Nothing like the Sun…

As Venus prepares to retrograde in Capricorn, I can’t help but think about what she and her retrograde signify in our larger American society. One manifestation of my recent thoughts on her comes from my studies in Islam. In Islamic thought, there’s the concept of Allah (G-d) as reflective of two principles: Tanzih and Tashbih. With the concept of Tanzih, everything in the Cosmos is unlike Allah as Allah is incomparable and transcendent. It’s the opposite of thinking that God is everything and everything is God. With the concept of Tashbih, everything relates or is like Allah in that Allah has those traits or is the source/embodiment of a trait that we express as well, like love or mercy. One interesting distinction is that Tanzih often emphasizes how Allah has distance from us through wrath or judgment. Tashbih relates more to the mercy and compassion of Allah.

If you’re curious about how Venus relates to race, racism or injustice, you might want to start here with Nick Dagan Best’s amazing correlation between Venus cycles and African American history. In that blog post, Nick does an amazing job of illustrating that the similitude function of Venus warps in American polity when it comes to race. It becomes a dissimilitude instead of a similitude. This dissimilitude between what’s perceived as Black & White is what’s at the heart of the unjust experiences of Black people. In fact, it was a few weeks before the last Venus retrograde in May 2012 that much of Black America was mobilized to bring George Zimmerman to justice for the murder of Trayvon Martin in late February of that year. And then he got off this year. I’m not in the position to debate the measure of justice Trayvon’s family received as I didn’t watch the case closely. However, it’s become apparent to many that the “Stand your ground” laws and practices are coming under question, like with the cases of  Marissa Alexander in Florida (again) and Renisha McBride in Detroit, MI. With the McBride case about to go to trial, I find it all too strong a parallel with what we were contending with during Venus’ last retrograde.

But what set me flowing about Venus retrograde as a manifestation of Tanzih or what’s incomparable is the rash of “blackface” shenanigans we had this past Fall. Here’s a piece from fellow Ebony.com writer Jamilah Lemieux about it.  But a thought occurred to me this year about blackface that hadn’t before: it would seem some White folks find being a Black person in costume incomparable to their own experience without wearing brown or black make-up. That’s bizarre since I’ve never donned any White make-up to be any number of White people I’ve been in my life.  It’s as if the color of a Black person’s skin becomes the only pathway to finding a shared point of humanity in “being” or looking like the person. This not only shows a paucity of imagination, but empathy as well. It’s as if for these folks, some of them even good hearted in wanting to pay tribute to some notable Black person, Blackness is a thing so incomparable to their own Whiteness, so tanzih in their own experience, that they can not enter the guise of someone else without painting themselves. That’s profoundly sad. It’s not even maddening for me anymore.

I’m pretty sure the answer is not just in telling folks to step out their “Tanzih” zone and reach for more Tashbih. I think we can find a more nuanced way to appreciate space for both. That’s what made me think of Shakespeare’s Love sonnet 130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

What’s beautiful about this sonnet is how Shakespeare expresses how we can have the idea of the incomparable yet find love and appreciation all the same without denigration. A love sonnet is naturally under the auspices of Venus. A Venus in Capricorn is an astrological marker for how Venus seeks to find and experience value in the world of competence and materialism. Taken together, I hope we experience events, whether it’s the McBride case or Alexander case, or, heaven forbid, something new, that help us bridge the gaps in our imagination and empathy. That we find more space for tashbih and reserve the space for the incomparable for Supreme values that borrow from the Divine, but can never embody wholly as humans. One of those values is not your skin color, though.

Happy Full Moon!

Here’s how the Venus retrograde may manifest for some by Sun, moon or rising sign this week:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]


Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-1216-1222#ixzz2nlP9euLq
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Fast and furious: Five Things To Consider with Mars in Libra (starting Friday!)

I can’t help but think about an odd synchronicity between the death of Paul Walker, the newest details about the Metro-North train derailment in the Bronx  and tonight’s new moon at nearly 11 degrees of Sagittarius. If we make allowance of a little more than a degree of orb, tonight’s new moon is conjoined to the fixed star Antares.  I’m a big fan of Marina Partridge’s thorough breakdown of the fixed stars, but this keyword breakdown stunned me:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 2.26.35 PM

Seems almost too fitting to describe how “fast and furious” can get you in trouble. It’s believed that Walker (who starred in six films called “Fast and Furious”) was a passenger in a car that was “joyriding” too fast. It seems that Metro-North train that derailed was also going too fast. That’s a kind of sober reminder for all of us to slow down.

For the astrologically astute, you might notice that the fixed star, Antares, references Ares, the god of war. Ares is what we now call Mars, from Rome.  The other big celestial event is that Mars goes into Libra on Friday and that’s where he’s going to stay until July 2014!  That’s a long freakin’ time!  As I’ve tweeted recently  and put in this week’s horoscope for Libra, it’s ultimately a good thing for Libras, whether we’re talking those who have the Sun, moon or rising in Libra. You’ll be a little more amped to kick ass, especially if someone has been showing theirs to you.  But if we can step away from “signology” for a minute–when we’re overly concerned about events by “our” signs, I’d like to talk about Mars in Libra itself.  Mars in Libra is a planet in detriment, meaning that he’s in a sign that’s the opposite to his home, Aries.  More specifically, he’s in a sign of Venus; so the “god” of war has to use Venusian charms and wiles, like diplomacy, manners, or consensual debate/discussion. Mars can’t stand those things.  I talk a little more about the difference between planets in detriment & fall here. But here’s a little more to know about a planet in detriment.  Regardless, Mars is gonna be a testy little bugger, but this could lead to good, if not great, things if managed with care.

Here are, at least, five things to consider with Mars in Libra for the next 7 months

1. Slow the heck down. Mars is going to be opposite Uranus about three times in the next 7 months, including exactly on Christmas Day. Mars opposite Uranus is a classic signature for accidents or sudden disruptions. Of course, this could include all the stuff you can’t control, but get real about the things you can control like…slow down.

2. Nice-nasty. Like I said above, Mars’ natural inclination is not to be nice, though it’s not necessarily to be mean either.  Overall, he just wants to fulfill an action as effectively as he can. His emotions or those of others only come into play if there’s a hold-up or some frustration. In Libra, he’s encouraged to think about other people’s feelings. When that happens, he could be inclined to be what’s called “nice-nasty,” meaning he has a veneer of niceness to his nastiness.  You know like when you say to your honey, “Could you pass me the damn remote, please?”  Ain’t nothin’ cute about passive-aggressiveness.  If you feel aggressive, own it first. Doesn’t mean you have to act on it, but only unpleasantries can ensue if you don’t acknowledge it in the room with you.  Once you acknowledge it, perhaps you can tone down the aggressiveness and somehow get back to the action that’s required or requested, perhaps even pleasantly.

3. Learn the difference between debate and an argument.  I’m sure there are cleverer, wiki-friendly descriptions of the difference between the two, but as someone who has been in a lot of debates, even a noted debate champion, I have my own distinction. With a debate, you’re examining the pros & cons of ideas, evoking either evidence or examples. In an argument, you’re examining the pros & cons of feelings. If discussing pros & cons for feelings sounds odd to you, then, congratulations, you have a glimpse of how pointless arguments can become. (Of course, debates can quickly become arguments, so it’s important not to “catch feelings.”)  Mars particularly gets thorny here, because he likes to win and thinks when doing something Libra-like, it’s still about winning.  That’s great if you’re a trial lawyer, but not so awesome if you’re discussing how you feel and your partner wants you to provide corroborating evidence with dates and witnesses for said feeling.  Libra expressions help us cultivate more “we” than the winning. There is a way to have both, though.

4.  Think about more win-win scenarios. Mars likes to think either a winner takes all or somebody’s gotta lose in order to win. In Game Theory, this is called a zero-sum game. In the hood, it’s called going out like a sucka. But these are not the only ways to victory. Win-Win goes beyond compromise or lopsided victories to envision outcomes where people can get maybe even more of what they want, if they’re willing to think out of the box, collaborate or re-direct their priorities.  It’s great to cultivate the winning spirit, but, perhaps, Mars’ long stay in Libra will reflect a change in more people seeking win-win solutions.

5. Standing up for real justice. Who would’ve guessed some 10 years ago, with the proliferation of smart phones with cameras, that we’d use the cameras more to film and post injustices for entertainment than to use the actual phone feature to call for help when an injustice is taking place?  For instance, like this or this.  My heart has been warmed by the outcries of people decrying unfair wages in fast food and retail jobs, but there’s a lot more work to be done. And it has to be a real sense of justice, not false cries for “justice” as we saw from “Bachelor” producer Elan Gale as discussed here.  We also later learn that Diane has cancer, unfortunately.  Yeah, Elan, live tweeting how you’re passing notes to what appears to be a self-indulgent, self-entitled woman was funny with the first note; but the subsequent later notes, a la “eating a d*ck” admonition ain’t a way to stand up for the “little guy” in retail or service industries.  Hopefully, we’ll do better before Mars moves on home into Scorpio in July.

So, I hope you’re better prepared for Mars in Libra on Friday.

In the interim, here are some horoscopes for how this week, including Mars going into Libra, may affect your favorite signs:

Aries [March 21st to April 19th]

Taurus [April 20th to May 21st]

Gemini [May 22nd to June 20th]

Cancer [June 21st to July 21st]

Leo [July 22nd to Aug 21st]

Virgo [Aug 22nd to Sept 21st]

Libra [Sept 22nd to Oct 21st]

Scorpio [Oct 22nd to Nov 21st]

Sagittarius [Nov 22nd to Dec 21st]

Capricorn [Dec 22nd to Jan 20th]

Aquarius [Jan 21st to Feb 18th]

Pisces [Feb 18th to March 20th]

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/life/zodiac-lounge-your-horoscopes-this-week-122-128#ixzz2mM0gB57Z
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The Astrology of being a House or Field Negro

I’m glad we have an extension of Godwin’s law that states we’ve reached the end of a discussion online (or perhaps even in person) when an issue or thing is compared to the Nazis or Hitler. But is there a law for when a conversation starts with comparing people to “House” slaves or “Field” slaves?  “Quest for Fire” star Rae Dawn Chong found out about this hard way when she called Oprah Winfrey a “field slave” last summer, and her already languishing reputation and career took another toke. But apparently astrology bookseller and practitioner David R. Roell hasn’t learned that talking about “house” slaves & “field” slaves starts at a dead end and stays there.

Yesterday a Black woman and subscriber to Mr. Roell’s weekly newsletter wrote me an email expressing her outrage and upset over this recent edition of his newsletter. It was also in my inbox, but I hadn’t gotten to downloading it or reading it.  I scanned it and was horrified that a reasonable person would write such…baleful misinformation and, ultimately, racist delineations of charts.

I suspected Mr. Roell was about to land in hotter water than the hero in “Mandingo” when he started off with “I wanted to compare the chart of a reincarnated house slave with that of a reincarnated field slave, as the differences should be stark. (emphasis mine).”  In fact, he clarifies when he says, “ALL (original) Afro-Americans are descended of slaves and it should be fairly easy to distinguish between reincarnate house versus field as one will be generally well-adjusted and the other will not.”  *Steps away from the computer, breathes, has sip of coffee*

Okay, let me start with a confession.  I’m not a big fan of reincarnation. I know a lot of astrologers and fellow “New Age” light workers are into it, but I’ve always been more on the skeptical side. Mr. Roell’s column hasn’t helped. I mostly shy away from the belief in reincarnation because there’s no way to independently know, other than one’s own memories, who or what you’ve been. I also would say that the rules for reincarnation, in terms of how long it takes to reincarnate, where the souls come from or where “new” or “young” souls come from (or why) sounds fuzzy and whimsically mysterious to me.  I’ve been to India and read a lot on it there and in the States. But let’s just say I’m glad the Abrahamic traditions don’t put much exoteric emphasis on reincarnation at all. (Now I generally have my own misgivings about the afterlife period, but that’s a different post.) So, generally, I’ll take someone’s personal testimony about their “past life” at its own anecdotal face value. But when other people start conjecturing on what other people are, I don’t know where the guideposts are, with or without astrological charts.  Back to Roell’s article.

 First, let’s forget that no one generally has used the term Afro-American in print since the late 80s, and that fortunately Mr. Roell never graces us with that term for African Americans in his article again. (He just uses the lower case b for Black almost the whole time. Just as annoying, but venial.)  Let’s also sidestep that he proposes that an astrological chart can do something that I’ve never read a chart purported to be able to do, like tell whether someone is a slave or not, especially whether one is a REINCARNATED slave, with a specialization in the field or domestically.  Last I checked, if I gave an astrologer just a chart and said nothing else, I’m pretty certain he or she wouldn’t be able to tell me clearly, certainly or consistently what race, gender, sexual preference or class the owner of the chart was. However, Mr. Roell claims that the markers for a house or field slave would be…stark. Of course, Mr. Roell never clarifies what all those expected markers should be or are.  He just tells us who is a “reincarnated” field, house or minstrel slave.  I’m sure Toni Morrison, who wrote a compelling book on enslavement that I suspect Mr. Roell has never read, Beloved, would be elated to know that she might be either a reincarnated house or minstrel slave.

But let’s forget the reincarnation jazz. Let’s address why bringing up house or field slaves is a bad idea for most pursuits. I don’t intend for this to become a staggeringly long post, so I’ll truncate the lesson.

First, US Slavery was a horrible, horrific, life threatening and mostly life-shortening congenital condition for every enslaved African, whether they were in a house, on a boat, with a goat, in a field, or in the street. It is a myth that enslaved people who worked in the house had better lives than those in the field. They may not have had to work in the hot sun, but they worked equally long, absurd hours without compensation and in fear of their lives and loved ones every day and perhaps all day for the entirety of their lives.  Also, contrary to beliefs even among some Black people, field or house “Negroes” were no more ill-disposed or favorable to “The Man” or each other based on their station. There’s no evidence, as Mr. Roell suggests, that “field slaves” neglected or detested their children. Or house slave children were more loved consistently. Many a child was taken forcibly from his or her parents, but that doesn’t mean that child was loved less. And it didn’t matter whether you worked in the Big House or in the field. Your life and those you loved were always in jeopardy.  Like anybody in the world, enslaved Africans wanted freedom whether they worked in the house or in the field. Even George Washington’s prized slave who served as his main chef ran away. The big to-do about house and field “Negroes” is an a posteriori reading of enslavement that was not the documented experience of the horrors of those enslaved.

I asked, in private correspondence, if Mr. Roell had read any slave narratives or emancipation narratives, like Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, for that matter. He pasted back an excerpt from an article in Wikipedia on the life of Frederick Douglass. I took that as a NO. If he had, he would have known about the desperate letters former enslaved Africans wrote, or had written for them by kind literate folk, looking for their wives, husbands and children.  I tried to tell him that I had 2 degrees in African American Studies and the coursework for a doctorate in the same field, never mind growing up Black. But he still wanted to play expert. White privilege is a hell of a drug, reincarnated or not.

But the most disturbing feature I found about Mr. Roell’s piece was that he seems to think enslavement is the only reincarnation starting point for Black people. I mean, damn, it’s one thing to have the historical legacy of one’s skin, but my soul can only be Black as well? In an email reply to me about this, he said, “People in fact reincarnate as groups, which are large and tend to be self-replicating over the centuries.”  Apparently, he seems to think that whatever societal grouping of one era becomes the template for your soul’s future as well. Or more insidiously, it doesn’t matter what’s the soul’s subjective experience, only the “objective” nature of the society in which it had been last born matters.  So, according to Mr. Roell, it doesn’t matter if I saw myself more as a preacher than a slave if I were in the antebellum South, I’d reincarnate with my race, not according to my religion or other practicing folk. This posits that one’s race or gender is as important for the afterlife than how one thinks or personally reflects on one’s own life. And that, ladies and gentlemen, sounds batshit insane and completely counterintuitive. If anything, most narratives about reincarnation mostly fall along the lines of whether the transmigration of souls happens with families, but not races. What’s more, other notions of reincarnation are broad enough to include other spectrums of life besides human. Why Roell chooses to fixate along ethnic or racial lines is beyond me.

And, I guess one’s gender remains fixed too.  Apparently, since he looks at reproductive signatures in their charts, these five Black women athletes were women in past lives too. So, these women’s lives and achievements are shackled by their racialized and engendered identities in this life and the previous one. You can’t even be free dead.

As for the astrology of what he says about these five high achieving Black women, he seems to dwell on the fact that they often have detrimented Venuses or other planets. He seems to imply that these placements “prove” they disliked themselves; are angry; disliked having children; and prompted them to be great athletes to escape the shackles of their past lives.  Never mind that Mr. Roell found the names for his “study” from a website that seemed to just put something together to celebrate Black History Month–fitsugar.com. But he seems to ignore other athletes, men and women—white, Black or otherwise, who have a Venus, Mars or other significant planet in fall or detriment, like Muhammad Ali, Phil Mickelson, Rocky Marciano, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Diana Nyad, Michael Phelps, and Roger Federer, to name several. If these Black women, “all reincarnated field slaves,” are such as their charts indicate, what about all those other athletes with challenging Venuses and other planets?  The truth, most likely, has nothing to do with the suspected past lives of these athletes that we can discern and certainly not just by their current race, gender, sex or sexual preference. In fact, like most times, the truth is probably far more complicated than that…and that’s what could set us all free.

What Mr. Roell seems to forget, and I did mention this in our private correspondence, is that so many men and women struggled for their freedom or longed for it in their lives. Why would they desire to return to slavery when they died? To be with loved ones, they also longed to set and see free? Likewise, what about the tens of thousands of historically freed women and men in the South and North? What were their reincarnation narratives? And was this migration of souls only reserved for the US? Didn’t many enslaved Africans have lives in other places before landing in the US, especially before the 19th century?  You’ll notice I use the phrase enslaved African more than I use slave. Simple reason: slave seems to suggest that all that person knew was being a slave rather than a forced condition on a human being who had an origin. And the legacy of enslavement wasn’t just restricted to the US.  Enslavement was rife throughout the New World and key parts of the Old World. So it’s fitting that Mr. Roell didn’t want to address the “immigration” issue of Shirley Chisolm because reality doesn’t fit his surreality.  Human trafficking doesn’t sit still for anyone or in anyone’s neat schemas of the world.

For Mr. Roell, it seems that slavery has become more of a reified thing for Black people than our own autonomous experience as fully-fledged human beings. Explains how it seems so compelling and stark to see how we transport our pain from life to life, only along racial lines.  This all becomes clear toward the end of his article when he writes, “Intense desire is the first step out of slavery. Time will heal these people. Hopefully the larger white/Hispanic society will help and not hinder.”  The desire, if Mr. Roell had bothered to actually read a slave narrative than read only about slavery, was always there.  And has been there through every moment of African American history.  And Blacks were as much the agent and inspiration for emancipation of themselves as we have been for Native Americans, Latinos (not “Hispanics. Again, I wonder why Mr. Roell’s ethnic lexicon is so dated), LGBQT folks, the physically challenged and White women in this country. So Black people are not some piteous group of people awaiting liberation in this life, the last life…or the next.

Wind Chimes…

On All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween), we lost a great and notable spiritual teacher, Grandmaster Kham. Today is his memorial service, the day we say goodbye as a community.

Grandmaster Kham, photo credit: Zamani Feelings, 2013

Grandmaster Kham, photo credit: Zamani Feelings, 2013

If you haven’t ventured to Brooklyn or NYC, you might not have heard of him. It’s also possible you have. He was a venerable spiritual teacher to many.

Off and on for the last 8 years, he had a spiritual meditation and healing center across the street from my apartment. I never meditated in there or got any healing; but when I stopped in to say hello, he was always kind and supportive. He always introduced me to people in his shop as “The Professor” and would recommend my services to them.

He had known of my work for years, including when the Zodiac Lounge used to be right up the street at its birthplace, the now defunct Food 4 Thought Cafe. He stopped by once to support  when we were there. The last time he came to the Zodiac Lounge was in April, at our most recent location at Freebrook Academy, to support us and his mentee (and my former astrology student), Janelle Belgrave. I was very happy about that.

What sticks out the most about Grandmaster Kham besides the assurance of his ever White-cladded splendor, usually seated in front of his center on warm days as you see him pictured above, are the wind chimes that hung over the front door of his center. When I first moved to my current neighborhood, it was a neighborhood in transition. My street was a stubborn firewall against the encroaching gentrification coming from a few blocks above it. There were really no cultural businesses on the block except his–and his wind chimes. The apartment building next to me doubled as a crack hangout with no apparent working doorbells because someone was always screaming for somebody at all hours of the morning or night.   But I also used to hear the wind chimes from my bedroom window. I knew intuitively that those wind chimes had a transformative purpose based  principles that Grandmaster Kham probably had studied from his deep appreciation and knowledge of Egyptian magic, history and lore. Next, my landlady got wind chimes over our building door. I always wondered if he, directly or inadvertently, inspired her.

About 2 years ago, Grandmaster Kham took the chimes down. I don’t know why, but one morning I noticed they were gone. Just before they were taken down though, a mosque had cropped up across from my house; an art gallery followed nearly a year later; a hip, thriving restaurant/bar has opened beneath me (I still groan about that); a  Habitat for Humanity housing condo complex is thriving next to me; the crack hangout apt. building was completely gutted, renovated  and re-housed with quiet neighbors who like to have subdued parties to make jack-o-laterns at Halloween; and there’s even a chai cafe around the corner. In other words, the neighborhood has changed. Perhaps he knew the chimes had done their job. I can’t say I like all the changes and there’s more work to be done, for sure; but I know the vibration of the neighborhood has elevated. Grandmaster Kham taught me that change does not have to be loud or with loud protests. It can happen with the sound of wind chimes.

For that and much more, I will miss him.

The art of reading (and writing) horoscopes

Last week, I got a question from a long-standing client who visited a sidereal astrologer recently. (Funny thing is that this sidereal astrologer and I have been seeing some of the same clients for 8 years, but we’ve never met. I hope to meet her one day soon.)

For those who don’t know, sidereal astrology uses slow moving “fixed” stars to determine “actual” positions of the constellations referenced in what we call the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The astrology most know is called tropical astrology and it attaches the seasons of the year to the Zodiac. So, for most, the first day of Spring is the beginning of Aries.  In sidereal astrology, it’s the 6th day of Pisces.  For many sidereal astrologers, they perceive their Zodiac as the true Zodiac. I’m not going into get into that debate today. My client’s question holds more of my attention:

“When I’m reading daily/monthly horoscopes should I now look at Taurus or continue looking at Gemini assuming that most people do not use sidereal?”

There’s a lot packed into that question, but here are some of my responses from the email correspondence with my client.

Horoscopes are tricky, and I say that as one who writes a lot of them. For starters, like anything else, you have to read an astrologer whose writing suits you. I can’t read everybody’s work nor can I write for everybody.
Second, some astrologers may write inadvertently more to parts of your chart besides your Sun, moon or rising sign. For instance, when I used to write horoscopes, I never related to my own sign when I read my own work. (You might know or remember that I’m a Scorpio.)  Something shifted. Now I feel Scorpio, Capricorn and Leo speak to me, in that order, more frequently.  Capricorn was most surprising since my patron for my Scorpio planets, Mars, is in that sign. But my moon is in Leo and I have a Pisces rising. Pisces in most horoscopes never appeals to me. However, some people feel that most horoscopes speak more to the rising or the Sun. Rarely seems true for me.
Do you read horoscopes for the sidereal? My advice is to try it with different horoscope writers and see what works for you.  Most astrologers are tropical, but perhaps, if you’re hooked into the sidereal frequency, their horoscopes for Taurus, Cancer will speak to you. There is no science behind reading or writing horoscopes. It’s all art. Play, and see what you find out.
My client’s reply was that this was confusing. I understand how it could be. This was my next response.

I suspect it’s confusing because horoscope writing is an act of literature, even poetry inspired by astrology. So you’re thinking, perhaps, literally. That one must read what’s for one’s sign and that’s that. And that’s not true. What’s interesting, since you have all 12 signs in you (but perhaps not all your planets in one of the 12 signs), is that you will relate more to some signs than others. This mostly depends on your chart. Now, which chart do you use? Again, read different astrologers horoscopes and see who speaks to you and in what signs, maybe even using your Sun/Moon Sign (Gemini or Taurus) or Ascendant (Leo or Cancer) as an entry point. I don’t read or write for my sidereal chart, because it doesn’t overall speak to me or those I know. But I do know that it speaks to some folks and that’s what counts.

There is no one form of astrology, and I’ve tried a lot of them, including sidereal. (And I don’t know if your sidereal astrologer said anything about why she uses sidereal astrology, but many sidereal astrologers say that they do it because it’s the TRUE position of the constellations. Well, just know that’s a hotly debated & contested sentiment. I could go on about that issue, if you want. But I sense now you just want to find sources that speak to you and help.)
You can think of the difference between sidereal and tropical astrology like the difference between AM/FM radio. Both use the same knob, but have different focal points, landing at different stations. (One is also more popular than the other, at least in the West.)  If you want to read more sidereal horoscopes, then you might try googling it and checking out the Vedic/Indian sites that come up.  I don’t know too many Western sidereal astrologers and definitely not many who write horoscopes.  So I won’t be able to help more than google, I’m afraid.  I think you’ll have better luck with Indian horoscope sites. I’m fairly certain those horoscopes are written for siderealists, mostly.
Of course, the key thing is going by a chart. But horoscopes are good for eliciting thoughts and ideas when you don’t have a chart or an astrologer to break it down for you when you can’t yourself. Writing and reading horoscopes is like the art of making and watching movie trailers.  Ultimately, trailers get you to want to see more of particular movies and movies in general, presumably at the theater where you’re viewing them. With horoscopes, we astrologers hope to get people more curious about their charts.
However, I’ve come to think about horoscopes in a completely different way since writing them regularly for the last few years.  For me, and a few other horoscope writers I know, they are conversations to folks of particular signs inspired by astrology or something else entirely, like Rob Brezny documents in his book, Televisionary Oracle. It may be unnerving to read horoscopes that aren’t always literally derived from charts or current positions of planets in the sky, whether we know charts have been cast or not. (Not all horoscopes in periodicals are even written by astrologers or people who know the first thing about astrology. Could be an intern looking for a lucky break who has a degree in eco-journalism or history.) But the truth for ALL forms of astrology, be it horoscopes in periodicals or live chart readings with accomplished astrologers, is whether it resonates for the person reading a horoscope or being read.

Some astrologers think horoscopes are bullshit and are ruining the art. I understand their concern. Hell, I used to be one of those astrologers. But then I realized that horoscope writing is its own art, inspired by astrology–not necessarily about teaching astrology itself.  It’s also true that astrologers have trouble deciding what exactly is BS in our art, whether it be talking about reincarnation in evolutionary astrology, the supposed antiquated thinking of classical astrology or the putative mushiness of modern psychological astrology.  It might be best to drop cries of BS altogether and stick to what works for folks and examining the philosophical basis for it. Just a thought

Of course, there are those who think that horoscopes in periodicals is all there is to astrology. But these may also be the same people to whom horoscopes never speak. Or worse, they have little curiosity beyond sources they read or trust, for whatever reason, be it out of a fixation on scientistic thinking, religion or wholesale ignorance. But I still think the poesis of horoscope writing is that it’s a great, popular way to think about thorny issues in daily life out loud. It’s a way to reflect on who we are, regardless of whether it’s sidereal or tropical. I’m sure most astrologers don’t seriously believe that they’re writing for everyone born under a particular sign on a particular day. When I write, I’m writing for the people I know or have a feeling of knowing. I write what I see from charts, and it’s always amazing to hear the feedback of how it resonates in their lives.  Yet I know it’s not true for everybody, even if they read all 12 signs of my horoscope column.

Not everyone can write for who you may be, but the great thing about reading horoscopes is that you are the final authority on what speaks to you. And that’s what’s most important–what speaks to you, not the sign that’s supposed to speak to you. Whether sidereal or tropical, seek that. You might have to read all 12 signs of a particular writer, if you don’t know your chart, or you’re fortunate to find a writer or set of writers who speak to your Sun, moon or rising sign. But the art of reading horoscopes is very correlated to the art of writing them: goes with what moves you. If nothing does, move on or move away.

The Crusade Of Astrology

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the State of The Art (SOTA) Astrology conference in Niagara Falls this year. I love this conference organized by Donna Van Toen each year. It’s small, but packed with a lot of great speakers and notable astrologers like Adam Gainsburg, Maurice Fernandez, Donna Van Toen, Pam Gallagher, and Vedic astrologer Kenneth Miller; a nice hotel near a great tourist site; and it had a slamming banquet this year.  I had a ball.

With this talk, I wanted to address some problems in our field that I’ve noticed for awhile. I wanted to talk about how we treat each other and what’s really important. I also wanted to address the lack of diversity in astrology, but without making it only about the diversity. It’s bigger than that. You be the judge for whether I tackled some of these issues adequately enough. But here’s the full transcript and mp3 of my delivery. I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re an astrologer or not. Thank you!

  The Crusade of Astrology

Talking about crusades doesn’t seem to be the likeliest of angles for usually secular or humanist astrologers. It seems likewise unseemly to evoke one of the bloodiest periods of human history replete with battles for prestige, land, resources and religious dominance as fodder for a keynote address. It seems an even odder choice for me as a former Baptist preacher-cum-atheist-cum-now Muslim astrologer. As you can see, I’ve had a few crusades of my own, so I’m not eager to make a public spectacle of any crusading efforts myself. Except in one very special way.

In 2001, then President George W. Bush and his administration were quick to remind us that the crusades between the East and West were far from over.   And I certainly have no interest in boring you with the painful lessons of over 400 years of the history of East battling West, except in one important way.

And that way isn’t even really for Astrology’s sake. Who would I be–who would any of us be–to think that a thing as old and vast as astrology has to rely on our puny selves to wield even mental swords to champion for it?

We may all have our moments of our unchecked hubris, but this ain’t one of ‘em.  At least not for me. Indeed, astrology has taken several heavy body blows over the last few centuries or so. Fittingly a lot of them came almost immediately after the Crusades ended in Europe. First, there were volleys of them from the Church. Then more landed from the skeptical Enlightenment that became the precursor of our “modern age.”

But, to be fair, it got hard, even brutal, for a LOT of people during and after the Crusades—from Jews, Native Americans, Protestants, feudal lords, and Africans to name a few. So Astrology’s beat down was part of a broader project for something else, something far more sinister and dangerous to human progress. Something worth crusading against.

And, of course, now would still seem a perfect time to take up a crusade for a field that appears to be besieged on all sides:

Take your pick with what.

By arcane laws evoked arbitrarily when we say we predict the future other than for “entertainment purposes only”;

By editors of “open source” Wikipedia who would shut us down when we attempt to demonstrate we’re anything other than a pseudo-science;

By the times we sometimes ferociously feud among ourselves to determine who is authentically practicing “real” astrology rather than any other permutations of flaky “Sun sign” stuff. (Never mind some of that “stuff” may have been the gateway drug for most of us );

Or when we constellate the borders of our organizations more with egos fearing personal extinction or when we loiter in online forums to skirmish for scraps of professional glory or just to let off some steam;

Or when astrology, once dubbed the “Queen of the sciences” can’t make an appearance at a major university unless as a continuing education course posted in a separate late semester catalog. Or as a class held in a basement of an old, soon to be razed academic building;

Or when major religions almost universally revile us though astrology has influenced all of their holy books and they still use principles from our art to mark their holidays as well.

And when it often seems easier for folks to come out of their sexual closets before coming out as an astrologer to their friends, family or co-workers.

Yeah, we have ample reason to stand up for ourselves, to muster up as many hurrahs as we can to crusade for astrology.

Yet I’m not confident that we could do that, much less should.

Which of the many versions of astrology would we trumpet for? Who should lead it when so many of our conferences bench the young to recycle veterans repurposing old lectures? Not too many conferences are as accommodating as SOTA. And it’s hard enough just to organize astrologers on a conference call, much less a call for a crusade for ourselves, by ourselves.

So if not for astrology, for what, as astrologers, should we crusade? It is this.

The “crusade” of astrology is to advocate for a living and meaningful Cosmos. A Cosmos that is as alive as feel we are—not a mere belief in astrology itself.  Our crusade isn’t to recover our once vaulted position as the “queen of all sciences.” It’s not for a mighty, united last stand to preserve our star-gilded empire.

Astrology can’t be about the business of privileging a “holy land” to keep a portion of its widely public secrets sanctified for some and hard to reach for others. We’re not marching to pillage and conquer “infidels” or each other. Astrology cannot afford to believe more in its workings and tools than what all its tools and workings are for.  If we do, we will surely lose a saner idea of a Holy Land, a figurative place that helps us become whole. We’re talking spirituality, not geography here.

Once, we were part of a whole and the whole was in us. We embraced something called an Anima Mundi, a soul of the world—before religion, before science came to take up so much space in our little cerebral cortexes. We didn’t see reason or revelation as set in a single moment of proof OR faith.  We were in communion with a Cosmos that we saw REFLECTED in everything—in the heavens, in plants, in animals, in our organs, and our personalities.

Of course, modern science and philosophy have been far less interested in the dynamism of a whole than the grand workings of individual gears and parts, whether those be the orders of knights, kingdoms, nations, or corporations. We’ve left behind many of the schisms of faith to create an even more profound schism between ourselves and a primal encounter with the world.

As Richard Tarnas makes the case in his book, Cosmos and Psyche, the divorce of the self from the Cosmos as alive has led to an alienating disenchantment of the self AND the world.  In fact, he says, “ …in a disenchanted cosmos, nothing is sacred. The soul of the world has been extinguished…the short-term and bottom-line rule all. “

And when the bottom-line rules all, our atomistic sense of ourselves has a price as well as a daunting tax. But it has certainly come with its benefits too.

The rise of the individual self has broadened and stabilized our definition of what it means to be a human being.  When we were more in our holism, we found it almost impossible to ever depart from the demands of a collective. One of the powerful gifts, for instance, of the Abrahamic religions, despite their legacy of bloodshed, was each person is responsible for his or her sins and the expiations of them.   The whole tribe didn’t have to sacrifice innocent animals, young virgins or whoever to appease angry gods.

Although we’ve still stayed fixated on our identities as part of a family, tribe, faith, kingdom, nation or race, it seems as if we’re getting progressively better, in fits and starts, with advocating for this idea of the individual. But we keep thinking that the individual, that non-divided thing as the word would suggest, can be separated from the Cosmos to which it inextricably belongs.

What’s the way out for us? Our greatest beauty and promise is in the first two letters of the word astrology, at least in English: AS. With A-S, we have a remarkable reminder of how one thing is like another yet wholly distinct. We unlock the mystery of the world by analog and analogy rather than the hubris and folly that we know exactly how the world is.  It’s even in our Hermetic credo: as above, so below; as within, so without; as the Cosmos, so the soul.

Models of analogy are not lost on the modern world. We all know units of stock on stock markets reflect units of value, not the actual cash worth of the company itself. (At least we learned that, again, after the housing and Internet bubble bursts.) We know that a dollar is a symbol of a value, not the actual value.

Yet too many seem baffled that when we talk about Saturn “AS” something we must be talking only about the physical properties of Saturn. We also seem confused, wanting to explain our field by appeals to electro-magnetic gravitational fields and the like. We want it to be more real as if analogue is not real enough.

The powers of analogy and analogue have their own power, their own beauty for which we can crusade. Of course, this power does not come without its problems.

The digital modern world provides great consistency and accuracy without any natural degradation like the analogs of tape recordings, records, film or paper.  We’ve come to believe what we can encode into bits & bytes is way better than the symbolism of what’s left to human assessment or vision, like your old Mercury thermometer.  We have come to trust the binary readout of machines rather than how we once had to read things naturally or with simple devices.

Yet I believe we lose so much when we come to believe more in machines or even see the world as Machine rather than the miraculous and living Cosmos that inspires us toward more life itself. Beholding a living Cosmos begets more life and is so worth our crusading energy.

Fortunately, this crusade positions us to have a lot more allies with similar modes of thinking—whether we’re talking about the meridians of acupuncturists, the symbols of Reiki, the ingredients of homeopathy, the picturesque divinations of tarot readers, the complex simplicity of casting cowrie shells. Or the hermeneutics of activists who show us how race, gender and class are also more symbols of human value and worth than what the literalism of science or religion recognize. We are people who know the world AS something, not for what it is literally.

This even forces us to face a truth about our own practices.  We often like to position astrological charts as things that speak plainly for themselves, that we can somehow know a person, a thing or event exactly as it is or should be. Or we’ll veer away from that altogether to read charts as an open field that’s impossibly fertile for any and every possibility.

Both of these paths construct an astrology that undercuts the true power of analogue and analogy in our work. Whereas digital media will attempt to reduce something to its exact similitude, analog seeks to make it just similar enough—leaving room for what can’t quite be described or known. You can call this mystery God, Noise, Chaos, the Cosmos, or nothing at all.  We sweeten our analogs and parallels to coax this dark mystery out into the brightness of day. We’ve not known to many other ways. We’ll never quite get it completely right.  And the “truth” may be that we’ll only ever see the world as we are, not as it is.

In this sense, we must become as children. But even a child’s world is becoming more literal. Once, we could learn the loopy beauty of cursive lettering in school. Not any more. Now all our “A’s” or “S’s” should look like the typefaces of machines, not what’s been fashioned by the uniqueness of our hands.

And speaking of hands, who has the time to think by way of analogy that the little hand on the eight and the big hand on the 6 means that it’s 8:30?  Who cares if the clocks once mirrored the Sun’s motion of right to left? Who needs suns and stars twinkling in the night when we can have crystal dashes that flicker the time, down to the seconds if we want?

We do.

See, this is bigger than astrology and the only crusade worthy of astrology’s fidelity. And historically it’s the only thing to which we have been loyal, considering how diverse our field has always been.  Maybe this won’t always be true. Perhaps we’ll see much of what Stevie Wonder saw, three Jupiter returns ago, when he says in his 1977 song, “As”:

As now can’t reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new…
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
Until the day that you are me and I am you

 Until that day, let’s keep marching to the music of the spheres, enchanted by how things appear to be and spreading this enchantment of living Cosmos as far and as wide as we can.

Outwitting your stars…

At my Saturn return, I read Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, just before I went to India for the first time.  I loved it. But I particularly loved this section on astrology. As I prepare to write my first astrology book for the public, I’m reminded of so many of the good lessons I first learned about astrology from this chapter of Yogananda’s powerful book. I definitely would recommend it.  Enjoy this chapter, and, I do hope it gives you a little more insight on how to outwit your stars.

From Autobiography of a Yogi