All posts here are from sections of the books: "North Node Astrology; Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose" and "Lifting the Veil; Becoming Your Own Best Astrologer" and "Astrology for the Third Act of Life" and finally "Saturn Returns~The Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer" All available in paperback, Kindle and Audible on

To inquire about readings or for more articles on the North/South Nodes, go to:

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Don't Let Reality Get in Your Way" ~ Caroline Casey

“Don’t Let Reality Get in Your Way” ~Caroline Casey

Dear Isabelle~

It’s been so long since we wrote! I’m so glad we finally caught up with each other, and our lives, and that you finally sent me your new friend’s chart to analyze. I thought it might be good practice for me, as an “aspiring astrologer” to try to interpret Tomas’ chart--or maybe just to question you about it.

You seem quite “taken with him” if I might say—in the old fashioned way. But when I look at his chart I worry a little for you. OK, so he’s a charismatic assertive Aries, with a secretive (and sensitive!) Cancer Moon with Scorpio Rising. Sounds like he’s a charming alpha male the stuff of romance novels—but—really? Look at his Moon conjuncting Pluto and Pluto ruled Scorpio rising, and all that 8th house energy—again ruled by Pluto.

I think I would find it hard to trust him. All those square aspects between his Aries Sun, North Node and all those 5th house planets—(“give me love!” I can hear them screaming—or at least, “listen to me!” and they are all squaring his Cancer 8th house planets. Feels paradoxical to me: can’t seem to reconcile that “me first” Aries nature and the “you first” Cancer nature, which are squared and not as ease with each other in his chart. Isn’t there a sensitive/puer/’Peter Pan’ quality of those Cancer planets that doesn’t want to grow up?

Oh, I don’t know. I’m glad you like him. But again, I have reservations. When you say he’s a spiritual man, and I see Neptune in his 9th house at the top of his chart, I can agree—but Neptune also has a saying “Don’t let reality get in your way.” And with so much of the “underworldly” Pluto in his chart—well, Isabelle, you must know what you’re doing!

Let me know what you think of all this Pluto, will you? How’s your new place? Have you heard from your daughter Sophie? Last I heard she was still in Switzerland with your ex, dear Alistair. He sounds so different from this Tomas—interesting how you are drawn to both! Alistair sounds so much more---oh, I don’t want to say---you tell me…..



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Prediction Was Coming True

"The prediction was coming true"—of course, astrologers don’t like to call anything a prediction, but it was a prediction nevertheless. And it was worse in this case because Isabelle herself was the astrologer; the predictor. She certainly wasn’t a fortune teller, and she certainly believed that free will could overcome any karmic challenge that might arise, but it was shocking to see how her life seemed to be dissolving in front of her.

She had to admit that it was a liability of her profession to sometimes see too much. Signs and synchronicities had a way of seeping into her psyche like water slowly rising in the basement. She didn’t use the words like good or bad, but instead she believed in “fierce grace.” Anything could be turned around, and often what felt like a terrible fate could turn into grace. Sometimes the change occurred because of what we did, sometimes it was because of what we didn’t do; our patience. At this point, all she knew was that she desperately needed some of that “fierce grace.”

Isabelle had been an astrological counselor for over twenty years, and it felt good to be on the helping side of things, to be on the “knowing” side, of this profession. How easy it had been to encourage her clients in “foul weather or fair” or suggest ideas as to how to handle the moment of crisis or opportunity. But no matter how many ways she looked at her chart now, she saw only the slipping away of certainty and the call of an unknown summons –a prediction that she could not evade or barely understand.

Isabelle liked to muse on possibility and probability. But her rambling thoughts now were a liability rather than an asset. Her hands clenched and gripped the steering wheel in an effort to keep the car from careening out of control. The windshield wipers fought fast against the icy rain, as her eyes tried to adjust to the kaleidoscopic white swirls of snow coming at her. She kept her frozen foot on the accelerator at a steady 50 MPH. She was going to make it to the city before dark; she was going to make it to Newport before she lost her courage.

Courage. People would call Isabelle when they needed to summon their courage. She loved that word, because in French it meant to “take heart” and she was good at helping others do this. She believed in the power of a generous heart and a beginners mind. But before this, she had always been on the giving end of the encouragement and the receiving end of the numbers—the birth dates, times, and credit card numbers. It had been an honor to be invited into the private lives of others, and to get paid for it.

Isabelle needed to concentrate on the road now instead of a chart. Her hands gripped the steering wheel as if the car was going to go out of control at any minute. The wipers were mesmerizing as they thrashed across the windshield and the sleet had turned to snow making it all dangerously slippery. Isabelle turned off the old “Enya” CD and turned on the car radio station. Country music, static, hard rock and roll, or the oldies station playing “Desperado”. She switched it off.

Maybe she should be thinking about a plan to defuse the energies of Saturn, Pluto and Uranus instead of just reacting. These planetary energies were striking her chart and her life with such force already. Maybe she should be coming up with a real plan, but astrologers all had different ideas about the 2012 predictions that had already started. It was hitting everyone in such a unique way, and Isabelle had no solutions this time, especially for herself. The combination of these planets aspecting her chart was like an earthquake---the rumbles had begun and she was holding on—at least to the steering wheel, at least in the moment.

It was a classic story for sure, of death, reinvention and rebirth. Pluto, Saturn, and Uranus. But if astrology was about anything, it was about trusting what she had always called “Divine Right Timing” and she hoped she had it. ~ © Elizabeth Spring

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meeting Alistair. Reading A Chart for the First Time.

“The birth chart is like a conference table, and the planets circling around it are like the different parts of your Self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant is your style of “moving” in the world, and the Nodes are about your life direction and soul purpose. The aspect lines cris-crossing in the center of the chart connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—showing where the conversation is divided and aligned, where it’s tense and where it’s flowing…. ” (excerpt from book: "North Node Astrology: Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose")

My voice trailed off as I looked up at Alistair. I wanted to see if he understood this and if he was receiving or resisting this information. It’s not hard to see most things, as our emotions are more obviously written on our face than we’d like to think. Most people have no idea how transparent we are, nor do we want to admit that everything about us speaks to who we are—not just our clothes, or our tone of voice, but even the way we look at each other, or don’t look, and the little twitches and hand movements that reveal almost as much as the astrological chart.

I was touched by the gracious formality of Alistair’s handshake when he walked in the door. I knew he was thirty years old yet something made him look older than his years. Thick dark hair, pale white skin and near-black eyes, framed an impeccable face hinting of some purity of heart. He was a Virgo with a Pisces Moon; strong and kind, with Aries rising.

The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first, because after spending several hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them, and it’s humbling to be so often wrong and then to hear how courageously they’ve survived even with the most “challenging” of charts. Alistair was a survivor, and had somehow learned to thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers used to call ‘”malefic” aspects. Of course, I never use those words, malefic or auspicious, but I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of wounding this man had survived. His chart was challenging, yet his eyes were kind.

Most of us don’t like to feel too vulnerable, and though we don’t want to admit it, I think there’s a mutual resonance that happens when we like or dislike another person or situation, it’s almost instantaneous. We want to feel more in control as we pretend to ourselves that our words, explanations, and sometimes false optimism can present things differently. Yet I could see that Alistair was not only allowing himself to have a reading, but he was willing to “let me in” as well.

“Is this your first reading?” I asked.

“It is…and what a lovely place you have here! Is that a Goddess’s face carved into that fireplace mantel?”

“It is” I answered, while motioning him to the green rocking chair, hoping he was approving of the setting for his reading. This Victorian office had high ceilings and dark wood walls where the lights could cast shadows and allow nuances of mood. The black wrought iron fireplace was carved into with the face of the Goddess, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the feminine into the little consulting room. Her downward looking eyes seemed to know how to keep a secret.

“So have you been doing this long? It’s my first time—you know---I don’t even come to this part of town much. But I read your book! Though I’m not much of a believer in anything….hope that’s OK, just to try—“

“Of course it’s fine! Let’s just see what we can find here that could be helpful to you.” I splayed the charts in my hand like a card deck. “I don’t predict death by execution or anything like that—but who knows what we’ll see….we’ll just read what’s here.” I pointed to the two chairs on either side of the amber stained glass lamp. It was so quiet for a moment I could hear the motions of the antique clock on the mantel, and I wondered if I had remembered to clear the dirty coffee cups off the desk. He looked instead at the bookshelf which covered one wall.

“Lovely,” he whispered, as we sat down, and I admired the pristine clarity of his English accent.

It seemed from his voice that he was a warm but skeptical sort of man, and a tired one at that. He said on the phone that he was coming to me because he liked the tiny advertisement for my services in “Newport This Week” which noted my background in psychology—specifically, the psychology of the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung who was noted for his work with the unconscious and synchronicity.

“You know, I can see that you take this seriously, you’re not just a—what do you call them—a ‘sun-sign’ astrologer or a sketchy fortune teller. I like that…”

I nodded, and thought: here was a gentle man who had come to yet another turning point in his life, and who simply needed a little psychic cheerleading. I knew he was a potter and shopkeeper down on the wharf. Here was someone who wanted me reaffirm for him what he already knew to be true---that his first marriage was over, and that the chance for love was still on the horizon. Of course he didn’t say that. What he did say, at the end of our session, was that he’d be back.

What he didn’t know about me was that I’m a bit of a reluctant astrologer. It’s not about believing or not believing in astrology, because astrology is a language of the soul that exists, and to say that you don’t believe in it, sometimes sounds to me like saying you don’t believe in “Spanish” or “French”—it’s a language that conveys meaning in a very particular way. I believe deeply in this language, and yet it’s like a finger that points at the moon. It doesn’t get you there. It describes the journey.

Maybe Alistair did know, but he never let on that I had hinted at that “reluctance” in my book. He didn’t let on right away everything he was feeling, nor did I…but maybe we knew.

And how surprised I was that those opportunities for love I saw in his chart that day would be directed at me—and I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me we would be married within six months. How shocked I would have been if someone told me the story of how sweet our love was, how lovely our daughter would be, and how difficult the marriage would be as it “raveled and unraveled” and then….but instead of me analyzing it, let me just tell you the story instead. ~ ©elizabeth spring

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saturn Conjunct Neptune: Tomas Re-Appears


Private Journal~

I look at the photo of this gate and wonder how I can possibly walk through it into the next stage of my life. I wonder how transiting Saturn conjuncting my Libra Sun, Neptune and Venus now will play itself out. Melancholy and disillusionment? Or becoming a “wise old crone”? I don’t feel that old, yet they say Saturn “ages” one….Saturn conjuncting Neptune can be illusive and deceptive, either in the birth chart or by transit. It worries me….

Mother’s funeral is over and I’m glad we had the chance to heal our relationship at the last minute—the simple grace of an “I love you” said at just the right time. But in coming back here, I lost the chance to reunite with Alistair in Switzerland. Alistair and I have now been separated five years! I feel so alone. Here was our chance to see if the stirrings we felt in our hearts could lead us back together. Here was our chance to see if our hearts could triumph over our heads…if we could forgive each other, and truly find out if our story isn’t over yet. But we didn’t get the chance; I had to come back to mother.

It’s torture to feel the chance of love igniting, and then to be cut off from that chance. Instead, I’m back here at my Newport office, at my “little study” doing readings and life is seemingly going on as usual. But it isn’t. I feel like I have lost my chance, and Alistair has chosen to stay with Sophie in Zurich rather than come here to be with me. It’s understandable—he wants to spend time with his daughter who he never sees! But I’m jealous of their time together, and so lonely. It’s hard to be betwixt and between things, because my “head and heart” is so unsettled. I’m a confused Libra for sure.

But yesterday—yesterday!!! I don’t know now if it’s better or worse, but Tomas, my old mentor-rescuer-healer-friend re-appeared---unexpected. Who is he to me?? The man who saved me during the separation from Alistair? A spiritual guide? Simply my old therapist who has become a friend?

He just showed up, after five years, without even calling. He said he was just walking by my office. But I wonder if I had been on the second floor—?—instead of having an astrology office that looks like a retail shop that anyone can just walk into—I wonder if he still would have just ‘dropped by’? Maybe. He’s an Aries, and they can be impulsive and daring. Aries is learning courage and they get lots of chances to find it….life stresses them into going beyond what they think they can do. It’s admirable really; like beginner’s mind. Some people find Aries to be somewhat arrogant, but it’s an ego-arrogance that appeals to many women. The romance novel hero. Hah! Alistair’s “arrogance” was of a completely different nature.

But….I could have fallen into Tomas’ arms when I saw him outside the door here. It’s been so many years, and it was so…..what? ---soul-satisfying, I guess. We sat together for over two hours, rocking and cogitating in the green ‘rockers’ by the window and staring at the afternoon sunlight striking the leaves on the red maple tree. He was smoking his pipe as usual (I must admit to loving the smell of black cherry) and he was wearing the same black cowboy boots he used to wear, and carrying his bag of books. I brewed us a pot of Earl Gray Tea. He told me he’s into playing Irish music now, the Irish drum and tin whistle. Seeing him felt like something was coming home again. ~ ©Elizabeth Spring

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jung's Alchemy of Cooking

Ah....these spices remind me of the "alchemy of cooking" and the choices I have to make as to what to include, what not to include, and the whimsy and spontaneity that goes into good cooking. But if I add too much spice it can overpower and be undigestable, and if I add too little it can be bland. Who am I cooking for? Do I dare? Do I not dare?

Today I'm thinking about the alchemy of cooking "opposite" emotions...what happens when I heat up sad with mad? Knowing and not knowing? Surrendering and striving? What happens when I've become confused in the middle of the recipe and lost the way? What happens when it feels like one is in the middle of a labyrinth and the path becomes obscured--the heart map gone, and the instructions unclear? What happens when I add mad to sad, or sad to mad, and it comes out....well, you know--not glad--!? Not good. Astrological transits pull us in opposite directions too--how do we reconcile Jupiter square or opposite Mars? Uranus square or opposite Saturn? Saturn transiting the 7th house, and you want to feel "in love?"

When I'm lost I ask for help. Today I felt really lost. Then I found this on a scrap of paper:

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. He who looks outside, dreams....he who looks inside, awakens." Author: Carl Jung.

Jung liked dreams. He liked them alot! He looked to them for hints, metaphors and even divination....but then he brought it all inside and allowed it to simmer and heat up, till just the right alchemy of the cooking "awakened" the vision. He honored the process of waiting and holding the tension of the opposites, till the third inspiration appears....that particular "spice" that changes the chemistry of the whole stew into something new. Something special. Who knows how long it takes? Who knows just the right blend of spices?

Today I'm going to put my cooking pot on a slow simmer and take a whiff every hour. Then give it a taste. Add a little more of this, and then a little more of that. I'm going to add a dash of Jupiter spontaneity and humor to help me get through this Saturnian time. I'm going to make it fun. And you? Want to share recipes?

That's a great idea-- I know I'll put it in my cook book, but chances are, I may forget it. Maybe you could share your idea, your vision, by cooking it for me first. me a taste. Cook for me with love. "Love is the only ingredient that really matters."    (c)elizabeth spring

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal. Part 2

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this! I thought how much easier it is when the client does most of the talking. And, I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said--but the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.

My eyes circled Judith’s chart looking for a clue….then they landed on Venus. “Ahhh—look at Venus here! She’s not in the conversation at all! No aspect lines to her; she’s silent….except that she’s square to the Nodes. This is called ‘the skipped step’ in evolutionary astrology—any planet that squares the Nodes reflects something that has been skipped early in this life or in a previous one, and it’s a strong hint about what one must do now in order to stay true to one’s life course. ”

This felt important but I wasn’t sure where to go with just then. I made a mental note to come back to that solitary Venus. “And your Scorpio sun squares Uranus, the planet of unpredictability and change. Have you moved a lot in your life? That would be hard on Venus connections….”

“Eighteen times.” She began to talk of a life of broken relationships and innumerable new starts in different countries, with different jobs. There were so many endings and beginnings, no wonder she wasn’t eager to hear of yet another new beginning. What could I say that would make a difference?

“Venus…she wants to be brought into the conversation,” I insisted, while searching for the word to describe the spiritual aspect of Venus. Some old brain synapse came to the rescue: “Have you ever heard of ‘Sophia’? It’s a Greek word meaning wisdom. Originally she was the third person of the Holy Trinity. She was called ‘Hagia Sophia’ and she was seen as the feminine aspect of God. The Roman Catholics later changed her name to ‘Spiritus Sanctus’ and the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit was lost. Sophia is the aspect of God that finds the sacred in the commonplace, and she expresses herself through beauty and love, and sometimes through synchronistic human connections.”

Judith leaned forward to take a closer look as I went on: “I suspect your Venus here is not being nourished for some reason. Venus doesn’t care about being right or having the best job or having the right answers philosophically…but she wants to bring beauty and relationship into your life. She needs a voice…..”I I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that my beginner’s mind had somehow retrieved that insight.

Judith’s large dark eyes began filling with tears. “Last week I went to visit one of the Newport mansions here…and as I was standing in front of this exquisite tapestry someone came over and placed a huge bouquet of lilacs in front of it. The smell was so heavenly, and I suddenly found myself upset…crying. It was so unlike me, really.”

“Why was that unlike you?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

Sounds like you were struck by beauty, by Venus” I added.

“I prefer not to be so emotional; so out of control.” She sat up straighter. “I’ve been thinking I should be more restrained and not indulge myself…my mother is a Buddhist and she lives very simply.”

I could see that I was going to have to challenge her “internalized Mother” who was represented by Judith’s Moon in Capricorn. “That may be right for her, but perhaps not for you. It sounds like Venus, or Sophia, was opening your heart with that hit of beauty you experienced with the lilacs.”

She nodded her head just slightly. “My mother always complained that I had too much stuff and clutter around me when I was young, so when I moved here I decided not to take my things out of storage and to live frugally. I thought I should keep it uncluttered. I don’t even have a window in my bedroom.”

“It sounds austere; and not a way to nourish this Venus-Sophia—it sounds like you’ve been starving yourself of simple beauty for the sake of your mother’s values; not yours…”

Judith’s eyes were close to overflowing so I handed her a Kleenex. I could see her pain, but now where could I go with this feeling and thought? We were moving beyond descriptive astrology and I wanted to give her something more tangible to help. I cared about her in a way I don’t always feel. Psychotherapists warn each other about this “transference” of feelings that can happen in a session. Jungian analysts honor these feelings, but they caution against moving away from a professional detached attitude. I’m not so good at recognizing the dangers of these feeling spaces, with my Sun conjunct the permeable and boundary-less Neptune in my chart.

Judith picked up the small celadon vase that sat on the table between us. “It’s beautiful.” She laughed softly. “So does this help? I mean having this little vase, this little bit of Venus here—does it help?”

“Good question…yes, I think it does, especially because it’s handmade and it makes me think about what I can only imagine—about the potter who made it, and how it was once clay, and how it was shaped on the potter’s wheel and went through the fire of the kiln. So many changes….and yet it’s not worse because of all its changes and imperfections.”

She lowered her eyes and was quiet again. So I just stayed in the silence with her for a moment. In fact, I didn’t know what to say at all…so I picked up the little pot again and turned it over. “Ah! The name on bottom is ‘Maya.’ Do you know that means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit? The Hindu’s believe that this reality—even this little piece of pottery, as we know it, is an illusion or dream. They believe that what is most real is beyond appearance, and that all things have a hidden life within them. I’ve always wondered if the potter knew the meaning of the word…”

I handed Judith the vase and she began rubbing her fingers across the pale green glaze. “There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of us all. Look at all the cracks and crackles…” she added as she continued stroking the surface. Then her finger ran across a chip on the rim. “It’s chipped even.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Yet perfect.”

Just then I could feel the energy in the room change, as if a wave of ever so subtle sacred energy had descended on us. So we just sat there for a time, looking at the little vase, finally comfortable without words. At one point I found myself staring at the framed quotation on the wall next to the fireplace which reads: “Called or not called, God is present.” This saying was carved in Latin above Carl Jung’s door, and I was once so taken by what he was implying with this, that I had it printed in English, and always made a place for it in my office whenever I moved. And here it was again.

It was obvious that our session was over. As we stood to leave I leaned over and gave her a heartfelt hug and placed the little pot in her hand. She was about to refuse my gift, but I simply shook my head ‘no’ and walked to the door. As I closed the door behind Judith I thanked ‘Sophia’ for her unexpected arrival, for I too had forgotten about the power of Venus-Sophia. And as I stood in awe of the ‘little magic’ that had just happened, I remembered that when I let go and let the spirit ‘Sophia’ speak through me, she knows, far more than I do, what needs to be said and done.

I must tell Sophie about this ~ I wonder if her real name is Sophia?

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal

The Astrology Reading: Notes from my Journal

As I opened the door of my office I was struck by Judith’s stunning presence. Thick dark hair, flawless white skin and near-black eyes, framed an impeccable face hinting of some purity of heart. I knew she was thirty-five years old yet something made her look older than her years. She wore no jewelry or make-up. Judith was coming here today for her first astrological reading, and as she extended her hand, I was impressed by the gracious formality of her handshake.

The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first because after spending a few hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them; and it’s humbling to be so often wrong and to see how graciously they’ve survived even with what looks to be the most challenging of charts. I try to remember that what I see in the chart is partially biased by my perception —yet the “woundedness” in the chart always seem to leap out first—the t-squares, the South Node, the oppositions, the conjunctions of certain planets. And, I’m continually surprised by how well most people thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers called “malefic” aspects.

Of course I never use those words--- sensitive astrologers try to avoid any judgments of good, bad, malefic or auspicious. We also don’t know how a person is choosing to live out their chart, or how they’re living out the transits that are happening now. “No transits come before their time” my teacher used to say. Astrologers are aware that certain karmic factors may have been involved with us being ‘fated’ to be born with “givens” such as gender, nationality, good or bad parenting, but the “Formula” I honor is this: fate + character = destiny. The key word is character.

Fate is simply the “givens” at birth; the time and place and zeitgeist of that time—like being born a 1950’s Ford model car, doesn’t really make you better than a sixties Chevrolet. Just different. The force and choices of character however, makes all the difference. It’s about those free will choices we make along the way that determine our destiny.

Judith’s chart had a “motivating” grand cross, and I was curious about her choices and how she was living out this challenging aspect. Squares and grand-crosses like this tend to motivate people because they can be so painful, and some of the most famous “achievers” in history have had motivating charts like this.

And so I invited Judith to sit, motioning her to sit in the soft green chair, hoping she was approving of the setting for her reading. She stared at the carved Goddess face in the black wrought iron inset in the fireplace, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the goddess into the room. Its downward looking eyes knew how to keep a secret.

“Lovely” she whispered, as I silently admired the pristine clarity of her English accent.

The amber stained glass lamp between us shed a warm glow in the room, as I turned the recorder on for our session. I took out the charts in my usual fashion, and was eager to tell her all the good omens of new beginnings I saw there. The “significators” were all there: Jupiter had just crossed her descendant, Saturn was just leaving the 12th house, and the progressed moon would be coming to conjunct her natal Jupiter shortly. It looked like a new beginning if I ever saw one. And so I began….

“The birth chart is like a conference table, and these planets are like the different parts of your self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant has to do with your style of negotiating in the world… and the Nodes have to do with your life direction and soul purpose. See these aspect lines in the center? They connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—these planets—and show where the conversation is challenging, flowing or avoiding…they show the alliances and tensions between different parts of yourself.”

She nodded her head as I went on: “So we see your Sun is in Scorpio, an emotional water sign. There’s a curious hunger about the Scorpio nature, and they look at the hidden side of things, such as secret motivations around sex, power and money. They want to know what the emotional bottom line is….they are gifted with a penetrating intensity and the power to heal themselves and others. Scorpio has three symbols: the scorpion, which is capable of attack as well as killing itself with its tail, the eagle, which gives perspective and vision, and the phoenix which has the power to rise from the ashes of death. Scorpio folks often have had a life of many chapters, in which there are numerous ego deaths and rebirths. Being able to let go of the past is important for them….for you….”

“Oh yes,” she sighed. “I’ve had to do that many times. I’ve had a life filled with so many chapters with radical beginnings and endings. It’s exhausting.”

“And many people with their Moon in Capricorn, as you do, can have a hard time expressing all their emotions. Scorpio and Capricorn don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes they’ve had childhoods with mothers that were austere, strict, or not there in some way….not always, but we see here that the assertive planet, Mars, is in Aries squaring your Moon, so we get a hint that your mother may irritate you, and that this relationship is challenging for you…especially since Mars is coming from the 4th house of home and family of origin.” I was using the “rule of three” here—to see something reflected three times in the chart before mentioning it.

Judith quickly agreed with that observation. I explained the nature of her rising sign—her persona and style in life, and the nature of the “conversation” that was going on with her trines, squares, and oppositions. Then I began hinting at what might have been the emotional climate for her during the last two years while Saturn was transiting through her 12th house of the unconscious—what I call the “house that Carl Jung built.”

“For many people it’s a time of soul-searching and inner questioning; a time for reviewing one’s life, and listening to dreams and synchronicities. For many people it can be a lonely passage, because our culture is more outer directed. It’s a good time for inner reflection and for doing creative things such as painting, poetry, journaling, collage, music—anything that can help you see yourself reflected in what you create, or see yourself as a channel for allowing spirit to enter.”

I waited for a response, but she just looked blankly at the chart. Her Sun was conjunct Neptune, which sometimes reflects a spiritual, ethereal nature or a love of music, so I ventured---“Do you listen to music very much? Has it been a help?” It was interesting for me that I found it hard to tolerate her silence.

“Well yes. It has been a lonely time these past couple of years. I’ve been brooding over the mistakes I’ve made in my life.” She leaned back and stared at the ceiling. She was being polite, but not completely forthcoming about what was really on her mind. Obviously I hadn’t touched on it yet. I could see that she was going to be a bit private till I hit upon something that truly resonated with her. Not unusual for Scorpios to be a bit private, and very “British” as well.

I pulled my thoughts back to the charts and went on: “Saturn often drags up old memories and fears that we thought we’d put to rest a long time ago. It’s been sweeping through your unconscious, churning things up for the past couple of years….I think of transiting Saturn here as the “Graduate School of the Soul” and the good news is that you’re about to graduate! A new beginning….”

“So I’m graduating…” A slow smile began emerging. So what do you see for me spiritually? I mean….I’ve been reading all these books because I’ve been feeling so miserable, trying to meditate, but that’s not working too well. I spend a lot of time taking long walks alone…”

“Everything you’ve said is just right for Saturn going through the 12th house of the unconscious, but now it’s time to start, ever so slowly, coming out of seclusion and into the world more…! Ah…. look here, do you know what this glyph means? I pointed to the symbol of her North Node. This Node describes the direction your Soul wants to grow towards—it’s good soul medicine—and it’s in Gemini.”

She frowned. “But isn’t Gemini disorganized and superficial…and talks too much?”

I laughed and went on: “Gemini is the communicator. And every sign has a negative side that it can operate from, but Gemini is summoned to talk, or write, or teach or somehow communicate with the world. And it has an insatiable curiosity that packs more into one lifetime than most of us ever will. Gemini’s are willing to throw themself into the chaos of life to make order out of that chaos. Their openness allows them to experience such a variety of things, and it’s only from our point of view that it looks out of control at times. Gemini is called to fully experience life— in the valleys and cities and marketplaces of life, rather than in retreat on any “spiritual mountaintop”.

I could see that Judith was with me now. “With a Sagittarius South Node you may have had “blinders” on in a previous life-- if you believe in re-incarnation-- blinders that kept you focused on what you believed. Now your beliefs are getting bigger and being tested by life. You’re opening to a wider perspective. As your South Node in Sagittarius implies, you’ve seen the larger perspective on life--the view from the mountaintop, but you’ve had these blinders on too—now, you’re learning to live with the relativity of things in the everyday world. Not simple anymore.”

Silence. There was so much information in front of me on the chart I felt overwhelmed. It’s so hard, and such an art to try to synthesize the birth chart with the transiting planets and to put it all into words something that will be helpful—suddenly I felt overwhelmed and unfocused.

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words weren’t coming. Silence is fine, I thought, as she can see I’m contemplating the chart. But what was this internal sabotage happening within me? Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this. It’s so much easier when the client does most of the talking! I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said. But the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner’s mind.

(continued in next post )

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Astrological Signs of Death

artwork: Susan Boulet

Dear Kendra~

It was good to hear from you and to hear you are well. I simply haven’t been able to write till now, but here I sit, staring at the computer screen back in my astrology “office” in Newport, R.I. I left Sophie and Alistair to come back to care for my mother in the nursing home. Her stroke was massive, and the astrology charts are blatant in their verdict. All the signs are there: the subtle and foreboding omens of a mind and body slipping away. I feel exhausted in dealing with a problem that has only one solution—death. This is the final act in a long and tortured relationship that has been bandaged, but not healed. But no matter how much one may know in one’s mind that the end is near, and try to put it all in perspective, the reality is always a shock. And I can feel my grief…

This morning when I went to the nursing home, my mother was scared and wanted to talk about dying. I told her how I had heard that dying is sometimes compared to slipping out of an old shoe that was too tight. She seemed to like that. The nurse came by with some pumpkin pie and I fed us both, spoonful by spoonful, and there was something about feeding her this way that felt healing. Then I rubbed her feet for a few moments before I left and went back to my “sanctuary.” It was hard to leave, but yet I couldn’t seem to stay longer today…

Kendra, did I ever tell you about where I work? Sometimes I think of it as a sanctuary—it’s a small room with high ceilings and dark wood walls. It has a small fireplace, two comfortable olive green chairs facing each other with a large amber stained glass light between them. There’s a Victorian writing desk on the side—it’s made from a deep grained oak and has several drawers and secret nooks. It’s called a Larkin desk, and was traditionally bought with coupons by Victorian ladies who bought enough Larkin Soap! On the desk I keep a fountain pen, a leather journal, and an ink-stained blotter that I found in Florence once. The amber lamp casts a soft glow across the writing table, and I love the spare moments when I actually use my old pen and journal. There’s a bookcase next to the desk and at least a dozen journals I’ve kept through the years.

Anyway…when I sit at the desk I look out the front window to see the old Redwood library with its enormous copper beach tree. (How appropriate or strange it is that the historic library and the astrologer’s office should be right opposite each other!) When I first opened this space I wondered if the townspeople would even allow an astrologer on this well-heeled end of Bellevue Avenue. So I found an antique pendulum clock and put it in full view from the front window, hoping that the Victorian ambience would not feel threatening. So far it has worked! And for me it has created a sacred space.

The only anachronism here is the computer, but I must have it for the astrology programs. And here is what I’m staring at: Mom is 88 years old, with transiting Saturn conjunct her natal Saturn in the 12th house, and Uranus conjunct the Moon. The transiting Uranus on her Moon is the shock of this change, this stroke. The restrictive 12th house atmosphere of the nursing home and her paralysis is echoed in the 12th house placement of Saturn….and she’s having her third Saturn Return. The Saturn metaphors of transition with solitariness seem fitting. And dying is both work and letting go…ah, not easy! Everyone has a third Saturn Return around the age of 88, if they live that long—did you know that? Not all of us live to see it or live through it, but how interesting that it’s seldom talked about.

Death is usually indicated in the chart of a person who is close to the dying person—rather than the person themselves. It often marks its presence by a strong Jupiter transit in the caregiver when it’s a matter of “When will she be released? And me?” And I see that Jupiter will be aspecting my Sun within the next couple of weeks. And with her 3rd Saturn Return happening at the same time as Uranus, the planet of sudden change, aspects her Moon, her emotions—well, this is as close to a prediction of a death as I’ve ever seen. In fact, if it doesn’t happen now, I think my faith in astrology will be severely tested…we’ll see…the question is: Can we do any more healing between us? Till later my dear~Isabelle

Monday, October 18, 2010

Astrological Symbols and the Greek Inscription on Jung's Bollingen Stone

Dear Kendra~

Knowing that I’d have to leave Sophie and Zurich the next morning, we spent a few hours wandering the old city in search of the perfect “parting” gift for me to give Sophie. What I found was a little framed photograph of the “forgotten stone” carved by Carl Jung at his private sanctuary at Bollingen. It’s full of carved astrological symbols. At first, Sophie thought it was a strange little image.

“I don’t have a cross as a talisman of the astrological mysteries,” I tried to explain, “Or a symbol of my spirituality, but this stone mandala comes pretty close. It’s called the ‘forgotten stone’ because it was left at Jung’s house by mistake, by men who were delivering supplies from a quarry nearby to his home. When they remembered the large square stone they’d left, Jung refused to let them take it, saying ‘No, it has found its way here.’ And in honor of his 75th birthday he carved into the stone….”

Sophie looked at it closely, as I continued: “You see first, it’s a mandala divided into four; the number of wholeness. In the center is a little monk holding a lantern—some call it a ‘homunculus,’ which, in ancient texts, meant ‘the little man inside the brain’. And if you look closer, you’ll see that he has the astrological sign for Mercury on his robe. It looks like a pendant he’s wearing. And this is the sign of Mercury, or Hermes, who’s the one who links the outer world to the inner world. Heaven and Earth. God and man. He’s the one who communicates. Everyone has Mercury in their own astrological someone where…doing something. And if you know what sign and aspects Mercury takes in your chart, you learn a little more about yourself.”

She looked curious. “You once told me that my Mercury was in Scorpio, and that it meant I loved delving into the hidden and invisible worlds…..interesting! What do the other astrology signs and writing mean? Sophie asked, pointing to the glyphs.

“On his right side of him you’ll see the astrological signs for the Sun and Jupiter, and on the left: Venus and the Moon. These relate to what Jung called “the alchemical sacred marriage” of the male (Sol) and female (Luna). Jupiter is grace, and Venus is love. The planets across the horizontal line—just like the horizontal line on the cross hint at a receptive grace, and the vertical axis points to human pain and striving. On the top here, is Saturn, and beneath him is Mars. These ‘yang’ signs represent the struggle to live on this earth—the resistance of Saturn and the assertiveness of Mars. Together the planets in the four quadrants tell a story….and Jung believed all “the opposites in our nature”, even of good and evil were intimately related and inseparable. He even felt God and man needed each other, in a sense, to be whole.”

Sophie reached across the table and touched my hand. I felt a little unnerved, because her gesture went so far beyond anything I had said. But she simply said: “Go on….”

“…and look here at the Greek writing around the center; the translation’s under the photo: ‘Aion (time) is a child at play, gambling; a child is of the Kingship. The man who accomplishes, the homunculus, traverses the dark places of the world, like a star flashing the deep, leading the way to the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams.’”

“It reminds me of Jesus saying that we must become like little children again to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Sophie added smiling.

“I agree…truly, here’s another human on a cross, and he’s trying to communicate a great mystery….through symbols.”

“I get it…but now…don’t say anything, Mom. I’m going to do a little magic on you. I’m going to pray now…see if you can feel it.”

And I did. And I had no words for it.

And that’s what happened today, Kendra—! I’ll write tomorrow when I’m on the plane back to the States.

 Love, Isabelle~

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Carl Jung: the Astrologer's "Senex" at Bollingen Tower

Dear Kendra~

Here’s a photo of Carl Jung’s “Bollingen Tower” that I saw the last time I was in Zurich—such a magical place! I love that he built this stone and timber tower as his sacred retreat. There’s a wall here where he painted a vibrant mural of the outstretched wings of his spiritual mentor, ‘Philemon’. You can see this colorful painting in his journal: “The Red Book” –and he painted it without benefit of electric lights—! The mural within the round tower is the heart of this space, and it has a rustic, primitive and private feeling. He would take himself here to ponder, write, and cook meals over an open fire—apparently he was quite a good cook who loved cooking in a large pot—and if you were honored to be a guest at supper, he would suggest “quietness” while eating so that the food could be truly savored.

I can imagine him here, with his pipe, his paints and his….aloneness. He “attended to his inner life” and in this way he was an archetypal “senex”—the wise Saturnian elder man. Jung had a Leo Sun sign, with a Taurus Moon conjunct Pluto, and Aquarius rising.

He was also a bit of a trickster (like Hermes), and a shaman and scholar as well as a spiritual man and healer. His psychology came out of his life; he broke some rules, he kept to some. As John Perry, a friend of his noted: “There was always a little something magical about the way Jung’s mind worked. He said that he felt himself to be more shaman than psychiatrist.”

Sometimes I fear that most modern psychology, and even astrology, serves the ego’s fantasy of control, while Jungian psychology affirms “the summons to surrender to the gods”—to that which wishes to live through us…and calls us to listen to the inner archetypal voices which astrologers call planets.

Jung would counsel that we become a “disciple” to that which is calling us, and surrender to our personal discipline. A positive view of “discipline” don’t you think? Being a disciple to that which you really love? Still it’s never easy for us, nor was it for him.

His dearest friend, Toni Wolf, highly disapproved of his exploration of alchemy and astrology, but he pursued it anyway and that issue finally ended their relationship of many years. Did you know that she was his lover, companion, and ‘guide’ when he was going through his most difficult years during his Uranus opposition, around the age of forty? And that Jung’s wife, Emma, actually accepted Toni as a member of the family…so Toni would be present at Sunday meals…much more accepted in European culture at that time than it would be now! Anyway….

Did you know that Jung studied and practiced astrology for forty years before he published his work on synchronicity in 1950? He used the word “synchronicity” to explain how astrology worked, meaning that there can be a relationship between two things that don’t have a causal relationship—that is, that one event doesn’t scientifically cause the other to happen—i.e. pure cause and effect. But what is significant and necessary is that there must be an emotional meaningfulness to that moment in time. And of course, what could be more meaningful than our birth! Jung once said: “We are born at a moment in time, and like the grapes in a vineyard, we take on the qualities of the time and place from which we came.”

Jung used the birth charts of his clients to “find clues to the core of psychological truth…” (this was written in a letter he wrote to Freud in 1911). The fact that he respected and used astrology means a lot to those of us who combine psychology and astrology—which is what archetypal astrologers do.

But even if Jung didn’t have this connection, I would still be in awe of him as the archetype of the “Wise Old Man.” He honored the Mystery that we live within—that sea the Soul swims within—without getting dogmatic about it. Isn’t that the heart of wisdom; to honor the Mystery without literalizing it and without trying to make it fit precisely into concrete scientific or historical fact? Joseph Campbell later called this kind of truth a “myth” and he understood myths as revealing a very deep level of truth.

Today I feel more like a mentor in writing all this. But still the story continues here…and I haven’t heard a word yet from Alistair, even though Sophie and I will be in Zurich by noon today. I’m thinking of staying in a B & B in old Zurich if we can find a room. Perhaps I’ve honored Saturn conjunct the Libra Sun today by writing about Jung as the astrologer’s “senex” while listening to Bach, on my Ipod. It has been pouring rain all day, and Sophie has been reading and sleeping this whole train trip—but she did tell me one thing—she has a surprise for me tonight when we get settled in our rooms….? How are you? Haven't heard from you in awhile...hope you are well, dear one~



Monday, October 11, 2010

Mirroring: That Which Is Above to That Which Is Below

Dear Kendra~

I wish I could be like mythogical Merlin here, magically bestowing answers and comfort, but instead, you have me, your friend and mentor, who is more humbly "a reluctant astrologer." If I were him, I would be sharing with you how the Soul has such strange ways of mirroring the ancient esoteric saying: "that which is above to that which is below." I would add too, that one is not to fear the dragons in the forest, but that the dragons in the psyche must be loved and appeased first.

You have serious questions about the "shadow side" of astrology--that there appears to be ways to make astrology "prove anything" because there are so many different ways of approaching this art. It's true that I don't see astrology as a science, with definitive repeatedable rules. But is anything that "speaks" to such questions as fate, destiny, character, and cosmology, that way? I don't think we can speak of these questions that way. We can't deny our free will, and yet we can't deny the Mystery that we live within...

So, this mystery of astrology is illusive at times--with its "smorgasbord" of systems, or dialects---it doesn't present a united front. It’s the ‘shadow quality’ of our work for sure. But there are two things that are important to remember: all astrology is here to remind us that we are part of a larger cosmos, plan and purpose, and that we can trust in a pattern that is greater and wiser than ourselves. People need to know that. They need to see how their particular story, with all of its gifts and woundness is part of a larger sacred story. And I believe, as the ancient Hindu's believed, that "Goodness" exists at the heart of it.

We go to astrology because we want “to know ourselves” so we can make better choices—but we want to know about ourselves without someone pathologizing, shaming or blaming us. We want to understand why we do what we do, and astrology—no matter what “dialect system” it uses—gives us a way to talk deeply about ourselves and our inner struggles.

But you ask about the different "language dialects" between systems---such as the Vedic vs the Western, or the different house systems, such as Placidus vs Koch....well, I think most astrologers are simply drawn to a person who uses a particular method, and who shows them that it works --not tells them! And then they find a way to work within that language system as well. Astrology is like a romance language, derived from a similar root, and a "table is a table" whether we name it in French or Spanish. A table exists, just as a language exists, so it's ironic when someone says "I don't believe in "astrology" because I then feel like saying: "You don't believe in Spanish or French either?"

And of course, just because one person primarily uses the birth chart and asteroids and another relies on planetary progressions and transits, doesn’t make any of them wrong or better. It's a language that speaks to the Soul, and different dialects speak clearer to some people more than others. The ideal in any system is to be able to see a theme repeated several times in different ways—sometimes called the rule of three: you see a theme repeated three times, you know that what it points to carries weight….some truth.

So not only are systems, orbs, aspects, and "readings" not perfect “black and white” paradigms, but people are often profoundly paradoxical! Like the planets that are held within the mandala of the chart, people have many sub-personalities, and are constantly in the process of changing as well! What underlies a good reading-consultation often has much less to do with the mechanics of the astrologer’s technique than something else--something most astrologers use almost unconsciously. Let me get back to this in a moment....but first your question--

Underlying all astrological technique is the shadow of the unspoken fear--- is there a better way or a more accurate way to do this? How do I know if this is the best way? These thoughts are uncomfortable, and most of us confront that nagging uncertainty by being certified within a certain tradition, or we proclaim to offer an eclectic approach depending on the circumstance and client.

As a counseling astrologer, you know that I went back to school in my forties to get a Master’s degree in counseling psychology (with an emphasis in the work of Carl Jung.) And most of my astrology teachers used the tropical Placidus house system, and viewed the planets as mythological archetypes within a spiritual mandala. They saw the transits and progressions as challenging turning points along the process of individuation. I liked that! I liked seeing how the astrological elements related to the Jungian modes of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling. And I liked Steven Forrest’s evolutionary astrology and Alice Howell’s wise “kitchen table” wisdom. I liked Jungian astrologer Liz Greene’s depth as well as other British astrologers…. so I find that my eclectic brand of astrology fits ‘just enough.’ And when asked: Is astrology based on science, or synchronicity? I launch into Jung’s theory of synchronicity, and I’m off and running…that's my style.

But I’m still uncomfortable with variations of your “shadow question” such as—if the precession of the equinox’s is true, then isn’t Vedic more accurate in the predictive sense? And if the asteroids are archetypes why not use them more? And how can I justify my use of orbs and aspects? I don’t know, but I am most “reluctant” when it comes to predictive astrology, such as the Vedic, because we truly can’t know how anyone is going to “play out” their signs and aspects. We can’t step on anyone’s free will choices, and isn’t that wonderful?

I like to think that just as a carpenter will have his or her own reasons for using a particular tool for a given situation, we also need to have many tools and techniques for different people and questions. We might want to say, unlike using an authoritative text such as the Bible, that astrologers have to intuitively choose which technique to use to draw forth a response---and that what is more important is that we should be trying less to prove a point than to inquire into the client’s truth.

My bias is that my best “readings” are not the ones in which I rely heavily on prediction, but when the metaphors I use allow the client to see deeply into their life. I know this is happening when they start talking more than me, and when they start looking at the question behind the question that they presented initially. And isn’t the point--- to put the technique secondary?

So perhaps the answer is to be found in finding that “sacred place or temenos” where we engage with our Self or with our client in a way that resonates with the process of deep inquiry? Does it matter what astrological language we use? Perhaps it’s not about the Jungian evolutionary approach, or the Vedic approach, as much as it is about affirming what we, or our client, already knows to be deeply true.

So….what do we want? I think the hope is that there will be a synchronistic moment of “ah-hah” when there’s been an accurate mirroring of that which is above, to that which is below. Isn’t that what we long for---when some piece of the client’s truth and the astrologer’s technique rise up to a little epiphany together! Ahh…. then there is that felt moment of meaningfulness that makes all considerations of proof of technique secondary.

And so this is what I offer you: the idea that the technique that brings in the "magic of synchronicity" is already embedded in most systems---the idea of deep listening and creating moments of connection and silence. Perhaps that is our only safeguard in truth-seeking; not forcing our predictions or symbolism or bias on our client, but honoring instead the idea that we are acting as Hermes did—as a communicator; as an instrument of the Divine.

We are looking at the Shadow—that’s delicate work! We’re looking at the blueprint of the psyche, and in those moments of listening with the heart we get a chance for the Spirit to enter; for what the Jungians call the numinous moment--- when we—or our client-- look at the chart and see the answers projected there---upon the clear sky of the heavens above and the gods within.

Ah…feel like I’m waxing a bit poetic here—but you got me going! Hope this helps~


(c) Elizabeth Spring

Friday, October 8, 2010

You Can Make Astrology Prove Anything!

Dear Isabelle~

Sometimes I think you can make astrology prove anything. Isn’t it like the Bible—the way you can just pick the right verse and chapter, and prove anything?! I can imagine you can make a case for God’s approval or disapproval, or for Destiny’s "Astrological" approval or disapproval, on almost anything in the chart—?

Look at the choices we have—look at what astrology has in its toolbox: mid-points, solar return charts, transits, fixed Stars, progressions—just pick the question, choose your attitude and response, and you can back up anything you want to say with some aspect…why not? We can use Vedic, Sidereal, Placidus, or Koch systems, and then add an evolutionary, predictive, or psychological bias....and...does it really come out the same then... is it really all ‘under one sky’? And if so, how do I know what’s the best approach to use? Sorry if I sound like the great skeptic, but even you have called yourself the “reluctant astrologer.” What do you mean?



PS Why are you going to Zurich? Is it to see Carl Jung’s house? Or are you going to meet Alistair at the Krishnamurti center near there? I hope Sophie can be open to all this….!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saturn's Gift: Inspired Melancholy

 Saturn’s Gift: “Inspired Melancholy”

Today I was reading that the medieval astrologer, Marsilio Fincino, was the first to express the “gift of Saturn”—namely that the Saturn can be the midwife of insight. This is because depression, or “melancholia” as he called it, creates a permeable boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness, and allows us to adjust issues that have gotten out of hand—real issues—our personal unfinished business. This inner reflection, or depression, is experienced like a “falling into ourselves” that brings us to the point where we are no longer able to continue with life in the usual way. Because we’re not nourished any longer by what is—by what the ego has achieved and what the world has given us, we begin creating a bridge: first insight, then action, then change.

Sounds good, but at the moment I can feel the “melancholia” with Sophie, and I don’t have insight into what she’s thinking, so the feeling hangs in the air between us today like a gray mist. I wonder how we lost yesterday’s magical synchronicity at Whitby?

So I sit here reading and journaling-- reading about how Saturn times can return us to contemplation, peace and equilibrium—or it can lead to what Carl Jung called “enantiodromia” –a complete and opposite change of attitude. This is when a condition is so polarized or severe that it polarizes into its opposite. I wonder if some of that is brewing. I read on: “Saturn marks off the stages, the ages, separating time, history and the past. We often lose energy as we move through this passage, as we are called to dance with an invisible partner. The antidote to Saturn is Jupiter, the planet of expansion, grace and opportunities, and Venus, the planet of love and connection and beauty.” Who is my invisible partner?

During Saturn Returns and transits we are more permeable to feeling the defeats of the ego and often feel unseen and lacking in direction. Jung would say this space needs to be “held and allowed” until Saturn brings its gift of insight, creating a bridge for the Self to cross over into a truer destiny path. He talked about this in “holding the tension of the opposites” till the third way (the inspiration) is made clear. It can arise from the depths of melancholia and I wonder if this is all playing out with transiting Saturn conjuncting my Sun now….I guess I’m living into it, rather than merely writing about it. When Sophie wakes up, we will decide if and when we are really going to get on that train and go visit her father…or not. I’d like to visit Carl Jung’s place there…

Hmm….it seems as if astrologers either want to make light of Saturn transits, or tend to make them the opposite—fearful. I lean towards seeing the positive restructuring that Saturn wants to build, but I’m aware that it’s a mistake to turn the darkness of Kronos (Saturn) into too much of a good thing—for this would miss the fact that what appears to be the dark night of the Soul still is dark (!)--a “Nigredo” experience—even though it’s the awakening of imagination. Before movement, there is no movement, or stuckness.

Sophie is often a late sleeper. Yesterday she explored Whitby by herself for awhile as I retreated to my room to rest and read…yet even with my books and journal I feel this touch of melancholia—it’s true, Saturn is on my Sun, and I haven’t seen the bridge to the future yet. I wait for insight.

I wait for Sophie….and then…? Will I wait for Alistair? Is he waiting for us? I wish one could take a dose of Venus and Jupiter as easy as one can take vitamin supplements….ah…I hear a stirring from the bedroom….


Monday, September 27, 2010

Pilgrimage to Whitby~Where We Find The Stones


Dear Alistair and Kendra~

“Whenever two or more are gathered in my name…”…there is love? Or there is Jesus? Or the synchronistic appearance of the “Holy Spirit”?

When Sophie and I got to the seaside town of Whitby, we checked into the hotel that sits right on the river that divides the Victorian side of town from the medieval side. On one side is where Bram Stocker wrote his novel “Dracula” and on the other side is the ancient monastery ruin where the future of the Christian Church was decided at the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD. Here is where the Celtic Christians lost out to the Roman Catholics. Here is where the monks and abbesses fought over such things as how to calculate the day of Easter celebration—here is where the astrological and pagan remnants of the church were finally squashed.

But Sophie knew I had a bit of an agenda by bringing her here, and she wasn’t in a good mood about it. She knew I wanted to impress her with the fact that there was once a different kind of Christian Church other than the fundamentalist one she is connected with now—and—that there were women—like St Hilda, who was the head abbess here, and who once had a powerful position in the church. Sophie knew that I was hoping that the “supremely romantic ruins with panoramic ocean views” (that’s how the brochure described it) would open her mind. I suspect she was steeling herself against it. But she came on this journey with me because I begged her…

And so after we settled in, I suggested we walk up to the monastery as it was sunset and we still had enough light left. However, I’d forgotten how long a walk it is—and it’s uphill. As we climbed the foot path via the “199 abbey steps” Sophie got cranky. She was still weak from her ordeal in Lindisfarne, and I began feeling guilty for pushing her to do this pilgrimage with me.

“This isn’t going to prove anything to me, you know….” Sophie fingered her cross chain as she continued: “I don’t really care about history, I care about Jesus…and feeling connected with the Spirit.”

“The Holy Spirit? I asked. “Did you know, the 3rd person of the trinity was originally called ‘Hagia Sophia’ which meant feminine wisdom in the original Greek? But then it was changed by the Roman Catholics to the Holy Ghost, and the feminine mysticism of it was suppressed. They did a thorough job of ousting the feminine at the first Council of Constantinople.”

“Okay. So that happened. Is that why you named me Sophia?” She was frowning, and we were getting out of breath going up the steps.

“Well…I thought of it. Maybe I wanted more feminine wisdom myself.”

“And you didn’t get it, eh?”

“No, Sophie, I love you no matter what! And I love that you’ve got such a spiritual passion. But I’m just hoping we can find a way not to be so divided on these things—don’t you think there’s a middle-ground, a place where we can meet on all this?”

We stood on middle ground for a moment—underneath a towering stone celtic cross. She leaned up against it to catch her breath. “This is what I believe in.” She pointed up to the cross.

“Me too…But do you see it Sophie? There’s a circle around that cross which changes its meaning. It focuses on the resurrection, the continuity of life, and that the pain of bearing the cross of life is changed by the belief in—“

“—reincarnation?” Sophie stroked the green moss on the cross and then looked out to the sea that surrounded us. A strong wind seemed to be gaining on us, turning the waves rough and the light was fractured by heavy clouds.

“That’s one way to look at that—you know reincarnation was originally part of church doctrine, until the 2nd Council of Constantinople took that one away as well—and then the Roman Inqusition considered it a heresy, punishable by death—such as what they did to the Cathars in France. But the Christian Gnostics and the Essenes taught reincarnation, as well as this old theologian…Origen….but it’s not just about that, you know…?” My voice began rising higher almost as if I was questioning her, rather than retelling the facts.

“You don’t get it, do you? I don’t care about history, I care about Jesus. What he stands for—why not Jesus, Mom? Why not just him and not the church? Why are you and Dad always arguing these things! I don’t care about theories about God! I don’t care! I want to feel it—here—“ She banged her chest like a true pilgrim. “Have you ever experienced that—that warmth of God, in here? I don’t think you have, Mom.” She took a deep breath—“Come on let’s get to the top of this hill.”

We climbed the rest of the way up the cliff silently, watching the light breaking through the clouds onto the stone arches, lichen-covered tombstones and “circled crosses”. It was as if all of nature, all the stones, light, ocean, and wind were saying: “Talk all you want, but I am here.”

So we stopped talking. The abbey was situated on a plateau, and behind it was a shallow pond. We circled around it slowly, and Sophie reached down to pick up something. We honored the silence with each other and the silence of the place. I could see the last of the visitors heading down the cliff-side as it was getting dark, and so we began retracing our steps, with no words…just the ocean breeze and the dappled light on the angel faced gravestones around the chapel next to the monastery. It was too much for words.

I picked up a smooth round “touch stone” on the ground as we walked and began rubbing it between my fingers. I once called these stones, “worry stones”, but now I wasn’t worrying, just wondering-- why was I re-loving Celtic Christianity again? Was it the resonance between the mandala of the astrological chart and the pre-Christian Cross...? Was there room in my heart for the Christian Cross—for Jesus? I remembered the Irish poet, John O'Donohue saying: "The circle around the beams of the Cross rescues the loneliness where the 2 lines of pain intersect--the circle contains and resonates with the mysterious nature of God's love..." The circled cross held hope for me.

Sophie saw me pick up the stone. She looked at me quizzically, and as I turned to her I could see a spark of sunlight reflecting off the ocean surface over her head. Nothing unusual really, but stunning nevertheless…wasn’t that what happened at Pentacost, when Jesus returned to his disciples? Didn’t it give them the gift of understanding and communicating in all “tongues?” And as I pondered this, we lowered our heads watching the steep steps again, as we began heading down.

Suddenly a wild-looking young man--- a John-the-Baptist-type if I ever saw one--- came racing up the steps, muttering: “The Holy Spirit is not for sale….not for Sale!” He stared at us as he rushed by, and we burst out laughing. Then Sophie turned to me with a sly grin, and took a black stone with a circle around it, out of her pocket.

“Here, this is for you---if you give me yours, I’ll give you mine,” she put it in my hand. “But for you--for free…! No sales pitch needed…” We laughed. I took her stone as if it was a great gift, imbued with magic, and I gave her my worry stone.

When we got to the bottom, we ducked into a little tea shop. There was a soft warm light permeating the rustic shop and I knew it was time to tell Sophie my other story. But it was going to take some effort to try to explain the unexplainable to her.

--and that will be my next email to you both. I guess it’s time I spoke to you all about this….

Till then~


Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Cultivating the Witness"

“Do not speak for those who can speak…but for those who cannot. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre de Chardin

Dearest Kendra~

You ask me, what do I think? I’m proud of you for finding that extra energy to get out there and “do something” and then to take the time to sit down and write about it all. That’s not easy to do when you’re feeling miserable and scared. Maybe this quote above can help both of us keep a good perspective on our lives…and, like you, I’m wondering about your new love, Joseph—have you seen his chart yet? I’m curious about the hidden side of his Pluto and South Node.

As I write this, Sophie and I are on the train going South from Lindisfarne to Whitby. Sophie is sleeping, and I’m thinking how the English landscape feels so familiar yet dreamlike. It’s as if we are in an in-between world, feeling “betwixt and between,” in every way--but I’ll save the “story” of that for the next letter. I hope she’ll be in a better mood when she wakes up.

Speaking of stories, I was just remembering what many spiritual pilgrims have done and still do—they call it “Cultivating the Witness”. Do you know about that? The Witness, or the Self, is the inner Beloved—that core part of us that observes what is happening. It’s aware of our emotions, our body, and the “story” but it doesn’t identify with them. And it lives in the present moment; now.

So when you asked for help, I wondered if you could try creating a slight distance between the “story of Kendra” with all her wounds and strengths, and the observer/witness inside you? Alistair often quoted his teacher, Krishnamurti, about this awareness—this difference between the “observer and the observed.” Eckart Tolle and others talk about this too— and when you put this more objective distance between you and what’s happening, it seems to put one into a clearer, more energetic place. Of course, physicists talk about the phenomena of observing what’s happening too, and how even in the process of “observing” the observer effects the nature of what is observed. But if you go too far with it, a psychologist would say you’re “dissociating”—so a little goes a long way! You’ve got to have a strong enough ego to be able to “let go” of the ego’s story, and allow it to die into this Witness-Self. I believe you have a strong enough ego so that you’re not going to do a spiritual bypass on an emotional problem.

I just bought a glass of red wine from the steward as he passed by. It seems like my ego relaxes more when I have a glass of wine, but maybe it’s just the defensive left brain beginning to relax. Too much wine, and then I suspect, the reverse happens. I wonder if I could give myself the “advice” I offer you? To cultivate the witness and live in the “now” more….to move away from the “story line of infinite possibilities of pain, gain and attitude adjustments”—and simply trust the process of life unfolding. Not easy! This is the point of astrology…seeing what is happening in a larger symbolic context that’s not so personally infused with the pain of private dramas…and to feel connected to the whole.

What do you think? I suspect, with your Scorpio Sun, you’ve been deep into the delirious drama of trying to figure out “love.” I wonder, instead, if you could witness what is happening between you and Joseph, and let it all just unfold--? My fear is that as long as you stay too “enclosed” and worrying about your weight, you’ll be hiding like that turtle you mentioned, and have nothing to give. Most people don’t care about how we look as much as we think they do—although advertising in the media is always trying to prove the opposite.

I would guess that Joseph is more concerned more about what you think of him. He’s looking at you, and wondering if you love him… wondering if you could see him for who he truly is. He has shame and woundedness in his life too! He has a Pluto/South Node in his chart somewhere, and he reincarnated to attempt to heal that. I think he’s looking to see if you might be the one to help him, and to see and feel his love. And—I think his Pisces/Virgo nature is a nice complement to your Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Cancer.

On a more mundance level, let me add this about Jupiter—all that Jupiter and Venus/Moon sounds great for romance, but the “sweet factor” here—Venus and Jupiter—has a down side too. Jupiter and Venus are conjunct in your birth chart, and it can reflect a sensitivity to gaining weight, to low blood sugar, and even diabetes. But it doesn’t have to—you can choose to observe what you eat and what you’re feeling, rather than literally “taking in sweets.”

Hm…I keep thinking that love is better as a verb than a noun….

As always… trying…. ever so slowly…. to “verb” along, like this train….


Friday, September 24, 2010

Loving the Unloveable~the Wound of Pluto

Dear Isabelle~

I feel un-loveable. I feel fat and miserable. I feel like climbing out of my skin, and something inside me wants to slither away like a snake or retreat like a turtle. I know the turtle image is fitting for my Moon in Cancer, but I can’t hide now- I need to attempt, yet another, Sun-in-Scorpio “rebirth”. I’m sick and tired of dying and being reborn, but I know I must do it. I can just imagine you saying: “this is the nature of Scorpio. This is the nature of a Saturn Return.” And yes, I will try--- to extend my neck out of this shell of my old life and into this new one that seems to be approaching. Hard to tell if what’s coming is friend or foe. I’d prefer to curl up next to a cool rock and sleep.

You ask what has been happening…well, after losing my job and feeling live a defeated victim, I got your email when I was lying in bed one morning. I read all you wrote about Saturn. Ugh. But I decided then that I had it in me to make one good try —and I did. I made one big effort and applied for a job and got it. It’s a simple job, un-glamourous, but…. I met Joseph there. He loves astrology. I think he loves me…or at least likes me a lot. We’ve only been together a few weeks, but…I’m swirling by how fast realities can change.

So…it’s the autumn equinox today, and I’m sitting outside now with my computer and astrology chart, wondering what is possibly going on! How can I feel “in love” and everything be so wonderful and awful all at the same time?! I’m sitting under a glorious old tree watching the late afternoon sun playing through the leaves, trying to absorb all this beauty and calm down, while waiting for him to come over….oh yes! I’m in exquisite torture.

So the unexpected (Uranus) has happened. And just like you told me about transiting Jupiter—“Be careful what you wish for, because your wish may come true. It’s likely to happen.”

Well it did. I wished for him…..and…as you would say; Jupiter (expansion and opportunities) has decided to bless my heart (aspecting Venus & Moon) with the pain of falling in love--- or “in hope”--- or whatever this crazy feeling is! And as you know, being in the middle—or is it “muddle”? of the Saturn Return, I feel under great pressure.

It’s as if I’m being called “out to play again in the world” and I’m scared. Really scared. What do you think, Isabelle? There’s a chance we could make love tonight if I can get over this feeling…if I can be brave.

So I’m looking at this chart of mine, showing my Saturn Return along with Jupiter aspecting my Venus, Moon….and Uranus, so I’ll get more of the unexpected? More weight? Is that the expansion? Gaining weight has made me feel ashamed again, like when I was young. You may remember that my natal Pluto is right on the cusp of the 7th house of relationships and it feels like some old karmic wound has re-emerged. I feel under a familiar old pressure, or shame.

I just want to be myself, not have to prove myself, but it feels as if pieces of my Soul have been taken over the years, with a nagging kind of shame….sometimes I think Joseph has it too—not with weight, but there’s something hidden in him, and he likes to drink. Not too much…but still, it feels like he’s…well, I guess he has his own Pluto-wound somewhere. I should find out…I know he’s a Pisces Sun, Virgo Moon, and loves talking about astrology.

What do you think? Help!!! ~Kendra

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Read an Astrology Chart: What matters Most

Dear Kendra~

When I look at my own chart, or a client’s chart, I want to find out first what is truly going on here--what is the question beneath the question? And I want the chart to give me a clue as to what would be most helpful in “solving” that issue. I don’t want to bring up fear or excuses, shame or blame, I simply want to see what and why, and how to make it better.

So, I look at the transits first, to see what area of life the planets are throwing the spotlight on, and look to see if they are squaring off against each other or helping each other. Everybody can read their Sun sign transit report on the web, but what they’re reading is as general as a weather forecast! It’s so much more accurate to see how those transiting planets are aspecting your individual chart, and you can do this easily by creating a transit wheel around the natal chart if you have an astrology program, or you can look at an ephemeris to see the movements of the planets aspecting your birth chart.

But if you do read the web or magazine astrology reports for the day or month, keep in mind that its more accurate to read about your Rising Sign, than to read your Sun sign. All seasoned astrologers know this. There’s some validity to the Sun sign report, but more to the rising sign, because that makes the house placements more accurate. There could be a full Moon eclipse with all sorts of dynamics that astrologers are raving about, but if it’s not hitting your planets—well, you missed the thunderstorm! Your storm and rainbow will come in a unique way for your life and chart—when your transits show aspect your unique planetary pattern.

So with that in mind, what do I look for first? What matters most?

#1 Major transits of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Especially Saturn Returns, Uranus squares and oppositions, and any of these outer planets conjuncting the Sun or Moon or crossing one of the 4 angles of the chart. This is where attention needs to be drawn to, and any astrology “cookbook” will explain the meanings. The art of astrology, like in good cooking, is knowing how to synthesize it all into a whole. And to make it good and nourishing.

#2 What is most useful to know? Look at the natal chart next, and see what the Soul is “wanting to do” in this lifetime. What does the storyline look like? What are the challenges and pitfalls? Where strengths could be maximized?

The storyline of the Soul is told in the sign and house position of the Sun, the Moon, the Rising Sign, and the North and South Nodes. The whole chart is an inter-connected mandala that should support your reading, even if you understand only a part of the mandala—it’s like a puzzle, isn’t it? You could do a good reading by understanding the basics in depth….and then you will see “support and amplification” of the basics in the rest of the chart.

Astrologers all have their favorite ways of understanding and reading a chart—for some it might be through the Moon or the asteroids, but my particular bias is to look at the long term “Soul karmic story” of the North and South Nodes (you know that, because you read my book: “North Node Astrology” about how I feel about the Nodes and how to use them) and then to look at the short term needs. This is shown in what Mars and Saturn are doing in the birthchart and what they are doing by transit. Those are planetary energies that we can consciously “work with” at the moment, and actively do something about! Which brings me to the most important point if all---

#3 Don’t see the planets as “bad guys” but rather as energies that you are now ready to learn and grow from --no transits happen before their time! And everything can be lived out in a higher octave or a lower octave. You choose how to react—that’s your free will.

It might be helpful to imagine the planets as “Gods who have an agenda…who want to be honored and listened to.” They are archetypal energies that show up synchronistically, or astrologically, at a particular time for a particular reason. Do you know what the reason is? You can “know” this intuitively, or you can get help by looking at your chart. Most of us know things both ways…but the astrology confirms our intuitions.

Here’s an example: Saturn is often seen as strict, constrictive, authoritarian, melancholic energy—a little gruff and depressive as well—and “he” wants to tell you what to do and how to do it. Now most people don’t like being told what to do! However, I always look first to see what this old man, Saturn, is saying in the transiting chart, because he has a perspective on things that I sometimes avoid…. but truly, if we don’t deny what he is reminding us about—we’ll find that Saturn creates the best luck and the longest lasting happiness. Not Jupiter, but Saturn! We generally create the Saturnian foundation for Jupiterian luck to happen.

So the “reality watchdog”, Saturn’s practicality, might sound something like: finish your term paper so you can graduate, or, take those vitamin supplements for your bones, or make that commitment to deal with your finances. Saturn rules bones, houses, and all the “forms our lives take”—so by honoring Saturn transits we create “reality structures” to hold our life. When we discipline ourselves to do the hard work in the short run, we reap the rewards in the long run.

Saturn also rules the womb, and the institution of marriage—so when there’s a Saturn-Moon transit for example, if can sometimes manifest as a pregnancy, or if it’s Saturn/Sun or a Saturn Return it could be a marriage—or divorce. And as beautiful as marriage ceremonies are, they are a lot of hard work, foreshadowing the hardest yoga of all—two people loving each other!

Anyway dear Sophie, it feels like you are working powerfully with Saturn now, as you are in your first Saturn Return. And from what you’ve said, it impacted your womb, your work, and your relationship. It seemed as if Saturn was all about denying you at first, but I think it was more about “re-structuring”. Saturn rules time—he was known as old Kronos—from the Greek word for “time”--so my sense is that you are keenly aware of the passing of time, and making a space ready for new life “structures” and adventures. Is that true? I want to hear your story—the particulars-- what’s happening….?

Have you talked with your friends who are between 28-30 about their first Saturn Returns? I think the 2nd Saturn Return between 58-60 is usually less dramatic, but has more to do with “unfinished business.” Interesting how we all have these passages at the same time, but “play it out” in different ways. The core issues are the same though….don’t you think?

How are you?

As always, with love,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yearning to Reconcile: Christian fundamentalism, Celtic Spirituality and Jungian Astrology

Dear Isabelle~

I was touched by your willingness to get over the mask of the teacher--the “persona mask” and so poignantly tell me the story about meeting up again with Alistair and Sophie—and your yearning to heal the splits among you. This photo of a “split open rock” that I’m sending, reminded me of the pain of that “severance” I hear in your also reminds me of the resurrection story of Jesus when he split open the tomb. Ah…breaking open and breaking through…what a challenge! I love that you’re also yearning to heal your own spiritual split---that space within you that puts you into the place of “the reluctant astrologer” at times…I’m only just beginning to get a sense of what that is about…

So…how will you find the middle ground between Sophie’s Christian fundamentalism, Alistair’s cerebral spirituality, and your more pagan astrology—? Are you thinking it could be through Celtic Spirituality? Maybe the history (or ‘her-story’) will be found in the numinous stones at the monastery ruins of Whitby and will open Sophie’s heart. I imagine that’s why you’ve chosen to take her there…since it was a woman abbess, St Hilda, who governed this ancient monastery that gave both men and woman a chance to “be monks” and to honor both Christian and older earth/nature centered beliefs. I read somewhere too, that she mentored a lowly cow-herder into becoming a famous poet—I wonder if they were in love? ~grin~ And, I wonder… what will happen when you meet up with Alistair again in Switzerland--in “Jung’s land; in his temonos/sacred space”?

I’ve started doing charts for other people, but I have questions for you. People are wanting to know more astrology now, especially with all the fear around 2012 and not understanding this shift between the Piscean Age to the Aquarian age, and how this Cardinal T-square between Saturn, Pluto, and Uranus will usher it in.

So…I need to understand it in my own chart first. And I need to know how to approach doing a chart for another person. What do I start with? How do I see what’s really important in the chart and how can I avoid being a predictor of fear—like the astrologer who was predicting only “endings” in my Saturn Return? There’s so much information out there, but how do you suggest I do a reading? How do I get a sense of how a client (or myself) will play out, and live into the transits? Especially when they look “hard” to my beginner’s eye….till later then~

~with love…~Kendra