On Oct. 16, 1978, at 5:17 p.m., a white plume of smoke rose from the Vatican chimney, signaling to the world the election of a new pope. A chart cast for this moment of time, as well as for any other worldly event, is called "an event chart," and is judged in quite a different manner than a natal chart, cast for the moment of an individual's birth.

Natal astrology refers to a delineation and interpretation of natal charts of individuals. Mundane astrology deals with event charts (the moment of a coronation, the signing of peace treaties, declaration of war, the firing of a first shot, taking the oath of office, etc.) and with the charts cast for celestial events, like lunations, eclipses, equinoxes, ingresses, etc. All those charts are used to predict the fate of nations and rulers.

Those charts are judged by using the techniques of horary astrology (from the latin hora -- hour). Horary astrology is an art of answering questions, using a chart east for the moment the question was asked; it is a most ancient of arts. Since horary astrology was first used to predict the fate of rulers and nations, mundane astrology evolved from it.

The strict and rigid techniques and rules of horary astrology (that are used in mundane astrology) do not permit loose interpretations, since horary astrology deals with fate. It assumes that an individual has no control over his fate and is helpless to alter his destiny. In the past two centuries, with the burgeoning of freedom and ascendancy of the science, this branch of astrology fell into disrepute and disuse. To Western man, and especially to Americans, who firmly believe man is the captain of his fate and the master of his soul and can break himself free from the effects of nature or his social stratum, hated boss or job, the belief that one's fate is and will remain unaltered is certainly anathema.

But the majority of the world population lives in societies that are saddled with autocratic and repressive regimes, where man is not a master of his fate. No amount of mastery will permit, for example, a Russian to take a free vacation in Spain, or emigrate to the United States. Nor can one born to an "untouchable caste" ever rise beyond it. In such countries the application of horary astrology is still valid.

Being a product of Western civilization, I also rebel against horary (and mundane) astrology because I find it spooky. Yet I find that by meshing all the techniques I get the best results. Maybe because I feel that even Western man cannot alter his destiny; that every one of us has to undergo certain experiences, and the only thing we can alter is our attitude toward that experience and hopefully learn something from it.

The best example of this spookiness of astrology is the chart cast for the moment of this pope's election. His chart clearly indicated he could be violently attacked and possibly mortally wounded within two or three years. That chart was the main reason I refused to write the column about him when he visited the United States, for I did not want to plant such an idea in the head of some kook.

And yet, when we take his natal chart, the pope has his Venus on 13 degrees Taurus. It is the most powerful planet on his chart. On the event chart, 13 Taurus is on the ascendant, and Mars was in that degree when he was shot.

That is repeated throughout -- the planets at the moment of the shooting fall exactly in conjunction with or opposition to his afflicted planets.

And thus, despite the reassuring news from the hospital, on the basis of those charts I do not feel he is out of the woods. The aspects are still menacing until the end of May, and remain difficult through the summer. In early fall, the danger is repeated (though to a lesser degree) and the chart indicates long convalescence with the possibility of chronic after-effects. What upsets me most is the Moon that remains listless and without much energy in the 12th house (activity behind the scenes, and thus confinement).

At this point, as a member of the freest society in this world, I can only hope that modern medicine will nullify the effect of that imprisioned Moon, and turn the tables on spooky astrology.