Astrology is ambient. Like the latin meaning of the word: it is all around.
An astrological renascence is underway worldwide at this time… I bet you’ve noticed.
My personal approach to astrology is to work with it every day. And I am deeply interested in its origins. Due to many recent translations of ancient texts, we have available to us for the first time a huge number of teachings coming right from the sources of our traditions. I believe interpreting and applying this knowledge in a responsible, meaningful, and skillful way is our task at hand.
Some technical specifics:
I use the sacred seven planets as zodiac sign rulers, and do not subscribe to the very recent notion of modern rulerships: that the (invisible to us) outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto rule the signs Aquarius, Pisces, and Scorpio. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have been doing just fine as the domicile lords (rulers) of Scorpio, Pisces, and Aquarius for at least two thousand years. And most importantly there is an elegant symmetry to the original sequence of rulership which is totally lost when you hand over domain to these trans-Saturnian planets. Also sacrificed is the original meaning underlying the aspects. While there may be some associative similarities between the outer planets and their proposed sign relationship, I think it is actually a disservice to try to limit these transpersonal bodies. To encapsulate and trap their meaning in a single zodiac sign feels forced, trivial, linear, mechanistic… See: A Conversation With Robert Hand - The Modern Astrologer With a Medieval Heritage.
I think you can and ought to read a chart with just the seven traditional (visible) planets, at least some of the time. Many modern western astrologers get hung up on outer planets, imo. You can always derive a tremendous amount of information from just the visible planets (the wanderers) ― especially via accidental and essential dignity, house rulership, aspects, and so on. After establishing the structure and story with these essential points, moving on to the outer bodies (including asteroids, etc.) makes sense as they can offer quite specific additional information.
I use a blend of house systems. I use Whole Sign Houses for topical purposes, whilst emphasizing whether a planet is "advancing" or "retreating" around the actual angles. Whether a planet is rising, setting, culminating, or anti-culminating is a physical/visual reality that should not be overlooked as it determines a planet's terrestrial strength (and quality). In some cases I use the Porphyry house system, which 2nd century astrologer Vettius Valens mentions using for specific techniques in his Anthology. At the moment I'm experimenting with intermediate house cusps as sensitive points in several Quadrant systems, like Campanus, Alcabitius, Regiomontanus, Placidus, and Meridian.
I use Indian techniques, including many timing systems, divisional charts, and rasi aspects from the Jaimini system.
I use midpoints, the 360 and 90 degree dials, planetary pictures, and some other Symmetrical (Uranian or Cosmobiological) tools and methods. This is atop a traditional Hellenistic, Persian, Early Medieval, and Indian (Jyotish) perspective.
Note: the Lots (commonly called the Arabic Parts, i.e. the Part of Fortune) are one major unifying component between systems and astrologies throughout time. The Lots are older than Hellenistic astrology, probably Babylonian or Egyptian in origin, and utilizing them was of chief importance to Hellenistic and Persian astrologers. Modern astrologers too, due in large part to the lunation cycle work of Dane Rudhyar, employ the Lot of Fortune and sometimes the Lot of Spirit. The Lot of Fortune itself even offers us an alternate Ascendant! Lots are planetary pictures―an important feature of Symmetrical astrology, and are expressions of planetary phase relationships. These sensitive symmetrical points, potent and mysterious, marry astrological thought through the ages and, for me, feel timeless.
I work with essential dignity, including how it influences planetary interchanges through configurations (aspects) and reception. I utilize and note triplicity, trigon lords, bounds, as well as antiscia, declination, parans, planets in phasis -heliacal risings and settings (planets and fixed stars), planetary stations, and Dig bala (the directional strength of a planet).
I work with divisional charts also known as Vargas. These charts convey specifics around career, relationship, children, happiness, health, wealth, etc.
Occasionally I work with asteroids, and Transneptunians (TNPs): Cupido, Hades, Kronos and company. They are not imperative, in my view, but they add embellishment and nuance, and sometimes eerily describe character and situations. Outer planets are a bit like asteroids, imo.
Finally, I find the twelve letter astrological alphabet to be too simplistic and often misleading: Aries = Mars = First House, Taurus = Venus = Second, etc.. For a deeper understanding of signs, houses, aspects, and the planetary meanings associated with them, I think it is best to begin one’s study with the Thema Mundi (a hypothetical chart of the world, i.e., teaching tool) — or consider the Chakras and their relationship to the signs.
* you might also consider symmetry in the sign-based decanates of the zodiac, reinforcing the significance of the of the seven traditional planetary rulers.
Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra
The Houses: Temples of the Sky by Deborah Houlding (also see articles on Skyscript)
Introductions to Traditional Astrology and Traditional Astrology for Today: An Introduction by Benjamin Dykes, PhD
The Planetary Joys and the Origins of the Significations of the Houses by Chris Brennan
Astrology and the Authentic Self by Demetra George
Articles @ Seven Stars Astrology
Preferred Timing techniques:
Zodiacal Releasing (as outlined by Vettius Valens, 2nd c.e.)
Vimsottari and Rasi Dasas (from the Indian system)
Annual and monthly profections
Solar arc directions
Valens' Quarters of the Moon
Minor planetary periods