Isabel Hickey was my first wise woman mentor, and it would be many years before I met and studied with my “second wise woman” Alice Howell. (It was also at this time in 1968 that I read Carl Jung’s auto-biography: “Memories, Dreams, and Reflections”. Here was another mentor; it didn’t matter that he wasn’t alive or my personal mentor, he changed me by the story of his journey into the subconscious. It felt reassuring to know that there was more to life than the academics I had been learning, and that one can navigate into the unconscious Neptunian worlds and still survive. Today, a portrait of him hangs on the wall in my study—such was his effect on me.
After college I moved to San Francisco and studied psychology at the Institute for Integral Studies, and had the chance to meet one of my favorite writers, Alan Watts. He was one of the first to bring Eastern wisdom, such as Taoism, to America. He also wrote books such as “The Wisdom of Insecurity” which was a source of comfort for many of us at that time.
It was a rich learning experience in California, and yet as my life changed I felt drawn to return back East to New England again. While living in Cambridge, Massachusetts I discovered pottery and began making pottery in the basement of my house…this was to be a continuing thread; and a way of grounding and centering. (In the chapter on the Nodes you’ll see that I have no earth signs in my chart, except for the North Node, so the physicality of the clay seemed to compensate for that lack of earth. Later I married an Earth sign man, and found that he helped “ground” me, as well as the experience of mothering and living in a stone house.)
Back to the story: the clay had a strong hold on me. I tried doing other things but always came back to the clay—and then one day before Christmas while selling pots on the street in Harvard Square, I met someone that would lead me to Provincetown and my first pottery shop with two other women.
The life-thread of astrology was weak at this point in my life. But Spirit spoke to me through a Near-Death Experience at this time, and out of that experience came the message to be more patient with my life, to be grounded and fully present in all I did, and a reassurance that I would come back to deeper spiritual studies later in my life. And indeed, it was true. But marriage, family, and clay would need to come first.
One pottery shop led to another, and finally to meeting my husband, who was also a potter. We had a daughter and I loved being a mother. The family experience was wonderful and although hard at times, it was grounded in lots of idealism. We were quite successful with the pottery shop (being in the right place at the right time) and our daughter grew into a wise woman in her own way. (She now has two little wise women in-training!)
So fast forward some years, and I’m finding more time for reading and studying astrology—in fact, I remember I was reading a book called “Jungian Synchronicity in Astrological Signs and Ages” when I felt so inspired that I wrote the author to tell her how much I liked it. Then a couple of days later the phone rang, and it was the author, Alice Howell, inviting me to come to her study group at her home in the Berkshires. Here was my second wise woman.
Alice combined astrology with Jung and a grounded earthy presence; she and her husband Walter, and their little Cairn Terrier, lived on the top of a mountain in western Massachusetts. I would go to visit her often and also bring her pictures of my daughter and our little dog, a Cairn Terrier as well. We were alike in many ways, stubborn and head-strong, and both passionate about astrology. But she was my teacher; and a good one.
It was around this time that I had to make a decision. Should I take training to become a “certified astrologer” or instead go back to school for a Masters in Counseling Psychology? Alice didn’t have advanced degrees, or certification from astrological organizations, yet she was a great astrologer. With her inspiration I decided to go to graduate school and focus my studies on Jungian psychology while reading astrology constantly. I never jumped through any hoops of traditional certification and I still don’t think it’s necessary to do that.
But perhaps that’s not quite accurate. Many years later I was certified through Steven Forrest’s apprenticeship program which was excellent. But it wasn’t traditional; it didn’t involve learning the art of making a chart from scratch, or the 101 million details of this craft, but instead he focused on the soul centered aspect of astrology and how to translate astro-jargon into a language that would allow us to be competent astrological counselors. When I studied with Steven Forrest he was focused primarily on the South Node, whereas I was intrigued with the North Node. With his inspiration I wrote my first book: “North Node Astrology; Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose.”
There were other astrological “lights” that helped along the way; I met and studied with Greg Bogart, Steven Levine, and Liz Greene and others at the British Astrological Conferences that I would attend each year for about four years. I also studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland for a short time, but it was at the Theosophical Society in California later on that I was introduced to the work of the astrologer Dane Rudhyar, and to my “third wise woman” Annie Besant. Rudhyar’s work is brilliant, but it was Annie that grabbed my heart. She wasn’t an astrologer; but our charts are remarkably similar….
Annie Besant lived before my time, having died in 1933, but her life story grabbed me and changed my life. She was the English woman who was the head of the Theosophical Society, after Madame Blavatsky, and she was the one who adopted the young boy, Krishnamurti, out of India and raised him to be a spiritual teacher. He was known in the 1960’s as the “anti-guru Guru” because of his dislike of dogma.
Now Annie Besant wrote volumes on spiritual studies, but was never focused on astrology, although she wrote about it a little and highly respected it. However my “meeting” with Annie was profoundly astrological. The story goes like this: one day while visiting a quaint bookstore in Litchfield, Connecticut, I found a small book on the life of Annie Besant. I read it straight through that day and was completely awed by this courageous passionate pilgrim. Not only was she the leader of the movement that brought “New Age” ideas into the West; ideas such as reincarnation, karma, and spiritual evolution, but she also lead the first successful women’s strike in history—the strike of the match girls in 1875. She also published one of the first books on birth control and had her children taken away from her because this was consider immoral—the judge at her trial declared it was obvious she didn’t believe in the Christian Church doctrine, and was therefore unfit to be a mother. This woman, who’s been lost in history, was also President of India before Gandhi—but all that is her story, not mine. Except for an interesting twist—
Soon after reading my first book about Annie Besant, I went to the Redwood Library in Newport Rhode Island, and found an old and rare copy of a biography on her. I opened the hardcover of the book, and there was her astrology chart—! She was born exactly 100 years and 3 minutes before me, and our charts were very similar, though she was born in 1847 and I was born in 1947. We both have Libra Suns conjunct Venus on the Descendant, with Aries Rising, and squares between Mercury, Moon, and Mars. I can’t say what our karmic connection is, except that it is still an on-going one, as I return to the Theosophical Society in Ojai California each year and find myself discussing Theosophy and astrology there. The rest of our connection is yet to unfold…
Again back to the story: so after reading the book with the chart in it, I felt a strong calling to find out more about her; so I went to a psychic. The first thing she said was that “I was to be in a collaborative writing project with a woman named Annie”. I don’t remember anything else she said, but that was enough! That was all I needed to begin writing on her life, and not long after that my husband and I decided to move to Ojai California, where I studied, wrote, and taught about Annie Besant at Krotona Theosophical Society. This was the time of my Uranus Opposition at 41. This was also when my passion for astrology began again in earnest. If our charts hadn’t been so similar, would I have come? Probably.
So Annie brought me to Ojai California, but she also made it possible for me to meet up with two astrologers there: Sharon Russell and Helga Stern, who fanned the fire of my passion for astrology. We would take long walks discussing astrology and spend hours with our heads bent over charts. It was around that time that I started doing astrology professionally, and taking workshops at Pacifica Institute. The language of Jungian psychology and Archetypal Astrology was spoken there—I felt I had come home to something deep in myself.
But the home front situation was to change again, with aging parents, and we moved back to New England were I opened—not a pottery shop this time—but an astrology office in a storefront on Bellevue Ave in Newport. I wrote a horoscope column for the local newspaper and found another spiritual mentor in an Episcopal priest, Aaron Usher. His profound connection with God put the “heart” back into my readings, and I began to read great Christian writers as well as writing articles. Thanks to my husband and the astrologers, Greg Bogart and Jeff Jawer, I was inspired to write and get some articles published.
Learning and teaching never seem to stop. My Sun sign in Libra is in the 6th house which governs mentors and mentoring. I studied astrology at Oxford University one summer recently, and have now taught four workshops at the Boston Jung Institute, one each year. I was never certified as an astrologer.
So this is the part of my story that is my astrological journey. There are many different stories of each of our lives, depending on which part of the story we choose to tell. For me, the astrological journey has been significant for many reasons, but mostly because more than any religion, it reflects patterns: that a great Order exists, and that I and everyone else is a part of the Whole. There is a mystery here rather than a science, and I believe we don’t live from our intellect alone—we only know what we know, because of grace, the depth of the symbolism, and the presence of synchronicity. And all that is magical. (c) Elizabeth Spring www.elizabethspring.com