I grew up in Washington County, Maine, where high school basketball was everything. Growing up, there was always a game on the radio, and I played on rec league teams all throughout my childhood. My dad would drive me to practice and we would bang our heads listening to “Paradise City,” by Guns ‘n Roses. The annual high school tournament in Bangor, Maine was a colossal occasion. In the Bangor Civic Center, thousands of Mainers gather to watch the teenage players duke it out, to the raucous squeaks of teenage marching bands. My sister and I would eat tubes of Italian Ice and butter popcorn from the concession stand.
During my teen years I resented basketball – When my other peers started hitting their growth spurts, I lost my competitive edge and never recovered. The girl’s locker room was the setting for many of my most embarrassing teenage social faux pas. And the competitive atmosphere was too much for me at the time – I was too miserable about puberty to get invested in athletics.
When my best friend Josie stopped playing basketball, I decided to stop too. Never looked back. Except for my life long dream of being in a queer basketball pickup league. Except for my love of Pistol Shrimps Radio during college. Except for the fact that the Dennis Rodman episode of the Last Dance was the piece of art that defined my summer. And except for the other day, when my friend came over for me to read her birth chart, and I found myself asking over and over – “Do you care about Basketball?”
As far as a sports analogy goes, basketball is an excellent way to think about how birth charts work. A birth chart is a map of the way energy moves through a person during their lifetime – the energy is the ball.
Chani Nicholas talks about the planets that are “on your team,” when she describes which planets to pay special attention to in your chart. If you were born during the day, your team is the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn; At night, the Moon, Venus and Mars. Mercury breaks the analogy a little bit, but you can think of it this way: in high school sports, if one team doesn’t have enough players for a full game, they borrow someone from the other team. That’s how Mercury works too – they can be the wind beneath your wings or a spitball launched at your face, depending on the day.
Aspects are a really important part of the birth chart, and act as the first defense against a, “I know plenty of Capricorns and they’re nothing alike!” argument. Aspects are the relationships between the planets in the chart, based on where they all landed at the moment you were born.
On the court of a birth chart, where planets are in relationship to one another determines how easy it is to pass energy between them. Sometimes the angle is too close, and passing maybe wouldn’t do very much good – in Astrology, there is tension between the signs that are directly adjacent to each other (Gemini might feel frustrated by Taurus and Cancer). Sometimes, you have the perfect angle to pass with a teammate who you know you can count on – like if you were on the Sun team, and your Saturn was just two signs over from you (Gemini to Leo, for example, would be an ally-oop). Sometimes it seems like you have a good angle, like an opposition in a birth chart, when one planet is directly across the Karmic Wheel from you (Gemini and Sagittarius). But, just because it looks easy doesn’t mean it is. The distance between the two players is pretty wide, and over relying on that connection is going to take a lot of energy, and leave some players out.
Thinking about your birth chart like it’s a basketball game puts the movement of energy in the center of the conversation. I think a lot of people think that astrology is a prophecy or an explanation of the personality – and I’m just a hobbyist, and would defer to people who have studied more than me to make those arguments. But my take has always been that the birth chart actually doesn’t really say anything about who you are. It just shows what energy you’re working with. It presents a way of thinking about how you might respond to situations that you’re in. Just like how sports work! You just play the game to the best of your ability until the buzzer goes off – or your best friend takes the season off, and you decide to join her and the concession stand popcorn on the sidelines.
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