By Anne Ortelee

Our work as astrologers is to help our clients understand their natal charts and gain a cosmic perspective on their competencies, potentials and challenges in their lives.  Over the past few years, I’ve developed an approach that my clients find helpful to understand the “flow” of their particular energy.  

I call it the Pinball Approach to Understanding Your Natal Energy.  The Pinball Approach is a combination of Horary, Uranian, Jyotish and Western astrological techniques. The Pinball Approach focuses on how the energy of transiting planets flow and stimulate the planets in a natal chart. It offers a more holistic approach to understanding a chart as an energy system as you look at each triggering transit as part of an overall process or Pinball Game. It offers guidance to clients on how their natal energy in the form of their unique planet arrangement is triggered by transits to their charts. It helps them work with the more difficult or challenging aspects with a very clear idea of when the energy will complete or peak without having to call you in a panic. It also helps them understand how to reach their maximum natal potential by using their unique timing mechanism proactively. All these things, to my mind, are the best and most terrific parts of astrology as a tool to help us. Plus the Pinball Approach is relatively easy to teach, learn, integrate and understand. And you can become the Pinball Wizard of your chart!

We all know that when a transiting planet travels through a sign, it creates one aspect after another in the natal chart as it moves from 0, incrementally through the signs, to 30. Through conjunctions, semi-sextiles, sextiles, squares, trines, inconjuncts and oppositions, the transiting planet’s energy flows through the natal chart like a pinball, essentially bouncing energetically from one planet to another planet.  

Once we get the hang of the game, we can each become pinball wizards. It seems to be an approach that everyone intuitively understands once you explain it to them, step by step. Each of us experiences our own unique energy system every 2½ days as the moon moves through the sign and lights up the chart. We experience the Sun rolling through our chart and setting off our planets every 30 days or so. When ever a planet or the lights enters a new sign, we start a brand new pinball game as the natal planets get set off, in order, from 0 to 30, once again.

Once you explain the Pinball Approach to a client, they tend to get VERY excited! Often artists or creative types will chime in “and then it falls apart” (Uranus) or “then it dissolves”  (Neptune) or “then the hard part happens and I get afraid” (Saturn) as they have lived inside that energy pattern for their entire lives. They are aware of their creative process as it ebbs and flows. Once I had such success explaining the Pinball Approach to my creative or artistic clients, I expanded it to my regular clients. And, guess what, the regular folks love it too! It is a terrific tool as it helps them learn how to overcome the blocks or problem aspects in their chart. It is also a great tool for parents working with their children and helping kids learn to cope with our increasingly complex world.

How the client wants to use the Pinball information is their call.  Remind them they CAN have an impact in pushing the energy flow by moving projects along in minutes or hours instead of waiting for days or weeks etc.  Generally, I find the hard aspects are where people get hung up or stopped ~ that is where the pinball drops out of the game into the trough. And, those long stretches when the pinball kind of arch slowly up and across are also dropping points. However, once they KNOW about that point in their chart’s flow, they CAN begin to work productively and productively with it.

The Pinball Technique

We start, as always, with the Planets in their most basic role as actors or energy hubs in our lives. I use the most basic definitions of the planets: Mercury ~ thinking, young people, reading; Venus ~ women, money, love; Saturn ~ blocks, delays, obstacles; Pluto ~ hell, difficulty, triangles, transformation; and Neptune~ overwhelming, dissolving, water, foggy, oceanic. Develop your own list of terms. Remembering the planets can act as energy and often become people ~ particularly when they are found in the Western part of the chart or lurking with a difficult planet. 

Aspects between the planets describe the manner in which the pinball of energy flows, easy or hard, fast or slow, stressful or gently. I use standard Ptolemaic aspects as well as the minor aspects.  When there isn’t an aspect between two planets, it often indicates the spot where the pinball game self-destructs, the energy flow breaks or the person doesn’t complete projects.  If a client understands their own timing, the fallow periods between two non-aspected planets can be redirected as “resting times.”  Or perhaps times to let the project rest, like bread rises, and then pick it up when enough the time has passed.

The mildly tricky part to teach and understand is how to time the energy flow of the pinball game in your chart. We all remember how a pinball games can go slowly sometimes or quickly other times.  You can use the distance between planets (in degrees and minutes) to tell how long it will be until the next planet or point gets triggered. Then that time interval, the actual distance between the planets in degrees and minutes, acts as the indicator for whether the project or cycle in question will be seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. Teach yourself to note the interval between the first couple of planets ~ what ever that interval is, will be the interval that gets applied to the rest of the cycle or Pinball game. Remember it can be seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. Once the timing mechanism is established, we each intrinsically know our own unique flow as we’ve lived with it our entire lives. Then, Voila! The rest of the Pinball Game and the corresponding strategy of how we are going to play it unfolds before us in synchronicity with our unique chart timing mechanism, from 0 to 30. 

Starting with the lowest degree planet in the chart, make an ascending list of degrees, planets, signs, house placement and aspects, including the Ascendant and Midheaven angles. I always start with the Aries point, 0 Aries, as the beginning of consciousness, initiation point or launch of an idea. Michael Bloomberg’s chart (February 14, 1942, 3:40 pm EWT, Brighton, MA) will serve as our example.

  1. On the first line, write where the 0 Aries point occurs in the chart and the aspect it makes to the lowest planet (if any) 
  2. Select lowest degree planet, Ascendant or Midheaven in chart. Some people like to include the nodes as points too.
  3. Write the “Degree”, “Planet” symbol or name and “Sign” of the planet, “House” of the planet and the “Aspect” it makes to the next lowest degree planet or point.
  4. Repeat step 2 and 3 for every planet, Ascendant and Midheaven, moving from the lowest to highest degree order.

So Michael Bloomberg’s Energy flow will look like this.

Michael Bloomberg Energy Flow:

0 Aries Point in 9th house trine to
4:11 Pluto in Leo in the 1st hours opposite to
6:58 Venus in Aquarius in the 7th house sextile to
8:44 Midheaven in Aries in the 10th house sextile to
11:32 Jupiter in Gemini in the 11th house square to 
13:24 North Node in Virgo in the 3rd house inconjunct to
15:13 Mercury in Aquarius in the 7th house conjunct to
17:46 Moon in Aquarius in the 8th house square to
18:07 Mars in Taurus in the 11th house conjunct to
22:06 Saturn in Taurus in the 11th house square to
25:29 Sun in Aquarius in the 8th house inconjunct to
26:22 Ascendant in Cancer in the 1st house sextile to      
26:24 Uranus in Taurus in the 11th house trine to
29:21 Neptune in Virgo in the 3rd house.

Bloomberg’s basic energy flow starts from 0 Aries and enters via another person saying something (the 9th house is the derived third house) or him learning/ reading about something (9th house) of a higher mind or from a foreign place. The energy then flows to his Pluto in the 1st house seeding an brand new idea within 4:11. He next approaches an other, described by Venus in his 7th  house to discuss the idea and brainstorm creatively by 6:58. That is how I would suggest Mr. Bloomberg figure out the timing of that particular cycle ~ from the initial suggestion from the 9th house place to when he talks about it with someone else in his 7th house. So in about 6:58, or almost 7 minutes, hours, days, weeks etc something input from the other and his 9th house modifies his direction in life and he talks about it with another person.

In 8:44, or about 1 3/4 minutes, hours, days etc from when he discusses the idea with another, the energy easily (sextile aspect) goes to his Midheaven and he makes it public, by floating a trial balloon. The energy leaps quickly from the Midheaven in another sextile to Jupiter in Gemini by 11:32 or almost 3 minutes, hours, days etc later. At that point, Jupiter in its fall in Gemini takes over and the idea gets split into good and bad, duality, discussed by the various groups in his life and evaluated for how it fits in with his hopes and dreams ~ the Gemini energy quickly descends into a square to the North Node in Virgo in the third house where the mutability of criticism takes place or perhaps lists are made of how to go about doing.

The next aspect in Bloomberg’s chart is difficult ~ an inconjunct from the North Node to the Mercury in the 7th house. The Mayor is know for being a bit thin skinned when he is criticized by people at 15:13. The other guy shooting off his mouth from outside the circle against the plan can visibly irk him. Mercury in Aquarius in the 7th house promises very articulate critics to his bright ideas. Soon Mercury enlists the Moon, by conjunction, symbolizing the rest of the public, so the emotions of the others can become involved in the now very exciting discussion by 17:46 minutes, days, hours, months etc. Moon makes a fast and active square to Mars at 18:07 Taurus in the 11th house, marking that interval as it being time to take action and move the idea forward to the next aspect.  The energy arrives next at Saturn at 22:06 Taurus, 4 minutes, days, month etc from when the decision to act took place.

This last part of Bloomberg’s energy flow presents a special set of problems that he’s probably very used to working with or working around or else the pinball drops into the trough and the game is over. The square from Moon to Mars to conjunction with Saturn as a road block. If he gets past it, next up is the square from Saturn to the Sun in the 8th house ~ where other people actually see the value of his ideas and start to move toward or embrace them. He experiences the public’s or other guy’s seeing the validity of the idea as inconjunct to his Ascendant in 26:22. Once he makes that adjustment he quickly changes the idea and suggests it again, profits from it or moves it  forward culminating with a flowing and easy trine to Neptune in Virgo in the 3rd house where he sees how and learns how to communicate all over again, starting yet another cycle.

Part of the gift of being an Aquarian is being far seeing, which is also part of Bloomberg’s problem. The public might not be quite willing, ready or able to embrace his vision of what could be. As says, American businessman, billionaire and politician, elected the 108th Mayor of New York City, and in the worlds of finance and financial journalism, Michael Bloomberg is a phenomenon. The 25th richest American with an estimated net worth of $11.5 billion (Forbes September 2007), he runs a vast communications empire that takes in $4.7 billion a year in revenue and employs more than 10,000 people in more than 125 offices worldwide. A ruthless competitor, he is noted for his hot temper and vivid profanity. Ferocious, he is not without compassion; flippant, he is deeply serious about the social responsibilities of wealth and privilege.

A recent example to illustrate the Pinball Approach to working with a chart is Mayor Bloomberg’s suggestion that Manhattan install a concept called “New York Congestion Pricing” to reduce traffic in midtown Manhattan during the business day. 

According to Wikipedia, New York Congestion Pricing was a proposed traffic congestion fee for vehicles traveling into or within the Manhattan central business district of New York City. The congestion pricing charge was one component of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to improve the city’s future environmental sustainability while planning for population growth, entitled PlaNYC 2030: A Greener, Greater New York.  Mayor Bloomberg’s goals for long-term sustainability through the year 2030 were first announced on December 12, 2006.

New York’s proposal cites comparable congestion pricing programs in London, Singapore and Stockholm ~ as we would expect, the idea initiates from Bloomberg‘s travels to foreign places, 0 Aries in his 9th house. New York City’s program was proposed to be a three-year pilot program, at the end of which the City and State would decide if the program should be made permanent. When final legislative approval is given, the program could be put into effect within 18 months ~ corresponding to Bloomberg’s Mars at 18 Taurus. We now know we are to check the progress of this cycle by MONTHS as our timing mechanism.

Six months after Bloomberg announced New York Congestion Pricing, we find the Pinball of energy has moved to Venus in Aquarius in the 7th house, In June 2007, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said that out of the nine finalist cities applying for the program, New York City was the farthest along in its traffic reduction planning and the city was eligible for up to $500 million for funding the congestion pricing plan.

Eight months after it starts, Bloomberg has an initial flush of success as the Pinball triggers the Midheaven announcement on August 14, 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded from the Urban Partnership program $354 million to New York City. It was the largest of the five grants awarded to cities.  We then move to Jupiter in the 11th with its Gemini sign starting to split opinions. The idea of congestion pricing was endorsed by the Governor , Senate Majority Leader, and other New York City politicians as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Assembly Speaker and other politicians expressed skepticism about the plan, raising several questions about its viability, its environmental effects on neighborhoods bordering the congestion zone, the lack of state control in Bloomberg’s proposal, and the imposition of a regressive tax on commuters.

Thirteen and a half months after it starts, Bloomberg’s North Node at 13 was activated, on January 31, 2008, the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission approved a plan for congestion pricing, which was passed by a vote of 13 to 2. Some changes over Mayor Bloomberg’s original proposal were introduced, such as reducing the congestion zone, no charges for vehicles which stay within the zone, and a discount for low-emission trucks.

Now the pinball moves to Mercury in the 7th as the criticism REALLY starts to kick in. The proposal was approved by the New York City Council on March 31, 2008 by a vote of 30 to 20. Other alternatives (Mercury in Aquarius weighing in with choices) considered by the commission was to restrict access into the congestion zone one day a week based on the last digits of the license plates. Bloomberg’s plan was endorsed by the Governor whose support was considered key to approve the bill in Albany.

Here we reach a critical juncture, as Bloomberg’s natal Mercury joins next with his Moon, in the eighth house of  possible death of the idea or project and heads into that nasty configuration when the Pinball can drop into the trough for game over. Public opinion weighed in, and not all of it was  favorable to the idea. We find people are resistant to changes as we enter that nasty part of his chart where things can, and do fall apart on him. The deadline to approve the plan by the State Assembly was April 7, 2008, for the city to be eligible to receive US$ 354 million in federal assistance for traffic congestion relief and mass transit improvements. On April 7, 2008, after a closed-door meeting, the Democratic Conference of the State Assembly decided not to vote on the proposal, “…the opposition was so overwhelming,…that he would not hold an open vote of the full Assembly” Sheldon Silver, the Assembly Speaker said. Afterwards, the USDOT announced that they will seek to allocate those funds to relief traffic congestion in other cities.

Mr. Bloomberg should reintroduce a modified version of New York Congestion Pricing once he gets past the squares and the energetic blocks from the Mars/ Saturn square following the Moon’s death ~ sometime 22 to 26 months from when he first introduced it ~ after October 2008 to mid-February of 2009~ as the aspects in the Pinball energy of his chart are very favorable for it to get passed.     


As you can see from the example above, it is a unique approach to take with a chart and the progress of projects. I often find the oppositions, squares, semi-sextiles, inconjuncts and sometimes the conjuncts are where the energy gets blocked, and the pinball bounces back and forth or the game seems to collapse before your eyes.  Also, if there is a large gap between planets, the space in between is where projects can get lost or discontinued. I encourage people to keep working on things as that quiet period is meant for process and not stopping, even if you are not receiving outside encouragement from the world. Sometimes it makes sense to put the project  down during the long quiet periods and work on another project. Once the fallow period has passed, pick it back up and try again.

The tougher planets are another place where people seem to get stuck. Knowing the gap between the malefic spot and the next step can make the problem seem and feel much easier to deal with. The malefic becomes a marker of sorts ~ Kind of an inner energy coach saying “okay, you got to Saturn, or the roadblock, now you have to wait 2 more hours, days, weeks etc before you get moving again.”  Planets in their detriment, retrograde or fall have more trouble moving the energy. So in the case of the trouble spots, you can offer coping mechanisms ~ take that Mars in Pisces out for a swim or a Yoga class ~ often helps the client push through the energy that is stalling or not so direct.

People with a bunch of planets at the early degrees tend to be fast starters while those with a bunch of planets at the late degrees are the last minute folks.  I had one client whose planets were all in the first 10 degrees.  Her eldest son’s planets all started after 22 degrees. She was forever nagging him to get working on his homework. His reply was “Mom, I am working on it in my head!”  And, true to the energy flow described by his chart, he was! His homework projects would spring out fully formed and in beautiful shape right before they were due. Understanding his energy flow was different from hers helped make their home life less stressful. 

A client with Pluto as the starting degree said, “I always do the MOST difficult thing first! Clean up the mess, tackle the tough job.”  Another whose block was Neptune in the 7th said “People always throw water on my ideas!” as the reason for why he stopped moving forward. Teaching him to take the water effect of Neptune dousing his great idea as a GOOD sign because it meant Mars was next. Mars meant he was able to get active and get it accomplished. It helped him to learn to redirect the anger of his Mars that appeared because he was “doused with Neptune”. Instead of fuming over being wet, he started to move the projects forward!   

The pinball approach is also terrific for understanding relationships and the energy flows between people. For relationship synastry, first complete individual energy flows for each person. Then using different colored pens, create a combined form, ranked in 0 to 30 degree order, for the relationship energy flow between the two of people.  The technique can also be used to compare the composite charts and an individual’s chart to see the energy flow of the relationship to the individual

So map out your chart. Map out the charts of people you know well to learn how the Pinball technique works. Start adding the technique to your readings. You’ll see your client‘s eyes light up as they figure out how it explains their chart’s energy flow so beautifully! Encourage clients to time and track their own energy flows.

And make sure to pay attention when a transiting planet visits that first planet in your energetic pinball machine of a natal chart ~ a new game is beginning!

Anne Ortelee is a full time professional astrologer practicing in New York City.  She is NCGR Certified Level 3. Anne loves to play pinball!  She writes a Weekly Weather report on the aspects in the heaven on her website, She can be reached at or 212 879 2766.