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NCGR: An Offline Gathering of Astrologers

Given that most astrology happens on the Internet and the telephone these days, it’s special that over 400 astrologers would gather to study, teach and organize their profession. There are relatively few astrology conferences (compared, say, to plastics or marketing conferences), and they are vital to a profession that isn’t listed in career books and is not regulated in most places. We stand on our own, and for this reason we have to bring our own Saturn.

At the 2010 NCGR Conference in Cambridge, MA this weekend, astrologers actually got to meet face to face. Most astrology conferences are no longer annual — the last NCGR conference was in Baltimore in 2007. This is a friendly conference, with strong underpinnings of both organization and community. NCGR has been educating astrologers for 39 years, through both local chapters and national conferences like this one.

The faculty of about 40 included some of the best-known names in the business, and many up and coming astrologers who are just on the cusp of delivering their gift to the community. Mark Kuenzel presented on using technology to grow your astrological practice; there were some strong presenters in the field of financial astrology, including Christeen Skinner and Raymond Merriman. Christopher Renstorm offered a theory on how astrologers and the church, far from being at odds, were on the same page in the early 17th century — both were obsessed with the end times, and the Bible and astrological almanacs were used for divination.

Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, taught a full-day seminar on the archetype of the comic genius (from John Cleese to Steven Colbert). Other classes covered the astrology of air crashes to the search for the disowned self. We heard plenty from the rapidly growing field of ancient astrology.

These days, astrology conferences tend to be gatherings of people over 50, though the Association of Young Astrologers now has a presence at every conference — and you can feel the difference. While the Internet has made astrology available to millions more people, that does not necessarily translate automatically to a forum for developing future teachers and leaders in the field; we need to bring more young people to these conferences. NCGR has answered this calling and is doing an impressive job of getting younger people involved in leadership roles.

It’s always struck me as interesting that most of the astrologers under age 30 are drawn to Hellenistic techniques and the deeper historical traditions rather than the new planets — but that seems to be the trend.

At the trade show, Astrology Et. Al. did its usual excellent job providing an impressive diversity of astrology books, given that most were flown 3,000 miles from Seattle. Gregory Nalbandian told me that when he gets to a city where he’s working a trade show, he raids the local used bookstores and purchases the best ones for his used books table. If you’re not shopping online, the book tables at a conference are incomparable places to find a selection of the best books.

One thing I can’t help but notice about astrology conferences is that the curriculum seems obsessed with astrology. Obviously most of it needs to be weighted in this direction, but many astrologers run counseling practices without being certified or even trained as therapists. We would benefit from hearing the wisdom of people who are experts in new media publishing opportunities, or courses on writing and editing. And how about featuring therapists with no special interest in the astrology field to provide astrologers with the fundamentals of how to handle the counseling aspects of our work?. The principles of psychological astrology are crucial and honored by the profession. But how do you handle a spiritual or psychological emergency in your counseling room?

That said, the NCGR 2010 conference was an impressive educational and community event. It is challenging to bring together so many talented people in an era when most of us are so busy we don’t have time to update our iPod. For one rare weekend, we had more in-person conversations than email exchanges.

Eric Francis is the editor of Planet Waves and Cosmic Confidential and has written for TMA.

(Note from Mary Plumb: Thanks, Eric, for contributing to TMA’s blog. It was great to finally meet you face-to-face as I’ve read your fine web work for years.)


  1. Eric, great writeup here – I enjoyed the conference too.

    You write, “One thing I can’t help but notice about astrology conferences is that the curriculum seems obsessed with astrology.”

    Did you mean “obsessed with psychology” or “obsessed with therapy,” instead?

  2. In my training business this is what I do for a living – train groups like front line mental health workers that are not therapists how to engage therapeutically. I teach the basic principles of Motivational Interviewing, Crisis & Counseling, and assessment etc. My dreams have instructed me to add astrology into my private practice where I see people as a yoga teacher. So I’ve dusted off the astology books and have been seeing people utilizing Western & Eastern charts. I’d love to get involved with the astrology community. Look me up.

  3. Yes, Eric, an excellent writeup.

    It is refreshing to have a review that points to areas in need of improvement as well as covering the highlights.

    I’ve been attending astrology conferences since the early 1980s and agree with your opinion about the benefits of having various specialists from outside our field share their expertise.

    Thanks for your report.

  4. Hi all,

    Thanks for your comments..

    I thought it was a wonderful conference, the quality of astrological work and research presented was excellent.

    I do agree that having skill to engage therapeutically (as mentioned above) is essential in working with people in a counseling practice. Or, as Richard Tarnas said in reminding us of Hippocrates, at the very least: “First, do no harm.” It takes sensitivity to follow that simple dictum..

    And, there are quite a few astrologers who just do research and don’t see clients..Ours is a very broad field and that’s part of what was on display at the conference..

    I loved Eric’s presentation on the new planets and Adam Gainsburg and Gary Caton too..both of whom have written for this blog..

    And the financial people were great – Ray Merriman, Christeen Skinner, Grace Morris, Arch Crawford, etc. Not for the faint of heart, as they say..

    I, unabashedly, am one of those “obsessed by astrology” and love having the opportunity to just get saturated with it…it’s also been quite a few years since my last conference and I do all kinds of other supportive work, so for me, this time, it was a grand time! Even though everyone in the world now knows how old I am, right Eric?

    Love to all..

  5. Good write up Eric, this is good especially for people out of the loop because on the internet, the USA scene is very prominent.

    “It’s always struck me as interesting that most of the astrologers under age 30 are drawn to Hellenistic techniques and the deeper historical traditions rather than the new planets — but that seems to be the trend.”

    I mentioned how the USA astrology scene has a large impact on the global astrological community. I’m not so sure this is a global interest in Hellenistic techniques. From what I see on the internet, I would hardly say “most” American astrologers under 30 are drawn to Hellenistic techniques. More like a small minority.

    I see it being promoted but wonder about the practical applications of this system. I do not see it being displayed on any major forums or blogs even. Is it more of an academic exercise?

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