In this thoughtful article, The Astrology of Depression, by Judith Hill, we are encouraged to fuse together modern and traditional approaches to astrology, and look at depression with both new and old astrological insights. Judith takes us through the varying forms of depression, focusing in particular on Chronic Depression, and provides us with 15 testimonies to use in the determination of depression today, some of which will be familiar to psychological and traditional astrologers alike, but many of which may be unexpected and refreshing as Judith lends the wisdom of her own client-driven experience to the task. We are offered two case studies from Judith's personal collection of clients as well as an examination of the chart of Abraham Lincoln, a well-known sufferer of depression.
What insights can the natal chart lend to a psychiatric diagnosis of 'Chronic Depression?'.
Popularly known in American street lingo as 'the blues', Chronic Depression, or 'dysthymia', is characterized by protracted sadness and fatigue. Sufferers can't change their mood at will and may spend years immersed in ongoing sorrow, despondency, guilt, regret, and suicidal ideologies. Sufferers experience profound apathy and feel life as devoid of pleasure. There may be changes of appetite, or weight. Excess sleeping is typical, or alternatively, insomnia. Episodes may last from weeks to years, and are recurrent. This condition is not prompted by grief, drugs or situational stress.
Many chronic depressives experience temporary episodes of a more severe nature known as 'Major Depression'. This conflation is known as 'double depression'. For our purposes here, the entire spectrum of Chronic and Major Depression will be referred to as Chronic Depression.
As astrologers, we might assume that yes, the birth chart would display the excesses of astrological energies causative to depression. This article and my three case studies examine the planetary and elemental 'signatures' typical of Chronic Depression.
Let ask a second, more pertinent question:
Can psychiatry benefit from understanding the astrological energetics expressing themselves as chronic depression?
After all, the astrological understanding of the planetary and elemental energetics of mental illness predates psychiatry by centuries!
Types of Depression Currently Defined
Clinical Psychology currently defines nine types of depression: Chronic Depression; Major Depression; Postpartum Depression; Seasonal Affective Disorder; Atypical Depression; Psychotic Depression; Bipolar Disorder; Situational and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. We only have space to discuss Chronic Depression, our exclusive focus of this study.
Traditional Views of Depression
Renaissance physician-astrologers recognized and documented planetary, sign, element and 'humor' (bodily fluid) energetics thought causative of depression, or "melancholia". We have space for a brief survey of these ideas. It is essential to note that Astrological origin was accepted as but one of many possible causes, whereas astrological charts were studied to determine all possibles sources for this influence was completely accepted by Medieval and Renaissance physicians as a primary etiology underlying physical and mental illness of all kinds.
Traditionally, all illness was thought to be precipitated by imbalances of four qualities: heat, cold, dry and moist.1 A wide variety of reasons (including constipation) were offered to explain how humoral imbalances occur, including planetary beams! Yes, planets could make you sick.
Ancient physicians were primarily concerned with the flow and balance of temperature and moisture. Depression was recognized as energetically cold/dry or alternatively, cold/moist. The astrological causes of depression were generally attributed to several sources, primary being the cold influence of Saturn 2 acting alone or through his signs Capricorn and Aquarius. Dr. H.L. Cornell's Encyclopedia of Medical
Equally blamed was an excess of the cold, dry "melancholic humor" the bodily fluid black bile; and sometimes an overabundance of the cold, wet "phlegmatic humor" or phlegm (explained more thoroughly below).
Planetary energies, in addition to several other known causes might imbalance the four bodily fluids or "humors" , precipitating depression. This could occur at birth (natally), or by transit.
Judith Hill is a life time consulting astrologer, researcher, publisher and award winning author of ten books including Medical Astrology, Your Guide to Planetary Pathology and the classic The Astrological Body Types. Judith served as the Educational Director for the San Francisco NCGR. successfully matching five charts to five biographies in a 1989 NCGR skeptic's challenge.
She worked for ten years in the statistical study of astrology, receiving an unsolicited research grant from the great physicist Arthur Young; and produced two widely acclaimed research compendiums: "The Mars-Redhead Files" with Jacalyn Thompson and "Astro-Seismology" with M. Polit. As a a major pioneer in astro-seismology and astro-genetics, she founded the Mars-Redhead Research Project, Stellium Press, and San Francisco's first "NCGR Research Day". As a medical astrologer and Chartered Herbalist, she created the annual Lost Secrets of Renaissance Medicine Conference © in Portland, OR.
Her website is https://www.judithhillastrology.com
The article made available for download is copyrighted to Judith Hill and is offered here, with her permission, for private and non-commercial use only. It may not be reproduced further without her specific agreement. Published online and edited by Paul Kiernan, March 2017.