Gaye Alkan – Aristotle’s ”Hamartia” in the charts


Understanding the universal human codes connecting with The Ancient Ties

The knowledge of the universe is whole. There are many disciplines that are nourished by the same resources: such as Philosophy, Astrology, Art. As I studied Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, I became familiar with The Ancient Greek terminology and I often see that the Ancient Greek knowledge is really connected with many other disciplines. In this work, I want to show the connection between Astrological perspective for human evolution and Aristotle’s terms, specifically the “Hamartia” term, which he explains in his book “Poetics.” The main reason to refer to this connection is, I believe, there is a deep understanding of the universal archetypes in the Ancient Knowledge. The terms that Aristotle uses in Poetics seem to summarize well the universal patterns of the human condition.

Aristotle explains the structure of a tragedy with a main rule, “obligation and possibility” in Poetics, which is a theory book for The Ancient Tragedies (plays). According to his rule, what makes a tragedy a good one, what the elements of a good story are based on “the obligations and possibilities” of the universe. “If something can happen in real life in a certain way, it can also happen that way in plays too.” That’s exactly what makes his terms accurate for our usage. He constantly analyzes the real patterns of humanity and makes the tragedy rules fit them.

In the Greek language, Hamartia means, “to err”, or “mistake”. Aristotle uses this term while explaining a hero’s tragic fault in the Greek Tragedies. He suggests that the hero always has a Hamartia and this Hamartia takes the hero to the tragic end. This is a weakness, a bleeding point in life that can destroy everything. Hamartia may be a specific characteristic of human nature. For example, as one of the tragic heroines, Antigone has a braveness that was too much for her, she wanted to bury her brother’s dead body, which was a forbidden action for the citizens. This brother was blamed to be a traitor by the government and his body was left to be eaten by birds. Although the king, who is Antigone’s uncle, warned Antigone about the possible results, she just did what she believed in. Finally, she ended up with her tragic end following her ethical code by honoring the brother’s dead body. The term Hamartia, has insisting nature in it, there is always a blind or compulsive impulse to do something and the exaggeration of a quality. 

“The Obligations and The Possibilities”

Aristotle uses this measurement while defining the standards of a good tragedy. A good tragedy occurs from the events that can happen in real life. In this rule, the obligations are about the natural structure of life. For example, a disabled person in a wheelchair, cannot walk a minute later. There is a need for some physical changes for making that person walk, there is a need for time or maybe it’s not possible at all. Things, people, events have natural conditions in them, which define the obligations. These needs are also pointing Saturnian nature of being alive, which we cannot go without experiencing.

According to Aristotle, as in the example, we see the possibilities which are limited and related to the obligations. A turtle having a shell will not to be able to fly; this is an obligation due to its nature. 

As astrologers, we know that each chart has many configurations which bring out many obligations to an individual and those obligations define possibilities. 

This will be our foundation to understand The Hamartia of a chart. 

The Blindness and The Exaggeration of a Quality

The blind compulsion to do something and the exaggeration of a quality are the two signs of The Hamartia effect in the charts. 

We know that this insisting repetitiveness may show itself in the charts in some configurations. When our clients tell us their story about life and highlight a chronic issue they cannot overcome, or if there is an ethical problem they are compulsive about, this may be a “Hamartia.” 

Every astrologer has a starting point to analyze a chart, which serves as the beginning of an investigation into the chart. It’s very much like the first impression of a chart. Using The Hamartia factor to understand processes in our lives can be helpful, although the factors to look for can vary for each chart. Here are some factors to take a look for The Hamartia in a chart, as the blind behavior and mistake significators:

Defining The Exaggerated Quality:

Dignity/Debility of The Planets, House Placements, The Fixed Stars, The Nodes

Listening to the client’s story and trying to find the ethical conflict in his / her behavior are the first steps. When a client explains his / her story, there are hidden messages about the chart in the statements of the client, which can be decoded with the astrological symbolism. For example, one may say: “I can’t stop controlling things in my life and as a result, my husband wants to divorce because of that. I cannot help it as I see the things that need to be done, so I take charge. ” This explanation may be related to a South Node in Capricorn, which is conjunct a planet that can accentuate the need for governance and control – this is a Hamartia effect.

Planets in Detriment or Fall may not express their nature harmoniously. For example, Mars in Cancer can have a tendency to destroy feminine energy and experience conflict with Cancerian symbolism, such as “family”, “mother” and “motherhood”. On the other hand, an exalted planet can have the exaggeration quality of the Hamartia, such as Jupiter in Cancer, especially if it is conjunct the South Node. The Nodes are related to the destiny and they are about the nature of a soul, so they intensify the expression of the planets when they are conjunct them.

Angularity can also be an important key in this dynamic; for instance, Mars in Aries in the 10th house can reflect excessive ambition and motivation. In addition to that, The Cadent houses are worth to consider, such as planets in the 12th house, which suggests suppressed energies with the existing planetary symbolism.

Fixed stars, especially The Royal Fixed Stars have very strong, irresistible natures in their energy. It’s possible to see the ethical factors in all the definitions of the Fixed Stars.

Conclusion: Why Look for Hamartia and How Does It Help?

The Hamartia effect’s pressure varies from chart to chart, according to the dynamics of the chart and its evolutionary needs. Obviously, not everyone is Antigone in our lives. but everyone has their own Hamartia. I believe Hamartias are the main keys to open up the whole chart and the life’s solution. I hope this connection will bring a new perspective to our practices.



  • Aristotle  Poetics 
  • Sophocles Antigone

Gaye Alkan


The article was first published by OPA magazine The Career Astrologer March 2018 Edition.




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