Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 12, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2007

The Astrologer’s Handbook, Frances Sakoian & Louis S. Acker. Quill (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers); NY, USA. 1973. 461 pages. $16.00 USD.


The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, Joanna Martine Woolfolk. Scarborough House Publishers, Lanham, MD, USA. 1990. p. 461. $18.95 USD.

reviews by Samuel Scarborough

Astrology is one of the arts in the Western Mystery Tradition that has the single most books and literature written about it. The problem for the new person that is interested in astrology soon becomes apparent simply by going to your local esoteric bookstore or Barnes & Nobles. You are inundated and overwhelmed by the volume of books on the shelves in these places. What do you do?

Well, in this review, I am going to discuss two books on astrology that are a big help to the beginning astrology student, as well as the advanced astrologer. To start off with, I would like to discuss The Astrologer’s Handbook by Frances Sakoian and Louis S. Acker. This book is broken into two parts; Part I: Basic Astrology, which covers the first eight chapters of the book. The remaining eight chapters are in Part II: Interpreting the Aspects.

As can be seen in the first part of the book, the very basics of what astrology is and how its used is covered. The writers start by explaining astrology to the beginner. In chapter two they move on to what to do in basic chart calculations such as the procedure, the information needed to make the calculations, and the references that you would need, except for an ephemeris. Chapter three covers what the Sun Signs mean, while in chapter four the authors look at how the rising sign or ascendant colors the chart. After this they cover the Houses of the chart and how they relate to the reading in chapter five, which is followed by a detailed explanation of what the meaning of the planets are in the various Houses of the chart in chapter six.

This first section of The Astrologer’s Handbook explains how to look at the overall basic aspects of what the houses and planets represent and mean in a reading. In the second section of the book, the authors cover the more details parts of astrology; Aspecting. Aspecting is how the various planets relate to one another in the different houses of the chart. Just as in the beginning of the first section of the book, Sakoian and Acker cover the general rules for the material presented in this section. The first things that they cover are the general rules for integrating and interpreting Aspects in a chart. This is followed by a detailed section on the actual interpretation of the Aspects in chapter ten, while in chapter eleven they give the general meanings of the various aspects for the planets and how those color the chart. The following chapters of twelve (Conjunctions), thirteen (Sextiles), fourteen (Squares), fifteen (Trines), and finally sixteen (Oppositions), go into detail of what those specific aspects are for each planet in a chart.

The writing style of Sakoian and Acker is very clear and concise, though a bit technical in places within the book. Overall, they manage to convey the subject of astrology in a manner that just about anyone can understand and use.

The next book that I would like to look at is The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. Like the The Astrologer’s Handbook this book is presented as a book that anyone can use just by picking it up and working with the material that is presented.

Woolfolk covers the Sun Signs in good detail in Part One: Sun Sign Astrology. She gives a basic detail for each of the twelve Sun signs, how they react in romantic situations and with each other sign. Woolfolk covers decanates and cusps of each sign, and finally she looks at each sign for what how astrology affects the health of a person born under a particular sign.

In Section Two: Less Well-Known Influences, she looks at things like the Moon sign, a person’s Ascendant and the power of the ascendant on the person. Finally, in this section she covers the planets and their role in your destiny.

In Section Three: Understanding Astrology, Woolfolk gets into the mechanics of building a chart. She covers the Houses of astrology, how to cast your own horoscope, and lastly covers the various aspects and how they affect your horoscope. This section is the real meat and potatoes of the whole book.

She covers the history and legend of astrology in the next section, while in Section Five: Astrology in our Time the Age of Aquarius is discussed in detail. After these two sections, she presents a lexicon to explain the various terms used in the book, as well as, general astrological terms in easy to understand language.

The next section may be one of the best things that you could see in any beginning book on astrology. Woolfolk includes the tables for all the planets and ascendants so you can look at a glance where a planet will fall in your chart. Coupled with the easy instructions given for using these charts, there should be no reason to not be able to erect a very good natal or birth chart.

Woolfolk also includes a recommended reading list for chart erection and interpretation for those people that wish to pursue astrology even further, as well as, sources for mail-order books and ephemeredes, and astrological computer services.

Woolfolk does a great job of taking an at times difficult subject and explains it in terms that anyone can understand. She gives clear and very concise instructions that are easy to follow. Just using the material that is presented in this book, a person should have no problems at all in understanding and using astrology to build a natal chart.

Both books are excellent sources for either the beginning astrology student or the long time professional astrologer. All the authors clearly understand and know the material that they are writing about, and are able to present it in a manner that is easy to understand and follow without being to dry or academic. Sakoian and Acker present astrology in language that is a bit more technical and dry compared to Woolfolk, but this does not detract from their book at all. The writing styles of these authors may not be for everyone, but they are easy to follow. Both of these books should go on your bookshelf if you have an interest in astrology and want to learn how to erect a chart. Just a little practice with the material presented by the authors discussed here will definitely have you in no time working through the basics of astrology.