check.
So number one, this sort of throws doubt on the idea that Rick Perry’s time is trustworthy now because I wasn’t able to replicate the feat of just calling in and getting it. But yeah, I just wanted to let you all know that calling Midland County’s vital statistics office will get you a big fat ‘no’. They won’t just look up anything for you.
NDB: Maybe you just get lucky with clerk to clerk. You get the ‘goody two shoes’ and then you get the person who’s disgruntled and about to quit their job anyway.
NDB: It might just be the luck of the moment.
CB: Well, you weren’t just asking for like any regular ‘Joe Schmoe’ either. I mean, you’re calling and asking for the birth certificate of the brother of the former President of the United States, so maybe that tipped them off a little bit as well.
PW: Right. Although the person who got the time for Rick Perry, I would imagine they might have had a similar reaction because they were the governor of the state and then a presidential candidate back in 2012.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good point.
NDB: Well, I once went into the Washington D.C. vital records office, I wanted the birth certificate for Duke Ellington, a jazz musician who was born in 1899. And I even paid the fee; there was no guarantee I would ever get it. And I waited, waited on the mail, and I never received it. And it always struck me as funny. Did they think I was going to try and use Duke Ellington’s birth certificate to pretend I was Duke Ellington?
PW: Identity theft.
NDB: Yeah, identity theft. So I sometimes wonder at things like that, like why it needs to be so tough; but it is, it can be.
CB: Well, yeah, I think the underlying thing here is just that birth data collection is something that’s like a specialty. It’s a specialized thing within astrology–and all three of us are into it–but it’s something that anybody can get into, and you just need to start learning some of the things that are involved with it. But it’s actually a really exciting, kind of addictive process once you get into it because you realize that it involves, like you said Nick, being sort of a reporter but also being like…
CB: …a detective. Yeah, because you’ve got to piece together clues and leads, and sometimes you run into dead-ends, and other times you get a tip and it takes you somewhere you didn’t expect. So there’s this interesting research aspect of it, but the pay-off is always finding a birth chart.
NDB: So good, so good, those moments when you find a solid piece of data, you live for those moments; it’s great.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s what we all live for, and like I said, then you’ve got something new you can work with in terms of looking at the chart and expanding your knowledge of astrology and of the world in general, and you’ve also potentially contributed something to the greater field. And who knows? That may be the piece of birth data that somebody 2,000 years from now is using as an example chart in their Astrology 101 class, and it’s just because you were this person living at this time in history, and you happen to be able to access the birth data at that time and you took that opportunity.
So everybody listening to this should take that as sort of a call to action to take those opportunities, so that we can not be the generation of slackers that didn’t get any good birth data for a few decades, but instead we revived the practice and were able to contribute to the body of knowledge as a result of it.
CB: All right. Great. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today, guys, and we’ll have to have you on again at some point soon.
NDB: All right.
CB: All right. Well, thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.