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Epic tales, sagas, yarns: narratives are nearly as old as humanity, but what’s interesting is that despite massive cultural and technological changes over many centuries, the hunger and popularity of such stories remains undiminished. At this point, so much has been written about the importance of narratives that there seems like little to add. I will, however, share an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while and of course it concerns astrology.

While all of us typically like or dislike one character or group of characters, it seems to me that on some level ALL the characters of these stories are within us.  Whether it’s a wise king or a weak king, a righteous warrior or a cowardly one, the clever brother or a dull-witted one, all these characters are symbolic of qualities within us. Narratives dramatize those qualities and the better the dramatization the greater our involvement. If you take the seven traditional planets – Sun through Saturn – you can apply a few simple adjectives and create a fantasy world of your own:

Sun: Leadership (strong or weak) The King

Moon: Emotion (deep or shallow) The Queen

Mercury: Wisdom or Cunning The Scribe

Venus: Beauty or Avarice The Young Woman

Mars: Courage, Cruelty or Cowardice The Young Man

Jupiter: Discovery, Journey The Judge, The Diplomat

Saturn: Strategy, Control The Priest, The Parent

Now, the moment we start putting these planets in signs, things get interesting and much more interesting. If we place Mars (the Warrior) in Aries it will produce “right action” while Mars in Libra might produce indecision OR a willingness to put away the sword and negotiate. And you can do this with all 7 planets in all 12 signs to create a very nuanced and complicated world. Much like the one we live in every day.

But to finish my idea: the appeal of these series is that on some level all the characters are within us:  the good and the bad, the noble and the shifty, the cruel and the kind. And they all exist in us as uneasily as they do in the characters of the narratives that we love.

As a tiny example, take Adam in the HBO series, “Girls”. Has there ever been a more Mars-like character in a contemporary show? Adam can be direct, unfiltered, raw and noble – sometimes in a span of two or three minutes. Mars in action!

HBOGirls

If you tried to imagine an antidote the high-flying excesses of “Sex in the City” you couldn’t come up with anything more perfect than the HBO series, “Girls”. Created by Lena Dunham, the show follows the lives and sexual adventures of 4 young women fumbling around with relationships, work and identity in New York City. Unlike “Sex in the City,” the show seems stripped of illusion and fantasy.By turns entertaining and nerve-wracking, “Girls” is pretty remarkable for being openly, even bluntly sexual and intimate in its portrayal.

At the age of 26, Dunham has a significant number of credentials under her belt. A long with “Girls,” she wrote, directed and starred in the indie favorite “Tiny Furniture” as well as a number of short films. Her book is reportedly being shopped around New York publishers for $3 million. Judging from both the show and the movie, Dunham has some core themes that she’s working with. So let’s take a quick look at the chart.

 Lena Dunham

Almost magically, we see the Moon in Cancer exactly on the Cancer Ascendant (circled on the left side). Highly fitting for a writer working on issues of feminity, nurturing and relating (all highly Cancerian themes). Even physically, Dunham has the round, dreamy face of a Moon child.

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Her Moon connects directly to Jupiter, powerfully placed in Pisces at the midheaven (career, public visibility). In my practice, when I see Pisces strongly emphasized in a chart, it almost always leads to involvement in film, theater, music or something related to those arts. With Jupiter (reward, expansion) placed there, we see great potential, but is that Jupiter supported by other planets. In other words, the potential is there to rise up but do other energies in the chart contribute to this happening?

As a matter of fact: Yes. Jupiter is supported by contacts from the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Mars Venus and Neptune. The chart overflows with creativity, one might even say, an obsession with it. But what stands out, is the connection of energies, of planets in good condition supporting and reinforcing each other. What most of us have to consciously work on doing, seems to be already set in place in this remarkable woman’s chart.

Capitol

Imagine a city filled with powerful women and men. Every day they wake up, ride through the streets in black limousines and gather together to make decisions that affect millions, even billions of human beings. As these power brokers stride  through marble hallways, they are surrounded, surrounded in the most unexpected places by astrological symbols. Is the city described above from a fairy tale? No, it’s Washington, DC.

Of course, readers of Dan Brown mysteries will be familiar with this idea of secret symbols all over the city, but in this book, “The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital,” David Ovason takes the matter much further. At heart, his theory is that the city’s federal triangle – the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the White House – were built to align three prominent fixed stars: Regulus, Spica and Arcturus. Why the emphasis on fixed stars? The idea is that the power of these stars – and Spica, particularly so – will pour down their beneficial effects when strategically placed in a chart such as this.

In addition, the timing for the placement of the corner stones for these buildings consistently use the sign of Virgo as a theme, but for what reason? Ovason claims that the men who made these decisions about the timing – most of them initiates of the secret order of Masonry – wished to take advantage of Virgo’s associations with purity and redemption. The sheaf of wheat that we see associated with Virgo symbolizes abundance and the Bread of Life. According to the author there are over 20 zodiacs in government buildings around the city, and even more can be found in meetings rooms, stairways, interiors and so on.

Great Hall

 

Ovason’s book is more than 500 pages long, readable but also dense with references to traditional astrology, secret societies and the like. For our purposes, let’s take at one idea: the importance of Virgo (and hence the fixed star Spica in the chart). Below are the three charts for the buildings in question: Capitol, White House and Washington Monument. To make it easier, I’ve placed these charts one inside the other.

Washington DC Virgo 

Where is Virgo? As you can see, by the notes that I’ve made, there is indeed a Virgo theme running through all three. Significantly, the planets involved are all on or very near Spica at 22 degrees. Starting from the city’s first marker here’s what we have:

1st chart: Virgo ascending with Jupiter conjunct the Ascendant  and Spica

2nd chart: Virgo on the 9th house with Moon and the North Node conjunct the cusp and Spica

3rd chart: Virgo on the 9th house with Sun on the cusp, close to Spica

So across the three charts we have Sun, Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, North Node, Ascendant and Midheaven all in Virgo, many of them close to the degree of Spica. Is it really deliberate? Were the Mason’s designing a “city on the hill” that would be a beacon to the world? Maybe and maybe not. I’m sure probability experts could argue that this emphasis on Virgo is not that improbable, that it could have just happened by accident. Yet it feels like more than just a coincidence. The cynical question would be: what good came of it, look at Washington DC today, which is home to rabid politicians, a bad basketfall franchise and my brother-in-law, (who’s a real piece of work). On the other hand, in less than 300 years this place rose from the soil to become one of the most powerful locations on the earth. And whether that’s coincidence or the power of Virgo and the fixed star Spica is up to each person to decide.

 

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“They will say you are on the wrong road, if it’s truly your own road.”

~Antonio Porchia

the-sisters Stanley Spencer

A few months ago, I wrote about certain themes running through families. At the time, a number of people asked me to elaborate, so here you go.

In the case of astrological themes, we’re usually thinking in terms of signs, although it can also be extended to planets. It’s certainly not unusual to find families that are Saturn or Jupiter-like in terms of their sensibilities. Where astrology can be helpful regarding families is that it can identify the black sheep, the person who was working on a different theme from most of the other family members. Because it’s important to remember that parents and siblings and all the rest of the clan are, on some level, simply other people. They may be much more, of course, but astrologically they can be wildly different, with a different purpose, a different purpose, a different sensibility and so on.

By saying that, I’m not diminishing the ties of family but simply pointing out that there can be essential and painful differences between people who share the same blood. “Is it wrong not to like my sister?” a client once asked.  “If it helps,” I told her, “she probably doesn’t like you either. There’s simply no compatibility between your charts. Stop worrying about it.”

In some astrological circles, it’s believed that people choose their families on some mystical/psychic/soul level. I’m not much a believer in that idea and certainly over the years my clients seem to absolutely hate it. “Trust me, of all the parents on earth, I wouldn’t have chosen those two,” is how a woman put it to me once.

Having said all of the above, it would be a mistake to think that looking at the charts of family members, siblings for instance, is an exercise in searching for the negative. Below are the charts of two well-known brothers: Ben and Casey Affleck. They have worked together often, and have done so in an industry that could easily set siblings at odds (think of Eric and Julia Roberts, or Warren Beatty and Shirley Maclaine). We’ll look at them first through the planetary connections and then through the connections of temperament, though in practice the process would be reversed. Ben’s chart is on the inside, while Casey’s is on the outside.

The Affleck Brothers

While born three years apart, the brothers have some unusual connections. Starting with the Sun (marked with an arrow at the bottom left of the charts) and moving counterclockwise, we see that their Suns are conjunct, Casey’s Mars is conjunct Ben’s Mercury and that their Moon’s are conjunct. AND both those Moons are favorably supportive to the Ben’s Ascendant and Venus (marked on the left side with a couple of rectangles). Is it any wonder they work together and work well?

Going further, let’s look at the temperaments: Ben is primarily phlegmatic (cold & wet) in nature, with a sub temperament of choleric (hot & dry), while Casey is primarily melancholic (cold & dry). What does that mean? They connect through the cold element, but balance each through the Ben’s preponderance of wet and Casey’s preponderance of dry. In other words, there’s a lot, in terms of both temperament and planets that make them well suited to working together.

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We live in patterns because we have to. They are inescapable. The Cosmos is a pattern. So are we. We can alter ourselves by altering our patterns.

~William Grey

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Back at the end of January and beginning of February, I had wanted to take a look at Beyonce’s chart – since we were reading a lot about her performances at Obama’s inauguration and the Super Bowl – but I never quite got it together.  But when I came across this extraordinary photo, I had to pull out my notes and just do it. The chart is below.

Beyonce

One way of approaching the chart – or of approaching your life, for that matter – is by answering the question: what is your “primary motivation”? It’s an old, old phrase but useful as a focusing mechanism. Of course, to some might appear to be a touch anachronistic, particularly in this time where everyone encouraged to have it all, whatever that actually means. But the concept of a Primary Motivation can be a powerful one, as it gives you a reference point for direction.

Looking at any chart, we start, not with the Sun sign, but with the rising sign, the Ascendant, as the indicator of the Primary Motivation. In Beyonce’s chart, that gives us the sign of Leo rising with the planet Mars close the cusp. Here the Primary Motivation is, or should, be for recognition and power, either positively or negatively. Why? Because those are the essential qualities of Leo.  To find out whether those qualities have the opportunity to express themselves is accomplished by looking at the rest of the chart. In this case, Mars is close to rising, which adds more force to the Primary Motivation, leading to a take charge approach.

To keep this manageable for the newsletter, we’ll skip the Sun and Moon, and go right to the group of planets that are bracketed at the bottom of the chart: in order, that’s Mercury, Saturn,  Jupiter, the Part of Fortune, Venus and Pluto all in Libra. This extraordinary group in Libra is an overwhelming projection of grace, beauty, artistic expression and so on. In fact, Venus is likely the most powerful planet in the chart: it rules Libra as well as the 10th house of career and profession, we can expect these Venus qualities (beauty, grace) to be powerfully projected. Which leads us back to the Primary Motivation. How is power and recognition found? Through Venus. What kind of Venus? A comfortable Venus that will always find a way to be in its own element (sign). What else? Venus is conjunct Jupiter: lots of beauty, excess, an overflow.

Very quickly, let’s go back to that photo. The date is Feb. 3, 2013, the day of the Super Bowl. Below is Beyonce’s harmonic chart for the beginning of the game.  What do we see: her Venus (marked on the right) EXACTLY in support of her Part of Fortune (marked at the top of the chart which is shown below).  That’s a good day for anybody.

Beyonce Harmonic

Improvisation IV (Afrique)

Several readers sent very positive comments about last week’s article, Spirit. A couple seemed surprised. One woman asked: are you saying astrology is connected to religion? That’s an interesting question. The short answer is that they are connected by the fact that both begin with the idea that there is a larger meaning to life and the universe. From there, their paths diverge, with astrology traveling the road of self-knowledge and religion following a much different path.

I’ll point out one aspect of that divergence with a quick story: years ago, I attended a talk by a rather well-known spiritual leader who asked for questions from the audience. A woman asked him what she should do about her anger. “Just don’t be angry,” he answered. “But how?” she persisted. “If you want to grow spiritually, just stop being angry,” he answered.

To me that exchange encapsulates a lot of what is wrong with what passes for organized religion: giving generalized advice for specific individual states. His advice was to tell her not to be angry, but maybe the woman needed to be angry. Maybe her current situation required her to be angry to change, to change not only herself but others around her. Or maybe she was an angry person, who just needed a legitimate channel for that energy. There are a bunch of potential scenarios here, but his only advice was: Bear it and don’t be angry. But that clearly was not option for the woman.

After the event, I searched for her outside and asked what she thought of his advice. “I guess I’m being tested and maybe it’s all for my greater good” was her response. Maybe. Or maybe she didn’t know herself well enough to understand what she needed to do.

Which leads me back to where this article started last week: Know yourself. And know your “selves”. So lets continue with looking at the Spirit. To find the Part of Spirit in a chart is to attempt to understand how and where the Spirit, the Self, the I AM, lives within us. Just as importantly, it’s an attempt to understand how active the Spirit is, how easily it can express itself. In some charts, it is strong; in some charts, not so much. Additionally, it’s not unusual to see the Part of Spirit opposed or in conflict with planets that have more worldly interests, which reminds me of the famous prayer of  St. Augustine: “Lord, make me pure, but not yet.”

In the chart shown, the Part of Spirit (called POS from here on) is marked with an S at the left side of the chart. The description that follows is a description of how this particular individual struggled to incorporate spirituality into her life. The formula to find the placement is as follows: ASC + Moon – Sun = Part of Spirit (Sun).

 

 

Part of Spirit

In the chart shown, the POS is located at 14 degrees in Cancer, very close to the Ascendant (the point is marked with an S on the left side of the chart). Any planet or point in the Ascendant, particularly when it’s close to the rising degree, is important. So for this reading, I would take their interest in spirituality, or religion, as being strong, and that they are aware of that impulse within themselves and that it is a primary impulse.

From here, we look at the sign and position of the planet ruling the Ascendant. In this case, it’s the Moon. Located in the 9th house (upper right of the chart where all those planets are) in Pisces, suggests that this is a person who sees it as their purpose in life to love others, to give to others, to surrender their substance to others. Why? The 9th house is the house of religion and Pisces is the sign of the breaking down of barriers. All those planets – through their connection to the Part of Spirit – suggests the need to serve, of a larger sympathy with the world. What is interesting is how many other Arabic parts are placed on or near this Ascendant, including:

* Part of Fortune

* Part of Happiness

* Part of Hyleg

* Part of Life

* Part of Passion

* Part of Wisdom and Patience

Was any of this accurate? The chart belongs to a woman who has been deeply religious since her early youth and works in a religious organization ministering to the poor. It’s difficult work, yet deeply satisfying to her. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a sense where her identity is swallowed up by her vocation. However, the anonymity of it seems entirely natural to her: “It’s not about me, it’s about something much larger than myself”.

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For many years, the back of my business cards carried the statement: Know yourself. The phrase, which is usually traced back to the ancient Greeks, was intended as a proper goal of life. But what does that statement really mean? Or to be more exact, which self were they talking about?

For the purpose of this piece, I would put forward that there is self and Self. A great deal of astrology focuses on self – or more accurately, selves. Fickle, reactive, vulnerable to all kinds of influences, these small selves often determine the quality of our lives: who we like and don’t like, our pursuits, passions, animosities and so on. But the Self – with a capital “S” – is different. It is the expression of “I AM” that is somehow above all those little “selves” that we get attached to.

In astrology, one of the ways that the assessment of the Self takes place is through finding the Part of Spirit, or the Part of the Sun. As its name suggests, the part is not a planet, but is a degree in the chart that is calculated through a formula involving the positions of the Ascendant, Sun and Moon.

Why is the Part of Spirit associated with the Sun and not the Moon? The symbolism of astrology makes this very clear: the Moon is associated with our instinctual urges. It is changeable, like the world is changing every moment. It is transient, suggesting our transience. In contrast, the Sun represents the higher Self, our personal portion of the divine. It is the opposite of transience and approaches genuine permanence, even immortality. We cannot look directly at the Sun, because it is too powerful, too brilliant, much like we would be overwhelmed by the divine if it was suddenly revealed to us.

However, it’s easy to forget that deeper, brilliant part of ourselves in the ebb and flow of daily life. And that’s because the things of the world – and the way our small fickle selves become attached to those things – can easily block the radiance of our inner Sun. To use an analogy: pick up two small pebbles, hold them closely in front of your eyes and look at the Sun. What happens? The tiny stones block the light. This is a good illustration of what happens within us every day. The constant stream of petty, transient emotions and thoughts essentially block our larger perceptions. This may be why most religions and spiritual paths require their followers to practice humility. Of course, it has to be real humility and not the pretense of humility, which is just as destructive as having none at all.

Next week, we’ll talk a little more about the Part of Spirit, as well as look at it in action in a chart. 

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The tragic story of Mindy McCready’s recent suicide brought questions from a few readers on whether depression can be seen in a chart. As that word has such broad connotations, it’s not a term I would use. That said, there are charts that certainly show stress around either thinking or emotions, or both. As I mentioned last week, when Venus, which generally symbolizes love and relating, is under stress there can be difficulty socializing or having stable relationships. In terms of depression – or Melancholia, as it used to be called – we look to Mercury and the Moon, the two fastest moving planets in the chart. Under stress, it can be difficult for these two to function. And depending on what kind of stress, we can get a glimpse of what kind of problems turn up.

For instance, Mercury under stress in an earth sign can suggestion a heaviness of thought, depression, if you will. While Mercury in a fire sign afflicted by Mars (which shows up in the chart of poet Sylvia Plath), may be an indicator of anger. In an air sign, Mercury is less likely to lead to unhappiness though it may result in a loss of focus or unrealistic thinking depending on the aspects.

And finally, we have Mercury in a water sign. As he is a well-known figure, and because his chart is so extreme, we’ll take a look at the horoscope of Kurt Cobain, where Mercury is placed in watery Pisces and see how this works in practice.

Cobain

There’s a lot going on here, but it’s easily broken down. On the right side of the chart, in brackets, we find Sun, Mercury, Venus and Saturn ALL in Pisces. A water sign, Pisces symbolizes, among other things, oneness, empathy and sacrifice, but negatively victimization and vulnerability. With so many placements there, we can anticipate those qualities running deeply through the core of the Self. But there’s much more, as those planets are also connected to both Moon and Jupiter (arrow at the top of the chart) and Neptune (arrow at the bottom of the chart) also in water signs, all of which greatly heighten and increase the sensitivity. In my experience, a preponderance of planets in water signs frequently indicates a tendency to addiction and Cobain’s struggles in this area are well documented. In fact, out of ten planets in the chart ALL EXCEPT TWO ARE IN WATER SIGNS.

And as for the two that aren’t – Uranus and Pluto – both are exactly opposite Mercury, the ruler of thought, which brings us extreme and unconventional communication and thinking. All that Pisces, with its longing to leave the material body, is perfectly suited to a person who was the creative force behind a band named, Nirvana.