TMA This Week

The Queen of Soul Travels On …

By Mary Plumb | August 20, 2018

Aretha Franklin was born with 15°46’ Scorpio on the Ascendant — the middle degrees of the fixed signs are the place of maximum strength in the zodiac. Midway between the equinox and the solstice, 15° of the fixed signs carry the concentration, endurance, and focus of their respective season. In mid Scorpio, the life-sustaining presence (and emotional depth) of water is greatly potentized. (1)

Aretha Franklin, natal
March 25, 1942
10:30 p.m. CWT
Memphis, TN, USA  (35°N09’, 90°W03’)
Porphyry houses; True node
(chart created by Graphic Astrology, IO edition)

She knew the turbulence of the Scorpio Ascendant in her personal life (which she did not like to talk about), and she was sturdy and reserved.

In a tribute in The Guardian, Dorian Lynskey writes that “… she liked to downplay her own exceptionalism and say that she felt the same pain that everybody did — it’s just that she could sing that pain better than anyone else … This daughter of the church was always moving on up, always overcoming. She might bend but she would never break.” (2)

I am reminded of Isabel Hickey’s memorable words: “No unevolved soul is born with a Scorpio Ascendant. The razor-edged path that can only be tread when there is strength and power enough to do so.” (3)

The Queen of Soul has both luminaries dignified in the natal horoscope: The Sun, ruler of the Leo Midheaven, is at 4°50’ Aries, the sign of its exaltation. And the Moon, ruler of the 9th house of religion, is in its home sign of Cancer.

As Aretha was born at night at the First Quarter, the Moon is gaining in light and the power to manifest.

I did not know anything about her personal life, and the commentators I heard after her passing spoke of her dedication to her family (she had four sons, the first born when she was 12). (4) Her father was minister of the New Bethel Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir mistress during Aretha’s earliest years. She had two sisters who were both singers and songwriters (and sometimes her backup singers). Both preceded her in death.

The traditional ruler of Scorpio, Mars, is in Gemini conjunct Jupiter; her dexterous musical gifts are part of her biography. She was from a musical family and learned to play piano by ear as a child. She was also an arranger and recorded her first album when she was 14.

It is her voice and the enormous feeling it carried that moved the world. Describing her voice on that first album, her producer Jerry Wexler explained that it “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.” (5)

Venus, traditional ruler of the voice, is in Aquarius, square to Saturn in Taurus (and in mutual reception). In the Guardian article noted above, the author writes: “In fact, her voice’s perfect alloy of pleasure and pain, suffering and endurance, sex and spirituality, virtually constituted a scientific formula. ‘This is a voice that has not only sound but a smell and a depth,’ said poet Nikki Giovanni. ‘A taste. You hear Aretha, but you also lick your lips.’”

Using traditional rulers, Mercury in Pisces is in mutual reception with Jupiter in Gemini and in square aspect, strengthening the capacity of those planets to interact. Mercury rules the natal 8th house (the occult) and the 11th house (hopes and aspirations) — the swift-footed messenger travels naturally in those dimensions. In the Guardian article about Aretha,  singer Mary J. Blige is quoted as  saying: “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her.”

Mercury in Pisces is also tightly conjunct the South Node — a voice from the depths of the ages.

Aretha Franklin passed away on at her home in Detroit, MI on August 16 at 9:50 a.m., surrounded by friends and family. (6) Transiting Jupiter was at 15° Scorpio conjunct the Ascendant, and the Sun was at 23°39’ Leo, on the MC. (Although not shown here, the progressed Sun was at 19° Gemini, just into the natal 8th house.)

Bi-wheel: inner: natal, outer: transits to her death in Detroit, MI

Rest in Peace to the “voice that gave America its heart and soul.”


(1) Aretha Franklin, March 25, 1942; 10:30 p.m. CWT; Memphis, TN, USA (35°N09’, 90°W03’); AA rating:

(2) A voice that gave America its heart and soul: Aretha Franklin The Guardian

(3) Isabel M. Hickey, Astrology: A Cosmic Science, Altieri Press, 1970, p. 78.

(4) Biographical material and quotes (unless otherwise stated) are from Wikipedia.

(5) “A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.” Wikipedia.

The Hierophant is also a card of the Major Arcana in the Tarot.


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The Philosophy of Astrology: The Relationship Between the Two

By Oscar West | May 28, 2018

Astrology is a complicated subject that has underlying relationships with other bodies of knowledge, including philosophy.

In astrology, you are deriving meaning as to how the movement of planets, stars, and other celestial objects influences your moods, behavior, or destiny.

As a discipline, astrology is deemed philosophical and theoretical in nature, and even though there is no unified paradigm of astrology, many people continue to turn to it as a way to study and discover the universe and its significance in our everyday life. (1)

Early philosophers used astrology to help them lay the foundation of ancient branches of knowledge. Galileo Galilei, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, and other scientists and mathematicians embraced astrology as something that held an important place in pre-modern civilization. (2)

The Western philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome is also deeply rooted in astrology. (3) Plato and his student Aristotle, for example, believed that the creation and the structure of the universe had divine origins. Plato compared the perfect cycle of the sun and the moon to the idea that we have a perfect, unchanging God who created the entire universe.

How Philosophy and Astrology Relate to One Another

Along with the analogy of perfection between God and the universe, Plato asserted that souls descended through the stars. Moreover, the Greek philosopher said that each soul could choose its own life, which relates to free will, a concept that is well associated with philosophy.

Free will is the idea that you are able to make choices based on your desires, beliefs, or values—thanks to your rational nature as a human being.

Using your free will means you are not allowing any external forces or factors in nature or your environment to control or affect your thoughts or decisions.

Meanwhile, the predictive nature of astrology points to the idea that there’s a mysterious, special relationship between you and the universe.

Specifically, it suggests that astrological events and conditions during the day or time of your birth can help determine the kind of person you will be or the kind of life you will have. In other words, your fate or destiny is pre-determined.

Astrologers are quick to point out that fatalism, the philosophical view that you are powerless to change the inevitable, has no place in astrology.

They also say that the role that astrology plays in your life is to point you to a pre-determined destination. (4) How soon or how close you get to that destination will depend on which direction you take—reflecting the importance of free will in the practice of astrology.

Last, but not least, astrology’s ties with philosophy lie in the aim of both disciplines to shed light on the meaning of life. Just as philosophy means “love of wisdom,” astrology likewise focuses on the wisdom that you gain when you have full knowledge or understanding of how your existence is significant in the society, the world, and the universe. (5)

Unfortunately, there are a number of contentions against astrology and philosophy, including the view that the ideas they promote about life, the world, or the universe may be reasonable but have no scientific basis.

It may be true that neither astrology nor philosophy is considered a science, but at the end of the day, people develop an appreciation toward these fields for providing them with a sense of purpose or direction in life.


(1) As an example of a paradigm of modern astrology, here is a paper, A Philosophy of Astrology, written by Anil Chawla. He writes:
“In my humble attempt of penning A Philosophy of Astrology, I have attempted to lay the first stone for building a paradigm of modern astrology. I shall consider my efforts successful if it inspires some other thinkers, astrologers, philosophers and psychologists to move further in this direction.”
A Philosophy of Astrology (pdf)

(2) Encyclopedia: Philosophy and Religion

(3) See, for example: History of Astrology: Greek Philosophy and Astrology

(4) Encyclopedia: Philosophy and Religion
An excerpt:
“The role of astrology, so say the astrologers, is comparable to a ship’s compass. The compass points the way to a predetermined destination, but it does not establish that destination. “

(5) “Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of existence, being and the world. Arguably, metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy: Aristotle calls it ‘first philosophy (or sometimes just ‘wisdom’), and says it is the subject that deals with ‘first causes and the principles of things.'”
Philosophy Basics: Metaphysics

Oscar pic

Bio: Oscar West is an astrology geek and (self-proclaimed) cool dad who likes sharing his passion in philosophy and astrology. Aside from writing blog posts about everything under the sun, he also does social media consulting for small businesses and tries to learn how to code in his free time. When he’s not contemplating about the meaning of life, you can usually find him roughhousing with his kids or indulging on his favorite ube-flavored ice cream.
Contact him at and his website

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The Dark of the Moon in Taurus

By Mary Plumb | May 14, 2018

We are in a brief moment with the transiting Sun and Moon in Taurus, the Balsamic phase, i.e., dark of the Moon, lasting until Tuesday morning (4:47 a.m. PDT) when the luminaries come back together again for the New Moon at 24°36’.

On Saturday, while contemplating a subject for this blog, I wanted to take a break from the obvious (and fascinating and troubling) national and global power plays, the shifting alliances, and the surplus of agitated situations and grandiose public figures apparent in life now. (1) I was also very aware of the dark of the Moon; after weeks of struggle with a particularly demanding Saturn issue that required perseverance and persistence, I longed to rest my mind.

A temporary quandary — how to meet a deadline and rest my mind — resolved itself as soon as I decided to try and capture a bit of the peaceful, yielding, accepting qualities inherent in the Taurus season. I knew that time in nature on Sunday would be restorative, and the beauty of this particular spring in Oregon made it easy for me to heed the call.

Here in southern Oregon, we are having a spectacular spring! One of many images of the vibrant natural world are the rolling hills covered now with almost–peak-season purple vetch, which creates a bluish lavender haze across the rich green of the hills, with the mountains just a bit farther away. We had late snow here, too, so the mountains have only recently surrendered their white helmets to the warmer days.

The dark of the Moon (the Balsamic Moon) is the quietest time in the monthly cycle. The Queen of the Night Sky has carried this cycle’s message, received at the last New Moon, all around the wheel: from her tender first appearance, to the Crescent phase, to the stimulations and activity of her First Quarter, to the ripeness and revelations of her Full phase, and to the waning Last Quarter, whereupon she soon disappeared from view. She has temporarily retreated — not needing our admiration or attention — into the invisible world.

Sunday and today are the last days, i.e., the darkest days, of this lunation cycle and are carrying the images of Taurus, the sign of fixed earth. Throughout time, countless myths have developed about the Earth; in early traditions, the Earth is considered the mother of all. “Earth Mother, in ancient and modern nonliterate religions, an eternally fruitful source of everything … She is simply the mother; there is nothing separate from her. All things come from her, return to her, and are her.” (2)

In the 1980s, I had the great good fortune to attend teachings with Vajrayana master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He was an imposing man — he was physically large and moved slowly. When I sat in front of him, I felt the depth and strength and presence of a massive and still mountain.

Years later, another Lama recounted a story to me about Khyentse Rinpoche: A student asked him, “Rinpoche, if you were to choose your next incarnation, how would you like to come back?” Khyentse Rinpoche did not hesitate: “I would come back as the Earth so that I could uphold everything.” I never forgot Khyentse Rinpoche’s great presence, and I remember his words now on this temporary, glorious, abundantly beautiful spring day.

I hope that we all have a chance today to find the simple, elegant, and sustaining support that resides in all of us, all of the time.


(1) Recent and ongoing transits include Pluto stationing retrograde on April 22; transiting Mars then conjoined stationary Pluto at 21° Capricorn on April 26, fueling the Red Planet for its entry into Aquarius on May 15 and its square to Uranus, newly in Taurus, a few hours later, just after midnight on May 16. In addition, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto are now parallel in declination: Mars at 22 S 09, Saturn at 22 S 16, and Pluto at 21 S 30.
One startling and unfolding story is on the Big Island in Hawaii, where the Kilauea volcano erupted on May 3, and lava ribbons are bursting out of the earth in apparently impossible-to-predict waves of red fury. CNN: Kilauea Volcano

(2) Earth Mother

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Book Review: The Archetypal Universe

By Mary Plumb | April 30, 2018

Renn Butler is an astrologer with 35 years in practice and a parallel interest in non-ordinary states of consciousness. The author studied with Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof at Esalen, where he lived for several years, and is a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner as well as astrologer.

This work, published in 2017, is informed in part by Grof’s articulation of the four stages of the Basic Perinatal Matrices – four distinct phases in the birth process, which he and Tarnas found, in their pioneering and influential work, to be connected to different planets. Both men researched for decades, with Tarnas studying the natal charts and transits of cultural figures and historical cycles, culminating in his seminal work, Cosmos and Psyche. (For readers unfamiliar with Grof’s work, Renn Butler’s short introductory material lays a good foundation. In essence this application of archetypal astrology considers that the experiences of the birth process will be recapitulated throughout life for further healing and deeper integration of the psyche.)

The book’s full title, The Archetypal Universe: Astrological Patterns in Human Culture, Thought, Emotion and Dreams, well describes its range. Renn Butler researched his book between 1993 and 2017. Along with Holotropic Breathwork, Butler draws upon important research in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and plant-medicines. He has collected images from people’s dreams – along with extensive study of the birth charts of musicians, filmmakers, actors, and artists – to observe the planetary alignments concurrent with creative or other unusual breakthroughs.

Although Butler’s interest in non-ordinary states informs the research, The Archetypal Universe is an encyclopedic astrological book that will be of great use to astrologers of many persuasions. Formatted like Reinhold Ebertin’s The Combination of Stellar Influences, Butler’s book describes 45 planetary pairs, (e.g., Sun-Moon, Sun-Mercury, Sun-Venus). For each pair, he includes the Principles, Character and Themes, and Shadow Qualities, as well as how the pair is on display in Nature and the Arts, Spirituality, Dream Images, and Deep Self-Exploration. He also includes each planet connected to the Ascendant and Midheaven.

While the author follows Ebertin’s basic formatting, his descriptions are far more expanded – there are three or four pages for each pair of planets. He suggests themes that can emerge in people’s lives when that pair is activated. In discussing the archetypal possibilities, he is not just inferring or imagining but, as mentioned above, the work is based on decades-long research into the astrological charts of filmmakers, artists, musicians, along with guiding others in breath work and dream analysis.

He next writes on the 120 planetary triads (Sun-Moon-Mercury, Sun-Moon-Venus, etc.), with a succinct formatting of Principles, followed by possible positive and negative expressions.

The insights about the planetary pairs and triads can be applied using virtually any technique – i.e., transits, solar arcs, progressions, relationship analysis, etc. – and there is a cornucopia of fresh ideas throughout. (One example, for the Moon connected to Uranus: “An emotional resonance with the magic of the night, ‘And thence we came forth, to see again the stars.'” The author is quoting Dante, who had the Moon trine Uranus).

There are occasional specific findings from Grof and Tarnas’s work connecting planetary archetypes to the birth processes – mostly, it seems at first reading, in the sections involving Pluto. (“Tarnas recognized that the dynamic stage of birth labor, with the propulsion down the birth canal and arousal of intense driving energies, is an important manifestation of the Pluto archetype in human life.”)

This book is a massive and extensive handbook, which benefits from its clear organization and language. Butler also includes a Quotes Index and a Dream Index for easy reference.

Although the book is comprised of the author’s specific distinctions and delineations, the underlying motif of the planetary cycles infusing all of life is recorded clearly as well. “As people learn to perceive the synchronicities unfolding in the universe within and around them, they develop the sense of a higher cosmic consciousness aware of the most intimate details of their lives, and interacting with them in deeply subtle and complex ways.”

If blog readers are interested in ordering The Archetypal Universe, please see the author’s website: Renn Butler.

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The Mercury Elemental Year of Fire 2017–18

By Gary P. Caton | December 4, 2017

“The Cosmos … ever was, and is, and will be:
everliving fire, kindling in measures and being quenched in measures.”
— Heraclitus of Ephesus, circa 500 BCE (1)

In the Western philosophical tradition there is a group of pre-Socratic philosophers collectively known as “monists” (from the Greek monos, meaning “single” or “one”), whose common interest was determining which of the four elements was the primary source from whence all other things emanate. For Heraclitus, the primary substance of the universe was fire — the Sun and Moon were huge celestial bowls of fire. Though it turns out that a bowl of fire remains an apt description of the Sun, it is overly simplistic to think that Heraclitus only thought literally, that everything was physically made of fire. Fire, rather, was the best metaphor for the Heraclitean doctrine of eternal flux. The philosopher thought that the basic universal principle (i.e., kosmos or world-order) was constant change. To demonstrate this, he used the metaphor of the elements in a constant state of flow, and through what he called “turnings of fire,” changing from fire, to water, to air (i.e., a “fireburst,” a kind of fiery wind) and earth.

There is an astrological parallel to the Heraclitean cosmology. Over the course of 6 to 7 years, the Mercury retrogrades move through the four elements in reverse zodiacal order, from the fire signs, to water signs, to air signs, to earth signs. I first became aware of this phenomenon through Erin Sullivan’s seminal work, Retrograde Planets. (2) I have spent the last five years studying this topic, resulting in my own tome: Hermetica Triptycha Volume One: The Mercury Elemental Year. (3) In chapter five of my book, I note that this same reverse zodiacal sequence of elements is referenced in The Emerald Tablet, the mystical Hermetic document widely interpreted as a formula for creating the “philosopher’s stone” — a microcosm of the universal principle, encapsulating the primordial creative power of the monad or original substance. (4) When understood in these contexts, Mercury’s cycle of retrogrades through the four elements is recapitulating both a cosmic world-ordering principle and a magic formula for the re-creation, materialization, and containment of this primordial creative power!

If it seems bizarre that ordering the elements in reverse to the normal zodiacal order should be seen as primordial and creative, we must remember that across diverse cultures, from the Greek Hermes to the Native American Coyote, the Trickster archetype has often been seen as inherently creative. (5) Without the Trickster archetype to shake things up, our cultures become static and unable to change and grow. Similarly, to use Joseph Campbell’s metaphor, without the “forest adventure” of becoming the hero/ine discovering our own unique path, we are lulled into a sleepy kind of awareness by the rules and restrictions of the village. (6)

Going further, it is important to note that it is not only the back and forth, or east/west longitude that signifies the alchemy and magic of Mercury retrograde cycles. As I wrote in TMA earlier this year, retrograde motion is far more wonderfully complex than is usually portrayed. (7) It consists of not only the aforementioned east/west variation in direct/retrograde motion of celestial longitude, but also dramatic changes in the north/south dimension of celestial latitude that produce a kind of looping motion. Moreover, if we understand the phenomenon of Mercury retrograde visually, during a very short span of time Mercury makes appearances above the western horizon, then dips below the threshold of visibility and finally re-emerges above the eastern horizon. (8) Lastly, from a geocentric point of view, during retrograde motion Mercury is coming from a space behind (e.g., exterior) to the Sun and penetrating the very heart-space of our solar system — the space between the Sun and Earth, a space so central, basic, and fundamental to our system that it is commonly referred to as the Astronomical Unit (AU).

Therefore, we have at least four different kinds of “mixing” occurring during Mercury retrograde. The mixing of east/west direct/retrograde currents can be seen as an exchange between the currently accepted socio-cultural norms and the newer counter-cultural challenges to those norms. The mixing of north/south latitudinal currents can be seen as an exchange between the personal and social aspects of life. The mixing of above/below with respect to the horizon and Mercury’s cycle of visibility can be seen as an exchange between the conscious and unconscious dimensions. And finally, the mixing between the interior and exterior spaces of our solar system can be seen as an exchange between the microcosm and macrocosm. All this primordial mixing produces an alchemy that is quite literally capable of changing, or re-birthing, the world.

For the next year, after occurring in the earth signs, Mercury retrogrades are happening in the fire signs. The last time Mercury’s retrograde moved from earth signs to fire signs occurred in late 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi lit the spark for the Tunisian Revolution, a conflagration that quickly spread into a regional uprising throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East in what became known as the Arab Spring. I think that part of the reason this particular transition seems to have so much power can be seen from the relative density of the elements. Any child knows that when you throw a stone into water, it sinks — therefore, earth is denser than water. And, of course, steam rises and water evaporates into air, demonstrating that the air element is less dense than water. Finally, smoke rises even into the thin air, showing that fire is the least dense of all elements. So, when Mercury’s retrogrades in the densest of elements (earth) give ways to retrogrades in the least dense of elements (fire), this represents an extremely dramatic transition, as the volatile fiery currents liberate all the fixed potential energy stored in the denser earth. Here is a pop culture example of this particular transition from my new book:

“The four founding members of the Eagles signed with David Geffen in September of 1971, during the last part of a Mercury elemental year of earth (and as the Mercury elemental year was transitioning from earth to fire) … By the time their first greatest hits album was released, the Mercury elemental year had moved through fire, water, and air, and was about to return to earth. This six-to-seven-year return to the Mercury elemental year of birth represents what I call the ‘long form’ of Mercury’s transformative dance, and usually indicates some kind of completion. Like all completions, it can signify a return to one’s roots, on the one hand, or the beginning of a brand new era, on the other. In the case of the Eagles, it was the latter. As their sound was moving from a mostly country (earth) influence to more rock and roll (fire), founding member Bernie Leadon left the group (December 1975). Leadon’s solid multi-instrumental talent (earth) was replaced by the volatility of Joe Walsh (fire), and the first album featuring Walsh in the line-up, Hotel California, became not only the band’s best-selling studio album, but also a rock and roll classic. Through capturing the transformative power of Mercury … the Eagles were able to transform themselves from country-rock pioneers into pure rock and roll legends.” (9)

You can read an extended excerpt from my book at my publisher’s website and listen my latest Hermetic Astrology Podcast where I speak at length about this particular retrograde cycle. It is my fervent hope that this new work will help to re-frame Mercury’s “backward trickster medicine dance” (retrogrades) from simply an occasional annoying experience, or an outright malefic influence to be studiously avoided, toward the profound transformational and magical opportunity which I feel it truly represents. May the Trickster be with you!

References and recommended reading:

(1) All references to Heraclitus from:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

You may also enjoy: The History of Philosophy podcast.

(2) Sullivan, Erin. Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner Landscape. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 2000, pp. 67–76.

(3) Now available via Rubedo Press (and also on Amazon.)

(4) See, for instance: Hauck, Dennis. The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy For Personal Transformation. New York: Penguin, 1999.

(5) See, for instance: Hyde, Lewis. Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1998.

(6) I am referring to Joseph Campbell’s work, nicely summarized near the end of his life in a series of interviews with Bill Moyers, called The Power of Myth.

(7) Caton, Gary, “An Astronomical View of Venus Retrograde,” TMA, April/May 2017.
Also: Caton, Gary, “Toward a Multi-Dimensional View of Retrograde Motion,” NCGR Geocosmic Journal, Winter 2017.
“An Updated Three-Dimensional Model of Planetary Motion,” a series of lectures for Sky Astrology Conference, available for download from my website.

(8) I outlined the Sky Astrology view of Mercury retrograde for the TMA blog in 2015.

(9) Caton, Gary. Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Auckland, New Zealand: Rubedo Press, 2017, pp. 133–134.

Gary P. Caton is a trans-disciplinary astrologer who embraces an organic, process-oriented approach to spiritual growth and transformation via engagement with the living sky. Initiated into astrology via a dream in 1993, he has since devoted his entire life to refining his vision. An accomplished stargazer and astro-photographer, Gary possesses the unique ability to combine the experiential power and dynamic images of the living sky with classic horoscopy and metaphysics — an alchemical blend of bleeding-edge modern research and pioneering technique. You can catch Gary online via the popular Hermetic Astrology Podcast, or live on one of his frequent lecture tours across the U.S. and abroad.

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Chakrapani Ullal

By Edith Hathaway | November 6, 2017

Chakrapani Ullal has been called the “father of Vedic astrology in the Western world.” A great Vedic astrologer who came to the U.S. from South India in 1979, he previously studied law and business in India, having learned Vedic astrology from a young age at the feet of his father and grandfather. He first became widely known internationally as the astrologer for Swami Muktananda, who invited him to come to the U.S. in 1979.  His service to so many clients in his busy astrological practice over the decades, and the knowledge he shared with so many students and practitioners will be treasured for many years to come.

Chakrapani died on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 3:10 a.m. Pacific time, Beverly Hills, CA. He had been suffering since August with the return of a leukemia-like condition, and in the hospital since early September. I received a message that morning, but because I was involved all day in a memorial service and various family events for my sister-in-law in the San Francisco area, I did not pick up the message until 6:30 p.m.

Chakrapani’s passing is indeed a moment of great magnitude for me.  I was concerned for his health this year, as many of us were. It was also 29 years (a full Saturn return) since my first-ever contact with him. He provided my first serious introduction to Vedic astrology and was a decisive catalyst.  He has been a great friend and mentor to me ever since, especially from the early 1990s onward, when we collaborated on various astrological research projects. We spoke often by phone, and fortunately we had a chance to have a wonderful evening together in Los Angeles in early June.  He had some back pain but was otherwise in excellent spirits.

My partner Jim and I were in Oakland, CA for five days from Thursday, October 26th, staying with Jim’s son and daughter-in-law, Galen and Casey. We were there especially for my sister-in-law’s memorial service Saturday morning, preceded by a tour of the new sanctuary. She was a Sufi, and very involved in that organization for decades.  She died on August 26th. The service and reception were at the Sanctuary for Sufism Reoriented in Walnut Creek, CA, founded originally by the Indian-born spiritual master Meher Baba.

Just a few hours after Chakrapani passed (which I did not know about yet), we were at this magnificent sacred building full of light and images depicting the evolution of consciousness. It was completed in March 2017 after five years construction, and built in a circular design in all white Cararra marble intended to last for 700 years. Here is how the Sufi Murchida (their living teacher) Carol Connor describes it:

“In all spiritual traditions, the design of a sanctuary strives to be an outward expression, in material form, of the still, sacred space at the center of the human heart where man is joined with and can know God. It therefore aspires, first, to be the most beautiful form its creators can envision.

The sanctuary’s curvilinear design is based on the form of the circle. Like God, the circle has no beginning and no end. This expresses eternity, the eternal life in God the Infinite. The circle is also recognized as a symbol of unity since all points on the circle are equidistant from the center, as all beings are in relation to God. This symbol embodies the essential unity of Creation and the Universal Love at the heart of all life.”

The whole day and previous evening were spent in this mode, followed by a dinner for 12 at Galen and Casey’s house in Oakland, an event they call “Friendsgiving” and a preview to Thanksgiving. At the end of the meal, each person at the table spoke for a few minutes about what they were grateful for, and I told them about my extraordinary day so full of confluences, and the passing of a man earlier that morning who has been an extraordinary influence in my life: my mentor and great good friend, Chakrapani.

Bio: Edith Hathaway is an international consultant in practice since 1980, author, teacher, and lecturer of Vedic astrology. Among her many awards and certifications are NCGR’s Level IV (Consulting Astrologer, 1989), Jim Lewis’s Master AstroCartoGrapher, 1988, plus numerous awards from Vedic astrology organizations, U.S. and India. From 1992 she served as faculty and board member of the American Council and American College of Vedic Astrology. Her audio course The Vedic Chart: An Expert Guide Through the Twelve Ascendants(2002) was re-released in 2015 on mp3s with PDFs, and her latest book was published in 2012: In Search of Destiny: History, Biography & Culture As Told Through Vedic Astrology. For her articles, audio course and lectures on mp3s, please see: Edith Hathaway. Email:


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The giant in the sky…

By Mary Plumb | January 9, 2017

First, a note from Tem:
As most of you know, this bi-weekly blog is provided by The Mountain Astrologer (TMA) magazine. Please consider becoming a subscriber to support the blog and TMA‘s efforts to faithfully reflect — and draw together — the diverse and brilliant astrological community. If you already subscribe to either our print or digital edition of TMA, thank you! Also, TMA’s holiday gift subscription sale ($6 off) has been extended to January 31. Gift prices are listed toward the bottom of the order form page.

Now, the blog:

As the days carry us inexorably towards a new phase in the U.S. government, I find a need to keep things in perspective.

And so, here are some thoughts about the current sky with no attention to politics or personality or mundane affairs, but rather, an attempt to tell a story from the sky.

Jupiter is now at 22° Libra and stations retrograde at 23° Libra on February 5. Jupiter is visible in the early morning sky, and if you have a view of the sky, you will see Spica close by as well. (My view of these two spectacular heavenly bodies one very clear morning last week here in Oregon is what uplifted my spirits and inspired this blog.)

Spica, at 23° Libra, is a 1st magnitude star in the constellation of Virgo: specifically, the shaft of wheat in the Virgin’s left hand. The left side is connected to receptivity, and Spica is connected to all that is beautiful.

Along with traveling near Spica for many months, Jupiter is opposite Uranus — exact on December 26, 2016, March 2, and September 27, 2017.

I love the ancient association that the urn of the Water-bearer in the sky (i.e., Aquarius) holds the creative force that hasn’t been seen yet, it is pure potential.

Jupiter is the planet that expands and brings relief from constriction. Named for the supreme deity of the Romans, Jupiter is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our solar system put together.

(I will rely on Saturn’s concurrent trine to temper the hyperbole and excess enthusiasm in this blog. (1) )

And for now, let’s ignore Pluto’s potential gloom from the sidelines, reducing him (temporarily) to echoes from a treacherous past. (2)

We can subdue him, relegating his fearsome desire to dominate back to the place inside of us that carries the scars of our accumulated history e.g., the obscurations spoken of in Buddhism, the kleishas described in the Yoga Sutras. (3) For now, let’s consider Pluto merely as the place of old terrors that become empty when we attend to them (as Jupiter and Uranus will no doubt encourage us to do).

I am making Jupiter and Uranus the stars in this blog. The exact opposition has passed once, and Jupiter comes back twice more to magnify directly the place in ourselves that recognizes something about the truth of our own existence, of stealing fire from the gods (as Richard Tarnas has described). (4)

To bring this a bit farther down to earth, think of the house that Jupiter is transiting and which house it rules in your natal chart — Sagittarius, for sure, and Pisces too, if you work with the traditional rulers. Imagine Jupiter emitting a mighty call to be grander, greater, wiser, more thoughtful, and more generous to yourself and others in those spheres of life, as Uranus is showing that our personal map of reality is not at all what it was.

Quantum shift has been connected to Jupiter and Uranus and that language is part of our lexicon. (5) Certainly a shift in the materialistic view of reality toward a view of multiple interconnected realities — recognized by spiritual traditions — is upon us. This understanding of the interconnectedness of our world is often seen as a quantum shift in the collective.

I was interested to read that the “popular expression ‘quantum jump’ is used in common English speech to describe a leap that is big, but to physicists, quantum jumps are tiny, discrete (indivisible), and abrupt.” (6) Perhaps our change in perspective may seem tiny or discrete. Meditation teachers speak of the possibility of sustaining awareness, not just as a momentary inspiration.

Jupiter and Uranus also suggest something quite simple — a moment that is open, natural, untainted, and vast-as-the-sky. So, let’s keep going on our paths of self-awareness and make the first move towards kindness and inclusion.

No more echo chambers, no more fake news. We’re on a different course now wherein intolerance and fear might make way for acceptance and bigheartedness.


(1) Saturn trines Uranus: December 24, 2016, May 17, and November 11, 2017.

(2) Jupiter squares Pluto: November 26, 2016, March 30, and August 4, 2017.

(3) The Yoga Sutras teach that kleishas (a Sanskrit word meaning poison) are states of mind that distort our view of reality.

(4) Prometheus the Awakener by Richard Tarnas, Spring Publications, 1998.

(5) Here’s a TMA blog about the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in 2010 which began this cycle.

(6) The Art of Quantum Jumping: How to Shift Your Reality in Big, Positive Ways by Cynthia Sue Larson; Conscious Lifestyle Magazine.

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Between eclipses…

By Mary Plumb | November 28, 2016

This week we are midway between two solar eclipses, acutely sensitive points in the fabric of time. Eclipses are used for tracking mundane events, but also can be felt in the innermost self, particularly if aspecting — by conjunction or opposition — the natal Sun, Moon, or Ascendant degree.

The approaching New Moon at 7°42′ Sag (4:18 a.m. PST on Tuesday) is squaring the (past) September 1 North Node solar eclipse at 9° Virgo, and the upcoming South Node solar eclipse on February 26 at 8° Pisces.

Eclipses occur near the lunar nodes, the astronomical points where the Moon’s orbit around the earth intersects with earth’s path around the Sun. I remember Charles Harvey speaking of the word “node” meaning “knot.” Since then I have thought that the nodes tie together the three great realms (and all the symbolisms) of Sun, Moon, and Earth.

I also like the simple imagery of the North Node = Dragon’s Head and South Node = Dragon’s Tail. We sense the new, take in life, energy, experience, nourishment through the mouth, the eyes, the nostrils (all in the head), and eliminate through the tail that which has been digested and assimilated. (1)

I want to return to the Saros cycle which I wrote about earlier this year. (Solar Eclipse: a moment in a longer cycle of time )

The Saros cycle connects eclipses at 18.3-year intervals and were understood by the earliest known astrologers, the Chaldeans.

The solar eclipse on September 1, 2016, at 9° Virgo was part of Saros 19N, about which Bernadette Brady writes: “This Saros Series is about realism, a coming down to earth. The individual will become aware of an old situation and see it for what it is rather than what he or she thought it was. This can be a constructive time for tackling the truth.” (2)

Well, in my personal life something that I had hoped and wished for (augmented, no doubt, by the long Saturn-Neptune square that had its last pass on September 10) absolutely landed with a thud in late September.

In the mundane picture: the transiting node reached 9° Virgo (the eclipse degree) in mid November; the election results brought a new reality requiring many to “see it for what it is rather than what he or she thought it was.”

Just as this week the New Moon is awakening the sensitive degrees of the surrounding eclipses, transiting Mars is also moving into position to directly trigger the themes and events signified by the eclipses.

From December 29 – 31, transiting Mars and Neptune will come together at 9° Pisces, opposite the September eclipse degree and foreshadowing the February eclipse. (Mars-Neptune is naturally hard to quantify: it can signify refinement, altruism and devotion, and hopelessly confused, ineffective, or deceptive actions. Straightforward self-reflection is recommended.)

Then, Mars moves into his home sign Aries on January 27 and will be conjunct Uranus (22° Aries) at the February eclipse. Jupiter, the dispositor of the eclipse (the traditional ruler of Pisces), will be at 22° Libra, exactly opposite the Mars-Uranus conjunction at the eclipse.

Jupiter in Libra holds the beacon for social concerns and justice. All levels and manifestations of rebellion against inequality or repression and fighting for fairness are bound to part of our landscape for a while.

The nodal axis has been in Virgo/Pisces since November 2015. With North Node in Virgo, that house of the horoscope has been the place to sense and bravely follow a vigorous opening in your life. The Pisces South Node house is a realm where you are winding down — the story has gotten old, accompanied perhaps by bittersweet loss or despair, which although cherished, can be blessed and released.

During this eclipse season, where 8° – 9° Virgo/Pisces falls in the natal horoscope is where we are realigning and repositioning ourselves. This week, as the Sun squares the eclipse degrees, we are at a crossroads where we may notice the parallel motifs from the nodal axis. Awareness is the first step, as many teachers say.

See footnote below for Bernadette Brady’s note on the Saros cycle for the upcoming eclipse. Enjoy yourselves!


(1) The North Node, the Dragon’s Head, (aka ascending node) marks the point where the Moon crosses the ecliptic and ascends into the northern celestial latitudes; the South Node, or the descending node, marks the descent from north to south latitudes.

The North and South Nodes of the Moon are known in Vedic astrology as Rahu and Ketu, respectively; their epic story is told in the ancient Indian text, the Mahabharata.

(2) Bernadette Brady, Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark, Samuel Weiser, 1999, pg. 334.

Brady’s synopsis for the February 26 eclipse (Saros 19S) reads: “This is a family of eclipses that brings with it the elements of the pleasant surprise. Sudden happiness. A joyful event, the lucky break, the lucky win. The events which will be occurring can be believed and can positively change the person’s life.” Ibid, p. 336.

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Emergence, Motivation, and Progress: July 11

By Kelly Surtees | July 11, 2016

Finally the cosmic wheel turns, and forward movement is possible. Our major motion planet, Mars, has not only ended his recent retrograde (June 28, 2016), he’s now moved off his station degree, 23° Scorpio.

If you’ve noticed a lag between increasing internal drive but a lack of external progress, this “in the station” quality of Mars may be the reason. When Mars ended his retrograde at the end of June, he simply turned around so that he was now facing forwards rather than backwards, but he didn’t actually move in any substantial way.

Mars has been parked at 23° Scorpio since June 18, and it’s only now, on July 11, that Mars inches forward into a new degree, 24° Scorpio. This change brings the progress we’ve all been waiting for. It will take Mars a few weeks to pick up the pace, but what Mars offers now is movement, like taking a step in the right direction.

As Mars retraces his steps through Scorpio (until August 2, when Mars enters Sagittarius), opportunities that were missed, delayed, or have been stuck in a holding pattern since February and March may be revisited. Progress might be possible, or you may update a plan with a better strategy. Mars in Scorpio is strategic and sharp and won’t want to waste time on anything that’s no longer suitable or engaging.

By August 22, Mars will have cleared his shadow zone, moving beyond 8° Sagittarius, which is where this retrograde cycle began back in the middle of April. After that, Mars dives into zodiac territory he hasn’t visited for nearly two years, and we can all benefit from fresh energy and enthusiasm. New passions may emerge, and projects that have been simmering on the back burner may become a bigger priority.

In the second half of 2016, Mars moves through the final two thirds of Sagittarius, all of Capricorn and Aquarius, and dives into early Pisces. Contrast this to the first half of 2016, where Mars moved through all of Scorpio and only the first third of Sagittarius. With Mars covering much more ground in the final six months of the year, we can all get moving and make things happen at a faster pace. Expect the cosmic wheels to spin faster from now to the end of the year.

Light, Emergence and Clarity: Venus and Mercury

The middle of July also brings a visual shift with two other planets — Mercury and Venus. Both have been hidden, due to their closeness to the Sun. Starting on July 14 for Venus, and July 15 for Mercury, they each begin to emerge from the Sun’s glow shortly after sunset. Look west on a clear night, and you may spot

By mid-month both Venus and Mercury are settled into Leo and start to appear brighter in the western sky each night. As they move beyond the rays of the Sun, they can better express their influence. Light is held in high regard, and when a planet has light — that is, when a planet can be seen — it can better express its

Mercury and Venus have gained much to share from their time in the darkness. New ideas, connections, and possibilities that emerge mid-month may bring clarity to a clouded issue, or reveal something you had suspected but couldn’t prove.

Venus and Mercury will emerge from the sunbeams in the early degrees of Leo. The sign of the Sun loves brightness, and this may inspire bold declarations or a more confident and expressive quality.

Planets can become just visible once they move 8° – 10° away from the Sun. They become clearer and brighter the further away from the Sun they move. Once a planet is 15° – 17° degrees distant from the Sun, it’s easier to spot and begins to function with more vitality.

This quality of being overshadowed by the Sun’s light and thus hidden may have enhanced  the introspective or retreat tendencies of Mercury and Venus as they moved through Cancer this June and early July. The darkness, combined with the quiet qualities of yin Cancer, may have led to a very reflective few weeks. This means that the sign change of Venus and Mercury into Leo, after which they soon emerge from the sunbeams, is more marked and also represents a light or visibility change.

Moving from water to a fire sign brings energy, as heat is activating. Moving from the darkness into the light brings confidence and encourages expression.

With Mars moving more quickly, and Venus and Mercury becoming visible, life may feel full of potential. Plans and projects are emerging, shifting, or finally happening. May you be inspired and motivated as the light of the planets becomes brighter and their gifts more apparent.

Bio: Kelly is a consulting astrologer, teacher, writer, and editor who works with clients and students around the world. With more than 12 years in private practice, Kelly is experienced, warm, and insightful. She loves exploring astrology’s history as well as escaping into the ocean. Kelly’s passion for astrology is infectious, and her specialty areas include Moon Phases, timing techniques like progressions, and incorporating traditional concepts. She can be found lecturing at conferences throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Kelly holds the Australian FAA Practitioner’s Diploma and is an expat Aussie who lives in Canada most of the year. Website: Kelly’s Astrology


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The U.S. Election: A Matter of Truth

By Alex Miller | May 30, 2016

Of course, to whatever extent, all elections are about truth, but that’s not the truth I’m talking about here. I am speaking of “Truth” (#249521), the name of a small Main Belt Asteroid, and a key player in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (1)

Truth has a celestial partner in asteroid “Veritas” (#490, Latin for “truth”) and an antithesis in asteroid “Lie” (#26955), and all three form important patterns in the charts pivotal to the election. 
Politically, the essence of Truth and Veritas can be boiled down to one word: authenticity. Yes, these two (and Lie) can relate literally to whether one is or is not telling the truth, but this is just the surface meaning. A fuller understanding of its symbolism includes Truth as a matter of character, the issue becoming more about whether or not the person is genuine, trustworthy, and credible, as opposed to strictly accurate in each utterance. Do they “read” as true and honest?

Judged in that light, Donald Trump has a huge advantage going into this election. His asteroids Truth and Veritas are phenomenally well placed to promote a sense that he is genuine and authentic. 

For starters, in Trump’s natal horoscope asteroid Truth at 7° Virgo is in the first house conjunct the 29° Leo Ascendant, and within the Gauquelin plus sector. (2) That alone is enough to make someone appear trustworthy, candid, and forthright to others. Perhaps the most frequent quote from supporters is that Trump “tells it like it is” — that’s Truth on the Ascendant: the ability to project honesty, regardless of the veracity of what’s said. But what is especially favorable for Trump’s electoral chances is that this forms part of a cluster of Ascendant points including Mars and asteroid America, at 26° and 27° Leo respectively.

Mars/Ascendant depicts The Donald as assertive, aggressive, and yes, also somewhat bullying, blustering, and braggadocious, but decidedly a leader.  Asteroid America with Mars here allows him to both channel the rage of the American people and appear as their champion and standard-bearer. 

Trump’s internal sense of authenticity bolsters his ability to project that quality, with a dramatic combination of asteroid Veritas at 1° Sagittarius on the 24° Scorpio nadir conjunct asteroid Troemper (the closest match to “Trump”) at 2° Sagittarius. Taken together, this says that in his foundation (nadir), Trump considers himself (Troemper) to be essentially truthful (Veritas), and that inner fortitude further fuels his ability to promote that image successfully.

And yet, deceit is also a central theme of Trump’s angles. Asteroid Lie at 17° Taurus is conjunct the Midheaven and is the highest elevated point in the chart.  Lie/MC suggests that Trump is more than willing to stretch the facts, dissemble, prevaricate, mislead, or downright deceive in establishing his place in the world, his social standing, his reputation, and promoting business interests. Lie is also exactly inconjunct natal Jupiter at 17° Libra, so there is a strong bent toward deception particularly in Jovian matters, including politics. 

Hillary Clinton has all these points in prominence as well, but in less gratifying combinations. True, her natal asteroid Truth at 29° Scorpio closely conjoins natal Jupiter at 0° Sagittarius, a combination which should promote political trustworthiness. And it does for a significant portion of the electorate (as well as many former Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle). But a conjunction with Jupiter is a “wonky” sort of placement, primarily accessible to political junkies and not nearly as obvious as Trump’s Truth/Ascendant, which is more available to the man on the street.

Bolstering these celestial street credentials for honesty is the T-square created by Jupiter/Truth’s square to the exact natal opposition in Clinton’s horoscope between natal asteroids Hillary and Whitehouse, at 5° Virgo and Pisces. This in itself shows a direct path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the pertinent question is: Has that karma already been fulfilled by her eight years as First Lady or is there more in store? The fly in the ointment on this T-square is the inclusion of natal asteroid America and TransNeptunian Object (TNO) Borasisi, both at 8° Sagittarius. (3) Truth (29° Scorpio) is rather wide of that combination, but these do impact the Hillary/Whitehouse opposition, creating an “overlapping” T-square. With Borasisi’s reputation for spreading propaganda and lies, it’s not a help here, sending a signal that Clinton is less than honest and straightforward with the American people, that she’s hiding something. 

Moreover, this negative interaction is reinforced by the close natal conjunction of asteroids Washingtonia and Lie, at 21° and 22° Virgo. With it, Clinton becomes a virtual emissary of distrust of Washington, in stark contrast to her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, who sports a Washingtonia/Truth conjunction and has the reputation of speaking truth to power and thumbing his nose at the DC establishment.
Natal Veritas makes a mixed statement at best. At 17° Aquarius, Veritas squares Clinton’s natal Venus/Mercury combination at 16° and 21° Scorpio and opposes her string of Mars, Pluto, and Saturn at 13°, 14°, and 21° Leo, making for a very complicated and contradictory T-square. At the heart of this is the awkwardness created by Venus/Mercury in square to Saturn. Clinton ought to be able to communicate with sensitivity and compassion, soothing others with the honeyed word or pleasing expression. But Saturn exactly squares Mercury, making her seem harsh, cold, calculating, and aloof. It’s also the symbol of a penetrating mind, one with a fine grasp of the facts and the ability to craft a response to a problem, but these details are often lost on a complacent electorate more concerned with who’d make a better drinking buddy than a focused leader. 

Veritas doesn’t make the picture any clearer; its square to Venus/Mercury implies that there may be obstacles to Clinton expressing herself truthfully, and the opposition to Saturn suggests there may be a dearth of honesty. The opposition to Pluto conveys a possible motive for her lack of candor  — a strong desire for power and control — while further suggesting that the truth may be “opposed” to attaining these goals, and thus needs to be kept quite firmly under wraps. Mars there indicates that in the struggle for power, the first casualty may be truth.

This is not a particularly encouraging layout, if you’re a Clinton supporter. Making matters worse is what the transit sky will be up to by Election Day. 

At this point we need to take a step back and discuss a relatively new phenomenon in astrological interpretation, and a new term for the astro-lexicon.  This is the concept of an “extended conjunction.” Before the discovery of minor bodies in the Asteroid and Kuiper Belts (way out past Neptune), conjunctions were relatively simple matters. Natal conjunctions were permanent, and the combined energies had a lifetime to blend and resolve their differences. Transit conjunctions were of two types — either fleeting contacts to natal points, which effected change in the native, or equally fleeting meetings of two transit bodies, causing us all to reappraise how these energies mesh in our lives.

But points in the Asteroid and Kuiper Belts often travel at similar rates of speed, meaning that, once in conjunction, they can remain locked together for weeks, months, years, even decades. This is an “extended conjunction” and, unfortunately for Clinton, there’s one forming right now between transit Hillary and transit Lie. 
Yes, as of the very day the Democratic National Convention opens in Philadelphia, ostensibly to nominate Clinton, the candidate with some of the worst “honest and trustworthy” ratings in history, Hillary and Lie will be within five degrees of each other, for almost a year, until mid-July 2017. On Election Day, both points will be exactly conjunct, both about to station retrograde, and both exactly trine the Election Day Sun.
And what about Trump? Unbelievably, asteroids Truth and Veritas are coming together as well, though for mere months (September 2016 through March 2017), and by Election Day they will be exactly conjunct at 21° Gemini, tightly squaring transit Troemper stationary direct at 22° Pisces and conjoined Trump’s natal Sun at 22° Gemini.

Talk about reinforcing existing narratives!

There are many factors that cause voters to choose a candidate, and it’s not known if Clinton’s clear advantage in experience and gravitas can outshine Trump’s bluster and bravado, but the American people’s assessment of the relative genuineness, honesty, and authenticity of the choices they’re offered could be a key element in deciding who wins in November.
If that’s the circumstance, Hillary Clinton is very far out on a very slender limb indeed, with little celestial support for the case that she’s the more trustworthy candidate.

Editor’s notes:

(1) “The Asteroid Belt is often referred to as the “Main Belt” to distinguish it from other groups of asteroids such as the Lagrangians and Centaurs.” From:

(2) The Gauquelin plus sectors are the degrees surrounding the Ascendant and Midheaven that Michael Gauquelin, in his extensive research between 1949 and 1973, found to strengthen a planet’s influence. (For further information, here’s a recent assessment of Gauquelin’s work).

(3) For more on TNO Borasisi:

Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at

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