Tag Archives: Carl Jung

What is astrology? And – never say ‘never’!

Some years ago I closed down my astrology practice. I shredded all my case files and notes, chucked out all my leaflets, packed 18 years’ teaching notes into a large box and sent them off to an Eastern European astrology group who were looking for English language teaching notes. To my not inconsiderable surprise, I have found myself in recent months gradually feeling drawn back to practice as an astrologer after a very long sabbatical. “Never say never” strikes again! 

To this end I have been busy re-contextualising myself professionally: re-reading my favourite astrology books (which I had the sense NOT to give to Oxfam! ); organising supervision with a highly experienced and trained psychodynamic therapist who is also an astrologer; arranging membership of professional bodies,  and insurance; compiling refer-on practitioners’ lists for clients needing more support than a one-off horoscope reading can provide; learning to record on MP3 files using recording software instead of the old battered hand tape machine I used to use; setting up different payment arrangements now that cheques are no longer guaranteed – 

and in my view the most important thing of all, ie composing a leaflet which tells prospective clients what astrology is, what the limitations of ‘Sun Sign’ astrology are, what a horoscope is, what an astrology reading can offer, and what my approach is, as well as clear statements of fees, times, and the all-important disclaimer now advisable in these litigious times. It is very enjoyable and quite demanding, doing all this. 

I started off with writing the section of the leaflet which sets a background context. It is far too long for a leaflet and will need to be considerably shortened. So I thought I’d publish it as a blog post. Any feedback welcome – but anything rude or offensive will get binned!

What is Astrology?

“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)

This wonderful universe

This wonderful universe

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 until the first century or so AD.

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….


1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Second Saturn Return and beyond: The Cycles of Saturn part 4

To read Parts 1,2 and 3 of “The Cycles of Saturn: forging the “Diamond Soul” click HERE

Second Saturn Return: Ages 58-59

By the second Saturn return, we can see what our lives have become — and we can see what it is too late to change. This is one of the most fundamental differences in perspective between the second and the first return. At age 30 we have probably still to sow the most productive seeds of our lives — what we have already sown is still only germinating. But by the approach of 60, we are reaping the harvest and are confronted with the stark Biblical words, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

Saturn is the planet of strict justice. Blind, stubborn, arrogant, or fearful refusal to face certain basic realities in life, as the second cycle unfolds, skews the life path further and further away from who we could become – were we able to acknowledge and accept who we actually are rather than try to be who we are not. This can bring increasing pain, dissatisfaction, emptiness, and depression as the second Saturn return approaches.

Facing the Final Cycle of Saturn: 60 +

Franz Hals: an image of serene later life

Franz Hals: an image of serene later life


At one end of the spectrum are those who arrive at this stage feeling that their time on this Earth has not been wasted. They have very few regrets and are prepared to face the final cycle of life with equanimity, perhaps rooted in great spiritual depth. These people usually retain a zest for life and its remaining possibilities.

At the other end are those who have sown meanly, poorly, or fearfully, and are reaping a harvest of regret, bitterness, loneliness, physical ill health, and fear of the waning of physical power and attractiveness in the inevitable decline toward death.

Most of us will arrive somewhere in the middle range: satisfied with some aspects of our achievement and disappointed by our areas of failure — or those things that fate appears to have denied us without our having had much option for negotiation.

I see the main challenges of this stage as follows:

* first, to value what we HAVE been able to do

*second, to come to terms with and accept those failures or disappointments that it is now too late to change

* third, to find, within the limitations and constraints imposed by our state of mind, body, spirit, and bank balance, some further goals that are realistically achievable, which bring a sense of meaning and enjoyment to whatever time we have left.

Recommended book: 

Saturn A New Look at an Old Devil

  Saturn: A New Look At An Old Devil
by Liz Greene

  Info/Order book.

( NOTE: The full text of this article was first published in the UK’s ‘Astrological Journal’ (Nov/Dec 1996), and subsequently in ‘www.innerself.com’ and ‘The Mountain Astrologer’ (Feb/Mar 1998)

It was recently included in  The Mountain Astrologer’s “Editor’s Choice” : 43 previously out-of-print articles from TMA in the 1990s, available on CD from the autumn of 2010.“The Mountain Astrologer” is recognised as the world’s leading astrology magazine.)


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Granddad the Bold: Swimming in a secret sea (ii)

During 2006-8, in the final stages of my recovery from a long bout of  burnout and retreat, I wrote a short memoir recording some of the early influences – via significant people and experiences up until the age of thirty – which had been important in determining the direction of my particular spiritual quest. I’d like now to share some of those episodes, which might very well trigger my readers’ own reflections on the early influences shaping their spiritual lives. If they do, it would be great to hear from you either via comments or email!


Grandpa Donald

It was a very stormy day, as is frequently the case in the Outer Hebrides in winter. The ferry was tossing alarmingly, the passengers were very scared. Some were lying being sick in the toilets. Others, white faced, were on the cafeteria floor, clinging to the table legs for comfort and support.

Grandpa Donald’s nerves were steady. Despite being over seventy, he was  dapper, and had never lost the sea legs he developed sailing between South America and his native island before the First World War. He made his way with a calculated stagger into the cafeteria full of screaming children and whimpering adults, serenely advancing to the serving area. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a cup of tea?”

He was on his way to South Uist to do a spot of lay preaching, and saw no reason why a force nine gale should come between him and his afternoon cuppa.

Donald died when I was eleven and he was eighty three. Typical of the man, chasing hens up the street was the last thing he did before taking his leave of this world, serene in his faith that he would be re-united with his departed loved ones in the Life to Come.

He used to babysit for me. I have no memory of those occasions, but according to my mother he used to say, every time my parents returned home, “My goodness, that child. What questions she asks, what questions!”. About the stars, and God, and where we all came from, and what life was for, apparently.

I do remember his serenity and good humour, and his kindness. I adored him and was devastated when he died. Donald had always made me feel safe, secure and valued. No one else in my childhood years had done this for me in quite the same way, as I struggled to grow up and get away from my parents. They loved me, but were too damaged in themselves and their unhappy relationship to support me in the ways that I needed.

After Donald died, I asked questions only of myself and my books.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey


The next episode will be



Where does the longing come from?

Early memories may carry clues – tucked up in bed, cosy and warm, safe and sound, I would listen to the winter North wind tearing the world apart. This could go on night after night after night. Other nights were clear – cold and still. I would stand on the concrete garden path, gazing at the luminous  sky above the roofs of the houses at the top of Anderson Hill, awestruck with delight at the blaze of radiance dancing in the heavens. The Northern Lights, heavenly dancers….

to be continued

(note: inspiration for the title of this series of posts was taken from a book which I read a very long time ago but whose haunting title I have never forgotten: “Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle)


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


Briefly – points to ponder: Jude Cowell on astrology – is it a belief system?

September’s Guest on Writing from the Twelfth House is that prestigious and prolific blogger from Georgia, USA  – Jude Cowell – and very popular she has proved to be with her Mercury article  ‘Unruly Tricksters of the Twelfth House’! Jude is an accomplished encapsulator : great at pithy summings-up. Here she is on that very old chestnut: is astrology a belief system, or is it not? Over to you, Jude….

Recently  USA’s Late Late Show host, the Scot Craig Ferguson….” stated on air that he doesn’t believe in Astrology. Or that he doesn’t use it, or something like that (it was a while ago, and late – very late.)

….Now this is where I point out that Astrology is not a belief system so it’s impossible to ‘believe in’ it. One may believe it works or is a useful tool or language with which to understand the world and our own psyches, but a faith-based system it is not.

Craig ’s natal chart is quite interesting – and I assert that his self-revealed visits to a therapist would go even better through the use of Psychological Astrology, if the option is available to him.

After all, no less than Carl Jung used Astrology for diagnosing his patients, you know. Of course, it’s impossible to get an appointment with him these days….”

To see the full post, check out Jude’s Threshold September 6 2009

200 words copyright Jude Cowell/Anne Whitaker 2009

“…. the miracle of the living soul ….”

All my life’s work has been with people: as an adult education teacher in many settings, as a psychiatric social worker, as a private counsellor, trainer and supervisor of counsellors – and as a professional astrologer and astrology teacher. At the core of this apparent vocational diversity has been, I now understand, the same drive. It is that urge to find meaningful contexts for my own tiny, ephemeral spark of life, whilst offering some affirmation to others that their tiny flame matters too: it is worth struggling to get our light to burn with a purer and brighter radiance.

Something ineffable and charged can on occasions arise in deep communication between one person and another – those in the helping professions and their clients are by no means the sole partakers of this context. There is a moment in which the feeling of safety, intimacy, trust, empathy and openness of exchange becomes so intense that the level on which two people are interacting shifts from ‘ordinary’ to numinous.

The Diamond Soul

The Diamond Soul

In that moment, (to my subjective recollection) both souls are held, in a state of grace, in the palm of some vast invisible benevolent Hand. Both sparks of life are suspended in a sense of the sacred….

Such a state can never be evoked. It can only be bestowed – fleeting, memorable, perhaps life changing.

Coming across the following quotes recently thus struck a profound chord:

first, from Jung –

“ That is why I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your creative individuality alone must decide.”

Carl Jung from “Contributions to Analytical Psychology” quoted in Self and Society Vol 27 No 1 March 1999, p 22.

second, from ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson, p 51 –

“ When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the ‘I’ whose predicate can be ‘love’ or ‘fear’ or ‘want’, and whose object can be ‘someone’ or ‘nothing’ and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around ‘I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else …. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.”

(‘Gilead’, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a wonderful novel in which, towards the end of Rev John Ames’ life in 1956, he begins a letter to his young son, setting down all that he wishes to communicate which impending death will otherwise render impossible.)

I urge you to read it for its humanity and its wisdom.


450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Holy Dharma with Heron

I love herons. Their elegance: long, lean, streamlined curves over water, poised, waiting. Their focus: totally in the moment, poised, waiting….to strike sharp and swift. I love their languid flight: long wings lazily beating, slow concentrated strength and grace.

We live in Glasgow, Scotland – UK city with the most green space. Our flat overlooks the river Kelvin which flows through the West End’s Botanic Gardens. On the riverbank, throughout the Gardens, all kinds of wildlife abound: amongst the over-fed pigeons and importunate grey squirrels the occasional kingfisher, an otter once seen on Boxing Day, sometimes a cormorant or two – and several herons taking up favourite positions along the river bank. The fish ladder by the weir is a choice spot of theirs. Another pitch is partly concealed by vegetation, right below the Humpbacked Bridge leading to steep steps rising to the upper, more cultivated part of the Botanic Gardens.

Most days, I take a well-travelled route down from our house – crossing the Humpbacked Bridge, up the steps, through the Botanics past the newly-refurbished Kibble Palace. This splendid circular, domed Victorian glass house hosts fine sculptures, elegant glass panels, a well-stocked pond – with some very old fishy friends adept at dodging the coins and wishes raining down on them on a regular basis – and a wonderfully displayed selection of plants and flowers from many parts of the world. It is a local jewel.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron


Strolling around those familiar, well-loved landmarks, I always enjoy occasional sightings of the heron. We can never decide how many herons there are of the same age and appearance. Maybe we are seeing the same one, over and over? Conversations like this weave together a very disparate, loose group of park regulars of all ages with a variety of views and opinions about the Botanic Gardens’ wild creatures. But the heron is a favourite; we always report sightings to one another.

We are inured to plentiful rain and bad weather as the default position for our local climate; stepping out into a pleasant, crisp, sunny morning  is therefore an immediate delight, especially with the Botanics in full autumn colours, carpets of leaves everywhere – if you get out early enough, before the park attendants with their noisy leaf-blowing machines get going!

Whilst appreciating this beautiful autumnal morning, my head was also full of the usual thought traffic as I contemplated the day ahead. The Buddhists speak the truth: we are only ever partly here. In each waking moment of our short, precious lives, we are usually distracted by something or other from being fully present. Thus we rarely savour fully the Holy Dharma of this very moment which will never come again.

Suddenly, my attention was totally focused on a sight I had never seen before. The heron was perched in full view, half way along the left-hand side of the Humpbacked Bridge!

I  stopped dead. Most unusually at half past nine on a weekday morning, there was no-one in sight.  “Should I stay watching right here, or try to creep closer?” I wondered, full of excitement and apprehension. Deciding on the latter option, I tiptoed very very slowly onto the eight-foot wide bridge, veering to the right in order to edge along the opposite side of the bridge to the heron.

The wild creature seemed absorbed in his own surveillance operation, long elegant neck moving slowly from side to side, eyes glinting in the morning light reflected off the quietly flowing river. Whether he had spotted me or not, he was paying me no attention. Barely able to believe my luck, I inched along  extremely quietly until – to my great amazement – I was level. We were only a bridge width apart. Never in my life before had I been so close to such a large wild bird.

The morning was still. The heron, briefly, was still. I was still. The Holy Dharma moved with the air currents across the bridge, the heron and me. All was One.

Japanese Heron Painting

Japanese Heron Painting

Hours might have passed. It was probably less than a minute. I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my left eye. A slender young man dressed all in black, carrying a rucksack, i-pods in his ears, was rapidly approaching the bridge. Stealthily, I crept forward a couple of feet, heading off the bridge toward the steps, still hugging the side opposite the heron. He still didn’t budge. For a fleeting moment I thought “Anne, that wild creature is tuned to you. He can feel your goodwill….” Then the rationalist dismissed such a thought. Still….

The young man was about to step through the gate onto the bridge. I held my finger to my lips, indicating silence; with my other hand palm up,  I signalled to stop, waving him over to my side of the bridge – hoping this unknown young man might share a rare experience. But he ignored me. As he marched past us the heron took off, winging his lazy languid way downriver. Waving goodbye, I stood for a moment – partly watching the heron, partly watching the young man’s back as he tramped up the stairs.

In that moment I truly felt the force of life’s duality: on the one hand, such gratitude and joy that the heron and I had shared a pure, holy moment of Oneness. On the other, deep sadness that the young man, shut in with his technology, had missed it. Carl Jung’s comment, which comes to me often, came to me then: “Our task in this life is to reconcile the opposites”…..

….and a ps to this story….a couple of weeks later, I was strolling home through the Botanics by the river Kelvin on my way home, having spent the afternoon at my office writing the first draft of this article which was in my bag.There on the riverbank, in  places where I had never seen them before, were – to my amazement and delight – two herons….

1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

An astrologer at work: Part Two

(This is an edited version of a longer interview, published in Connections magazine,
Scotland, UK  in February 1996. It appears on the website in three parts – click An astrologer at work: Part One to read the first part.)

extract from 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….”

Now read on!

The Principles and Practice of Astrology

“Connections” Editor Ian Holland interviews Anne Whitaker

Part Two:

IH: A series of interviews were  done with members of the public who came to our last Alternative Health exhibition, asking them their views on New Age matters, and whether they had any negative comments. The main criticism was of the relentlessly positive way of putting things which new age practitioners tended to adopt. Telling someone who has been through absolute tragedy that this is perhaps something that was meant to happen, and presented an opportunity to grow….I feel that attitude shows great insensitivity to a person devastated by brutal experience.

AW: I would entirely agree with you here. I think that life has always been a difficult process for everybody, and as far as anyone knows it will probably continue to be so. I have now had my fair share of experience of people coming to me who have had terrible trauma, and I think that it’s extremely disrespectful, insensitive and glib to tell somebody who is in pieces that this is a learning and a growing experience. I don’t think that I have the right to say that. And I certainly wouldn’t say it.

However, if they were trying to grope for some sense of meaning and understanding in order to cope better, then I would very gently and tentatively attempt to help them to do that. But it is not my job to tell people how they should receive their personal experience. And I’ve been through sufficient personal and family tragedy of my own to respect people’s struggle to come to terms with life’s brutalities in THEIR way.

IH: I was reading a book a while back on medical astrology . Can you predict physical illnesses or ailments that a person may be subject to ?

AW: I think it’s enormously important to work within my levels of  competence. If anyone ever contacts me specifically re health advice, I always refer them on to my colleague who is a recognised authority in this field. What I would do, since I consider myself absolutely no expert in medical matters, is to confine my comments to areas I feel confident enough to comment on.

You can tell for example when a person is temperamentally quite highly strung, and likely to express their nervous tension in physical ways – and advise them to take up things like meditation, or yoga, to help relax them.

Mythological Saturn/ Saturn's Symbol

Mythological Saturn/ Saturn's Symbol

The planet Saturn is particularly connected, in physical manifestations of its symbolism, to bones and skin ( what holds us up, and what holds us in! ) –  if this planet is prominently placed in the horoscope, especially close to the Rising Sign, and has tense rather than flowing links with other planets, this is a pretty clear indicator of a predisposition to skin and/or bone problems as a way of expressing held-in fear, anger or frustration. Since a progressed horoscope can provide specific timings, it is very helpful for individuals prone to such difficulties to be alerted to periods when these problems might be more likely to manifest than others. Thus they can take some kind of prophylactic action through physical and or emotional work in advance – or during the time period where their horoscope indicated them to be at risk.

It is important for astrologers to have confidence in their own competence,  otherwise they are not going to do a good job for their clients. But it’s also important for them to be honest and clear about their own limitations, especially in areas like health.

IH: Where do you think that these predispositions indicated in the Birth Chart come from ? Is it an accident of birth, or….

AW : I think we’re back here to the fate/free will question. As I said earlier, the symbolic map of our point of entry into this world powerfully suggests that we bring in certain qualities and themes, from family inheritance perhaps, to be lived out and hopefully worked with. But at the heart of the question regarding the primary origin of what we bring in, lies a great mystery. Perhaps only the Deity can answer that question….

IH : Are we into the past life issue as well ?

AW : I prefer not to comment on the past life issue – although I’m interested in it, and I’ve had some experiences which I can only usefully explain to myself in terms of reincarnation, being a pragmatist I consider that my job is to live this present life as well as I can….so if someone wants to have this kind of astrological discussion specifically rather than tangentially, I will refer them on to a practitioner who has a particular interest in that area.

IH: What about the wider social and political context ? What does astrology have to say about that ?

AW:  A great deal. On the 17  January 1995 a major planetary event occurred – the planet Pluto, which had been travelling through the 30 degrees of the sign of Scorpio since 1984, moved into 0 degrees of the sign of Sagittarius. On that day a major world event occurred – the Japanese earthquake which devastated the city of Kobe and killed thousands of people. The horoscope for the start of the earthquake is very powerful and has very strong links with Japan’s horoscope. This is just one example of a fascinating area of study  – Mundane astrology, the study of the links between planetary movements and world affairs. There are always striking planetary patterns to be found symbolically reflecting  major events in the world.

(note: see‘ Interesting Times – an astrologer’s view’ for some comments on the recent shift of Pluto from Sagittarius into Capricorn at the end of November 2008) )

IH: I notice that the Abbey National Building Society have started publishing their guide to investment –  it ‘s done tongue in cheek – but do you believe that astrology can be useful in planning investments ?

AW : I don’t think that popular sun sign astrology is useful in any specific way to any individual person or business, because it only takes one feature, the sun’s position, into account. But there’s a whole branch of astrology which looks at the charts of companies, and these charts’ links with overall market cycles. Business astrology is widely used though very few business people would admit it! There’s a very good book out called ‘Money and the Markets’ by Graham Bates and Jane Bowles which deals in detail with this topic. My husband works in the investment field and wishes I’d take up business astrology – but I’m more interested in the spiritual, psychological and educational dimensions, to his chagrin !

So astrology can be used for a range of different things.  Mundane astrology concerns national and world affairs – from the Latin mundus, meaning the world. There is business astrology, and then you have personal or natal astrology which is largely what I do; synastry which brings the charts together of eg parents and children, friends, lovers, business partners; and  horary astrology  which asks a question at a particular moment in time like ‘should I marry Fred ?’ and from the chart cast for the time of asking, a series of complex rules of interpretation are followed which come up with an answer.

There is medical astrology which we’ve touched on, and then there is electional where you choose a favourable moment for launching an organisation or a ship, getting married, etc. If you wanted to launch another magazine, Ian, you could get me to do a chart for you to select a good time. Inceptional astrology looks at the chart to determine conditions in force at the outset of a venture– eg for the launching of the Titanic – so that we can all be wise by hindsight !

IH: There was an amazing story on television recently concerning a young woman who had been adopted and wanted to find her birth mother. Apparently her letter of enquiry to the adoption agency arrived on the same day as a letter from her birth mother wanting to trace her! Is that an example of the heavens at work ?

AW: I suppose that’s an example of what Carl Jung called synchronicity – where things occur in the same moment in time and are thereby held together in significant interrelationship. To a member of the public the story you have just related looks like a fascinating co-incidence. To an astrologer, if you were able to look at both the girl’s chart, the mother’s, and the chart of the day of overlap, you should certainly be able to see in symbolic terms a powerful inter-relationship between the individuals and the overlapping day – and perhaps some clues regarding the nature of the significant event. But I doubt very much whether you could describe the exact event.

Part Three follows shortly

1600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
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


Learning to do ‘slow’….


“Loch Duich, Scottish Highlands, UK, summer  2001. What a beautiful morning! Here I am, strolling along a lochside path, savouring sweet fresh Highland air, gazing across the loch to majestic mountains beyond. The subtle smell of gorse is wonderful – like mild coconut. This morning, the scent is drifting on the breeze. Stopping to smell some gorse flowers, admiring their vivid yellow, my attention is caught by an enormous bee, browsing purposefully. For a long time I stand watching it at work. Suddenly, I am overcome with sheer happiness and gratitude at being in this beautiful spot, with nothing to do but watch a giant bee….

This small, perfect moment burned its memory into my consciousness. Back in our busy city life, full of responsibilities and deadlines, it began to appear every so often, like a little bright flag, alerting me to something.

Seven years later, with the wisdom of hindsight, I know full well what that something was: a stark warning that I was stifling what my mind, body and soul desperately needed – space, peace, silence, seclusion – and slowness, to enable me to be receptive to life rather than using my active will to hammer it into what I thought was an appropriate shape. All these precious things came in abundance with my collapse through sheer exhaustion at the end of 2001, a few months after the incident with the bee.The crash was triggered by a long family crisis that year, which totally depleted my energy at the outset of menopause.

However, there are many advantages to a prolonged and severe crisis. The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One conveys threat, the other, opportunity. Many opportunities have presented themselves, the most important  being that I have finally learned to do slow!

When you are forced off the treadmill of contemporary living into a quiet, restful life, becoming more like an occasional visitor from another planet than a participant in 21st century society, certain things become very evident. The most obvious one is that the pace of our life is far too fast.

Everything we learn from history, contemporary living and individual experience points to the importance of striving for balance.  At present the signs are everywhere that we are living in an increasingly unbalanced and destructive world, driven by a pathological need for constant rapid change, and perpetual action.

My long crisis taught me that doing “nothing”, doing very little in a slow and leisurely fashion, and  responding to life rather than acting upon it, are all very fruitful modes. After seven whole years of apparently doing very little apart from lying around drinking tea, reading books, keeping journals, and  fine tuning the undervalued art of procrastination, I feel like a warm and happy pile of rich compost. I don’t feel in the least that all those years of my life have been wasted. Quite the opposite. This, let me tell you, is a  profound, pleasant and wholly unexpected surprise.

I used to try and cram as much as possible into every waking hour, considering time doing “nothing” as time wasted. Does this sound familiar? Had someone told me then that my powerful will would be rendered useless by exhaustion, and that I would have to respond to what my body could do, ie almost nothing, for a  long time, I would have been horrified and very, very scared. And at various points I was horrified and very, very scared.

The poet TS Eliot observed that the end of all our life’s exploring returns us to the starting point, where at last we know the place for the first time. From this perspective,  life is a multi levelled process of moving through repeating cycles of  discovery to deeper and deeper levels  of understanding of what we already know.

I now truly see that there are two fundamental modes to being alive. One is being active, the other is receptivity. Day is for activity. Night is for rest and recharging in stillness, quiet and darkness. Without the slow dying and resting of autumn and winter, the earth could not give us the fecund vitality of spring and fruitfulness of summer. Doing needs to be balanced by being. In order to be truly creative as citizens, parents, workers, partners, and individuals we have to be still, to listen, to receive. To enter these modes, there is an essential key. We must slow down.

One of the most profound lessons I have learned over the course of my life is that often the greatest gifts come in the most unappealing packaging! Within our current culture we are taught that ageing and the gradual diminishing of energy which goes with it is a bad thing. But ageing is inevitable. Its accompanying loss of energy can be used wisely, if we read it as a sign that the time has come to slow down, learn to move more easily from active to receptive mode, and to adopt the tenor of the latter more and more as time goes on.

I am not advocating sinking into a vegetable-like stupor as the ageing process advances! But the cycle of life at every level depends on the key stages of conception, germination, birth, maturing, decline, death and renewal.We should try to be co-operative with this process, rather than narcissistically trying to hang on to youth. Carl Jung wisely observed that the second half of life should be spent preparing for the end of it. One of the great ways of beginning to prepare to let go of this life in order to move on to the next great adventure beyond it, is to grant oneself time to contemplate, time to rest, time to read, time to look out of the window and watch the clouds go by.

I have discovered, to my great surprise and joy, that doing “nothing” and doing slow opens up – very slowly, so be patient ! –  all sorts of creative, fertile space in your life. Try it ! Cultures and individuals stuck in fast, doing  mode for long enough, quite simply, burn themselves out.

Some of you harassed busy folk reading this may find yourselves getting annoyed, muttering “It’s all very well for her!” But I have learned the very hard way that if you deny mind, body and spirit what it needs for long enough, especially as mid life advances and your body begins to lose some of its vitality, the price for that denial will duly be exacted, usually through ill-health.

So – learn from me and that bee at Loch Duich in the summer of 2001. Start doing some slow. You won’t regret it !”

(this is an updated, slightly edited version of an article published in Connections Magazine, Scotland, UK, in  February 2006 as part of an ongoing column called “Just let me get old, ok?”)


1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page