Monthly Archives: August 2017

Reflecting on what astrology is, and revisiting Pluto…

It  has probably not escaped your notice that the trickster planet Mercury, of whom Jude Cowell wrote so eloquently in her recent Guest post, is currently retrograde…I learned a very long time ago that applying the prefix RE to as many activities as possible is a great way to get the best out of that old trickster during retrograde periods!

So, this week, I’m taking readers down my memory lane, re-visiting a post I last published on my Writing from the 12th House blog in 2008, just as Pluto was beginning to create mass mayhem in the structure-loving sign of Capricorn.

Those of you fairly new to astrology will I hope enjoy this reflective introduction to our great art. More seasoned astrologers and astrology students may be interested to see how far my musings at the start of Pluto’s long transit through Capricorn have been borne out by the passage of nearly a decade since then. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

Imagine, if you will, a Bushman in the middle of the Kalahari desert  conversing with a visiting Tibetan, in their respective languages, regarding the best way to get to Stornoway in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. One would suspect that the route might not become easily evident !

Speaking symbolic language

It’s rather like this for astrologers, whose view is holistic and whose language is symbolic, living in a culture whose prevailing terms for describing the world have been shaped by scientific rationalism for the last two hundred and fifty years. In our collective efforts to try and make sense out of life on earth there is no ONE language which can possibly describe the whole picture.

We need the description provided by rational science. We also need the description provided by symbolism. We need all the help we can get.

Star Sign astrology as found in the media is too limited to tell us much about personal life or world affairs. It focuses largely on the position of the sun in the heavens on any given day,  equivalent to trying to tell the story of a complex play with the main emphasis on one central character. It can thus never offer much more than entertainment – or a nugget of truth to contemplate on the day in the case of ‘quality’ popular astrology .

This is the form of astrology which is vilified by people who don’t know that there is something much more profound hidden behind the “Star Sign” mask.

Astrologers have noted for several millennia that there are meaningful links between the planets’ movements and the rhythms of earthly life. They plot the position of the planets from the same starting point as astronomers and mariners do: using the 360 degree circle of sky from 0 degrees Aries or the Vernal Equinox (see image); this is where the sun’s path or Ecliptic (see image), in its movement into the Northern hemisphere in the spring, crosses the plane of the celestial equator.

Astrologers divide the 360 degree circle from 0 degrees Aries into twelve sectors of 30 degrees each, called Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and so on.


This frame of reference against which the planets are located, known as the tropical Zodiac, should not be confused with the constellations which originally gave the signs (or 30 degree sectors) of the Zodiac their names. By drawing up a map of the heavens (known as a Birth Chart or Horoscope) of a particular moment in time in relation to this tropical Zodiac, astrologers can draw a symbolic picture of anything or anyone born at that moment.

Uses of astrology

Thus astrology has many uses : eg in the business world, to help plot and understand market trends and economic cycles; in medicine, to provide clarification of individuals’ predispositions to particular health problems, and most useful modes of intervention; in analysing the inner meaning and outer manifestation of major events in the affairs of nations and the wider world; in choosing favourable moments to begin new enterprises; in the analysis of personal relationships; and in providing individuals with a clearer understanding of who they are, and why they  do the things they do.

Each of the planets symbolises a different archetypal force, a shaping principle. As the planets move in their ever-changing weave through space and time, so the shape, meaning and manifestation of the pattern of life shifts from minute to minute, day to day, year to year and epoch to epoch.

Along with many modern astrologers, I have come to think of astrology as another form of physics: basically, it charts, maps and times the shifting dance of the energy patterns of our solar system – then offers grave offence to minds of a limited, conventional  cast by ascribing meaning to those patterns!

Most people do not realise, however,  that the association of particular meanings with the movements of  specific planets has been demonstrated through empirical observation and recording of the heavens for over six thousand years – since the astronomer/priests of ancient Babylon first stood on their watch towers, scanning the stars.

Astrology’s symbolic language tells us that everything is connected, materially and spiritually  – we are all part of  the One.

The moving picture – Pluto

To illustrate this, let us choose the action of  the furthest out planet, Pluto, whose status has been downgraded recently. Try telling astrologers who work with deep collective and individual crises, as the energy of Pluto continues its weave in the planetary tapestry, that Pluto is of little consequence now! Continuing empirical observation of Pluto’s symbolic action does not support this view at all….

The planet Pluto represents raw, primal power, taking its name from the much feared mythical god of the Underworld. It  is connected with the processes of death and regeneration which keep the life cycle going at every level.

In Scorpio – plumbing extremes

Pluto was observed against the 30 degree band of sky known as Scorpio from its entry in 1982 until its exit in 1995. Both Scorpio and Pluto are connected to the deepest, darkest and most extreme facets of life: during this time, for example, we had to face the rise of Aids, famine in Africa, and a dredging to the surface of the most taboo issues, especially incest and child abuse. This period also forced us to begin to realise more clearly than ever before that, if we continue to abuse the Earth, we put our collective survival at risk.

In Sagittarius – expansiveness and greed

But things change. In January 1995 Pluto shifted into the 30 degree sector of sky known as Sagittarius. This sector is linked to the planet Jupiter, symbolising the urge to expand – in experience, knowledge, wealth, wisdom, and understanding of what life means. It expresses itself (amongst other related branches) through connections with Higher education, long distance travel, exploration of all kinds at all levels, the law and ethical structures, religious beliefs, the packaging of information to offer a better perspective on a bigger picture, and especially the willingness to gamble and take risks.

In the famous thumbnail description of the money markets being dominated by greed and fear, Sagittarius represents the greed end of that spectrum!

Pluto’s shift into Sagittarius brought us the biggest information packaging and disseminating system ever known to humanity – the Internet. Via stunning images brought back by the Hubble telescope, we have travelled to the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond. Recent advances in science and medicine continue to raise ethical issues on an unprecedented scale, regarding our tampering with the very basis of life itself and what the consequences may be.

The rise and spread of religious fundamentalism has dominated the period, with some devastating consequences most notably 9/11 in the USA. In our own little country the UK, the National Lottery became the focus for our hopes of greater wealth and a better life. The whole period has been characterised by unfettered optimism: from this arose collective and individual fiscal recklessness, with disregard for consequences on an unprecedented scale.

In Capricorn – facing consequences

Pluto traversed Sagittarius from January 1995 until the end of  January 2008 when it dipped into Capricorn for a few months, returning to Sagittarius in the middle of June 2008. As I write, with the money markets still in turmoil, Pluto is due to re-enter Capricorn on 28 November 2008, where it will then remain until 2024.

When the outer planets change signs, the energy patterns dominating our collective life also shift. What does this shift mean, in general terms? It means that the times of expansiveness, excessive optimism and risk-taking are now over. A more sober and cautious view of life must prevail as we face the consequences of our behaviour since the mid-Nineties.

Sagittarius is ruled by expansive Jupiter. Capricorn is ruled by stern and cautious Saturn, the planet of consequences, and represents the fear end of the greed/fear spectrum. Thus it didn’t require brilliantly perceptive astrological observation of this approaching shift, to be able to predict a major collective ice bath of realism at all levels. For example, the rumble of the impending train wreck of our collective financial arrangements could be heard during most of 2007. Then in 2008 came the crunch.

The sign of Capricorn, and its ruling planet Saturn,  is known for its association with prudence, realism and good judgement at one end of the spectrum – and fear, gloom, pessimism and harshness at the other. You cannot escape the consequences of your actions, is the message that this sign and planet bring.

All the help we can get….!

Pluto is about to traverse Capricorn for a very long time. The planet of purging and regeneration, Pluto’s movement is connected to the death of old forms so that something new and more constructive can arise. Knowing this may offer some insights to help us modify our wasteful and destructive ways for the better. As renowned astrologer Liz Greene observed some time ago in one of her seminars:
“ Saturn pushes us to separate out from what we are not – in order to become more fully who we are.”

We human beings urgently need all the help we can get from as many sources as possible to enable us to become more fully who we are: ie one strand, whose presence cannot be allowed to dominate the weave in the web of life. If we approach its wisdom in these turbulent times in an open and thoughtful way, the ancient language of astrology can aid us in developing a perspective appropriate for our times: one grounded in the humility and realism we need in the tough period which lies ahead.



This is an updated and edited version of an article first published in Scotland’s Glasgow “Herald” as “The Cycles of Heaven and Earth” in November 1996. Copyright remains with the author.




1800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008, 2017

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

Guest Slot : ‘Unruly Tricksters of the Twelfth House’ by Jude Cowell

The planet Mercury – my ruling planet – has certainly earned his tricksterish reputation in my life, never more so than when he turns retrograde, this time in Virgo. Just as he quit dancing around my 9 Virgo Ascendant, disappearing into the Twelfth House this week, I decided to re-visit some articles in my Writing from the Twelfth House blog, an archive since May last year. Just on cue, up popped one of the most frequently read posts on that site: all about trickster Mercury and the Twelfth House!

I love it when astrology does that…

Gorgeous Mercury

Mercury, by Praxiteles – isn’t he gorgeous?

So –I am delighted to be re- publishing this topical article by prestigious and prolific USA fellow blogger, my friend from Georgia, Jude Cowell. During that season of three weeks (13/8 – 5/09 2017) when the ultimate planetary trickster, Mercury, turns retrograde and challenges us all with communication conundrums, Jude poses and answers a few mercurial conundrums of her own…

” Having astrology’s trickster planet, Mercury, or Mercury-ruled Gemini or Virgo, associated with one’s natal twelfth house can be quite a ‘tricky’ proposition for anyone to manage.

When one considers the unconscious nature of the twelfth house and Mercury’s rulership of our thinking and communicating processes, the picture becomes fraught with possibilities for confusion, doubt, and awkwardness.

In fact, in similar fashion to this blog’s creator and author, the gracious Anne Whitaker, I am communicating with you from the twelfth house right now, with sixteen degrees of a mercurial sign directing the show from behind the curtain.

As you know, repressed energies of the twelfth house (12th h) are identified by planets posited there, and by those which are connected by sign and aspect to the house of Self-Undoing and Karma, the 12th h of the Unconscious.

But when fleet-of-foot Mercury is involved, we can be certain that unbidden thoughts will frequently float up into consciousness from the watery depths of the Neptunian realms of the unconscious – some useful and to be acted upon, others not as useful and to be disregarded.

Mysterious Mercury

Mysterious Mercury

A 12th house Mercury may give a tendency to talk to oneself, and the old caution that it’s ‘okay as long as one doesn’t answer back’ may be moot with Mercury involved in the house of the Unconscious – for talk back the trickster will, and often out loud at the most inappropriate times or in awkward ways.

“Foot-in-mouth” syndrome is a common manifestation of the predicament of having connections between the Unconscious psychological 12th house and our thinker-communicator planet.

Plus, ‘The Fool’ card in the Tarot deck illustrates neutral Mercury’s brash characteristics quite well as he/she haplessly opens mouth to insert foot – and usually at the worst of moments…the ‘speak first, think later’ tendency.

Yet that is where Astrology can aid us in understanding these mercurial 12th house dynamics and learning to make productive use of them so that we don’t mistakenly shoot ourselves in the very foot we placed in our mouths. Now that would be a definite ouch!

Directing mercurial 12th house energies outwardly into the wider world may produce a writer or other type of artisan who draws upon knowledge from the collective unconscious and expresses it on behalf of mankind, while remaining the private sort of person that a mercurial 12th house requires.

But before projecting them outwardly, it’s important to replace self-defeating attitudes (such as the repeating loop in our heads of mother’s old discouragements: “oh, you can’t figure that out,” or “what would you know about it?”, etc.) with a more positive attitude; for after all, neutral Mercury can ‘go either way’ – so why not take the high road? Especially since we know that decision-maker Mercury, in his Hermes disguise, is the mystery guide at the crossroads of life, isn’t he?

So aspects to planets in, or associated with the 12th house (or its cusp), show us how and where to use these repressed, unconscious energies to best advantage by ‘tricking the trickster’ and turning them into the talents they truly are.

And developing our verbal and non-verbal creative work is one of the better ways to manage these unruly mercurial scamps of the 12th house while benefiting the collective simultaneously; attempting to push these energies further beneath the oceanic 12th house surface only causes them to fester and become even more distorted than they were from being stifled during childhood by the adults around us who had their own 12th house issues to deal with. And perhaps they didn’t manage it as well as we, with Astrology’s instruction, may now.

So rather than setting ourselves up for subliminally undoing ourselves from the unconscious 12th house, I say: let the 12th house trickster breathe freely, romp with the other kids, take up his quill or paintbrush, and reveal mercurial insights for the benefit of all! “




(Written for Anne Whitaker to use, with Jude Cowell’s  permission)

700 words Copyright Jude Cowell /Anne Whitaker 2017

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House


Check out Stars over Washington for Jude’s outspoken astrological and political commentaries on USA’s current affairs….and Jude Cowell Astrology for her varied astrological writings.

Jude Cowell

Lifelong artist Jude Cowell is a native of Athens, Georgia and an Astrology novice since 1996. She attended Atlanta College of Art in her younger years where she studied Fashion Illustration, Layout, and Design, and has exhibited her artwork in Athens, Augusta, and Atlanta, Georgia. She now displays her colored pencil drawings exclusively online.




Neptune, poetry, and August’s melancholy…

I have always loved August, that month where a particular coolness in the morning air on stepping out, a papery rustle tingeing the wind blowing through the trees, intimates that Summer is losing its hold upon the year, that Autumn is ascending…sensing this brings on a very particular mood, a mood dominated by the atmosphere of Neptune, that most poignant, sensitive and poetic of energies.

Step with me for a moment into Neptune’s world…

August is my birth month. There is a poised melancholy about it which fits my temperament well. From a very young age I have been very aware of the transience of Life: for all its challenge, turmoil, joy, grief and seemingly endless possibility, its manifold excitements, loves and pleasures, it is soon gone: a frail leaf drifting down to the river of Time which carries everything mortal to the great Universal Sea.

Whilst in a pleasingly melancholy August mood today, I dipped into a favourite inspirational book and found this gem, which I thought I’d share, from Katherine Mansfield…

Death of a Rose…

“…It is a sensation that can never be forgotten, to sit in solitude, in semi-darkness, and to watch the slow, sweet, shadowful death of a Rose.

Oh, to see the perfection of the perfumed petals being changed ever so slightly, as though a thin flame had kissed each with hot breath, and where the wounds bled the colour is savagely intense . . . I have before me such a Rose, in a thin, clear glass, and behind it a little spray of scarlet leaves. Yesterday it was beautiful with a certain serene, tearful, virginal beauty, it was strong and wholesome, and the scent was fresh and invigorating.

To-day it is heavy and languid . . . So now it dies . . . And I listen . . . for under each petal fold there lies the ghost of a dead melody, as frail and as full a as a ray of light upon a shadowed pool. Oh divine sweet Rose. Oh, exotic and elusive and deliciously vague Death..”.(i)



(i)  Katherine Mansfield: The Death of a Rose (from The Virago Book of Spirituality, Edited by Sarah Anderson, published 1996,  p276 )

photo: Anne Whitaker

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Working with Secondary Progressions: focus on progressed New Moons

To read Part One of this two-part article, “Some thoughts on Secondary Progressions…who needs transits? Part One”, click HERE

Part Two

Planets going retrograde, then direct, by progression – and progressed New Moons

When preparing for an in-depth astrology reading, I routinely do an ‘SP    (Secondary Progressions) scan’ through the ephemeris: planets going retrograde, then direct some years later, usually reveal significant phases in a person’s life.

Take “Antonia”, for example, aged sixty-one when we met two years ago. She has been living in Scotland for many years. Her Venus went retrograde by progression at age eighteen, when she “escaped” from a difficult family life in another part of the UK. At age fifty-nine, when Venus went direct, she began to feel the pull back to her home country, as well as feeling greater openness to people – and to the possibility of a significant relationship, after having been single for a number of years.

I also note years where there was a progressed New Moon. Depending on the length of a client’s life to date, there may be two or even three of those, if the first one occurred in the early years.

“May” ’s first progressed New Moon occurred when she was six years old, at which point she moved with her parents to the UK and a new life phase began. Her second progressed New Moon, at thirty-six, co-incided with her return to the UK – she had by then been living abroad again for a number of years – her marriage, and the birth of her child.

“Pearl” – an unfolding life

By a timeous piece of serendipity, last autumn 2016 as I was beginning to reflect on writing this article, I encountered a client in her mid-thirties who ticked several of the above key SP boxes in one reading.

She has very generously allowed me to use parts of her story to illustrate just how much SPs on their own, before one even begins to add the overlay of current transits, can give a vivid picture of an unfolding life. Here is what I wrote in my summing-up notes: “ A most interesting reading with a remarkable young woman, who despite a very difficult early life and teenage years has managed to turn her life around.”

click on image to enlarge

The two dominant SP features symbolically structuring Pearl’s life’s unfolding are the progressed New Moons, and ruling planet Mercury’s shifts of sign as well as retrograde then direct motion.

Her first progressed New Moon, at 5 degrees of Libra in the 6th House, came at age four. At the same age, progressed Mercury moved from Libra to Scorpio, also in the 6th House. She hit puberty at that age, and “I was overwhelmed by a power I had no idea how to handle…” She was treated with hormone injections. Family, social and school difficulties arose from this, unsurprisingly. Family life was turbulent, they moved around a lot, and her parents separated whilst she was growing up.

Progressed Mercury went retrograde in Scorpio when she was twelve,  a point at which Pearl became “a total nightmare” to herself and her family, getting into sex, drugs and all kinds of self-destructive behaviour. She fell in love and had her first serious love affair at fifteen. On the positive side, she was always drawing and painting, and into music and the Arts. Pearl did various jobs after leaving school, then had her daughter at nineteen. This co-incided with the progressed Full Moon, and the start of her grounding herself.

Mercury retrograded back into Libra when Pearl was twenty-two. In her early twenties she had a crisis involving drugs in which “I nearly died” . From then on she went from one extreme to the other, turning her life around.

  click on image to enlarge

She took up yoga, became vegetarian, and aligned herself with as she put it “ the guidance of the Divine”. She is now a teacher in the world of complementary therapies, loves teaching, and being a natural performer, is probably very good at it.

She has also been with the same man since her early 20s, but as she has become more independent and self-motivating, the relationship has gradually withered and died. They broke up at the end of 2015, timed with progressed Mercury going direct in Libra, and with her second progressed New Moon in early Scorpio, which will be unfolding over a powerful natal Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in the next few years.

Pearl feels she is now in a new life phase but is not as yet clear about the way forward. She wants to develop her business, and her writing, so I made various suggestions about how she could go about developing them both, pointing out that New Moons, progressed or otherwise, take place in the dark.

Just as the familiar Sun/Moon monthly cycle takes a couple of days for the waxing crescent to appear, so in the thirty year progressed New Moon cycle, it takes a couple of years for the shape of a new life phase to become clear.

Pearl found knowing about her progressed New Moons’ and progressed Mercury’s  unfolding, as well as the reinforcing information provided by transiting Jupiter’s and Saturn’s 11-12 year and  29-30 year cycles, extremely helpful and comforting. It gave her a sense of awe, a feeling of being held in something, a meaningful pattern much, much bigger than herself.

I felt the same. Inevitably, you become used over many years to astrological symbolism ‘delivering’ consistently. Every so often, however, you are privileged to witness the life of another person in which the symbolic tools we work with, in Pearl’s case her Secondary Progressions, speak with such eloquence that it takes your breath away…


I do hope that this guided stroll through some of the highways and byways of  Secondary Progressions and their mysterious significance has some effect in stimulating especially those of you who have not yet explored that territory, to consider doing so. You could start by following the shifts of the progressed MC/IC axis; like the progressed Sun, they are easy to plot since they both move at roughly one degree per year.

Consider this: my Secondary Progressed MC/IC shifted into Cancer/Capricorn, and my ASC/DESC into Libra/Aries, when I was thirty two.  Secondary Progressed First House Sun was a mere 2 degrees away from an exact square to natal Tenth House Uranus at the same time. Did anything change? It certainly did!

I met both my future husband – Sun and Venus in Aquarius, how literal is that?! –  and astrology that year. In the three years following, I obtained the Faculty of Astrological Studies Certificate and we moved house so that I could work from home. I also acquired a half share in two small children (still with me, now grown up, both very Uranian) and a very elderly cat.

Who needs transits?


Chart Data and Sources:

“Pearl” is not the client’s real name, and birth data are confidential. Source: “Pearl” ’s mother. Rating: A.

Note: “Pearl” read and approved her case study prior to my finalising this article. “Antonia” and “May” have read and approved their extracts. I am no longer in contact with “James”. All clients’ names have been changed. My grandparents’ names are their own.


This two-part post was first published as Secondary Progressions – stepping into the Mystery  in the May/June 2017 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.

(1)The Inner Wheel:

(2) Unfortunately, I can’t now recall where!




1250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House