Archives for posts with tag: Psychology

astrology antique chart

If you look carefully at the image above, it will quickly be apparent that that the zodiac, the planets and their relationships form a mandala, which, by definition, is a symbolic or geometric figure representing the universe. Within the figure, we see that each of the original planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn – are used with two signs, while the Sun & Moon, placed in the 4th and 5th house, are used once. But look at their descriptions: the Moon is associated with security and the Sun with creativity.

We can all find reasons why that might be so, but to me the first explanation is that we need both: we need to be secure to be creative and vice-versa. Only here, I would alter or expand the meaning of the word creative. Creativity is not about doing a watercolor or learning a musical instrument; it is, rather, the growth, the creation of the Self. And for many of us – and I include myself – that is not an easy process. If you look at the mandala again, you can see that there are many potential layers to who we are. Walking through the figure, a narrative emerges: we need all these qualities: appearance (our bodies), acquisition (what surrounds us, both tangibly and non-tangibly, communication (how we interact), security (are we safe, do we feel safe) and so on.

Readers of this newsletter know that I’m always cautioning about the overuse of Sun signs, but they have their role. One is to use them as ideas for meditation – and in this case, I don’t necessarily mean sitting in a cross-legged in a dark room with candles. We can – and we do – meditate all the time: when we’re at work, on the bus, with our families, basically everywhere. Unfortunately, most of it is wasted on worry, anger, fear, indignation and a hundred other fleeting states of emotion. So instead of dwelling on negative states, try using some of the themes below to think about yourself, your life and what you want to do. Keep in mind, as well, that because your Sun sign is only a small factor of your chart, you may feel a great deal of kinship with the sign under which you’re born.

Aries – positive: self-assertion, enthusiasm, the direct approach; negative: hurried, inconsiderate, conceit

Taurus – positive: building and maintaining a secure structure; negative: greed, stubbornness, a ponderous approach to the world

Gemini – positive: flexibility, communication take center stage; negative: disorganization, emotionally restless 

Cancer – positive: nurturing, sensitive; negative: timid, tends to withdraw

Leo – positive: generous, optimistic, independent; negative: dislike of routine, overlooks the details

Virgo – positive: service, methodical, down-to-earth; negative: critical, inhibited, overly reliant on formalities

Libra – positive: diplomatic, able to creat harmonies; negative: indecisive, problems with self-assertion

Scorpio – positive: strong, determination, powerful insight; negative: dependent on recognition, secretive, manipulative

Sagittarius – positive: independent, generous, searching; negative: righteousness, superficiality

Capricorn – positive: practical, disciplined, patient; negative: mistrusting, joyless, cold

Aquarius – positive: original, imaginative, broad perspective; negative: overly detached, misses emotional clues

Pisces – positive: flexibility, adaptive, versatile; negative: boundaries, difficulty with self-assertion and goals


With thousands of charts and consultations to look back on, there are certain key issues that many, many people seem to struggle with. If I had to identify one of the top three it would be the difficulty people have with saying the word “NO”.

Why is that? I think there are lots of reasons. One is that NO feels prohibitive and we live in a culture where denial of any kind feels akin to an infringement of personal rights. Consider all the messages around consensus, such as “Getting to Yes,” or it’s “It’s a Win/Win situation” or “Don’t take NO for an answer”. In other words, there appears to be a rather powerful subconscious message that saying NO is somehow wrong. But common sense would suggest otherwise, which leads to quote that I particularly like:

“A NO that is constructive is a thousand times better than a YES that is not.”

So how do we know the difference and what does it have to do with astrology? The fact is that you can’t know what is constructive or destructive if you don’t know yourself, if you don’t know what your interests are, if you don’t know what you want. In general, clarity of Self tends to reduce confusion about when and why to say NO. But it’s important to understand the social constructions around the topic: because NO is perceived as prohibitive and negative, many of us are uncomfortable saying it (as well as uncomfortable hearing it) and start avoiding the word. And this confusion cuts across every relationship and circumstance: partners, friends, families, co-workers, etc.

In regards to a natal chart, there are lots of ways this difficulty with NO can develop. For example, it can be a temperament issue, like an excess of water in the chart making you too flexible, unable to take a stand. You may be willing, or simply unable to stop yourself, from giving up too much power. Here’s another scenario: you may be deeply divided about what you want. If your Sun is in Aries and your Moon is in Pisces, the internal dialog may alternate between “It’s all about me. No, wait, it’s all about you.” That’s a lot of tension to carry and potentially leads to behavior that is self-defeating, or that sends mixed messages.

So the need to know yourself is the prerequisite to knowing when and where to say NO. But it doesn’t address the issue of learning how to say NO.

To begin, let me propose a handy rule:

Start with a small NO.

If you’re having difficulty with NO, begin by becoming comfortable using NO in situations where the stakes are not high. Why is that? Because you’re basically building a muscle. If you didn’t work out for a long time, you wouldn’t being with a hundred pound weight, you’d start with a weight that was within the range of your strength and work your way up. The same with NO. Use it in situations that are fairly easy. Like, NO, I don’t want to go there to eat. Or NO, that’s not how I want to spend the afternoon. Basically, you’re looking for any situation where the pushback is not likely to be significant or forceful. Which brings us to the second rule of learning to say NO:

You don’t need a reason.

The fact is, a lot of people become stuck or defensive when their NO is challenged. But in reality, you don’t actually need a reason not want to do something. You don’t need a reason that the other party likes, understands, agrees with or any other reaction they might give. Keep in mind, if you’re having difficulty saying NO, then you’re likely to lose force by explaining your NO. This is again, by the way, the reason you start small. You want to become comfortable saying the word and you want it to mean something. To go back to last week’s quotation:

“A NO that is constructive is a thousand times better than a YES that is not.”

If you know what you want, if you know where you’re going, if you know what is in your best interests, then saying NO is not destructive. But the critical issue is knowing yourself. 

2. Wild Grape_41_61 (JLT)

In regards to your chart, one idea that is worth thinking about is the difference between growth and development. The reason I bring this up is that some people have the idea that they have qualities within them that will naturally grow, but that’s only true up to a point and in a certain way.

From my own perspective, growth is a process that more or less happens by itself. Beginning with our physical bodies, all kinds of changes take place in the first 17 or 18 years of life that are not willed by us in anyway. The same can be said of adulthood: we take jobs, find partners, grow old but in certain ways it just happens, it’s part of the flow of our lives.

Development, to me suggests, something entirely different, something conscious, and in readings I try to bring this idea forward. If, just for a broad example, you suffer from difficulty in relating to others, then you have to see that in yourself consistently and from a bunch of different perspectives and try to change. A person’s chart for the upcoming year can be helpful in that regard because it can suggest an opportunity or a need to change. Take the well-known and often dreaded Saturn return.

Saturn Example

By any standard of assessment, this is a difficult chart. Both the Sun and Venus are in opposition to Saturn and the Moon is square to it. Making matters worse, both Venus and the Moon are poorly placed by sign. I can pretty much close my eyes, grab a book from my library and find interpretations of these aspects that will make your hair turn white:

* Sun/Saturn: lack of self-confidence, fear of failure

* Moon/Saturn: emotionally withdrawn, lonely

* Venus/Saturn: difficulty making contact, relationships with a large age difference

So, a Saturn return in this case has the potential to set all of this dark material into motion. UNLESS, the individual can acknowledge and recognize these feelings, has not surrendered to them and is willing to do the hard work of actively working

against them. In the present example, I saw the client at their Saturn return and she was a mess. Most of the consultation revolved around the issues I just mentioned. Seven years later, when Saturn moved to a conjunction with the Moon and a square to the Sun and Venus (all difficult aspects) things were better. She had come out of some of the awful restriction that was making her life difficult.

When I saw her recently, with Saturn halfway through the return cycle, she had achieved a fair portion of happiness. She was still weighed down, but there was some release from her burdens. And in large part, it was due to the fact that 14 years ago, she could accept the difficult situation that she was in and was willing to work on herself.

Now, I’m using an extreme example here, but the lesson I’m trying to get across is simple. Development, while difficult, is very worthwhile. And to do it, You have to take the long view of yourself. And to take the long view, you have to see yourself, the good and the bad, the positive and the negative and be willing and flexible enough to change.

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Recently, I’ve been coming across articles about two very different social figures: right-wing talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, and literary/cultural critic, Katie Roiphe. They are, to most appearances, very different in their sensibilities. Limbaugh needs no introduction, while Roiphe inspires admiration as well as a lot of venom for her outspoken explorations of sexuality. So the question that crossed my mind was: do their charts have anything in common?

In situations like this, the planet we’re first interested in is Mercury. Why? Because it is the planet that rules communication, thought, speech, expression. In mythology, of course, it is the “winged messenger”. How Mercury is placed in a chart, by sign, by house and by aspect, will typically give us some idea of how the person thinks. With Mercury in Aries we can expect an individual who will likely be rash in thought and speech, perhaps aggressive either overtly or covertly. By house, Mercury can show the areas of life that are of concern: Mercury in the 1st gives a “me first” quality, while Mercury in the 12th house may speak for others, or at least appears to. Finally, the aspects to Mercury add further nuance and detail. But let’s quickly look at a couple of charts. We’ll do Rush first:

Rush Limbaugh

In Limbaugh’s chart, Mercury – marked on the left – is in an opposition with Uranus, which is marked on the lower right. So we know that Mercury symbolizes “thinking”; what does Uranus mean? In a word: deviant, but not in the sexual sense, but as the tendency to deviate from the mainstream. It is the planet of the iconoclast, the free thinker, the provacateur. The hard aspect suggests a sense of force, anger, a roiling quality to it. Now let’s check out Roiphe’s chart.

Katie RoipheThis time we see Mercury, again marked on the left of the chart, squared to Uranus marked on the bottom left. Again: Uranus is a very reliable predictor of unusual speech when it is in contact with Mercury. What’s further interesting about the charts is that both personalities have Sun in the 12th, which can suggest a private search for self-protection, or taking on causes as a protection or projection of the Self. In fact, Roiphe has stated in her most recent book: “In life I will go very far out of my way to avoid any possible conflict or argument, so it is a little surprising that in my essays I often seem to pick fights, and to offend or otherwise enrage people.” What better description of a person with three planets in Cancer (a tendency to withdraw, to be timid with others) but Mercury in contact with contrarian Uranus?

What I find interesting here is the possibility that while the Mercury/Uranus energy suggests “unconventional thinking,” the outward manifestation of it is different, although somewhat reactionary in both cases. I’m not sure most people would link Limbaugh and Roiphe, but, astrologically at least, they appear to be working out a similar need.

This was further brought home to me the other day in an article I came across. It was about a priest who had given up his beliefs and joined a group of atheists. After joining the atheists, he formed his own group in which he “ministered” to other priests like himself. Which raises the question: maybe ministering is what he’s most passionate about and the cause is secondary – beliefe in the existence of God or disbelief in the existence of God – is largely secondary.

“He/she is so complicated” is a statement I’ve heard a number of times while doing relationship readings, but as I pointed out last week, we’re all complex – in our needs, our reactions, our expectations and our assumptions. To take that even further, we are very often mysteries: even to ourselves. That wouldn’t be the worst state of existence except that our lack of knowledge of ourselves will, sooner or later, interfere or unravel nearly any relationship.

This is most easily glimpsed in extreme charts.  For instance, an abundance of fire in the chart will often result in a person who has a checklist when it comes to relationships. Everything has to be done at their speed or by the clock. An absence of fire can show up in a chart as a lack of drive. Motivation may be low, or the ability to bring force into a situation is missing. This can be particularly true if there is little fire in the chart and Mars is weak.

An over-abundance of earth in the chart can lead to a person getting bogged down, or to becoming narrow or too cautious. If unbalanced, the need for acquisition can take over. The absence of earth can result in a person who is “out of their body” on some level. Or, on a larger level, a person who is simply ungrounded, for whom building a structure of some kind is immensely challenging.

An excess of air in the chart will sometimes lead to someone who is overly rational or theoretical. There can be a sense of abstraction around such individuals. The lack of air, on the other hand, suggests an inability to see the bigger picture (an aerial view, so to speak) or unable to see themselves objectively. Perspective can suffer.

When water is the predominant element there is a strong need for emotional security as well as high sensitivity. There can be a feeling of vulnerability, as well as the desire to withdraw or be secretive. The lack of water can show up as the inability to empathise, to know how others may be feeling. It also can lead to a person who doesn’t know what their feelings are.

Bringing this back to relationships, it’s easy to see how an excess or lack of elements can lead to imbalance, not only within the individual, but in their relationships.  Even without a chart, much can be gained by looking at the above descriptions and thinking about how they may relate either to yourself or your partner.  Relationships begin with you.


Long before the Harry Potter books captured people’s imagination, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis was a beloved and treasured series of many young children. I came late to the series myself, but was surprised recently when I came across a book by noted C.S. Lewis scholar, Michael Ward, in which he claimed to find the “key” to the seven book series. And that key was astrology.

In two books, “The Narnia Code” and “Planet Narnia, Ward makes his case that each of the seven books is linked to one of the traditional planets: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Keep in mind, that for most of human history – and certainly for most of astrology’s history – these seven planets formed the basis of chart interpretation. And Ward makes it clear that C.S. Lewis was very aware of this history: “The characters of the planets,” wrote Lewis, “as conceived by medieval astrology, seems to me to have a permanent value as spiritual symbols.”

According to Ward, the Narnia books breakdown as follows:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Jupiter

Prince Caspian – Mars

Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Sun

The Silver Chair – Moon

The Horse and His Boy – Mercury

The Magician’s Nephew – Venus

The Last Battle – Saturn

Of the two book’s Ward has written on this, “The Narnia Code” is easily the more accessible. It provides a fascinating overview of Lewis and Narnia, as well as plenty to think about in terms of the uses of astrology, in the past and the present. Highly recommended for Narnia fans!

With the untimely passing of Donna Summer, I thought it would be interesting to bring up her chart and take a quick look at what we could find in this talented artist. And it jumps very quickly: hard work.

When you examine the chart, the first thing that jumps out is FIVE planets – Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars & Jupiter – in the 5th house of creativity. So it’s a given that there’s going to be an abundance of creativity, but how will it manifest? With Capricorn, an earth sign, on the 5th house, we can expect that this will be an individual who is tireless is their work and their focus. Mercury, which rules both the Ascendant and the Midheaven (career) is strong-voiced in Capricorn, and well supported by all those planets around it.

In addition, both the Sun and Jupiter form strong supportive aspects to the Ascendant, and to Saturn, which is placed there. Once again, we see an enormous amount of concentration and power. Finally, as if the chart is not loaded enough, we find both the Moon and Mercury to be in extreme declination. When we see such personal planets “out-of-bounds” we can expect a high degree of expression, a yearning to break barriers or to reach extremes.

But what about the deep element of fantasy that pervaded her onstage persona? In the chart, we find the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter all connected to Neptune, planet of illusion. With Neptune at the midpoint between Sun and Mercury as well as Mercury and Jupiter, we get keyword pictures such as beguiling fantasy, illusion, and imagination.

What’s interesting about Summer is that while she could not maintain the huge degree of popularity that she achieved in the 70’s, she never stopped working, which is not surprising given her strong Capricorn placements. And while she worked, there was a sense of humility and common sense – both very earthy qualities – that never deserted her. As she said at one time, “I don’t keep a press agent because I think people need to have a break from me.”

“People are too complicated to take seriously.”

~ Overheard

(photo from the insanely entertaining site:

Imagine for a moment that you’re a young high school student living in some charming little midwest town, for instance, Toledo, Ohio. One day, you’re called to the office of the vocational guidance counselor. You sit down at his cluttered desk as he picks up a sheaf of papers, clears his throat and says, “Well, April, I see by your name and by your admission papers that you were actually born in the month of April. Have you ever thought of pursuing a career as a dictator?”

So, is April’s vocational guidance counselor:

  1. Completely insane?
  2. A zany prankster?
  3. Using a 2011 British research report to give vocational guidance?

If you chose “c” you win a free subscription to my weekly newsletter. Here’s the back story: Using data from the latest census report, a team of British researchers from the Office for National Statistics analyzed the birth months of people in 19 different occupational categories using data from the British census. Lo and behold, they found a statistical correlation between career choice and birth month. They even linked birth month to length of life, health conditions and intelligence. Apparently, the study provoked a bit of controversy because it can no longer be found on their website, otherwise I would provide a link.

But here is a sampling of careers and tendencies:

January: physicians and debt collectors

February: artists, traffic wardens, prone to narcolepsy

March: pilots and musicians

April: fairly even spread of professions, dictators

May: politicians

June: chief executives, Nobel peace prize winners

July: bricklayers, train drivers and artists

August: bricklayers and U.S. presidents

September: pro athletes, physicists

October: fairly even spread of professions, good longevity

November: fairly even spread of professions, as well as serial killers and schizophrenics

December: dentists and messiahs

Being born in April myself, I’m not sure how I feel about a career as a dictator. So far at least, I don’t think I’m well suited to the job, although I have frequently noticed that people don’t actually like me as much as I think they like me, which is probably a standard to a dictator. Of course, the people I really feel sorry for are born in July: bricklayer or president Or worse yet how about November: schizophrenic or serial killer? Yikes!

Now, in a sane world nobody would have done this kind of research and if they had, nobody would care. But that’s not what happened. Jumping quickly into this extremely weird fray, Oxford University neuroscientist Russell Foster responded, “I am not giving voice to astrology – it’s nonsense – but we are not immune to seasonal interference.”

Which at least proves that just because you’re an Oxford University neuroscientist doesn’t mean you’re smart. To me, what’s odd is that after first establishing to his fellow scientists that he’s not soft on astrology (you can almost hear them cheering, ‘Well played!’), he goes on to say: “These are small effects, but they are very, very clear. It seems absurd that the month in which you are born can affect life changes, but how long you live, how tall you are, how well you do at school, your body mass index as an adult, your morning-versus-evening preference and how likely you are to develop a range of diseases are all correlated to some extent with the time of year in which you emerge from the womb.”

So … if the month you’re born in has this powerful of an impact, could it be possible that drilling down into the actual time and place of birth have some potential value? Nonsense, he says!

My own perspective is that this kind of “research” does nobody any good. Not only could I not find the sampling size, but the spread of occupations seems downright bizarre. And once again it demonstrates that scientists like Foster are engaging in the kind of bad thinking that scientists are supposed to avoid. So let’s be clear at this point: this study says nothing about astrology. Nothing. (Though in the weeks to come, I’ll highlight some astrological research with dogs that is pretty amazing.) However, it does say something about how hard it is to make objective statements about human beings. And the danger of bad research. Bricklayer, president, serial killer, dictator are not occupations and they certainly cannot be categorized in any credible way. Which is good because it means our imaginary Toledo, Ohio high school student, April, will never have that awkward conversation with her vocational guidance counselor. Though I have no doubt she would make an awesome dictator!

A handful of readers sent me comments concerning last week’s quote: “There is no happiness. There are moments of happiness.”

“Isn’t that a little harsh? asked one long-time client, while another told me “very cool saying”.

From my side, I’ve always found that quote to be intriguing, as it raises the question of what it means to be happy and whether happiness is something that should or even can be ‘pursued,’ (as it is stated in the Declaration of Independence). A  more reasonable concept of happiness is the one put forth by William S. Burroughs, who said: “Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.”

In astrology, there is no single planet that can be consistently identified with “happiness”. However, I think a case can be made that if you find the strongest planet in your chart and work with it, you’ll begin to experience happiness in the way that Burroughs describes it, as a byproduct – of knowing and following your power, which is what the strongest planet in a chart indicates.

In readings, this can occasionally be a straightforward task, as simple as suggesting to a person: live in your Sun, not in your Moon, which can loosely translate to “you’re letting your emotional reactions (Moon) color or taint all your experiences of who you are and what you do. The person can’t shine (Sun) or is unable to have very many “moments of happiness” because they are clouded with emotional baggage (Moon in a bad state).

But that’s just a fast, simple example and by using it I’m not in any way seeking to diminish people’s struggles to figure themselves out. To be honest, in some charts finding the strongest planet can be a challenge. Doing so, however, can be a helpful endeavor along the road of increasing the of your “moments of happiness”.

If we continue our use of Lady Gaga’s chart, we can get an idea of how the strongest planet can be found and used. Here the identification is not immediate. We have the Sun in Aries and the Moon in Scorpio. Both are linked by the planet, Mars (circled). Why? Because Mars rules both Aries and Scorpio. Here Mars is placed in Capricorn where it is what we call “exalted” – in other words, it is very powerful. It becomes the planet that both the Sun and Moon can potentially channel their energies through. In addition, Mars has power over both Jupiter (ruler of the Ascendant) and Mercury (ruler of the Midheaven). In other words, Mars is involved with almost every planet in the chart.

As we know few personal details about Lady Gaga (Moon in Scorpio!), we do know that she extremely aggressive in promoting herself. (“I kill to get what I need,” is a quote ascribed to her.)  And here’s what important to remember: while she changes the projection of her image to the public, what does not change is the force of her projection. Mars – force – is what she does best and appears to be happiest when she’s doing it.  Not surprising from a woman who has states: “Don’t ever let a soul in the world tell you can’t be exactly who you are.”