Lois Rodden and data grading

Birth times and birth certificates play a vital role in astrology. Professional astrologers and research technicians need birth data. The work they do depends upon a time, date and place of birth. Data is obtained from people, birth certificates, family records, hospital records and written documents. It comes via personal contact, phone conversations, letters, books and the internet and the astrologer’s first duty, on receiving the data, is to validate its authenticity and level of accuracy. But during the first half of the 20th-century data-grading was not a top of the list priority for astrologers.

America had experienced an astrology revival during the 1930s, but accuracy standards were low – there was no regulation – and many so-called astrologers couldn’t construct an accurate birthchart. Then in 1939 war erupted in Europe. What followed was a period of great political and social upheaval and the astrologers required birth-data to explain what was going on and to predict outcomes. But in their rush to get the birth details of the political and other change agents involved in the revolutionary transformation they forgot to heed Alan Leo’s informed comment that ‘….the average recorded birth time may be presumed correct within ten minutes or a quarter of an hour’ and that ‘most published nativities must be regarded as more or less approximate’ and then they neglected to validate the data’s accuracy. But some astrologers, realizing they were working with approximate birth times, then concluded that the charts required rectification. The end result was an astonishing array of rectification techniques all promising amazing results, but all hopelessly unreliable.

This was the state of play until the 1970s when Lois Rodden and a handful of other data collectors in America realized that much of the birth-data that was being used by astrologers was simply hearsay, rectified guesswork or pure speculation. And this woeful situation was adversely affecting the scientific status and credibility of astrology. And gradually the idea to verify and validate existing and new birth-data developed into a vital issue affecting the international astrological community. The end result was The Rodden Rating System. To quote Lois Rodden from her book ‘Profiles of Women’:

‘The Rodden Rating System of accuracy developed quite spontaneously at the time that Profiles of Women was in the process of publication (in late 1979), and has been used in each of the successive data collections. Collectors around the world have recognized the simplicity and efficiency of the rating system.

AA Accurate data from birth-certificate, civic record or written family source

A Accurate as quoted by the person, kin, intimate friend or associate

B Biography or autobiography

C Caution, no source. Undocumented data, an ambiguous quote or a source that has not

proven credible

DD Dirty data: two or more unsubstantiated quotes

Data accuracy is always a problem. We data collectors (and we would add those doing astro-research) become very skeptical as the very nature of recorded information is such that human error accumulates in spite of the best intentions. There is no data book or collection that is without flaw. Though it is possible to find cases when the birth certificate is in error, AA data is the best evidence we have of accurate birth information.

‘A’ data may or may not be accurate. Please keep in mind that public figures, especially politicians, answer a public question to be accommodating rather than specific in regard to their birth time. The answer of ‘8.00am, midnight, 6.00pm, just before noon’, or variations thereof may be gracious but totally inaccurate or the time given may be approximate. The chance of accuracy is better when the public figure is a client of an astrologer who requests data from birth records.

‘B’ data may or may not be accurate. A person may lie about their age in their autobiography, and authors lean toward descriptions of a ‘wild and stormy night.’ Literary license may be suspected unless the authors specify their source of information.  Biographers who market scandal and gossip may actually create misinformation for the sake of shock value.

‘C’ data may or may not be accurate. Until a source can be traced there is no way to know if this data has any validity. When magazines and journals are quoted without the original source they may only be considered as reference; i.e. ‘Data from Profiles of Women’ is not a source but a reference.

‘DD’ – Dirty Data – is presented for reference only and often stimulates correspondence that leads to correction and confirmation. As we astrologers work together for the good of our field, we all benefit, improving our data base world wide.’

She ended her explanation of the various data classifications with a plea: ‘Give the source of your data – and put the source on every chart.’

There’s no doubt that the development of the Rodden Rating System was the best thing to happen to astrology in the second half of the 20th-Century. Three cheers for Lois Rodden. Now, when new or old birth data becomes available, the person providing the data must state its source and those wishing to use the data can rate its authenticity and accuracy – particularly the accuracy of the birth time. The practice, which was quickly adopted, represents an important, positive development in astrology’s chequered history.

Lois Rodden also did everyone a big favor by applying her rating system to all the older US data she had collected. This came from astrological organizations – like The Church of Light – data collections – like Sabian Symbols – and the astrological magazines that were very popular during the 1930s and 1940s. It was a huge task.  She collected thousands of data over many years that revealed just how undisciplined the astrological community was in the first half of the 20th-century. While some pre-1950 data was sourced to birth certificates, birth records and family records and given a AA rating most of it was so poorly sourced it had to be given a C or DD rating, which meant that it was either made up, speculative or wrecktified.

Now the astrological community reveres AA birth data – the birth time has been documented on a birth certificate or family record. But the evidence reveals that some AA data is best described as almost accurate and is not accurate enough for those important research projects that require an almost precise ascendant degree.

Related articles in: Chapters in Astrology’s History