Summary: Discussing the implications of Birth-time errors for correctly identifying the Ascendant; for prescribing planetary antidotes; the calculation of Mahadasha starting times and possible errors in Nakshatra allocation; plus chart rectification techniques to determine a correct birth-time.
Consequences of Birth-time Errors for Chart Interpretation
Do birth time errors really matter that much? In Vedic Astrology the answer is a most definite ‘Yes’. There can be serious consequences of birth time errors, both for correct chart interpretation and for advice to clients.
Although most of the planets move relatively slowly through the sky (e.g. the Sun takes about 1 day to move through 1 degree of arc in our charts) this is not the case with the Moon which moves through 1 degree of the zodiac in less than 2 hours. Neither is it the case with the Ascendant (the zodiacal sign that appears to be ‘rising’ on the Eastern horizon at the time of our birth). Unfortunately, an accurate position for the Moon and the determination of the correct Ascendant, play an absolutely crucial role in Vedic Astrology.
Implications of Birth-time Errors in Identifying Ascendant (Lagna)
As there are 12 signs of the zodiac and 24 hours in 1 day (1 day is 1 complete revolution of the earth) the Ascendant changes on average every 2 hours. However, due to the complex 3D geometry of a rotating spherical earth (with an axis inclined at an angle of around 23 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the sun), the Ascendant can change in less than 1 hour in some cases. This depends on how far away from the equator we live, the time of day, etc.
Note: when we use the term ‘Ascendant’ we are referring to the ascending sign regardless of the actual degree of the horizon projected onto that zodiacal sign.
It is very bad news if our birth time is not accurate as we can then be given the wrong Ascendant by an astrologer. Birth-time errors can result in the following negative outcomes based on Ascendant:
- Chart interpretation is rendered meaningless because all chart interpretation is built around identifying the first house (corresponding exactly with our rising sign)
- Functional benefic and malefic planets can be wrongly identified
- Planetary antidotes are wrongly prescribed doing more harm than good!
If the actual Ascendant (horizon) is placed in the middle of a sign, say around 15 degrees then there can be some leeway regarding birth-time errors without the Ascendant sign actually changing. Good news!
The problems really start when the actual Ascendant degree is placed close to a sign boundary – say within 5 degrees. In these cases a few minutes difference in birth-time can completely change the Ascendant and location of the first house. Bad news indeed!
Implications of Birth-time Errors in Prescribing Planetary Antidotes
An inaccurate birth-time could mean that planetary antidotes that are intended to improve our situation can actually make matters worse!
In medicine there is the key principle of ‘Do No Harm’. A Jyotish astrologer will actually do harm if he recommends strengthening a functional malefic by wearing an appropriate gemstone.
For example, suppose he uses the stated (but inaccurate) birth-time and calculates that the Ascendant for a particular person is Aries. He would then be perfectly correct to suggest the person wears a yellow sapphire to strengthen the planet Jupiter (it rules the 9th and 12th for an Aries Ascendant). However, if the true birth-time places the Ascendant in the next sign along – Taurus, then Jupiter is a highly malefic influence (it becomes a functional malefic as it is Lord of the 8th and 11th Houses for Taurus Ascendant) and should never be strengthened with gemstones for a Libra lagna. So it really does matter.
Implications of Birth-time Errors in Mahadasha Timings
A unique feature of Jyotish is the Mahadasha system of prediction – ‘what’ is likely to happen and ‘when’ it will come about. The calculations of the starting times of the Mahadashas and Antardashas periods depend on accurate data on the position of the Moon in the birth-chart.
In the longer Mahadasha planetary periods (e.g. Venus, Saturn, or Rahu) a birth-time error of even 20 minutes can cause a Mahadasha starting time error of around six months!
A later birth-time than stated means the actual Mahadasha period starts earlier than calculated, and vice-versa.
Implications of Birth-time Errors in Nakshatras
A professional Jyotish Astrologer will use the position of the Moon in the ‘lunar mansions’ or Nakshatras. Different Nakshatras bring different ‘flavours’ to a chart. Problems arise if the stated birth-time puts the Moon very close to a boundary between two Nakshatras. This is something the astrologer will be watching closely and weighing up alongside the other factors mentioned above.
Chart Rectification – Techniques to Check Birth-time Accuracy
Professional Vedic Astrologers will be very much aware of the potential problems produced by inaccurate birth-times. They will be constantly checking to make sure what they ‘see’ in a person’s chart closely corresponds with the actual life events of their clients – and when those life events happened.
They might ask clients to tell them the dates of any marriages, children’s birth, when parents passed away, etc. together with background information on health, wealth, relationships, career, spiritual aspirations etc. Major discrepancies between what is ‘seen’ in the chart and real life will definitely indicate birth-time errors.
Jyotish is such a powerful predictive technique that Vedic Astrologers can actually ‘work in reverse’ from real life events to determine an accurate birth-time. They use the Mahadasha periods and ascendant calculations to do this. This process is called ‘Rectification of Birth-time’ or simply ‘Chart Rectification’ and requires some skill.
Modern Jyotish software enables this whole process to be carried out much more rapidly than before, as a range of ascendants and their charts can be quickly calculated for a corresponding range of birth-times. The Mahadasha calculations can also be performed more quickly too.
Resources for Students of Jyotish
Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.
Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.
For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.
Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.