By Anne Whitaker | February 18, 2013
Astrologers are always being asked questions — by clients, by students, by interviewers for various media outlets, by open-minded members of the public, by closed-minded-members of the public, by one’s friends and family. The list is endless, the questions multifarious, the answers….? Well, that depends . . . .
I thought it might be interesting, and fun, to share with TMA blog readers my own answers to a few typical questions I have been asked over the years. Perhaps you might feel like responding with examples of your own!
What is your most memorable personal experience with astrological symbolism?
I remember how gripped and excited I was early on in my work as an astrologer and teacher by the revelatory power of progressions. (I always found Naibod Secondary progressions to work best.) In the early 1990s I was doing a great deal of exploring of my own family horoscopes; an advantage of practising astrology in Scotland is that birth times are written on the birth certificate.
My Midheaven is 29º Taurus and the Ascendant is 9º Virgo. One day, I decided to take the horoscopes of my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather, the grandparents with whom I identify most, and progress them to the day of my birth. To my amazement, BOTH of their progressed Midheavens were 29º Taurus and their progressed Ascendants were 9º Virgo.
I remember being so stunned by this that I had to go out and clear my head with a walk in our local park. What I felt at the time, and still feel about this, remains beyond words to express adequately. It’s as though the wing of a great mystery fleetingly brushed my spirit, mystery shot through with a profound sense of the vast underlying ground of interconnectedness from which all life arises, to which it all returns — of which we humans are privileged to be a part.
It is perhaps unavoidable that, as astrology teachers and practitioners, we become a bit blase and matter-of-fact about our working world from day to day, as everyone does to a greater or lesser extent. But I have found — and I’m sure I’m not alone in this — that every now and then something so profound, so shocking, happens that we are reminded of the power with which we are engaging, and we are knocked sideways by it, just as I was that day.
Your training is in psychological astrology. Are you less interested in the way astrological symbolism can manifest concretely because of this?
No, not at all! In fact, the examples which immediately spring to mind in response to this question are concrete rather than psychological! No surprise that they mostly involve Saturn.
During the 1980s, the last time Saturn was transiting Scorpio, there was a year-long square of Saturn to my natal Moon. No doubt there were serious and profound psychological challenges involving both my own life and clients’ lives at the time. However, most vivid in memory is my lovely, heavy, bright silver neck chain, which, unaccountably, turned black early on in the Saturn/Moon transit. Rather upset by this, I took the chain to two reputable jewelers to be cleaned. Neither of them had any success. It remained a dull black. I almost threw it out, but in the end I stuck it at the back of my jewelry box and forgot about it.
Not long after transiting Saturn had moved away from the square to my Moon, I had occasion, whilst looking for another piece of jewelry, to rummage around at the back of the box. I pulled out that abandoned silver chain and could not believe my eyes. There it was, shining as brightly as ever.
(If the topic of planet/metal affinities interests you, the book to obtain is Nick Kollerstrom’s Astrochemistry: A Study of Metal-planet Affinities.)
The second example comes from a period in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when I was particularly interested in how planets conjunct the Ascendant can tell a very literal story of the circumstances of a person’s birth. I was doing a horoscope reading for a young man who had a 1st-house Saturn very closely conjunct his Sagittarian Ascendant. “Were there restrictive circumstances of a physical or practical nature at the time of your birth?” I asked. “Oh yes!” he replied. “My mother broke her leg not long before I was born and gave birth to me whilst wearing a plaster cast.” But let’s not leave Neptune out, shall we? A friend with Neptune conjunct his Libran Ascendant was born in a fake castle.
What transit always shows up for you in surprising ways?
They all do, especially the long lasting ones. The deep challenges that force our growth lurk, unknown to us, in the realms of the unconscious, just waiting to hitch a ride on the nearest really tough transit. For example, I didn’t think that a ten-year period of constant Neptune transits was going to involve a serious family crisis, total burnout on my part, and an enforced descent into the Underworld for much of that period! However, the good news is that I have now emerged, much improved (unless you ask my husband!).
What advice would you give to someone learning how to read their own chart?
One, there are dozens of ways to evade personal responsibility, so resolve at the outset never to do so by blaming your horoscope or your transits for your difficulties in life.
Two, realise that objectivity is something to be aspired to and can never be achieved by mere human beings. This being the case, try to recognise that you can be most objective, and therefore most helpful, by reading the horoscopes of strangers, provided you have appropriate training and supervision. When approaching your own horoscope, or those of your loved ones, you will inevitably colour the planetary picture before you with your own hopes and fears.
Three, the illuminating light, which is gradually cast as your understanding of the symbols in your chart grows, will be wonderfully helpful in shedding light on your gifts, pains, motivations, and aspirations. But bear in mind that possessing astrological knowledge has a shadow side; for example, I have never known anyone, including myself, who didn’t look at upcoming transits, especially of Saturn and Pluto, without a certain amount of fear.
To help my astrology students with this, I used to point out that 99.9% of the human race, from the beginning of time, has managed to stagger through life without the aid of personal astrology! So, enjoy the fascination of deciphering the astrological map of your life, but don’t get too precious about it. And be aware that this wonderful knowledge has a double edge.
What astrology books do you re-read or use the most?
The two astrologers who have most inspired and educated me have been Liz Greene and the late Charles Harvey, with both of whom I was fortunate to study — unofficially from the mid-1980s and formally between 1995 and 1998. As reference books for my interest in mundane astrology, my three favourites are: The Outer Planets and their Cycles by Liz Greene; Anima Mundi – The Astrology of the Individual and the Collective by Charles Harvey, and Mundane Astrology by Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion, and Charles Harvey.
My copy of Steven Arroyo’s Astrology, Karma and Transformation, that wonderful in-depth companion on the “stormy journey of the soul,” is now so well-thumbed that it is starting to fall to bits. And when I feel like reading some outrageous, light-hearted, funny, but deadly accurate astrological analysis, I turn to Debbi Kempton-Smith’s Secrets from a Stargazer’s Notebook.
However, accompanying re-engagement with work as an astrologer and teacher, I am now moving into re-framing my relationship with astrology in keeping with the “new paradigm…. emerging in Western civilisation, led by transpersonal psychology, chaos and general evolution theories, and the human potential movement . . . ,” in the words of Armand Diaz, a fine writer and the author of Integral Astrology, which I have recently reviewed. I have also greatly enjoyed reading Bernadette Brady’s book Astrology – a Place in Chaos, which also re-contextualises astrology for the contemporary world. And, having been given The Archetypal Cosmos, by Keiron Le Grice, for Christmas, I am really looking forward to finding the time to read it!
Bio: Anne Whitaker is a writer and astrologer based in Glasgow, Scotland. She resumed her astrology practice part-time in May 2012 after a very long sabbatical. An extensive archive of her astrology articles can be found on Writing from the Twelfth House in the section Not the Astrology Column.
She can be contacted at email@example.com