Category Archives: An Astrological Miscellany: of cusps, virgins, atomic scientists, Muhammad Ali and much, much more…(13 articles)

Why is the zodiac sign of Virgo called the virgin?

Why is the sign of  Virgo called the virgin?



This question raises the interesting issue of how the usage and meaning of words changes from one historical period/cultural phase to another. Within our current culture the word virgin when applied to humans generally means sexually intact. However, in ancient times when matriarchal religions were practised, the word virgin and the astrological sign of Virgo held a deeper and more complex set of meanings.

For example, the priestesses who served the ancient virgin goddesses Atargatis and Artemis were anything but virgin in our contemporary sense of the word. They were women who belonged to themselves and the goddess(es), whose duties to the temple were paramount and who owed allegiance to no particular male partner. Indeed, it was commonplace with those priestesses who had children to foster them out. They were too busy with their sacred duties to have much time for motherhood.

(Virgo’s contemporary association with perfectionism, attention to detail, and devotion to work began a very long time ago!)

The eminent astrologer, writer and teacher Dr Liz Greene expresses the essence of what the sign Virgo is about in her “Astrology of Fate” p 215:

“….this issue does not deal solely with sexual matters, but embodies an entire view of life….I would understand it more as an openness to the flow of life, a willingness to trust the natural order, an acceptance of penetration and change….”

In the chapter “Myth and the Zodiac”, pp 211-220, Liz Greene offers a very full account of the complex, paradoxical mythology and symbolism connected to the sign of Virgo. I commend it to you!

If you’d like to read some more factual aspects of this topic, try this Wikipedia link:


300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2018

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

Born on the cusp? No such thing!

“What does it mean if I’m born on the cusp?” This is one of the the most frequent questions asked of astrologers. So – I thought I’d revisit it for the benefit of new readers – with thanks to Rian, who asked the original question.

“Could you talk a little bit about cusps? How much does a person with their sun at 29.5 degrees take on the next sign? Or is it black and white. I think it might be a fade-out/ fade-in, but I’ve never found anything written about this. Thank you.”

Anne’s Answer: I’m glad you asked this question. It’s one astrologers are asked A LOT ! I’ll answer it in two stages.

Firstly, let’s imagine someone out there was due to give birth mid to late June 2013 in Glasgow, UK, and was wondering whether their baby would have the Sun in Gemini or Cancer.

At midnight GMT on 21st June (1.00 am UK summer time) that year, the Sun was at the very end of  Gemini:29 degrees 48 minutes. By midnight GMT on 22nd June (1.00 am UK summer time), the Sun had moved to the next sign and occupied the very beginning of Cancer: 0 degrees 45 minutes. Thus our imaginary child arriving on 21st June 2013 some time after midnight GMT  in Glasgow,  UK would have been in popular terms, ‘born on the cusp’.

However, as anyone who takes their interest in astrology ‘beyond the Sun Signs’ will very quickly realise, there is a lot more to astrology than its popular Sun Sign face would suggest. With an accurately calculated horoscope which uses the date, place and vital TIME of birth, an astrologer (or, these days, anyone with access to a reasonable computer programme ) can work out to the minute where the Sun is on that child’s birthday.

To illustrate this, look at the image below. (click on it to enlarge). Our imaginary cusp Baby X, born in Glasgow UK at 6.00 am British Summer Time(5.00 am GMT) on Friday 21st June 2013, has the Sun in Gemini – at 29 degrees 59 minutes. If this child had been born only five minutes later, however, he/she would have the Sun in Cancer – at 0 degrees 00 minutes.

Thus, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as ‘born on the cusp’. Our Baby X, horoscope accurately calculated,  is either – in Sun Sign terms – a Gemini or a Cancer.



However, Rian, your guess was quite correct. Someone born with the Sun at the very beginning of the 30 degrees of any zodiac sign has a stronger, more vivid and obvious  ‘charge’ of the sign’s energy than someone born at the very end.

Imagine you are standing in a favourite room which you have occupied for a long time. You are becoming a little bored, jaded with what that room may have to offer. Suddenly, a door you’d never noticed before opens slightly. A shaft of new light streams through from another room. You step forward, intrigued. Could this be a new adventure? Or, to conclude our analogy: the Sun in fickle, restless Gemini is becoming stale – the prospect of entry into a journey through another sign, watery mysterious Cancer, beckons….

The second stage of my answer, though, brings in a little of the more complex picture which more in-depth astrology has to offer.

Take another look at Baby X’s horoscope, featured above. (click on it to enlarge)

Even those of you with very little knowledge of astrology should be able to imagine the 360 degree zodiac circle before you as a stage. Stand in the centre, and look around the circle.

You will see various symbols, representing the planets. Humans have been standing on Earth, looking out into the night sky, plotting the planets’ positions against an imaginary 360 degree great circle, the zodiac, for more than six thousand years. That view has never changed, despite our knowledge for several centuries that the Sun, not Earth, is the centre of our solar system. We still look out from the same Earth to the same  celestial view.

On the left of the circle, just above and below the horizontal black line,  fall the sectors of Gemini and Cancer. Our Baby X may be a Sun Gemini – only just! – but very close to that Sun is Jupiter (desire to connect to the Big Picture)   and not far away is Mars (action). This gives our Baby X a very strong emphasis on the Gemini theme.

However the horizontal black line is his/her Ascendant or Rising Sign, revealing the way s/he appears to the world in general. This is in the sign of Cancer. Just below this point, squashed together on 22 degrees of Cancer, are Venus (urge to relate) and Mercury (drive toward communication, expression). Thus Baby X has five out of the ten planets (or characters on the stage), and Rising Sign, occupying only two of the twelve signs of the zodiac.

This places a very strong emphasis on the signs of Gemini and Cancer, rational air and emotional water. Thus, at a very simple level – full interpretation has to take all the characters, their locations and interactions on the zodiac stage into account – Baby X will have the gifts and pains of that classic Shakespearian clash between reason and passion, to wrestle with and reconcile, be driven by–  for as long as  s/he lives.

A long answer for a short question! But I do hope it sheds some light – and reveals in the process a deeper astrology ‘beyond the Sun Signs’. Do let me know what you think!

And you new visitors and Followers out there. Drop by with your observations….. and, of course,  your Questions….


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900 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017

Just how stubborn is Taurus?

I am feeling the need for a rest for a bit from writing long articles! Here is a quick question from ‘Mandy’ (not her real name): 

I was born on the 11th May and am therefore a Taurus, I was also born in 1973 which is the year of the bull in the Chinese horoscopes (which is also of interest as I lived in HongKong for a while). 

How do both areas of astrology combine? And am I really as stubborn as a ‘double bull’ would indicate? 



Hello Mandy

since you have kindly provided your date and year of birth, I have taken a peek into that favourite reference book of astrologers, The American Ephemeris for the 20th Century. It lists the midnight positions of all the planets for a hundred years and I’d definitely not be without it on a desert island (yes, ok, I’m mad!) This is where we astrologers begin the process of calculating horoscopes, although the TIME of birth is needed to reveal the whole picture.

The Ephemeris tells me that on 11 May 1973, in common with everyone else born on that day, the Sun was indeed to be seen occupying that 30 degree sector of the sky called Taurus. However, Mercury, planet of mind and communication,  and Venus, planet of relationship, harmony and beauty,  were also there on that day! So – having three of the ten key characters on your life’s stage in the same sector or sign emphasises the characteristics of that sign very strongly. The answer to your second question, therefore, is an emphatic YES based on Western astrology alone.

However, there are other things in your horoscope which both modify and contradict this strong stubborn streak. A full horoscope reading, for which you would need to provide your date, place and all-important TIME of birth,  would put all the key characters on the stage, enabling you to get a better ‘handle’ on what drives you….

As far as the combination of Chinese and Western astrology is concerned, after more than 30 years as an astrologer I am still getting to grips with the Western tradition (!) so have only a very superficial knowledge of Eastern astrologies. However, I turned to our ever-present friend  Google – which, incidentally, told me that the Chinese year for your date of birth is,in fact,  the year of the Ox.

Astrowiki has an interesting and informative page on Chinese Astrology for any readers who wish to pursue the topic further.

 Many thanks for your question, Mandy. Your feedback would be welcome. And – ask me another any time ! 




450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Some thoughts on retro Mars, Saturn – and Muhammad Ali

Well, folks, transiting Mars is retrograding over my Scorpio IC/South Node, transiting Saturn retro squares my Ascendant/Descendant whilst transiting Neptune hovers there. Jupiter in Virgo transiting the First House, opposing one of these and squaring the other,  is persecuting me with billowings of detail and admin which I can’t be bothered doing…I have a series of posts on the Nodes lined up, waiting to be edited, but can’t seem to get around to it.


In short, I am being incredibly, uncharacteristically, lackadaisical. 

Anyone else out there feeling like this? Don’t all of you rush to tell me at once. On second thoughts, my  guess is, you can’t be bothered. But never mind…Mars goes direct at the end of June, catching up with himself by 22nd August 2016. Saturn goes direct on 13th August, catching up with where HE left off by 20th November 2016. That interminable Saturn/Neptune square will make its last exact point on 10th September 2016 and start to wane thereafter.

So, by December 2016 we should all be demons of frantically focused forward motion. Or maybe we will all wait until the New Year…

Anyway, I thought I’d keep you informed and entertained by a fellow astrologer who, if  affected by the above, is not in nearly as bad a state as I am! On the day of Muhammad Ali’s passing last week, I asked my husband, who is not an astrologer, what he thought was The Greatest’s Ascendant.

“Leo – absolutely!” he replied. How right he was.

Here, whilst I get around to eventually regaining my bearings ( by next week, hopefully!)  is Christina at The Oxford Astrologer‘s fine analysis of the incomparable Ali’s horoscope. I’m sure you will enjoy and appreciate it.

Muhammad Ali: Leo Rising



300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Talking about Renaissance Astrology…

Here is an interesting recent programme from BBC Radio 4’s wonderful “In Our Time” series which has been hosted forever ( it seems!) by Melvyn Bragg, a Renaissance Man of our time if ever there was one. It’s not often you get the BBC talking about astrology, so check this one out! And do let me know what you think of it…

Astrologers at Work

Astrologers at Work

Melvynn Bragg on Renaissance Astrology



100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Teaching astrology: the magic of the moment…

You never quite lose that magical feeling of being a tiny but unique part of a meaningfully shifting, dancing pattern of interconnectedness which immersion in the symbolic world of astrology brings. However, it does tend to recede into the background as time marches on and your connection spans a few decades. Then every so often, the sheer potency of what practicing astrology means, can knock you sideways.

This happened to me – and my tutorial students – on  the morning of our resumed classes ten days ago.

Astrologers at Work

Astrologers at Work

Being an orderly group (as astrologers go…), we had decided on our schedule before taking a break for the holidays. We would continue with our exploration of the progressed Sun/Moon cycle, using our own charts and lives as our research material. I have known those students for a long time; it was their persuasion that drew me back to astrology teaching after a long break. So we are happy to share our life experiences with one another in the interests of learning.

Just before the class, however, I decided that a recent, shocking private death which had resulted in a very public, prolonged outpouring of grief, ie that of David Bowie, would make an unmissable topic for part of our class discussion. I duly prepared David Bowie’s chart, then added the transits for his death day by hand.

David Bowie + Death Transits

David Bowie + Death Transits (click on image to enlarge) 

The most striking features to hit my eye were David Bowie’s natal 12th House Capricorn line-up squared by a 9th House Neptune: Mercury 8, Mars 16, Sun 17, squared by Neptune at 9 Libra. The transiting Uranus/Pluto square had been triggering that line-up for some time, now almost exactly via his Mars/Sun conjunction as January 2016 advanced. Saturn had crossed his natal MC for the last time in November 2015, and was conjunct his South Node at the time of his death, that whole axis also being squared by Neptune’s transit. What a powerful emphasis on Saturn/Capricorn, I thought. Saturn always gives, and takes, what is due…

I love my Io software and have been using it for twenty years now ( no, Io hasn’t paid me to do a commercial! ) – Io Sprite is a great programme to have running as background to astrology classes, enabling you to comment on the moment arising, at any relevant point during a class. Just before the class began I opened it up.

Here is what we saw:

Tutorial Class Start 26.1.16

Tutorial Class Start 26.1.16 (click on image to enlarge)

The MC for 26th January 2016 at the start of the class was almost 15 Capricorn, exactly conjunct newly-direct Mercury, with Pluto at 16 Capricorn – all closely conjunct David Bowie’s Capricorn natal and transiting planets, and with Mars at 12 Scorpio  squaring Bowie’s Saturn/Pluto conjunction. The Moon for the start of the class was 3 Virgo – exactly conjunct David Bowie’s 8th House cusp.

We all fell silent– awestruck– as we regarded this line-up, so powerfully and appropriately symbolising the topic of our opening discussion. There wasn’t much I needed to say by way of  elucidation: the moment was speaking to us, most powerfully, of the fundamental inter-connectedness of all things. “As above, so below – vividly illustrated right there in front of our very eyes.

We went on to have an intense, in-depth discussion about David Bowie’s death, and its timing two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his acclaimed last album, Blackstar. Was it co-incidence? Was it planned? One student, who is in the music business, observed using Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson’s deaths as examples, that an artist’s death was the best possible promotion for his/her music. I leave you readers to decide what conclusions we came to, with Mercury/Pluto conjunct the Capricorn MC of our class horoscope that day…

As we went on with the class, the Mercury/Pluto/MC /Capricorn overtone continued. It’s worth noting that the IC ruler of this class horoscope for 26.1.16 at 11 am,  is the Moon. So, with Capricorn MC/Cancer IC, what was our main planned topic, decided in mid-December 2015, several weeks before the class?  It was to follow the progressed Moon through Capricorn in all of our Secondary Progressed horoscopes.

This arose from one of the student’s enjoyment of her progressed Moon’s journey through Sagittarius, and her apprehension at the prospect of its imminent move into Capricorn. She had had a difficult time 28 years previously with a very Capricornian relative as the progressed Moon traversed Capricorn, and feared that something similar might happen once again with the same relative.

We were of the view that much of her apprehension was projection. She was much cheered by that analysis, especially since the feedback we all gave from our own experiences of the progressed Moon through Capricorn at a variety of different ages and life stages, centred round becoming more organised, taking on greater responsibility and often promotion, becoming grandparents, buying or renovating property, becoming more responsible about money, etc etc. Nothing too grim there, just very typically Capricornian!



Although some astrologers give more credence to the progressed Moon’s travels through the houses in terms of ‘delivering’ corresponding meaning than they do with the signs, we certainly found in our small piece of research that both sign and house ‘delivered’ recognisable symbolic correspondences between the progressed Moon’s positions and our reported life events .

For example, in my own recent case the progressed Moon entered Capricorn in the Fourth House in the early summer of 2012, just as I was re-organising myself with professional indemnity insurance, supervision arrangements, promotional materials and web stuff, etc as I returned to my astrology practice. (The progressed Moon entered Aquarius in the Fifth House in August 2014, the same month in which I returned to astrology teaching.)

Further illustrating the Mercury/Pluto/MC /Capricorn overtone of the day was not only the depth and seriousness of the topics which came up, but also that famous ‘graveyard’ humour which is the realm of any Mercury/Saturn/Pluto combination. Despite the intensity of our discussion around not only Bowie’s chart but also our own experiences, we had quite a few laughs– albeit of the black humour type.

And where was the Moon by transit, as I (very slowly !) drafted this post on Friday 5th February? Yes, you’ve guessed. It was in Capricorn…

I’m sure the experience I have described here of the energies of a particular moment in time clearly mirroring what was taking place in that moment, is something which is pretty familiar to most astrologers. I can think of quite a few other outstanding examples from my teaching and practice over the years.

There was the autumn in the 1980s when I – with transiting Pluto in the Third House beginning to square Mercury, then all the rest of my Leo planets – attracted a Beginners astrology class in which most of the ten students had very strong emphases on either Scorpio, Pluto, or both. It was like teaching a black hole! My classes are usually lively, communicative events. This lot hardly said a word – just sucked in information as though their very lives depended on it. The horoscope for the start of the class, needless to say, was very, very Plutonian..

I would be most interested to have examples from other astrologers of the kind of experience of interconnectedness which I have been describing here. If we were conscious all the time of the full power of astrological symbolism to describe in symbolic terms the intricate weave of which we are all part, we would probably burn out mentally pretty quickly. So it’s healthy to ‘tune out’ of full awareness much of the time. But every so often it is magical, powerful, to be pulled into unfiltered direct experience of the meaning-charged energy field into which we are all woven. What do YOU think?



1300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

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The common Ground between in-depth astrology and quantum physics…

Well, well, well…the word is at last getting around that quantum physics and in-depth astrology may actually in different ways be describing the same underlying Ground….thanks to Courtney Roberts Conrad for this fascinating article:

The Solar System

The Solar System

Roberts concludes her article thus:

“The Kepler Conference is a driving force in this astrological Research Revolution, pressing forward with the post-modern, evidence-based, big data version of what astrologers have been trying to do all along.  When you consider all the potential good uses for reliable astrological information, maybe the stars are finally aligning for astrology!

Let’s all go next year, shall we?!!



100 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Courtney Roberts Conrad 2016

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