Here is a really great method for learning the signs in order together with their planetary rulerships plus which ones are in sextile, square, trine and opposition to each other. I learned this memory technique from a book I found when I was in grade school, and it has stuck with me for many years. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is.
First of all, we’re going to create file, and its going to be based on two things: (1) a file you already have in your mind, which is simply the numbers one through twelve, and (2) rhymes. Here is a list of the numbers together with specific words that rhyme with each one:
1 is RUN
2 is ZOO
3 is TREE
4 is DOOR
5 is HIVE
6 is STICK
7 is HEAVEN
8 is GATE
9 is WINE
10 is DEN
11 is LEAVEN
12 is SHELF
Memorize these words and their corresponding numbers. It’s easy because the words rhyme with the numbers. The only confusion you might have is between seven and eleven, which already rhyme with each other. The way around this difficulty is to remember that the word going with eleven, LEAVEN, is almost identical to the sound of the number itself. (Leaven is a noun and means a substance, typically yeast, that is added to dough to make it ferment and rise).
Practice these numbers. Have someone name numbers at random between one and twelve and see if you can think of the word which corresponds. If you can, you’re ready to go on to step two.
In this step you’re going to invent a personal picture – one to go with each one of the twelve numbers. It is very important to make this picture vivid and as specific as possible. I’m going to relate to you my own personal pictures. You can use them, if you’d like, or you can make up your own. The purpose of this step is to learn the signs in order.
The first sign of the zodiac is Aries, and as you see from the list, the word for the number 1 is RUN. In my picture, I am at the University of Kansas City outdoor track, which is right by the gym. I am furiously RUNNING around the track because I’m being chased by a RAM (Aries). This ram is trying to butt me! He has his head down, and big curly horns, and I can barely keep ahead of him.
If you use this image, imagine your own place where it is happening, somewhere you are familiar with. It may be in a park where you like to go, or the woods in back of your house, etc. The point is, you’re RUNNING and your being chased by a RAM.
The number two goes with the word ZOO. The second sign of the zodiac is Taurus. I see myself at the Kansas City ZOO, and there in a cage, in the big cat house is a BULL (Taurus). Why in the cat house? Who knows? I put the bull here in my imagination because the more strange and inexplicable you make these pictures in your mind the more vivid they are to you, and hence the easier to remember.
I hope the bull isn’t here in the cat house because they are going to feed him to a tiger or other cat! There he is, just chewing his cud. Spend enough time making the picture vivid enough in your mind that you remember it, and when you feel it’s strong enough that you won’t forget it, go on to the next one.
The number three goes with TREE. I see a big oak tree and there, on the lowest branch are two monkey’s. They look identical! They must be TWINS (Gemini). They are chattering at me and jumping up and down. They’re afraid I might climb the TREE. They’re very territorial. “This is our TREE” they seem to be saying.
The number four goes with DOOR. I see myself late at night lying in bed. The curtain is open and I see a full moon. I hear a strange noise — it sounds like something is scraping the door. I get up, my heart is going fast. What could it be? I listen. The noise doesn’t stop. Finally I get up the courage to open the door and…look!…there is a giant CRAB (Cancer) that’s been scratching at the door. Is it really a crab, or a space alien? Is it the product of some genetic experiment gone awry? My little dog is barking furiously at it.
The number five goes with HIVE. Sitting under a tree I see a bee hive. I know I’m in Africa. Here comes a hungry LION (Leo). He is starving. He looks so thin. He can smell the honey in the HIVE. He puts his paw in it and all the bees come swarming out. He runs away, a swarm of bees chasing after him.
The number six goes with STICK. I see a magician with a wand. The wand is very simple. It looks like the branch of a tree. It is beautiful, though, for it has on it several blossoms that never fade. He says, “I have something to show you. Watch carefully!” He then intones a magical incantation and waves the STICK (wand), and there in a beautiful cloud of light an image of the VIRGIN (Virgo) Mary appears. She is making the sign of benediction toward me. She then disappears. I feel wonderful! “Thank you” I say to the magician. (By the way, if you don’t like combining Christian imagery with something as pagan as a magician, you can use the goddess Athena, if you can remember that she was supposed to be a virgin).
For the number seven I see a long flight of steps going up into the clouds – into HEAVEN. I ascend them, climbing and climbing until I see in the distance a gigantic angel standing there. It’s St. Peter. He’s holding in his right hand an immense BALANCE SCALES (Libra). As I approach I see that in the left hand pan of the BALANCE SCALE are all the bad deeds I’ve done in my life, and in the right hand pan are all my good deeds. Luckily, I see, the right hand pan is heavier (of course!), and so I know I’m going to heaven! “Welcome,” says St. Peter.
For the number eight I see I’m standing in front of a beautiful garden gate. It is made of wrought iron and ornamented with depictions of all sorts of birds and flowers. I open the gate, it squeaks loudly, and just as I’m about to step into the beautiful garden I happen to look down and see there right in front of me on the ground a huge black SCORPION (Scorpio). It is black, just like the gate. Carefully I walk around it as it lifts and flexes the stinger on its tail, warning me to stay away.
For the number 9 I imagine that as I am walking through the forest I come upon a staggering CENTAUR (Sagittarius). “Are you all right?” I ask. “Yeah,” he slurs, “Just a little tipsy. Think I had a little too much WINE (wine=nine). “Can I help you?” I ask. “No,” he says, “ I’m just on the way home. Say, you don’t happen to have a breath mint on you, do you? Uh, I promised the missus I’d lay off the hootch…but Chiron just brewed a new batch – couldn’t resist.” Reaching into my pocket I hand him a box of tic-tacs.
For the number 10 I imagine that I see a den of hungry panthers. It’s in a cave. For a few days they’ve had no luck hunting, and they’re famished. As they lay there resting a stray GOAT (Capricorn) wanders into their midst. They all jump up at once, ready to pounce, but rear back in surprise – because the goat smells SO BAD. I mean, goats are usually stinky, but this goat just REEKS. Seeing that he has wandered into a den of panthers, the goat bolts out of the DEN (den=ten).
Are you still with me? We have only two more to go! For the number 11 I see a medieval bakery in Paris. Its all made of stone. The baker is a jolly fat man. He wants to make more bread but he’s out of water. He’s waiting for the water carrier (AQUARIUS) to deliver some. The water bearer knocks at the door and comes in carrying a large ceramic urn full of water. This guy is notoriously clumsy, and soon after he’s entered the bakery he stumbles and drops the jug on a table. It smashes into a large jar which holds all the bakers LEAVEN (eleven) and gets it all wet. “You big lummox!” Shouts the baker, “Now you’ve RUINED all my LEAVEN!” (leaven=eleven).
And now the last one. I seen myself coming into my kitchen, and I notice this awful smell. What could it be? There are no dirty dishes, and I just cleaned out the refrigerator. Is it the trash that smells so bad? I look under the sink. Nope. I just emptied it yesterday. I start searching. Standing on a chair I open a cupboard and look on the top SHELF (twelve), which is high up close to the ceiling. There is a plate. I take it down and what do I find on it? TWO FISH (Pisces) that are rotting. How in the world did they get there? Oh yes, now I remember. Gracie, the cleaning lady who is very lazy doesn’t like to do dishes. We had these trout two weeks ago for dinner, and she must have hid them on the top shelf so she wouldn’t have to wash the dish. I decide that this is it, I’m definitely going to have to fire Gracie.
You have now completed Step Two. Test yourself by having someone name numbers at random between one and twelve. Can you name the sign corresponding to it? If not, then either you have gone through the list in step two too fast, or have not made the pictures vivid enough in your mind. Go back over them again and have your friend test you again. Make sure you cover all the numbers, and if you miss any this time, jot the missed ones down and go back and find a way of making the picture corresponding to them even more vivid.
Once you have completed Step two successfully, you can say the signs in order both forward and backward.
And now for step three. To figure out which signs are opposite each other, all you have to do is add or subtract 6 from any number in question. For instance, if you want to know what is the opposite of 3=TREE=TWINS=GEMINI all you have to do is add 6 to it and you get 3 plus 6 equals 9=WINE=SAGITTARIUS. If you want to know the sign opposite SCORPIO=GATE=EIGHT all you have to do is subtract 6 from it and you get 8 minus 6 equals 2=ZOO=TAURUS.
To know which signs are in square to each other, you just need to add three to any given number to get one of the squares, and then subtract three from it to get the other square, since each sign has two other signs which are in square to it. If the number in question is less than three, just add a full circle to it, which is 12. For instance the square to TAURUS=TWO=ZOO is found by adding 12 to 2, obtaining 14. (We had to add the 12 because we can’t subtract three from two). Now that we have the 14 we can subtract three from it and we get 14 minus 3 equals 11=LEAVEN=AQUARIUS. If the sum you obtain after adding 3 to any number is over 12, then just take 12 away from it to arrive at the answer. For instance, if you want to know the square to CAPRICORN=DEN=TEN, add 3 to the 10 to obtain 13, then subtract 12 from it, obtaining 1=RUN=ARIES.
Sextiles are both plus and minus two, since there are two of them also. Trines are plus and minus 4. If you want to be a really good astrologer, keep practicing these until you get to the point you just know them and don’t have to do the adding and subtracting.
And now for Step 4. Let’s go back to your original list and we’re going to add something.
Remember that picture of you running from the RAM (Aries) that’s chasing you? Well, you know, you’re getting very tired of running, in fact, your running out of energy, and you’re feeling hungry. Look down into your hand, and there you see a MARS candy bar. (Mars rules Aries).
In the Picture of you at the zoo (=2)where you see the BULL (TAURUS) you see a beautiful woman enter the cage. She is radiant – she must be a goddess! She is! She’s VENUS, and she’s laying a garland of flowers around the Bull’s neck. It’s to protect him from the big cats.
In the picture of the twin monkeys in the TREE (=3) as you stand there gazing up at them you feel a tap on your shoulder. Turning around you see it is the god MERCURY (Ruling planet of Gemini). He’s wearing a helmet with wings on it, and looking down, you see that he also has wings on the back of his feet. He says “I have a message for you. Here!” and he hands you an envelope. You open it – I don’t know what’s in it – that’s up to you!
In the picture of the DOOR (=4) with the large CRAB scratching on it, remember how bright that MOONlight was coming through the open curtain (Cancer is ruled by the Moon). Maybe it was that Full Moon that called up that CRAB from the depths of some Stygian cave.
In the picture of the HIVE (=5) Imagine that the time of day is noon, and the SUN (Ruling planet of LEO) is blazing high in the sky.
In the picture of the STICK (=6)– the blossoming wand that conjures up a picture of the VIRGIN — imagine that after he has conjured her up he then re=energizes his wand by dipping it in a bowl of liquid MERCURY (Mercury rules Virgo).
In the picture of the steps going up to HEAVEN (=7) imagine that the time of this event as early evening, and there in the sky hanging over the shoulder of St. Peter is the EVENING STAR, which is VENUS (ruling planet of Libra, the balance scales).
In the picture of the garden GATE (=8), you may think to yourself, you know, I really wanted to enjoy this beautiful garden. It’s the loveliest one I’ve ever seen, but that big ugly Scorpion MARS the whole experience! (Mars rules Scorpio).
In the picture of the WINE (=9) which got the Centaur drunk, watch the Centaur as he leaves you to find his way home. Oops! He got lost – he’s drunker than he thought, but the king of the gods, JUPITER, appears to him to show him the way.
In the picture of the DEN (=10) see the goat bolting out of the panthers’ den and running home to a little thatched hut in the forest. There lives an old man with a long gray beard carrying a Scythe. He’s the god Saturn, and Cappy (that’s the goats name, is his favorite goat. How glad Saturn is that Cappy’s returned safe and sound!
In the picture of the LEAVEN (=11) the baker is so upset by the loss of his LEAVEN, when the water bearer spill his whole jug of water on it, that after the water bearer leaves he pour himself a nice big glass of SAUTURN wine to calm himself down (Saturn rules Aquarius).
In the picture of the SHELF (=12) imagine you are scraping the two stinky trout into the garbage disposal, and as you do you uncover the picture of the king of the gods JUPITER(ruler of the sign Pisces) on the plate. He’s wearing a crown and carrying a scepter. You truly hope he will not send a curse to you for allowing his image to be defiled by two dead fish. Just in case, you light candles to him, say a prayer, and make an offering of fruit and flowers.
So now, if you’ve installed these pictures vividly enough in your mind, you not only know the signs in order, both forward and backward, but also which are in opposition, square, sexile and trine to each other, and also the planetary rulers of each. Not bad for a day’s work!
Here’s the trick: Once you’ve learned these, you need to go over them at least once a day for awhile, then you can do every other day, then every three days, then once a week for awhile. That’s how to make them stick. I hope you enjoyed this memory game! Talk to you again soon!