by Boots Hart, CAP

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Astrology’s Professional Ethics

A planispheric astrolabe from the Paris workshop of Jean Fusoris (c. 1400) which
is now housed in the Putnam Gallery at the Harvard Science Center
(photo credit: Sage Ross, Nov 2009)
Granting that it’s Venus retrograde and everyone is feeling a bit ragged, I’ve received an unusually large (digital) pile of emails over the past couple of weeks, all of which prompt me to post information about professional ethics when it comes to astrology.

I recognize that these ethics will vary according to national laws and the rules of various organizations, but for astrologers who receive accreditation through United States organizations, basically the same principles of confidentiality which apply in the field of medicine apply. That means your information is private, apart from whatever data YOU make public. So if you post your birth date and place online (or if your birth data becomes public through your being in the public eye or through a published biography or something of that ilk), any professional astrologer is allowed to talk about it online, in public or to a client who might be coming to them wanting to work with you.

On the other hand, if that information isn’t posted anywhere in the public sector, the astrologer shouldn’t say a word even if they (personally) have your chart in their files mental, paper or computerized. 

Moreover, unless you (yourself) give that astrologer either face-to-face, ear-to-ear (telephonic) or written permission to share your data or information, the professional astrologer shouldn’t be sharing it. They can make observations on anything you make public, but anything known beyond that cannot be told to your mother, brother, lover, child or BFF without very specific permission.

My personal training in this began being shaped by a couple of decades spent at the production money end of the film industry. As key accountant on a film (a role which caused me to be known for a while as the Bank of Boots) one of my roles was to be paymaster. And if you and your Significant Other were working on the same movie it didn’t matter if you had been married 500 years - unless you had personally told me that it was okay to hand your paycheck to your spouse, I couldn’t do it. The Internal Revenue Service (the Big Dog in U.S. payroll operations)...the IRS said no. And their logic is simple: no one outside of a relationship really knows the full text of what’s going on inside. Nor should they be asking, as it’s not for them to judge. So the rule is that the person who earns the money gets the money.

And that's just how astrology works: s/he whose data it is ‘owns’ that data and they have all rights to privacy with regards to same until and unless that right is voluntarily surrendered.

Astrologers should neither be hackers nor pillagers. As I have freely admitted, by now I’m someone who is attracted by the mere sight of a date (this is when you know your hobby has become a mind-style)...but I’m not ‘after’ anyone’s data. About the most fervent hunt for astrological information I’ve done in the last year or so was a several-week hunt for when Google’s purchase of Blogger became official.

Yes, I’m going to give Google something to Google itself about. (I’ve also now officially read more online articles about the tech biz than I had ever planned to.) It's slated for February, but since I'm still having a bit of a hard time with typing it may have to wait until I get a book through editing.

Speaking of Google (and therefore business), things are not quite as black-and-white in the business realm - which is to say in business astrology. Basically the  separation there is between public versus privately held companies for the simple reason that in the United States, incorporation records (the ‘birth’ data for a corporation) are a matter of public record searchable online through any state’s Office of the Secretary of State. (You just have to find which state.)

There are a few other curlicues in the personal and relationship arena, the most important of which can be summarized as follows:
1. Parents are allowed to request consultations with regards to minor children. That right ends when the child reaches the legal age of adulthood.

2. Any kind of relationship question or consultation (I mostly use Davison time/space relationship charts) will require data (time of birth, place of birth, date of birth) for both parties. However, in any situation where the other party is not part of the conversation (or privy to the consultation), while the relationship chart (Davison or otherwise) CAN be discussed, the astrologer cannot ethically talk to you about how ‘the other person’ feels about the relationship…or what they’re going to do or not do about anything.

We can tell you what upcoming transit passages (say a Venus retrograde or eclipse) are slated to stir in your life, however that plays out and whatever that will mean, given your natal chart. That’s really what you should want to know, as any change (positive or negative) worth noting will be shown in or on your chart.

3. There are astrologers who have learned the very ancient rules for prophesying death. By American standards it is considered unethical to deliver this information to anyone. I recognize this rather tramples the 'it's your data' concept but in this one area the 'do no harm' quotient laid down in medicine trumps all other considerations as astrologers - no matter what area of astrology they are practicing in - are considered personal confidential consultants akin in many ways to psychologists.

So you know, I refused to take the course which would have included death calculations as I knew full well they would stick in my computer brain and get run through the numbers module whether I wanted it to happen or not.

I don't want to know. I tend to think only those who haven't stared death in the face would want to know such a thing...and that would not include me. The course in question here (this was some years ago) was being taught by a top astrologer - and yes, we got into it.

He was adamant and so was I. In spite of this we parted on good terms.

I remain of the opinion that the ban is a good idea.    

Lastly, please don’t ask an astrologer what’s ‘wrong’ with someone else you’ve had a bad time with. The metaphysics here is all about how people come into our lives to evoke our life lessons, no matter who they are and what that interaction means to them. So don’t worry about what they should or shouldn’t learn or do - focus on what you’re learning about yourself through having chosen to interact/not interact with them.

Are there astrologers out there who will ignore these standards? Yes. One of the reasons I have now and again suggested that you know who your astrologer is – whether they have professional credentials, what organizations they are or aren’t associated with, their general body of work – is exactly because of this. Though credentials don’t guarantee any astrologer is up to date with regards to cutting-edge data in the area of your interest, just as with a doctor, lawyer, engineer or other technical professional, credentials do indicate an accepted level of proficiency.

And beyond all that lies ethics. There is the ability to do the work…and the willingness to do it ethically.

Not all astrological organizations require ethics courses or that an ethics oath be signed potential candidates. When in doubt, check with the organization - they're all online. My credentials are issued by ISAR, the International Society for Astrological Research.

Yes, I took the class and signed the oath.

More importantly, I live by it. 

As I say all this, I know it’s hard to meet up with someone on the internet and feel you know who they are. I encourage you to be wary, as at present time there are no restrictions that I know of saying astrologers must have credentials or even any specific level of education to call themselves an astrological practitioner. When in doubt, if you’re interested in astrology or an astrological consultation from a qualified practitioner, try requesting names from one of the national or international organizations for a reference. (I've posted a list of them in the sidebar here at the blog). Many such organizations are now listing names of their credentialed astrologers online.
People still tend to think of astrology as a toy – which it’s not. A horoscope is literally a map of the energetics you were born with…and as. A well-trained, experienced astrologer can look at your chart and tell you that your aunt called last May on the second Tuesday of the month. 

(Seriously, I saw someone do that once.)

That once you hand an astrologer your birth data they can pretty much know anything about you that they want to (yes, right down to those things…) that may delight you. It could also feel very disturbing.
Astrology is a sacred science – a topic to be treated scientifically with a sacred regard for the trust being granted you by those you work with or assist. Holding and protecting that trust means everything to me, so I ask that you understand: I don’t ask questions if I don’t need to and I will protect any third party I don’t know as zealously as I protect you.

I’m hoping this post will help clarify these issues not just for those who have written to me over the past couple of weeks but for everyone else, too. I’m not unsympathetic to your frustrations, puzzles and desire to know, I just understand how the ethic which you may find annoying or inconvenient in the moment ultimately protects you.

Sorry...but thanks, too.

The next thing to discuss is Venus retrograde…so stand by. There is light ahead.


  1. As a 'PS' to this case you're thinking to look me up online at ISAR, I just checked (a bit belatedly, after this post went up) and their rebuild of the site isn't complete yet. But I'm sure an email sent to the Powers Which Are there (through the site) will get the information you need.

    Also, apart from organizations listed here at the blog, ISAR lists affiliated astrological schools on their site under the 'affiliated schools' tab. I don't know all of the schools listed there by name or reputation, but they may be able to give you information on astrology and astrologers in your particular area should a national or international organization not be able to assist.

    - Boots

  2. I am consistantly enlightened by the wisdom you incorporate into each and every post. You have not only helped to broaden my understanding of astrology, but of life and how the energies of the planets can be used to gain momentum. It has also helped me to accept certain periods of time when everything seems to be headed south.

    I'm always so excited to read what you have written about the energies flowing through the Universe...thanks!

    1. You're very welcome! This post in particular means a lot to me as I came into it thinking people might not care all that much about a statement on the difference between someone who charges a fee for astrological work and someone who takes their charge as an astrologer as a professional responsibility (whether they charge or not) - but as soon as this post hit the digital airwaves it became apparent how wrong I really was. That (in my world) is a really good thing as I just want people to have the real information, no matter how they decide to use or not use it.

      It's a process, this being human thing...

      - Boots