Festive Greetings as 2015 closes: an Invocation for the turning year…

O Great Spirit,

as this Northern winter season slowly turns to meet the gradually emerging life of Spring and its lengthening, warming days, help us to live more peacefully with one another on this planet Earth, tiny amidst the vastness of the Cosmos. Despite our insatiable hunger for knowledge, our technological brilliance, who we are, where we are, and why we are here at all remains shrouded in deepest mystery.

Northern Lights at Stenness Stones, Orkney
Northern Lights at Stenness Stones, Orkney

Help us to be more humble in realising how much growing we must do as a human collective in order to emerge a little more from the primeval savagery of our tumultuous instincts which still appear to dominate the way we live, threatening now the very fabric of Earth herself.

Help us to be aware of the interconnectedness of all things in the Heavens above, and in the Earth below. Help us to realise that what we do to the Earth, ultimately we do to ourselves.

In the meantime, as Susan Cooper’s wonderful solstice poem has told us to do, let’s carol, fest, give thanks, dearly love our friends – and hope for peace.

Blessings, everybody! And many, many thanks to all my blog Followers, Commenters and visitors old and new for your support of my writing, for your wit, and for your wisdom.  

Standing Stones in Winter
Standing Stones in Winter

250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“…to deal more kindly with one another…” A Big Picture perspective from the late Carl Sagan

Like everyone else, I have been feeling crushed and deeply dispirited by the dreadful events in France last Friday, and now Mali today. I’ve also been feeling the need to post something on my blog by way of response. Thanks to Robert Bruce over at 101 Books, I found a wonderful quote from the late scientist Carl Sagan which offers a large enough perspective to encompass the horrors currently happening across our beautiful planet.  It was inspired by an image of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990 from a distance of more than 6 billion kilometres. In it, our Earth appears as a tiny dot against a background of  muted slanting bands of colour. I have taken the liberty here, though,  of illustrating the quotation with the most famous picture of the Earth ever taken:

Our beautiful planet
Our beautiful planet

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

I took some comfort from this wise statement. What do you think of what Sagan says here? Do you have favourite quotes to which you turn in dark times?


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


To change the world – start in your own back yard!

We don’t need astrologers to tell us we are living in a period of remarkable turbulence and change. The evidence is all around us: from our teetering and corrupt banking systems, to the declining health of Planet Earth whose dominant species, humans, at current rates of consumption require the resources of three and a half planet earths to sustain us. Amongst many problems greatly on the increase against this backdrop are obesity, social inequality, the social and economic burdens of an ageing population – and fast rising anxiety and depression rates.

Our Beautiful Planet:Facebook
Our Beautiful Planet/Facebook

Apparently the overall index of increased happiness as material prosperity grew, peaked in the mid-seventies, then declined. The rot, it seems, set in in 1976….

However, humans have always been incredibly adaptable creatures and there is plenty of room for optimism in the midst of the current gloom. We are poised collectively on an interesting cusp, which many people see as the pivotal point of recognition that the materialist project which has so dominated all life since the rise of Age of Reason in the 18th Century is crumbling, and a new world order or paradigm is emerging.

Materialism has brought us incredible advances, but is bringing our planet and the systems governing our collective lives, to a dangerous edge.

The new paradigm emerging, in essence, invites us to respect and work with the ecological balance of our home planet. It also invites us to recognise that there are many levels to “Reality” – the material level is just one of these. It is not suggesting that we should attempt to put the genie of progress back in the bottle and recreate a “Golden Age” which never existed.

It invites us to go forward into the future bearing the best that scientific and material progress has to offer, but also the best of what human civilisation has distilled over its six thousand years of social evolution which offers proven nourishment of both a physical and spiritual nature to all life on Planet Earth.

We can see evidence of this new paradigm’s emergence all over the planet in large and small ways. To give just one example, the principles of the “Slow Food” movement which began in Italy over two decades ago have taken root and flourished all over the world.

All of us, at a collective, local, and personal level have a part we can play in this paradigm shift. I have been posting now for several years, reporting the remarkable developments taking place in our local area of the city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, via The Children’s Wood campaign which promotes outdoor education and community activity  via a precious patch of wild land  – which we are fighting to save from the clutches of developers.

Children's Wood Protest
Children’s Wood Protest

What’s happening where you are?

Drop by. Comment. Do let me know!


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015/ ‘Not for Sale!’ Photo copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Desperately Seeking Annie: Swimming in a secret sea (iii)

Where does the longing come from?

Early memories may carry clues – tucked up in bed, cosy and warm, safe and sound, listening to the winter North wind tearing the world apart. Night after night after night. Other nights, clear cold, wintry, still. Standing on the concrete of the garden path, gazing at the clear night sky above the roofs of the houses at the top of Ellison Road hill, awestruck with delight at the blaze of radiance dancing in the heavens. The Northern Lights, heavenly dancers.

(I have never seen them since childhood. It is my keen wish to see them again before I die.)

I used to ask myself : what vast Power generates the destructive energies of the wind, the visual delight of the Northern Lights? What are they for? Who performed the long, hard labour of setting upright on a Hebridean moor that great Neolithic astronomical calendar, the Callanish Stones? Why did they do it? What rites were performed there? What gods were honoured ?

Where does the longing come from?

For as long as I can recall, I have longed to know  why we are here, why the world with its staggering diversity of  teeming, turbulent life is here. I have tried to find out what our presence here may mean, whether it is random or not.

During my lifetime, the vast scale of  the Universe has been visually confirmed by the explorations of science far beyond the boundaries imagined by Darwin or Einstein. I have the Hubble images on my wall, and gaze at them every day. Their beauty, and the vastness they invoke, goes beyond the power of words to express.

We now know that our Universe is one of  many, that there may be a vast Multiverse: matrix from which arise countless Universes. We are so minute, here on planet Earth, the Solar System, The Milky Way Galaxy, home to millions of other stars. Why am I standing here, wondering why we are here and what it all means?

New Hubble Image: Carina Nebula
New Hubble Image: Carina Nebula


It’s a long way from the Metaverse to the eccentric Rev. Dr. de Sousa in his green plus fours and his rusty bicycle, teetering precariously from his gloomy rectory to his sombre church during the late nineteen fifties.The small island town in which I grew up, a place of some five thousand souls, was remarkably well served for churches in those days. There was no shortage of  Christian establishments in which I could place myself in an attempt to find some answers to my big WHY.

The Episcopal church was regarded with suspicion because of its uncomfortable perceived closeness to Rome.

There was the United Free Church, where Popery would have shrivelled to a cinder had it ever crossed the threshold. Serious Christianity was practised here. No flowers, no music (apart from precenting), definitely no graven images. An old testament God hung out here. Fun and laughter were not encouraged.

Then there were the Seceeders, whose precise denominational and doctrinal position remained a mystery to me throughout my youth. I knew they had split off from some other lot, and therefore regarded themselves as “a cut above” – but above what, I never quite established.

Then there was the plain old Church of Scotland. The minister, a mild, thin, bookish looking soul who had been at school with my father, bore the distinctly uninspiring nickname of “Optic” which had stuck with him since his very short-sighted schooldays. His spectacles, I was convinced, really were made out of the bottoms of milk bottles.

I used to attend his sermons with hair rollers under my Sunday hat as a mute and invisible but satisfying form of protest. He had had a charisma bypass, and took boredom to punishing levels. However, I always liked the Benediction at the end …...In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost…” it always seemed to come from somewhere other  than him, although he was saying the words. This sense never failed to confuse me…..

We went there on our intermittent forays to Church, depending on whether inertia or guilt dominated my mother’s frame of mind on a Sunday evening. Trips to Church were usually minus my father, apart from hatches, matches and despatches.

A spiritualist medium, describing my father’s wayward character to me with remarkable and eerie accuracy not long after his death, said he was a man “who knew his God.” Wherever Dad’s God hung out, it was not in any of the establishments on offer in our mid-20th century small Scottish town.

Personally, long before my encounter with the medium, I always thought my father’s God was out there in the distant hills where he went to poach deer, or in the eye of a storm at sea.  Not that we ever talked about such matters. The only time we ever discussed my spiritual life was when, aged twelve, I realised that I could not face replacing the utter tedium of seven years of Sunday School with the probable continuing tedium of Bible Class, which is where you went on entering secondary education.

An epiphany prompted my nervous and tentative approach to my father. We had recently aquired a Readers’ Digest World Atlas, a huge book which I could barely lift. I was riveted by a double page spread of the whole world, with countries coloured in according to religion. I realised that day how many world religions there were.

Although Christianity appeared to hold its own across the world, it was visually clear  that the great majority of the world’s population – which was a mere two and a half billion in total when I was doing my big religious sums – believed in something else altogether.

I then looked for the tiny isles of the Outer Hebrides, coloured Christian pink. Next, the top island where I lived, barely discernible in the context of the whole world. A wave of inescapable logic washed me away that day. It simply did not make sense that a few thousand members of eg the Free Church of Scotland considered themselves to be right and saved, leaving almost the total remaining population of the world wrong and damned regardless of the integrity and sincerity of their differing beliefs.

My mind buzzing with this powerful realisation, I told my father that I didn’t want to go to Bible Class. I now wanted to do some of my own reading and work out religion for myself.  “Fine” he said. “Don’t go, then.”

At the age of twelve, that was it for me and Christianity, for a very long time, although I continued under pressure to attend church intermittently and always enjoyed singing the hymns at hatches, matches and despatches.

The longing, however, continued, like a barely audible ghost of a sound, echoing my heartbeat….


To read the first two parts of “Swimming in a secret sea” click HERE

The next episode will be


Not Finding

Fortunately, it was a peat bank we hit. That cushioned the impact, saving the car from much damage. Uncle Patrick had stopped singing “Abide with me”: for once, he was completely silent. Perhaps he was wondering how to get the car out of the ditch. Aunt Maria, white faced, was leaning over into the back of the car where I had been jolted onto the floor behind the driver’s seat. No one had heard of seatbelts  in the 1950s. “Are you all right, dear?” she said anxiously. “I think so,” I said. “Maybe I’ve bruised my knee, that’s all.” ….

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)


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


Astrology as a healing and a wounding art

Ten years ago, with Chiron crossing my IC/South Node , I was drawn to reflecting on my involvement with astrology both as a student, practitioner and teacher. The result was “Astrology as a Healing and a Wounding Art”, published in Apollon, The Journal of Psychological Astrology, in Issue 3, August 1999. Now, with Chiron, Jupiter and Neptune squaring my MC/IC/Nodes, it feels like an appropriate time to offer out the observations and insights of my then clients and  students to a new audience from a new context. Reading the article again after such a long time, their thoughtful comments still seem to me to be powerful and illuminating. I hope you enjoy and benefit from what they have to say.

The article will appear in three installments. It has been slightly edited. Names have been changed for confidentiality.

Part One: from Art into Real Life: the client’s view

“Teach me your mood, o patient stars
who climb each night the ancient sky.
Leaving no space, no shade, no scars,
no trace of age, no fear to die.”


We do not know why we are here. This could be said to be the primary wound of humankind. In order to assuage it, and in attempting to heal it, we have spun around ourselves a web of wonderful richness and intricacy, woven of many bright threads of myth, poetry, religious belief, art, sacred architecture, storytelling, music, adventurous quests of mind, body and spirit. Wars have been fought, and countless millions of lives destroyed, in the clash of differing religious beliefs, and socio-political theories, which have been created in our attempts to heal that primary wound by creating a sense of meaning and order.

However, despite the best efforts of the greatest minds throughout the whole of our history, we still don’t even know what consciousness is. Far less do we know why we tiny creatures, wonderfully creative and terrifyingly destructive, cling to planet Earth, an insignificant speck of planetary gravel hurtling through the vastness of infinite space.

Thus we need teleological frameworks more than ever. This need is reflected in the  proliferation of paths on the quest for meaning which seem to be opening up  as this new millennium begins. The longest trodden of them all, about to enter its seventh millennium, is astrology. Not only has it survived the onslaught  of contemporary science – but may even be seen in some quarters to be making alliances with it !

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

Wounding, healing and the art of astrology

It is important at this point to stress that astrology itself neither heals nor wounds. Having  arisen aeons ago from attempts to create a meaningful context to human life through observation of the physical movements of the planets in the heavens, whether such a framework is experienced as wounding or healing is heavily predicated upon the attitude of the individuals who choose to use it:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is  not  in our stars,
But in ourselves, that  we are underlings.”

(W.Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)

It is easy enough to talk about the positive healing benefits of an astrological framework, providing as it does a major defence against meaninglessness and insignificance. Feeling connected at a personal level to loved ones and friends is recognised as a major factor in promoting and maintaining physical, emotional and mental health and happiness. Feeling connected at a more cosmic level lets us see that  we are not random accidents in time and space, but threads in the weave of a greater pattern – very small threads perhaps, but contributors nevertheless. This awareness promotes a sense of spiritual well being.

There is also the sheer fun, excitement and intellectual discovery which the study of astrology brings.

The sense of wonder and significance which comes with realising, for example, that  one transiting aspect can and does produce a range of observable manifestations, all apparently different, which spring from the same core, never quite stops being thrilling no matter how long you’ve been a practitioner. Saturn in Scorpio squared my Moon during the nineteen-eighties. I don’t especially recall what the emotional challenges of the time were. But I still vividly remember that my favourite silver chain turned almost black for no reason at the start of the transit, resisting several jewellers’ attempts to clean it up. It was dumped at the back of a drawer. Just after the transit was over, I came across it again – as sparking bright as the day I got it.

Every bright light, however, has a dark shadow; in the promethean nature of our art  lies its shadow too. It is all very well to steal the gods’ fire, with the noble intention of  liberating humanity from some of its bonds with the powerful enlightenment which that fire brings.

But fire burns. It is impossible to light up the darkness of our human limitations of perception, without the hand that holds the illuminating fire being burned by it. It’s not so easy to talk about that. But it does less than justice, in exploring the impact of the astrological model on human consciousness, to concentrate on the healing aspects of the interaction,  whilst glossing over the wounding dimensions. Exposure to the model brings both.

The client’s view

Impetus in translating this essay from inner reflection to grounding in the actual world of people’s lives came, fittingly enough, from a recent chance encounter with a former client, Lisa, now aged thirty three. She was very excited about her imminent departure to live and work in California, and we talked about that. But then, quite unexpectedly, she brought up the subject of the one-off reading I had done for her eight years previously. In common with most astrologers, I am always interested in feedback from former clients, especially those with whom one only has a one -off encounter, and usually no idea of what the impact of the experience over time has been for them.

What she had to say was so clearly expressed that I invited her to email me with her comments, which she did. Here they are :

“ It must be about eight years since I came to you for a reading, but there are one or two things that stand out in my memory about that visit. The first was how accurately you were able to describe aspects of my character – I can’t pretend to understand it, but for some reason seeing it laid out in front of me was very reassuring. Perhaps because it gave validity to my personality. That was who I was, and you encouraged me to feel good and confident about that.

However, I think that the main benefit of that visit was the discussion relating to my decision making process. You said you imagined that I would find this quite difficult as there were three equally valid, and contradictory, aspects to my character. The outcome of that discussion was that I no longer got caught up in my inability to make a decision, something that used to cause me unnecessary stress. What I do now is to allow each of the viewpoints to surface until such time as the decision has to be made. It might seem like a simple thing, but it has had an enormous impact. Overall, I am less critical of myself. That’s got to be a good thing! ”

Lisa’s feedback was pleasing and illuminating to have. If compared  with feedback which other astrologers receive on the effect of their one-off sessions, I feel pretty confident that the core of it would be similar, although of course individual clients as Lisa did, would also emphasise individual themes peculiar to their own horoscope. Competent and sensitive astrological work, one hopes, has an impact on clients’ lives where the healing dimensions are very much to the forefront of their experience.

In trying to establish a general guideline for the interplay of healing and wounding in people’s response to exposure to the astrological model, one could use the simple image of light for healing, and dark for wounding, quite effectively. My feeling is, if we take a broad spectrum from very bright at one end to very dark at the other, that  one-off  consultations, well handled, with clients who are at the right point of readiness for the experience, would occupy a position very close to the brightest end of that spectrum.

Where individuals find themselves, of course, depends on a number of factors such as age, experience, maturity, sensitivity or otherwise, degree of stoicism, capacity for joy and faith in life, predisposition to depression, and so on. There is also  movement up and down the spectrum, depending on the same range of factors combined with what life chooses to dish up at  various points. So this image is only meant as a general reference tool !

Chiron the Wounded Healer
Chiron the Wounded Healer

However, experience and observation tell me that the more exposure there is to the astrological model, the more people’s position begins to shift from bright to darker, as the promethean implications of involvement  begin to emerge. As I write this I am thinking of a very bright and gifted male client, now in his mid-forties, who has been coming for astrological reviews every year or two for over a decade. His horoscope is rich and complex; at its heart lies a grand cross involving the Sun, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and the Nodes. This complex pattern links in with both his brightest gifts and his deepest pains, and we have worked with that pattern on sufficient occasions now for him to have developed a clear understanding of the paradoxes it brings.

On balance, he feels that  having the framework which astrology provides is more healing than wounding. But it doesn’t stop him, for example, fearing his Saturn transits, at the same time as he knows intellectually that the upcoming challenge of each one is to define who he is in the world more clearly, whilst jettisoning ever more of the painful old baggage which slows him down. He now knows that the problem with accepting Prometheus’ gift is that  under no circumstances can one give it back, even if one feels too vulnerable at times to be able to cope with it very well………..

to be continued

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