A psychological approach to the Tarot, Part Two: the clients’ perspective

This two-part article is an attempt to explore the Tarot. The first installment, ‘Introducing the Tarot: a psychological perspective’ should have given the reader some idea of the depth from which the tarot can be approached, of issues raised by its practice, and of how it can be used as a valuable aid to self-development.

Here, the second part presents feedback from two clients, one female – Anya – and one male – Marc. They were chosen for the way in which they brought together, in their respective accounts, elements of most people’s responses to the tarot creatively and responsibly used.

I was also interested to show how Marc wove his experiences of very different symbol systems ie tarot, astrology and the I Ching as well as more conventional psychotherapy, into his long struggle to arrive at a place of reasonable balance in his life again.

Both names are pseudonyms.

 In preparing this article I asked for, and received, very helpful feedback from various clients. I could have used short extracts from all their contributions, but in the end  chose this longer, thoughtful piece from Anya, a female client in her late thirties.

……This felt like an extremely powerful experience and I could hardly believe the cards which were turned up. A number of the cards made a direct impact on me as I realised their significance. Some of the other cards were more difficult to connect with at the time, but have since shown their relevance. All in all, it was an extremely affirming experience and offered me the support I so badly needed at the time – gave me something positive to hold onto.

Meaning continues to unfold as time has progressed, and I feel (six months on) that I am shifting into another phase, having embraced each of the cards’ messages in turn.

This experience has underlined for me a sense of being part of something much larger and greater than myself.

The Sun
The Sun

This is awesome! I take faith from this. I found the pictures on the cards most evocative and enjoyed looking around ‘within’ the pictures.

The experience remains with me as an affirmation of my life over the last six months. In many ways I can see that I am at the place of ‘final outcome’ in the reading, certainly having lived through and faced that which I most needed and feared.

Without the reading, I feel that I would have gone through the experience in much the same way. However, holding on to the most positive aspects of the reading offered me vital support and helped me make connection with my inner strength. Furthermore, the element of warning and caution in the reading helped me to be extremely aware of my need to protect myself. This helped sustain me during a most harrowing time. I look forward to my next reading very much!’

Marc‘s response is an extract from written feedback he provided:

‘…..The best way I can think of to approach this, is to answer the question ‘why did I go for astrology and tarot readings at all, especially bearing in mind my previous contemptuous rejection of such things?

Well, as you know, only a catastrophe got me there! My previous, very rational, world view having collapsed in some considerable disarray, I had a desperate need for some other source of ‘meaning’ in my life – or rather, some other ‘meaningful’ way of understanding myself and what had been happening to me. I don’t think I was too interested in prediction, only in gaining insight.

As you know, I graduated to the tarot reading from several astrology readings and from participation in your astrology classes. Astrology was powerfully attractive for me – after I had crossed the Rubicon of ‘letting go’ of my previous contempt – because within its own terms it is in fact another vast rational system of understanding the universe. What I mean is, even if you think the whole thing is nonsense, it is nevertheless internally consistent, rational nonsense. Hence it rapidly became acceptable to me.

Moving on to the tarot was perhaps my way of travelling further down the road away from rationality, just to see what it was like. By April last year, my worst times were over and I was feeling the green shoots of recovery – much like Norman Lamont! (note: the then UK chancellor of the exchequer). Psychologically, I think I had come to terms with what had happened to me and was beginning to look to the future. I had sent the divorce papers to my estranged wife, but she hadn’t yet returned them, and I was experiencing pangs of doubt about what I really wanted.

Before, with astrology, I was looking for insight; now, with the tarot, I was looking for a method of choosing – but one that was different from what I had done before, one that involved some kind of surrender on my part. That’s not clear. What I mean is – all my therapy with you brought home to me how much energy I have always devoted to creating a picture of reality inside which I then lived. But it turned out that my reality wasn’t reality after all. By relying so heavily on my rational powers, I had created a faulty picture of how things really were.

Tarot seemed appealing because it involved allowing the universe to show you what reality was. If you made an initial commitment to the ritual, surrendered control, the turn of the cards would show you where you stood. I see the I Ching in essentially the same light, and the notion has a ‘thrilling’ aspect to it precisely because I have been so controlled in my life so far.

What was the experience of the reading like? Given that I was dipping my toe in previously uncharted waters, it felt slightly unreal. I couldn’t ‘believe’ in the tarot as easily as I could in the more ‘systematic’ or ‘rational’ astrology whose terms of reference, unlike the tarot, arise from physical bodies we can actually see in the night sky. But it was thrilling.

I would have to say that I hadn’t fully committed myself to the outcome, but I was much more open to what was going to happen than I could ever have been in my life before. It was an experiment.

It was a valuable experience – it helped me to work out my real feelings about my ongoing divorce and about career choices. But it was the talking stimulated by the cards that did that – they were a mechanism for releasing talk and thus feelings.

My experimentation with both the tarot and astrology has led me to an appreciation that many aspects of our lives are ‘fated’ – but that does not obliterate free will or personal responsibility. On the contrary, it seems that everyone has the responsibility of understanding the purpose of his or her individual life – which will depend on his or her inheritance at the start – and has the freedom to choose to make the effort of understanding, then the freedom to do something with the knowledge – or not.

My response to the pictorial images on the cards? You know, for a Presbyterian Scot, I’ve decided I could go in a surprisingly big way for all kinds of pictorial religious symbolism! The allure of forbidden territory? I got the same reaction recently at the temple at Samye Ling (a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Scottish Borders). My senses were drenched in gold, red, blue, green and in accompanying sounds and smells! Seriously – perhaps a slightly infantile thrill at ‘surrendering’ my destiny to pretty painted pictures with supposedly magical powers.

I am intrigued with the idea of ‘drawing lots’ either via the tarot or the I Ching, and I think it’s something I’ll probably do again. The idea of choosing by some kind of ‘drawing lots’ ritual is powerfully attractive to me because, if done with full commitment, it could of course represent the placing of trust in something outside myself. But it remains an aspiration, not an accomplishment.

My tarot reading suggested that I needed to consolidate choices I had already made in my heart, and move on to new commitments on the basis of the wisdom I had achieved through experience.

The Lovers
The Lovers

I did in fact go ahead with my divorce, not without further emotional upset, and have in fact consolidated my relationship with my girlfriend. My energy level has improved greatly, as predicted, though not  without ups and downs.

Well, there you are! That’s the best I can do to recall my reactions to the experience…..‘.

Tarot Deck

1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Astrology – beyond the sun signs

I am just about to depart to the South of France (Mercury Retrograde, ash clouds and general planetary mayhem permitting!) for a week of family celebrations and simply have not had time to think up something new to offer my expanding band of readers here at Writing from the Twelfth House.

Always being keen to demonstrate that the great and ancient art and science of astrology has much more to offer than its popular face in the sun sign columns would suggest, I thought I’d re-publish the following article which appears on this site on the “Not the Astrology Column” page, but which a number of new readers may not have come across. It is written for the general public with no formal knowledge, but an open-minded interest in astrology.

Check it out, and let me know what you think! See you all again early September.

11th Century Horoscope
11th Century Horoscope

My career as an astrologer began in a launderette in Bath, England, in the 1970s – although I didn’t realise that at the time ! Befriending a little girl who came to chat whilst I did my washing, I met her parents, Gloria and Seamus; they were astrologers, they said, and would I care to come back to their place for a cup of tea? They’d like to draw up my horoscope, to thank me for entertaining their child. Well, I remember thinking, nothing better to do for the next hour…….at that  stage I was  scornful and dismissive of astrology, basing my judgement on the Sun Sign material in the media which struck me as general, banal and trivial. I did not know then that  there was a subject of great depth and power beyond  the Sun Signs.

I was puzzled  by my new  friends’ dismissal of  the Sun Sign columns – wasn’t that what astrology was all about ?. “We’re proper  astrologers” they said firmly. “ Your Star Sign (Leo, in my case) only puts one  character on the stage of your life. It’s impossible to describe who you are from only one factor.” They wrote down my date, place, and apparently vital TIME  of birth, produced various reference books and did complex-looking calculations. Then they drew up my Birth Chart or Horoscope : this was a map of the heavens for the precise time I was born. It was apparently an unusual chart  – lots of planets in the twelfth house, whatever that meant, and strong Pluto, Saturn  and Uranus influences. So what, I thought.

Anne W's Horoscope

Then came their interpretation into character analysis of the planetary symbols in my Birth Chart, in considerable depth and with a high level of accuracy. The experience shocked me to the core. How could they be so accurate about my career aspirations? How could they know what my deepest fears were ?How COULD they manage to describe my parents’ core characteristics and some of the key effects they’d had on me ? How could they describe so vividly the restless spirit  which drove me ? I had met them less than an hour ago. They knew nothing of my personal history or life experience.

Worse was to come. “You tell me you’re a total sceptic,” Seamus chuckled . “But your Horoscope shows that you have a deeply sensitive, spiritual side to your nature which you’re currently refusing to acknowledge, preferring to identify with the intellectual and the rationalist in yourself. But I can see from your Chart, and where the planets will be in a few years, that in your early thirties the spiritual dimension will come calling. You are very likely to end up doing something like this yourself.”

What nonsense, I thought. But I had no acceptable way of explaining in rational terms what had happened. Uneasily, I filed the experience away in the pigeonhole reserved for the many incidents occurring in my twenties which did not fit my existentialist  world view.

For my birthday that August, a friend gave me an odd present considering my scepticism – an astrology book. It was intelligently and sensitively written; I found myself compelled. My feelings were an uncomfortable mixture of attraction, rejection, fascination and embarrassment. What COULD I say to my friends and family?

Saying nothing, I carried on reading. After a year, astrology still fascinated me. By this time – and by a series of odd coincidences – I had found out about the Faculty of Astrological Studies, based in London. It offered a year-long correspondence course with some lengthy exams at the end of it, leading to a Certificate of the Faculty.

I embarked on my studies in an empirical spirit. If astrology WAS indeed merely superstitious nonsense of little value, at least I would have arrived at a conclusion based on knowledge and practice, rather than ignorance and prejudice. I had moved on sufficiently from intellectual arrogance to the awareness that it was very unscientific, and highly irrational, to dismiss a whole body of knowledge without ever having studied it. I obtained my Certificate in 1983, by which time my studies had demonstrated to me that the astrological model had worthwhile insights to offer.

(I was to further my studies much later on, at the Centre for Psychological Astrology,  by commuting by plane from Glasgow to London from 1995-1998 to complete a three-year Diploma in Psychological Astrology with renowned teacher, writer and astrologer Dr Liz Greene.)

The teaching and practice of astrology became a major strand in my self-employed career from 1985 until 2001 when, following a long health crisis, I gave up all work (except writing!) for several years.


This wonderful universe
This wonderful universe

Working with the symbolic descriptions of collective and personal life provided by astrology was, and continues to be, a source of much insight.  It offers a route towards integration of the rational dimensions with the intuitive, symbolic and spiritual. Time and time again my clients used to tell me that their Readings helped them to see and to accept who they were more clearly –  and to make better use of the gifts they had been given.

Good astrological practice encourages people to take responsibility for their own lives, and supports their courage to be themselves.

We have not yet found anything which provides the ultimate answer to the puzzle of our  existence on this earth. Astrology is no exception – although it is a fine way of asking intelligent questions  about  what life may mean. It is NOT  a religion. The insights it offers do not interfere with whatever religious beliefs individuals may hold. But  its perspective offers two very important things.

Firstly, a picture of an holistic universe in which our movement through space and time is not  random,  but meaningful. Astrology’s great insight is that the shaping forces or archetypes which govern all of life including human experience, are symbolically connected with the planets and their movements in the heavens as time unfolds. This is enormously comforting to those of us who cannot bear the idea that the turmoils and struggles of this life are capricious and pointless.

Secondly, from the horoscope drawn up for the date, place and exact time  of birth, astrology can give individuals very useful insights into the characters who are enacting the drama of their individual life story. But it cannot tell who the director is, what the exact details of the plot are, or what the outcome of the play will be. Astrology, like quantum physics, can only deal with ranges of probability. The rest  is as it will probably remain – a mystery known only to the Deity.


Note : this is an updated and slightly altered version of an article first published in Scotland’s Glasgow “Herald” as “Future beyond the Sun Signs” on 20.8.96. Copyright remains with the author.


1300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010 Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Astrology as a healing and a wounding art 3: healing and wounding – an intricate weave

Please click on links to read the first two articles in this series of 3:

‘Astrology as a healing and a wounding art 1’

‘Astrology as a healing and a wounding art 2’

Part Three : Healing and wounding – a close and intricate weave

The big picture

I had hoped in asking for feedback from long-term students that they would provide a range of responses which illustrated the main themes regarding  both the healing and the wounding dimensions of astrology – they did not disappoint me.  Andrea’s“sense of awe” which inspires her to try harder to take responsibility for her life, live it in a positive way, is  typical of the spiritual and soul healing which the study and practice of astrology can bring. This is well illustrated also by Marie’s concluding comment that ”whenever I feel I’m stumbling around in the dark, Astrology restores my faith in life by reconnecting me to a sense of meaning  and purpose.”

However, there are also wounding dimensions to setting one’s small individual life in the context of the big picture. The planetary energies are archetypal, and the further out you go, especially to the great collective powers of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, the harder it is to hold onto any sense of personal identity, uniqueness. There is a cold inexorability to the unfolding of the planetary pattern through space and time, an utter impersonality. Being given a slice of that time and space as an image of one’s all too fallible humanness can be less than comforting, in fact can be very threatening.

I sometimes get a gut sense of this whilst out walking in the Scottish hills, something I am addicted to doing, and will do under almost any weather conditions. Go to wild, remote places and you will become aware of the archetypal forces of nature, their potentially destructive power, even as your soul is being uplifted by marvellous landscape and the utter peace of being where the only sound is of the wind and of birdsong. In these beautiful, peaceful places I have occasionally had fear descend on me even on sunny days, accompanying an awareness of how implacably indifferent the landscape is to my existence. Its power could sweep my life away given a sudden change of weather, or one slip on a hillside could turn me into yet another fatality statistic. As Shakespeare put it in King Lear :

”As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.”

(W. Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1 )

The Five Sisters and Loch Duich, Kintail, Scotland
The Five Sisters and Loch Duich, Kintail, Scotland

At times of personal bleakness which afflict us all on occasion , looking at the horoscope doesn’t always bring a sense of comforting connection to higher powers.

The individual chart

One of the most potent pieces of healing that astrology has to offer was, I felt, well summed up by Lisa, the one-off client:

”……..how accurately you were able to describe aspects of my character – I can’t pretend to understand it, but for some reason seeing it laid out in front of me was very reassuring. Perhaps because it gave validity to my personality.That was who I was ……………”.

Over  and over again, I have heard from clients that the most valuable thing about their astrology reading was just that validation commented on by Lisa.

But Charlotte’s question “why me? Why did I have to have this chart? “ clearly illustrates where all but the most blithe of us have surely been, as the harder realities of certain chart configurations began to dawn with our more sophisticated understanding of the implications of the natal horoscope.

Certain natal chart configurations may be wonderful opportunities for growth, but it’s usually going to be bloody painful when they’re triggered, and this is a lifetime’s reality which even the sturdiest of us find hard to face and accept, especially in times of vulnerability. If there’s anyone reading this who feels joyous at having been given an exact Saturn Pluto conjunction linked with most of their personal planets (me!), could they please phone me, and  reverse the charges!

The contrasts provided so humorously by Alice, who celebrated her Sagittarian energies as “adventurous, lucky, fun loving and optimistic” but wanted to scrub out Pluto when she saw it sitting right on top of her Ascendant, who longed for Venus in Taurus whilst being decidedly lukewarm about her actual Venus in Capricorn, is so typical of most students’ reaction to initial exposure to their natal chart !

I think it’s also fairly typical of most astrologers’ starting position in their developing relationship with their own horoscopes over time. Ideally, one comes to the point of enjoying and utilising, for example, one’s Sun-Moon-Jupiter grand trine in fire without being too immodest about it, or too obviously pitying those lesser mortals not fortunate enough to have had this divine gift bestowed upon them.

If it is also possible to come to an acceptance of difficult energies such as Uranus Pluto rising – notice that Alice forebore even to mention Pluto’s close companion on her Ascendant ! – combined with finding some positive outward channel for its disruptive, wayward and potentially destructive power, then one is well on the way to living in a reasonably positive way with the unique challenges of the individual birth chart.

The unfolding pattern

The intricate weave of healing and wounding is very obvious in considering the responses to transits and progressions of those of us who have trodden the astrological path for a while. Trying to second guess the universe’s response to our presence in it, seems to  be a favourite occupation of astrologers. This is trenchantly summed up by Andrea :

“I have to work hard to just meet life as it comes. For me, that’s a real challenge – astrology can help me to be more aware, but I have to resist the urge to think I know what it means before I get there.”

Astrologers can be hubristic, arrogant and just plain wrong in their attempts to know what it means before they get there – damaging to their clients as well as themselves. Astrology is a very powerful aid to awareness. It is also very useful in mapping out the terrain in broad terms, and in offering accurate timings. But life reminds us often enough, through our mistakes and errors of judgement of the planetary pattern, that the unconscious, by definition, is precisely that. It is not notable for an inclination to reveal deeper intentions beyond the ego’s access, just because some astrologer is standing somewhere near the entrance cave to its mysterious terrain waving an ephemeris,  shouting ” I’m pretty sure this Venus/Uranus transit means…………”

Alice’s and Marie’s differing feedback on their response to transits, I think also sums up  both ends of the healing/wounding continuum well, from a somewhat different perspective to that of Andrea. On the one hand we have Alice describing her teacher’s clarifying what was going on at Alice’s  Saturn Return :

” …………………..The light had been switched on. It was an amazing experience. I felt understood, accepted, and not alone. ……..”

Marie’s reaction to recent transits affecting her elderly mother was a lot less positive :

‘”…….. I was scared I was going to lose her.  She is 84 ; when I looked ahead to these Pluto transits, it seemed a likely outcome. I’m sure you would agree that  projecting fear onto upcoming transits is one of the most obvious facets of the wounding side of astrology…….”

Yes, I certainly do agree ! And we’ve all done it, no matter how  spiritual, actualised, wise or mature we think we are. Most beginning students find their introduction to transits and progressions enlightening, productive of a powerful
sense of meaningful connection to something greater than themselves, exhilerating –  and scary.

As a teacher, I find I have to work hard to strike the right balance :  between giving information, setting a constructive context, offering honesty and realism, always trying to be aware of my own permanent and serious limitations by virtue of being human, avoiding projecting my own particular fears, and bringing in the tempering influence of humour.

I also have to realise that students must negotiate for themselves, after all that, what the balance is going to be for them between the healing and wounding facets of the study and practice of astrology.

I always point out to them when they start expressing fears about upcoming transits – Saturn and Pluto being the favourite raisers of fear – that ninety nine point nine five percent of the human race has got through the whole of our collective history without knowing anything about astrology, despite the fact that one hundred per cent of us have always had every kind of transit from the start of life till its end. This usually helps! It is very important not to give the impression that astrological knowledge can protect us from life. Its great healing gift is that it can help us greatly to make some sense of it.


I would like to conclude this series by wondering why so few people, having penetrated such a complex subject to the stage of acquiring a reasonable degree of fluency,  seem to give up the practice of astrology, despite its having a wounding as well as a healing dimension. I suspect a major reason is that once virginity has been lost, it cannot be regained. For most  of us, the price paid for that loss of innocence is worth it, for the more complex and full, albeit more difficult, life that is opened up as a result. Once the gods’ fire has been stolen, it cannot be returned. Futhermore, as Charlotte put it :

” Personally, I couldn’t  not  know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued the subject as long as I have. “

Trust a  multiple Sagittarian to put that into words for the rest of us! There is an incurable  curiosity in human beings, and a relentless drive to create meaning, perhaps in the hope that one day we will be able to heal the primary wound of not knowing why we are here. Once we have held the gods’ stolen fire overhead, and seen the intriguing, flickering, chimeric shadows it throws up for us, we become addicted to the quest to find what the shapes behind those shadows might be……..

This is an edited version of “Astrology as a Healing and a Wounding Art”, published in Apollon, The Journal of Psychological Astrology, in Issue 3, August 1999.

1700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

An astrologer at work : Part One


The purpose of the “Not the Astrology Column” theme on this website is to introduce open-minded readers to the in-depth astrology which lies behind the entertainment facade offered by the Sun Sign columns. We are living in a time where awareness of the ‘interconnectedness of all things’ is fast returning to the forefront of public consciousness across the world. The evidence is piling up increasingly starkly: what happens in one part of our biosphere 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 and philosopher Richard Tarnas so eloquently puts it in “Prometheus the Awakener” (Auriel Press Oxford, 1993, page eight) :

“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.”

Within this current context I decided to re-publish The Principles and Practice of Astrology, which originally appeared in Connections Magazine, Scotland, UK in February 1996, as an interview between its editor, Ian Holland, and myself. Its account of an astrologer at work will, I hope, provide interested readers – astrologers and non-astrologers alike – with something of the flavour of professional, in depth astrological practice. Having a competent astrological reading done is a very useful way of gaining insights into one’s character and motivations – as I found out myself many years ago, when I certainly wasn’t looking for help from that quarter! Now read on….


IH :  How did you  get into astrology  ?

AW: I was very dismissive of astrology in my earlier years, wrongly believing like most people that the stuff in the Sun Columns was all there was to it. But in the mid 1970s I was in a launderette in Bath in England, where I became friends with a little girl – it turned out that her parents were astrologers. They invited me back for a cup of tea, and drew up a Birth Chart on a piece of paper which I still have. They did various ooings and aaings over it, then produced a description of the inner  workings and outer manifestations of my life  which stunned me with its accuracy.

My First Horoscope
My First Horoscope

“ You  may be dismissive now,” they said.  “But in your early thirties there’s going to be something arising in you which longs to connect with a more spiritual and a more esoteric dimension of life – you might very well end up doing astrology yourself.” I regarded this as nonsense, thinking I was a Marxist then. It’s only now in middle age that I realise how much I was at that time denying my own spirituality, my own need for relationship with the symbolic world. Then in my early thirties someone gave me a present of an astrology book. I was compelled by it, found out about the Faculty of Astrological Studies and did their Certificate Correspondence course. By that point I knew that astrology was a subject I wanted to pursue probably for the rest of my life.

But I think that it’s important for people who work in esoteric fields to have a strongly rational side, a sceptical side. One of the things I say to my students right from the beginning is, “look – I wear the sceptic on my left shoulder, where it will remain till the day I die.” I have a great respect for the rational dimensions of life. But also a great respect for the symbolic, intuitive, spiritual, non-rational dimensions. I think the point is to bring both those dimensions together  in mutual respect and equal balance.

IH :  When someone comes to you for an astrological chart reading, what can they expect to get from it?

AW: It’s important to mention here that popular astrology as found in the media can only give a very general picture of one dimension of the person. It’s simply NOT possible for popular astrology to describe in any detail  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.

You  can only get a view of all the characters on the stage of a client’s life from the map which you draw of the heavens at the particular TIME and PLACE, as well as DAY, of their birth.

You then use this map or Horoscope or Birth Chart as a tool to mirror back to the individual, as lucidly as you can, with as much care as you can for their sensitivity and for their level of awareness, what the different characters are on the stage of their life and how they interact with one another.

After many years of doing this professionally, I think the central thing that an individual gains from a Birth Chart reading is confirmation of who they actually are: what their  strengths and weaknesses are, what their gifts and their difficulties are. 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 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.

IH : In the late 20th century we’d like to believe that  we come into this world a tabula rasa, a clean slate – and yet I have known people who have gone for Readings, eg women who have been told that they may have a series of abusive relationships with men – and this has been the case. I’m just wondering to what extent astrology can put its finger on difficulties that are in the chart ?

AW : Well, I think that it can to quite a high degree, but the astrologer has a responsibility to be very careful. With experience you get to associate certain patterns which fit inner qualities of personality and outer life events …but branches of expression of the inner core in outer life vary from person to person. This is one of the reasons why astrology drives scientifically oriented people crazy ! You cannot always generalise from specific instances. Let’s put me on the line here – I have looked at horoscopes of both men and women which have made me strongly suspect that childhood sexual abuse could be a branch arising from the  particular core pattern I am looking at – but I would never say that initially to the person.

I would  outline issues of power and control revealed by their horoscope with which it appeared they would have to deal as their life unfolded; point out that the outer world might first present them with those issues via difficulties involving dominance and control in early life with important figures. I would thus give the person the opportunity to disclose or not to disclose what had specifically happened to them.

They might ask whether that pattern could suggest sexual abuse. Then I would say yes, but it could also refer to emotional abuse, eg a parent who never laid a hand on you but found ways of intimidating or humiliating you. Then I would go on to explore the whole issue of power and control, tracking how issues arising in childhood were now manifesting in the client’s adult life. My aim would be to help the client see that there was a connection between their relationship ( perhaps largely unconscious) to issues of power and control as revealed by their horoscope, and the kinds of experiences which seemed to come their way.

I’m sure you can appreciate that this is very sensitive work, and needs to be handled with great care if the client is to be empowered by your attempts at clarification of their life pattern. And I might suggest if it seemed appropriate, that the client takes this work further and recommend a reputable counsellor/therapist with whom they might work.

IH : What do you think your job as an astrologer is ?

AW: My  job as an astrologer is not to show how clever I am – but to help other people understand themselves more clearly. I don’t know what the balance is between fate and free will any more than any one else does. But the Birth Chart suggests strongly that we come into this world, not as tabulae rasae, but with certain characters on the stage poised to live out a complex drama as the process of our life unfolds from birth to death.  What astrologers can’t do is describe the whole range of possibilities of expression  which arise from each core character on the stage.

Astrologer at Work - Mediaeval Style!
Astrologer at Work - Mediaeval Style!

There appears to be a dynamic relationship between what you have been given through family physical and psychological inheritance ( the Old Norse word for fate also means genitals!), location, social status, and your own choices  in what you do with what has been given. I think that effective astrologers in consultation are poised on the interface between fate and free will – on the one hand helping clients to confirm who they are, which they probably already know, if they are honest with themselves; but on the other hand helping them to see, and to broaden, the range of possible  expression of the energies they have been born with. My job is to send folk  out of my consulting room feeling more able to operate constructively and honestly in their world than when they came in.

The astrologer’s ego should have a minimum influence on the process. It’s impossible to keep ego completely out of it. It’s impossible to be completely objective, to avoid making mistakes; but what the person takes away should be as much theirs, and as little the astrologers, as is possible.

IH : I know that Carl Jung used to get patient’s birth charts done in advance of their visit to him – do you think all counsellors should do that ?

AW: ( (laughs) You’re asking me some very searching questions, Ian. I appreciate them though! I have an advantage in answering this. I work as an astrologer, but I also work as a counsellor. I keep the two activities separate. I work with what my counselling clients bring to me, and we gradually discover and unfold things, until that person is happy to go away with what it is they have discovered through the work we’ve done.

If a counselling client is  interested in the spiritual and symbolic levels of life, this usually comes out at some point in the counselling process……if I feel that person would be helped by, or open to an astrology reading, then I’ll  suggest it. I recommend from the very small group of astrologers in this area who have qualifications from the Faculty of Astrological Studies, as I do, and operate within the Faculty’s code of ethics and practice. The client can then bring back, if they wish, some of the clarification gained from their reading, and if appropriate we will work with that. So yes, I think astrology can complement the therapeutic process in some instances.

IH :  Could you  say more about how you work, and where you see the counselling dimension fitting in ?

AW : About half my  astrological work is with new clients, and half with people who return. Both counsellors and astrologers need good counselling skills, the counsellor using those skills in the therapeutic process over time with their clients; the astrologer certainly needs good counselling skills in the here and now, even if they never see that person again…. particularly if they never see that person again ! I don’t do ongoing weekly or monthly work with my astrology clients. We have an initial reading – then if the person wishes to take it further, I encourage them to go away and think about it, listen to the tape, and call me if they wish to explore some of the themes in more detail. Or the client may make a return appointment at the time of the initial reading.

So I sometimes do two, three or four sessions, spread over a period of months, with one person. I have a male client in his forties who refuses to go into counselling, preferring to come to me for some astrological work twice a year, identifying areas he can work with from one six month visit to another. He has found this way of working very helpful for him.

If it is evident at an initial reading that the client wants and needs to do some follow-up work on areas of pain or concern, I usually recommend them on – sometimes to counsellors, other times to an acupuncture therapist, a massage therapist, or specialists in homeopathy, herbalism, naturopathy, etc. It is important for astrologers to have a good referral system of reputable colleagues. I will do some follow-up work with astrology clients as already described – but if there seems to be a long-term therapeutic journey indicated, I prefer to refer them on.

IH : What are your reasons for doing that ?

AW:  One of the many things that astrology has taught me is respect for process. Any process has its own timing; it likes not to be hurried, pushed, or interfered with. Having an astrology reading done is such a radical and powerful thing that it takes some time to digest the implications of what’s been said and to incorporate some of it into one’s life. Having repeated astrological work  done – this is MY view and I’m not speaking for anyone but myself – can perhaps be too much, can overload the client…..and perhaps push the process on too fast. This is why I prefer people to go and work with other therapists.

Maybe once a year  or couple of years they can come to me, to take stock of where they are from a symbolic perspective. Also if they wish, to look at how the unfolding energy patterns of the coming year link with their particular Horoscope, so that they can gain some idea of what the main themes are for further work. It must be very evident from all I’ve said to date that I’m only interested in working with folk who are prepared to take responsibility for themselves. Astrology appropriately used  should enhance the sense of personal responsibility – not take it away and hang it on the planets, or even worse, on the astrologer !

I think it’s important for people not to become too dependent on a symbolic context – astrology and astrologers like relationships, drugs, sex, alcohol or the national lottery can become highly addictive. So I think it is important as an astrologer to support the other person’s courage to lead their own life, using their own judgement, with minimum help from outside sources. If any of  my clients consulted me to discuss when they should  get a haircut, or  whether to take their holiday in August or January, then my response would be to take myself immediately into therapy to examine why I was producing such a high level of dependency. The great symbolic arts, eg astrology, tarot, palmistry , I Ching, should in my opinion should be consulted with great respect, and with  considerable restraint.

Part Two follows shortly

2700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page