What is an astrology reading? Why should I have one?

 Occupying the collective mind currently, and forcing us to start changing the way we live, is the corona virus crisis. As the fear-inducing Saturn Pluto conjunction of 12th January 2020 grew closer during 2019, the environmental crisis forced its way to the forefront of public consciousness, via the efforts of climate change activist Greta Thunberg which have given rise to the Extinction Rebellion movement. 

 We are living in a time where awareness of theinterconnectedness of all things’ is now at the forefront of public consciousness across the world. Evidence is piling up increasingly starkly: what happens in one part of our world impacts everywhere. 

The ancient maxim ‘As above, so below‘ has thus never seemed more relevant. The art and practice of astrology has been based on that maxim for at least six thousand years. Astrology links what happens in the individual and collective lives of human beings to the movement of the planets through the solar system of which we are part. As contemporary astrologer, writer and philosopher Prof. Richard Tarnas so eloquently puts it:

“It is astrology’s extraordinary insight that these complex, multidimensional archetypes which govern the forms of human experience are intelligibly connected with the planets and their movements in the heavens, an association that is observable in a constant coincidence between specific planetary alignments and specific corresponding archetypal phenomena in human affairs.” (i)

Popular Sun Sign astrology as found in the media can only give a general picture of one dimension of the person. It’s simply not possible for this astrology to describe fully who you are, since it focuses only on where the Sun is (ie in Pisces, Aries, Virgo etc) on your birthday. It’s like trying to tell the story of a complex play with reference to only one character on the stage.

Using this analogy, you  can only get a view of all the characters on the stage of your life from the map which an astrologer draws of the heavens at the particular TIME and PLACE, as well as DAY, of  your birth.

This map or Horoscope or Birth Chart can then be used as a tool to mirror back to you, as lucidly as possible, with great care for your sensitivity and level of awareness, what the different characters are on the stage of your life and how they interact with one another.

After many years of doing readings professionally, I think the central thing that an individual gains from an astrology reading is confirmation of who they actually are: what their  strengths and weaknesses are, what are their gifts and their difficulties. It gives them more confidence and courage to be themselves. It is a very powerful and potentially spiritual experience to have a stranger, who knows nothing of you, describe your essential qualities accurately from a map drawn of the heavens.

The other great gift that astrology can offer is that of saying: ” This is your moment in time, through which you are connected to a process which was unfolding aeons before you were born, and will continue long after you have departed. You are a unique strand in the weave of life, you have a contribution to make, using the energy that you have been given as fully and as creatively as possible.”

Astrology readings, done with compassion, skill, sensitivity and professionalism are a significant way of contributing to promoting that sense of connectedness.

Feeling meaningfully connected to relationships, family, community, and whatever Big Picture sustains you – as countless contemporary research studies in psychology, education and other related fields have shown – is an effective antidote to those feelings of alienation and pointlessness which our materialist culture seems to be amplifying rather than reducing.

However, given the explosion of astrologers and astrology sites – often of highly dubious quality – across the internet in recent times, it is perhaps as well to sound a note of caution, as highlighted in the late great astrologer Donna Cunningham’s article on Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients.

That old maxim “You get what you pay for” almost always applies, across the board. Before signing up for an astrology reading, do your homework. Ask for recommendations. Read some of the writings of astrologers whose approaches you admire, to get the ‘feel’ of whether their approach might suit you.  And – be prepared to pay a proper professional rate which reflects the experience, training and integrity of the person you consult. In that way, you are maximising your chances of engaging with a uniquely creative opportunity to enhance your self awareness – as well as the way you live your life.

Endnotes

(i) “Prometheus the Awakener” (1993, p8)

800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

What is astrology?…since you ask…

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

(Arthur Koestler from The Sleepwalkers)

The story of humanity is one of an unending attempt to create some recognisable order from the chaos of our earliest origins. In order to survive and evolve as a species, we have  created contexts for ourselves over many millennia from our interpretations of the world around us.

Modern science has shown us that we are part of an interconnected universe of mind-boggling complexity, in its minutest essence a vast energy field, ever moving and changing to the shifting dance of waves and particles – chaos and order forever interweaving, forever returning to and arising from the Quantum Vacuum, or in Buddhist terminology the Void, or in Western spiritual terminology, the Ground of our being.

The vivid quotation from the philosopher Arthur Koestler illustrates the origins of the ancient art and science of astrology – literally ‘the study of the stars’, whose basic precept “as above, so below” demonstrates that our modern understanding that we live in an interconnected cosmos is not a new idea at all.

It has been around ever since we fragile humans, vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous earth with its storms, earthquakes and floods, began to evolve a context of meaning by plotting with increasing sophistication as time went on, the movements of the heavenly bodies in the starry skies above us.

From observing the regular patterns and cycles followed by those heavenly bodies, and recording with care what links there seemed to be between such movements and the ebbs and flows of human life, the early astrologer/priests began to be able to determine (with varying degrees of accuracy – prediction in any field of endeavour has never to this day become an exact science!) the fate of the king and the nation according to the movements of the planets.

Personal horoscopes plotting the patterns of individual life were unheard of then. Individual personal horoscopes are not to be found until the fifth century BCE: the oldest known personal horoscope is from the year 410 BCE.

Modern-day astrology is very different from the fate-ridden pronouncements of the past. The twentieth century saw big shifts in our understanding of science, history and culture which moved us from the Modernist era of  ‘grand narratives’  describing with confidence and conviction the way we are as humans, to an altogether less certain set of perceptions.

Just as modern science has shown us that there can be no absolute objectivity since the presence of the observer can be shown to influence the outcome of the experiment, so we now live in a Postmodern era where we understand that we are embedded in the unfolding action of the plot of life on Earth. Thus we shape our ‘reality’ even as we are living it – and indeed recognise that there are probably many ‘realities’. Absolute truth is not what it once was!

Astrology, too, has moved with the times although there are still many reputable and respected practitioners who stick closely to traditional methods of interpretation and prediction rooted in antiquity. Knowledge of astrology doesn’t result in harmonious agreement – even if it is to differ! – amongst astrologers. Far from it. In that respect, we are just as riven with conflicts and disagreements as any other human group.

Modern psychology, rooted in the great insights of Freud and then Jung who was basically a mystic, more eclectic and open minded in his knowledge base than Freud, has had considerable impact on how astrology is now taught and practised.

In antiquity, the planets were seen as gods whose interaction with and action upon humans’ lives determined their fate. Jung’s great contribution to the modernising of astrology in the 20th century was his formulation – from the study of universal myth – of the concept of the collective unconscious, an updating of the ancient idea of the World Soul.

This collective unconscious comprises a group of energy patterns or archetypes, an idea taken from the Greek philosopher Plato, which are present in all cultures across the world and which shape every aspect of human behaviour.

Jung’s view was taken up by the first of the great psychological astrologers Dane Rudhyar in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and further developed by other astrologers, most notably well-known Jungian analyst, astrologer and author Liz Greene whose fusion of mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology further shaped the model known as Psychological Astrology which has become very influential in the thinking of many contemporary astrologers, myself included.

To be continued….

********

800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

‘At the still point’: awaiting the Aries New Moon…

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day the Sun enters Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. But you could argue that its true beginning takes place with the New Moon in Aries: this year, that does not happen until the 24th March 2020, when the Sun and Moon meet at 4 degrees 12 minutes of Aries.

Image of Moondark

Moondark

You could further argue that the period from the Pisces New Moon, this year having fallen just three days ago on 23rd February at 4 degrees 29 minutes of Pisces, represents the Moondark, or balsamic period, or end phase of the whole astrological year – which began with the 15 degrees  17 minutes Aries New Moon on the 5th of April 2019.

Today thus finds us at the new crescent phase beginning the whole zodiacal year’s Moondark. It also finds us on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, a six week period of contemplation leading to Easter Sunday which falls each year close to the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

So – how does that profound, doubly symbolic invitation to withdraw and reflect on the year that’s gone, sit with you?

For a very long time, I have been happy and grateful to draw spiritual inspiration from writers of all religious and spiritual traditions – or none. What I seek is grounded wisdom and perspective, wherever it comes from, to guide my life. I also love the comforting, ancient power of ritual. One of my personal Ash Wednesday rituals is to read to myself sections of T S Eliot’s great poem sequence Ash Wednesday. Here is the quote which on this Ash Wednesday has most moved me,:

‘…this is the time of tension between dying and birth/ The place of solitude where three dreams cross…’ (i)

I am in a deeply withdrawn, sensitive, pensive state in this year’s Moondark just beginning, feeling very open to our collective vulnerability and suffering as fragile creatures on a tiny planet.

Having been born in Moondark in the very last hours of the monthly Sun/Moon cycle, I am very aware of the need periodically to retreat, contemplate, take stock – a fundamental aspect of human experience which is being squeezed out by the 24/7 freneticism of contemporary living, to the increasing detriment of our collective mental and physical wellbeing.

Will this new year soon arising bring more brutality towards the vulnerable and the innocent, orchestrated by those currently in power whose humanity has in many cases become increasingly debased? Or will it signify a new generation arising, whose values are not rooted in accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of our Mother planet, ready to challenge the structures of  old order?

Thankfully, we are seeing strong evidence of the latter option arising already, as the new Saturn/Pluto cycle slowly begins and we move towards a new Jupiter/Saturn cycle at 0 degrees Aquarius, beginning at the winter solstice 2020. We need radical change, and we are going to have it over the next few years, one way or another…

The Big Why?

In contemplative moments such as this, poised in the stillness of a whole year’s Moondark, being temperamentally inclined to brood on questions most sensible folk prefer to avoid much of the time, I tend to return to The Big Why, and its attendant questions: Why are we here at all? What does it all mean? What am I to do with my small life?

It would appear from numerous surveys one tends to come across both in print and social media, that despite conventional religions losing ground, most people are just as inclined as they have ever been toward some sort of faith, some belief that despite its painful, turbulent dimensions life has meaning.

In times of suffering and turbulence, one of the great offerings of astrological knowledge, despite its being a double-edged gift with just as much capacity to scare us as to offer enlightenment, is a pointing through its symbols to something both collectively and personally meaningful going on. Looking through an astrological lens reveals patterns, not randomness.

Astrology is not a religion or a belief system – but it offers a clear lens through which to look out at the vastness of Mystery in which we exist, inviting us toward some form of belief that there is a bigger picture of  which we are all part, however small.

Personally, I have found that lens to have been a vitally important tool on my own journey toward a deep faith that we are all part of the One; even the dreadful things in life which afflict us both collectively and individually are woven into a tapestry of meaning, at some level which we are too ill-equipped to comprehend.

I find it supportive and comforting to centre myself in that faith when times are tough for the world – as they certainly are right now – and for those to whom I am personally connected with bonds of friendship and of love.

And for myself. My dear Aquarian husband Ian died peacefully on 13th January, having been felled with shocking suddenness by a cerebral haemorrhage on 12th January 2020: the very day of the ending of the most recent Saturn/Pluto cycle in Libra under which we were married in 1982, and the beginning of this new one now taking shape. Apart from the shock and grief of his dying, I am awestruck by the fated power for us of that brutal timing.

For those of you who have been wondering why I have not posted here since 10th January, that is the explanation.

The uses of Moondark

Moondark at its best is a contemplative time: time to take stock both collectively and personally.

Humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.

Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.

It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, our joys and our sorrows,  and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead.

Will you be taking stock? I certainly shall…

Endnotes

i)  from ‘The Complete Poems and Plays of T S Eliot’, Faber and Faber Ltd 1969, p 98

Image of Moondark

1,150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

“ in my end is my beginning”: Paradox and the Saturn/Pluto cycle…

As my tutorial students would tell you, my big love and fascination in the vast range of possible obsessions offered by astrology is: cycles. No, not bi-cycles. Planetary cycles. Large and small, I love them all. But whether the cycle is huge, like the 500 year Neptune /Pluto one, or tiny, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

Cycles: beginnings – and endings

In East Coker, the second of T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, he began that section with “In my beginning is my end,” and ended it, “in my end is my beginning”. This rather paradoxical juxtaposition bookends the whole of life. Every beginning carries the seeds of its ending, every ending, potential for new beginnings. However, generally speaking you don’t find much astrological musing on the topic of cycles’ endings – or their slow beginnings. Especially in this particular Western cultural phase, expedited by faster and faster broadband speeds and ever more sophisticated technology, the emphasis is on satisfying the wants (often as opposed to the needs) of NOW.

The problem with this, however, is that Life on our planet still continues in its ancient, cyclic way, to which humans are still physically, emotionally and spiritually bound. Chronic disregard for this reality is now throwing up huge problems for us from the state of the planet to the increasingly fragile state of some of our young folks’ mental –and physical–health.

Here is an example, from a recent issue of  The Week which compiles ‘the best of the British and international media’: in a hard-hitting piece entitled ‘Deaths of despair: why Americans are dying young’, Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post says

‘…Whether as a result of economic hardship, stress, the lack of universal healthcare, loneliness or family breakdown, people just aren’t looking after themselves properly, and are making destructive life choices…’

The importance of  paying attention

So – in my (it is alleged…) contrarian way, I am here to muse on the endings, or balsamic phases, of cycles and the great importance of paying attention to them, especially as we approach the ending/new beginning of a whole 37-year Saturn/Pluto cycle. As everyone must be aware by now, astrologers or no, we are not living in a particularly easy light-hearted time either collectively or individually. To put it mildly.

That excellent astrological writer Dana Gerhardt observed some time ago in relation to the balsamic phase of, for example, the 29 year progressed New Moon cycle:

“When will it end?” is everybody’s first question on learning they’ve entered a progressed Balsamic phase. No matter how colorfully I paint its virtues, they peer beyond to a bleaker landscape, to a three-to-four-year sentence of all loss and no gain. I can see it in their eyes…. I tell them this is the richest spiritual time. I tell them when my own progressed Balsamic phase was over, I had nostalgia for it. I cheer: “You will too!” But it’s a tough sell….”

I would certainly endorse this from my own experience some years ago, of beginning a new phase in my career journey when no less than four major cycles were coming to an end over a period of almost a decade. I should have taken astrology’s advice, not that of my own ego!

The consequence was a long period of enforced retreat, triggered by a long family crisis and my subsequent energy burnout an enriching and deepening time, but very tough whilst it was happening… until the Progressed New Moon told me it was time to emerge and begin again.

Trying to do things differently…

Looking over my last few posts, I can see my preoccupation with cycles generally and this Saturn/Pluto one in particular. Hardly surprising, being so ‘plugged in’ to it from birth myself. In “Some notes on cycles in a time of crisis” published recently on Astrodienst, I offered this very brief summary of Saturn/Pluto’s challenges:

‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making. The environmental crisis which has become so vivid this year with the Nodal Axis joining the dance of Saturn/Pluto throughout 2019, is a case in point…’

As I write today, on 4th January 2020, Australia is ablaze, and on USA President Trump’s directive – apparently without running the plan through Congress first – Qasem Soleimani, top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad airport early today. His deputy was also killed. According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the airstrikes disrupted an “imminent attack” in the region that put American lives at risk. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vows for “harsh revenge.”

Collectively, Saturn/Pluto = warfare of one kind or another; relentless consistency every time.

Our political masters worldwide should study history via the planetary cycles, see if they can just for once learn something from them. It would make a change to be making war on the issues that really matter e.g. climate change, increasing social and fiscal inequality, widespread homelessness, equal rights for women worldwide, inadequate healthcare to name just a few contemporary problems urgently in need of war being waged upon them. Wouldn’t it be great if most of our countries in the world weren’t being run by narcissistic psychopaths?

Personal power and insightful choices

It is one of Life’s great ironies, pointed out by Carl Jung some time ago, that as individuals we probably have more control and choice over how collective energies manifest than eg nations do. In order to exercise that control and choice, however, we need to work towards more conscious awareness of  what our personal issues are – and how we go about making choices in relation to what Life throws at us. This is where astrology can be such an enlightening help.

Working with awareness, we can see patterns shaping up, get some idea from our first encounter with them eg Saturn/Pluto opposing/conjuncting/squaring our personal planet(s) what challenges they are offering – then with some reflection and perhaps therapeutic/astrological help when necessary, work out what the planetary gods in question are asking of us over the several years in which long-term transits/progressions are in operation as they slowly apply, become exact, and separate.

To quote Dr Liz Greene from one of her 1990s seminars at London’s Centre for Psychological Astrology:

“You have to give the god what the god wants…and if it’s Mars, don’t offer a bunch of flowers!”

I’ve never forgotten this sage advice, and have passed it on many times both to clients and students. However, like all good advice, most of us to our detriment fail sometimes on the good advice front. As I admitted earlier, I failed to pay attention to what the planetary cycles were telling me, with very harsh results.

The wisdom offered by planetary cycles: a general overview

In nearly forty years of working with clients, students, and with my own process, I have found that sharing wisdom offered by the planetary cycles has been very useful in helping to set Life’s sails to go with the prevailing winds at any given time. I routinely take people through the 11-12 year Jupiter cycle, the 7/8-year stages of the 29/30 year Saturn cycles, and the progressed Sun/Moon cycle.

Depending on the lunar phase at which a person was born, a progressed New Moon can fall in any year of life, eg at age four. You can then see that in 29/30 years’ time, another progressed New Moon in a new sign, usually a new house, and making different aspects to the natal planets, is describing the early start of a new life phase.

I recall a recent client who experienced progressed New Moons at those very ages. She could see how a whole challenging process had arisen as a result of a significant event at the time of her first progressed New Moon when she was four years old, and how life changes at her second progressed New Moon in the next sign had symbolised a new start – feeling like an important stage along the road of freeing herself from old negative patterns.

It is really moving, and powerful, to see eg how the theme of opening up to new adventures of mind, body and spirit develops as eg clients’ and students’ Jupiter cycles unfold: age 11/12, then 23/4, then 35/6 and so on depending on the person’s age at the time of a reading, or in a class when we are doing some qualitative research within the group.

A great gift of astrology, perhaps its greatest gift, is this: it shows us that we are part of Something vast and meaningful, not mere random accidents in space/time. That knowledge offers a great challenge: to take our tiny ‘chip’ of that vast energy field as revealed though the symbols in our horoscopes, with its pains as well as its gifts  – and strive to leave the world a slightly better place on our exit than it was when we came in. Grand achievements are not mandatory. Just being better, more fulfilled human beings as a result of having an extra, symbolic, source of potential insight is quite enough…

The degree to which a person’s life responds to the promptings of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto transits and cycles – and the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes – depends very much upon how strongly that person is ‘plugged in’ to that particular planet or point, its transits and its cycles. It is also very important in contemplating the planetary cycles, to realise that each cycle carries the same basic developmental template within it: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

So – as any cycle comes to an end, typical feelings are: restlessness and ennui; lower energy available to put into the key areas of life/activities governed by that cycle; dissatisfaction with what once seemed to work quite well, but now does not. In the case of the larger cycles’ endings, eg Saturn/Pluto, Uranus/Pluto, Uranus/Neptune, life can sometimes plunge us into circumstances of extreme difficulty or pain, at times through upheavals and hurts not directly related to our actions or choices. Some might prefer to call this the action of Fate…

However, it is also most important to note, as  that wise poet TS Eliot observed,

“in my end is my beginning”:

Germinating, hidden below the churned-up earth of cycles’ endings, are also the delicate seeds of new beginnings. I have always found it helpful for myself, students and clients to relate this to our solar system’s tiny monthly cycle of the sun and moon, clearly observable in the heavens above us. The delicate sliver of the waning crescent moon which we can sometimes see if the skies are clear, indicates that an old cycle is in its dying days. Then nothing is visible for another couple of days. It’s important to remember that the New Moon, and a new cycle beginning, takes place in the dark.

Think the moment of conception of a new human or a new animal. Without the very sophisticated technology of IVF, a very recent phenomenon in terms of our technological progress, this cannot be observed – although it may well be sensed, especially by a child’s mother…similarly, some of us may sense, at that liminal point, that something has changed, something new may be emerging. And then – that beautiful slender silver crescent of the waxing new moon appears in the sky, two or three days after its total absence. We are on a new journey.

We can apply that basic template both to individual planetary cycles, eg the famous 29/30 year Saturn one, and to the cycles of planets in combination eg the 172 year Uranus/Neptune cycle or the vast 500 year Neptune/Pluto cycle. The latter began in the 1890s, and we are still only moving off from the first sextile one hundred and thirty years later…an average human life will only encompass two full Saturn/Pluto cycles, and perhaps part of a third one.

Saturn/Pluto in particular

So – what can we do as individuals to navigate this significant Saturn/Pluto ending/ new beginning with some degree of useful awareness?

What I write here can only be of general guidance. How things work out for you in particular depends on your personal horoscope and its patterns. However, the more strongly this combination occurs in your natal chart, then by transit/progression as your life unfolds, the more potent the challenge is going to be. It’s also helpful to note the houses/Angles/Nodes  ruled by Saturn and by Pluto.

For example, I have Saturn/Pluto in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Venus, Moon and Sun, all in Leo; Saturn rules the fifth house, Pluto the IC/South Node conjunction. All my major life challenges have circled round children (others’, not mine), home and roots – and how to extricate and direct my powerful creative energies and vocational drives from the mire of family fate and from the consequences of unwise choices, often not made by me.

The first piece of advice – I do realise, of course, that it may well not be to your liking, since it certainly wasn’t to mine! – is have patience. This is a pretty long cycle ending and beginning, so things are likely to have been difficult for you in one way or another, along the lines of what I outlined earlier, for around a couple of years, perhaps more. Similarly, it is likely to take around that amount of time for the energies of the new cycle to take form and focus so that you can see the way ahead more clearly.

There is no point in pretending that the combination of Saturn and Pluto is not tough. I used to find with my classes that the aspects from which new students recoiled the most, and the transits they most feared the more they learned, were those of Saturn and Pluto, both separately and in combination through their cycle. Pluto manifests the raw creative and destructive power of the life force; Saturn tries to shape, control and focus that power.

This dynamic in our collective lives has always produced life or death struggle of one kind or another. Individuals plugged in have a ‘chip’ as it were of that powerful energy pattern to wrestle with, and hopefully learn to channel wisely and constructively, throughout their lives.

As I said at the outset of this esssay, ‘…In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making…’

The next piece of advice is this: try to get some perspective on what the challenges are now, and how you might best deal with them as the new cycle starts to unfold. To do this, go back to the beginning of this cycle, note the dates, and check out what was going on in your life then. Then note the dates of the waxing square, then the opposition, then the waning square. There are of course the other aspects as the cycle waxes and wanes. But let’s stick with the biggies for now.

Those of you young folk who have not yet lived through a whole cycle, take especial note of the nearest of the biggies to your birth date. Some of you older readers will be able to go further back – it is worth making the effort to do so: both for the life insights it may well give you, but also regarding your family history in many cases, since Pluto usually seems to have connections to issues of family fate and its consequences which have woven into the fabric of the present time. Some of that material, and its influences on your life, can be usefully recognised, mined and processed during Saturn/Pluto periods.

Let’s do it now.

The first Saturn/Pluto conjunction of the last century occurred in October 1914 at 2 Cancer, and May 1915 at 1 Cancer. The second followed on August 11 1947 at 13 Leo. You can look up the first squares, opposition points, and waning squares of both those cycles in a 20th Century Ephemeris – or google them!

The last Saturn/Pluto exact conjunction occurred – once –  in November 1982 at 27 Libra, applying for a year before, separating for a year afterwards. The waxing square was exact in March 1993 at 25 Aquarius/Scorpio, then again at 24 Aquarius /Scorpio in October 1993, and finally at 27 Aquarius/Scorpio in January 1994. The opposition was first exact in August 2001 at 13 Gemini/Sagittarius, then in November 2001 at 14 Gemini/Sagittarius, lastly in May 2002 at 16 Gemini/Sagittarius. The waning square was exact in November 2009 at 2 Libra/Capricorn, then in January 2010 at 4 Libra/Capricorn, then finally in August 2010 at 3 Libra/Capricorn.

The end of the 1982/2020 cycle occurs, with the new Saturn/Pluto cycle starting slowly to form, on 12th January 2020 at 23 Capricorn – a much anticipated, feared, and discussed planetary event as a new decade begins (or an old one ends, depending on your stance on the matter!). If you care to do so, you can go forward in the 21st Century Ephemeris to plot the waxing square, opposition, waning square and ending dates of this new cycle.

A personal example

As the Saturn/Pluto cycle begun in 1947 drew to a close in 1980/82, little did I know that a whole phase of my personal and vocational life was also ending, and a new one was set to begin. I knew nothing then of astrological cycles and their significance. I met my husband in 1980, marrying him a few months before November 1982 and the start of the Libran Saturn/Pluto cycle. I also began studying astrology in 1980, commencing serious work on the Certificate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies in November 1982.

Each of the four key stages of  that unfolding cycle from 1982 up to the present time have brought very challenging, painful and difficult issues of a family of origin nature for me to cope with, as well as with my husband’s family since I took on a step-parent role with our marriage. These times also represented key stages in the development and unfolding of my parallel careers as a social worker, trainer, and private practising therapist along with developing an astrology consulting, writing and teaching practice.

However, as the cycle has moved towards its slow conclusion from the waning square in 2010, I have been aware of an increasing feeling of deep satisfaction with how an initially tough life pattern has turned out, beginning with  my birth seven weeks prematurely and an expectation that I would not survive. I am experiencing the long-term rewards from hanging on in there, at times having to struggle very hard to deal with and free myself from old family complexes as much as possible which were getting in the way of my professional and relationship lives.

Our marriage has survived and deepened, my Aquarian husband having provided unwavering support both personally and professionally. Through some tough and at times tragic family challenges, I have slowly and gradually learned something which I believe only Saturn/Pluto could have pushed me to learn, but which growing older with less life force to waste has helped along: to focus and channel my Leonine creative energies as much as possible into constructive vocational pursuits, thereby honouring my path. And most importantly, not to waste that life force on those who are unwilling or unable to benefit from my efforts.

Learning the very hard way that you can’t make anyone do anything for what you see as their own good if they don’t wish to – or can’t – is an excellent lesson for a Saturn/Pluto control freak!

I still love astrology as much as ever. The difference, though, as this cycle closes and a new one arises, is this: my desire to work directly with clients has waned, as has my desire to have any public role other than through my writing and a limited amount of teaching and mentoring. However, my awareness of the need to claim and honour the role of Elder, to offer as much support as I can to the next able generation of astrologers arising, especially in my local area, is growing. 

Beyond being aware of the gifts as well of the limitations that come with ageing, and of the importance of living as much as possible in a soulful way in the present moment, sharing whatever time we may have left with my husband, close family members and friends, I have little idea of what new creative challenges/opportunities the new Saturn/Pluto cycle may bring. I’m not too worried about that, feeling freer in spirit now than I have ever felt – despite the dismal state of the world at present as we grapple with unprecedented turbulence and a planet under threat…

In Conclusion…

To paraphrase Jung’s point, mentioned earlier: individuals working in a conscious way can have more power to shift the balance of a difficult planetary pattern in a positive direction, than collectives do. I have long believed that if we want to change the world, we need to start with ourselves, and work outwards.

We are currently experiencing the end of an important, powerful, challenging and formative planetary cycle, and wondering what this next Saturn/Pluto phase will bring. It is my hope, therefore, that my musings in this essay may offer some pointers  regarding how to approach and understand the phase that is passing – and to gain some perspective which will help in facing the upcoming Saturn/Pluto cycle with greater understanding and insight.

3,600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

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Some Otherworld thoughts in Capricorn’s dark season…

It is the season of Capricorn. I am gazing through our wide bay window towards the shadowy hills, as city lights illuminate a cold, rainy early January night.  A very bare bay window. Where have all the jewels of multi-coloured reflection gone? Back to the ‘Otherworld’, the Romantic in me thinks. Waiting, waiting for another year…

Yesterday we took our Christmas Tree down, this year aided by our kind and helpful neighbours, their assistance a welcome ray of brightness in an otherwise doleful day. After New Year has arrived, the time of festivity and celebration is over.

The richly decorated, multi-coloured glowing beauty of our tree then ceases to bring us comfort and magic in the heart of winter, standing before us reproachfully (as we imagine), waiting to be dismantled, recycled. We cannot bear to prolong this post-festive inevitability. And now it’s done, gone.

Here I stand, in the bare, empty, dusted, wiped, hoovered space left behind. What comfort is to be found in this bleak moment?

The need to bring comfort, cheer and significance to that cold dark time in the Northern Hemisphere, when the Sun’s warmth seems a distant longed-for memory, is a very ancient one. Here are the ancient Egyptians, honouring their Tree of Life:

This thought comforts me, as it does every year. I like to feel part of the ancient river of humanity as I stand here in my 21st century bare bay window.

Dylan Thomas’ famous line from the poem  “And death shall have no dominion” comes to mind:

‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not……’

This tree may have been sacrificed by us, but its spirit lives on in that bare window space, inhabiting another world, waiting to be given form yet again when the seasons turn and we feel yet again a powerful need to affirm in the cold season of Capricorn that the life force is still with us – just gathering its strength in the dormancy of winter.

350 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

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Saturn/Pluto and the fear it raises: contemplating astrology as a healing and a wounding art…

A week or so ago, there was a question on one of the astrology discussion groups I drop into from time to time – from a newcomer to astrology. This person was very concerned about how to deal with ‘transits and predictive work’, commenting on how anxiety-inducing it was for so many people when they contemplated upcoming challenging transits eg Saturn/Pluto, both in relation to themselves and how they could talk about tough upcoming patterns with their clients.

Chiron - Wounded Healer

Chiron – Wounded Healer

This reminded me of an article I had written some time ago for the Centre for Psychological Astrology’s in-house magazine Apollon on that very topic. It is called “Astrology as a healing and a wounding art”(i) and deals precisely with the anxieties that everyone has to face who begins to dig beneath the surface of the Star Sign column level of popular astrology.

In the article, which you can access via the Endnotes to this post, I decided to interview a number of my astrology students who had been studying/practising astrology for some time, regarding what they thought were both the healing and the wounding aspects of astrological study and practice. The results were most interesting. I hope you find reading the article useful – do feel free to leave your reactions via comments.

As you may imagine, there were a number of responses to the worried astro-newcomer’s questions and concerns. Here is what I wrote, which struck me on re-reading it as having quite a Saturn/Pluto tone to it. Hardly surprising, since I have a Mercury/Saturn/Pluto line-up in my own horoscope…but I think that there are certain tough realities which need to be faced if you are going to take up the practice of astrology. Maybe those of us who have been practising for a long time don’t spell them out clearly enough…

“…I used to start my astrology classes by pointing out to students that 99% of the human race had got through history and their lives without knowing any astrology and had managed to get by. I also used to point out to them that while astrology is archetypally predictive, its track record on actual specific prediction is historically pretty unimpressive.

I also told them the story of Prometheus, who stole the fire of knowledge from the gods and was severely punished as a result.

Astrology is a wounding as well as a healing art, and if students/practitioners can’t make their peace with that reality in such a way that they can be of constructive value to their future clients, they should take up something non-threatening like e.g. stamp collecting…”

Endnotes

(i)“Astrology as a healing and a wounding art”

Note: the link will take you through to the pdf Issue 3 of Apollon – scroll down and the Contents page will tell you where to find my article. There is also a brilliant article by Liz Greene called ‘Wounding and the will to live’ –  about Chiron – which I would urge you to take the time to read.

Apollon Issue 3

Apollon Issue 3

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2019

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page 

 

Some thoughts at the Winter Solstice:

 
……a quotation from “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach states……
 
“ Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.”
Barbara Holland
 
 
Winter Solstice 2018 by Anne Whitaker

Winter Solstice 2018
by Anne Whitaker

This has never seemed truer as we approach the end of what has been a very difficult year, our human community across the world riven with even more – and more angrily polarised – conflicts than usual.

It is becoming much harder, since young Greta Thunberg’s resolute pounding on the door of our resistance to facing the truth of our planetary crisis, to avoid facing certain harsh realities. It’s been a year for being confronted with those, both individually and collectively. Many of us are feeling pretty dispirited, exhausted, lacking in optimism for the future.
 
So, what to do?
 
Having an astrological perspective is a great help, at least in being able to stand back and realise that we very clever 21st century folk are not immune to the turbulence which has followed the unfolding of the human story throughout history. The planetary cycles are telling us quite clearly, as I outlined in my recent article on Astrodienst, that we are at a time of extraordinary, epochal change.
 
 
For the old order to die, and the new one to emerge, we need to go through a form of collective death and rebirth.
 
 
How can we help this along, and in our own small way contribute to a more positive world in the future?
 
Personally, I find it helpful always to return to Jung‘s view: if there’s something wrong with the world, with society, with nation or with family, then there’s something also wrong with ME; so, taking responsibility for who I am and where I’m at, is the first step in changing the world for the better.
 
In other words, start where you are, and do what you can, to bring some light into the dark both at this solstice time of year, and during the year which is fast approaching. As the wise quote says, we need to keep ourselves from becoming too gloomy, and cultivate joy wherever we can.
 
Today, I had a lovely experience of doing just that. I met up with a young friend who has just completed her first term at university. After many very difficult years, she has gradually found a firm place on which to stand in her life: in a mutually supportive relationship, she knows what her future vocation is now, and her studies are focused on some very clear goals. She is fizzing with enthusiasm and excitement, and has done extremely well in her first term’s exams.
 
It made me feel joyful to share her enthusiasm and her optimism for the future. As an older person, being able to support young folk like her is a simple and positive way to keep the rank weed of gloom at bay, and cultivate a positive approach to whatever our future proves to be.
 
So – what’s your recipe for cultivating joy as 2020 approaches? Do share!
 

Winter Solstice 2018 by Anne Whitaker

550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2019

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As Saturn returns to Pluto in Capricorn: some notes on Saturn Returns…

I’ve had quite a few messages of late, asking me why I haven’t posted here for a few weeks. Well, like almost everyone else to whom I speak, I’ve been feeling the pressure and heaviness of a very challenging year since Saturn began to catch up with Pluto in Capricorn last Spring 2019, coming within three degrees of exact conjunction in April as they met the South Node in Capricorn. Recent weeks have thus been a time for some rest and reflection. 

Saturn...

Saturn…

As I wrote in one of my recent articles exploring various dimensions of this fearsome conjunction:

‘… In essence, Saturn/Pluto lets us off with nothing, either personally or collectively. We are forced into increasingly tight corners, whilst the pressure is ramped up on us to face and deal with the present consequences of past decisions, some of which might not be of our direct making. The environmental crisis which has become so vivid this year with the Nodal Axis joining the dance of Saturn/Pluto throughout 2019, is a case in point…’(i)

I am currently writing a reflective piece on what we should try to learn from a not very much discussed topic, ie the end or balsamic phase of planetary cycles, which I hope to post here soon. So – watch this space!

Prompting me to write today have been several conversations I’ve had, not all of them directly in person, with people coming up to experiencing their Saturn Returns at this time: both the first at age 29/30,  and the 59/60 second Saturn Return.

Since the 1981/2 Saturn/Pluto conjunction cycle ends, with the new one beginning, on 12 January 2020 with the two meeting at 23 degrees of Capricorn along with the Sun, Mercury – and Jupiter not far behind – those folks at the end of their twenties and fifties are facing a profoundly defining transition during their Saturn Returns since theirs involve Saturn/Pluto as well as the other planets.

Every completing of a Saturn 29/30 year cycle is  a time of being invited, in essence, to separate out as best we can from who we are not, in order to become more fully who it is we actually are meant to be.

The Second Saturn Return carries additional gravitas, because it represents a challenge to sum up what the whole Saturn cycle since age 29/30 has been about. From the Third Return on, if we live that long, coming to terms with life’s approaching ending is the biggest challenge any of us will face.

So – I decided I’d share the reflective work I have done on the Saturn Returns, to give those of my readers, younger and older, some food for thought and hopefully support in facing a challenging life stage coming up as this year ends and 2020 begins. The most recent version, published in The Mountain Astrologer magazine, is at the end of this post.

For the record, and to cheer up anyone who is feeling dismal about all this Saturn/Pluto stuff and impending Saturn Returns, I was born with several personal planets conjunct an exact Saturn/Pluto conjunction, and have been through two Saturn Returns which triggered my natal Saturn/Pluto combination.

I’m still here, still standing, still productive, not too displeased with how my life has turned out. So my writing is born not out of theory but out of surviving some very tough challenges – both of my own making and through things over which the only control I had was over the attitudes I decided to adopt…

Buddhist wisdom considers dealing with adversity as the process of “Forging the Diamond Soul”. I found meditating on this a great support in some very hard times, both past and recently.

I do hope you enjoy this article and find it helpful in getting the best out of your upcoming Saturn Returns:

The Saturn Cycles by Anne Whitaker

Endnote:

(i) Posted on Astrodienst 17.9.19… Some Notes on Cycles in a Time of Crisis

650 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2019

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A little trip around the Houses of the Horoscope…

Well, this issue always comes up, sooner or later…yesterday, one of my newer mentorees raised it, so I thought it worth another airing.

 “Which house system is the best?” 

Astrological Houses

Astrological Houses

Firstly, since there are a number of different house systems – click HERE for more detail on this – which should you choose?

Secondly, to a varying degree depending on your chart, planets can move house. In my chart, for instance, by Equal House I have no less than SIX planets in the Twelfth House. When I first saw my horoscope in  Placidus houses, one planet, my ruler Mercury, had migrated to the Eleventh. O joy! I need all the help I can get here, I thought then. But, as you will soon see, it’s not as simple as that…

Then there is a further problem. In Placidus, the MC/IC axis always defines the cusp of the Tenth/ Fourth Houses. If you use Equal House, the MC/IC axis can fall through any pair of houses from the 8th/2nd to the 11th/5th. How do you deal with that?

I worked with only two systems for many years, i.e. the most commonly used ones in the UK – Equal House and Placidus. I used Equal House from the early 1980s perfectly happily, finding that the system worked well for me. Then I changed to Placidus in 1995. I didn’t choose it for any carefully thought through philosophical or practice reasons; it was simply the system used on the Diploma course I was doing. Then, in 2015, I moved back to using Equal again. For philosophical reasons that time, as you will see shortly.

A class experiment

Ever since a small group of my ‘old’ students persuaded me to run a refresher class for them starting in August 2014 – and still running!! – I have really enjoyed returning to astrology teaching. Those students were all very rusty, and wanted to cover the basics again. Inevitably, the question of house division came up. Having covered the core meanings of the houses in an introductory class, we  spent a whole tutorial looking in more detail at the issue of house division.

The methods I adopted on that occasion were twofold: firstly, I gave the class copies of their charts in Equal House to compare with their existing Placidus charts. Then I drew up a grid, of which we all had a copy. This listed all the planets, Chiron and the North Node as well as the pair of houses through which the Equal House MC/I C axis ran. Thus we could see at a glance those features which stayed the same in both systems, and which ones changed. In some charts many features changed. In others eg mine, there was very little difference.

I have always taught astrology with every student having a copy of everyone else’s horoscopes, including mine. With permissions always asked and given before the start of a course, and appropriate emphasis on confidentiality, this way of working has been very effective. It creates each class as a kind of mini qualitative research laboratory, where astrological theory can be tested out there and then, observing to what extent it manifests accurately in the nuts and bolts of the everyday lives of those present. It is a model which makes for very lively teaching…

We worked our way round everyone in the small group, including me, discussing how interpretations might change, and most importantly, how much that mattered by potentially altering the emphasis on key horoscope themes.

For instance, the Moon in one student’s horoscope changed from the Placidus Ninth house (a location she really liked for her Moon, being both a teacher and an education junkie!) to the Tenth by Equal House, which emphasised the importance of her vocational/career life but not the dimensions of teaching and learning which are both Ninth House concerns.

However, we pointed out to her that this didn’t really matter in terms of overall accuracy of interpretation; she really was very well endowed with Jupiterian energy anyway, given her Moon’s trine to Jupiter in Aries, as well as her Sun’s square to Jupiter.

This was just one example in which, whatever shift we saw of planets from one house to another, there was invariably an underlying strong theme in the birth chart, so that the emphasis being slightly shifted in one context made little if any difference to the overall accuracy of interpretation of the whole horoscope. Interestingly, more than half of our small group, despite my having worked with all students with Placidus from 1995, said that they preferred the relative simplicity of the Equal House system.

In my own case, although ruling planet Mercury moved from the sociable, group-oriented Placidus 11th House to join five other planets in the reclusive Twelfth by Equal House, I have an exact semi- square from Mercury to 10th House Uranus in both systems, Uranus also strongly aspecting the Sun and Moon, so the Aquarian/Uranian/11th house ‘tone’ remains strongly emphasised.

That Mercury energy also flows from the Twelfth House to an exact sextile to Neptune, and a square to Third House Jupiter in both systems. So any reclusive tendencies brought by the move are well and truly restrained by other horoscope factors!

The students could see from our small experiment something which is fundamental to the accurate reading of any horoscope: strong themes will shine through, whatever way you divide up the circle.

As U.K astrologer Robin Heath so memorably observed a number of years ago: “…astrology appears more and more to behave like a hologram. You can perform almost any technique with the data, turn the chart inside out or slice it up, and still the symbolic pictures remain….” (i) Both this statement and our class experiment bore out the conclusion at which I had  arrived some time ago. It doesn’t really matter much what system you use. What you get is the same overall picture…

Horses (Houses!) for courses…

I went on to outline the way some astrologers use different house systems for different purposes. Since the Equal House system is based on the Ascendant/Descendant axis which is the axis of “… here I am in relation to you… “, this system can be used when the client in their reading wishes specifically to address matters pertaining to relationship.

Since the IC /MC axis can be seen as an arrow flowing from the person’s deepest self and origins (IC) to their future direction (MC), then issues of roots, vocation and life direction are most appropriately contemplated, some astrologers think, via the Placidus lens since that system can be seen to emphasise the MC/IC.

Also, although I have never worked with the Koch system myself, I know that some astrologers swear by the accuracy of its house cusps in plotting transits and progressions.

ALSO – I have been experimenting intermittently with Whole Sign Houses for the last couple of years, and earlier this year decided to test that system out with my tutorial class of six students including myself. Having provided us all with a copy of our charts in WSH mode, we looked at planetary ingress by transit eg we looked at each chart in relation to which house was entered eg by Uranus in April 1995, and what if any the impact was.

The results for this small piece of qualitative research were quite impressive; eg in my own case, Uranus, which natally occupies the tenth house and rules the sixth, moved into Aquarius and my sixth house in April 1995. In May, I heard that I had been accepted as a student on the three-year Diploma Course at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London, England. Since I live in Glasgow, Scotland, this positive disruption to the organising of my everyday routines and change in my career emphasis fit my horoscope extremely well.

Similar degrees of accuracy were apparent in considering the students’ lives’ responses to ingresses of Jupiter and also Saturn. We did not have time to survey Chiron, Neptune and Pluto on that occasion, but it’s a research area I intend to return to, and write about, on a future occasion.

Astrological Houses

Astrological Houses

The Equal House MC/IC “problem”

The placing of inverted commas above gives you a clue that I do not see the shifting placement of the MC/IC axis in the Equal House system, and indeed the Whole Sign House system, as a problem at all. Quite the opposite.

I think that working with the MC/IC axis against the backdrop of either the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 4th/10th, or the 5th/11th adds a layer of richness to the interpretation of the MC/IC which of course should remain just as focal and important in the Equal House or WSH system as in any other where the MC/IC  is always the cusp of the 10th/4th Houses.

For example, I have often encountered clients or students with 2nd/8th backdrops in professions involving finance and collective money, those with 4th/10th backdrops have their strong life focus on career/vocation emphasised. With 5th/11th emphasised, you often find “creative” types who work co-operatively and collaboratively in the pursuit of their careers. And in my own case, the 3rd/9th backdrop is highly appropriate since writing and higher education have been central to all the diverse vocational paths I have pursued throughout my working life.

Equal House: the return

Back in 2015, the students were very keen to know why I had decided to return to working with Equal House.  For giving me the final shove in that direction I have to thank Phoebe Wyss and her excellent  book “Inside the Cosmic Mind” . I  would urge any astrology student or practitioner to read this book if they are inclined, as I am, to perceive astrology as a ‘top down’ art whose practice and interpretation reveals us as expressing in micro form, the shifting macro patterns of the whole cosmos.

In Phoebe Wyss’ own words:

“ Archetypal astrology is an approach to astrological chart interpretation that is based on this cosmological view. The meanings of the chart factors such as  zodiac signs, houses, and planets are then seen to derive from the twelve basic categories of meaning associated with the astrological archetypes. These fundamental cosmic principles and their inter-relationships are symbolised in the geometry of the zodiac…”(ii)

Wyss’ book – which builds on the recent work of Richard Tarnas, Kieron Le Grice and other pioneers in the field of archetypal cosmology – has taken me back and re-grounded me in the basic geometry of sacred numbers, whose symbolism reflects the core shaping principles or archetypes governing the movement of energy throughout the whole cosmos. The number twelve is one of those sacred numbers.

From that symbolic, geometric perspective, dividing the inner space of the horoscope symbolically into twelve equal parts via the Equal House or indeed the WSH system, seems more appropriate than using any other house system, including Placidus, whose devising arises purely from measurements limited by the view from planet Earth in relation to the solar system in our tiny corner of space/time  

Endnotes:

(i) The Mountain Astrologer, Issue 78, April/May 1998, Letters p 11

(ii) Inside the Cosmic Mind, Phoebe Wyss, Floris Books 2014, p 93

A meditation in Scorpio’s season…

 It is Scorpio’s season: Mercury will be retrograde in Scorpio for much of November, and here in dark, rainy, leaf-strewn post-Hallowe’en Glasgow, Scotland, I’m in meditative mood. 

It’s now 1st November – Samhain – Samhain has been celebrated for centuries and has its origin in Pagan Celtic traditions. It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again.

It is a contemplative time; a time for honouring the renewing power of darkness, and for facing the humbling fact that everything passes, including us….

Here is an extract from a beautiful essay by Starhawk:

‘…For Pagans, death and birth are intertwined. Our goddesses and gods all represent aspects of the cycle of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. Every good gardener knows that fertility is born out of decay. Every fallen leaf becomes part of the soil that feeds the roots of growing trees.

Pagans have no dogma that must be accepted. Our spirituality centers on experience, not faith. Yet if we were to hold one common belief, it might be that our individuality lives on after death. We remain part of our communities, alive and present in a different realm.

At Samhain, we take time to remember and commune with those who have gone before, to express gratitude for what they’ve given us. In our frantic pace, we tend to forget our past. Few of us know much about our families beyond a generation or two back. Remembering the dead can help us keep a sense of connection to our roots.

A public ritual to acknowledge the dead is a statement that grief is valued.

In the heart of the ritual is a long, quiet meditation in which we read the names of those who have died in the past year. The death of someone we love is too hard to face alone. When someone dies, we need the comfort of community support. Even though we believe the dead are not severed from us, we understand the pain and loss of their going.

Samhain is also a celebration of renewal. When we dance our spiral, we weave a vision of all that we want to create in the new year:

May the old ones and the young be loved,

And all the forms of love be blessed,

And all the colors of our skin be praised,

And all the cycles of life be saved.

May all who hunger now be fed,

May we heal the earth that grows our bread…’

Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honouring the dead.

We need the dark, as this festival of Samhain reminds us. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature.

The Great Round of  conception, birth, maturation, decline, death and rebirth applies to everything, from gnats to galaxies. Human endeavour is not exempt.

Perhaps our whole culture/civilisation is in its Winter phase – the signs of descent are everywhere, should we care to look…….and in the meantime, I try to stay with my current mantra “Start where you are, and do what you can.” Renewal, whether we live to see it or not, is always round the corner….

******

What are YOUR thoughts and feelings regarding the Descent into winter? It would be interesting to have them!

700 words ©Anne Whitaker/Starhawk 2019

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