Monthly Archives: June 2009

The life changers: Neptune, Uranus and Pluto cross the I.C.

Liz Greene once wryly observed in one of her seminars that, if you wanted a relatively quiet and peaceful life, you should arrange to be born when the outer planets were as far away from the personal planets and Angles as possible. I wish! say many of you reading this, as indeed does the writer, who has all the outer planets bolted onto all the personal planets and has had anything BUT a quiet life. (Encouraging note for the similarly challenged – I’m not young any more,  but I’m still here –more or less! – and pretty happy with what I have been able to make of my time on this earth to date).

In similar vein, many people – depending on the horoscope yielded by their particular date, time, and place of birth – will never even experience one of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto crossing their IC ( for non-astrologers reading this, the IC symbolises the point of origin, roots and core of a person’s life).

However, I have had the lot – and am still here to tell the tale. Here it is….

The Underworld - Ancient Egypt

The Underworld - Ancient Egypt

“Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” – Neptune, Uranus and Pluto cross the I.C.

In my horoscope the IC is conjunct the South Node at 28 degrees of Scorpio. Pluto, its ruler, is placed in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Saturn, Venus, Moon and Sun in Leo. As a child I would lie in bed watching the roses on the wallpaper turn into malevolent  faces as daylight faded; I had to make bargains with them before they would let me sleep.

I read voraciously, and particularly recall the works of Victorian novelist H Rider Haggard whose myth-steeped descriptions of his characters’ adventures in Africa last century fascinated me. But da Silva, the Dutch explorer whose frozen body was found centuries after his death in a cave high up Mt. Kilimanjaro, transferred himself from “King Solomon’s Mines” to the wardrobe in my bedroom, on and off, for a couple of years. Getting to sleep was no mean feat with an imagination like mine!

King Solomon's Mines First Edition

King Solomon's Mines First Edition

My ‘real’ life – eating, sleeping, going to school – was incidental to my inner life which was full of what I felt were the really interesting questions : why are we alive, where do we go after death, do we live on several planes of existence at once, what is happening in other galaxies, if there are x million Catholics and even more Buddhists and Hindus, how come they are all Wrong and Damned and a few thousand members of the Free Church of Scotland are Right and Saved ?

And what would happen if you unwrapped an Egyptian mummy and I wonder if I could make a shrunken head like the Jivaro Indians and why did people paint pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago?

These were the issues which preoccupied me for years. No-one knew about them except my maternal grandfather. He had spent time taming wild horses alone in the middle of Argentina before World War 1, and in later life was the only Church of Scotland missionary to visit ill or injured foreign sailors of all religions in the local island hospital, despite the disapproval of the Free Church. “We are all God’s children”, he would say firmly to his critics – and to me. He died when I was eleven, after which I spoke to no-one until I grew up and left home about anything which really mattered.

As Pluto squared 12th house Venus, Moon and Sun, then crossed the IC conjunct South Node from 93-95, what was left of my family of origin fell apart in a particularly painful and tragic way. I had to make choices in order to protect myself from the destructive urges of other family members which involved separation from loved ones which is probably permanent. The major decision I made during those years was that the blood tie does not give others the right to destroy your life. I was indeed fortunate in having an astrological framework, which helped to provide a meaningful context for the pain.

As part of trying to process what was happening, I decided to compile a family history, returning to my native island to collect some oral material from old people who knew my family back a couple of generations. The day I sat down to write it up, transiting Pluto was exactly conjunct the South Node, within half a degree of the IC.  During the same week, I looked back through some old writings of my own, finding two unpublished pieces.

The first was written in July 1970, six months after the start of Neptune transiting the IC. I had no knowledge of astrology then…….

“…….My sister and I decided to take the dog and walk from our house, just outside the  town, to a beach very exposed to the sea, well beyond the harbour. It would be a long walk, but it was a beautiful briskly windy sunny day – snatched from the usual bleak incessant rains of  a Hebridean July.

We took a curving route through the town, then via an outlying district overlooking the navigation beacon. This landmark had winked its electric eye reassuringly at the mouth of the harbour for as long as I could remember. Approaching the district cemetery, my sister walked on by, but I slowed down, never having passed through its gates. Only men attended funerals in the Outer Hebrides when I was growing up.

“The sun is shining on the dead today!” I called to my sister. “Let’s go and pay our respects.” She wasn’t too keen. “Have you ever visited Granddad and Granny’s grave?” I asked.

“No,” she said. ” I suppose we could do that.”
We pushed open the heavy creaking gate. The graveyard, beautifully tended, sloped gently down to within a few hundred yards of the sea. I realised that I did not know where my father’s parents lay.

” I remember where Daddy said it was,” my sister said. “Follow me. With our English name, it shouldn’t be difficult to find.”

Our  paternal grandfather had been posted to the Outer Hebrides before the First World War, meeting our grandmother on his first trip ashore. English gentlemen were a great rarity in these parts; very desirable “catches” to aspiring island girls like Granny, who had by all accounts been a handsome, strong and wilful young woman. He was well and truly caught; apart from a period of war service he remained in the Outer Isles for the rest of his long life.

His death devastated my grandmother. They had been married for fifty two years. I remember sitting with her in her bedroom, she who had always turned herself out so elegantly propped up in bed, an old singlet of my grandfather’s failing to conceal her droopy, withered breasts from my young eyes. Up to then I had never known the desolation of not being able to console another human being – or that old people ever cried. She wept and wailed and moaned, repeating:
“I don’t want to live any more. What’s the use, what’s the use now he’s away? “

Live on she did, doggedly, for nine years, lightened only by a late addition to the family. I was fifteen when my brother was born. Granny was eighty two, and half way senile. The child was called Frederick, after Granddad; as the novelty wore off Granny slipped into senility, a querulous fractious husk, and finally just a husk, and a medical miracle, carried off at eighty six with her fourth bout of pneumonia.

I was at university when she died, having become so distant from her by then that  I felt nothing but a vague sense of relief ….

“I’ve found it !”
I had fallen behind my sister in my reverie. She was standing about twenty yards away; I hurried to the spot. It was a plain, simple grave. A low railing ran round it. The headstone was in sandstone, with only the facts of their births and deaths etched on it in gold lettering. Noting with satisfaction, which my grandmother would have shared, the absence of ‘fancy versification’, I stood and looked at the grave.

Without any warning, for I had felt quiet and composed, there was a rush and a roar in a deep silent centre of my being; a torrent of desolation and grief swept through me. I wept and wept and wept, quite uncontrolled.

There they were, half my being. Where had it all gone: the passion of their early love; the conception of their children; her sweat and blood and pain as she thrust my father into the world; their quarrels, silences, love, laughter, loneliness and grief; their shared and separate lives? And this was it. On a hot beautiful day with the sea lapping on the shore and the seabirds wheeling and diving, a few bits of cloth and bone under the earth, an iron railing and a stone above.

I was not weeping just for them. Overwhelmed by  total awareness of my own mortality and that of all human beings before and after me, I had never felt so stricken, so vulnerable, so alone.” (i)

The second piece, however, written in the autumn of 1971, at the end of the Neptune transit to the IC, whilst Neptune was 0 Sagittarius, shows that something else was now emerging from the underworld which would offer me inspiration and support :

(The ‘pibroch’ referred to is the music of lament played on the Scottish bagpipes)

“ It was a clear autumn evening. Peter called just after seven; he was going out to practice some pibroch. Would I like to come along? It was a rare time of balance – in the weather, in the satisfaction of work which was still new enough to be stimulating, in the fact that Peter and I were falling in love.

Peter drove several miles out of town, winding slowly up deserted country roads to a hill above a small village. Taking out the pipes he began to blow them up, and after much tinkering began to play. To avoid distracting him, I strolled slowly down the road. Peter was standing on a bank of grass at the top of the hill; on his left was a little wood. On the other side of the road was a ditch thick with whin bushes.

Beyond the ditch was a rusty, sagging fence; on the far side of the fence, smooth, mossy moorland dotted with whins, their vivid yellow colour fading into the deepening dusk. In the distance I could just see the  Highland hills, purple and rust, gathering shadows in the autumnal twilight.

Venus Rising

Venus Rising

A myriad of stars, taking their lead from Venus, was growing bright with increasing intensity. A mellow harvest moon was slowly rising, casting a glow on the hills. The air held a hint of cold. I could feel the melancholy music of the bagpipes flowing through me like a magical current.

Reaching the foot of the hill, surrendering myself completely to the intensity of the moment, I lay down in the middle of the road. Spreading out my arms, I gazed up at the stars.

A gentle breeze blew over my body, soughing through the reedy grass. Drifting with the music through the night sky, slipping away from awareness of myself or the present, I was a timeless spirit of the air, travelling the vastness of space on the notes of the pibroch. An unobtrusive rhythm, a pulse, began to beat; growing more and more steady, it became a whispering message in my mind :

‘ There is nothing to fear,’  it said. ‘ There is nothing to fear.’

An image of my lying dead, under the earth, came to me. Such images, occurring at other times, had filled me with panic and disgust. Now, there was none of that. I could gladly have died at that moment; my flesh would return to the earth and nourish it, my spirit would soar to infinity. The pulse continued, flooding me with its light :

‘ There is nothing to fear, nothing to fear, nothing to fear….’

At that point of spiritual ecstasy, I felt the absolute reality of my soul.

Such a moment might have lasted a second, an hour, or a hundred thousand years; but the music ceased, and the chill which was gradually taking over my body drew me back gently into the present…….” (ii)

The knowledge that such a vitalizing sense of connectedness was possible, glimpsed during the above experience, kept me going through the long struggle to believe that  life had an overall meaning, and to find my own way of offering my energy creatively in the years which were to follow.

When Uranus crossed the South Node/IC in 1980/81, I began to study astrology, thereby fulfilling a prediction made by an astrologer I had casually encountered in a laundrette in Bath in England in the early 1970s. I also met, moved in with and later married my partner – his Scorpio Moon is conjunct my IC and South Node, and he has an Aquarian Sun and Venus. All very appropriate symbolism for the timing of the Uranus IC transit !

His steadfast support, combined with the deep awareness of teleology which many years’ practice of astrology brings, have been vital for my personal and professional growth and development from the time Uranus crossed the IC until now, (ie end 1995-early 1996) as Pluto moves off that point.

When Pluto was still transiting the IC, but from Sagittarius, I applied and was accepted for a major astrological study course. The very day that Pluto was exactly on the South Node and about to cross the IC for the last time saw me beginning the first year of study. I felt a powerful sense of standing on firm inner ground after the turbulence and trauma of the last few years – of being in the right place at the right time, of having done what I could, for now, with my family inheritance – of being ready to move on to the next growth cycle.

Now that the outer planets have crossed the IC and moved into the Western hemisphere of my Horoscope, I feel liberated from much of the pathology of the past, and  more able to use directly in the world the undoubted creativity inherited with it. Nor do I need any longer to make bargains with the shadowy figures who emerge when the light of day is dimming….

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i & ii : Both extracts have been published both together and separately  in several articles in the USA, the UK and  Australia, eg in “Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” which appeared in the UK’s Astrological Journal, 1996,  and was then reprinted in Considerations magazine (USA) in the same year.

and –

 

“Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” is a quote from ‘L’Allegro’ by the English poet John Milton

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2300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Introducing first guest writer: Paul F. Newman

 

” THE ODDS AGAINST SCIENCE FICTION.”

The odds might be scarier than the stories

by Paul F. Newman

(This article was first published in The New Writer, No.66, May/June 2004)

‘ “…don’t submit articles about rejections to magazine editors. It’s all been said before and there’s nothing new to add on the subject…” [Suzanne Ruthven, The New Writer Nov/Dec 2003].

This is not an article about rejection. It’s more about getting stuck some place in a zone between light and shadow. “Sf”, as the insiders like to call science fiction, appears to be a thriving genre. And it is. The problem is that just about every life form seems determined to write for it. I thought it only fair to pass on my experience of the current odds (in 2004) for getting a short story published in some of the leading monthly science fiction magazines.

Firstly, to define my credentials, “hard” sf has never been my line; I’m much more of a “soft” man myself. That means, like most of the sentient universe, I’m more interested in the fiction in science fiction that the science in it. There are certainly publications that do veer more towards the hard stuff, like the American Analog for instance, whose writer’s guidelines tell you that they prefer “stories in which some aspect of future science or technology is so integral to the plot that, if that aspect were removed, the story would collapse.”

Well, fair enough. If you’re a rocket scientist I foresee no problems for you there.

The Twilight Zone....

The Twilight Zone....

But if your mind is whirling more in flights of fantasy than in astronautical units you might deduce you were quarking up the wrong tree with Analog and feel more at home with three other of the market leaders: Fantasy & Science Fiction (US), Asimov’s Science Fiction (US) and Interzone (UK).

Over the last 12 months I sent a different story to each of these magazines in turn. These are the results.

Fantasy & Science Fiction politely declined my riveting story of two men taking an excursion into a sideways world within two weeks. (That is, it was declined within two weeks). In a personally signed letter from the Editorial Assistant in New York I was thanked for submitting it, but regretfully informed that it didn’t grab his interest this time. I had no clue as to whether it might have grabbed his interest at a different time or whether it was complete crap at any time. But I was most grateful for the swift reply.

Britain’s Interzone took four months to reject my next effort. A cheeky little tale of a near future when everyone’s higher selves were visible behind them. The setting was a casino, as it would be of course. To be fair, Interzone never led you to suspect that they would be particularly eager to receive your latest masterpiece in the first place. The small-print paragraph headed “submissions” on page 3 of their magazine baldly stated the required word range and little else, except what they would be unable to do: like reply if there was no return postage or accept responsibility for loss or damage to unsolicited material etc. Without a website to its name (what century are we in?) there was none of the cheery encouragement to writers that I found on the sites of the American magazines.

However I would soon learn what I was up against. The closely-printed rejection form enlightened me that Interzone was now receiving about 200 manuscripts a month. You didn’t have to be an Analog reader to figure out that with an average of just 5 stories published each issue – and with favour obviously going to any known writing names in the field – you had about as much chance of entering the Interzone as entering the Twilight Zone, or of having a sherry with H.G.Wells.

Well probably more chance with H.G.Wells. On a good day his Time Machine might be working.

I was left with the distinct impression that Interzone would be happier if all these people would stop sending in manuscripts and take out subscriptions instead.

I had more or less abandoned all hope of ever hearing back from Asimov’s Science Fiction. My powerful drama of four people on a cruise ship being dangerously affected by the invisible gravitational point at the second foci of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun and activated (naturally) at aphelion, had probably caused it to disappear from the earth plane itself in mutual sympathy. But my impatience was premature. Seven months later the polite rejection arrived.

Not a signed letter this time but a standard though nicely-worded apology that informed me that unfortunately my piece had “failed to rise above the other 849 seen that month”. Yes, 850 manuscripts a month. That was the figure quoted as being received at Asimov’s from which, the stated figures suggested, only one unsolicited piece might fight its way through. Like a determined sperm I suppose. Why were all these blind hordes writing science fiction stories anyway? I reckon ninety per cent of them must be aliens. It’s obviously all a conspiracy.

But in the end I began to feel truly sorry for the science fiction editors on the receiving end of all this. What an existence. The poor devils, red-eyed and exhausted, doomed to plough forever through an ever-replenishing pile of eccentric bilge. How much more could they take? Being cursed by the gods in Ancient Greece was of nothing in comparison.

I pictured one of these skeletal individuals – I’m talking about the editors, not the ancient gods now – muffled against the storm, collapsing homeward on the subway train. With head swimming through doppler shifts and time dilations, eyes lowered to avoid recognition (in case anyone offers them a new story), their gaunt frame belies a spirit still clinging to the slender hope that tomorrow the number of submissions might actually start to decrease.

A suspicious-looking man in black, obviously a government agent disguised as an old-fashioned ticket inspector, stops before them fumbling with something inside his uniform. Is he going to produce a metal clipper or a ray gun? No, instead he extracts a scrappy sheaf of papers with a menacing flourish and asks if there would be any chance of getting his manuscript published. At this point the sky falls in and the editor, crying “Enough!” crouches submissively to the swaying floor, sobbing and crying like a baby pulverised by meteoric infall…

Hey, maybe there’s a story there.

Paul F Newman

Paul F Newman

 

Paul F. Newman is an astrologer, astrology teacher, writer and contributor to many journals including ‘The Mountain Astrologer’ and  ‘The Astrological Journal’, author of “You’re not a person–just a birth chart” and  “Declination in Astrology The Steps of the Sun” He can be contacted at pneuma@ukonline.co.uk

1000 words Copyright Paul F Newman 2009

Away to the wild North West!

Tomorrow we leave for a few days of enjoying the wild and beautiful North-West of Scotland: Kylesku, beyond Ullapool on the West coast.

near Kylesku, North West Scotland

near Kylesku, North West Scotland

Ian will probably be hanging upside down from mountains in the rain with his friends. I, on the other hand, will be curled up cosy in the very fine Kylesku Hotel, tapping on the laptop, pot of tea beside me, warm fire to toast me ( it can be COLD up here in summer!) – reading, knitting (I have completed 3 inches of a scarf since last November – it’s bottom of the knitting food chain talking!) – and venturing out for some walking of my own between the showers. Bliss.

There is no Wi-fi or mobile broadband access here, so time to practice what I preached inTo the Website! Chapter Three (at last !) and have some cut-off time from the Web. I will be contactable again from June 16th, and posting again as usual by the weekend. Have a good week!

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ps Friday 12 June : UPDATE !! :

if you are contemplating a stay at the Kylesku Hotel, I have just discovered that they now have WiFi….however, this ps is purely to correct that inaccuracy….back to cut-off. Such discipline. Are you impressed or what?

pps Monday night 15th June:

Yours truly - way Up North!

Yours truly - way Up North!

It’s been great!

The weather was far too good to stay indoors – have been for so many long hikes we are now home for a rest….still off the Web – well, only slightly on….

To the website! Chapter Three (at last!)

“Welcome to Facebook! Say goodbye to your life….”

(Message from a friend on the day I joined)

Now read on!!

Chapter 1

“……Much of 2007 was taken up in reflecting on a challenging topic: should I become more computer literate – a writer with a website – or sink slowly to the bottom of an ageing and increasingly befuddled slime of computer-refusing baby-boomers?

Befuddled slime did not appeal……”

….. To the website! Chapter One (c/f July 08 archive) described the process of acquiring a new AppleMac laptop and getting on the Net via mobile broadband – both accomplished during April 2008.

Chapter 2

“……Still can’t quite believe this….it is September 2008 and I am now a writer with a website. To inspire and encourage other writers in the same direction, the first thing to say is this: the process of moving from dinosaur to cyber-babe has been great fun, very creative, and not that difficult…..”

……To the website! Chapter Two (c/f Sept 08 archive) chronicled my progress – as I slowly built Writing from the Twelfth House – from bottom of the cyber-literacy food chain to a few links up, ably aided by my web person Susan Elena and my highly cyber-literate friend Willie Miller. In September 2008, not without some trepidation, I started posting articles weekly. Traffic soon increased….

and I said “……To the website! Chapter Three…... will appear in a few weeks, to give you some ideas and tips on the very important ongoing task of publicising your site. Watch this space…”

Chapter 3

Nine months and a considerably longer number of weeks later than I had intended, many apologies to those (three? four? two? one?) addicted writer followers, gazing at an empty space, whose lives have been blighted by the persistent non appearance of Chapter Three. Sorry. Sorry! OK?

Seriously though – it has taken much longer than I thought for a perspective to emerge which I hope may be useful to other writers who are still contemplating the leap into cyberspace. The terms of reference of this third article, therefore, have broadened somewhat from my originally stated intention….

Regular readers will know from the ‘Just let me get old, ok?’ theme that one of my preoccupations is how to face the reality of growing older with as little denial and as much grace, humour and realism as possible. An aspect of ageing which needs to be resisted is that increasing pull to stay with the familiar, avoiding taking on new challenges.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction at having managed to tackle and overcome my own fears and resistances, succeeding (with a lot of help!) in setting up a site which not only pleases me, but more importantly – judging from the messages and emails I have received – does offer support, information, entertainment and inspiration: my stated aspirations in setting up Writing from the Twelfth House.

Here, then, are a few perspectives I have gained in the last year which may be of use:

* realise from the outset how addictive the internet is – if you aren’t disciplined your whole life will get sucked into it. How much time do you want to spend? If you don’t build in restrictions, the Web will take over. Networking sites need to be especially watched for this reason. My friend’s sardonic comment on my joining Facebook could have been predictive!

That same friend thinks I’m mad (he’s a 12 hour a day minimum web nut) to lock away my computer over the weekend in the office, and to have a policy of not checking emails every day – though at times I do give in. If you aspire to a balanced life, and are too weak-willed to resist the siren call, use tactics which will separate you from the Web.

* set your site up as a blog – initially I was rather dubious about a blog format – I’m not interested in daily chatter about my cat etc, which was rather the way I perceived blogs until I researched other people’s, set up my own, and became more knowledgeable about how flexible an instrument this format can be. It can be adapted for whatever your purpose is.

The interactive nature of blogs is also ideal, opening your Web experience out to a positive and creative sense of community-building. If you join eg WordPress which I really like, there are various safeguards built in – great spam filtering and ease of monitoring comments, enabling you quickly to get rid of anything you do not wish displayed.

I can see that my own site is more like a magazine than anything else, since I use it to republish articles which I still think are of interest, offer new material, and publicise my books. From June 2009, I am pleased to be launching an occasional Guest slot, in which I will be publishing material from writers whose work I like which fits into the ethos of “Writing from the Twelfth House”.

* it is very important to keep in mind what your site is for – and what your aims are. Your Home Page should state this briefly, simply and compellingly. Humour helps in getting the message across – as does an arresting visual image. It keeps focus to refer back to your objectives often.

* have lively and varied content – post regularly, interact with your readers, cultivate contacts with sites you like and build relationships, trade links, be generous. Post articles on showcasing sites eg Author’s Den, Creative Carnival, Blog Carnival, Technorati, Zimbio: get listed as much as possible.

Anne interacting with her reader....

Anne interacting with her reader....

* be happy to take critical feedback on board – for example, in the autumn of 2008 I had an email from a visitor to my site saying that she found my use of colour – mostly black and green, with some purple –confusing. She had clicked on some parts highlighted in green or purple thinking they might be links: they weren’t.

Not having had anyone else comment on this, on checking I discovered that I had not followed an early golden rule, ie underline all links: do not use underlining in editing UNLESS it is a link. I could see where there might be some confusion, over the next couple of weeks re-editing the whole site to fix this problem. Thanks, Linda!

* keep adding new links – I have begun to date the links I add, partly to let readers see how up to date they are, but also to keep me on my toes!

* don’t get complacent and sink into a comfort zone – be aware that your site is a work in progress, and keep an eye open always for ways to improve it.

* know yourself and be realistic about your limitations – this applies to everything in life, including running a website. For example, although I have got myself listed on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (professional networking site) etc, I simply cannot be bothered chattering for chattering’s sake and acquiring scores of cyberfriends (I prefer the flesh and blood kind!) although I know perfectly well that this is one of the best ways to build up a big following. (it is also a major way of saying goodbye to your real life!) I also don’t want to carry ads or do any of the commercial things which will bring traffic to my site but distract attention from the content.

My overall aim is for gradual growth of traffic, and moderate success in attracting a regular group of visitors who share my interests and preoccupations – as well as now having an essential tool for promoting my books. This is happening. I am a happy cyber-babe!

STILL teetering? Go on – jump!!

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1300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page