This morning I did an hour’s housework: an event sufficiently unusual in itself to qualify for an Aquarian stamp. Disproportionately pleased considering how much hadn’t got done, I headed out for a bracing walk, narrowly avoiding being blown over by periodic gusts of wind.
Hurrah! Black Pine Coffee, my favourite Glasgow West End coffee shop, as of today was once again allowed to admit sitting customers. However, the message couldn’t yet have got around, since the place was unusually quiet, giving me more of a chance than usual to chat with the owner, Pete, and his assistant Sandi (real names with permission).
We agreed we were glad January was now over, it not being the best month for single minded enthusiastic focus on the tasks in hand, to put it mildly.… Personally, if at all possible I prefer to spend that month with a metaphorical blanket over my head. “I like January though,” said Pete. “It’s my birth month, after all.” I remembered that he had told me this some time ago ( I do drop in here quite a lot – great coffee, fun chat) and I had remembered the date as being close to that of my late husband Ian on 30th January. “I was born on the 28th”.
“That makes you an Aquarian, Pete,” said Sandi. “Funnily enough, I have an Aquarian Moon. My mum’s friend drew up my birth chart when I was born (1995). I still have it in my baby book.” It was beginning to occur to me that you couldn’t make this up: here I was, a few hours into the Aquarian New Moon, talking to a Sun Aquarius man and an Aquarian Moon woman.
“Well, Anne”, said Pete, turning to me as he made my coffee, “you’re an astrologer. What would you say were key Aquarian characteristics?” So of course I gave my usual spiel about it being impossible to mirror back accurately the complexities of any human using purely one lens, eg that of the Sun sign or the Moon sign, and how you needed the full birth horoscope based on time, date and place to do that.
“Yes, yes, you’ve told me that before,” persisted Pete, grinning winningly. “But go on: name just a couple!”
‘Very stubborn, very charming, somewhat left field’ I replied.
“Yep, that’s me!” said Pete.
Sandi by this time was looking at me expectantly…clearly my spiel was not having much impact as yet. ‘Aquarian Moon – give me space!’ said I, quite happy to play the game with such great young folks. “Oh yes – too true, that’s me!” she said.
By now, some other customers were drifting in, so I settled down to drink excellent coffee and catch up with my phone emails. However, during a lull some minutes later, Sandi tentatively asked “Do you have any astrology apps on your phone?” Very shortly afterwards we were deep in contemplation of our mutual TimePassages app, with me explaining to her how to navigate it.
I also recommended one or two of my astrology colleagues if she wanted an in-person/zoom reading of a high standard from astrologers who are reputable, experienced, know what they are talking about, and take their responsibilities to clients seriously. I strongly suggested she be very wary of the vast array of ‘astrologers’ enabled by the ease with which one can acquire a smattering of astrological knowledge on-line these days – but without a firm grounding in either experience, in-depth study, or an adequate awareness of the responsibility inherent in calling oneself an astrologer and taking on both teaching and practice of such an ancient, powerful art.
Sandi is clearly very very interested in astrology – I did my best to point her in some quality directions, and she clearly appreciated that. Who knows where her interest may take her? I hope I get a further opportunity to find out!
It was a delightful encounter: totally spontaneous, completely unexpected – and a brilliant manifestation of the Aquarian New Moon’s current energy field drawing the three of us together ‘in the moment’ and offering a shared experience very much of the nature of that moment.
But that Aquarian Moon wasn’t finished making its presence felt in my life today. On the way home, I ran into a journalist friend I hadn’t seen for quite a while – someone with a strongly Aquarian vibe.
….in the spring, summer and autumn/winter of each year, the planet Mercury does something strange. It appears to slow down in its orbital pace, stop, then start to move backwards. This is known as retrograde motion. It is of course an illusion. Otherwise, we’d have fallen off the solar system aeons ago.
However, the effects down here on Earth when Mercury is in its 2-3 week retrograde phases are anything but illusory. For years, I studied this phenomenon in my own life, the lives of family, friends, and astrology students. In sum, communications of all types become strangely awkward and hard to manage during those times.
I learned to look forward to having some rest during Mercury Retrograde, since my referral rate dropped. Normally clients always turned up for appointments, MR periods being the exception. Cancellation rates increased.
Once, a client called to cancel because her house had just caught fire (yes, she called the Fire Brigade first!).Two clients often turned up at the same time. Cheques invariably got lost in the post, or clients forgot to bring cash.
One summer I moved office during MR, becoming involved in a dispute of byzantine complexity with the telephone company which took almost a nervous breakdown on my part to sort out.
As MR periods approached, I used to entertain my students by looking at their individual horoscopes, which enabled me to be more specific regarding possible MR effects. I told one student, a lawyer, that a female helper in his workplace was likely to have communication problems which would impact on him.
His feedback? His secretary sprained her wrist, and was unable to type during the entire MR period.
Mercurial people, ie those with the sign Gemini strongly emphasised or the planet Mercury dominant in their horoscopes, are most affected by Mercury’s retrograde phase. Anyone involved in the business of communication can look forward to a less than smooth three weeks.
A good example is my old friend Ronnie who used to run a first rate copying and web design business here in Glasgow; Mercury’s retrograde havoc wreaked on his computers one year convinced him that “There’s definitely something in this astrology business, Anne!”
What can mercurial folk do, then, to maximise advantage and minimise disruption when Mercury is retrograde? MR is a positive time for going back over all matters to do with communication, and cleaning up.
Some examples: if you’ve been putting off a purge of your filing system, do it now. If your accountant has asked you nine times for your last year’s papers, use this 2-3 weeks to update them.
Dig out and finish some of those half-worked articles if you are a writer. If you’ve been writing furiously and the brain/wrist is seizing up, have a break. Catch up with some reading. As we know, fallow time is creative.
The don’ts? If it is not feasible to avoid or delay taking important new initiatives or completing existing processes, eg signing contracts, leases, etc, try to accept complications or thwartings philosophically.
Also – be prepared for delays, eg when travelling, especially long distance. Don’t sit under the mailbox waiting for cheques. And please, don’t arrange for a phone installation!
“Come on then !” I can hear you shouting as you search for my mobile number or email. “Tell us WHEN !”
….oh, all right. I’ll tell you:
2022: January 14-February 3 in Aquarius & Capricorn
May 10-June 3 in Gemini & Taurus
September 9-October 2 in Libra & Virgo
December 29-January 18, 2023 in Capricorn
PS. I know you’ll find this hard to believe: I have just published a book of collected essays, articles and columns called “Postcards to the Future” – available everywhere on Amazon – whose subtitle is ‘Mercurial Musings 1995-2021’. However – there isn’t a single article on Mercury, or even Mercury Retro. Maybe I should rectify that in the next edition…
On impulse – that 2nd January 2022 New Moon at 12 degrees Capricorn, trining Uranus at 11 Taurus, trining my 9 Virgo Ascendant – I dashed off a seven-minute recording of me reading the Preface of my new book “Postcards to the Future”. It went down really well, and I have had some lovely comments, amongst them from long-term fellow astrologer and USA Facebook Friend Maureen:
“Love this Anne, I think you’ve found a new niche! “
So – I’ve decided to post the video version which is now on YouTube. Hope you enjoy it!!
I find approaching the Winter Solstice each year, a very frustrating time…there is all the frantic gearing-up for Christmas and its attendant spending-fest which one gets dragged into – just when I wish to sink into the fertile spaces of the dark inner world.
This time asks to be honoured with retreat, contemplation, awareness of how essential the hidden fertility of darkness is to the eventual emergence of new life. Perhaps we especially need to be reminded of that ancient truth during a time of great turmoil and darkness for our world, and of our own individual losses, pains and disappointments.
The great religions at core, have their ways of honouring this annual point of deepest darkness, then the slowly re-emerging light. My small way of doing it is by finding some quiet time, by seeking out a poem which speaks to me at ‘… the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight…’ – and by sharing it.
I hope my choice of winter solstice poem for 2021 strikes a chord with at least some of my Followers:
“…This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar…”
― Margaret Atwood, Eating Fire: Selected Poetry 1965-1995
( North West Scotland, Arisaig shoreline, Solstice sunset, December 2018: photo by Anne Whitaker. ) Sun enters Capricorn at 16.00 GMT 21.12.2021
>….ie today, a fantastic review of my new book ..’Postcards to the Future‘ by Karin Hoffman of the world-renowned Astrodienstwebsite:
Karin says: ...”Present and future astrologers will find in this deep and varied collection nuggets of pure gold, forged in a lifetime, collected and polished for display and – most importantly – for enlightenment and use…”
To read the whole review – and hopefully treat yourself or a friend, student of astrology, or interested member of the public who wants to know more about the depths and delights offered by astrological knowledge to a copy of ‘Postcards…’ – here it is:
(...this essay can be found on p 20 of my new book ‘Postcards to the Future’, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, includingAmazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from! Enjoy…)
Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office.
To pass time sitting on the bus, I check my phone. Ahah – there’s a message on Messenger. A colleague is beginning a new project for the international company he works for, an unusual company where his boss is an astrology appreciator. He is making a podcast series on Turning Points: asking people to talk for five minutes on the one decision which changed their lives forever. He is inviting me to contribute.
“Ping!!” went the braincell, hit by a mini bolt of inspiration. I had my topic. I’d ruminate on what it was that inspired me to take up, and continue, the long-term study and practice of astrology. That decision certainly changed MY life forever.
So – what was it ?
Was it my youthful awe as I watched the Northern Lights enacting their glorious colourful dance, just above the skyline near our house? Perhaps it was lying cosy in bed, listening to the roaring gales of January tearing the world apart – wondering what the Power was behind that raging wind. Was it the growing excitement, as I grew up, of being able to spot familiar constellations in the clear, unpolluted night skies of my native island?
Or – maybe the Fates had already decided, leaving me a clue to be decoded many years later, via the placement of Uranus, the astrologers’ planet, at 25 Degrees of Gemini, in the tenth house of my natal horoscope?
I have recently been revisiting the significance of the placement of Uranus’ discovery degree, ie 24 degrees 27 minutes Gemini,(i) in the horoscopes of those drawn to the practice of astrology. A dip into my horoscope collection, lifting out three male and three female birth charts, found that all six prominent astrologers chosen have this degree either conjunct, square or opposite natal planets, Nodes or Angles: the lately deceased and much-missed Donna Cunningham, Michel Gauquelin, Liz Greene, Isabel Hickey, Johannes Kepler and Noel Tyl. (ii)
Johannes Kepler Asc 24 deg 25 mins Gemini
Furthermore, when I was 27 years old, progressed Sun crossed asteroid Urania, placed at 19 degrees of Virgo in my first house, square tenth house Uranus. That year, as mentioned in an earlier column, I had a totally random encounter with a pair of astrologers who predicted my future astrological career.
So – did I choose that career or did I come in with it already chosen? Was it Fate, or free will? We will, of course, never be able to answer that question. MY conclusion, hardly stunningly original, is that we dance to the tune of both. There are times when the power of Fate feels strongly present. Other times, the unglamorous wrestle with inertia, poor judgement, and other ills to haul our lives into a reasonably satisfying shape feels very strongly to be determined mainly by our own conscious efforts.
In the latter case, a major ingredient in the shaping process, in my opinion, is the power of inspiration. At twenty-four years of age (second Jupiter Return, anyone?!) I was fortunate enough to have what I later realised was a mystical experience, something which has continued to inspire me. This may well have created a spiritual backdrop for the subsequent encounter with astrology as foreground; when I met those astrologers I was going through a crisis involving wondering what, after all, my life was FOR…not an uncommon state for one’s late twenties!
Their accurate reading inspired me to investigate astrology further, initially via the UK’s Faculty of Astrological Studies. On discovering that I, too, could produce accurate and affirming feedback from those strange marks on a piece of paper which seemed helpful to people trying to understand themselves better, I was hooked. For the rest of my life.
Astrology has continued to inspire because it continues to challenge me. It challenges me because we are working with living energies, patterns whose essential meanings we have established over millennia, but whose manifestations are endless and only partly predictable. Despite decades of experience, I still get that tight anxious feeling before every new client I see, being very aware of my responsibility at least to do no harm, at best to help the person before me see their life in a more constructive, bigger context.
I am, of course, always curious to find out what inspires people to engage with astrology – and to keep going once they get there. There is an occasional series running on my blog, in which astrologers tell their interesting, unusual tales of inspiration and – of course! – an inevitable amount of perspiration…
Want to share your story? Go on…
First published in Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ (from the January/February 2018 Issue), this essay can be found on p 20 of ‘Postcards to the Future‘, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, including Amazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from!Enjoy…
This site is now a home for in-depth astrology. I’ll be posting my musings here – as and when the mood takes me. I’ll also share some comments from my astrology Facebook page on posts – for those folks not linked to me on Facebook.
However, my astrology Facebook Page is where I regularly publish all kinds of astrological stuff – blogs, videos and articles from leading astrologers for instance – in fact anything astrological which takes my fancy and I think might interest YOU, dear reader. Do go over, visit for a while, leave a Like or even better, a comment. See you there!
There is a considerable archive going back to 2008 which you will find at the bottom left sidebar of the Home Page. It is aimed at ‘…those writers and readers who share my preoccupation with questions of meaning, mystery, pattern and purpose…’, so you may well also find articles there, including some on astrology, which are to your liking!
One of the delights – and mild horrors – of writing a regular column to a deadline is that you never know from whence arriveth inspiration (feeling a trifle mediaeval this afternoon, forsooth…) – or if it will arrive at all: always the worst case scenario hovering as the deadline looms.
However, inspiration arrived in response to another deadline, two days before I was due to appear on Christina Rodenbeck’s popular The Oxford Astrologer’s regular Members’ Sunday slot on 12th September 2021, to discuss and promote my new book of essays, columns, articles and research
In addition to discussing the book’s content, Christina suggested we reflect on … ‘…the broad sweep of astrology in your time writing about it…’ Hmmm, I thought. Big topic.
The starting place
But it got me going…to hunt out the first thing I’d ever written – as far as I can remember – on the topic of astrology. And I found it:AA Summer School Report 1-5 June 1987…
‘…Titled ON BEING AND BECOMING AN ASTROLOGER, this year’s Summer School offered a varied range of experience from inner personal contemplation to consideration of the likely General Election result…’
This piece was re-published in my column in Journal as part of the 60 year celebrations for the AA in 2018. It made me smile to read what I had written in that 1987 report, rather tentatively, about computers and astrology. As I wrote in 2018:
‘…Few of us on that course had the slightest clue that astrologers, like everyone else, were merely tapping on a door which would shortly swing open to reveal an entirely new landscape of global interconnectedness which – for both good and ill – has already drawn in much of the population of planet Earth…’
One very personal memory strikes me as clearly illustrating that early entry into the entirely new landscape described in the above quote, which has revolutionised the world of astrology along with every other facet of our lives ever since.
It was around the mid to late1980s. I was sitting at our kitchen table in Glasgow chatting over morning coffee to our guest, USA astrologer Tad Mann, who had come up from London to talk to the Glasgow Astrology Group of which I was a committee member at that time. Suddenly Tad produced from the inside pocket of his jacket an object which looked like an elongated pocket calculator. It was, in fact, an early astrology calculator, into which he tapped my date, place and time of birth, and pressed a couple of buttons. I watched, fascinated.
Things got even more interesting. From another pocket he produced a small, square grey gadget which he proceeded to plug into the side of the calculator. Setting them both on the table, Tad then pressed another couple of buttons. The small square grey gadget was in fact a mini printer. A piece of paper looking exactly like a till receipt soon emerged – complete with all my horoscope data: Asc, MC, planets, Nodes and aspects. I was entranced. ‘I want one of these!!’ Not long afterwards, the (rather pricey) set duly arrived from the company in the USA which Tad had recommended.
Shortly after that, I was to be found sitting happily on a stall at a local Alternative Health event, doing 15 minute mini readings for clients from those very pieces of paper. ‘How on earth can you give me an accurate summary of my character from that till receipt thingie?’ I remember one client asking. ‘It’s the shape of things to come!’ I cheerfully replied, not realising just how true that comment was to prove.
From typewriting to computing
So – the broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about it has taken me from sitting bashing out notes and reports from hand-drawn horoscopes on my old Brother manual typewriter, Tippex to hand, all the way to using highly sophisticated computer programmes which will, quite simply, do everything we need to do as astrologers. From instant push-a-button birth charts to all varieties of prognosticatory options both technical and interpretive, anyone from the very green amateur to the sophisticated professional can have any kind of software they wish, dependent on their finances and predilections. (I still lament the recent demise of the wonderful Io software which I had used since acquiring my first Mac computer in 1995).
The arrival of sophisticated computer technology has been a wonderful gift, also, to all writers – including astro-writers like myself. Apart from personal journals and diaries, which I still prefer to handwrite in aesthetically pleasing, arty books, I haven’t handwritten anything of a short or extended nature, for years.
Another revolution, too, has recently begun, as the larger planetary cycles have graphically shown in recent years. Amongst other astro-writers, I have had much commentary published on the implications of the transition from the 1803-2020 Earth Era to the newAir Era into which we shifted on the Winter Solstice of 2020. On that very day, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction’s arrival at 0 Aquarius announced the formative 20 year cycle’s settling into the Air element for the next 200 years or so. As we all know, that huge shift announced its presence through an air-borne virus triggering a global pandemic which has upended life on Planet Earth in just about every way possible since 2020.
Taking to the Airwaves : new approaches emerging
Astrology has taken to the air in a really big way. Platforms like zoom have enabled astro-education, astro-groups, astro-readings, and all kinds of astro-chat: wonderfully connective of members of our community to one another. Those and other social media platforms have enabled fatuous, divisive, misleading, and damaging as well as helpful, supportive and enlightening dialogue. It is, as someone observed ‘ …the Wild West out there…’
The broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about, practising and teaching our great subject has also seen the ebb and flow of dominant fashions, and the taking up of varying positions, within our world-wide community. When I started out, psychological astrology was clearly on the ascendant as the revival of astrology during the Sixties and Seventies ( but begun much earlier by the work of eg Dane Rudhyar) moved us away from the doom-laden fatalism of earlier times to the notion that astrology did not describe a world where humans were pinned to the board of Fate like butterflies.
We did in fact, said psychological astrology, have some negotiating room within symbolic energies which could and did express themselves differently depending on the level of conscious awareness individuals brought to their lives.
In recent years we have had the rise and increasing popularity of evolutionary astrology, as well as the revival of traditional astrology which has been reclaiming and refreshing approaches going back many centuries – recasting those perspectives for contemporary practitioners and audiences. There has also increasingly been much more liaison between practitioners and students in both East and West, and a welcome sharing of approaches and perspectives. All these changes have been made possible by the computer revolution which has totally changed the face of our world in every way.
I was asked about the broad sweep – this column has been a very broad, brief sweep indeed, from one person’s perspective only. One could write a whole book on the topic. Someone is probably doing so even as I write!
In conclusion: has widely available Astrology made us better human beings?
I feel as excited as anyone else by all the creative and diverse changes which have arisen. Younger generations of astrologers and astrology students, refusing to be hemmed in by the increasingly strident orthodoxy of scientific reductionism, are embracing the symbolic perspectives offered by astrology in a big way these days. However, I’m going to end this column, not in my usual upbeat way, but on a rather sombre note.
When I first started studying astrology I was awestruck by the insights into oneself that astrological knowledge could provide. Given this wonderfully enlightening gift, I naively thought that astrologers must surely be more enlightened and evolved people than the general population: more magnanimous, less critical of one another, more tolerant.
Well, I found out pretty quickly that they they aren’t. I come from a long background in adult education, social work and psychiatric work, as well as private practice therapy and counselling. I’ve also known many writers in my rather varied vocational life. So my comments are based on quite a wide range of sampling.
Astrologers are just as kind, compassionate, well-informed and magnanimous as other occupational groups. They are also just as bitchy, backbiting, judgemental, dishonest and intolerant as everybody else. In general terms – since I am fortunate to know and have known some wonderful astrologers who are also brilliant, compassionate human beings – I haven’t seen any evidence over the last forty years that convinces me otherwise.
We all have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do to fashion ourselves into better humans than we currently appear to be. Our present world is riven with all kinds of ugly, dangerous divisions. Those divisions are graphically described in the prevailing planetary patterns: unfortunately, our astrological community is not immune. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and bring more fairness, compassion and tolerance into the ways we treat one another within our community. We have a planet to save. We could start by being kinder and more supportive to one another.
What are YOUR thoughts?
i) ‘Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021’ is available locally at Opal Moon, Glasgow G20, Watkins Books and The Astrology Shop in London, The Wessex Astrologer – and everywhere on Amazon, including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
Well, it’s almost that time of year again: the planet Mercury goes retrograde on Monday 27th September 2021 at 25 degrees Libra, not turning direct again – at 10 degrees Libra (conjunct my Neptune: I can hardly wait!) – until Monday 18th October. It should be an interesting/exciting/ rewarding/ frustrating/memorable three weeks especially for those of us who are ‘plugged in’ to 10-25 degrees of Libra, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn.
I’m feeling rather pleased about my Mercury Retro status this time. Transiting Mercury in my 3rd house at 25 Libra makes a lovely retro grand trine with 6th house transiting Jupiter and natal 10th house Uranus. For starters, this site is being revamped by my new web wizard – who just happens to know a lot of astrology himself, what a ‘co-incidence’ is that?! – during this particular Mercury Retro period. A very apt time to do such a thing. I’m also looking forward to more reviews etc coming in for my newly published book of essays, articles, columns and research“Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021”.They have been just great so far…
However, today’s story concerns what happened exactly on Summer Solstice 2021: the very day before retro Mercury was about to turn direct at 16 degrees Gemini. Who on earth in their right mind would choose that day to embark on a long journey? Well, I did – and what a brilliant story it provided. Settle back, Readers, and enjoy the trip…
MidsummerMercurial malarkey: Jupiter to the rescue!
In the beginning…
There I was, that morning, all packed – and multi-ticketed for us both. I had carefully planned and organised our four-stage eight hour journey to the sacred isle of Iona, off the North West coast of Scotland. Getting there involved a three-hour train trip to Oban, one-hour ferry crossing to Mull, one hour plus journey through Mull to Fionnphort, and lastly, a short ferry crossing to Iona. Include travel from our homes in Glasgow G20 to Queen Street station, plus a wait of between one and two hours half way up because of non-joined-up travel links, and you have what truly feels like a pilgrimage. Pretty apt, considering where we were going. Iona has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage since pre-Christian times.
I had been there several times before with my late husband Ian. On our thirtieth wedding anniversary spent on Iona a few years ago, we had made a pact: whichever of us died first, the other would make a pilgrimage back to Iona in their memory. I was fortunate on this occasion to have the company of my dear friend Emily. She and her husband were good friends of us both; her kindness and sensitivity made her the ideal person to accompany me. It would also be a great break for her. A very busy community activist – whose upcoming challenges included showing the Queen around our local The Children’s Wood/North Kelvin Meadow project the week after we got back! – she really needed a few days’ time out.(i)
Our trip had been postponed twice already because of Covid. Third time proved lucky: we both loved the idea of travelling to be there at the Summer Solstice.
What could possibly go wrong? I thought, having dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ in sight. As an astrologer, I knew the answer to that only too well. Mercury had been retrograde for the previous three weeks. Today, he was pausing before turning direct tomorrow. Having booked our break around Midsummer months ago without checking the ephemeris, this turned out to be a trickstery day for outward travel. Even if I had, the allure of being on Iona on the Summer Solstice would still probably have proved too strong.
I mentioned this apprehension to Emily on the taxi ride to Queen Street station. Emily knows little or no astrology beyond her Aries Sun Sign and Leo Ascendant, but keeps an open-minded interest. Just recently, she’d had her chart read by that very fine astrologer, my friend and colleague Christina Rodenbeck, thus finding out she had Mercury Retrograde in her natal chart. (I don’t read charts for friends or family). Christina had confirmed for Emily what I have noticed often over the years in clients’ and students’ horoscopes: Mercury Retrograde times don’t seem to be so disruptive for those with natal Mercury Retro.
” Don’t worry!” she said cheerfully. “I have Mercury Retrograde in my chart. It’ll be fine, you’ll see!”. Emily is possessed of a level of almost insane optimism, accompanied by dogged persistence, which has seen her take on and win through on challenges from which most of us would have run a mile. “I hope you’re right”, said I, trying to keep my natal MercurySaturnPluto at bay.
And she was. In spite of everything…
Everything began with our arrival at the railway station to discover that our all-important train to Oban had been cancelled. “***@***!!!” …may convey something of our reaction.
We were not the only cross-looking, confused travellers … and we had a pretty tight window for catching our Mull ferry connection from Oban. The first of many helpful encounters that day, a cheerful-looking, patient middle-aged rail employee, advised us thus:
“Leg it as fast as you can up onto Cathedral Street. The direct and the indirect buses should be parked there by now. Get on the direct one if you can. Good luck!!”
I don’t know if you’ve tried ‘legging it’ for a long detour taking in flights of steps whilst trailing suitcases and backpacks and food supplies (no hospitality on trains any more). Not recommended. But we got there, puffing – to survey a milling, muttering, shuffling horde of at least forty folk, a tour party who must have been booked en bloc on the cancelled train, waiting – largely unmasked – to cram onto the direct bus.
Emily looked at me. I looked at Emily. Even if we managed to get on, it would be a cramped, covid-risky journey. This was the point where Jupiter stepped in to help: the point where we offered the whole experience up to Fate.We were of one mind. “What the hell, we’re not doing that. Let’s see if we can get the next train up (there was no guarantee it wouldn’t be cancelled too) and if not, let’s just get on the first train going North and have an adventure! We can get to Iona tomorrow instead.” Much cheered by this, we trundled our cases off along Cathedral Street, retracing our steps.
Unlikely guardian angels – and shadow Jupiter!
Enter Tam and Dougie, two friendly Glaswegian characters who had hailed us on our way to the direct bus. “Where are you girls headed?” We explained both our problem and our decision.
“No need for that!” announced Tam, who turned out to own the bus company from whom ScotRail had hired the second, indirect bus. We were now standing right beside said bus. “Dougie here drives like a bat out of hell – if anyone can get you to Oban on time, despite all the stops he has to cover, he can!”
Moments later found us sitting on the roomy, comfy top deck, the only passengers on a luxury bus, normally used to convey footballers around the UK, equipped with its own kitchen and toilet. “The only problem with this bus is the toilet”, said Tam. “You really need to be (those of you requiring a woke style trigger warning, please shut your eyes for the next bit) an acrobatic anorexic midget to get in and out of it.” Reader, I can testify to the veracity of this statement. Had I not been nimble, slight, and small, I might still be stuck there…
“Wow, have we ever lucked out!” said Emily. I totally agreed with this as we tucked into our picnic lunches, enjoying a wonderful uninterrupted view: marvellous scenery on a beautifully sunny day as we headed North-West. We didn’t even mind arriving in Oban just in time to see the ferry on which I had booked us sailing into the blue beyond. Dougie had done his best, but there were too many stops – not one of which had any passengers waiting…
However, we encountered Jupiter all the way, including the very helpful ScotRail employee Greg (just in case he is reading this! ) who re-booked us on the next ferry and minded our luggage for the duration of our wait. The only exception was a bracing encounter with Jupiter’s shadow side: an overweight, red-faced, almost toothless bus driver at Craignure on Mull. His demeanour in response to our innocent question regarding the timing of the next bus to Fionnphort was so patronising and rude that it had both Emily and I riffing on revenge possibilities – evoking fits of semi-hysterical laughter in us both – to pass the time until the bus arrived.
We did get to Iona that evening: arriving at the jetty a mere five minutes before the last ferry departed.
And now – the horoscopes speak…
Our whole visit to Iona was an absolute delight, the return trip entirely straightforward. We agreed that neither of us had laughed so much for ages during those few days. On returning, of course, I put up a horoscope for the time we heard the Oban train had been cancelled. It is breathtakingly apt!
I’ll leave readers to do their own reflecting, just pointing out a couple of salient features. But it’s important to say that key symbolic pointers to the goodwill of almost everyone we encountered linked in strongly with two main features of Emily’s and my horoscopes (which I haven’t included here):
Her Jupiter is at 0 Cancer, conjunct my Mars at 1.5 Cancer. Thus the potent 0 Cancer Sun on Solstice Day, trine Jupiter at 2 Pisces which sits on the 7th House side of the Descendant of the Cancelled Train chart, without adding anything else powerfully reinforces the presence of the benevolent side of Jupiter in our lives on that particular day – and the few days following.
You can see the disruption to our travel plans in the third house transiting Moon in Scorpio, approaching an exact opposition to that ninth house Uranus in Taurus. Also – my third house natal Jupiter sits at 19 degrees Scorpio, conjunct the Cancelled Train’s IC. This evokes the reason for the trip – a pilgrimage honouring my husband following his death. Emily, too, had recently lost her dad.This significator in the death/rebirth sign of Scorpio is thus particularly apt for both of us.
Furthermore, despite Mercury’s position poised between retrograde and direct motion, which made this particular Midsummer’s day especially prone to communication snafus, note his location conjunct the North Node in his own sign. The stabilising trine from Saturn indicates that the purpose of this trip – with some determination and practical help – was going to be fulfilled.
As, indeed, it was…
i) I have featured the inspiring story of how Emily Cutts galvanised our Glasgow G20 community into collective action, taking on the developers and eventually winning a precious patch of local land for community use, in my upcoming book ‘Postcards to the Future’, in the Transits section, p 283, title Uranus through Aries: fire and fury. Emily’s own story of her inspiring campaign can be found on Amazon, title The Dear Wild Place. It’s an inspiring read!
I blame that bout of tendonitis in around 2015.(i) I had been running no less than three blogs ( yes, mad, I agree…) since launching myself on the Web in 2008, had had one print book and four e-books published, when it struck. The only cure, which took quite a while, was to severely lay off writing, working mainly through a dictation app. NOT recommended if you wish to remain moderately sane, by the way…
I am left handed, which did not help the problem afflicting my left arm and wrist. In the end, I had to make a decision – a hard one, since by then I’d begun the research for book number 5. Either proceed to carpal tunnel syndrome, enduring the rest of my life with it and related arm and wrist unpleasantnesses – or confine myself largely to short pieces from then on. So I chose the latter. This mostly took the form of weekly pieces for only one blog at a time, writing columns (at one point I had three, deadlines falling in the same two weeks every couple of months!) and continuing to send out longer essays and articles to a wide range of magazines and journals – something I’d been doing for around twenty years already.
The result, half a Jupiter cycle later? I have actually arrived at book numero 5 anyway, albeit a very different one from originally envisaged: contents sixty published essays, columns and articles of mercurial variety. (btw I have a third house Jupiter square everything in the twelfth house, so this planet has been just a tad influential). Not only does this accidentally arrived at book have a title ie ‘Postcards to the Future’ and a subtitle ie ‘mercurial musings 1995-2021’ but it has also generated a small publishing company ie Writing from the Twelfth House Publications, and brought together a really experienced, talented production team, headed up by one V Olliver as editor.
And boy, has he been editing to within an inch of my sanity these last few weeks…but I jest… Compared to my last venture into having a print book published ie ‘Jupiter Meets Uranus’ by Arizona-based American Federation of Astrologers in 2009, it has been a breeze. Although I got on very well with the AFA editor, ease of technological transmission between Scotland and Arizona was much less flowing then than it is now. And I didn’t know her at all when the process began. I was just about on my knees, not to mention cross-eyed, by the time that edit was completed.
This time, the esteemed Victor has been editing my work, mainly through this column, for the last five years. We know each other’s literary weirdnesses. Not that I have any, of course…so book 5 edit has actually been a pleasure (well, mostly…)
It’s an interesting business, writing short pieces to deadlines. Here’s a flavour, extracted from one of my columns for the much-missed Dell Horoscope magazine, which you will find in ‘Postcards to the Future’ :
‘…Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office…‘(ii)
In the end, you simply have to have confidence and faith that your topic will appear from SOMEWHERE…in the above example, it appeared via a random phone call on the bus journey to my office – on the very day of the latest deadline. In the case of longer, more in depth subjects, the process can be rather different. As I put it in a recent AA Journal column: ‘…The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle…’
My approach is simple. The third time the idea drops into my mind and refuses to go away, I give in and start work. The last essay in ‘Postcards’ is titled Waning and Waxing Crescents: Windows to the Future and was published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of TMA. The idea refusing to go away was that of linking the horoscope of Mary Shelley, born in 1797 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Fire element, with that of Greta Thunberg, born in 2003 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Earth element. What emerged and grew from that idea drove me hard for some weeks – but the end result was truly fascinating to me, and hopefully to my readers.
The subtitle of ‘Postcards’ ie “mercurial musings 1995-2021” offers clues both to the author’s horoscope – Mercury Ruler: conjunct, square, semi-square and sextile just about everything! – and the book’s subject matter. The hardest part for me of the whole editorial process was choosing the sixty pieces which were eventually included. (Let’s face it, Victor has by far done most of the other work, since I told him I’d rather pour hot melted butter into my left ear in the dark than have anything to do with anything technical…)
The range is indeed mercurial: from topics which deserve serious treatment ie ‘What is my job as an astrologer?’ , through a whole long section on planetary cycles, my current preoccupation, all the way to the quirky, ie ‘My Mary Shelley obsession: It has never gone away’ featuring unique synastry between a famous human (Mary) and a dead sheep (Dolly). Then there is a whole section titled ‘ Interviews: Featuring the Bacon Sandwich Motivational Technique, Plus Other Arcane Delights’. And lots more endless mercurial variety.
As I write this column, we are almost there…it’s now over to Ros, our meticulously Virgoan book designer, and Cat, hard at work on what will be a brilliant cover. Well, it’s all Victor’s fault, really, apart from the tendonitis. He is largely responsible for luring me out from behind that twelfth house sofa…
(i) ALSO: this is a collection of sixty selected essays etc going back to 1995. My students and more than one astro-colleague began suggesting that it was time for me to go back through my large stack of varied writings and put a collection together…yes, in 2018, the very year progressed Mercury, sitting stationary on top of my restless third house Jupiter, turned retrograde. Pretty apt, eh what?!
(ii) from ‘Fate, Uranus – and the astrologers’ degree…’.