Dinner and Drinks with Sam Reynolds: The USA’s Pluto Return
Dinner and Drinks is back in July welcoming Sam Reynolds as our guest of honor! Join us on the evening of Thursday, July 25th.
Sam will be speaking about the upcoming Pluto Return of the United States. It will be exact in 2022. As Pluto slowly approaches this point at 27° Capricorn over the next few years, this return is coming into the orb of effect.
It’s hard to discuss – but the truth is that slavery, racism, economic disparities, and police brutality harken back to the founding of the United States of America. How we grapple with this difficult legacy keeps breaking through in today’s headlines as inequality festers. Local police routinely direct excessive force at black and brown bodies. The USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world. For instance, men who don’t happen to be white are disproportionately locked behind bars while white criminals remain free.
There are no easy answers here…. how plutonian.
Sam will also unpack a problematic insight from Liz Greene’s book on Pluto. The black man has often been cast as an archetypal symbol of Pluto in western culture. Many individuals internalize the black man into their psyche and dreams as a Plutonian symbol. Does this conflation do justice to either black men or to Pluto?
Join AYA for a perspective on the Pluto return that doesn’t shy away from openly acknowledging the wounds of race, slavery, economic disparities, and our relationship to safety & security with policing. Our vision is to create a safe space and container for a dialogue about the pressing issues of our time, and how to understand America’s Plutonian legacy.
Find out more about Sam Reynolds – http://unlockastrology.com/
Astrology and the Imagination in 1910
“The most wondrous world system ever conceived by the imagination is that of astrology.”
—Count Hermann Keyserling1
In 1910, four years before World War I would rend Europe asunder, prominent philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling gave a public lecture on astrology called “Sterndeutung” that framed astrology in terms of human imagination. I recently translated this lecture for the second volume of The Ascendant, AYA’s annual journal, and I would like to share it here in full, with some brief introductory thoughts about its significance.2
Keyserling’s lecture took place in the earliest years of the revival of astrological practice in Germany. For Keyserling and many others in central Europe, recent developments in scientific inquiry were threatening to rip apart an integrated experience of the world, as Keyserling states, “the more research advances, the more insistently it analyzes the facts, the more inconsistent the universe appears, the more questionable its real coherence.”3
Op-Ed: A Reflection on Disability in Astrology
by Michael MacLafferty
DISABILITY IS A THEME that appears in astrology usually in reference to a hardship or mishap. For example, tuning in to one of my favorite podcasts, I was a bit taken aback by a guest saying that having a disabled child was one of “these very tragic experiences” that can happen within families.1 It’s not uncommon to portray disability as tragic, and to focus the narrative on the negative impacts on surrounding, non-disabled people. This is not a problem specific to astrology, but a reflection of views pervading the dominant culture. As a disabled person, I would like to see disability treated as an identity, intersecting with other types and levels of privilege. As a psychotherapist, I want to see disability destigmatized, to be recognized as a unique and valuable perspective in society, and for awareness to grow around the language that is used to describe it. As an astrologer, I want to see disability humanized and conceptualized as a multivalent archetype, not merely existing on a list of potential sour transits.
Disability is not a uniform or monolithic experience. Disability consists of an extremely diverse set of cultures. It includes differences of physicality, cognition, sensory processing, and psychological function; some are more readily apparent than others, and there are wide continuums within each. The connecting thread is that disability occurs when appropriate access is not provided by society (according to the social model of disability, in opposition to the historically predominant medical model, which views disability as an inherent problem within an individual body). I am physically disabled (diagnosed with cerebral palsy), and a wheelchair user, so my public access needs primarily revolve around wheelchair access and mobility. Here, I will be speaking very broadly about disability, only scratching the surface of this topic, and do not claim to speak for all disabled people. I am also white, cisgender, and heterosexual, which have also shaped my experience of disability, and conferred a certain amount of privilege, contributing to the opportunity to philosophize and critique the subject I am about to address.
I think it is important to pay attention to the words we use as significations and interpretations, especially how they may belie histories of oppression, and/or reinforce ableist notions. Words like crazy, invalid, mad, infirm, insane, crippled, idiot, maniac, lunatic, and moron have been used by various state agencies in an attempt to exclude, isolate, institutionalize, and eradicate people with physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities in the us.2 Many of these words are used casually today as pejoratives and expletives. Astrologers need to be aware of the bias that they are speaking or writing from, and acknowledge the privilege that comes with referencing groups of people they do not identify with.
Throughout his work, twentieth-century astrologer Reinhold Ebertin uses many significations that are problematic in contemporary terms.3 Even though he wrote nearly eighty years ago, it is worth a modern critique because not only are many of the social ideas of his day still alive and well, but they have informed the way we understand planetary archetypes today.
The negative descriptors Ebertin very commonly used in relation to combinations of Neptune are sensitivity, weakness, and illness. I think this betrays a deeply ingrained belief about how the idea of strength is constructed and why it is so valued in society. The implication is that if one is overly sensitive then they are weak by nature, not capable of withstanding the demands of the world, eventually succumbing to some physical or psychic illness, thus impeding them from being a productive member of society. Here we see a sexist bias that values physical power and endurance (conflated with mental/emotional capacity), overlaying the capitalist ideal of deriving a person’s value from their ability to produce.
What is needed is a new appreciation for sensitivity. Many modern astrologers do cast the sensitivity of the Moon and Neptune in a positive light,4 highlighting enhanced access to intuition, creativity/inspiration, or psychic phenomena (and here there is a danger of objectifying or exotifying psychiatric disability). But what about people we deem “too sensitive”? This is a label often hurled at women (and people of color, and any other marginalized group that tries to speak to oppressive language) to excuse behavior that had a negative impact. If there is a strong dissonance, they might get labeled “crazy.” What about the young boy who often cries at disappointment? What about the person who gets migraines from certain types scents or lights, or who needs certain conditions to have a calm nervous system? These are the people who would get slapped with Ebertin’s label of “pathological sensitivity.”5 But what is pathology except a comparison to what we deem normal?
It also strikes me that Ebertin’s negative significations are commonly moralistic. Here are some related to combinations of Neptune: insane, mad ideas, unstable character, pathological tendencies, mental disturbance, weak constitution, mental or emotional illness, epilepsy;6 Venus/Mars/Saturn: abnormal sex, polygamy/adultery;7 Venus/Neptune: wrong ways of love, wrong or misdirected love sensations, sexual aberration, perversions.8 It has ever been the Western way to dominate and marginalize difference from an idealized “normal” by moralizing against it, and it is no coincidence to find supposed physical and mental defects juxtaposed with supposed character deficiency. It should be easy to see that the same reasons for applying a queer critical lens hold up for a disability-focused critique as well. The term “abnormal sex” could easily be applied to the pleasure of either group; disabled sex, inasmuch as it challenges heteronormative ideals, is perverse by definition!
When I first became interested in exploring disability and astrology, I thought that a planetary signature might be found. After hearing Christopher Renstrom speak about the history of searching for “the gay signature,”9 I was sure disability communities shared the mark of Uranus with queer culture.10 What other bodies might be involved? Chiron? Saturn? When I looked to my own birthchart, I saw an exceptionally close Sun-Chiron conjunction, Uranus opposite Mercury/Venus/Chiron/Sun, Moon square Pluto, and a nearly unaspected Mars in Taurus. Undoubtedly the manifestation of disability in my life was an expression of these and other natal complexes. But there did not seem to be an obvious connection between my chart and those of other disabled folks that I could see. I was also inadvertently following a conventional line of thought about disability significations, which I will discuss below.
As I learned more about identity in the birthchart, I became more convinced that disability could not be divined from a chart any more than gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, or any other personal identifier, sometimes referred to as co-determining factors. Co-determining factors provide contextual elements for archetypal manifestation, and therefore are invaluable for making interpretations. Indeed, it is the extent to which we try to understand the factors outside our own experience that make us effective multicultural astrologers. The foundation of such an orientation is to not make assumptions or rush to conclusions about what a person’s life circumstances mean to them, and to keep from assigning our own.
Chiron—More Wounded than Healer?
Chiron has become one of the most important celestial bodies in astrology outside of the standard planets and luminaries, and the one most closely relating to disability. Mythologically he is a centaur, mentor of Achilles, and extremely skilled in hunting and medicine. He becomes poisoned accidentally, and cannot heal himself, despite his great skill as a healer. He sacrifices his immortality (and physical form) in exchange for Prometheus’ freedom, and is honored as a constellation in the sky. From a disability justice perspective, this myth is problematic, raising questions about the value of life with disability/illness, euthanasia, and life purpose being derived from serving/inspiring those not disabled.
Archetypally, Chiron is known as the Wounded Healer, which has associations with shamanic functions. Chiron symbolizes our deepest egoic wounds, where we often experience difficulty and shame. As we work through and attempt to heal our core issues, we gain wisdom and compassion that can then be of benefit to others.
Finding the cure in the cause is a psychospiritual principle I believe in. However, I find it interesting that we often cannot talk about the wound without immediately going to the “healing.” There is a compulsion to get past pain, challenges, and vulnerability, and assign a positive meaning—which can be a constructive and profound spiritual process. But I think we need to be very careful as counselors when we make meaning of other people’s suffering. Again, our preconceptions determine our interpretations, and if our bias causes us to speak about our client’s life in a way that they do not identify with, we run the risk not only of being offensive, but of aggravating and reinforcing a wound that likely has a societal element to it.
Health and Wholeness
Since astrologers are often in the position of facilitating personal healing and transformation, what is also called for is a revision of our concepts of health and wholeness. These are ideas that are commonly the goal of any kind of healing or transformative process; integrating what has been fragmented, uniting what has been separated. It would be a mistake to think of disability as antithetical to this process. As I have already mentioned, it is common to conflate physical, mental, and spiritual states of being. Using myself as an example, some might consider a cure for cerebral palsy necessary for me to be healthy and whole. As far as I am concerned, I am already whole; I think of myself as physically healthy as the next person. What I seek to heal from emotionally and spiritually are the side effects of living in an ableist world. In fact I could be considered healthier in some ways, since I am not zealously attempting to attain medical or mainstream physical ideals.
It is also important that we do not confuse healing with cure. As queer, disabled writer Eli Clare states, “Cure rides on the back of normal and natural. Insidious and pervasive, it impacts most of us. In response, we need neither a wholehearted acceptance nor an outright rejection of cure, but rather a broad-based grappling.”11 Anyone who has gone through any kind of recovery, healing, or transformation knows that you do not come out the other side the same as when you went in—a return to a previous or ideal state is not the goal. However, this idea is subversive coming from disabled people. Yet this is the very reason disability should not be eradicated: it holds a very important perspective for a world that is so concerned with materialism, productivity, and perfection.
Another issue I wish to highlight is one that Chris Brennan has raised multiple times on The Astrology Podcast, which is, the danger of modern astrology to lean too far in the direction of free will and personal agency to determine the outcome of people’s lives. The idea that every difficult transit or natal aspect can be handled or manifested gracefully, implies that when it isn’t, the fault lies with the native. I point this out because on the one hand, able-bodied people love “inspirational” narratives of disability,12 in which one bootstraps themselves into overcoming their circumstances—thereby negating any unpleasantness that might haunt the audience, and treat it as a passing phase. I have had people helpfully suggest that if I just tried hard enough, I could walk better—or in other words, be more normal. The other side of this coin is the idea that misfortune is deserved, perhaps even due to “karma.” Nondisabled people always want to know, “what happened to you?” as if to ascertain the tragedy of it, and evaluate how well you are coping. Perhaps I will be seen as exceptional, making the most of my life despite disability, erasing the ways that disability has guided me where I am, as well as the great majority of my life that is quite normal and cliché.
To complicate things even further, there is a prevalent spiritual idea that those who are incarnated into more adverse circumstances are farther along in their soul’s development or taking an accelerated path. The harder the life, the greater the spiritual lesson. I admit this is a notion that eases the discomfort that comes from witnessing the struggles of life, bolstering a sense of structure and fairness in the cosmos. However, I have to say that I think it can also be a way to place disabled people in the exceptional category, seeing them as extraordinary—anything but ordinary, over which the able-bodied have dominion.
All this is to say that disability is not something to be overcome on an individual level (as if that were possible), and to think so ignores the countless ways in which those complex circumstances shape one’s character and outlook on life. It is also not the result of a divine punishment, nor is it necessarily a mundane foible. In Robert Hand’s seminal Planets in Transit, he described several transits of Uranus with the potential for physical accident and injury, if handled incorrectly.13
In cases where disability has an onset, it can be located in time. Incurring an acute injury or trauma, receiving a medical diagnosis, or self-identifying as neurodivergent are all examples of major events that would have to be reflected in one’s transits. But what you would look for as signifiers of those events (as well as natal elements) are completely determined by your beliefs about disability. If you believe disability commonly results from accidents or mismanaged energies, Hand’s Uranus signifier may first come to mind. If you see becoming disabled primarily as the end of a life of freedom, then Saturn may be what you see. If you are afraid or uncomfortable with the idea of disability, then perhaps Pluto would be the signifier for you.
Seeing the Whole in the Fragment
As a society we need to change our concept of disability, and part of that process is changing how it fits into our cosmology. The tendency to associate disability with the malefic side of planets like Saturn and Pluto comes from the perspective of seeing disability as limitation and suffering. Except being disabled is not a perpetual state of suffering. Suffering can be involved though, especially as one confronts the expectations of society without the support to meet (or critique) them.
Each human experience contains all of the archetypes within it—this is the beauty of the holographic nature of existence. Like the Buddhist metaphor of Indra’s Net, any piece of reality has every other aspect reflected within it. This is why it is difficult to reduce any experience to one archetype. For example anyone could agree that war is under the purview of Mars. But isn’t Saturn present in the discipline of armies, Mercury in battle strategy, Jupiter waged in the name of a just or holy cause, Venus in acts of mercy and importance of appearance, etc.? Whatever broad archetype you begin with, the others come to light as you dig deeper and flesh out the actual phenomenon. Staying with a single archetype leads to pigeonholing and stereotypes.
Disability is no different. Yes, Saturn is embodied when I want to enter a building that only has stairs, but I invoke Jupiter when I speak to injustice and hope for a more equitable future. I encounter Pluto when I receive the projections of the shadow of society, as abnormal, pitiable, undesirable, or incapable. I channel Mars when I pursue my passions and face my challenges. I am Venusian when I exercise patience when I don’t get my way, extend compassion for others who have their own life struggles, or find peace in a lover’s touch that I do not take for granted. I mind-meld with Uranus when I encourage myself and others to redefine ideas of health and normalcy. All of these characteristics can be traced back to my birthchart, yet all of them have been shaped by living with a disability.
As I stated previously, I have an exact Sun-Chiron conjunction. Since Chiron is a disabled archetype, you could infer that combination has a lot to do with my identity as a disabled person. Also, since I see my “wounds” as more psychospiritual than physical, it has a lot to do with my identity as a therapist—which, in turn, is informed by my experience of being disabled. Uranus opposing my Mercury, Venus, and Sun/Chiron could be seen as a disruption of “normal” ways of relating and communicating. It is true that some people relate to disability in ways that can be jarring to me. Beyond that, Uranus in my chart is my feeling of not belonging to the mainstream, and my stolid rebelliousness. Pluto squaring my Moon relates to a deep and complicated relationship with my mother as my primary caregiver until adulthood, a deep sensitivity and tendency towards feeling shame (about being disabled and many other things), as well as the resulting opportunities for transformation which allow me to provide a strong container for my clients’ emotions and not shy away from their shadowy parts.
My Mars in Taurus is also an interesting placement to explore; it seems a particularly apt analog for physical disability, Taurus being so carnal and Mars being the way we move through life. In my experience, patience is required for physical tasks. I often have to find my own way of doing things that works for me, and they get easier the more I practice. Slow determination is often most effective. Mars is in its detriment in Taurus, a debility—in other words, disabled. It is in a place of reduced access, and thus less able to express itself with ease. In order to do the same amount of work as a planet with the privilege of better access (in its domicile, exaltation, or a neutral sign) it must put in more effort, and sometimes be creative at finding ways of being effective. Because of that, a planet in detriment can end up being very skillful and self-aware with some work put into it. If it receives aspects from other planets, there is an interaction, perhaps an interdependence at play, so that it can benefit from the privilege of others, making a more cohesive and unique whole. So if one stops at the surface interpretation of a planet in debility being ill-placed and disadvantaged, they miss out on the potential benefits. In this way, disability has actually been inscribed into traditional astrological principles, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it can be seen with nuance, or simply as ill fate.
I hope that with what I have related here—through the example of my own chart and lived experience, as well as my reflections on our community and how it handles disability in our social spheres and in our personal cosmologies—we can understand with more nuance how disability weaves in and out of the archetypes and aspects, and start to apply more awareness when addressing these topics, both with our clients and in our daily lives.
[Editor’s note: This article appears in the second volume of our journal, The Ascendant.]
1 The Astrology Podcast, episode 104, (April 17, 2017), produced by Chris Brennan.
2 “Disability History: Timeline,” The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth, accessed March 22, 2018. For example: “1907: Eugenic Sterilization Law Spreads Like Wildfire: Indiana becomes the first state to enact a eugenic sterilization law—for ‘confirmed idiots, imbeciles and rapists’—in state institutions. The law spreads like wildfire and is enacted in 24 other states.”
3 Reinhold Ebertin, The Combination of Stellar Influences, trans. Dr. Alfred G. Roosedale and Linda Kratzsch (1940; Repr., Tempe, AZ: AFA, 2004).
4 Though “lunacy” is a word I still hear used by contemporary astrologers to describe the “crazy energy” of a full Moon, as if Luna would approve of the way we treat those assigned her epithet.
5 Ebertin, Combination of Stellar Influences, 64.
6 Ibid., 64–98.
7 Ibid., 176.
8 Ibid., 188.
9 Christopher Renstrom, “The Problem of the Gay Signature: Unearthing the Queer Archetype in Astrological History and Culture” (presentation, Queer Astrology Conference, San Francisco, CA, March 21–22, 2015).
10 Michael MacLafferty, “Similar in Our Difference: A Call for Inter-Community Solidarity,” Michael MacLafferty (blog), April 7, 2015.
11 Eli Clare, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2017), quoted in Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, “Disability is Not a Deficit and Other Truths in an Ableist World: A Review of Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure,” Bitch Media, March 28, 2017.
12 Stella Young, “I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much,” TEDxSydney, April 2014.
13 Robert Hand, Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living, 2nd ed. (1976; Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2001), 376–95.
Michael MacLafferty is an astrologer and a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist* based in Oakland, CA. He has written about the intersections of psychology, disability, and esoterica on his blog and has contributed to Psyched Magazine. He has an increasing interest in working on Plutonic themes with clients, including childhood trauma and feelings of shame. You can find out more about his work and writing at www.archetypal-wellness.com
*(IMF# 83155, supervised by Rawna Romero, MFC# 41466, at Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center.)
Planetary Reception, Part II: Guests and Hosts
By Ryhan Butler
In the previous installment of this series, we scrutinized the medieval concept of pushing wherein lighter planets push their signification to the planets they are casting applying aspects to. Here we hope to give the same level of attention to the technique of reception, which is one of the most consistent and obvious ways to tell if pushing is going to be successful or not.
Reception is a more complex technique because it requires a firm understanding of several other classical techniques. Not only does one need to understand aspect theory, but also planetary nature, as well as planetary dignity. With all of these separate considerations mixed together we can get a proper picture of reception and pushing together to help us delineate charts more effectively.
Essentially, reception is what happens when a planet aspects another planet who is one of its lords. This means anytime a planet aspects the planet that is the domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term, or face lord of the sign it is in, there is reception occurring. The figure below illustrates this point. Here Mercury applies to the conjunction of the Sun in Leo. Leo is the domicile of the Sun, so the Sun is receiving Mercury’s conjunction.
Classically, the signs of the Zodiac were conceptualized as the houses of the planets. So, as planets moved through the signs they were thought of as passing through each other’s homes (the classical term “domicile” used for a planet in its rulership – Sun in Leo, Moon in Cancer – itself references this). This means that Jupiter does not simply enjoy rulership over the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces, but that these are places that are like his home and he has certain responsibilities there. Likewise, Jupiter is expected to fulfil certain duties to planets who find themselves in those signs, especially if they can aspect him while being there. This is the reception; one planet welcomes another into his home and treats them as a host would treat his guest.
There are a few keywords to facilitate easier understanding of what exactly reception does. Planets that receive others provide for them, accept them, giving permission to them, and cooperate with them. They do not, however, show fondness or love and hate. Jupiter will not receive or assist planets in Pisces or Sagittarius because he “loves” them, but because he is duty-bound to receive them there.
Reception is a planetary relationship, and as such it is important to scrutinize both of the planets to properly determine the outcome of the relationship. Though it is a relationship, it is not necessarily one of equals. But Nonetheless, both play important, albeit different, roles.
The first role goes to the receiving planet. The planet that receives another into its dignities has the role of a host. This host must attend to its guest and takes responsibility for their wellbeing and safety to the best of its ability. This will be determined by the host planet’s placement, dignity, and nature- the central idea is that planets share in their host’s fortune or poverty. So a planet who has a lot is able to give a lot, but one who lacks will not be able to provide as richly and may even end up harming their host by not being able to muster up the resources to bring the thing being pushed to them to pass.
The other role goes to the planet being received, and this planet takes on the role of a guest. We typically think of guests as individuals who must be well-behaved or be in danger of being asked to leave, but this is not the case with planets, as their hosts cannot evict them. This means that host planets are often put upon by their guests who may behave badly by signifying bad or difficult things, thus the guest tends to be the boss or be in charge of the agenda.
In this example, Mercury in Pisces is being received by Jupiter in Cancer. Here, Jupiter is the receiving planet and so must act like a good host and provide for his guest Mercury, but will Jupiter succeed in this endeavor? Jupiter is a naturally benefic planet – showing an innate agreeableness – and is placed in his exaltation of Cancer, so has many resources to provide. The only negative affecting Jupiter is his placement in the Twelfth house, but otherwise Jupiter is a great host who is going to be willing and able to produce what Mercury signifies.
What about Mercury? Mercury is placed in Pisces, which is the sign of his detriment and fall while being the ruler of the third and twelfth houses. So Mercury is not doing well at all and is signifying some pretty difficult things. He represents a poorly behaved guest provided for abundantly by a generous host. This application to and reception with Jupiter shows the likelihood of Mercury’s significations being brought out, but these significations might not be pleasant things for an individual to experience. Mercury’s neediness may also be somewhat taxing on Jupiter who has opened himself up to working with a difficult planet.
As the above scenario suggests, there can be reception relationships that are not as advantageous to individuals. It is important to remember that not every planet signifies or pursues healthful activities, and there may be times where reception can signify danger to the livelihood of an individual or scenario. Therefore, it becomes paramount to ask questions like “Is this a planet that I want to be in control?” or “Is this planet asking for assistance with a helpful thing?”
These questions are usually answered by simple things like placement, planetary nature, and signification. We see these kinds of considerations most clearly in fairly extreme situations. The most prominent examples are the considerations concerning health and livelihood, particularly if the illness is serious enough to threaten death.
In such instances, we are told to consider the fortitudes of the Lord of the First house (signifying the life of the sick individual) and the Lord of the Eighth house (the planet that would signify death). We are to be concerned if one of them were applying to the other (because it could indicate the possibility of succumbing to the illness), unless the Lord of the Eighth receives the Lord of the First into its dignities. In such an instance, the Lord of the Eighth would be cooperating or allowing the Lord of the First house to do what it wants, in this case, to simply live and it argues recovery because the planet signifying death cannot hurt its guest. However, the reverse of this is dangerous. In instances where the Lord of the First receives the Lord of the Eighth, the planet signifying life allows the planet signifying death to do what it wants which is to kill its host.
From this we can extrapolate other instances where receiving certain planets may not be as advantageous or safe. For instance, it is preferred that malefic planets receive others into their domicile, as their malevolence is restrained towards those who they receive and must protect. This consideration is also applied to the Sun and planets are not injured by Combustion when they join with him in Aries or Leo. Malevolent planets being received, though, is not as fortunate as it shows other planets allowing the malefic’s bad behavior and signification. Similarly, it is more effective for the planet signifying the matter to receive the planet signifying the querent, inceptor, or native. This shows whatever is being sought being willing to work with the individual. The reverse of this merely shows the interest of the querent which is not nearly as effective or meaningful.
It is also important to note that the benefic planets do not require reception to bring things about. Since it is in their very nature to assist and allow, reception will only make the perfection easier. On the other hand, malefic planets require reception to allow matters to perfect, because it is not normally in their nature to facilitate the wills of other planets.
The effects reception has on aspects and planetary relationships is most clearly seen in the work of Guido Bonatti. In the beginning of his horary text he lists for us the different ways in which aspects perfect and bring about events. The table below lists the effects of reception in conjunction with different aspects.
|Trine or sextile with reception||Comes easily, without striving, or difficulty|
|Trine without reception, sextile with reception||Comes shortly without striving|
|Sextile without reception, square with reception||Comes with striving and effort|
|Square without reception, opposition with reception||Comes after striving, effort, obstacles, and labor|
|Opposition without reception||Comes with greatest labors and distress, though still may not even occur|
Bonatti’s table makes the effects of reception much easier to understand. More difficult aspects are made easier if reception is present to help smooth them out. It even has the effect of making an inherently difficult aspect like the square function more like a friendly aspect.
Throughout most of this, the examples of reception given are operating through the dignities of domicile or exaltation. This is a very powerful form of reception, but it is not limited to these circumstances. Reception can also occur through the lower forms of dignity (triplicity, term, and face), but since these lower forms are shared by multiple planets in a single sign it requires multiple levels of reception to be effective. This is what is referred to as perfect reception and it is only when planets receive one another perfectly that the full benefits of reception can be gained.
In order to qualify as a perfect reception, a planet must receive another into its domicile or exaltation or into any combination of two of the lower levels at once. This means perfect reception occurs in reception by domicile, by exaltation, by triplicity and term, by triplicity and face, or by face and term. Essentially, if we liken reception to receiving a guest into one’s own home and having the authority to decide something there, then reception by one minor dignity would be like trying to take authority over someone else’s home. Saturn doesn’t have enough authority over Taurus in general to have the final say in something, and planets applying to him there would be better off consulting Venus. However, if planets are applying to Saturn from 22°-26° Taurus where Saturn has dignity by both term and face, then this would be like asking to do something in Saturn’s room of Venus’s house, where he does have proper authority.
Finally, the last type of reception is perhaps the most well-known, and that is mutual reception. This type of reception is fundamentally the same, but instead of one planet being in the dignities of another that it is aspecting, both planets are in the dignities of the other, such as Mars in Leo in a trine aspect with the Sun in Aries.
This is very fortunate as it shows both planets are willing to work and cooperate with one another. In instances where astrologers are trying to find the best outcome for two parties (like marriages), mutual reception is the best placement to strive for. That being said, its effectiveness is determined in the same way as general reception; the strength of the two planets themselves is paramount.
In this example above, the Moon in Scorpio is in a trine aspect with Mars in Cancer. While this is a mutual reception, it is not a very effective or particularly helpful one as both planets are essentially debilitated in those signs, so neither has the resources or ability to assist the other. This is essentially akin to two inebriated individuals helping each other walk home; they won’t get very far, but they are together.
Mutual reception has several incorrect assumptions associated with it. Perhaps the most common is that planets engaged in a mutual reception are able to swap places with one another, however, a review of the classical literature regarding this technique make it very difficult to see where such an assumption might have arisen.
Another common misconception is that planets in mutual reception gain additional dignity from their relationship. We see this documented most clearly in William Lilly’s textbook Christian Astrology. However, even though Lilly seemed to include it in his work, he did not seem to utilize it himself in his example charts. Likewise, earlier authors did not include anything that would suggest such cross-dignity possible.
A final misconception regarding mutual reception is that it must occur on the same level of dignity. For example, mutual reception between Saturn and Mercury does not have to take a domicile to domicile form. Mercury in Libra can aspect Saturn in Gemini and this is also a perfect mutual reception where Mercury receives Saturn into its domicile, and Saturn likewise receives Mercury into his exaltation. This can also work on the lower forms of dignity where Venus at 12° Leo can be in mutual reception with Jupiter at 12° Taurus. This would have Jupiter receive Venus by triplicity and face while Venus received Jupiter by domicile.
Reception assists astrologers in better understanding planetary relationships and further explores how planets treat others who occupy their places of dignity. It allows astrologers an extra level of insight to see why some squares work out more easily than other squares and why some difficult placements don’t turn out to be quite as difficult. However, there is another layer to planetary relationships that works as something of the inverse to reception and investigates how planets treat those who are located in their debilities. This consideration will be covered in depth in the final installment, “Rejection.”
About Ryhan Butler:
Ryhan is the creator of Medieval Astrology Guide, and has studied classical astrological techniques with an emphasis on medieval astrology for just short of a decade. He has lectured locally and as a part of national conferences, working to spread the techniques of medieval astrology to those who would otherwise not encounter them or may not immediately see their value. He is also an active member of the Association for Young Astrologers and is currently serving on the steering committee of the Association for Astrological Networking.
Modern Mind, Traditional Technique
by Wonder Bright
One of the great advents of modern astrology was its merger with 20th century psychology. Certainly when I first studied the subject this connection is what drew me in. I’m driven by the need to understand others and when I can, to help them. Astrology cast those efforts in a totally new light. Suddenly, behavior in others I previously found confusing occurred to me as natural and even admirable. Better yet, astrology provided practical tools, right out of the box, which guided my efforts to listen, empathize, and advise.
Having caught the bug, I decided to attend Kepler College. There I studied the history of our craft, and also the techniques original to it. Being totally new to the astrological community, and certainly to the ancient teachings. my studies there were my first introduction to the differences in thinking between modern astrologers and the emerging traditional community. However, though the techniques were new to me, the use to which I wanted to put them remained the same. My interest was wholly practical: what were the Hellenistic techniques and how could I put them to use within a modern consulting practice grounded in character analysis?
You can imagine my delight when using traditional techniques caused a shift in perception similar to the one that occurred when I first discovered astrology. My ability to identify the core essence of a chart and what mattered to the native increased tenfold. The methods simplified my search for the strongest conflicts of the chart and brought past wounds and patterns firmly into view. While it’s true that traditional techniques were, in many ways, designed for prediction and certainly can be used for that, predicting events is not their limit, nor their sole power. If what you’re after is what matters most to your clients, and helping them play to their strengths whilst minimizing weakness, then traditional methods are hard to beat.
In my lecture at the 2013 NCGR Astrology Conference: Everything Under The Sun, I will address three components of the ancient framework that render traditional techniques perfectly suited for the modern practitioner:
-Hellenistic astrology is derived from a philosophical model that perceived the universe as perfect and sym
metrical – created by Divinity and rendered flawlessly.
-This “perfect cosmos” is illustrated by the way in which the ancients conceived of the zodiac, as a 360 degree circle divided into 12 equal parts with each sign opposing its polarity. This zodiac, which astrologers still use today, has an interdependent counterpart in traditional methods via their elegantly simple house system. The whole sign house system underscores the dynamics of polarity by bringing them directly into focus within a chart, whereby each sign equals a house.
-The ancient system of planetary rulerships beautifully illustrates the fundamental perfection of the cosmos as envisioned by the ancient mind, bringing to life hidden interactions between the houses and the areas of life most important to the native.
During the lecture, I will illustrate these principles using the charts of people in the audience. The technical focus will be on finding the Sun and its location relative to the Ascendant, as well as to notice the sign/house placement that is ruled by the Sun. Through this simple process, the elegance of the ancient methods will be revealed to be of tremendous value and benefit to the modern practitioner.
Wonder Bright (yes, that’s her real name) studied astrology at Kepler College and has also tutored privately with Demetra George. She has been seeing clients for over a decade and divides her time between analyzing people and taking photographs of them. You can read all about her adventures on her blog at www.starsofwonder.com.
Houses of Horror
Our first guest blogger is AYA’s very own Nick Civitello. Nick is a playwright and astrologer living in New York City. His blog, Nerdcore Astrotypes, details correlations between archetypes found in astrology and those in pop-culture.
True to his pop-culture style, Nick uses the tropes of horror stories to explain Saturn in Scorpio in all 12 houses. Bridging the gap between Halloween horror and the real fears that Saturn’s time in Scorpio will evoke, the AYA is proud to feature Nick’s brilliant article.
Happy almost Halloween, dear readers.
The greatest and best holiday of the year is nearly upon us, and I hope that you’re all doing your due diligence: psyching up with horror movies on Netflix, stocking up on candy corn and Jameson, and of course, putting the finishing touches on your costumes. The origins of Halloween are disputed, but an across-the-board hallmark of this time of year is the conceit that dialogue with “the other side” is possible. Whether this just means taking a moment to honor and celebrate the souls of the dearly departed, or whether one believes that ghouls and goblins will walk the Earth, it’s a time for confronting the dark and fearful side of things.
We wear masks in order to either externalize these fears and blend in with the creepy crawlies (ala Batman,) or to project the image of a champion who can stand up to them (ala all other superhero costumes,) or to do a bit of both through the mockery of a gag costume. Because societal transgressions are normally fraught with fear and anxiety, we see a lot of transgressive attitudes externalized during this time, as well. (ala, girls in skimpy clothes. Transgressions are awesome.)
Saturn already represents a lot of fear for most folk. It was known as “The Greater Malefic” to classical astrologers, and was the seventh and last planet, representing the furthest reaches of the cosmos, the crossroads, a gatekeeper between this world and the next.
While modern astrology has made efforts to shine a more positive light on the curmudgeonly old bastard, there’s still no getting around that Saturn represents some pretty dark stuff, such as structure, boundaries, work, and life purpose. That may seem benign enough laid out like that, but structure can be grotesque – skeletons and innards and dank, smelly caves. Boundaries (whether personal or societal) are necessary and helpful, but the anxiety involved in either overcoming or working within boundaries can be maddening. Work is a real horror show for many people, and usually has nothing to do with fulfillment of a life purpose. And even that fulfillment itself carries with it a fear of success, which carries transformation on its broad back. Unpleasant experiences are almost always required in order for one to get where they need to be, and some are required to do the unspeakable.
Since Saturn’s ingress into Scorpio a few weeks ago, it is this darker side of Saturn that’s had its slimy underbelly exposed. As AYA President Austin Coppock remarked, “It sort of feels like it’s going to be Halloween for a couple of years.” Now the Sun’s annual trek into the same sign will throw on the high beams, especially since horror is Scorpio’s bread and butter. The Mars-ruled Water sign is a big fan of emotion as a weapon, and fear is usually the first dagger to fly from its scabbard when the scorpion is on the attack. Its sneaky nature also means that blending in is second nature, so costumes (disguises) are a must…however, to paraphrase the very foxy Irene Adler from BBC’s Sherlock, “no matter how you hard you try, disguise is always a self-portrait.”
With this in mind, let’s jump to a solar breakdown of the character of fear that Saturn will represent for you until it leaves Scorpio. What mask should you wear for the next couple of years?
*Please note that many of the best horror stories are multi-faceted. So for the spookiest possible costume, please read the sign of your Ascendant/Rising sign, as well as your Sun and Moon sign. Add sugar and mind-altering substances, mix well, bake at 666 degrees, and let cool.
Aries – Deceitful Predators
Fear isn’t something Aries likes to admit to. Like Scorpio, it is ruled by Mars, but its energy tends to ignite in a more obvious, visible fashion. It’s the gladiator, the samurai, the swaggering badass. It’s the sign of willpower and bravery, but also of their lame cousin, bravado. But there are some monsters that are simply stronger than you, and worse yet, most monsters don’t believe in a fair fight. Poisons, stealth assassination, mind-control, transformation and shape-shifting – these are all ways to fight too, but they’re not “honorable.” It’s the monsters without scruples who you’ll be learning to deal with this next couple of years.
Saturn will be transiting Aries’ 8th House, the place of death, sex, business deals, shared energy, absences. This is one of the three most-maligned houses of the twelve, as it represents a bunch of dark and shady stuff already. If functioning optimally, this is a place of wonderful give and take with others, where a loop of pooled resources is used to create growth and ecstasy through letting go and the processes of receptivity and openness. The reason this house is considered so dark, however, is that it’s very easy for give-and-take to turn into hostile takeover, and many predators will attempt to lure you into a process of sharing only to go back on their word and take everything. Just like Pennywise the Dancing Clown led little Georgie into the sewers with promises of sailboats, the predator dazzles with a colorful and attractive display, puts on welcoming face, and gets you close enough to rip your arm off.
Take, for instance, the xenomorph. This is the titular Alien from Ridley Scott’s 1979 space horror classic. The futuristic story has the crew of the Nostromo, a commercial towing spaceship, making an unplanned landing on a remote planetoid on orders from their employers. There, they stumble across a number of large eggs. One of these eggs opens, and a small creature, a “face-hugger” springs out and attaches itself to the face of the ship’s XO. It eventually detaches on its own and falls dead, and the crew believes that the horror is over. Then, during a meal, a creature bursts forth from the officer’s chest and runs into the bowels of the ship, where it quickly grows into a nightmarish super-predator and begins to hunt them all down. They are trapped on-board with an extremely dangerous animal that has no interest or capacity for dialogue, an alien that only knows how to take. It’s first step in its species’ proliferation is to use its host as an incubator, and then kill them.
Another example: probably the best and most classic example of this type of monster is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The vampire, of course, can only exist off of others’ life-force. They attempt to blend in and act like normal humans where possible, and lure their prey do their deaths with seductions of comfort, sex, and wealth. In the case of Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker is lured to Transylvania on the promise of a career-making business deal (once again, an 8th House affair,) where Dracula, in the guise of a kindly old man, uses him to find out all about London, which he plans to use as his new dwelling place and hunting ground. In some ways, a more sinister monster is at work here, as the vampire has cognizance of its actions, and because it used to be a human being. But like a sick addict, it is compelled by the hunger to take life. Even when it is able to share something, its tainted sharing usually results in a sort of mental infection, where they recruit others to do their bidding. We can see this at play in the character of Renfield, or in the more recent Swedish hit, Let The Right One In.
I’d be remiss to not include a different perspective: as the 8th is also the house of sex, any sexually transgressive horror stories belong here, too. I Spit On Your Grave falls into this category, centering on a woman who is raped by a gang and left for dead, only to return and exact her vengeance on them in a really brutal (though totally deserved) way. For a slightly different reason, all of the good Hellraiser titles seem to fall here too, exploring the horrible flipside of a successful shared energy. Here, what is shared is not pleasure, but terrible pain, and the place between the two concepts where the line gets blurry.
The good news is that these stories are full of champions, those who’ve learned the strengths and weaknesses of these predators and have devoted their lives to hunting them. For guys, see Abraham Van Helsing, Ash Williams of the Evil Dead series, the Frog Bros. from The Lost Boys, and others who stand up against the scourge of the undead. For ladies, Ellen Ripley from Alien is probably the best example…though there is something to be said for Carrie and Charlene McGee from Firestarter, both powerful psychics who lashed out against a corrupt system (“corrupt system” is a Saturn in Scorpio key phrase) which promised to share gifts with them, then reneged in a lethal way.
Taurus – Jilted, Scorned, Obsessed
While grinding through the 7th House, Saturn in Scorpio is likely to drudge up issues with open partnerships. “Open partnerships” are just what they sound like – could be a business partner, a partner in the workplace (like buddy cops,) or even an enemy with whom you have an open understanding of enmity. But most of all, astrologers use this place to talk about romantic partners, relationships and spouses. Therefore, the monsters you’re likely to encounter here are the ones you’re closest to, as Saturn in Scorpio teaches hard lessons about the structure of partnership.
There are a number of examples of monstrous stalkers, psycho exes, and lovers with a darkside populating the realm of horror. Because there’s rarely a supernatural element at play in these stories, they’re often billed as “thrillers” more than specifically within the horror genre, but the focus is still on fear and tension. Glenn Close’s rabbit-boiling turn in Fatal Attraction springs to mind, as does Marky Mark’s early role as an obsessed boyfriend in the 1996 film, Fear. The recently popular internet meme/series of videos centering around the “Overly Attached Girlfriend” is another good one, as are the Japanese concept of the “yandere” woman – one who is obsessed with her mate to a murderous degree – and the Hannya mask, which was used in Noh theatre to represent the spirit of a jealous woman-turned-demon. We’ve also got The Bride of Frankenstein, which in its way deals with the horror of arranged marriage and rejected affections. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven is worth mentioning here too, as it deals with a lonely lover’s anguish over both wanting to remember and also to forget his lost love, and how terrible it can be to be bound to someone’s heart forever.
Being that we’ve got a lot of female examples, let’s focus for a moment on The Phantom of The Opera. Before becoming a Broadway musical hit, the story was first a novel, and then a 1925 silent film starring Lon Cheney, which went down as a classic Universal monster picture. The plot focuses on a young singer named Christine, an up-and-coming understudy to the prima donna who has made great improvements since beginning a musical partnership with The Phantom, a shadowy man with an ingenious musical sensibility who lives in the bowels of the Paris Grand Opera. The Phantom, who terrorizes the management of the theatre into bowing to numerous demands, sees promise in Christine, and works from the shadows to help her. He also grows infatuated with her, and kidnaps her, “Rape of Persephone”-style, bringing her down into his lair. Here, she discovers that underneath his mask is a horribly disfigured face, just as his beautiful music masks his often ruthless and dastardly intentions.
This is especially apropos within this discussion, given that Taurus and Scorpio are opposite signs. With any axis such as this, there is a truth to the “opposites attract” axiom, as surface-level similarities with draw these types of people close to one another, and the subtle differences will seem fascinating. But when you get up close and rip the mask off, you may be utterly horrified to discover that you could not be more different. Both of these signs are obstinate, emotional, and like to hold a steady course through life. But where Taurus natives treasure Earthly, placid comforts, Scorpios often crave transcendence and power, or lapse into self-destruction and apathy. There’s a level of intensity that may be too much to hang with for the gentle, giant Taurean sensibility.
Also worth noting: while the 7th is generally considered a strong and positive house, being angular and the home of the Descendent power point, the Hellenists did caution that it is the setting place of the Sun, and thus, could be seen as the place where the ego goes to die. This is appropriate, given that partnerships require more than just one person’s will, effort, and input. At least, healthy partnerships do. In an unhealthy partnership, you might find yourself dominated and disintegrated by someone with a stronger personality. So be careful with that.
Gemini – Brains, Bodies, and Evil Monkeys
A lot of horror to be had in the 6th House, the place where Saturn will transit for Gemini. The 6th is widely considered one of the darker, less-fortunate houses. Its significations include work and daily life, slaves, and pets. But its primary signification will take the spotlight here, and that’s the realm of health and sickness. You can take your pick of epidemic flicks, from Outbreak to Contagion to the Japanese Infection. Poe’s Masque of Red Death belongs here, and Stephen King’s The Stand starts from this place, though it ends up opening up to a wider realm of horror as the story progresses. All portray a wide-spread disease that causes a terrible, fatal corruption to the body. Disease is also the most common explanation for zombie outbreak, such as the T-Virus of Resident Evil.
Zombie apocalypse is particularly appropriate here, because in the 6th House, Saturn in Scorpio will teach Geminis how to deal with corruption as part of a daily routine. A single zombie on its own is usually not that big of a threat – the real threat is infection, and the problems caused by epidemic. The corruption to structure is not only evident in the zombies themselves, but in the way the survivors must now adapt to every day life (“Was anyone bitten? What’s that wound from? Where can we get food and water next? What’s the best place to hole up, where would be easiest to defend?,) and in the shaky group dynamic often present in these sorts of stories (“Who’s leading this group? Can we trust them? Who’s the resident Starscream? Who’s having sex with who, and what problems will this potentially cause?”) Gemini is inherently cerebral and adaptable, so these concerns are workable so long as the cooler-headed Twin prevails.
Pets are also in the dominion of the 6th House, and stories like Cujo and Monkey Shines show how horribly wrong that can go. A synthesis of these two horrible concepts can be seen at work in Pet Sematary, where pets (and later, people,) buried on a certain spot return as evil versions of themselves. Although it’s worth noting that the most horrific thing in the story (at least in the movie version,) is the screeching, contorted form of Aunt Zelda, who is seen in flashbacks suffering from spinal meningitis, a regular, old disease that has nothing to do with zombies or the supernatural.
In any event, be on the lookout for cough and colds, as well as rotting structures within your daily life and workplace. Is there a gangrenous limb that needs to be severed?
Cancer – Far From The Tree
Like Scorpio, Cancer is one of the three Water signs, and as such, may be particularly receptive to the lessons of Saturn in Scorpio as it transits the 5th. Cancer, ruled by the Moon, is the most naturally nurturing sign in the zodiac, and tends to put the whole of its heart into projects – or people – that they are trying to raise up. This results in some controlling mommies and daddies, and the horror we’ll focus on here is that of the child who somehow goes bad. They are still your child, and yet, on their way to becoming their own person, they’ve seriously deviated from the flight plan, and in some ways it feels like they are no longer – or were never – yours to begin with. The Omen is a prime example, wherein an adopted child’s parentage is revealed to be Hellish indeed.
It may also be that the horror is not from the child going wrong so much as the fact that someone is threatening your child. We can see things like this in the recent Ethan Hawke film, Sinister, which features a fictional Pagan deity called “Bughuul, Eater of Children.” (Which is also something Saturn is known for. Excepting Zeus, he swallowed all his godling children whole to prevent a prophesy that foretold his down fall.) A more mundane version of this can be seen in thrillers like Ransom, or even in the action film, Taken. It may also not be an issue of child-rearing so much as the innocence of childlike figure arousing a parental instinct and masking malicious intentions. We see this at play in The Ring, as well as in Children of The Corn.
Moving away from children for a moment, the 5th is also a place of creative works, and corruption within the structure of creativity can be a lethal poison to the artist or craftsman. Maybe a short story you’ve been working on is taking on a character very different than what was intended, or is being co-opted and transformed by an aggressive collaborator. Or maybe like the Dr. Victor Frankensteins of the world, you’ll find that the success of your grand work is having terrible repercussions. Misery is another good example here, as an author’s success results in a crazy fan’s wrath when the story doesn’t go the way she wants it to. Be careful what you wish for, as good fortunes are just a coin flip away from a less desirable outcome.
Leo – Broken Homes
In the 4th House, Saturn in Scorpio will bring focus to hearth and home, to foundations. Is your doorstep unclean? The proud lions don’t like to admit that there may be dirt on their faces, let alone disrepair on the home front, so this might be a difficult transit.
There are a few different ways that this tends to manifest in horror stories. The most well-known is that of a bad place, a haunted house, and the disintegration of the family unit upon inhabiting this den of evil. The Shining, The Amityville Horror, and the less-impressive Burnt Offerings are all fine examples here. It may be, instead, that the whole family was corrupt and proud of it from the get-go, though this is obviously more horrible for hapless outsiders who stumble into their territory than it is for the family. Examples include the families from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of 1,000 Corpses, and on a sillier level, The Addams Family. The Munsters probably qualify too, but I never watched that show. Mrs. Bates and her scion from Psycho must be mentioned here, too.
Synthesizing both of these ideas is one of the most shocking movies I’ve ever seen, Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q. Not quite a horror movie, Visitor Q begins with a family unit that’s become fractured to a nigh-irreparable degree: the daughter has run away and fallen into prostitution. The father is one of her johns, is having an affair with a co-worker, and is on the verge of being fired from his already pathetic job. The mother is routinely beaten by the teenage son, who vents his frustration from being bullied back on the family. A mysterious visitor enters the picture, silently arranging circumstances that will cause the family to become closer to one another. In the process of healing their bond, however, they are forced to do more unspeakably horrible things than they ever did apart from one another. But at the end of the day, their familial love is reinvigorated, as is their twisted pride. The lesson seems clear: family above all else, even in the most disgusting and unforgivable circumstances. So roll up those sleeves, get your hands dirty, and root through that emotional garbage to find what’s important.
Virgo – Siblings and Silence
The 3rd House deals with making the rounds in one’s neighborhood, with siblings (or friends close enough to be siblings,) and with expressing the contents of one’s mind. Virgo, already sort of twitchy and nervous, may find that with Saturn in Scorpio, the caution will be the potential horror caused by making one’s voice heard. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can cause a domino effect of destruction in a social setting. Moreover, writers may fear causing offense with their work, being ostracized because of it, or in more oppressive environs, may fear imprisonment for airing their thoughts.
One of my favorite plays, Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, deals with this exact topic. I try to stick to movies, being more widely accessible to most folks, but I think this example hits the nail on the head. The plot centers around a man named Katurian, who has been brought in for questioning by the police in a fictional totalitarian stare. Katurian is a very prolific, if not widely-published writer of grotesque children’s stories. Nearly all of his stories feature children dying horrible deaths. Not a crime to write about that…at least, not until children start dying in the exact same manner that his non-published stories detail, and he’s held as the prime suspect in the investigation. He works frantically to clear his name and to figure out how this could possibly be happening, but there’s no denying that the origin of these crimes lies with the tales that poured forth from his mind, riddled with childhood trauma.
A more obvious and accessible angle can be found in the film Dead Silence, wherein a vengeful ghost will only murder those who scream or speak in her presence. Mary Shaw was a talented ventriloquist, who was heckled viciously by a local boy one night during performance. Though she stunned the audience with an impressive display of ventriloquism that put the boy in his place. He later went missing, and the townsfolk accused Mary of the crime, murdering her by cutting her tongue out. The focus here is certainly on thinking before speaking, especially with regard to the destructive nature of uniformed criticism.
The 3rd is also about twins and siblings. Dopplegangers and evil twins come into play here, as well as brothers and sisters with axes to grind. Michael Myers, of the Halloween films, is essentially a modern-day Cain to his sister’s Abel, a figure meant to be a natural compatriot and defender who instead hunts her down…and who never speaks.
Libra – The Precious
In the 2nd House, the focus of fear centers around the corrupting influence of worldly possessions and those who wield them. Anything you can own that others may covet, or which you go too far to defend, or which causes unnecessary worry or obsession. These are the things that Saturn in Scorpio will focus on for Libras these next two years. “Money is the root of all evil,” is a phrase to remember here, as greed and jealousy are primary symptoms of a corrupt element.
We see this manifest in a few different ways. Maybe the fear is of a plutocrat, controlling everything with their influence and leaving nothing for the rest of the world. This is The Devil card from the Tarot: the corrupt politician, the evil businessman, the mafia boss. Or maybe that same powerful person is willing to give you your heart’s desire if you will only accomplish a menial task for them, one that violates your morals as in Needful Things. It could be that the object or artifact itself holds some sinister power, like in the animated Heavy Metal, or as we see with the One True Ring. Do you go all Gollum over a particular possession? A car or computer, your wardrobe, a set of books?
On the subject of books, one of my personal favorite horror movies (and a less appreciated one to boot,) is The Ninth Gate. It deals with possessions as a corrupting influence, as Johnny Depp plays a rare books dealer who is commissioned to locate an original copy of a true Satanic Bible, one supposedly penned by Lucifer himself. He, like all the other dangerous characters pursuing the book, falls under its spell as he searches, growing closer to evil as he draws nearer to the book.
Some horror stories showcase this idea in a more overt way. While the Child’s Play films eventually turned into schlock-fests about dolls having murder sex, the original film holds up pretty nicely as a chilling example of a treasured object attaining malicious sentience. Christine features a murderous car, and of course, there’s always Deathbed: The Bed That Eats People to consider.
Scorpio – What Am I?
Scorpio, you’re a ruthless, guilt-stricken monster that puts everyone around you at risk. But you knew that already. Let’s discuss what Saturn’s going to put you through while transiting your sign.
Saturn’s about structure, rules, and responsibility. And as much as many of Saturn’s darker elements seem inherently Scorpionic, the fact is that Scorpio’s “ends justify the means” character often rationalizes boundaries away, whether the imperatives be lawful, moral, or personal. Getting the job done, killing the problem – this almost always takes precedence, but bending the rules is a slippery slope, can lead to a habit of ignoring structure where it might be beneficial.
Embracing structure, knowing when it can and can’t be avoided, knowing when it can be harnessed to beneficial effect and when you’re headed into a trap – these are all things that can help you do what you do.
Without these things, your Mars-ruled predilection may see you doing harm to yourself and others where none was even intended. A werewolf, transforming when your emotional full moon comes around and ripping everything to shreds, only to wake up with torn clothes and eviscerated loved ones. The fear here is of the self unrestrained, and the balancing act of putting a leash on that wolf. Too tight a grip makes a weak and domesticated wolfman, ineffective and not at all scary. And we know you’ve got to be able to use fear at times, so that won’t do. It’ll take a lot of hard work to find the right amount of slack to give yourself.
Another example, somewhat more relevant example of a monster without restraint would be the monster in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. We’ve already discussed Dr. Frankenstein’s horror under the Cancer/5th House section, but the monster himself is experiencing a different sort of horror. Cobbled together from pieces of dead people, Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t know why he’s alive. All he wants to do is find family, friends, people to connect with and share himself with. But he conjures such terror and loathing in those that he encounters, that he lashes out.
Such is often the case with the Scorpio heart, seeking connection but harming instead. Again, this is something that can be amended through proper boundaries, and through an installation of a life purpose or mission, another hard gift that Saturn offers. For example, Dexter Morgan from Showtime’s Dexter. His father recognized what he was from an early age, knew he’d grow to be a ruthless killer no matter what. Instead of shunning him, driving him further into the darkness, he showed him love and gave him structure. Thus, Miami gained an avenger rather than another aimless killer. Sayid from Lost is another great television example of a Scorpio struggling to abide by a moral code.
Of course, the best example is probably Batman, another traumatized child who molded himself into an avatar of fear, but who wields that fear as a tool for justice. Batman’s moral code is so rigorous that, despite regularly butting heads with perhaps the most vicious and murderous rogue’s gallery in all of comics, he refuses to take a life himself for fear that he would not be able to stop. Again, wielding fear as a restrictive element, a building block in the skeleton of his moral boundaries.
So while Saturn’s making himself at home in your shadowy hidey-hole, sheathe your claws and take a listen. The things that terrify you may become your best tools.
Sagittarius – Unfinished Business and Dark Recesses
The 12th House is thought by many to be the most horrific house out of the twelve. They saved the best for last…just for you, Sag! The twelfth represents things you feel bound to or trapped by, imprisoned by. Sometimes this imprisonment is self-imposed, as with those seeking the divine who cloister themselves into monasteries. The fear here, though, is of that which cannot be escaped. Of personal histories, of skeletons in the closet, of things that make it harder for a person to live with what they’ve said or done.
Wow, take your pick. There are so many horror stories explore this concept, from The Tell-Tale Heart to I Know What You Did Last Summer. So many slashers or monsters come back to avenge a wrong done to them by the protagonists – here we have something the person or group has done that comes back to haunt them, as with Valentine’s Day, or the Friday the 13th movies, where Jason Vorhees (and originally, his mother,) seek to kill those who they think have done them wrong: the teenagers who, as camp counselors, were supposed to looking after Jason in life. As a result, his grudge extends to any teens unfortunate enough to come to his stomping grounds down at Camp Crystal Lake. (And then later, he goes to Manhattan for some reason. And then outer space…) The Japanese “onryo” ghost follows this pattern too, an undying curse that strikes out at whoever they perceive as those who have wronged them. We see this happen in Ju-On, as well as in the crappier American remake, The Grudge. Actually, the Japanese are really fond of this, so you see this in Shutter, One Missed Call, and probably scores of other similar films.
Jason and his fellow slashers really bring this concept to a Sagittarian place, though. They are usually hulking behemoths, slow-moving executioners who cannot be stopped. In the same way the Sagittarius fervently pursues a singular path, so do the Jasons of the horror world slowly but surely creep towards their doomed target. They’re sort of like the Tonberry from Final Fantasy, if any RPG nerds are reading and get that reference.
I group Freddy Krueger in here too, along with any other mind-flaying characters. Now, Freddy does have a vengeance grudge, but he was sort of a scummy child-murderer in life, long before the parents of Elm Street lynched him. For that reason, I’d normally group him in the 8th House, but the method of execution he uses is decidedly 12th House stuff. Freddy attacks through his targets’ dreams, a place they’re bound to and cannot escape from, a place where personal histories, relationships, and characteristics can be used against them. Same can be said for 1408, an evil hotel room which traps its inhabitants inside and forces them to relive the same hour over and over, an hour where the room subjects them to a barrage of hallucinations and horrors that usually include some deeply personal issues that the target would rather forget about.
The Saw franchise fits this mold too, possibly best of all. Jigsaw isn’t just senselessly murdering folks – in his own messed up way, he’s trying to help them by binding in these elaborate murder traps. He takes the time to learn all about his target’s life, the ways that they’re wasting it or going astray, and then tests them accordingly. That the killer uses traps exclusively is indicative of the 12th House, as is the fact that each survival test is customized to the target’s personal failings.
And just as Jigsaw tests these people to see if they’re really willing to live, Saturn in Scorpio will ask Sagittarians to own up to the things they’ve done, to make peace with the closet full of skeletons, and muster the will to survive the transformative experience.
Capricorn – Hell Is Other People
The 11th is the House of friends and good fortunes. When fear is thrown into the mix, it calls for a restructuring of social circles which may result in a panicked frenzy of bridge-burning, and may leave the native a paranoid recluse.
The horror of this transit is perhaps best exemplified by The Invasion of The Body Snatchers. There have been a number of iterations of this classic story, wherein a town’s residents are slowly replaced by alien duplicates, but the creepiest version has to be 1978 film starring Donald Sutherland. The terrifying part about the invasion is how slowly and subtly it begins – an acquaintance suddenly acting strangely, like a new person. Then a small group who seems to be conspiring with one another. Suddenly, there’s a mob overrunning the town, and you and a small group are the only ones not pointing and hissing in a horrible, alien screech. Various other horror stories ape this pattern, like The Faculty and Stephen King’s Tommyknockers.
A slightly different way that this can manifest is in the fear of a welcoming group, wherein the fear is based on what they represent, and what you will therefore become by counting yourself among their ranks. Best example of this is the 1932 classic, Freaks, well-known for its famous, “One of us! One of us!” scene. The plot centers around a beautiful trapeze artist named Cleopatra, who seduces a sideshow midget after learning that he’s due a large inheritance. The titular sideshow freaks, frightening in appearance, but large in heart, make attempts to support their midget friend and welcome his new love into the fold. When her deception is finally uncovered, the group bands together to exact carnie justice, and it’s a pretty unforgettable cinematic moment.
Saturn is typically Capricorn’s homeboy. Make sure to listen up when he’s expounding on your social circles and your motivations for involvement therein.
Aquarius – In For a Penny
In the 10th House of career and honors, Saturn in Scorpio exposes the corrupting influence of the drive to achieve. Success is a frightening concept in many ways because driving toward it ups the stakes for a person, applying pressure to a life that might’ve been lived simply and with minimal ambition. The terror here is three-fold: the fear of what it takes to get to your goal, the fear of what happens if you don’t reach it, and the fear of what happens if you do. The fact that “success” is so nebulously defined by many is an additional cause for heartache and horror, as the societal idea of success may not fit a personal definition of what one would like to achieve.
American Psycho seems a commentary on what kind of person it takes to reach the general idea of American affluence and “success.” The protagonist, Patrick Bateman, is as mad as the title implies: a young Manhattanite investment banker of the 80’s Wall Street boom who gets his kicks by committing acts of serial murder. Obsessing over the peculiar, mundane aspects of his professional life, Bateman analyzes the color and texture of colleagues’ business cards (and, thus, their implied status,) praises and ridicules others on their fashion sense, and maintains a joylessly rigorous physical fitness routine. Indeed, the only things that seem to make him happy are Huey Lewis records and killing prostitutes. And yet, he thrives in this setting, continuing his rise to prestige even after attempting to confess all of his crimes to a colleague.
For a more classical and Aquarian look at the horror of success, consider H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, wherein a mocked scientist named Griffin alters his body’s refractive index, rendering himself effectively invisible. Here we see success of a goal, but not the honors that are supposed to go along with 10th House fare, as Griffin is unable to reverse the process or to enlist the aid of others to help him do so. Forced to choose between a life of invisibility or the life of a pariah (he has already assaulted several townspeople in a frantic attempt to make himself understood,) Griffin goes on a reign of terror against the society which refused to give him due credit for his Promethean discovery. A modern-day, less fantastic version of this personal horror can be seen in the Michael Douglas film Falling Down, where a laid-off, recently divorced engineer abandons his car in traffic and begins a shotgun rampage through Los Angeles. The honors he was due were revoked after years of work, and he became an “invisible.” He snapped under the pressure and lashed out, just like Griffin.
A final example is that of Charles Foster Kane, the lead character in Citizen Kane, a newspaper mogul so driven toward conventional ideas of success that he failed to note the corruption overtaking the structure of his personal life. Growing too obsessed with this area of life destroyed the rest of it, and left him a lonely shell of a man, despite his palatial estate, vast resources, and the power his name would evoke.
This may be a difficult transit for Aquarians. Though they have an affinity with Saturn through rulership, Saturn in Scorpio demands some work on the structure of the heart, a place many Aquarians are too heady to locate. Specifically, the lesson seems to be focused on emotional investment involved in professional matters, and the toll it may take on the rest of one’s life.
Pisces – Belief System Meltdown
Finally, we have Saturn in Scorpio transiting the 9th House of Pisces. The 9th, despite being cadent, is generally considered to be a beneficial house, signifying spirituality, long journeys, higher education. Referred to by Hellenistic astrologers as the House of the God, it is on personally-held beliefs and their challenges that we will focus here. Though I can think of a few examples for the other significations…
Heart of Darkness seems a meditation on the fearful nature of a long journey into wild territory, and Final Destination begins as, and remains, one of the many films that make one think twice about stepping onto an airplane. Compulsory education is an unpleasant and fearful endeavor, but higher education implies that the student has sought out knowledge, though what will that knowledge turn them into? Apt Pupil explores this line of questioning, as an American teen discovers that his neighbor is a retired Nazi in hiding, and blackmails him into sharing his experiences from his time at the death camps. The boy grows obsessed with Nazism, and in turn, the Nazi persuades him to achieve in high school. He emerges as a well-educated instrument of malice.
Back to belief. Religion often plays a key role in horror, being that the dark forces ]manifest from a place of “opposite.” Most often, they spring from demons and Satan, opposite of angels and God, though that gets flipped on its head in films like The Prophecy or Legion, where angels become the demons who want to exterminate humanity. Sometimes it is the fear of persecution and dogma that drives the story, like in The Pit and The Pendulum, which centers around the horrors committed by the Spanish Inquisition. Witches and heretics represent challenges to widely-held beliefs, and thus, were hunted. The Crucible is a chilling look at the way that mass belief can be wielded as a weapon.
The best of the bunch seem to merge these two ideas, though. The Exorcist, and all pretenders to the throne, centers on a priest whose belief system is fractured, who is going through a crisis of faith. There is an idea put forth by the Catholic Church that demonic possessions occur because God wants to temper and fortify the souls of the righteous in order to perfect them, and the ordeal of possession coupled with the rite of exorcism is one way to do this. In the case of this film, this would focus not just on Regan, the possessed child, but on the young priest, Father Damien Karras, whose dogma-weary faith is bolstered by seeing God’s dark opposite. For if the Devil exists, then God must be there, too
Subsequent exorcism movies like The Rite, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and The Last Exorcism similarly explore these concepts. From a different angle, so does Candyman, the black, male, hook-handed Bloody Mary, who survives through legend and mythos, and who emerges to kill again when that myth is waning.
Lastly, fear of a foreign belief system is relevant here, as the 9th House is indicative of long journeys, and thus, foreign travel. Another favorite of mine is the 1973 film, The Wicker Man, which stars Christopher Lee (not the godawful Neil Labute/Nic Cage remake.) In this tale, a very upright, uptight Christian police officer from mainland England flies out to Summerisle, a remote island off Britain’s coast, in order to investigate the reported disappearance of a little girl. Once there, he finds that all the residents are incredibly unhelpful, playing dumb at times and outright mocking his search at others, providing contradictory answers and doing everything to confound him. Undeterred, he continues his search of the island only to discover that all its residents hold nature-based Pagan beliefs, including the rite of ritual sacrifice in order to appease the harvest gods. Learning that they had a bad harvest the previous year and that their annual festival is to be held soon, he suspects that they intend to sacrifice the girl, and moves to intercede.
Our protagonist’s disgust at the Pagan practices of the Summerisle residents causes him to dehumanize them and consider them monstrous barbarians. This assumption blinds him to a much more sinister plot, and in the end, holding fast to his beliefs ends up being the source of his greatest horror.
And so, with Saturn in Scorpio here, the focus must be on an evaluation of corruption of belief. Too much of this can lead to a disintegration and plunge one into Nihilism, but refusing to investigate at all will keep one entrenched in the realm of blind faith, and ensure that they either become a monster who persecutes or be persecuted themselves. True faith takes temperance and sincere emotional investment, and Saturn’s transit through Scorpio asks Pisces to meditate on these matters.
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Planetary Reception, Part I
by Ryhan Butler
Reception, as an astrological technique and philosophy, has mostly fallen to the wayside in modern astrological literature. This is partially due to the rearrangement of the classical dignity scheme to make room for the modern planets, but misinformation has also played a big part. This is unfortunate because reception and the associated concepts serve to enrich our understanding of aspects and the accuracy of our delineations.In this short three part series we’re going to cover reception with great detail, but in this first part the focus is going to be on a medieval technique referred to as pushing.
Pushing is a medieval concept that, like the rest of reception, is mostly absent from modern astrological vernacular. This is somewhat understandable considering pushing is something that is only applies to aspects, so it tends to get overshadowed by the grandiosity of the aspect philosophy and doctrine as it operates mostly in the background and doesn’t need to be mentioned for an aspect to have meaning, but it plays an important part in it. There are several types of pushing (management, nature, and power), but the most common is management, which is also referred to as counsel.
Pushing management occurs during any applying aspect. The basic idea is that faster planets (classically thought of as “inferior” due to their placement in the Ptolemaic Spheres) will push their significations to the heavier or superior planets they apply to. These significations depend on numerous variables and are unique to each chart, though some generalizations still apply. For example, a planet that rules the Fifth house is going to signify children, creativity and good fortune. When the faster planet applies to the heavier planet, it implores the heavier planet to assist it in bringing its significations to pass.
The success or failure of pushing is determined by several factors including, but not limited to, the aspect type involved and the heavier planet’s nature. This calls for close scrutiny of both planets involved to determine if an aspect is going to have a desired effect. A good modern day analogy would be asking a favor of a stranger. The likelihood of this stranger assisting you is going to be determined by the same factors as pushing; how you approach them (aspect type), if they are generally friendly or unfriendly (their nature), if the two of you are in some shared circumstance (reception), and if they have the ability to do the job requested of them (placement).
In this example, the Moon applies to Venus through an opposition aspect, or, said another way, the Moon pushes her significations to Venus through an opposition. The questions an astrologer needs to ask in this situation are “Will Venus accept the Moon’s significations?” and “Will Venus be able to assist the Moon in bringing what she wants about?” So let’s look into those.
The type of aspect describes the manner in which the faster planet approaches the slower, so here the Moon has approached Venus with an opposition, which is the most inherently adversarial. This already colors this relationship with some difficulty. After this we need to consider the superior planet’s nature; Venus is an inherently benefic planet and will naturally try to assist other planets, so this is positive. Another consideration (which will be discussed in more depth later) is reception and here Venus receives the Moon into her exaltation, which is positive as Venus has opened herself up to the Moon and grants permission to what she signifies. So, will Venus accept the Moon’s significations? Yes, though the opposition will make it more difficult.
The second question still needs to be answered “Can Venus help?” The answer to this is no, since Venus is in her Fall in Virgo and lacks strength to assist or resources to provide. An analogy would be as if the Moon asked Venus to help her with an assignment and Venus agreed, only to find out the assignment was to translate something from Chinese and Venus doesn’t know how to read that language.
So what does this mean? How is this synthesized into an interpretation? If we were to imagine the example as a horary chart with Venus ruling the Seventh, we could take it as a question about a potential relationship. The potential partner would be open to the romantic advances of our querent since Venus receives the Moon and naturally seeks to unify, but would be unable to commit (due to the lack of dignity) to them perhaps due to something involving their career or some perceived status (being placed in the Tenth). It can be considered similarly in a natal chart with Venus ruling the Seventh and the Moon ruling the Ninth. Perhaps the native’s spouse is open to supporting the native’s religious practice, but is unable or unwilling to follow it themselves.
Pushing management implies that lighter planets rarely manifest their significations alone, and this is correct. This only occurs a couple of ways, the first being when a planet is not currently making any applying aspects. Not having a heavier planet to pass their significations onto a planet will try to do it themselves based on their own strength and nature. Another circumstance in which a planet must manifest its significations all on its own is if the lighter planet is applying to a heavier planet which is retrograde or Combust.
Applying to a retrograde planet results in what is called a return of light. Since the two planets are applying to one another, they essentially play a game of celestial hot potato with the significations. In the end, the significations remain with the originator, who gets them back with a big “Return to Sender” sticker. This is considered unfortunate unless the originating planet is dignified which gives them strength to accomplish their signification. Finally, applying to a Combust planet results in the light implied in the aspect getting lost in the brilliance of the nearby Sun. The message is lost. This can be mitigated if the heavier planet is Combust in its domicile or exaltation (being in its Chariot, and thereby protected from the Sun’s rays.)
A wealth of detail unfolds when we analyze aspects in respect to pushing. It also adds greater depth to our understanding of the general aspect doctrine. Still, it can only take us so far. The next step in understanding planetary relationships is to investigate reception. Reception is the reason why some squares succeed and others fail. It also has much larger implications on a planet’s overall health. Both the technical definition of Reception and its philosophical implications will be discussed in the next installment, Planetary Reception, Part II: Guests and Hosts.
About Ryhan Butler:
Ryhan is the creator of Medieval Astrology Guide, and has studied classical astrological techniques with an emphasis on medieval astrology for just short of a decade. He has lectured locally and as a part of national conferences, working to spread the techniques of medieval astrology to those who would otherwise not encounter them or may not immediately see their value. He is also an active member of the Association for Young Astrologers and is currently serving on the steering committee of the Association for Astrological Networking.
Interview With Astrologer Leisa Schaim
Leisa Schaim is a professional astrologer based out of Denver, Colorado. Her recent article on the ancient concept of sect, and its role in interpreting the Saturn return, was featured in last year’s premier issue of The Ascendant – AYA’s official journal. In this interview, Leisa speaks with AYA VP Nick Civitello on her experiences with Saturn as a tempering force, and how it shaped her role as an astrologer.
NC: Saturn’s on the rising here in New York as I type this, so let’s start there. Saturn returns have become a specialty topic of yours in the last few years. What drew you to this topic in particular?
LS: Well, I became interested in the Saturn return very early in my process of learning astrology. I had started to notice how pivotal that period of time was in so many people’s lives – that things that ended up defining their adult lives for decades afterwards would often have either their beginning or a defining turning point then. I’d always been sort of fascinated by the very different paths that people’s lives take, even before I was introduced to astrology, so this seemed like a major puzzle piece of how that happens.
At the same time, I’d also seen more than a few instances of tragedy or inordinate difficulty befalling people around this time. And as someone with a rather melancholic temperament, this had been a longtime preoccupation of mine more generally, that whole ‘why do bad things happen to good people’ question. So I guess that made me initially keep thinking about and watching the Saturn return phenomenon, to see if it could help me understand anything more about that question.
NC: And yet, cross-culturally, it doesn’t seem like there is any sort of adulthood ritual that centers around this time of life. In honesty, I hadn’t observed this make-or-break threshold period before I began studying astrology. What do you think it is about this time of life that is so crucial, and why do you think it’s not prominently recognized outside of our community?
LS: There have begun to be some pop culture references, especially the ’27 Club’ and so forth (musicians who died at age 27), and some references to the ‘quarter-life crisis’ (seems to be referring to either mid-20s or late 20s, depending on the author). But you’re right, it doesn’t seem to be a prominently recognized marker outside of astrology. I think this is partially due to it having such different specific manifestations in different people’s lives depending on their specific chart placements. Also, in terms of adulthood rituals, they traditionally would have been held so much sooner than the end of one’s 20s. So I think that another part of why it doesn’t have a recognized, fixed meaning in the larger culture has to do with longevity increasing so much over the last century or so; the late 20s occupies quite a different space than it used to, in which it’s almost acceptable to still be figuring out your place in the world, rather than having to be settled into that for a decade or longer already. So you’ll see Saturnian effects happening either way, but ones that seem to interact some with the cultural space of that age. Also, remembering back to my undergrad social sciences days, it was considered notable to even talk about adult developmental stages at all, and the models that did look at that included large age ranges together, like Erik Erikson’s young adult stage spanning 18-40 – they were really concerned with broader strokes of adult life stages than the Saturn return would be describing.
NC: As we’ve discussed, you’re well-known for working with Kronos. In fact, you co-write a blog named “Saturn Return Stories.” I don’t know your chart well. Is Saturn prominently placed? Do you consider yourself Saturnine in character?
LS: Saturn is near the top of my chart, so yes, somewhat prominently placed. It’s not the only planet that I’d consider prominent, but one of them. My primary temperament is melancholic, which is considered the Saturnine one. I’d say more life experiences than character, but that definitely becomes a bit circular.
NC: How did you come to astrology?
LS: I was always someone who wondered about the big picture of life, the ‘why’ behind everything. So I had done some searching, including living in Buddhist meditation centers towards the end of my college years. Around the same time, I found my first astrology book that went beyond sun signs and was temporarily very excited, but then put it aside.
Perhaps appropriately for the continuing Saturn theme, I returned to astrology through suffering. At one point in my early twenties I had gotten suddenly very ill, and I stayed that way for quite a while. Eventually I got a lot better, though not completely, and I thought it was behind me. But then a few years later I had a relapse, and consequently had a lot of free time alone. Browsing the internet, I came upon sites that featured full astrological charts, and I curiously started looking at my own to see if it could answer why I was going through hell. It seemed to match up with my experience, and so I kept learning from there.
NC: And what keeps you involved?
LS: I’d say what keeps me involved is that astrology continues to match up so well with life, and I find that fascinating. It’s remarkable that there are these maps of how we experience our lives, ourselves, and other people, that can show both the arcs of decades as well as the quality of a brief part of a day. In addition, I’ve had the experience of occasionally learning a new technique that gives new insight into the structure of how life and time actually operate, and I find that so fulfilling and kind of mind-blowing. I’ve always been a person who is both spiritually interested but also skeptical/wanting proof for things, and astrology is positioned so well at that exact overlap between the two.
NC: Out of curiosity, what was that first astrology book that went beyond Sun signs?
LS: That first astrology book was one that some astrologers like to laugh about, The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need – because of course, it’s hardly the only one you’ll need. But it does introduce a lot if you’ve only known about sun signs before that.
NC: I’ve only thumbed through that one, but I’ve heard other astrologers cite it as a great beginner text. Any other influences that you’d like to give some love to?
LS: Early on, I read pretty widely amongst the common modern astrology books and websites – Steven Forrest, Stephen Arroyo, Rob Hand, many others. I later studied Hellenistic astrology with Chris Brennan, which initially gave me quite the paradigm crisis, because the fact that those principles and techniques worked as well as they did led to immediate philosophical implications that changed my entire orientation to astrology. However, I now find that learning invaluable for accurately understanding concrete areas of a person’s life, as well as providing some eerily specific timing techniques; I currently focus more on that side of things in consultations, though I appreciate knowing psychological approaches as well to bring in when relevant.
NC: What do you think the astrology world needs now?
LS: In my dream world, there would be colleges offering financial aid where one could learn astrology, much like Kepler College was trying to do before with earning accreditation. That is pretty near impossible right now given the status of astrology in the larger culture, but I say that because otherwise the path to comprehensively learning astrology well can be extremely piecemeal and take longer than it needs to. Of course there are some schools, but then you need the money to attend, which not everyone has.
NC: Any advice that you could offer to young astrologers and aspirants?
LS: There are two main pieces of advice I would offer to younger people interested in astrology.
The first is to meet other astrologers. You can learn so much more quickly when not in a vacuum, and it helps more quickly filter out the non-essential or questionable things out there. The internet is great resource of free information, but the quality completely spans the spectrum, and on your own you can waste a lot of time sorting through it all. So I’d say go to conferences and join dedicated astrology forums, and then you can continue those conversations when you’re back home.
The second would be to always test what you read against real life. Astrology, at its best, puts our lives into a greater meaningful perspective and offers insights we might not have realized on our own. But the flip side of that is that spiritual/metaphysical theories can be put forth that may or may not line up with reality. So it’s an important discernment process to try on what you’re reading and see if it does line up or not with your life and those of others you know well, and what you know non-astrologically of the wider world.
NC: Thanks very much for talking with us, Leisa.
Mars in the House of Death
Our guest blogger this time is Dr. Jennifer Zahrt, who completed her PhD in German literature and film at UC Berkeley. She is the senior book editor at Sophia Centre Press, and the deputy editor of “Culture and Cosmos,” a journal of the history of astrology and cultural astronomy.
Elsbeth Ebertin (1880–1944) was a German graphologist and astrologer famous for once predicting the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, as well as for being the mother of cosmobiologist Reinhold Ebertin (1901–1988). Few people know, however, that she also wrote a novel.
Ebertin began her career as a writer and graphologist but quickly became a prolific and prominent astrologer, covering topics such as the astrology of Jacob Böhme, for example. In 1924, she tried her hand at fiction producing the novel Mars in the House of Death (Der Mars im Todeshause), wherein she attempted to persuade readers of the validity of astrology by depicting a couple’s experience with an astrological prediction.
The novel carries the subtitle “An Astrological Film-novel Based on an Actual Event,” and in 1925 the text was filmed as It Is Written in the Stars (In den Sternen steht’s geschrieben) by Münchner Lichtspielkunst AG (Emelka) in Munich. That Ebertin’s novel was translated to film reveals the affinity between astrological narratives and visual forms, even though the title of her film—It Is Written in the Stars—also belies the underlying primacy of textuality in celestial and early cinematic legibility. Unfortunately, the film version of Ebertin’s novel has been lost. However, copies of the novel remain, and the first-edition cover reveals a compelling mixture of astrological symbol with celestial vision (Figure 1). It depicts the glyph of Mars suspended in space, as if the glyph itself were the actual planet.
Set entirely in the later years of Wilhelmine Germany, the story opens with the discussion of Herr Heinz von Behren’s horoscope. A circular graphic of his natal chart appears on the third page to illuminate the reading. Von Behren’s wife, Adele, is taken aback when she reads the prediction that her husband will be killed suddenly. The von Behrens allude to this prediction throughout the text as if it were some kind of curse hanging over their marriage. Neither character practices astrology directly in the text, nor do they have any direct narrative dialogue with astrologers. Interestingly, though, the husband visits a male astrologer (the one who predicts his death), and the wife begins to learn astrological symbolism from a female astrologer. Adele never learns the technical side of astrology, for at the end of the novel, when a more detailed interpretation of her husband’s horoscope is revealed to her and the reader, she maintains that she cannot understand the technical astrological terminology.
The astrologer’s final interpretation of von Behren’s horoscope enhances the stress on astrology as a diagnostic tool. Even though the interpretation includes a prediction, it only serves its purpose in the narrative after the plot event—the death of the husband (no surprise!)—has passed. There is a tension between the novel’s explicit desire to prove that the astrologer issued a successful prediction and the novel format itself which betrays a fundamental determinism—the plot is already written. The result is that the astrological prediction can only ever really be diagnostic in this narrative form, as persuasive as it might be to want to believe that the prediction was accurate. Ultimately, despite its own intentions, Ebertin’s novel shows that the practice of astrology in Germany was moving in the direction of becoming a diagnostic art aimed at unlocking the riddles of human psychology.
Even though her own astrology is informed by Theosophical interpretations, Ebertin takes part in the early twentieth-century trend in Germany of using astrology as a psychological diagnostic tool to aid the individual in developing self-understanding. She joins authors and astrologers such as Oscar A. H. Schmitz, Count Hermann Keyserling, Fritz Werle, Herbert von Klöckler, and Olga von Ungern-Sternberg, among others, whose narratives of astrological experience provide evidence of the significant role astrology played in the lives of individuals during the Weimar Republic.
 See her Historische und zeitgenössiche Charackterbilder nach Handschrift, Bild, Nativität, und Lebenswerken bedeutender Denker und Dichter [wie: Dante Alighieri, J. Wolfgang v. Goethe, Friedr. Nietzsche, Aug. Strindberg, Oscar Wilde, Gust. Meyrink, Joseph Aug. Lux] (Freiburg [Baden]: Fr. P. Lorenz, 1921). I find it interesting that she includes Meyrink in the same lineup as Dante, Goethe, and Nietzsche. Most of Ebertin’s texts were published through the Regulus Verlag in Görlitz. Later this press would be abused by British psychological warfare in WWII. See, Howe, Astrology: A Recent History, esp. 116, 218.
 Willy Reiber directed the film, and the cinematographer was Franz Koch. See “Vom Sternen zum Stern,” Die Filmwoche 19 (1925): 449.
Roles of Destiny
While I was researching and writing on different astrological aspects, I found some interesting coincidences with actors that played out the essence of an astrological aspect in a movie. Those that had the same aspect in the natal chart were able to really portray the energy in an effective manner, which makes sense because they understand the flavor of the dynamics and probably have experienced and played out the role in some form or the other.
The first person that came to mind in relation to the deep analytical nature of Mercury Pluto aspects was Agatha Christie, the crime novelist. Her stories were very skillfully designed, as she uses a combination of circumstances, personality and motive to build the profile of the criminal. But the real success of her stories in the big screen goes to actor David Suchet, who portrays the detective Hercule Poirot. So it was very interesting to find out that both Agatha Christie and David Suchet had Mercury Trine Pluto and were able to reflect this energy through their writing and acting respectively. In 1991 David Suchet received the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) for his role as Hercule Poirot.
Glenn Close, in the movie “Fatal Attraction,” plays the role of Alex Forrest, a neurotic and complex single woman who has an affair with Michael Douglas and eventually tries to kill him. This role reflects the negative manifestation of a Venus Pluto aspect with the jealousy, manipulation, and intense obsessions. Glenn Close played this role to a hilt and was nominated for best leading actress in 1987 for this movie. Not surprisingly, she has a Venus Pluto square in her natal chart and hence was able to accurately feel and express the emotions behind this character. This is not an easy role to play. From the chilling smile to the menacing looks, she really understood this character, as there was a part of it within her.
Saturn Neptune aspects are sometimes about being there but without a sense of belonging, having but not owning, an ego that needs to be surrendered and a reality that eventually disappears. This energy was wonderfully captured in the Oscar winning movie “Last Emperor” which is the story of “Puyi,” the last emperor of China. Although he becomes emperor at the age of 2, he has no real power and is protected by the staff from being exposed to the real world outside the walls of his palace. He has no real knowledge or strength in defending himself or his country and ends up becoming a puppet emperor for the Japanese. When the Japanese lost to Russia, Puyi was imprisoned and forced into a communist reform program for many years. When he was eventually released, he took up a job as a gardener in a botanical garden. What an amazing journey in one lifetime! This character was wonderfully played by John Lone who won the Golden Globe award for best actor for this movie and has a Saturn Neptune conjunction with the Sun at the midpoint of the aspect. Throughout the movie he expresses the subtle discomfort involved in realizing that he has no real power. With Saturn Neptune aspects, real power is found by being of service, and Puyi only finds that when he finally becomes a gardener. The Emperor Puyi himself had a Saturn Neptune trine and hence was able to flow though this aspect without much resistance.
These instances show that aspects in our natal chart in many ways define the energy we express and what people see in us. It therefore makes sense that actors are often chosen for roles that are symbolic of a particular aspect in their birth chart, especially in situations where there is a good fit. Also, when we watch movies, we may be more appreciative of actors that exude energy that is reflective of aspects in our own birth charts. I admire Agatha Christie and the lead actor, David Suchet, as I share the Mercury Pluto trine with them. These studies repeatedly confirm that energies seen in our birth chart are archetypal and hence can recognize and connect with similar archetypes all around them.
About Manda Selva
Manda Selva is a professional NCGR certified astrologer who lives and practices in San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a website and blog, http://www.Astromanda.com where she can be contacted for chart readings. In her practice, Manda uses the principles of Psychological Astrology in combination with the Uranian technique of midpoints.
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