(...this essay can be found on p 20 of my new book ‘Postcards to the Future’, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, includingAmazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from! Enjoy…)
Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office.
To pass time sitting on the bus, I check my phone. Ahah – there’s a message on Messenger. A colleague is beginning a new project for the international company he works for, an unusual company where his boss is an astrology appreciator. He is making a podcast series on Turning Points: asking people to talk for five minutes on the one decision which changed their lives forever. He is inviting me to contribute.
“Ping!!” went the braincell, hit by a mini bolt of inspiration. I had my topic. I’d ruminate on what it was that inspired me to take up, and continue, the long-term study and practice of astrology. That decision certainly changed MY life forever.
So – what was it ?
Was it my youthful awe as I watched the Northern Lights enacting their glorious colourful dance, just above the skyline near our house? Perhaps it was lying cosy in bed, listening to the roaring gales of January tearing the world apart – wondering what the Power was behind that raging wind. Was it the growing excitement, as I grew up, of being able to spot familiar constellations in the clear, unpolluted night skies of my native island?
Or – maybe the Fates had already decided, leaving me a clue to be decoded many years later, via the placement of Uranus, the astrologers’ planet, at 25 Degrees of Gemini, in the tenth house of my natal horoscope?
I have recently been revisiting the significance of the placement of Uranus’ discovery degree, ie 24 degrees 27 minutes Gemini,(i) in the horoscopes of those drawn to the practice of astrology. A dip into my horoscope collection, lifting out three male and three female birth charts, found that all six prominent astrologers chosen have this degree either conjunct, square or opposite natal planets, Nodes or Angles: the lately deceased and much-missed Donna Cunningham, Michel Gauquelin, Liz Greene, Isabel Hickey, Johannes Kepler and Noel Tyl. (ii)
Johannes Kepler Asc 24 deg 25 mins Gemini
Furthermore, when I was 27 years old, progressed Sun crossed asteroid Urania, placed at 19 degrees of Virgo in my first house, square tenth house Uranus. That year, as mentioned in an earlier column, I had a totally random encounter with a pair of astrologers who predicted my future astrological career.
So – did I choose that career or did I come in with it already chosen? Was it Fate, or free will? We will, of course, never be able to answer that question. MY conclusion, hardly stunningly original, is that we dance to the tune of both. There are times when the power of Fate feels strongly present. Other times, the unglamorous wrestle with inertia, poor judgement, and other ills to haul our lives into a reasonably satisfying shape feels very strongly to be determined mainly by our own conscious efforts.
In the latter case, a major ingredient in the shaping process, in my opinion, is the power of inspiration. At twenty-four years of age (second Jupiter Return, anyone?!) I was fortunate enough to have what I later realised was a mystical experience, something which has continued to inspire me. This may well have created a spiritual backdrop for the subsequent encounter with astrology as foreground; when I met those astrologers I was going through a crisis involving wondering what, after all, my life was FOR…not an uncommon state for one’s late twenties!
Their accurate reading inspired me to investigate astrology further, initially via the UK’s Faculty of Astrological Studies. On discovering that I, too, could produce accurate and affirming feedback from those strange marks on a piece of paper which seemed helpful to people trying to understand themselves better, I was hooked. For the rest of my life.
Astrology has continued to inspire because it continues to challenge me. It challenges me because we are working with living energies, patterns whose essential meanings we have established over millennia, but whose manifestations are endless and only partly predictable. Despite decades of experience, I still get that tight anxious feeling before every new client I see, being very aware of my responsibility at least to do no harm, at best to help the person before me see their life in a more constructive, bigger context.
I am, of course, always curious to find out what inspires people to engage with astrology – and to keep going once they get there. There is an occasional series running on my blog, in which astrologers tell their interesting, unusual tales of inspiration and – of course! – an inevitable amount of perspiration…
Want to share your story? Go on…
First published in Dell Horoscope Magazine ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ (from the January/February 2018 Issue), this essay can be found on p 20 of ‘Postcards to the Future‘, published Autumn 2021 and available everywhere from Amazon, including Amazon UK. There are 59 other “Mercurial Musings” to choose from!Enjoy…
One of the delights – and mild horrors – of writing a regular column to a deadline is that you never know from whence arriveth inspiration (feeling a trifle mediaeval this afternoon, forsooth…) – or if it will arrive at all: always the worst case scenario hovering as the deadline looms.
However, inspiration arrived in response to another deadline, two days before I was due to appear on Christina Rodenbeck’s popular The Oxford Astrologer’s regular Members’ Sunday slot on 12th September 2021, to discuss and promote my new book of essays, columns, articles and research
In addition to discussing the book’s content, Christina suggested we reflect on … ‘…the broad sweep of astrology in your time writing about it…’ Hmmm, I thought. Big topic.
The starting place
But it got me going…to hunt out the first thing I’d ever written – as far as I can remember – on the topic of astrology. And I found it:AA Summer School Report 1-5 June 1987…
‘…Titled ON BEING AND BECOMING AN ASTROLOGER, this year’s Summer School offered a varied range of experience from inner personal contemplation to consideration of the likely General Election result…’
This piece was re-published in my column in Journal as part of the 60 year celebrations for the AA in 2018. It made me smile to read what I had written in that 1987 report, rather tentatively, about computers and astrology. As I wrote in 2018:
‘…Few of us on that course had the slightest clue that astrologers, like everyone else, were merely tapping on a door which would shortly swing open to reveal an entirely new landscape of global interconnectedness which – for both good and ill – has already drawn in much of the population of planet Earth…’
One very personal memory strikes me as clearly illustrating that early entry into the entirely new landscape described in the above quote, which has revolutionised the world of astrology along with every other facet of our lives ever since.
It was around the mid to late1980s. I was sitting at our kitchen table in Glasgow chatting over morning coffee to our guest, USA astrologer Tad Mann, who had come up from London to talk to the Glasgow Astrology Group of which I was a committee member at that time. Suddenly Tad produced from the inside pocket of his jacket an object which looked like an elongated pocket calculator. It was, in fact, an early astrology calculator, into which he tapped my date, place and time of birth, and pressed a couple of buttons. I watched, fascinated.
Things got even more interesting. From another pocket he produced a small, square grey gadget which he proceeded to plug into the side of the calculator. Setting them both on the table, Tad then pressed another couple of buttons. The small square grey gadget was in fact a mini printer. A piece of paper looking exactly like a till receipt soon emerged – complete with all my horoscope data: Asc, MC, planets, Nodes and aspects. I was entranced. ‘I want one of these!!’ Not long afterwards, the (rather pricey) set duly arrived from the company in the USA which Tad had recommended.
Shortly after that, I was to be found sitting happily on a stall at a local Alternative Health event, doing 15 minute mini readings for clients from those very pieces of paper. ‘How on earth can you give me an accurate summary of my character from that till receipt thingie?’ I remember one client asking. ‘It’s the shape of things to come!’ I cheerfully replied, not realising just how true that comment was to prove.
From typewriting to computing
So – the broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about it has taken me from sitting bashing out notes and reports from hand-drawn horoscopes on my old Brother manual typewriter, Tippex to hand, all the way to using highly sophisticated computer programmes which will, quite simply, do everything we need to do as astrologers. From instant push-a-button birth charts to all varieties of prognosticatory options both technical and interpretive, anyone from the very green amateur to the sophisticated professional can have any kind of software they wish, dependent on their finances and predilections. (I still lament the recent demise of the wonderful Io software which I had used since acquiring my first Mac computer in 1995).
The arrival of sophisticated computer technology has been a wonderful gift, also, to all writers – including astro-writers like myself. Apart from personal journals and diaries, which I still prefer to handwrite in aesthetically pleasing, arty books, I haven’t handwritten anything of a short or extended nature, for years.
Another revolution, too, has recently begun, as the larger planetary cycles have graphically shown in recent years. Amongst other astro-writers, I have had much commentary published on the implications of the transition from the 1803-2020 Earth Era to the newAir Era into which we shifted on the Winter Solstice of 2020. On that very day, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction’s arrival at 0 Aquarius announced the formative 20 year cycle’s settling into the Air element for the next 200 years or so. As we all know, that huge shift announced its presence through an air-borne virus triggering a global pandemic which has upended life on Planet Earth in just about every way possible since 2020.
Taking to the Airwaves : new approaches emerging
Astrology has taken to the air in a really big way. Platforms like zoom have enabled astro-education, astro-groups, astro-readings, and all kinds of astro-chat: wonderfully connective of members of our community to one another. Those and other social media platforms have enabled fatuous, divisive, misleading, and damaging as well as helpful, supportive and enlightening dialogue. It is, as someone observed ‘ …the Wild West out there…’
The broad sweep of astrology in my time of writing about, practising and teaching our great subject has also seen the ebb and flow of dominant fashions, and the taking up of varying positions, within our world-wide community. When I started out, psychological astrology was clearly on the ascendant as the revival of astrology during the Sixties and Seventies ( but begun much earlier by the work of eg Dane Rudhyar) moved us away from the doom-laden fatalism of earlier times to the notion that astrology did not describe a world where humans were pinned to the board of Fate like butterflies.
We did in fact, said psychological astrology, have some negotiating room within symbolic energies which could and did express themselves differently depending on the level of conscious awareness individuals brought to their lives.
In recent years we have had the rise and increasing popularity of evolutionary astrology, as well as the revival of traditional astrology which has been reclaiming and refreshing approaches going back many centuries – recasting those perspectives for contemporary practitioners and audiences. There has also increasingly been much more liaison between practitioners and students in both East and West, and a welcome sharing of approaches and perspectives. All these changes have been made possible by the computer revolution which has totally changed the face of our world in every way.
I was asked about the broad sweep – this column has been a very broad, brief sweep indeed, from one person’s perspective only. One could write a whole book on the topic. Someone is probably doing so even as I write!
In conclusion: has widely available Astrology made us better human beings?
I feel as excited as anyone else by all the creative and diverse changes which have arisen. Younger generations of astrologers and astrology students, refusing to be hemmed in by the increasingly strident orthodoxy of scientific reductionism, are embracing the symbolic perspectives offered by astrology in a big way these days. However, I’m going to end this column, not in my usual upbeat way, but on a rather sombre note.
When I first started studying astrology I was awestruck by the insights into oneself that astrological knowledge could provide. Given this wonderfully enlightening gift, I naively thought that astrologers must surely be more enlightened and evolved people than the general population: more magnanimous, less critical of one another, more tolerant.
Well, I found out pretty quickly that they they aren’t. I come from a long background in adult education, social work and psychiatric work, as well as private practice therapy and counselling. I’ve also known many writers in my rather varied vocational life. So my comments are based on quite a wide range of sampling.
Astrologers are just as kind, compassionate, well-informed and magnanimous as other occupational groups. They are also just as bitchy, backbiting, judgemental, dishonest and intolerant as everybody else. In general terms – since I am fortunate to know and have known some wonderful astrologers who are also brilliant, compassionate human beings – I haven’t seen any evidence over the last forty years that convinces me otherwise.
We all have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do to fashion ourselves into better humans than we currently appear to be. Our present world is riven with all kinds of ugly, dangerous divisions. Those divisions are graphically described in the prevailing planetary patterns: unfortunately, our astrological community is not immune. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and bring more fairness, compassion and tolerance into the ways we treat one another within our community. We have a planet to save. We could start by being kinder and more supportive to one another.
What are YOUR thoughts?
i) ‘Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021’ is available locally at Opal Moon, Glasgow G20, Watkins Books and The Astrology Shop in London, The Wessex Astrologer – and everywhere on Amazon, including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
Well, it’s almost that time of year again: the planet Mercury goes retrograde on Monday 27th September 2021 at 25 degrees Libra, not turning direct again – at 10 degrees Libra (conjunct my Neptune: I can hardly wait!) – until Monday 18th October. It should be an interesting/exciting/ rewarding/ frustrating/memorable three weeks especially for those of us who are ‘plugged in’ to 10-25 degrees of Libra, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn.
I’m feeling rather pleased about my Mercury Retro status this time. Transiting Mercury in my 3rd house at 25 Libra makes a lovely retro grand trine with 6th house transiting Jupiter and natal 10th house Uranus. For starters, this site is being revamped by my new web wizard – who just happens to know a lot of astrology himself, what a ‘co-incidence’ is that?! – during this particular Mercury Retro period. A very apt time to do such a thing. I’m also looking forward to more reviews etc coming in for my newly published book of essays, articles, columns and research“Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021”.They have been just great so far…
However, today’s story concerns what happened exactly on Summer Solstice 2021: the very day before retro Mercury was about to turn direct at 16 degrees Gemini. Who on earth in their right mind would choose that day to embark on a long journey? Well, I did – and what a brilliant story it provided. Settle back, Readers, and enjoy the trip…
MidsummerMercurial malarkey: Jupiter to the rescue!
In the beginning…
There I was, that morning, all packed – and multi-ticketed for us both. I had carefully planned and organised our four-stage eight hour journey to the sacred isle of Iona, off the North West coast of Scotland. Getting there involved a three-hour train trip to Oban, one-hour ferry crossing to Mull, one hour plus journey through Mull to Fionnphort, and lastly, a short ferry crossing to Iona. Include travel from our homes in Glasgow G20 to Queen Street station, plus a wait of between one and two hours half way up because of non-joined-up travel links, and you have what truly feels like a pilgrimage. Pretty apt, considering where we were going. Iona has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage since pre-Christian times.
I had been there several times before with my late husband Ian. On our thirtieth wedding anniversary spent on Iona a few years ago, we had made a pact: whichever of us died first, the other would make a pilgrimage back to Iona in their memory. I was fortunate on this occasion to have the company of my dear friend Emily. She and her husband were good friends of us both; her kindness and sensitivity made her the ideal person to accompany me. It would also be a great break for her. A very busy community activist – whose upcoming challenges included showing the Queen around our local The Children’s Wood/North Kelvin Meadow project the week after we got back! – she really needed a few days’ time out.(i)
Our trip had been postponed twice already because of Covid. Third time proved lucky: we both loved the idea of travelling to be there at the Summer Solstice.
What could possibly go wrong? I thought, having dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ in sight. As an astrologer, I knew the answer to that only too well. Mercury had been retrograde for the previous three weeks. Today, he was pausing before turning direct tomorrow. Having booked our break around Midsummer months ago without checking the ephemeris, this turned out to be a trickstery day for outward travel. Even if I had, the allure of being on Iona on the Summer Solstice would still probably have proved too strong.
I mentioned this apprehension to Emily on the taxi ride to Queen Street station. Emily knows little or no astrology beyond her Aries Sun Sign and Leo Ascendant, but keeps an open-minded interest. Just recently, she’d had her chart read by that very fine astrologer, my friend and colleague Christina Rodenbeck, thus finding out she had Mercury Retrograde in her natal chart. (I don’t read charts for friends or family). Christina had confirmed for Emily what I have noticed often over the years in clients’ and students’ horoscopes: Mercury Retrograde times don’t seem to be so disruptive for those with natal Mercury Retro.
” Don’t worry!” she said cheerfully. “I have Mercury Retrograde in my chart. It’ll be fine, you’ll see!”. Emily is possessed of a level of almost insane optimism, accompanied by dogged persistence, which has seen her take on and win through on challenges from which most of us would have run a mile. “I hope you’re right”, said I, trying to keep my natal MercurySaturnPluto at bay.
And she was. In spite of everything…
Everything began with our arrival at the railway station to discover that our all-important train to Oban had been cancelled. “***@***!!!” …may convey something of our reaction.
We were not the only cross-looking, confused travellers … and we had a pretty tight window for catching our Mull ferry connection from Oban. The first of many helpful encounters that day, a cheerful-looking, patient middle-aged rail employee, advised us thus:
“Leg it as fast as you can up onto Cathedral Street. The direct and the indirect buses should be parked there by now. Get on the direct one if you can. Good luck!!”
I don’t know if you’ve tried ‘legging it’ for a long detour taking in flights of steps whilst trailing suitcases and backpacks and food supplies (no hospitality on trains any more). Not recommended. But we got there, puffing – to survey a milling, muttering, shuffling horde of at least forty folk, a tour party who must have been booked en bloc on the cancelled train, waiting – largely unmasked – to cram onto the direct bus.
Emily looked at me. I looked at Emily. Even if we managed to get on, it would be a cramped, covid-risky journey. This was the point where Jupiter stepped in to help: the point where we offered the whole experience up to Fate.We were of one mind. “What the hell, we’re not doing that. Let’s see if we can get the next train up (there was no guarantee it wouldn’t be cancelled too) and if not, let’s just get on the first train going North and have an adventure! We can get to Iona tomorrow instead.” Much cheered by this, we trundled our cases off along Cathedral Street, retracing our steps.
Unlikely guardian angels – and shadow Jupiter!
Enter Tam and Dougie, two friendly Glaswegian characters who had hailed us on our way to the direct bus. “Where are you girls headed?” We explained both our problem and our decision.
“No need for that!” announced Tam, who turned out to own the bus company from whom ScotRail had hired the second, indirect bus. We were now standing right beside said bus. “Dougie here drives like a bat out of hell – if anyone can get you to Oban on time, despite all the stops he has to cover, he can!”
Moments later found us sitting on the roomy, comfy top deck, the only passengers on a luxury bus, normally used to convey footballers around the UK, equipped with its own kitchen and toilet. “The only problem with this bus is the toilet”, said Tam. “You really need to be (those of you requiring a woke style trigger warning, please shut your eyes for the next bit) an acrobatic anorexic midget to get in and out of it.” Reader, I can testify to the veracity of this statement. Had I not been nimble, slight, and small, I might still be stuck there…
“Wow, have we ever lucked out!” said Emily. I totally agreed with this as we tucked into our picnic lunches, enjoying a wonderful uninterrupted view: marvellous scenery on a beautifully sunny day as we headed North-West. We didn’t even mind arriving in Oban just in time to see the ferry on which I had booked us sailing into the blue beyond. Dougie had done his best, but there were too many stops – not one of which had any passengers waiting…
However, we encountered Jupiter all the way, including the very helpful ScotRail employee Greg (just in case he is reading this! ) who re-booked us on the next ferry and minded our luggage for the duration of our wait. The only exception was a bracing encounter with Jupiter’s shadow side: an overweight, red-faced, almost toothless bus driver at Craignure on Mull. His demeanour in response to our innocent question regarding the timing of the next bus to Fionnphort was so patronising and rude that it had both Emily and I riffing on revenge possibilities – evoking fits of semi-hysterical laughter in us both – to pass the time until the bus arrived.
We did get to Iona that evening: arriving at the jetty a mere five minutes before the last ferry departed.
And now – the horoscopes speak…
Our whole visit to Iona was an absolute delight, the return trip entirely straightforward. We agreed that neither of us had laughed so much for ages during those few days. On returning, of course, I put up a horoscope for the time we heard the Oban train had been cancelled. It is breathtakingly apt!
I’ll leave readers to do their own reflecting, just pointing out a couple of salient features. But it’s important to say that key symbolic pointers to the goodwill of almost everyone we encountered linked in strongly with two main features of Emily’s and my horoscopes (which I haven’t included here):
Her Jupiter is at 0 Cancer, conjunct my Mars at 1.5 Cancer. Thus the potent 0 Cancer Sun on Solstice Day, trine Jupiter at 2 Pisces which sits on the 7th House side of the Descendant of the Cancelled Train chart, without adding anything else powerfully reinforces the presence of the benevolent side of Jupiter in our lives on that particular day – and the few days following.
You can see the disruption to our travel plans in the third house transiting Moon in Scorpio, approaching an exact opposition to that ninth house Uranus in Taurus. Also – my third house natal Jupiter sits at 19 degrees Scorpio, conjunct the Cancelled Train’s IC. This evokes the reason for the trip – a pilgrimage honouring my husband following his death. Emily, too, had recently lost her dad.This significator in the death/rebirth sign of Scorpio is thus particularly apt for both of us.
Furthermore, despite Mercury’s position poised between retrograde and direct motion, which made this particular Midsummer’s day especially prone to communication snafus, note his location conjunct the North Node in his own sign. The stabilising trine from Saturn indicates that the purpose of this trip – with some determination and practical help – was going to be fulfilled.
As, indeed, it was…
i) I have featured the inspiring story of how Emily Cutts galvanised our Glasgow G20 community into collective action, taking on the developers and eventually winning a precious patch of local land for community use, in my upcoming book ‘Postcards to the Future’, in the Transits section, p 283, title Uranus through Aries: fire and fury. Emily’s own story of her inspiring campaign can be found on Amazon, title The Dear Wild Place. It’s an inspiring read!
I blame that bout of tendonitis in around 2015.(i) I had been running no less than three blogs ( yes, mad, I agree…) since launching myself on the Web in 2008, had had one print book and four e-books published, when it struck. The only cure, which took quite a while, was to severely lay off writing, working mainly through a dictation app. NOT recommended if you wish to remain moderately sane, by the way…
I am left handed, which did not help the problem afflicting my left arm and wrist. In the end, I had to make a decision – a hard one, since by then I’d begun the research for book number 5. Either proceed to carpal tunnel syndrome, enduring the rest of my life with it and related arm and wrist unpleasantnesses – or confine myself largely to short pieces from then on. So I chose the latter. This mostly took the form of weekly pieces for only one blog at a time, writing columns (at one point I had three, deadlines falling in the same two weeks every couple of months!) and continuing to send out longer essays and articles to a wide range of magazines and journals – something I’d been doing for around twenty years already.
The result, half a Jupiter cycle later? I have actually arrived at book numero 5 anyway, albeit a very different one from originally envisaged: contents sixty published essays, columns and articles of mercurial variety. (btw I have a third house Jupiter square everything in the twelfth house, so this planet has been just a tad influential). Not only does this accidentally arrived at book have a title ie ‘Postcards to the Future’ and a subtitle ie ‘mercurial musings 1995-2021’ but it has also generated a small publishing company ie Writing from the Twelfth House Publications, and brought together a really experienced, talented production team, headed up by one V Olliver as editor.
And boy, has he been editing to within an inch of my sanity these last few weeks…but I jest… Compared to my last venture into having a print book published ie ‘Jupiter Meets Uranus’ by Arizona-based American Federation of Astrologers in 2009, it has been a breeze. Although I got on very well with the AFA editor, ease of technological transmission between Scotland and Arizona was much less flowing then than it is now. And I didn’t know her at all when the process began. I was just about on my knees, not to mention cross-eyed, by the time that edit was completed.
This time, the esteemed Victor has been editing my work, mainly through this column, for the last five years. We know each other’s literary weirdnesses. Not that I have any, of course…so book 5 edit has actually been a pleasure (well, mostly…)
It’s an interesting business, writing short pieces to deadlines. Here’s a flavour, extracted from one of my columns for the much-missed Dell Horoscope magazine, which you will find in ‘Postcards to the Future’ :
‘…Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks – which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.
So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office…‘(ii)
In the end, you simply have to have confidence and faith that your topic will appear from SOMEWHERE…in the above example, it appeared via a random phone call on the bus journey to my office – on the very day of the latest deadline. In the case of longer, more in depth subjects, the process can be rather different. As I put it in a recent AA Journal column: ‘…The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle…’
My approach is simple. The third time the idea drops into my mind and refuses to go away, I give in and start work. The last essay in ‘Postcards’ is titled Waning and Waxing Crescents: Windows to the Future and was published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of TMA. The idea refusing to go away was that of linking the horoscope of Mary Shelley, born in 1797 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Fire element, with that of Greta Thunberg, born in 2003 during the waning crescent phase of the 200 year traverse of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through the Earth element. What emerged and grew from that idea drove me hard for some weeks – but the end result was truly fascinating to me, and hopefully to my readers.
The subtitle of ‘Postcards’ ie “mercurial musings 1995-2021” offers clues both to the author’s horoscope – Mercury Ruler: conjunct, square, semi-square and sextile just about everything! – and the book’s subject matter. The hardest part for me of the whole editorial process was choosing the sixty pieces which were eventually included. (Let’s face it, Victor has by far done most of the other work, since I told him I’d rather pour hot melted butter into my left ear in the dark than have anything to do with anything technical…)
The range is indeed mercurial: from topics which deserve serious treatment ie ‘What is my job as an astrologer?’ , through a whole long section on planetary cycles, my current preoccupation, all the way to the quirky, ie ‘My Mary Shelley obsession: It has never gone away’ featuring unique synastry between a famous human (Mary) and a dead sheep (Dolly). Then there is a whole section titled ‘ Interviews: Featuring the Bacon Sandwich Motivational Technique, Plus Other Arcane Delights’. And lots more endless mercurial variety.
As I write this column, we are almost there…it’s now over to Ros, our meticulously Virgoan book designer, and Cat, hard at work on what will be a brilliant cover. Well, it’s all Victor’s fault, really, apart from the tendonitis. He is largely responsible for luring me out from behind that twelfth house sofa…
(i) ALSO: this is a collection of sixty selected essays etc going back to 1995. My students and more than one astro-colleague began suggesting that it was time for me to go back through my large stack of varied writings and put a collection together…yes, in 2018, the very year progressed Mercury, sitting stationary on top of my restless third house Jupiter, turned retrograde. Pretty apt, eh what?!
(ii) from ‘Fate, Uranus – and the astrologers’ degree…’.
I often get asked about the effect of the transits of the ‘Big Heavies’ ie Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, over the IC or root point of the horoscope. Here is my story of life-changing experiences occurring when the Big Heavies all crossed that point in my horoscope during my twenties, thirties and forties. Quite a long time ago now!! It’s been one of the most-read essays I have ever written, published in a variety of magazines journals and on-line publications over the years including Astrodienst. It is also one of the sixty essays, columns and articles which is featured in my upcoming book “Postcards to the Future: Mercurial Musings 1995-2021”.
Here is the essay:
Liz Greene once wryly observed in one of her seminars that, if you wanted a relatively quiet and peaceful life, you should arrange to be born when the outer planets were as far away from the personal planets and Angles as possible. I wish! say many of you reading this, as indeed does the writer, who has all the outer planets bolted onto all the personal planets and has had anything BUT a quiet life. (Encouraging note for the similarly challenged – I’m not young any more, but I’m still here –more or less! – and pretty happy with what I have been able to make of my time on this earth to date).
In similar vein, many people – depending on the horoscope yielded by their particular date, time, and place of birth – will never even experience one of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto crossing their IC ( for non-astrologers reading this, the IC symbolises the point of origin, roots and core of a person’s life).
However, I have had the lot – and am still here to tell the tale. Here it is….
In my horoscope the IC is conjunct the South Node at 28 degrees of Scorpio. Pluto, its ruler, is placed in the twelfth house conjunct Mercury, Saturn, Venus, Moon and Sun in Leo. As a child I would lie in bed watching the roses on the wallpaper turn into malevolent faces as daylight faded; I had to make bargains with them before they would let me sleep.
I read voraciously, and particularly recall the works of Victorian novelist H Rider Haggard whose myth-steeped descriptions of his characters’ adventures in Africa last century fascinated me. But da Silva, the Dutch explorer whose frozen body was found centuries after his death in a cave high up Mt. Kilimanjaro, transferred himself from “King Solomon’s Mines” to the wardrobe in my bedroom, on and off, for a couple of years. Getting to sleep was no mean feat with an imagination like mine!
My ‘real’ life – eating, sleeping, going to school – was incidental to my inner life which was full of what I felt were the really interesting questions : why are we alive, where do we go after death, do we live on several planes of existence at once, what is happening in other galaxies, if there are x million Catholics and even more Buddhists and Hindus, how come they are all Wrong and Damned and a few thousand members of the Free Church of Scotland are Right and Saved ?
And what would happen if you unwrapped an Egyptian mummy and I wonder if I could make a shrunken head like the Jivaro Indians and why did people paint pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago?
These were the issues which preoccupied me for years. No-one knew about them except my maternal grandfather. He had spent time taming wild horses alone in the middle of Argentina before World War 1, and in later life was the only Church of Scotland missionary to visit ill or injured foreign sailors of all religions in the local island hospital, despite the disapproval of the Free Church. “We are all God’s children”, he would say firmly to his critics – and to me. He died when I was eleven, after which I spoke to no-one until I grew up and left home about anything which really mattered.
As Pluto squared 12th house Venus, Moon and Sun, then crossed the IC conjunct South Node from 93-95, what was left of my family of origin fell apart in a particularly painful and tragic way. I had to make choices in order to protect myself from the destructive urges of other family members which involved separation from loved ones which is probably permanent. The major decision I made during those years was that the blood tie does not give others the right to destroy your life. I was indeed fortunate in having an astrological framework, which helped to provide a meaningful context for the pain.
As part of trying to process what was happening, I decided to compile a family history, returning to my native island to collect some oral material from old people who knew my family back a couple of generations. The day I sat down to write it up, transiting Pluto was exactly conjunct the South Node, within half a degree of the IC. During the same week, I looked back through some old writings of my own, finding two unpublished pieces.
The first was written in July 1970, six months after the start of Neptune transiting the IC. I had no knowledge of astrology then…….
“…….My sister and I decided to take the dog and walk from our house, just outside the town, to a beach very exposed to the sea, well beyond the harbour. It would be a long walk, but it was a beautiful briskly windy sunny day – snatched from the usual bleak incessant rains of a Hebridean July.
We took a curving route through the town, then via an outlying district overlooking the navigation beacon. This landmark had winked its electric eye reassuringly at the mouth of the harbour for as long as I could remember. Approaching the district cemetery, my sister walked on by, but I slowed down, never having passed through its gates. Only men attended funerals in the Outer Hebrides when I was growing up.
“The sun is shining on the dead today!” I called to my sister. “Let’s go and pay our respects.” She wasn’t too keen. “Have you ever visited Granddad and Granny’s grave?” I asked.
“No,” she said. ” I suppose we could do that.” We pushed open the heavy creaking gate. The graveyard, beautifully tended, sloped gently down to within a few hundred yards of the sea. I realised that I did not know where my father’s parents lay.
” I remember where Daddy said it was,” my sister said. “Follow me. With our English name, it shouldn’t be difficult to find.”
Our paternal grandfather had been posted to the Outer Hebrides before the First World War, meeting our grandmother on his first trip ashore. English gentlemen were a great rarity in these parts; very desirable “catches” to aspiring island girls like Granny, who had by all accounts been a handsome, strong and wilful young woman. He was well and truly caught; apart from a period of war service he remained in the Outer Isles for the rest of his long life.
His death devastated my grandmother. They had been married for fifty two years. I remember sitting with her in her bedroom, she who had always turned herself out so elegantly propped up in bed, an old singlet of my grandfather’s failing to conceal her droopy, withered breasts from my young eyes. Up to then I had never known the desolation of not being able to console another human being – or that old people ever cried. She wept and wailed and moaned, repeating: “I don’t want to live any more. What’s the use, what’s the use now he’s away? “
Live on she did, doggedly, for nine years, lightened only by a late addition to the family. I was fifteen when my brother was born. Granny was eighty two, and half way senile. The child was called Frederick, after Granddad; as the novelty wore off Granny slipped into senility, a querulous fractious husk, and finally just a husk, and a medical miracle, carried off at eighty six with her fourth bout of pneumonia.
I was at university when she died, having become so distant from her by then that I felt nothing but a vague sense of relief ….
“I’ve found it !” I had fallen behind my sister in my reverie. She was standing about twenty yards away; I hurried to the spot. It was a plain, simple grave. A low railing ran round it. The headstone was in sandstone, with only the facts of their births and deaths etched on it in gold lettering. Noting with satisfaction, which my grandmother would have shared, the absence of ‘fancy versification’, I stood and looked at the grave.
Without any warning, for I had felt quiet and composed, there was a rush and a roar in a deep silent centre of my being; a torrent of desolation and grief swept through me. I wept and wept and wept, quite uncontrolled.
There they were, half my being. Where had it all gone: the passion of their early love; the conception of their children; her sweat and blood and pain as she thrust my father into the world; their quarrels, silences, love, laughter, loneliness and grief; their shared and separate lives? And this was it. On a hot beautiful day with the sea lapping on the shore and the seabirds wheeling and diving, a few bits of cloth and bone under the earth, an iron railing and a stone above.
I was not weeping just for them. Overwhelmed by total awareness of my own mortality and that of all human beings before and after me, I had never felt so stricken, so vulnerable, so alone.” (i)
The second piece, however, written in the autumn of 1971, at the end of the Neptune transit to the IC, whilst Neptune was 0 Sagittarius, shows that something else was now emerging from the underworld which would offer me inspiration and support :
(The ‘pibroch’ referred to is the music of lament played on the Scottish bagpipes)
“ It was a clear autumn evening. Peter called just after seven; he was going out to practice some pibroch. Would I like to come along? It was a rare time of balance – in the weather, in the satisfaction of work which was still new enough to be stimulating, in the fact that Peter and I were falling in love.
Peter drove several miles out of town, winding slowly up deserted country roads to a hill above a small village. Taking out the pipes he began to blow them up, and after much tinkering began to play. To avoid distracting him, I strolled slowly down the road. Peter was standing on a bank of grass at the top of the hill; on his left was a little wood. On the other side of the road was a ditch thick with whin bushes.
Beyond the ditch was a rusty, sagging fence; on the far side of the fence, smooth, mossy moorland dotted with whins, their vivid yellow colour fading into the deepening dusk. In the distance I could just see the Highland hills, purple and rust, gathering shadows in the autumnal twilight.
A myriad of stars, taking their lead from Venus, was growing bright with increasing intensity. A mellow harvest moon was slowly rising, casting a glow on the hills. The air held a hint of cold. I could feel the melancholy music of the bagpipes flowing through me like a magical current.
Reaching the foot of the hill, surrendering myself completely to the intensity of the moment, I lay down in the middle of the road. Spreading out my arms, I gazed up at the stars.
A gentle breeze blew over my body, soughing through the reedy grass. Drifting with the music through the night sky, slipping away from awareness of myself or the present, I was a timeless spirit of the air, travelling the vastness of space on the notes of the pibroch. An unobtrusive rhythm, a pulse, began to beat; growing more and more steady, it became a whispering message in my mind :
‘ There is nothing to fear,’ it said. ‘ There is nothing to fear.’
An image of my lying dead, under the earth, came to me. Such images, occurring at other times, had filled me with panic and disgust. Now, there was none of that. I could gladly have died at that moment; my flesh would return to the earth and nourish it, my spirit would soar to infinity. The pulse continued, flooding me with its light :
‘ There is nothing to fear, nothing to fear, nothing to fear….’
At that point of spiritual ecstasy, I felt the absolute reality of my soul.
Such a moment might have lasted a second, an hour, or a hundred thousand years; but the music ceased, and the chill which was gradually taking over my body drew me back gently into the present…….” (ii)
The knowledge that such a vitalizing sense of connectedness was possible, glimpsed during the above experience, kept me going through the long struggle to believe that life had an overall meaning, and to find my own way of offering my energy creatively in the years which were to follow.
When Uranus crossed the South Node/IC in 1980/81, I began to study astrology, thereby fulfilling a prediction made by an astrologer I had casually encountered in a laundrette in Bath in England in the early 1970s. I also met, moved in with and later married my partner – his Scorpio Moon is conjunct my IC and South Node, and he has an Aquarian Sun and Venus. All very appropriate symbolism for the timing of the Uranus IC transit !
His steadfast support, combined with the deep awareness of teleology which many years’ practice of astrology brings, have been vital for my personal and professional growth and development from the time Uranus crossed the IC until now, (ie end 1995-early 1996) as Pluto moves off that point.
When Pluto was still transiting the IC, but from Sagittarius, I applied and was accepted for a major astrological study course. The very day that Pluto was exactly on the South Node and about to cross the IC for the last time saw me beginning the first year of study. I felt a powerful sense of standing on firm inner ground after the turbulence and trauma of the last few years – of being in the right place at the right time, of having done what I could, for now, with my family inheritance – of being ready to move on to the next growth cycle.
Now that the outer planets have crossed the IC and moved into the Western hemisphere of my Horoscope, I feel liberated from much of the pathology of the past, and more able to use directly in the world the undoubted creativity inherited with it. Nor do I need any longer to make bargains with the shadowy figures who emerge when the light of day is dimming….
i & ii : Both extracts have been published both together and separately in several articles in the USA, the UK and Australia, eg in “Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” which appeared in the UK’s Astrological Journal, 1996, and was then reprinted in Considerations magazine (USA) in the same year.
“Of Cerberus and Blackest Midnight Born” is a quote from ‘L’Allegro’ by the English poet John Milton
Is it Covid, or is it me? Or you? I am finding, these days, that Time seems to drag interminably on the one hand, and whizz by at warp speed on the other. Coming round slowly as usual over my morning cuppa (not a morning person, me…) I was jolted awake by realising that it’s almost Midsummer. How did that happen? It seemed like it was the Spring Equinox about five minutes ago. Much has happened/not happened since then…depends on what level of lockdown you’ve been enduring where you are, I guess!
So, I thought I’d revisit the post I wrote for the UK’s Astrological Journal at the time of the Spring Equinox 2021: taking stock, as it were, of where we were then, and where we are now, as Midsummer approaches. Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome!
Normally, I don’t have too much bother coming up with a column topic. The idea usually lands in my mind either days or weeks before the deadline. If it refuses to go away and bother someone else, I know it’s mine to tackle. Either that, or final deadline looming has a miraculously stimulating effect on my inert capacity for creative cogitation.
Not this time.
I have been in what can best be described as ‘zombie slug’ mode, as the latest covid lockdown has deprived all of us of most activity involving direct social contact with our fellow human beings. I share the apprehension of many worldwide who have been shocked at the full frontal assault on democracy provoked by Trump in the dying embers of his less than successful presidency. Tomorrow, 20th January 2021, is Inauguration Day in the USA.
What shape is 2021 going to take? The astrology of the new Air Era which began on 2020’s Winter Solstice has produced much commentary from me and fellow astrologers across the globe. I feel dispirited at the thought of coming up with anything relevant to say in my current mood.
However, dragging myself out into the dank, cold, grubby murk of a city morning for the usual walk, I found the cheery defiance of new season’s snowdrops sprouting merrily in the local park more inspiring than ever before. Their simple yet powerful reminder that Life goes on despite the antics of humans, cheered me up.
‘I know!” I thought. “I’m going to have a look at the 2021 Spring Equinox horoscope – and not allow myself to be intimidated by knowing that knowledgeable and erudite commentaries from experienced mundane astrologers are even now being penned the length and breadth of lands various…’. ( yes, I know no-one pens anything very much any more…it’s just a figure of speech)
After three days’ procrastination, a much cheerier mood prevails as I begin perusing this year’s Spring Equinox chart. The USA now has a presidential President in Joe Biden; despite the pall of covid hanging over us all, he set the tone for an inspiring Inauguration.
And the women – wow!
First off, we now have the first black/South Asian female Vice Ppresident: two firsts rolled into the formidable Kamala Harris. Next up, the accomplished Dr Jill Biden as FLOTUS. Then Lady Gaga’s knockout rendition of the USA’s national anthem. And the magnificent poem performed superbly by 22 year old Amanda Gorman.
Also: in the roll-call of Biden appointments, this from CNN on Inauguration day:
“At least six major news networks have assigned women to lead White House coverage of the Biden administration, raising the profile of female journalists in an institution long dominated by men”(i)
But more on the women shortly…
This Spring Equinox horoscope certainly holds some cheer for us: Jupiter is closely conjunct the Aquarian MC, trine Gemini rising, as he moves away from Saturn. Both Saturn from the 9th house and Jupiter from the 10th are trine a 12th house Moon/North Node/Mars combination in Gemini. This suggests some cautious optimism and focused energy arising behind the scenes in our world-wide community, with plenty new ideas coming slowly to the fore – hopefully as the covid infection and death rates slowly fall with the gradual rise and impact of mass vaccination programmes.
That Jupiter on an Aquarian MC does suggest that rich male benefactors with a social conscience might divert some of their squillions toward the common good – eg helping to get the world vaccinated. Come on, Besos and Musk. Step up!! ( ps 8.6.21: They haven’t as yet…what a surprise.)
Meanwhile, we are in for a whole year of Saturn square Uranus, which first kicked off from March to July 2020. This year, their squares are exact at the following points: February17th (7 deg Aquarius/Taurus) + June 14th (13 deg Aquarius/Taurus) + Dec 24th (11deg Aquarius/Taurus). Much has already been said, and will be repeated as 2021 unfolds, concerning the intractable and potentially violent taking up of intransigent, polarised positions politically and culturally from which we have suffered so much in the year just gone.
However, as I reflected on the many variations on the battle between the old and new order arising already from this alarming square, my eye fell on the Venus/Neptune conjunction, sitting right next to the equinoctal Aries Sun.
I realised that its 24 deg Pisces midpoint fell on the Saturn/Uranus midpoint. Suddenly – honestly, I’m not making this up! – a vivid image came to me: Gustave Moreau’s 1866 painting of ‘Venus Rising from the Sea’. I’ve always preferred this version of the mythical birth of Venus (from the severed genitals of mythical sky god Uranus castrated by his mythical offspring Saturn and cast into the briny, supposedly off the coast of Cyprus …) to Sandro Botticelli’s much more demure Venus, painted sometime in the 1480s, arriving onshore draped prettily within a seashell. Moreau’s Venus, as can be seen from the accompanying image, is much more authoritative, tougher- looking in her beauty – pretty formidable, in fact.
(No – I could not resist checking my battered copy of Michelson’s wonderful Tables of Planetary Phenomena to see what was going on in 1866. Yes – in July and August that year, there were significant Saturn/Uranus aspects: with Saturn at 6 deg Scorpio waxing trine Uranus at 6 deg Cancer + Saturn at 7 deg Scorpio waxing trine Uranus at 7 deg Cancer. Some co-incidence, eh?!)
Now – back to the formidable, authoritative women who are very much part of our current world picture.
In 2019, we had Greta Thunberg coming to the fore with the South Node conjunct Saturn/Pluto in the Spring, taking ineffectual male politicians to task in the face of a building world-wide climate crisis, and winding up as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. She succeeded in turning vague anxieties about the planet into a worldwide movement calling for global change.
My Jan/Feb 2021 NTAC column concerned the provocative ‘silver blob’ commemorative statue to Mary Wollestonecraft, arguably the world’s first publicly influential feminist via her famous 1792 tract ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ and mother of the prescient Mary Shelley. Shelley warned us – via ‘Frankenstein’ published in 1818 – of the consequences of science being allowed to run unchecked by either compassion or ethics.
That statue, unveiled on 10th November 2020, succeeded in raising the ire of women across a wide spectrum – in the same week that Kamala Harrismade history by becoming Joe Biden’s Vice President. The horoscope of the statue’s launch – which includes the four key female asteroids Ceres, Juno, Pallas, and Vesta – shows strong, combative female energy being very much to the fore, reflecting in microcosm what is currently going on across the world. Female leaders from Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon to New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Germany’s Angela Merkelare generally making a better job of leading their countries through the covid crisis than their male counterparts.
I was powerfully struck by the arrival of Moreau’s formidable Venus in my mind’s eye as I contemplated the Spring Equinox’s Venus/Neptune in Pisces in relation to that intractable-looking Saturn/Uranus square. It strongly suggested this to me: if the angry and dangerous stances of opposing camps are to be slowly dissolved and gradually transformed into more constructive, co-operative positions as this (yet another!) crisis year for the world unfolds, it is likely to be the energies of formidable, authoritative, powerful, compassionate women which play a significant part in enabling such a transformation…
I was born at the very end of Moondark, with the Moon only three degrees behind the Sun, and both those Lights plus three other planets in the twelfth house of my horoscope. So – twelfth house/Balsamic/Moondark phases of any month, year or indeed planetary cycle whether progressed or by transit affect me very deeply and interest me profoundly.
I have learned over decades to live with those complex stages reasonably productively, so I hope that my musings in this post during the approaching Moondark of the whole year of 2020/21 will provide productive food for thought and appropriate contemplation!
Moondark describes the end of any cycle – the 12th house phase – whether we are contemplating the monthly Sun/Moon one or the epoch-defining 500 year long Neptune/Pluto cycle. It is the time of withdrawal and dissolution of energy – think of wintertime, the stripped trees, the cold, barren earth – a time of dark power in which the old order dies at a number of different levels, so that fertile energy can emerge from the womb of the night.
It occurred to me some years ago that this ancient astronomical pattern of the yearly phases of the Sun/Moon relationship and its attendant meaning in the yearly cycle had been taken up and overlaid – as with so many of the old pagan yearly traditions – by Christianity. Easter and Christ’s Resurrection could be roughly mapped onto the return of the Sun to the Northern Hemisphere around the 20th of March each year, followed by the Aries New Moon and the beginning of Spring.
In Christianity, the forty days preceding Easter when Christ retreated into the wilderness to wrestle with various temptations, to fast and to pray, is known as Lent: a time of watching, waiting, self-denial, contemplation and prayer.
The March/April period each year is also observed at various times by other religious traditions including Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism. The ancient longing, waiting for the return of the Sun to the Northern Hemisphere and with it the renewal of Spring has deep roots: to a time when our ancestors’ whole existence was predicated closely upon the path of the Sun and the Sun/Moon relationship.
Thus, despite all the sophisticated technological trappings of 21st Century living, my feeling – based on observation of my own, my clients’ and students’ lives over several decades – is that at a deep psychological level these ancient patterns still affect us whether we are consciously aware of them or not.
That wonderfully poetic astrological writer Dana Gerhardt puts it beautifully:
“…Balsamic begins with the waning Sun/Moon semi-square. The Moon is a slim Crescent, forty-five degrees behind the Sun…Our physical energy is necessarily as low as our psychic energy is high. We’re at a threshold, ending one cycle while anticipating a new one round the corner. We might want to get into motion, but our bodies are tired. Our clarity and focus wane, like the Balsamic Moon herself, rising thinner and fainter each morning until she eventually disappears altogether, lost in the Sun’s glare. This is the Dark Moon.
Much of the time we won’t know whether we’re finishing up or leaning toward the future, whether we’re being truly psychic or simply dreaming – which is why this is a better period for introspection than for action. Without the dormancy of winter, spring’s (or the New Moon’s) seeds cannot mature…”(i)
So – this is the Moondark phase of the whole of 2020/21 about to begin with the Pisces New Moon on Saturday 13th March. And – right now is the Moondark phase of the whole month from the New Moon in Aquarius on 11 February 2021. I feel pretty amazed that I was able to get out of bed today, never mind write a blog post! as Dana Gerhardt wisely says:
‘…this is a better period for introspection than for action…’
So – it might be productive for us to spend some time just now and over the upcoming Pisces New Moon period in reflecting on the ending phases of those major cycles which we all share: the 11-12 year cycle of Jupiter, the 18-19 year cycle of the Moon’s Nodes, the 27-year cycle of the progressed Moon, the 29-30 year cycle of Saturn, and the 50 year cycle of Chiron.
What were you doing in the last year or so – the Moondark period – of each of those cycles? What had changed by the time the new cycle had begun to take shape after 1-2 years? Depending on your age, you may by now be able to look back through eg three or four or more cycles of Jupiter, or eg two cycles of Saturn? What themes can you detect which have unfolded through these cycles and repeats? I have really enjoyed working in this way over many years with my clients, students and mentorees – and myself. There is much understanding and learning to be gained from such reflection.
There is already plenty of commentary of varying quality across the Web regarding the nature of this upcoming Pisces New Moon, and what we might expect it to bring. I’ll be sharing (on this blog’s Facebook Page) one or two of what I think are the best of those writings as the Pisces New Moon waxes.
At a personal level, we will need to ‘go with the flow’, disruptive though it may well be, as much as we can. It’s a good time for letting things hang loose, not making any definite plans and expecting if we do, that things may very well not go smoothly.
At a collective level, what strikes me most powerfully as this zodiacal year ends is how weary we all are now of the lockdowns and restrictions necessitated since last March 2020 by attempts with varying degrees of success to control the Covid pandemic sweeping the world. There is increasing hope, as Spring gathers pace, that we will gain some freedom at last as the pace of vaccination speeds up, and the rates of infection gradually diminish.
So – let’s hope that we can all keep our heads above turbulent waters, and learn a bit more from whatever experiences come our way, as the month unfolds prior to the Aries New Moon on 12th April, the true beginning of the astrological New Year…
Well, it’s been a week! At the moment of writing, I suspect that my esteemed colleague and UK’s Astrological Journal editor Victor Santo Olliver is lying down in a dark room with a wet cloth on his forehead, recovering from no less than twelve radio interviews in the space of a few days, all devoted in essence to explaining why Ophiuchus is not and never has been a zodiacal sign.
If you have been hiding in a damp cave somewhere far away with no access to social media and have therefore not been exposed to the huge pointless fuss, first of all this short piece of mine from a previous Ophiuchus-fest will give you the bare facts of the matter. You may also wish to read a much longer, more erudite article by respected astrologer Deborah Houlding going into the issue in more depth.
Next, do read this Press Gazette piece in which Victor is quoted, which should give you some insight into the media’s generally hardening attitude towards astrology and the reasons for this.
I left a comment on Victor’s Facebook Page where he’d shared the above article, to the effect that what he had said was as ever, clear, accurate and to the point. I then went away and thought about the whole issue of why this especially frenetic attack by the media – producing many, many articles by a range of astrologers refuting what was being said – had flared up at this time.
For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts, with thanks to Victor for stimulating them:
In this time of uncertainty and fear we are living through, I can understand why in general terms the media are trying to root out inaccurate misrepresentation –or fake news – which is dangerous in the political and cultural sphere. However, it seems clear that using this as an opportunity yet again to attack astrology is just another example of the left brain versus right brain cultural wars which have intensified ever since the scientific revolution of the 17th century.
A long-term problem is that the left brain cohort have never taken the trouble to investigate the large differences that exist between two discrete types of astrology. The ‘astrology lite’ of the popular press – at its best! – is well written by intelligent and thoughtful people and helps to put the lives of we small individuals into the context of a meaningful bigger picture, if only for a few moments of reflection in a busy day.
This astrology fronts a deeper, more powerful in-depth practice requiring years of study and practice to master at any useful level; It has a 6000 + year old tradition upon which to draw in terms of observation of the interaction between our solar system and the collective/ individual lives of the humans who inhabit it.
However, the standard bearers of the left brain cohort e.g. Dawkins and Cox, have never taken the trouble to embark on any in-depth study which would reveal the power and value of that astrology which lies behind its popular mask.
I was an astrology dismisser myself many years ago, until I took the trouble to embark on some serious study of the art and science which is astrology (since its major strength lies in combining right and left brain perspectives on the human condition) and have been a practitioner ever since. Until ignorant and prejudiced people decide to exhibit a little humility in properly investigating a deep and powerful field of knowledge before dismissing it, I fear we astrologers are not going to make any progress in reducing the increasing levels of prejudice which are being directed against us.
My own personal approach to this, and I know it is the approach of many fellow astrologers whose work I respect, is to ‘hold the line’ as it were by demonstrating through respectful, ethical, and well-informed and trained practice, an in-depth astrology which has been helpful and enlightening to innumerable numbers of people throughout history.
I think that engaging with an increasingly polarised and nasty public debate on this is pretty futile; all we can usefully do is set a good example by quality practice, as I have said above.
However, in the spirit of exchanging views, agreeing to differ, and not vilifying one another in the process, I realise that not everyone shares this view!
Well, as they say, it has been a week! Mine peaked – or troughed – late on Friday afternoon just after I had posted Part 1and shared it on my Astrology: Questions and Answers Facebook Page, when Facebook locked me completely out of my whole Facebook account, allegedly ‘to protect the security of our community’. You are my readers: do you think you need protection from me? (answers, on a plain postcard…)
Anyway, cutting a very long and tortuous story short, a saga ensued which involved utterly futile attempts to find an appropriate route through algorithmic obfuscations. In the end, my third email to the source of the previous (algorithmic) ones must have been so pungent (not rude, just pungent) that my account was suddenly restored late last night. I was most relieved, since I had been expecting a long haul – in keeping with two similar episodes in the last year – before what passes for normal service was restored.
Judging from the comments left on Part 1, both on my own blog/astrology Facebook Page and on the Pages of colleagues who kindly shared the post, there has indeed been a lightening of mood with some of us consequent upon this shift; an increase in matters communicative and educational/philosophically reflective in others; and, like me, downright disruption, despite which I too feel a lightening of mood this week. This has modified my feelings of exasperation and of being overwhelmed by matters Gemini/Sagittarius!
Back to Basics
This variation in responses and experiences neatly leads into a reminder of some basic principles, also reiterated by Dr Liz Greene in her second webinar on Chiron which I attended yesterday (9th May 2020): when considering the likely impact of any transit, including the Nodes, you need to remember that the transit invokes the basic nature and strength of the original pattern in the natal horoscope, bringing it into relationship with whatever opportunities/challenges the current transit is offering.
My own horoscope will serve as a case in point, but readers can easily apply the same principles to their own horoscopes and current transits. I’ve used a Whole Sign format for the houses.
(I’m assuming readers have a basic familiarity with what the Nodal Axis represents. For those who do not, here is a quick summary.)
Anne W Horoscope
As can be seen, the Nodal Axis is bolted exactly onto the MC/IC axis in the ninth/third houses, very appropriate for a career which has always involved teaching and education in one form or another: all the way from teaching Liberal Studies to bricklayers and gas fitters, through to university entrance qualifications in English to mature students, and thereafter to supervision of social work trainees, and latterly via astrology classes to any and every occupation – from bus driving to psychiatric consultancy.
When you add in that powerful pattern’s being part of a fixed T-Square with the twelfth House Sun/Moon conjunction, also taking in third house Jupiter in Scorpio widely conjunct the IC/South Node, you can see the powerful symbolic role played in the unfolding path of my life’s journey by the Moon’s Nodes. I’ve even written a research study about them!
So – it’s hardly surprising that their shift this week has been very challenging for me. In addition to circumstances already described in Part 1, I’ve been having one of my periodic“What am I supposed to be doing with the rest of my life/ I need some new input!! ”Mercury/Jupiter crises. You’d think at my age I’d have settled that one. No such luck…
The Nodes’ journey through the natal chart
The stronger the links are, then, between natal planets and Angles with the Nodal axis, the more powerfully we will experience the symbolic impact of that axis as it regresses through our horoscopes, taking 18 months to go through each sign and house – pulling the potent twice yearly eclipse seasons with it – taking 18-19 years to return to its natal position. It will bring the core challenges of that natal pattern along to whatever sign, house and planetary aspects it happens to be making in that 18-19 year journey.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Nodal shift into Gemini/Sagittarius and my tenth/fourth houses has already brought up powerful issues centring round having to balance the demands of domestic and vocational life. With the North Node conjunct the MC strongly pushing me to favour my vocational path, I’ve always been dragged back, usually unwillingly, to the South Node/IC position to deal with domestic matters from which I was unable to escape. It’s taken me decades to arrive at a reasonable balance between those two poles.
‘…Identifying with the South Node position too strongly means leading a life which depends on using the abilities we already have to keep us safe from risk, challenge and therefore growth; whose main priority is comfort; whose mode is a habitual and largely automatic response to life.
Taking up the challenge of the North Node, on the other hand, brings with it a life which feels meaningful and open to new experience; which takes opportunities to develop innate talents and new insights and skills through responding positively to the impetus for change; whose mode is of acceptance of conflict and discomfort as a necessary part of developing as a person.
At the heart of the fullest, most creative expression of the struggle both collectively and individually lies a deep paradox – to move on as human beings we must individuate, follow the path of the North Node, and leave the South Node behind. But we must also make the return journey, to honour that which we ideally do not leave behind at all, but incorporate in our movement towards our own destiny…’(i)
This personal example serves to illustrate a vital point about the Nodal Axis which applies to us all. We have to honour the challenges of the whole axis as our life path unfolds…
The current Nodal picture
Along with many of us, I’ve found the Nodal Axis’ transit through Cancer/Capricorn, crossing Saturn/Pluto in mid 2019 along the way, to be especially painful in terms of family, loss, and having to restructure life in ways that I would definitely not have chosen. No wonder the Moon’s Nodes, especially when they link with Pluto, have such a fated ‘feel’ to them. This was certainly one of the stand-out conclusions at which I arrived as a result of my own research into the Nodes.
I do not need to remind any of us of what a battering our world community has taken from the winter of 2018/9 as the Nodes have regressed through Cancer/Capricorn, culminating in the rise and spread of the grim pandemic now engulfing the world as the Nodal Axis shifts. Through the corona virus, our planet seems to be telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to radically change the way we live on planet Earth.
It’s fascinating to me as an astrologer (and I’m sure many other astrologers also think the same thing) that the shift of the Nodes into Gemini/Sagittarius has co-incided with several distinctive collective shifts. Here are just a few examples: One, the restlessness and desire to ease lockdown which is becoming more manifest in different countries despite the risk that certainly poses. Humans can only endure severe restriction for so long. We are too restless as a species, and this particular Nodal shift is amplifying that restlessness.
Also noticeable has been that the international search for a vaccine which would gradually bring us greater freedom has been ramping up, producing some promising results eg in the UK where human trials have already begun.
Furthermore at a more negative level for humans, though beneficial for the planet, has been the dawning of a realisation coming into clear focus now: the aviation industry, that supreme ally of human restlessness, is in severe trouble. We may never again be able to take to the air and see the world in the same relatively cheap and carefree way that we’ve come to take for granted in recent decades…
In conclusion– something else which strikes me as apt, and significant, is the North Node’s current presence in airy Gemini, midwifing the Air era beginning at this year’s winter solstice with the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction’s dramatic arrival at 0 degrees of Aquarius. We are going to need the adaptability of Gemini and the optimism and vision of Sagittarius as we step into the great collective adventure of the next two hundred years!
Honestly, I wasn’t going to bother writing about the Nodes’ ingress into Gemini/Sagittarius…until it happened on the morning of Tuesday 5th May 2020 (if you go by the True Node – more on this later) during the first formal zoom tutorial with my student group.
Immediately following this my week exploded into a flurry of admin, dealing with annoying domestic detail, numerous phone calls at inconvenient moments eg when I was struggling to make sense of my tax return, zoom chats, teaching – and group participation via two seminars, one on Saturday planned for some time, the other on Sunday, arising from a zoom meeting with a friend and colleague today. This upcoming weekend is suddenly full of zoom, zoom, and more zoom!
I haven’t been feeling hugely inspired of late, but the extraordinary ramping up of all things Gemini/Sagittarius in my life this week with the Nodes’ shift from Cancer/Capricorn has truly got me going. This shift places the North Node in my tenth house, South Node in the fourth house; my week has been characterised thus far by considerable frustration as I struggled to free myself from the grip of admin etc etc centred on matters concerning my domestic life, in order to follow the promptings of the North Node in the tenth and get on with writing my A A Journal column and another piece of writing still gestating.
The manifestations of this shift for me were so striking that I really feel inspired once again to return to reflecting on the Moon’s Nodes, and in this post, on the significance ofingresses. Planetary ingresses (entries) into signs have fascinated me ever since I began to study astrology and to realise the striking correlation between newspaper headlines on the day after a planet had shifted from one sign to another, and events in the wider world. At one time I had a whole file full of dramatic press cuttings illustrating this eg a photograph of the Japanese city of Kobe on fire following a massive earthquake on 17th January 1995 – just as Pluto shifted into Sagittarius.
But what of ingresses which are not planetary, ie the ingresses of the Moon’s Nodes which we are discussing here? Is it worth paying attention to these points of ingress in personal life? Or collective life? Have you had any striking experiences this week illustrating the energetic shift of the Nodes from one pair of signs to another? Has your mood lightened ( despite lockdown) in response to the Nodal shift from water and earth (Cancer/Capricorn) to air and fire (Gemini/Sagittarius)?
I’d be interested in my readers’ thoughts on this topic, whilst I write in some more detail about the Moon’s Nodes in general, and in Gemini/Sagittarius, for next week.