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If you have ever had a typical astrology "reading," you should already know that these readings are made up of lengthy, flattering, often contradictory comments about your personality. While entertaining, such amateur psychological analyses have no real practical value to anyone. Here are alternative uses of real astrology that may surprise you. Many of these are possible only with the techniques of traditional astrology as practiced in the medieval world and earlier.

Locate missing persons and objects.

Astrologers believe that you can find out where a missing person or thing is if you cast a chart for the moment you ask about their whereabouts. This is possible through the discipline known as horary astrology. Let us say you misplace your wedding ring. After looking everywhere for it, you contact a horary astrologer and ask, "Where is my wedding ring?" The astrologer will cast a chart for the time and place when they understood your question. He or she will interpret the symbols in the chart - known as a horary chart - and tell you where to look for that person or object. If you practice astrology, you can ask the question to yourself instead, using the time and place when you asked it.

Choose the best places to move.

Does it seem to you like you have better luck in some places than others? Astrologers believe this is due to the dynamic nature of the horoscope. When you move from one place to another, the planets and signs in your chart move too. These shifts cause some planets and signs to become stronger, and others weaker. That means some aspects of your personality may gain prominence over others when you switch locations. Latent abilities emerge, and new opportunities become available. It follows that some places in the world may be better suited to you than others, depending on what your goals and needs are. Relocation astrology is the branch of astrology that deals with this topic. Some astrology programs can generate special maps that show you where your astrological "hot spots" are. You can also pay for a professional reading by a relocation astrologer.

Plan important events.

Generally, when we do something, we want it to have a specific outcome. Astrology can help you do that with elections. An election chart is a chart cast for the best time to do (almost) anything. With the help of an electional astrology, you can pick the best times for a vacation, a job application, a baby shower or mailing that tax return. Some astrologers won't require your birth data to cast an election chart. But more traditional astrologers will insist that your birth data is necessary and that no election is valid without it. They argue that no matter how good an election may look, it cannot work for you unless it agrees with your own horoscope. Whether your birth data is used or not, make sure you give the astrologer a generous time frame to work with; the more dates they have to choose from, the stronger the election can be.

Avoid bad timing.

Even if you don't need to know the best time to do anything, you may still want to avoid theworst times to do them. Astrology can save you a lot of trouble here. Believers regularly check an ephemeris to track the movements of the planets so they can prepare for "unlucky" dates. Be especially wary of "retrograde" periods, those times when a planet appears to be moving backwards in space. It is said that when a planet is retrograde, things symbolized by that planet either go wrong or are not what they seem to be. It is best to postpone making decisions relating to such things until after the planet goes direct. So don't buy a new car when Mercury is retrograde; don't start a new relationship or go shopping for luxury items when Venus is retrograde; don't declare war when Mars is going backwards and so on. Astrologers love to tell retrograde horror stories, by the way.

Gain insight into most situations.

Want to know if you will get married this year? Are you worried about a rumor you have heard? How soon will the repairman arrive? Horary astrology can help you gain insight into almost any situation that is important to you, whether past, present or future. The idea is that a question is an entity in its own right, just like a human being. The question is conceived in your mind when it first occurs to you; it is born when you ask the question to someone who can answer it (either yourself or an astrologer). When you ask a question to a horary astrologer, he or she will calculate a chart for that moment and find the answer in the chart. This makes horary astrology perhaps the most practical of all branches of the art.

Examine your health.

Astrology used to play an important role in the treatment of diseases. A birth chart can reveal information about a person's health, temperament and possible threats to his or her well-being. The branch of astrology that specializes in these matters is known as medical astrology. While it is unlikely you will ever need the services of an astrologer to help treat a health problem, you may find it worthwhile to study the theory of humors and temperaments. Each person is a unique mix of the four elements - fire, earth, water and air. Your elemental balance is supposed to influence your mind, body and health.

Find psychic ability.

Most people who believe in astrology also believe in the existence of psychic powers such as clairvoyance, telepathy and prophecy. Look for indications of these special abilities in a person's birth chart. Some supporting factors may include:

 A prominent Neptune
 Strong aspects between Neptune and the Sun, Moon or Ascendant
 Many planets in the water signs Cancer, Scorpio and/or Pisces
 Moon or Mercury in Pisces
 Moon, Neptune and/or Pluto in the 8th or 9th houses
 Neptune in the 1st house
 Jupiter in good aspect to Neptune
 Prominent outer planets Uranus, Neptune and/or Pluto

Grow fruits and vegetables.

Astrological gardening is as old as humankind. If you wish to ensure a fruitful harvest for yourself, get the stars on your side. The Moon is the most important factor here. Its fertility changes as it travels through the zodiac, and it pulls both large and small bodies of water. You want the Moon to be in the right zodiac sign and lunar phase for the type of planting activity you want to do, or the kind of plant you want to grow. Use an astrological moon almanac to time your gardening activities. Do not rely on pure astronomy; astronomy follows the constellations, while astrology uses the tropical zodiac.

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