Prompted by an excellent question by one of Lua’s readers, I decided to approach the thorny problem of working with astrology when you don’t know your time of birth. In this first part, I’m going to take a look at why we need the time of birth and various methods of obtaining it.
Why all the fuss about time of birth?
In any day there are 1440 possible birth charts in the location you were born. Your chart is unique to you so it really is worth knowing which of those 1440 charts is yours!
To get an accurate astrological reading, you need to know the position of the Ascendant and Midheaven. On average, the Ascendant degree moves by one degree every 4 minutes of clock time. Most (although not all) big life events are accompanied by transits, arcs or progressions to the Ascendant-Descendant or MC-IC axis. The more inaccurate the time, the more inaccurate predictive work becomes, to the point where it can be rendered useless.
Without an accurate time of birth, we do not know which planets are placed in which houses. The houses of the astrological chart show you which areas of life the planets affect and manifest through.
The Moon moves on average 12 degrees every 24 hours. The Moon’s sign and position offers information on your emotional make-up. Not knowing your time of birth could mean you also don’t know your Moon sign as the Moon rapidly moves around the chart. The progressed Moon also gives a great deal of information and can act as a timer for events. If you do not know your time of birth this important information cannot be gained.
What constitutes the time of birth?
There is some discrepancy between astrologers as to what constitutes the time of birth. Some people say it is the moment with the head crowns, others that it’s the moment that the cord is cut. I take the cutting of the cord as the symbolic and literal separation between Mother and child. With the cord cut, the child takes a breath and is a single entity within the world. That to me is the time of birth.
The problem with the time of birth
The difficulty is that unless the time is faithfully recorded, it is likely to vary on a number of factors. The nurse or doctor may record after the fact, looking at their watch as they write up their notes, rounding up the time or guessing if they were waylaid.
If any complications arose at the time of birth with Mum or baby then these would of course have taken precedent over the making of notes. Depending on the situation, your time of birth may have been noted up to an hour after the fact.
As the time of birth is not always noted on hospital records, it may fall to the memory of Mum, the midwife, Dad or birth partner which can be hazy in the midst of the overwhelming experience. I count myself extremely lucky that my parents remembered my time of birth accurately as two minutes before noon.
How to find out your time of birth
In some countries, your time of birth is stated on your birth certificate. Unfortunately in England this doesn’t seem to be the case although there are exceptions. If you order a birth certificate, make sure you ask for the full certificate and not the short version. I would advise asking if your time of birth is included before paying for a certificate.
If the time of birth is not stated on your birth certificate, try contacting the hospital you were born in to see if you are allowed access to the records they hold. From the research I’ve done, it seems that hospital records are not kept indefinitely in the UK. Alternatively if you were born at home, see if you can contact the midwife attending at your birth. In all instances I would advise contacting by letter or email rather than by phone.
Did your family keep a baby book? I was delighted to discover my Mother’s birth time in a baby book my Grandmother kept.
In the same vein, it may also be useful to check the back of photographs for notes written on them or photo albums. Way back when before digital photos, the company that printed the photos would include the negatives (I still remember having to post off a roll of film for developing!). Sometimes these negatives have the time that the photograph was taken printed on them.
Diaries and letters are another possible source of information so it can be useful to ask a family member to look back for you.
Questions to ask your family
It is possible to start to build a picture of the day by speaking to your parents, older siblings, grandparents and friends who were around at your time of birth. By asking questions, you may be able to narrow the birth-time down. Try not to state any time you may have already been given. When push comes to shove, people may tend to agree with a time supplied rather than consult a hazy memory. Good questions to ask are:-
Do you remember if it was day or night?
Had you watched the evening news or your favourite programme?
Were you watching something on television or listening to the radio when you heard the news? (If they remember the programme, you may be able to contact the broadcasting company to check the schedule.)
Had you eaten your breakfast/lunch/dinner?
Were you at work/school/college that day? Did you finish at your normal time?
Does someone remember a phone call to announce your arrival? Do they remember whether it was morning evening or afternoon?
When it comes to astrology, it really is worth playing detective to gain this valuable piece of information or to at least narrow the margin as much as possible.
In the next part of this series, I’ll take a look at what information you can glean from a chart with an unknown time of birth.