Category Archives: Astrology: challenges, ethics and practice (11 articles)

Sellieve’s Question: should we mention possible death as a transit’s outcome?

Astrologer Sellieve Neptune has form when it comes to asking me challenging questions! But I appreciate them; it is part of the job of experienced teachers and practitioners, in my opinion, to attempt to guide and support younger members of our profession in the tough but rewarding process of becoming grounded, responsible, effective and compassionate practitioners. A vital part of that evolutionary process is the recognising of both our own limitations – and those of the art of astrology itself.

My last post, on Chiron, produced a considerable amount of reaction and response. At the end of the following extract you will find Sellieve’s question, which I assume was prompted by the following powerful example:

“…A long time ago – I no longer have the chart or notes for reference but still remember the situation – a woman with Chiron conjunct her Moon consulted me not long after her 50th birthday. Chiron had recently returned to that natal conjunction. I recall that Saturn by transit was also probably involved. I asked her whether there was a difficult issue currently involving a key female in her life, and she said yes, that her mother-in-law to whom she had been very close had recently died and she was having difficulty getting over this loss; her deep grief seemed to her to be out of proportion.

I then asked if she had had a similar loss in the first year of her life. It turned out that her own mother had died when she was less than a year old, and that she had felt bereft of mothering until her mother-in -law came into her life, hence her great difficulty with the current situation. Both the client and I were deeply moved by how powerfully the Moon/Chiron symbolism had spoken on Chiron’s return to its natal position. But realising this also helped the client to make more sense of the depth of her grief, and hopefully to process it more consciously…”

From Sellieve: While reading this, it dawned on me that someone I know will have transiting Chiron conjunct their moon after their Chiron return, and their mother might die when this transit happens, not sure if I should tell them or how to counsel them thru this? I’m welcome to hear anyone’s thoughts.

From Anne: Sellieve, once again you’ve raised an ethical question which deserves a considered reply outwith comment boxes.

That ancient basic guideline which we share with all the caring professions is still: ‘Do no harm’.

Introduction

We can describe clearly to our clients the essence of a planetary combination eg Chiron/Moon by transit: but the branches which arise from that core essence are many and varied although all tie back to the core theme/s. So we are not in any position to select one branch and offer it to the client as a possibility – or even worse, a definite outcome! –  if it is something which may raise fear/be undermining or damaging.

It is another matter when (as in the example I gave in this post) the client brings a branch which for them has manifested as a death. It is then our job to help them explore this event in such a way that they gain some understanding, and are able to go forward feeling empowered rather than undermined. 

Working with a client’s Chiron Return

My recollection, regarding the example quoted above, is that I sketched out a core description of transiting Chiron returning to a Chiron Moon Saturn combination, by saying something to this effect: “Your natal pattern is certainly challenging: it can manifest along a spectrum of possibilities from maternal separation or loss of some kind and the need to heal from that wounding, to having a mother whose disciplined professional work as a healer of some kind –perhaps a medical practitioner – absorbed more of her time than you as a child felt was enough to meet your needs.

This might have had the effect of making you emotionally self-sufficient, or the pattern might indicate that you were drawn to the healing professions yourself. But you will need to tell me how it showed and shows up in your life. I can point the camera at what the shot is, but you will need to do the fine tuning to bring your actual picture into focus. What’s your feedback?”

At that point, she told me that she was in fact a nurse – and that her own mother had died in the first year of her life. I then asked her, looking at Chiron’s return to that pattern, whether anything connecting to that early loss had happened in the last few months. She replied that her mother-in-law, to whom she had grown very close, had died recently, triggering her overwhelming grief which she seemed unable to deal with.

We were then able to look at how this recent death had opened the floodgates, as it were, to very old bewilderment, pain and fear still unresolved from her own mother’s death which she could now begin to see was finding its expression in her adult life through the death of her beloved mother- in-law.

Our discussion helped her to put her current circumstances into a more comprehensible perspective, and I was able to refer her on to a very experienced bereavement counsellor since she felt that she needed to do some old grief work on her past as well as on the present.

What could Sellieve do?

So, Sellieve, I think you could  – assuming that the person you mention is a possible client, coming to consult you formally – sketch out in broad terms what her particular Chiron pattern may be, then ask her for feedback so that you can work together on the information she feeds back to you. You could then find out what her current circumstances are in relation to her mother – or indeed key women in her life, or her own emotional state, and take the Chiron Return discussion from there. In my experience, you follow the client’s lead, and judge what you say – or do not say – according to that.

I would certainly not offer the possibility that the client’s mother might die, and if the client, her mother or any of her female friends have serious health issues at this time, I would not venture to discuss any medical condition but refer the person on to an experienced medical astrologer and/or a medical practitioner. It is so important for us to know our limitations, and work within them. That’s why I consider it essential for practising astrologers to have at the very least some formal counselling training, and professional supervision with an experienced colleague.

I hope, Sellieve, that this necessarily limited discussion has at least opened out some of the issues you presented, and given you some pointers.

Last word to Donna Cunningham

I’d like to give the last word to the late Donna Cunningham, generous friend and mentor to many of us, whose input into the series on ethics I did a few years ago on this blog was very much appreciated:

donnafaintbuddhabtr72-hart

 

 

 

 

“…We live in very difficult times, and the world at large is in turmoil. The transits are difficult ones, too. Many astrology clients are fearful about their future but hope for good news, while astrologers struggle to make helpful predictions. Sometimes, however, the things we say can leave them even more anxious than they were before. What, then, would be a healing and empowering perspective on the concerns they bring to a session?

It’s extremely important that astrologers and their clients both understand astrology’s limitations. Natal chart features and transits to them may suggest what’s going on, but they do not set the outcome in stone. Any given placement or combination has many expressions—some challenging, some positive, yet all related. There’s no way of predicting precisely how people will express those features, for much depends on their character, history, spiritual evolution, and choices. What a consultation can do is to help them become aware of their options.

Most of us work from the heart and do the best we can to help our clients. As in any service field, the better prepared we are to understand their emotional responses—and our own—during the session, the better we can serve…”

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1400 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Donna Cunningham 2018

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

Jupiter in Scorpio, astrologers and Prometheus – a cautionary tale..

Since sharing When Transits Bring Suffering by Dana Gerhardt on my Facebook Page a few days ago, I have been reflecting yet again on the reality that the Cosmos’ unfolding energy patterns – from which astrology helps us to extract meaning – offer us darkness as well as light as the Wheel of Fortune turns… I ruminated on this topic recently in my column for Dell Horoscope Magazine, offering a striking example from my own life by means of illustration…

“…The Titan Prometheus was a pretty arrogant fellow, in my view. According to Greek myth he stole the fire of knowledge from the gods, hidden in a fennel stalk, to give to humanity for our enlightenment. Did he consult any humans beforehand, to see if we wanted such a double-edged gift?

To the best of my knowledge, he did not. He thought he knew best. For this blatant act of hubris, ie thinking you are as smart as the gods, he was savagely punished by Zeus, their king.

You probably know the story, but it bears repeating, just to remind us that hubris is not a good idea. Chained to a rock, Prometheus had his liver pecked out by an eagle on a daily basis; it regrew overnight – the punishment never ended.

In astrology the planet Jupiter, named for the king of the gods in Roman myth, rules the liver. In the Prometheus myth, the liver was chosen as the focus of torture because the ancient Greeks regarded the liver as the seat of life, soul, and intelligence.

So – wherever Jupiter is in your horoscope, that’s where you are compelled to seek to broaden your experience, widen your horizons, deepen your knowledge. However, the myth would appear to suggest that you need to be careful with the results of your quest and its impact on both yourself and others.

Jupiter has very recently moved into the sign of Scorpio, ruled by the Lord of the Underworld, Pluto. Wherever Scorpio is in your birth chart, that’s where the soul-enhancing benefits of deepening your understanding and experience within that dark terrain can be gained over the next year.

Jupiter in Scorpio crops up often in the horoscopes of astrologers, as do Jupiter/Pluto aspects, or Jupiter in the Eighth House. This should not be a surprise, either to astrologers themselves or those who know them. Astrological knowledge is powerful  – as such, it is potently attractive to those of us prepared to do the in-depth work required in order to become fluent enough to practice as astrologers and/or astrology teachers.

However, with such deep knowledge comes a warning, which Prometheus should have heeded; one which astrologers should note, if they have the wisdom and humility to do so: fire burns. By acquiring such powerful knowledge, hidden from most people, we are procuring the gods’ fire. That fire can burn us as it did Prometheus. It can burn our clients and students too, if we are not careful.

Consider this example from my life last year: late in May 2017 I was preparing to attend the Student Astrology Conference in London on 2-3 June. There had recently been two major terrorist attacks on the UK: one in March in London, the second in Manchester just over a week before we were due to set off. One of the key transit patterns common to those attacks was the long square between Saturn in late Sagittarius and Chiron in late Pisces.

I have a Uranus/Mars conjunction in late Gemini/early Cancer in the tenth house. Observing the ephemeris with increasing disquiet, wondering what unpleasant collective events might be triggered by transiting Mars moving through Gemini and once again setting off the Saturn/Chiron square, I suddenly realised that I was ‘plugged in’ to this pattern.

Mars would be exactly triggering my Uranus/Mars midpoint, opposing Saturn transiting the fourth house and squaring transiting seventh house Chiron. On the London Conference weekend.

Given the overall picture, I was worried to say the least. What should I do? Should I tell my husband, thereby alarming him? (Fortunately he is an Aquarian, and not easily intimidated!) Should we cancel our trip? It certainly looked as though some unpleasant surprises were coming our way. In the end, having decided that all this difficult symbolism was contained within an overall protective grand kite pattern involving my horoscope and transiting planets, I concluded that things would be difficult, but not directly involving me or us.

So it proved. One hour before we departed on 1st June, a close relative called me to say his wife was going to have surgery soon for breast cancer. At Euston railway station in London, tired from travelling, we got into a black cab with a driver who blasted us with the full force of his rage against the world for the full half hour it took to get to our hotel. And on the night of 2nd June, less than a mile away from our hotel and the conference venue, there was a devastating terror attack on London Bridge.

My foreknowledge of the broad picture, but not the detail, undoubtedly caused me distress. I could give many other examples as I am sure could my astrologer colleagues, of being burned by this wonderful knowledge we have – which can also be so constructively helpful and illuminating both to us and to our clients.

What would you have said to an astrology client with the planetary line-up described, if they had asked you “Should I go to London next weekend?”  I am still thinking about that one. But in the end we have to trust the sacred space of the consultation, our link to the Divine, be humble – and  strive to do no harm…”

Endnotes:

This post first appeared in my bi-monthly column for Dell Horoscope Magazine  ‘The astro-view from Scotland’ in the November 2017 Issue.

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900 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Dell Horoscope Magazine 2018

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

Advice on responsible astrological practice – from Donna Cunningham

I believe that it is important for practising astrologers every so often to get on their shouty soapbox on the topics of  what constitutes ethical practice and how does one become a responsible consultant astrologer.

 I have been doing this in posts during July and August 2016 – and I’m glad to say that both here and over on the blog’s Facebook Page, a great deal of interest revealed in Likes, Shares and thoughtful comments has been the result. In concluding the series for the time being ( I’ll be back on the soapbox again some other year!) I could not do better than share with you master astrologer Donna Cunningham’s excellent article on working responsibly with both the natal chart and transits. Donna has read and commented on the above posts, and has generously given me a copy of

A Responsible Approach to Clients’ Tough Transits

to share with my readers. Feel free to download and share, says Donna. The article also lists many of Donna’s other articles on good practice which would be beneficial for all practitioners whatever their level of experience to read. 

This article, an extract from Counseling Principles for Astrologers,  is a treat: practical, sensible, humane, humorous and clearly the work of a very experienced astrologer in which she shares her approaches to a range of challenging  issues which practitioners face every day in reading charts for their fellow citizens. Here is a flavour:

“…We live in very difficult times, and the world at large is in turmoil. The transits are difficult ones, too. Many astrology clients are fearful about their future but hope for good news, while astrologers struggle to make helpful predictions. Sometimes, however, the things we say can leave them even more anxious than they were before. What, then, would be a healing and empowering perspective on the concerns they bring to a session?

It’s extremely important that astrologers and their clients both understand astrology’s limitations. Natal chart features and transits to them may suggest what’s going on, but they do not set the outcome in stone. Any given placement or combination has many expressions—some challenging, some positive, yet all related. There’s no way of predicting precisely how people will express those features, for much depends on their character, history, spiritual evolution, and choices. What a consultation can do is to help them become aware of their options.

Most of us work from the heart and do the best we can to help our clients. As in any service field, the better prepared we are to understand their emotional responses—and our own—during the session, the better we can serve…”

One of my thoughtful commenters pointed out that many brilliant astrologers have evolved – and practice – without formal teaching or certification. She also made the point that going through formal certification can be so arduous, time and money consuming that it leaves little room for the actual practice of chart reading.  Her view is that stating clearly on one’s publicity where one is coming from as an astrologer, and the considerable effort and commitment it has taken to get there, is going to be enough for her.

I can see the validity of all those points. Nevertheless, I think that having the common sense and humility at least to complete a basic counselling skills qualification, to have experience of being a client oneself in whatever therapeutic context seems relevant, and hiring an experienced fellow astrologer for regular supervision sessions to offer a supportive outside view on the joys and sorrows and challenges of one’s practice, even if it takes one several years to put those conditions in place, should be a minimum aspiration for all astrologers – no matter how brilliant or self-taught they may be.

With those few comments which I hope add up to a series of posts which will be challenging, helpful and inspiring, I send out my very best wishes to all prospective astrology clients, astrology practitioners and students – not forgetting interested members of the public who may be following this series.  May your encounter with the great, ancient art of astrology be inspiring and life-enhancing.

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Zodiac

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

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

 

 

On becoming a responsible astrologer: how do you get there?

Well!  22nd July’s post on the ethics of astrological practice,  a topic to which all we astrological practitioners should return from time to time in my opinion, generated a great deal of interest over at this blog’s Facebook page. My dialogue there, with thoughtful astrologer Sellieve Ezra Neptune, made it clear to me that the question of responsible astrological practice needed to be pursued further.

EthicsEthics

The Question

Here is Sellieve’s challenging question: “I do have a question for you Anne 💚. If you tell people that they should only get a reading from an astrologer who has lots of experience reading charts, how does someone get that experience if someone inexperienced isn’t worthy of giving readings yet? It’s that same catch 22 of, “can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job”. I am an aspiring professional astrologer, with a decade of learning under me, but the number of professional readings I have given is not too many…”

This is a very fair question, Sellieve, and it does indeed look as though I’ve presented a Catch 22. The last thing I want to do is discourage potentially effective astrologers like yourself from ending up as serious professional practitioners.

There are a number of ways from which to approach this question, and I do not claim to have all the answers – a brief post can only cover a few key bases. However, here goes! I should state at the outset that I am based in the UK, so am not very familiar with the specifics of what constitutes professional regulation in other countries.

Mainstream v Maverick

The advantage of belonging to one of the traditional professions recognised by mainstream society e.g. medicine, the law, teaching, accountancy etc is that one has to go through pretty rigorous training and professional licensing in order to be able to practice. This does not rule out bad practice, but it does mean it is kept to a minimum, and offers legal redress to people who have been on the receiving end of such practice.

However, astrologers especially in this reductionist age are very much NOT regarded as being in the mainstream of professional practice, and it is possible for anyone to set themselves up as an astrologer with no training, regulation or background counselling experience whatsoever.

In an ideal world, it should not be possible for people to do this. But as we all know the world we live in is far from ideal. I think the reality is that it is never going to be possible fully to prevent people from abusing their fellow citizens as described by Donna Cunningham  in my earlier post, ie  Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients

Increasing public awareness

However, it is my hope that the public is more aware these days of the difference between responsible, quality astrologers and dangerous amateurs. In recent  years, much progress has been made in training and monitoring astrologers through such reputable bodies as eg  OPA, ISAR, NCGR and the AFA in the US, where very high standards are set for what is expected of practising astrologers. Likewise, eg  The Mayo School of AstrologyThe London School of Astrology, Mercury Internet School of Psychological Astrology, the Faculty of Astrological Studies and the Centre for Psychological Astrology in the UK.

I studied with both the latter bodies, and am a member of the Association of Professional Astrologers International to whose ethical codes I  subscribe.

In order to protect ourselves legally, the APAI advises its members thus in dealing with clients:

  1. Explain briefly and in general what astrology is and what astrologers do.
  2. Explain the limitations of the techniques employed, for example: astrology is a symbolic language and offers a balance of probabilities rather than specific certainties.
  3. Describe the service(s) to be provided, for example: character analysis, compatibility assessment – and the scale of fees.
  4. Emphasize that astrology is not scientifically proven and that no reading can be 100% accurate.
  5. Explain, nevertheless, that APAI astrologers will work to the best of their knowledge and abilities in the preparation and delivery of the services to be provided.

How we begin…

Most of us who end up as astrologers have a similar route. First, we encounter astrology in a range of different ways depending on who we are and what our context is, this encounter leading us to being fascinated and compelled to take our interest further.

In my case, I encountered a couple in a launderette in Bath, England in the 1970s who took me home with them, did my chart, and told me I was likely to end up studying astrology or something very like it in seven years’ time. At that time I was both engaged in another professional life, and a dismisser of astrology from the dismissers’ standard base of knowing nothing at all about it. However, they were right…

Then we practice, on friends, family, anyone who would like their chart read – hopefully sticking to the basics of Sun, Moon, Saturn, Ascendant and Midheaven, and even more hopefully, having some awareness of when one is getting out of one’s depth – not going too far into wounding other people through our own lack of expertise and knowledge.

From amateur to professional

It should take quite a while of doing this before one’s thoughts turn to whether becoming a professional astrologer is a realistic possibility. In a follow-up comment to her original question, Sellieve partially answers it herself, by pointing out the following:

“…Not everyone comes to an Astrologer looking for serious advice, sometimes they want a theatrical presentation of their personality, or they find astrology interesting but don’t want to study it themselves… In this such case I think it is better to refer these kinds of clients to less experienced professional astrologers, people like me and other millennials. If someone wants to see an astrologer for counseling, if they want light brought onto a difficult situation, then it is best to refer them to a psychological astrologer, or someone with more impressive credentials than me…”

In the end, how much one gradually realises through this process of initial dabbling the amount of power and responsibility one is taking on by reading peoples’ charts is dependent upon the degree of self-awareness, experience and maturity one has acquired by this point. Personal integrity, which no-one can teach, is also a major factor in determining the path people take when they realise they wish to practice as professional astrologers.

I think that the best possible start for a would-be astrologer is to place themselves at the outset within a clear framework of ethics and guidelines which all the reputable training and monitoring bodies provide and follow those guidelines to the best of their ability.

An excellent recent book to acquire in helping this process along,  is OPA (the Organisation for Professional Astrology) ‘s  The Professional Astrologer which is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of setting up an astrology practice. Do acquire this book, Sellieve, as soon as possible! Master astrologer Donna Cunningham’s Counseling Principles for Astrologers is also an excellent guide for astrologers at this very important stage of their careers.

One of the best books I know which covers the practical, ethical, moral, psychological and spiritual dimensions of being an astrologer is  The Astrologer, the Counsellor and the Priest. by Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke, based on a seminar given at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in 1996,which I had the good fortune to attend, and which was comprehensive, practical, and thought provoking.

Setting up a practice – some practicalities

Sellieve has added some more comments over on my Astrology: Questions and Answers Facebook Page regarding how to go about setting up an astrology practice to which I responded as follows:

” …I think that you probably need to look around a few astrologers’ consultation/tuition web Pages – you are welcome to look at mine for some ideas –and set up a professional web page stating your approach, what you do and don’t do, qualifications, background relevant experience, and fees. And join a reputable professional organisation eg OPA,  if you haven’t already. And set up a professional email only to be used for your practice. [You will also need to think about how you wish to be contacted initially, where you are going to practice with attendant privacy, recording policy, etc etc.]

I think if you set a context for yourself so that you know clearly what you are doing, who you wish to draw to you by way of clientele, and what your professional boundaries are, then get out there doing a few talks and maybe offering a small beginners class for starters, all that will help.

I set boundaries by saying to people who want me to comment on their charts, that I only do that within the boundaries of a professional consultation. It’s a sacred art, after all, so it should be practised with appropriate respect for both yourself, your client, and astrology. If people want a reading, they can go to your Page then get back to you. That saves a lot of time and energy.

And of course, if people are enthusiastic and open minded without trying to get bits of a reading from you informally, then talk astrology with as many people as wish to hear about the Real Deal as opposed to eg playing ‘Guess my sign!”. Something I never do, incidentally…”

Disclaimer – or not?

One of Sellieve’s later comments concerned the question of adding a disclaimer to one’s publicity, advising that astrology is “for entertainment purposes only”, something which she found disquieting in the same way that I or anyone else would who considers that what they do as astrologers goes into a considerable degree of depth and can not be described as entertainment. Here, I can only speak for myself: I would never add such a disclaimer to my publicity, since I consider a high standard of practice to be my greatest protection against any likelihood of legal action.

She adds “…astrologers could potentially find themselves in a predicament when a client takes an astrological prediction very seriously and it doesn’t come true, or if the astrologer gives advice about what to do in a relationship, the client can hold the astrologer responsible for anything that goes wrong…”

Here we come slap up against the reason why, in my view, anyone wishing to take themselves seriously as an astrologer, or be taken seriously by members of the public as a responsible person, needs to get themselves at the very least some  counselling skills training  (if full counselling training is not at first a realistic option for whatever reason, often finance) as well as having the experience of being in the client’s seat themselves.

Many counselling/therapy training courses will offer cut-price counselling sessions with trainees in supervision. In this way, counselling or therapy of a satisfactory standard can often be obtained without too great a financial outlay.

An important part of an an astrologer’s job is to combine the natal  horoscope with transits, progressions, and other directions in the heavens at the time of the consultation to help clients clarify situations in which they find themselves, so that they can then make their own decisions regarding what to do.

Making definite predictions and advising people what to do diminishes clients’ free will and confidence in themselves, although in the short run it might afford them some temporary relief to hand over those choices to the astrologer – upon whom they can later dump the blame and perhaps threaten legal action, when things do not turn out according to either predictions or advice given.

In conclusion…

This is but a brief sketch. I hope readers will flesh it out for themselves –  starting with the suggestions made for organisations to join and reading to do, enabling them to become clearer about what taking the first steps to becoming responsible professional astrologers involves.

There is far more support available now for the Millennial generation of emerging astrologers like Sellieve, than there was when we baby-boomers started out. That’s great, and how it should be … one of my great pleasures at this stage in my life is to pass on some of what I know and have learned – usually the hard way! – to the generation of talented young folk now arising.

And – thanks so much to Sellieve Ezra Neptune for prodding me into action on this most important topic!

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2000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ethics of astrological practice: a Question needing an Answer…

I like it when the day throws up a compelling hot topic for my blog first thing – even if I am still half asleep at the time! A particular exchange of questions and answers with two commenters on this blog’s Facebook Page woke me up very quickly. (Their names have been changed)
The Zodiac

The Zodiac

Angela: Do you do astrology ?I would love to have mine done sometime but I don’t know who does it? Any ideas?
 
 Ryan: I’ve stumbled upon dozens of bloggers who give readings, you just have to look…
 
Me: Ryan, it may well be the case that one can stumble upon lots of bloggers doing readings, but Angela needs to be careful to choose someone who is well experienced and qualified, preferably with their work insured and supervised, with an adequate degree of experience in reading horoscopes, counselling training and a well developed sense of awareness of the power and responsibility that is taken on by virtue of reading people’s horoscopes.
 
Donna Cunningham, if you care to visit her excellent blog, has written about the negative and irresponsible things that some people can say when reading their fellow citizens’ charts.
It would be instructive for anyone contemplating booking a reading to go over to Donna’s blog and read about some of this alarming material, which by its existence emphasises the importance of  prospective clients choosing carefully if they wish their charts to be read constructively and responsibly.
Here is a short quote from Donna Cunningham’s 4.12.2014 post, which supports my response to Angela and to Ryan:

“…For many years, I had a monthly advice column in Dell Horoscope Magazine, a Dear Abby type column in which readers wrote their problems and I answered based on their astrology charts. Part of the job description for that column seemed to be putting out fires that other astrologers have set, for I got many letters from readers who were devastated by the way their chart reading was handled.

These letters pointed to the need for true and responsible professional training in our field and the need, especially, for a certain amount of counseling training. Like it or not, counseling is what an astrologer does each time a client comes for a reading….” from Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients

Anne W's Horoscope - drawn by hand!

Anne W’s Horoscope – drawn by hand!

I have been an astrology practitioner, teacher and writer for over thirty years now. However, I remain awestruck by the power that astrology holds, when used responsibly with compassion and sensitivity, to offer creative and constructive guidance to clients as their lives unfold.

It is incredibly affirming to be able to say – either directly or by inference, depending on what that particular client needs at that time – “Here is your unique little chip of the cosmos into which you were born. Use the energies therein as best you can, given the gifts and limitations we are all handed at the outset – which I will try to convey to you as honestly and constructively as possible. Try to work with those energies well enough to be able to hand your chip back with a little more light shining through it at the end of your days.”

Feeling connected to an unfolding, meaningful energy weave where each of us has a thread to contribute, is a wonderful antidote to the feelings of anomie, disconnectedness and wondedness which so many people feel at this time of great turbulence and upheaval.

However, the task of placing another person’s life in a context for them which makes their life’s current challenges easier to bear, helping them to work with often very painful circumstances as constructively as possible – how many people come for astrology readings when life is bowling smoothly along? Not many, in my experience! – is not straightforward, easy, or to be embarked upon lightly. It should not be embarked upon lightly or casually.

I can still recall, in the early days of my astrology practice, being extremely grateful that I had had a number of years of social work, psychiatric work, and counselling practice in which to ground my work as an astrologer. There is nothing quite like having to face the limitations of your capacity to help other people, which is a major dimension of social work, to ground you and keep you humble when taking upon yourself the power that being an astrologer brings.

I was fortunate enough to have been a student of Liz Greene’s for most of the 1990s. An entry requirement to study for the Diploma in Psychological Astrology which I completed in 1998, was that all students be in therapy for a year. It was made clear to us, in Liz Greene’s inimitable way, that we should not take upon ourselves the responsibility of  being astrological practitioners without having the experience of a long seat in the client’s chair ourselves.

So, Ryan, I do hope that my response to your casual comment, with which no doubt you meant no harm,  has not left you feeling too winded! And I thank you for making it, thereby giving me the opportunity to put forward my own thoughts regarding the great capacity for doing ill as well as good that astrologers take on when they read their fellow citizens’ horoscopes. “At least do no harm” is the bottom line of the medical profession. It should be ours too.

Angela, if you are reading this, do not be too put off. There are many good, competent, compassionate, realistic, empathic astrologers out there. Just take your sweet time to make sure you seek out a good one!

Zodiac

Zodiac

950 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

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

 

 

 

 

Does astrology wound as well as heal?

It is important at this point to emphasise to readers who are familiar only with Sun Signs that to get ‘beyond the Sun Signs’ requires an individual’s horoscope to be drawn up for the date, place AND time of birth. Human beings are complex and contradictory. It’s not possible to approach any satisfying symbolic exploration of that complexity through the Sun or Star Sign alone.

Astrology itself neither heals nor wounds. Having  arisen aeons ago from attempts to create a meaningful context to human life through observation of the physical movements of the planets in the heavens, whether such a framework is experienced as wounding or healing is heavily predicated upon the attitude of the individuals who choose to use it:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is  not  in our stars,
But in ourselves, that  we are underlings.”

(W.Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)

Zodiac

Zodiac

It is easy enough to talk about the positive healing benefits of an astrological framework, providing as it does a major defence against meaninglessness and insignificance. Feeling connected at a personal level to loved ones and friends is recognised as a major factor in promoting and maintaining physical, emotional and mental health and happiness.

Feeling connected at a more cosmic level lets us see that  we are not random accidents in time and space, but threads in the weave of a greater pattern – very small threads perhaps, but contributors nevertheless. This awareness promotes a sense of spiritual well being.

There is also the sheer fun, excitement and intellectual discovery which the study of astrology brings.

Every bright light, however, has a dark shadow; in the promethean nature of our art  lies its shadow too. It is all very well to steal the gods’ fire, as Prometheus did, with the noble intention of  liberating humanity from some of its bonds with the powerful enlightenment which that fire brings.

But fire burns. It is impossible to light up the darkness of our human limitations of perception, without the hand that holds the illuminating fire being burned by it. It’s not so easy to talk about that. But it does less than justice, in exploring the impact of the astrological model on human consciousness, to concentrate on the healing aspects of the interaction,  whilst glossing over the wounding dimensions. Exposure to the model brings both.

I  always attempted to restore a sense of perspective on this issue by pointing out to my astrology  students that for the whole of human history most of humanity has managed to stagger through life without the benefit of astrological knowledge.

On one occasion, I asked a small group of my  tutorial students, who had studied and practised for long enough to experience both the light and the shadow facets of our great art, to write something about its healing and wounding dimensions. I was delighted by the honesty and perceptiveness of their feedback. Here is what Charlotte, 35 at the time of my asking, had to say.

Charlotte

(not her real name – data withheld for confidentiality)

 I’ve never really been asked to consider the wounding aspects of astrology in such a direct way before. I did have a bit of a job focusing on the question without the more positive aspects coming up all the time! I think the serious study of astrology knocked me out of the idyllic vision I had had of my family background. I had to accept that my parents weren’t perfect, and the overall effect of this was enlightening but also disappointing. It kind of knocked me into the real world and showed me things as they were which I found quite hard to come to terms with.

Seeing things in black and white on the astrological chart  led to a lot of resentment on my part, raising a lot of difficult questions which I’m still working hard to understand. I think this can sometimes sidetrack me and stop me getting on with things, and lead to some disasters which might not have occurred otherwise – although I would say I do have a natural tendency to analyse things anyway. Astrology just provides more scope for this.

There is also the question “ why me? Why did I have to have this chart?” which may be quite childish, but did lead at one time to some resentment at the apparent unfairness of it all. Especially when you are grappling with hard Pluto and Saturn aspects. You know you have your work cut out for you, and that life is not going to be easy. The prospect of living your life with these aspects can be quite daunting and depressing, and lead to a lot of despondency at times.

Another factor that’s hard to take on board is that you are responsible for yourself. You can’t go around blaming other people for your misfortunes all the time. You have to take responsibility for your part in the drama. It’s your stuff, and you’re the only one who can deal with it. This can lead to a lot of self criticism on my part, and a good deal of depression if things aren’t working out.

Looking at  it from a promethean point of view, Prometheus stole fire from the gods. He knew he would suffer for it, but he also, I think, knew on some intuitive level that he was doing the right thing. And in the end he was released from his suffering. Personally, I couldn’t not know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued the subject as long as I have. I just hope it works out for me in the end too”.

This is one person’s vivid perspective on the implications of knowing her natal horoscope. I’d be interested to have comments on this issue from my readers.

Zodiac

Zodiac

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker/”Charlotte” 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Astrology: is it a descriptive or a predictive art?

From your comments on the Facebook Page, this blog, and emails, this month of June 2015, nearly over, has been spent by lots of you in a Mercurial, Saturnian and Neptunian fog. You will have read that yours truly’s highlight – as Mercury went direct and Neptune turned retro – was almost being blown up during a domestic gas leak whilst engaged in a podiatry session, which we completed on the pavement outside our building. I don’t give up easily…

A consequence of a period of exceptional fogginess and disruption was that I missed a very important anniversary. Two years ago, on 1st of June 2013, was the date of my first post on Astrology: Questions and Answers.

This new blog was birthed in May 2013 on a page on  Glasgow, Scotland,UK’s popular West End Website, a brilliant local community resource. However, the response via questions and comments was so positive that I decided to set up a whole blog dedicated to Astrology Questions and Answers. Here, then, to celebrate our second anniversary, is the very first question, which is having its very first airing on this site, having first appeared on the West End Website. Enjoy, and many thanks to all you readers, commenters, emailers and questioners for making those first two years such fun!

Questions, cosmic questions!

Questions, cosmic questions!

Would it be fair, then, to say that astrology is descriptive rather than predictive? It occurs to me that much of the fascination with newspaper ‘astrology’ columns is related to their use as fortune-telling!

……from Linda Leinen, USA…….and my favourite blogger, at the wonderful 

The Task At Hand.

It’s fair to say that astrology is both descriptive and predictive. There are many facets to this statement. However, just a few examples should throw at least some light on Linda’s interesting question.

Descriptive

 A properly drawn up horoscope using your date, place, and time of birth can allow me to provide you with a clear description of the characters who are acting out the play of your particular life, to use a familiar but useful analogy.The Sun represents only one character, thereby revealing right away how limited popular Sun Sign astrology is. The other characters are represented by the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (for latest on this contested planet’s status, click HERE ).

The astronomical relationships between the nine planets plus the moon, when drawn onto the horoscope (see picture below – click on the image to enlarge) show the conversations, debates, disagreements and compromises happening between the major characters on your life’s stage.

Charles Dickens

Their action takes place against the backdrop of the twelve Houses of the horoscope, each representing a particular sphere of life. Then I have to take the Ascendant (how you appear to the world) the Midheaven (speaking of vocation/life direction) and several other factors including Chiron (where both wounding and healing take place)) into account. In addition, I need to consider and feed back what the interactions between all those factors are.

Reading a horoscope effectively needs both an experienced, self aware, sensitive astrologer and a client who truly wishes to reflect on their gifts, pains, preoccupations, fears, motivations etc in an honest and open way. A horoscope can be seen as the static drawing of a pattern of living energy ie a human being.

Thus, as an astrologer, I am working with explaining and discussing a number of different levels of manifestation which can and do arise from each symbol. Your birth horoscope is determined by your date, place and time of birth – factors over which we apparently have no control. This can be seen as the fated dimension.

But what you do with those energies depends to a considerable degree (impossible to work out exactly – no wonder reductionist science finds astrology so provoking!) on the levels of conscious self awareness you bring to the choices you make as life unfolds. Therein free will probably lies….

However – you really have to experience a quality astrology reading fully to understand its power and value.

Predictive

Yes, any competent astrologer can predict very accurately when planetary influences from the unfolding energies through time and space, both in the present and in the future, are going to engage with the energy patterns which can be read from a birth horoscope. S/he can also plot out with complete accuracy how long this engagement is going to last; anything from a few days to several years.

But one can only speculate about the level of manifestation of those energies….

Speculation, Mediaeval Style

Speculation, Mediaeval Style

 A simplified example: Venus in your natal horoscope represents relationship(s). The planet Uranus represents the urge to break down old patterns and is unpredictable, disruptive in its impact. If this planet is going to be exactly engaging with your natal Venus, eg for the whole of 2015, then I think you can work out without me telling you that this will not be the most peaceful uneventful year in your relationship life!

I can in this way predict the core of Uranus’ (or any planet’s) impact on any part of a client’s horoscope.Working out what the branches of manifestation arising from that core might be, however, is not something which can be done exactly. Of a few guesses, one might be accurate. Then there is the danger to the client that if I choose a specific branch which I think might manifest, this could well collapse a whole range of possible outcomes into one only. In this way, I as the astrologer may be helping self-fulfilling prophecy along the way.

Personally, I think it is sufficient to describe the core manifestation of a planet’s impact, and work with the person regarding how best to use this information.

A concluding observation on prediction. It is an inexact pursuit for all who attempt it, from economists through weather forecasters through astrologers.The latter failed to spot that World War Two was about to break out, for example, although there are many examples of astrologers delivering exactly the right level at which energies would manifest (ask google about this, especially the famous prediction about the death of Henry the Second of France….).

Modern science teaches us that we live in a universe which conducts a great dance between order and chaos, where probability and indeterminacy, not exactitude, are the order of the day. I like that!

Zodiac

Zodiac

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1050 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page