Do you know your soul goals?

Your birth chart is a personal map and describes you as ‘self’. It shows the nature of you as a person, functioning in the world, and describes your psyche. To explore the inner workings of your soul, you must look beyond the surface of your horoscope, full of planets, aspects and houses, and into the Arabic Parts which, sometimes referred to as Lots, describe the essence of your soul.

There are numerous parts, one for everything imaginable; but it is the seven primary parts, each linked to one of the seven planets of antiquity, that describe your soul goals.

From the perspective of your soul, the self and the world appear to be the same. The self/world view is the obvious image displayed in the birth chart. The interaction between the soul (as reflected in the seven primary Arabic parts) and the self (as portrayed in the energies created between your planets, signs and houses) is often uncomfortable. The soul aspect of you aspires to your personal higher good, while the self part of you gravitates towards that which is of the material or physical world.

To separate the soul and self and explore the interaction between these different aspects of you, another tool is needed through which to depict the soul in the horoscope. Working with these seven Arabic parts allows your true essence to be described and the unique relationship between your soul and psyche/ self to be explored in all its richness and complexity.

When you look at a birth chart, there is always an empty space in the centre. It is this space which symbolically reflects the energy of the soul, even though the Arabic parts are depicted on the Zodiac wheel (or ecliptic) like planets. It is as if the Arabic parts, which aren’t immediately visible in the chart, are part of the mystery of life. The Arabic parts must be calculated, most effectively by hand, and then inserted into the chart. This way the true essence of soul is revealed through practical application. As in life, soul and its manifestations are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. This passage, credited to Lao Tzu, sums up the importance of space:

“We make a vessel from a lump of clay;

It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful. We make doors and windows for a room:

It is these empty spaces that make the room liveable. Thus, while the tangible has advantages,

It is the intangible that makes it useful.”



Soul, Arabic Parts and incarnation

The arrangement of the Arabic Parts around the birth chart reveals the chart within the chart; the soul within the psyche; the essence or heart within the practical demands of your life. Each Arabic part is calculated using a unique formula that incorporates planetary placements as well as key angles (like the ascendant or midheaven).

It is said that it’s the relationship between the parts and the planets in the horoscope that becomes the selling point of each life. After each part is calculated, it is then allocated a planetary ruler to follow throughout the life.

The philosophical perspective inherent in much of astrology regarding incarnation, is described in The Myth of Er at the end of Plato’s Republic. This story details the journey of Er through the afterlife as he encounters new souls waiting to incarnate. Their choices around selecting a ‘lot’ or life show how you engaged in a co-creative dance to select your life this time around, with the kinds of experiences necessary for your soul growth.

The story is magical, as after selecting their lots, the new souls have their lives confirmed by the three fates, who select a time when the cosmos and planets are aligned just so for birth to ensure one’s horoscope supports the themes of the life selected. Once this is set, the newly chosen souls cross through the Plain of Forgetfulness and camp by and drink from the River of Unmindfulness, explaining why once here you have little or no memory of this ‘choosing your life’ experience.

As the Arabic parts reflect the soul, the language around interpreting them is sparse. How does one describe the etheric soul in human language? Their placement in the birth horoscope reflects primary themes and dominant archetypes in the story of your soul journey. By sign, house and ruling planet, the Arabic parts reveal the inside story of what’s really going on for you this lifetime. They indicate areas of life that carry more charge and potency from a soul perspective for you.

The Arabic parts are particularly effective in dynamic or predictive astrology. By observing where and when in your life the Arabic parts, and therefore the soul, bump into day-to-day living (aka the planets), important times of change — where your soul asserts itself over your self or lower mind — can be identified. Technically, this can occur when the Part of Fortune triggers birth planets or chart points by progression or when the parts, inserted around solar return or synastry charts, trigger birth themes.


Interpreting the Arabic Parts

Each primary Arabic part has a theme or quality. Work out what it is you want to know more about and then focus on the appropriate part. Most important when interpreting each part is the planet that rules it. That is to say, whatever Zodiac sign the part falls in, it is the ruling planet of that sign that signifies whatever that part represents in your chart and in your life — as if the ruling planet of the part is the guide or representative of the part in your day to day life.

As the Arabic parts come through from older branches of astrology, it is the traditional planetary rulers that matter here. They are:

Leo Sun

Cancer Moon

Gemini, Virgo Mercury

Taurus, Libra Venus

Aries, Scorpio Mars

Sagittarius, Pisces Jupiter

Capricorn, Aquarius Saturn


Calculating parts

Though the parts reflect the seven visible planets, each part’s formula is based on an arc — the distance between two specific points, which is then carried over to a third point and projected from there. It is the arc itself that has meaning.

These seven main parts are referred to as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. They are noted by both al-Biruni and Paul of Alexandria, with only slight variations between the two (al-Biruni doesn’t include the placements of Mercury and Venus — the inferior planets — in his formulas, whereas Paul of Alexandria does).

The formulas listed below are from al-Biruni’s The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, written in 1029AD. He states, “In each case there are three things to be attended to, Place 1, the beginning, Place 2, the end and Place 3, the casting-off point.” Al-Biruni was an 11th-century Persian scientist, mathematician and anthropologist.

The parts represent the essence or ideas of things, so as you contemplate what each part means for you (by natal sign and house placement, or any planetary conjunction), consider its expression in your life as a highest principle, ideal or aspirational concept.


The seven primary parts

Part of Fortune (POF) (the Moon)

Formula = Ascendant + Moon – Sun

This part is the one most commonly used in modern astrology. This formula of al-Biruni is based on the method of calculation adopted by Ptolemy, which he never altered.

It takes the phase of the moon at birth (the distance from the Sun around the Zodiac to the Moon) and projects that arc of space out from the ascendant, the start or beginning point of the horoscope. This part highlights the importance of the birth moon phase. If you know your birth or natal moon phase it can be fairly easy to approximate. New Moon birth phases have the POF close to the ascendant. First-quarter Moon birth phases have the POF near the IC. Full Moon birth phases have the POF near the Descendant. Third-quarter Moon birth phases have the POF near the MC.


This part is about fortune, but not in the liberal, modern materialistic sense. Fortune refers to positive energy: good things and joy. This one point in the chart reflects energy (by sign and house) that helps you tap into your deepest happiness. Astrologer John Frawley describes this as the “pearl of great price” and the part of fortune as “where you think the springs of living water flow”. It is your fortune in the purest sense of the word, and drawing this energy into your life ensures you are fortunate and always have ‘wealth’. It is also quite probable that following your joy in life will lead to financial fortune, too. Essentially, it is an energy that helps bring you into inner balance and harmony.

Part of Spirit (the Sun)

Formula = Ascendant + Sun – Moon

This is a supremely spiritual part that is out of reach for most of us. It can be hard to describe linguistically and often shows up in the charts of prominent leaders — those who are truly inspired by goodness. It is said to be a part of abundance, as being the part of the Sun it’s about giving (the Sun as the light- and heat-giving star or entity).

The house in your horoscope this part falls into is an area of life where you experience the goodness of life or abundance in the universe. This part takes the other arc between the Sun and Moon (this time starting at the Moon and moving round the Zodiac to the Sun) and projects it off the ascendant. The concept of giving on all levels is reflected here.


Part of Love (Venus)

Formula = Ascendant + Part of Spirit – Part of Fortune This part takes the distance between the Part of Spirit and the Part of Fortune and projects it off the ascendant. It describes love at a lower, human level.

Love ultimately means wanting, which reflects the distance between what you love and you. This part describes that desire to embrace that which is missing. It is a personal point that describes your personal approach to human, real-life love (as opposed to devotional love reserved for deities or faith).


Part of Despair (Mercury)

Formula = Ascendant + Part of Fortune – Part of Spirit

This part again uses the distance between the Part of Spirit and Part of Fortune, but in the opposite direction to the Part to Love. This part is sometimes referred to as the Part of Necessity and describes the unavoidable challenges of life.

Mercury is a mental planet and often the despair is about over thinking, too much worrying or over-analysing. It is about the logic or rationality of reality and shows how you approach choices. Mercury represents negotiation. By sign and house, this part shows how you handle the realisation that you must endlessly make choices and shows how you deal with them.


Part of Captivity (Saturn)

Formula = Ascendant + Part of Fortune – Saturn This is both the part of captivity and the escape from captivity. It is also described as the part of those who rise in station or standing in life; ie, those who become less “imprisoned” by their circumstances.

Sometimes described as the part of sin, it shows how not using Saturn (discipline, focus and commitment) can lead you into trouble. This is the avoidable difficulties of life, where with personal control and dedication you can overcome things that might be challenging. It reflects how when you break laws you end up under the influence of more laws. If you rise up the scale — through success or financially — you have access to more resources than you did beforehand and are able to deal with challenging situations more easily.

Part of Victory (Jupiter)

Formula = Ascendant + Jupiter – Part of Spirit This part reflects the essential meaning of Jupiter, valour and grace, and shows where mercy falls into your life. It is about receiving the goodness or abundance of life.

If you accept that it’s through grace that things grow or evolve out of your efforts, then this placement reflects that heavenly sense of being watched over. By sign and house, it shows some of the areas or ways in which your efforts will grow most quickly or abundantly. Your personal quest around faith is shown by this part.

Part of Courage (Mars)

Formula = Ascendant + Part of Fortune – Mars

This part refers to right action and by sign and house signifies the particular areas in life or interests that challenge you to hold the concept of always doing what is right, above and beyond the call of duty.

This part demands a transcendence of ego. Have you got the courage to do the right thing, not just from a legal view but from a humanistic or moral perspective, regardless of circumstance? Your personal path of right action is summarised by this part.


The Parts By Element

The elemental outlines here give you some tips on how to energise each of these parts in your chart. Parts that fall in Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) encourage action and movement. Be bold and daring about these themes. You are called to act as an initiator. Take charge and lead the way forward.

Parts that fall in Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) seek stability and security. A level of material comfort that ensures basic needs are met helps you develop. Slow and steady is the best approach. Develop a good relationship with your physical body and needs.

Parts that fall in Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) need stimulation. Knowledge and learning feature as ideas and concepts are what help you embrace the parts in these signs. Communities that support your ideas or beliefs are essential.

Parts that fall in Water signs (cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) crave human connection. Relationships and emotional interaction are paramount. Focus on connecting with other people around the themes of your parts in this element.


Zodiacal Longitude

How to add and subtract planetary or chart placements around the Zodiac. The Zodiac is a 360-degree circle. Each sign represents a 30-degree segment of the circle. To easily add or subtract chart placements, the first step involves converting the planetary placement (ie, 10 Taurus) into Zodiacal Longitude. This creates a common system. Most chart placements have a degree/minute reference but, for simplicity, degrees only are used here.

Aries 0—29 Libra 180—209
Taurus 30—59 Scorpio 210—239
Gemini 60—89 Sagittarius 240—269
Cancer 90—119 Capricorn 270—299
Leo 120—149 Aquarius 300—329
Virgo 150—179 Pisces 330—359

Once you have all three placements required for the part, simply add or subtract the numbers as they are. If your answer is less than 0, add 360. If your answer is greater than 360, subtract 360 so you end up with a figure between 0 and 359. Then take this result and apply it back to the table to give you the Zodiac placement of the part in question.


Worked Example

Part of Victory

Ascendant + Jupiter – Part of Spirit

Ascendant 10 Taurus + Jupiter 27 Cancer – Part of Spirit 13 Sagittarius

10 Taurus becomes 40 (add 10 to the start of Taurus which is 30)

27 Cancer becomes 117 (add 27 to the start of Cancer which is 90)

13 Sagittarius becomes 253 (add 13 to the start of Sagittarius which is 240)


Then insert the figures into your formula as follows:

40 + 117 – 253 = -96

With a negative result, add 360. This brings you to 264.

Take 264 to the table. This falls between 240 and 269 which is in the sign of Sagittarius. Subtract 240 (the start of Sagittarius) from the result of 264. This leaves 24. This part falls 24 degrees into the sign of Sagittarius.


A professional astrologer and writer since 2002, Kelly offers private readings to clients around the globe. Kelly lectures internationally and is a holder of the professional Practitioners Diploma in Astrology from the Federation of Australian Astrologers (FAA).

Kelly Surtees

Kelly Surtees

With more than 14 years in private practice, Kelly Surtees is experienced, warm and insightful. She loves exploring astrology’s history as well as escaping into the ocean. Kelly’s passion for astrology is infectious, and her specialty areas include career and life direction, health and fertility, love, health and happiness. Kelly is an expat Aussie who lives in Canada most of the year.

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