Monthly Archives: November 2010

Harry Potter and the Joyful Child, Part 2: Growing Up

“……..A prescription for helping to keep the Joyful Child alive ? Go and read the Harry Potter books…….. !……”

To read the first part of the Joyful Child series, CLICK below:

The Sun, the Saturn Cycle, Harry Potter – and the Joyful Child


Part Two

Saturn - welcome to the Real World!

Saturn - welcome to the Real World!

Leaving the Otherworld – and meeting Saturn

The advance through adulthood alters one’s perception of what it is to be young. Having been scarred by life as we all are, watching a pre-school child absorbed in play is delightful, but also poignant. Delightful because it demonstrates clearly that there is another world than the one we usually inhabit which is full of deadlines, duties and demands.

This Otherworld is full of goblins and fire engines, magic bubbles and imaginary friends, bright green tigers who speak, and amenable adults happy to give you the keys to the scary castle, where you can spend days of adventure without anyone telling you that it’s impossible for giants to keep a special pocket full of ice cream that never melts, just waiting for you to come and eat it.

Poignant because we  wonder, looking at this absorbed child, how s/he will cope with an adult world whose entry tariff is extracted from the struggle between the fantasy world of childhood where anything is possible, and the reality testing which takes place as we grow and confront the limits which life sets for us.

The 29-30 year Saturn Cycle offers a helpful containing context within which to explore how the Joyful Child within us fares as life’s journey unfolds. There is a case to be made for not starting children at school until the first square of the cycle, at 7-8 years. Five or six, the common age, seems too early to remove children from the Otherworld of play and unbounded imagination. Shakespeare vividly expressed the average child’s response to being dragged from the Otherworld :

“And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school.” (ii)

If we did start children at the later age of seven or eight, socially disruptive though that would be in many ways, perhaps it would give more time for the Joyful Child’s domain to become established. Thus  it might be easier for the growing person to retain contact with the Otherworld as a source of inspiration throughout life.

As we step across the boundary of family from the time of starting school at age five, through to the first Saturn square at 7/8 years of age, the Joyful Child begins to hide; its energy becomes redirected as we become more aware of ourselves in relation to what the outer world expects. By and large, that outer world is more interested in us being able to tie our shoelaces, read, tell the time, and be truthful, than it is in knowing what a wonderful chat we had in Chinese last night with the  bright green tiger who sleeps under our bed.

Early adulthood

The first Saturn opposition at 14/ 15 years is the point where we take bigger steps out of family, begin to challenge parental authority,  and move towards greater identification with the peer group. The need to play and daydream which is fundamental to the Joyful Child’s world, and the creative energy fuelling these activities, gets sublimated further at this point.

It channels into the pursuit of achievement of an academic or vocational nature, and exploration of the  exciting, troubling world of relationship and emerging sexuality  as bodily changes propel the young person towards physical adulthood. The Joyful Child’s impetus towards discovery and exploration of the new, engages in a complex dance with the tough realities also emerging. Too much time spent playing, not enough on taking responsibility, can have a high emotional cost, eg exam failure or unwanted pregnancy.

The waning square at 21/2  years brings with it the world’s expectation that we should begin to assume adult responsibility, get a job if we’ve been studying for years – get serious. Many people marry or enter into long-term partnerships at this stage, perhaps out of unconscious fear of facing the adult world and its responsibilities alone.

I have gained the impression from my varied professional work with people of differing ages over a  long period of time, that part of the vulnerability of this life stage comes from a realisation that childhood is, indeed, over.

Recently I came across a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from a column I wrote in my early twenties. In it was a piece called “Thoughts on Childhood” which supports the view  just expressed :

“ I am close enough to childhood for my memories still to be clear and reasonably untainted by the rosy hues of nostalgia, although I realise now that as soon as we have ceased to be children, the world of childhood becomes a closed world to us, one which we can never recapture except through flashes of memory and watching our own children grow up. As adults, no matter how hard we wish to recapture the feeling of childhood, we must always remain

‘ watchers by the threshold.’ ” (iii)

This is a critical age. Engaging with the world as it actually is, challenges the emerging individual’s capacity to retain that spark of vital creative energy which ensures that the Joyful Child is not stifled: it has been curbed by now, knows that much of the time it’s not safe to be too overt.

But it is important that the rechannelled  energy continues to flow. It can express itself in passionate commitment to a career, as opposed to working purely to provide life’s necessities. It can manifest through joy in good friends, or absorbing hobbies and interests outwith work. For some people, early parenthood brings, along with responsibility, the opportunity to view the world again through the eyes of their growing children.

There is also a direct route for expression through the sheer animal vitality of youth, which all by itself can make life feel worth living. I recall a middle-aged male friend of mine’s recent comment on seeing a young man running effortlessly up several flights of stairs recently, not because he had to,  just because he could. “I can’t do that any more – my back’s too bad !” he remarked. “It made me feel wistful, reminded me of the youthful grace and energy  which I once had.”


(ii) “As You  Like It ”: (1599) act 2, sc 7, l 139, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1999 Edition, p 658, par 26
(iii) “Thoughts on Childhood” from Personally Speaking column, Stornoway Gazette, September 1970

TO BE CONTINUED……Part Three follows shortly….

To read the first part of the Joyful Child series, CLICK below:

The Sun, the Saturn Cycle, Harry Potter – and the Joyful Child



1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker  2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Harry Potter and the Joyful Child, Part 1: the Sun – and Saturn

“……..A prescription for helping to keep the Joyful Child alive ? Go and read the Harry Potter books…….. !……”

Last week saw a tidal wave of Pottermania sweeping across the Western world once again as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” hit the silver screen on 19.11.2010. Coincidentally that week I came across Issue 5 of Apollon, the Journal of Psychological Astrology, in which an essay of mine, inspired by the Harry Potter books, was published ten years ago –not long before the first Harry Potter film sprinkled its magic over the world in November 2001.

I thought this would be good timing, therefore, for giving the slightly edited and updated essay another airing – just to keep Harry Potter and his friends company in the blogosphere!

The Sun

The Sun

A Celebration of the Joyful Child

“…..he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.”  (1)


Twice in the year, in February and July, I used to go on retreat for a week to the Orkneys, a storm-tossed scattering of green, fertile islands between the far North of Scotland and Scandinavia. It was an eagerly anticipated treat: hotel living and no domestic responsibility, surrounded by the sea and an ever-changing panorama of skies which are an artist’s dream.

An enjoyable evening during this February week ten years ago was spent visiting old friends: one a distinguished pillar of the local community, still vital in his eighties, the other an extremely witty, erudite Sheriff in his sixties. We had a splendid time – talking politics, learning about local history, indulging in that favourite island pastime of storytelling; having a good laugh.

Our stepping outside to return to the hotel revealed a magical night – thick snow floating down in the still, cold air, trees blanketed, ground covered. I couldn’t resist it. Making a few snowballs, I threw them at a tree at the far end of the garden. Pretty good aim still! The Sheriff and my husband joined in – three middle aged folk, happily hurling snowballs around like a bunch of six year olds. We strolled back to the hotel, feeling very cheerful. “That kid in you is still alive and well, isn’t she?!” my husband remarked. I realised that she was, and felt so grateful for it.

Defining the Child

A great deal has been written in recent years about the Inner Child, so much so that a whole branch of the therapy industry has grown out of it, along with inner child workbooks, weekend workshops, etc. The emphasis tends to be on the wounded, vulnerable Inner Child carried to a greater or lesser extent by all adults; the focus, on attempting to heal that injured aspect.

Having been asked to write about The Child, and having reflected on the topic for some weeks, I wanted to celebrate the spontaneous, resilient, Joyful Child within all of us, explore how it fares as we mature. If we are lucky, this part manages to survive the batterings, brutalities and tragedies of existence, continuing to provide inspiration and faith that life is worth living.

Who, exactly, is this Child?

The basic stuff of which s/he is made is the element of fire, that which the gods prized so much they wanted to keep to themselves. But Prometheus stole some, hidden in a fennel stalk, and gave it to us. He was savagely punished for his misdemeanor – but ever since, we humans have had at least one chip of that magical, divine substance lodged in us. Everyone has some: some people have too little, others have too much.

What is it?

Prometheus - the bringer of fire to humans

Prometheus - the bringer of fire to humans

It’s the spark of divine light, that which tells us we are special and immortal, that we’re here for a reason, that our lives have a purpose, that we have a future worth seeking out. It fuels wonder, injects the passion of inquiry into mere curiosity, causes learning and exploration to be a joyful end in themselves.

It gives the capacity to look out at the world with a fresh set of eyes, take pleasure at what’s there because it’s new, exciting. It brings spontaneity and the gift of laughter. It fuels play, which is at the core of a response to life which is fundamentally creative and imaginative.

It is highly protective and supportive of life, especially when the going is rough, giving the hope that things will get better. It enables tough times to be survived through the unquenchable belief that suffering may be awful, and protracted – but it means something, it is not just the random brutality of quixotic gods, or fate.

It brings the capacity in extremis to laugh at the sheer absurdity of life, and oneself. This capacity can drag one out from under the worst of times for just long enough to reaffirm that life, despite everything, is worth living.

The precious creature formed from such magical substance never grows up in the sense of assuming worldly responsibilities, and never gives up on life’s possibilities and delights. It cannot be ordered forth – just appears, then disappears: will o’the wisp…….


(i) William Blake MS Note-Book, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1999 Edition, p 120, par 8

TO BE CONTINUED……Part 2 follows shortly…..


850 words copyright Anne Whitaker  2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Astrological help – from The Beyond! by guest writer John Townley

One of the delights and privileges of being a 21st century astrologer is the ease of making links of friendship, support and learning through the Web. This is how I “met” master astrologer John Townley, who with his wife Susan runs one of the Web’s most lucid, intelligent and wide ranging astrology sites : ASTROCOCKTAIL.

During our conversation earlier this year – concerning the difficulty of synthesising and presenting perspectives from science, spirituality and the paranormal within a cultural phase dominated by the reductionist paradigm – John sent me a number of links to articles he had written over the years. I was knocked out by the one I am happy to present as the Guest piece this month.

This article is a treat for anyone of an open-mindedly sceptical bent, for anyone who enjoys a great story – but especially for astrologers. How often do we have our colleagues reach out to us with helpful information for a current problem, not from across the Web, but from beyond the grave?

Says John: “Back in the middle ’70’s I was privileged to enjoy a series of remarkable events which quite altered my opinion of the presence of the dead among the living……” Read on, and enjoy

‘Professor Seward’s Foray from the Beyond’ by John Townley

John Townley

John Townley

For John’s BIO, click HERE



Don’t forget to return here with a comment or an email – let me know what you think of this amazing story.


250 words copyright Anne Whitaker/John Townley 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Constructive criticism: can we do without it?

Where would we writers be, without constructive criticism?

One of the most useful pieces of advice I was ever given came from a newspaper editor I once worked for, a crusty old chap who called a spade a spade. “You’re too wordy, my girl!” he observed. (this was in the good old days, before my even thinking he was being offensive might have got him arrested….) “I’ve never known any piece of writing to get anything other than better by the removal of 25 per cent of its wording. Now – take “How I was left on the shelf and found true happiness” away, and chop it!”

Honestly, I did write an article with that title, for the Spring Brides feature of a provincial Scottish newspaper a few decades ago. And yes, dear reader, it actually did get published, minus 25% of its wording. Somewhere in my files I have the cutting to prove it….

Another piece of even earlier straight-from-the-shoulder feedback has just found its way to the front of my braincell. Picture the scene. Aberdeen university, the infamous Sixties. I had left my seriously overdue history essay till the very last possible evening before my second exasperated extension from my usually genial tutor had expired.

I finally stopped procrastination and began writing at one am. Many cups of coffee and cigarettes later, at 8am, the task was completed. It had to be handed in by  9am or I would not receive my History class certificate. Without that, I could not sit my degree exam. Serious business.

Burning the midnight oil....

I ran most of the way to my tutor’s office. It was pouring with rain. On the way, I somehow managed to drop one of the essay’s ten pages into a puddle. It was only rendered semi-illegible – and only the bibliography, I thought, thankful for small mercies. Made it by 9. Just.

A week later I visited my charismatic and much loved, but somewhat fierce, history tutor – Owen Dudley Edwards. He glared at me as he thrust the dishevelled bundle of paper that was my essay back at me. I scanned the title page. “Phew!!” I thought with relief. Fifty per cent. A pass!!

“This essay on ‘The Origins of the American War of Independence’ ” Owen Dudley said severely, in words I have never forgotten, “bears all the hallmarks of the triumph of native intelligence and writing ability over little if any credible content.” There was a long pause. ” The bibliography – I had cited Winston Churchill’s  ‘History of the English Speaking Peoples’ having once flicked through it – I assume is a joke….”

There was a frosty silence. I left, not feeling as chastened as the good Mr. Edwards had intended.

“Mmmmmm” I thought to myself as I headed off to the refectory to buy a much needed bacon sandwich, ” maybe I should be a writer if I ever grow up.

That crusty newspaper editor is probably long dead. Owen Dudley Edwards is still with us, and still giving out his straight from the shoulder opinions. I know this because I heard him on the radio a couple of months ago. I am grateful to both of them for their never-forgotten feedback. It was direct, it pulled no punches. It let me know where I stood. Grit in the oyster, it helped me become a competent writer.

However, in recent times, constructive criticism seems to have morphed into something altogether much less forthright, much more timid, much more inclined to dish out indiscriminate praise and affirmation regardless of performance. Is this helpful to young people’s education and development?

My colleague Emily Cutts,  psychologist and independent thinker, has her serious doubts. Read Emily’s forthright views, published today on :

Emily Cutts: Constructive criticism is a gift


600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page