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My main blog is 'Astrology: Questions and Answers', exploring astrology's many highways and byways ... also 'Writing from the Twelfth House', (May 2008 - May 2016: now an extensive article archive celebrating our connections with '...mystery, meaning, pattern and purpose...') Psychological astrologer, writer, teacher, mentor: MA, Dip Ed, Dip Social Work, Dip Psych Astrol. Working in person and on Zoom.
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- Reading The Red Book (5) July 19, 2019“The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them.” C.G. Jung, The Red Book Chapter IV of The Red Book is called “The Desert.” Since ancient times, the desert has drawn mystics and visionaries, … Continue reading →Symbol Reader
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Category Archives: Becoming an astrologer: leading astrologers tell all ! (5 articles – occasional series)
Continuing the theme of how we came to astrology, stimulated by Frank Clifford’s brilliant guest post last week, here as promised are edited extracts from some of the varied and interesting stories my readers kindly shared. I’ve also included a couple of my own replies, the latter of which should leave you with no doubt regarding my misspent youth! I love the variety of these stories, and really appreciate readers’ having taken the trouble to share them. Space precludes me from sharing them all here – but you can find some more intriguing tales on my Astrology: Questions and Answers Facebook Page.
The post concludes with a five-minute interview I did a few weeks ago with Lush Radio’s Andrew Paine, confessing that I too was an ignorant astrology dismisser – until the day I encountered the real thing, a day which was to change my life, although I didn’t realise that at the time!
Carole Bone, from Glasgow, Scotland, UK:
‘…It was great to read Frank’s story and so amazing that it is illustrated so beautifully in his chart. My path was first stimulated by that wonderfully ostentatious icon of popular “Sun Sign astrology”, UK’s Russell Grant. Having acquired a small book of his that described planets, signs, houses, rising signs, nodes etc I was intrigued to find that my Virgo Rising Sign and Cancer Moon sign was soooo accurate. I had never resonated with Sagittarius, my Sun sign, though that did irk me somewhat for some reason… it all makes perfect sense now I’ve “grown in to my Sun sign”… as you do…’
Brenda Lee Johnson:
‘…My early childhood was in northern Canada, in the province of Manitoba. My parents had what would almost be considered a trading post. I found it very difficult to be inside the house and spent much time outside looking at the sky, the magic of it, the darkness, the mystery. We had many animals around, domesticated and otherwise. A very elemental upbringing. Considered to be “unorganized territory” yet so rich in texture. Not “organized” or ” civilized”. In other words it had a “wildness”, a freedom. To find out later, in shamanic Astrology training that my moon was in Scorpio and that indicated a shamanic past, made so much sense. My orientation thus, was to be the explorer of the cosmos and live in the world using those early developed senses to try to understand how people and the world worked.
I first began with the Linda Goodman versions then proceeded to go deeply into Astro psychology with Liz Greene, Dane Rudyar, Reinhold Ebertin, etc. All filled a gap in thinking at different times. I studied shamanic Astrology near my Chiron return, realizing Chiron was conjunct my Moon but in Sagittarius rather than Scorpio. I am continuously in awe and wonder of this powerful symbolic system, much of which to me is unexplainable – although eg James Hillman, Stanislav Grof, Richard Tarnas certainly bridge understandings…’
‘…I was fascinated to read Frank’s astrological journey too. I admire his work and have attended a few of his lectures here in Oz. It’s strange how we are led to our path. I grew up in Tasmania where a dim view was taken of anything outside of a fairly rigid religious norm. However, the 60s did even reach Hobart and we had an influx of different thinking and beliefs. I met my first palm reader in 1969 and I began to learn what I could. I moved to Sydney in 1974 and after a few years I began to learn astrology at the first “school” in Paddington. What a journey!…’
Anne: Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving this interesting feedback, Lindel. I, too, grew up in a part of the world where there was a strong fundamentalist (protestant) ethos: but the wildness of the landscape and weather, and the clarity of the night skies and stars, invoked in me from early on a decidedly pagan sensibility which has never left me, leaving me open to all kinds of perspectives on interconnectedness. So I guess it was inevitable that astrology would eventually find me…
‘…Reading these, I feel I must share my story too! After spending the bulk of my life fighting my way through the challenges of the particular archetypal energies indicated by my birth chart, it is no big surprise that astrology finally claimed me heavily about 5 years ago. My 1st big step into the “occult”, (as it was known in the bookshop’s section back then) was to have an astrological reading. Although I don’t remember much – the astrologer’s reaction to my chart scared me a bit – I was fascinated and tried to begin studies. But it wasn’t time and there were too many fears dogging my mind to be able to maintain the type of objectivity necessary to do justice to the symbolism – so I went into massage and energy work.
Working with people at that level forced me out of the mental/intellectual and I spent many years learning to hold internal silence/space for others as witness to their processes as I gradually got through the personal challenges. Twenty five years later, being in a good place in life, there was obvious need for a further challenge – and that is where I finally found Dane Rudhyar, Liz Greene, Bil Tierny, Stephen Arroyo and many others through people like Anne Whitaker, Dawn Bodrogi and Frank Clifford’s guidance & stellar example…’
I run an occasional series here in which well-known astrologers tell the always intriguing tale of how they became involved in astrology. I’m delighted this week to be featuring a distinguished guest, a star of the astrology world, on my blog: the UK’s very own Frank Clifford, prolific author, editor and world-wide teacher, who has run the London School of Astrology for the last fifteen years.
Enjoy Frank’s story!
Anne invited me last year to write a brief ‘How I became an Astrologer’ piece and it’s taken me all this time to sit down, ignore the other deadlines on my desk, and think of something I haven’t said before in an interview. I’m not quite sure I’ve succeeded in that last aim, but here goes.
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s with a very political, Pluto-type father who was a respected and feared personal injury solicitor (long before they were unlikely stars of ambulance-chasing adverts). My dad was so contrary and difficult that, even if the legal system had interested me (and I did study Law at A Level), I was never going to follow in his footsteps. Instead, I wanted to teach, be an architect, or write TV drama (I later did a degree in media studies, and my first extra-curricular job was writing comedy at the local BBC Radio York).
My mum has Sun–Mars in Aries and Moon-Jupiter in Libra and she eventually went into the legal system, too, but in my adolescence I shared her fascination with psychics and anyone who might predict the future. By fifteen I’d chosen to immerse myself in the more interesting world of the unknown. Or perhaps it chose me. I had grown up hearing mum’s stories of psychics that she and her friends visited. There were fascinating tales of predictions of moves abroad, foreign marriages and even a car accident. I had also loved the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and longed to have his special talent of reading symbols and predicting the future!
I didn’t seem much like an Aries at fifteen – much more like my Virgo Moon and Saturn rising. I was a shy, good boy who appeared overly serious to others. But when reading Linda Goodman, Teri King and Bernard Fitzwalter (Eccles), I aspired to be the Aries they described in their books.
In mid August 1989, on the day of a lunar eclipse in Aquarius (I write this now at the lunar eclipse in Aquarius some 28 years later), my mum and I visited Tad Mann, who was based in London at the time, and we both had readings with him. Tad’s Life*Time Astrology is fascinating but not the easiest introduction to the subject for a sixteen year old. Nevertheless, I took my chart home that afternoon with one of his books and taught myself the glyphs and began self-study. (I took a correspondence course with one astrology school but the assignments were so formulaic and the approach so rigid, I wasn’t inspired.)
One of my great discoveries around that time was the Electric Ephemeris shop in Caledonian Road, run at the time by Brian and Ananda. I bought a copy of the programme and picked up Lois Rodden’s Profiles of Women, which was a treasure trove of charts, biographies and observations. Soon after, Paul Wright’s book Astrology in Action entered my life. Thanks to these books and working with people like Lois, much of my astrology developed by reading a biography in one hand and looking for ‘why’ and ‘where’ in the horoscope in my other hand.
Thanks to my mother’s masseuse, I was introduced to Amrito (Derek Hawkins) and visited his place in Sheldon Avenue, NW London, to explore his floor chart with his students. The Astrology Shop had just opened, too, and I spent many an hour browsing and buying books there. The end of the 1980s/early 1990s was a burgeoning time for astrology – lots of classes, talks, conferences and new students. In fact, many of the people I now work alongside began astrology during these years.
As I taught myself ‘real astrology’ (a regrettable term to suggest going beyond Sun signs), it was easy to be embarrassed by Russell Grant’s camp, over-the-top TV appearances or snooty when watching Cainer’s limp defence of the subject when challenged by sceptics like James Randi. But on TV, it was harder than it looked. I never took up the challenge of defending astrology on TV or radio, although writing about my other subject of palmistry meant I was often asked on TV or radio to read hands and defend that subject.
I also steered clear of lecturing on either subject until around my Saturn return. I was too shy and probably a bit fearful of ‘who does he think he is?’ comments. Having Mars (conjunct Jupiter) on the Midheaven, it would have been easy to appear like a young upstart, which no doubt I did to some. Funnily enough, just before I gave my first lecture for the Lodge, the German woman introducing me said, rather cattily, ‘Your bio says you wrote your first book at 24. My friends and I all agree that no one knows anything about astrology until after their Saturn return.’ I asked if she knew that Liz Greene had written Saturn at the age of 28.
Yes, some years before, I had published a book on the birth data and biographies of British entertainers and published other people’s books, too. It took a while to even consider writing a ‘proper’, full book on astrology. Writing two on palmistry was much easier because you’d be on the bookshelf with some unscientific twaddle and scary nonsense – a sensible, psychological approach can stand out among them. But with astrology, you’ll be on the shelf with Liz Greene, Rob Hand, Melanie Reinhart and Howard Sasportas – and you need to earn the right to be there!
I used to joke ‘I love astrology but don’t like astrologers’ and what I really meant was that I didn’t want to get wrapped up in the political and ego battles that I watched taking place in our community (even worse now with online forums and Facebook groups). Joining a committee seemed to bring out the worst in people. I used to hear about people plotting and scheming and wondered, ‘What for? To be the president of an association no one inside or outside of astrology cares much about?’ To this day, I’ve avoided committees – it’s guaranteed my survival and sanity. And it suits my Aries nature to do things by myself. I joke that I’m a ‘benevolent dictator’ – I hire people to teach, pay them on time and do my best to treat them with kindness and respect. My dad had a good philosophy that he turned into a song, ‘If you don’t like me, then leave me alone.’ I hang around the people I like being with, and stick to compliments-only when I write on Facebook.
I’ve just published my new website and on there is a chronology of much of what I’ve done over the years (http://frankclifford.co.uk/chronology/). Dozens of books, magazines, around a thousand lectures/talks/seminars, and trips to a dozen countries in the past few years. I’ve written, researched, published, lectured, consulted, and edited books and magazines – almost everything you can do in astrology. Why? Because I wanted to try everything and visit everywhere at least once. It’s been a true labour of love, so it’s never felt like ‘real’ work. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to do it when young and energetic enough.
I compiled the chronology to remind me of what I’ve done when I’m asked to write biographies for books and lectures! There are some crazy, fun things on there like ‘reading Saddam Hussein’s hands’ (not quite, but check it out to see what I mean) and advising Universal Studios, working on television pilots and documentaries, and all sorts of travel adventures. A lot of people have come into my life in these years and some of the brightest people I know are astrologers. For the past fifteen years, I’ve been teaching and running the LSA in a building that overlooks my birthplace in London (University College Hospital). So much for going places in life!
1400 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Frank Clifford 2017
Last Spring, I had the fun of Victor Olliver’s company as a Guest blogger whilst we slogged it out – in a civilised manner, of course! – over the merits and demerits of Sun Sign astrology. This January, I am delighted that he has returned to help kick start my blog for 2016.
A recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, in which four women talk about why they chose to become astrologers, inspired me to tell my story a couple of weeks ago. I then decided to run an occasional series this year, inviting leading astrologers to share theirs. It is my great pleasure to have Victor Olliver, astrologer, author and editor of the UK’s Astrological Journal, tell his tale with his unique combination of cheek, challenge, verve – and depth. Over to you, Victor!
“…It never occurred to me that astrology was rubbish. Such were the many oddities of my early life – born of an Anglo-Italian mismatch into a world of wars that sang love songs while I played playground peculiarity (sorry about all the pees) yet looked like angelic jailbait and had a posh voice despite working class pedigree – that my mind was ready to accommodate exotic and weird notions not readily explained in school physics textbooks.
The sky lab technician who created me in his/her cosmic test tube prepared me well for a world that is essentially, profoundly inexplicable. We dream our way through life and pride ourselves on our logic. Paradox is to be found in everything as we pretend to follow highway codes. We feel our way through life and engage in the charade of decision-making. Yet one by-product of all this chaos and melodrama and hallucinating is that we (many of us) still manage to pay our bills while getting better on prescription drugs.
So, in the beginning, astrology was for me less a ‘topic’, more an arrangement of images in a book, without any unifying thought. Frankly it all looked comfortingly bonkers. At about the age of 12 I’d won a book voucher at school for being clever after years in the dunce stream. I now know that at about the time of my first Jupiter return and not long before my first Saturn opposition, my brains started to grow. The book voucher added to my reputation for being odd (and probably queer – though what did fellow kids or idiot teachers know?) when I exchanged it for a huge coffee table tome about mythology; Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, you name it. That copy is still in my library.
What intrigued me was that inanimate humanoid forms made of stone or paint, sometimes winged, diaphanous or bearded, ruled worlds temporal and spiritual. These days such undead powers are called brand logos – so, through the likes of Coca Cola and McDonald’s marketing, I understood by association the idea of mysteries having mastery.
Thanks to those modern sages Russell Grant and Linda Goodman, the stone/plaster/paint gods migrated in my head to astrology where Jove, Mercury, Venus/Aphrodite and others still lived despite the progress exemplars of TV game shows and penicillin. The gods lived through the ‘zodiac’ and those much-maligned media Sun-sign columns, the then top dog of which was Patric Walker (more about whom just below). Incidentally, he was wrongly suspected of murdering his predecessor ‘Celeste’ at Harpers & Queen magazine in order to grab her stars column.
None of this was enough to persuade me to follow in Patric’s footsteps. Instead I took a 25-plus-year detour and became a barrister before embarking on a career in journalism, as you do. But astrology was not ready to give me up. Around the time of my fifth tr Jupiter-Jupiter square (with tr Uranus on my Saturn – and astro scepticism on a high), a glossy magazine commissioned me to interview…Patric Walker. His reputed Libran charm took leave of absence that day as he sat in his hotel bathrobe firing off the odd barb he thought I did not catch. Librans can be so Arien, don’t you think? My acid write-up repaid his put-downs. I concluded he was a right bitch trying to chat me up – but he knew his stuff. I stayed in journalism.
By the time of my 4th Jupiter return, my curiosity about astrology had reached the point where I felt it was time to do or die of boredom. I enrolled at the Mayo School of Astrology and fell under the guiding and sane influence of tutor Wendy Stacey.
This coincided with one of those events that in retrospect one calls ‘fated’. Yes, I didn’t fall in love. That is to say, I started a brief relationship with a notable astrologer called Henrietta Llewelyn Davies (called ‘Henri’ by her friends) – sadly no longer with us. Our eyes met across a crowded room at London’s Groucho Club – an opiates dungeon for doped up media types and their whorish hangers-on. Henri had done well: columns in Cosmo, Woman’s Own, TV Times – astro stuff in The Times. She was psychic, too. She talked a lot about her work, I was fascinated. She encouraged me to learn the art and craft of horoscopes.
And at this time a clairvoyante medium told me that my dead father was with her. Or as she put it: “He’s saying do something with those, oh, they look like, well, whatchamacallit, horoscopes”.
I lost my job, graduated with a distinction diploma in natal and mundane astrology, landed the role of the first-ever stargazer on The Lady magazine (by another misadventure) and then ascended to the heavens of The Astrological Journal editorship.
In other words, the career I should have first pursued flowed like a dream with scarcely an impediment. In contrast, enter a hostile place and all you experience are gremlins and gargoyles. Astrology on the other hand had the air I breathe and the vistas I appreciate. It presented me with a perspective which, in its predication on the unknowable yet adherence to systemic thought and practice, summed up the paradoxes I’d suffered and experienced in other life departments.
I had arrived in Astro-Wonderland. Mad Hatters aplenty.
I couldn’t care less which system of astrology you prefer, or whether you think luminary orbs should be 12 or 15 degrees. It’s all background chamber music to me. No matter what the astro academics like to propound, I know astrology is half instinct, half method.
Without that first half I may as well have been a lawyer…”
Victor’s website is: Victor Olliver Astrology
1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Victor Olliver 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
It has been most interesting following social media reactions to this recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, in which four women talk about why they chose to become astrologers. So – I thought I’d share my story of how a dismissive sceptic – me! – turned into a devoted practitioner. Enjoy! And remember – never say never…
My career as an astrologer began in a launderette in Bath, England, in the 1970s – although I didn’t realise that at the time ! Befriending a little girl who came to chat whilst I did my washing, I met her parents, Gloria and Seamus; they were astrologers, they said, and would I care to come back to their place for a cup of tea? They’d like to draw up my horoscope, to thank me for entertaining their child.
Well, I remember thinking, nothing better to do for the next hour…….at that stage I was scornful and dismissive of astrology, basing my judgement on the Sun Sign material in the media which struck me as general, banal and trivial. I did not know then that there was a subject of great depth and power beyond the Sun Signs.
I was puzzled by my new friends’ dismissal of the Sun Sign columns – wasn’t that what astrology was all about ?. “We’re proper astrologers” they said firmly.“ Your Star Sign (Leo, in my case) only puts one character on the stage of your life. It’s impossible to describe who you are from only one factor.”
They wrote down my date, place, and apparently vital TIME of birth, produced various reference books and did complex-looking calculations. Then they drew up my Birth Chart or Horoscope : this was a map of the heavens for the precise time I was born. It was apparently an unusual chart – lots of planets in the twelfth house, whatever that meant, and strong Pluto, Saturn and Uranus influences. So what, I thought.
Then came their interpretation into character analysis of the planetary symbols in my Birth Chart, in considerable depth and with a high level of accuracy. The experience shocked me to the core.
How could they be so accurate about my career aspirations? How could they know what my deepest fears were ?How COULD they manage to describe my parents’ core characteristics and some of the key effects they’d had on me ? How could they describe so vividly the restless spirit which drove me ? I had met them less than an hour ago. They knew nothing of my personal history or life experience.
Worse was to come. “You tell me you’re a total sceptic,” Seamus chuckled . “But your Horoscope shows that you have a deeply sensitive, spiritual side to your nature which you’re currently refusing to acknowledge, preferring to identify with the intellectual and the rationalist in yourself. But I can see from your Chart, and where the planets will be in a few years, that in your early thirties the spiritual dimension will come calling. You are very likely to end up doing something like this yourself.”
What nonsense, I thought. But I had no acceptable way of explaining in rational terms what had happened. Uneasily, I filed the experience away in the pigeonhole reserved for the many incidents occurring in my twenties which did not fit my existentialist world view.
Fast forward to my early thirties, having forgotten all about Seamus’ prediction. For my birthday that year, a friend gave me an odd present considering my scepticism – an astrology book. It was intelligently and sensitively written; I found myself compelled. My feelings were an uncomfortable mixture of attraction, rejection, fascination and embarrassment. What COULD I say to my friends and family?
Saying nothing, I carried on reading. After a year, astrology still fascinated me. By this time – and by a series of odd coincidences – I had found out about the Faculty of Astrological Studies, based in London. It offered a year-long correspondence course with some lengthy exams at the end of it, leading to a Certificate of the Faculty.
I embarked on my studies in an empirical spirit. If astrology WAS indeed merely superstitious nonsense of little value, at least I would have arrived at a conclusion based on knowledge and practice, rather than ignorance and prejudice. I had moved on sufficiently from intellectual arrogance to the awareness that it was very unscientific, and highly irrational, to dismiss a whole body of knowledge without ever having studied it. I obtained my Certificate in 1983, by which time my studies had demonstrated to me that the astrological model had worthwhile insights to offer.
(I was to further my studies much later on, at the Centre for Psychological Astrology, by commuting by plane from Glasgow to London from 1995-1998 to complete a three-year Diploma in Psychological Astrology with renowned teacher writer and astrologer Dr Liz Greene.)
The teaching and practice of astrology became a major strand in my self-employed career from 1985 until 2001 when, following a long health crisis, I gave up all work (except writing!) for seven years. In May 2012, after a very long sabbatical, I returned to my astrological work part time, and teaching in 2014. It feels good to be back!
850 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016