“Mom, this is crazy! How does this even work?” Louis looked up at me, his cereal spoon suspended mid-bite and mid-air. “Have you read this? It really is talking about me here.”
Not only had I read the astrological report in which he’d been completely absorbed (while simultaneously eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch) but I’d familiarized myself with his natal chart since the month after his birth. I’d intentionally set these particular pages on the table that morning, next to a glass of juice and a cereal bowl, so that he would spot them when he emerged in his bathrobe for breakfast. It felt like the right time. Lou needed and deserved a sprinkling of stardust in his life right then. It was the Fall semester, 2014. Enrolled in Psychology 101 at Clackamas Community College, he’d remarked a few days before, “Well, this month we’re covering childhood trauma, addiction, death, and the stages of grief. I should do great on the exam, don’t you think?” Somehow, he smiled. His grandmother was in hospice care in our home. He’d returned one year earlier from months of dual-diagnosis treatment for complex childhood trauma and substance abuse. He was in a very shaky period, oscillating between recovery and relapse. He’d learned that his biological father, his abuser, was living in Oregon, not France. PTSD had come roaring back in his life like a runaway train threatening to derail everything in his life.
A good astrological reading allows us to feel seen and understood.
A reading of the natal chart by a gifted practitioner helps us to accept the gifts and the failings of our lives. It causes us to wonder. It challenges a person to keep growing and offers invaluable suggestions about direction and timing of our choices. An insightful reading at the right time can encourage a person to hold on to hope through a dark night of the soul. Though he was only seventeen years old, it was already abundantly clear that Lou was living out his own hero’s journey, the one charted in the map of the stars and planets at the moment of his birth.
Here is a sample from the report Lou was reading. “You are an imaginative and sensitive individual with a strong wish to be allowed to live in a world where harsher realities fade into the background. You are very talented and it is vitally important for you to find a channel for all of your creative energies. Otherwise, you may find yourself slipping into a world of unreality and apathy, even drawn to the world of drugs as a form of escapism. You need to set aside time each day for artistic pursuits.
“In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually obtain a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I very often found the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand.”C.G. Jung, 1947, letter to astrologer V.B. Raman, cited in “Jung on Astrology,” Selected and Introduced by Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice, Routledge Press, 2018.
“You are apt to feel overwhelmed by the injustices of the world. You may lose sight of your goals, become confused about your direction. It’s possible your confusion stems from childhood experiences with your father; perhaps he was weak or unable to support your development. With the Moon in the sign of Capricorn, you may have had to grow up too fast, to be a ‘little adult’ when you were a child, learning painful lessons at a very young age.”
If you knew Lou, you’ll be able to imagine him reading these paragraphs and what he must have felt. Utter amazement. Bewilderment. Something akin to delight too. The irresistible urge to keep reading. And if you know Lou’s story well, I expect you may be sharing some of those same feelings even as you read over his shoulder.
“With the Moon and Pluto connected in your birth chart, you will be prone to extreme highs and lows. Mercury and Venus making contact in your chart indicate that communication and learning are sources of joy in your life. You are amiable and charming, usually expressing yourself in a loving manner. You are a good talker and listener. You are at your most powerful when using your insights for positive purposes. Your insights and honesty, combined with your compassion and other gifts can be useful in a counseling situation or can make you a powerful advocate in any field.”
“The planet Pluto is in the fourth house of your birth chart, indicating that you may have been affected by early childhood traumas, either by one particularly disturbing event in your family life or by a series of upheavals. Perhaps one of your parents or a father figure was an overwhelming, powerful figure in your life. With Saturn and Mars in a tense aspect in your chart there may be troubles and discord with authority figures, especially older men. On a more positive note, you are confident and ambitious, motivated by the thought of achievement.“
Some day, we’ll look back at this time, when psychology is practiced without the vision and insights astrology provides, in much the same way we look back on that time, not so long ago, when astronomy was practiced without the aid of a telescope.Dr. Richard Tarnas, author of “The Passion of the Western Mind” and “Cosmos and Psyche“
What Louis didn’t know was that, in addition to the 12 page report he was reading, I also had a sizeable collection of audio recordings of astrological readings done for us between 1997 and 2014.
When he was just two years old, Mara Freeman, author of Grail Alchemy and Celtic Spirit, read Lou’s natal horoscope for me. “It’s an amazing chart. He’s a healer. He has a calming, soothing presence that’s unusual in a small child. He was a psychiatrist in a past life, serious, scientific, compassionate and gentle. That was in Europe, not in the United States. He’s come here to take more risks, to expand beyond academic theory, to learn about people and relationships.” She pointed out the difficult aspect of Mars (conflict/anger) opposite Saturn (father) in his chart, but didn’t dwell there. She added, “He might become a psychologist in this life. Or he might become a musician.“
That was in 1999. Fourteen years later, I’d hear my son — who had not heard Mara’s predictions — tell the academic advisor at Clackamas Community College “I think I might want to study music therapy, maybe at Marylhurst College.” Mara holds a counseling degree; she is also a gifted musician and writer. She brings great sensitivity to her work as astrologer/clairvoyant. “He’s like a ‘little professor,’ wise beyond his years,” she observed in 1999 about the soul whom she’d never met in person. “But he can also be a bit of a clown, very funny. Quite unique, really. There’s a also a sensitivity, a fragility here. He may react to excessive emotions with allergies. [He did.] Help him to learn what his feelings are, to name them, ‘sad,’ ‘glad,’ ‘mad’ and so on, so that he can identify them. Otherwise, he will retreat. He is a dreamer with a poet’s soul. With Venus on his Sun, girls are going to want to be his friend. Lots of girls!”
Mara wasn’t the first astrologer to interpret Lou’s chart. My late friend, Khafiz Wrobel, longtime astrologer in Humboldt County, had calculated, drawn by hand, and read Louis’ chart when Lou was only a few months old. As an undergraduate, 23 years old, I’d traded Khafiz some calligraphy (a flier for a Sufi dance event) for my first astrological reading.
“Libra Sun in your tenth house means you’re a natural born teacher,” he said of my astral map. “Ninth house planets show an interest in foreign travel, other cultures, spirituality, philosophy. Your rising sign is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter. This can give you tremendous optimism toward life, one that might even attract others to you for guidance. You have a mind that will want to read whole libraries. Friendships with women are going to be very important for you throughout your entire life. You would do well to turn your living space into a kind of retreat, maybe an art center or place where women could gather. But that may come later in your life.” So far, so groovy. These tendencies were already beginning to play out in my life.
But then …. we landed on the Moon. “You see how your Moon is sitting all by itself below the horizon line? This placement makes it jump out in your chart like a splotch of green paint on a red canvas, and this means it will have added significance in your life. The Moon signifies mothering, children. It’s placed in your fifth house, the house of children. This says to me that children are going to be terribly significant for you in some cycle. The problem is, the Moon is in a tense T-square with Uranus, the planet of disruption and upheaval (in your eighth house of shared resources/other people’s money) and Neptune, the planet of deception. If this were a man’s chart, I’d say it looks like a custody fight and disputes about child support.”
Khafiz was looking at a kind of roadmap for my Soul in this incarnation. Those squiggles (glyphs) and colorful lines (aspects) all spoke to him.
Many astrologers might shy away from sharing with a client what Khafiz chose to share with me.
He called it as he saw it. He warned me of “a possible cycle of fraud,” involvement with someone who was nothing but a con, becoming entangled with a man who was not at all the ideal partner he appeared. “With this chart, and all that idealism of your air and fire signs, I wouldn’t go looking for a prince charming!” he said. I might possibly be “just too damn idealistic and romantic;” it could get me into trouble. “I’d be worried about getting involved with some kind of lover or friend who promises you a thousand but comes through with only fifty. Or you wake up and he’s split with everything.” But I was 23 and none of this really made sense to me. And so, it was easy for me to forget about it.
Ten years later, I married a man who had no desire to have children. When our marriage was starting to show signs of real strain, I suggested we have our charts read for our birthdays. A local astrologer, Roxanne, had been recommended to me in circumstances so bizarre that I felt compelled to consult her. (My supervising administrator at school had welcomed me to my first teaching evaluation by showing me a chart and notes on his desk. “I just had my horoscope read for the first time and I can’t stop contemplating this!”) Roxanne told me I would very likely find myself pregnant within the next several years. I laughed aloud. “That was your husband’s reaction too,” Roxanne said with a smile. “Because I saw the same thing in his chart….” Three years later, we had divorced. And, as Roxanne had predicted, I was pregnant.
The man Khafiz had tried to warn me about had appeared in my life at last, showing up at the very door of my classroom where I taught. Charming, brilliant, a PhD in physics, fluent in four languages, he could sing German opera from memory. He was French. He cooked. He wrote me long, romantic letters. He took me to Oaxaca in the Spring and then to France in the Summer. If only I’d bothered to find out then what the astrological transits were signalling in my life at that moment. It was written in the skies. Astrological hindsight is also 20-20. Or if only I’d listened again to Khafiz’ reading from eighteen years prior. Would that have made a difference? I was moth to a flame, drawn to a man in whose chart, I would later come to learn, there was an excess of Fire: a deadly combination of irresistible charm and hidden, combustible rage.
Astrology is an ancient science. Though it is now, as researcher, author and astrologer Dr. Richard Tarnas says, “The gold standard for superstition in our modern western culture,” it is not so in all cultures nor has it been so for most of humanity’s history.
According to C.G.Jung, astrology operates via what he termed Synchronicity. A term that has gained some traction recently, synchronicity refers to an a-causal connection between two events, a coincidence holding deep personal meaning for the one experiencing the emotionally charged phenomena. The ancient Chinese book of Wisdom, the I-Ching, works on the same principle and logic. The fact that Uranus (planet of sudden disruption) sits in my 8th house (shared resources and other people’s money but also — for the ancients — the house of sex, power struggles, transformation, and death) did not cause me to lose all of my savings and my pension through my long saga of struggle to protect my only son. It did not cause the archetype of masterful con man and sociopath to show up. Its placement there has a non-causal relationship to the unfolding of these fated events. It points toward them, illuminates them far in advance. And it does so with remarkable clarity.
Both western science and western religions look upon astrology with equal, unequivocal disdain. And yet, in some Eastern cultures, a child’s name is not chosen until after his birth when his natal chart can be read for clues to the child’s nature and destiny. In the extraordinary film “Unmistaken Child,” Tibetan monks consult the stars and planets through astrology to help a modest young monk named Tenzin Zopa in his quest as he seeks to find the child who is his master’s reincarnation. (Spoiler alert: the child is found and the film will leave you wondering if we’re not being cheated of something with our purely Cartesian, rational, de-mythologized world view.)
I was in Athens, Greece when I realized I was pregnant. Greece is home to the temple of the Goddess Pallas Athena, now a named asteroid, a prominent player in my chart. Home also to the Mysteries of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, symbols of fierce, protective mother love and the mother-child attachment, vital for Life. Symbol of a mother’s inconsolable grief when her child is taken from her, abducted into the underworld. Symbol too of the lengths to which a mother will go to rescue her only child. The goddesses Demeter (Ceres) and Athena (Pallas) and Juno (Hera) and Vesta (Hestia) grace the heavens as asteroids. Discovered and named in the 1970’s these planetary bodies are central in the work of Oregon astrologer, Demetra George.
Synchronicity: At her first astrology conference, feeling awkward as a novice and outsider, a very young Demetra struck up a conversation with a nice looking woman standing next to her. It happened that this woman had just completed the first ephemeris of the new asteroids. These “dwarf planets” had all been named after Goddesses so as to add some gender parity to the heavenly pantheon. This woman was so taken with Demetra’s given name that she decided their meeting must be kismet and offered Demetra a copy of a precious manuscript: her unpublished ephemeris of the asteroids, These asteroids are the subject of Demetra George’s fascinating book: Asteroid Goddesses: the Mythology, Psychology and Astrology of the Re-Emerging Feminine. She is currently offering webinars exploring the charts of women and events in the three waves of feminism of this century.
- In 2002, Mara suggested that if there were someway to postpone the next family court hearing, scheduled for three days in August, I should do so. Jupiter (planet of good fortune, the ruler of my chart) would be entering my ninth house: the domain of legal matters. It took some clever behind the scenes maneuvering on my part, but the trial was moved to January 2003. It was only because of this that Judge Gregory Milnes was assigned to us, the judge who kept Louis safe until 2005. Mara saw true.
- In the 1980’s, my mother, suffering from a crushing depression, set out on a healing road trip along the Oregon and California coast. She stopped to consult with Khafiz. Over coffee in Arcata he told her that if she could hold on just 18 more months, the clouds would lift and there would be a new chapter of good things ahead. “It was the only thing that kept me going on many days. And he was right.”
- Roberta asked in October 2014 for Mara to do another reading for her. Mara looked at Roberta’s chart. “Let me move to my meditation room,” she said to us on the phone from Wales. It was time to shift from “progressions” to final transits. She recorded an extraordinary guided meditation to help my mother lay down her body with ease (“not now, but when it is time….”) pointing the way from this life to the next, assuring her she would meet her friends and family on the other side and that she would still be able, after “death,” to be connected with us, all of her dear ones left behind here on Earth, in Spirit.
- Plunging into astrological studies over the past several years has been the most effective grief therapy I can imagine. As I’ve come to see and appreciate the trans-personal factors at play in Lou’s chart and in mine, I’ve tapped into a level of serenity born of wonder at the Mystery of life, something I could not otherwise have known.
Ask anyone smitten with the practice of astrology and they’ll tell you. It is a constant source of fascination and awe, a repository of comfort and guidance. It’s an endless course of study as the art-form presents layer upon layer of complexity, a variety of schools of thought and approaches. On a practical, interpersonal level, it helps one to see that each person has strengths and weaknesses that are “hard-wired.” Even just a passing knowledge of Sun signs (the tiniest sliver of a fraction of all that is in a chart) makes it easier to let the Cancer friend be “overly” emotional at times, to appreciate the need of the Capricorn sibling to turn every outing or activity into a “project,” to accept that the Scorpio colleague is not suspicious of YOU or withholding from YOU but is guarded with everyone. That young person whom others see as aloof although you know him to be warm and funny? Of course, he’s an Aquarius! Once he learns this about himself, he will gain in valuable self-awareness. Once we know this about him, we’re less apt to think, “Why he is so stand-offish?” Astrology is helping me to become (finally!) a less judgmental person.
Some knowledge of astrology helps a person to move more easily with the ebbs and flows of life. One begins to feel viscerally the waxing and waning of the Moon, the retrogrades and progressions of the planets, the intersecting orbits of asteroids with the outer planets in ones own chart. How is this so? Not even the most gifted astrologer can explain the “how” or the “why” but she knows that it is so. I love this about astrology too: hearing the practitioners with decades of experience and published treatises behind them, still expressing their delight and wonder that it works, this “as above, so below” nature of things etched in the stars.
I’ve thought for months about writing something like this: a very personal reflection on my growing appreciation for the magical/practical, ancient/ever-new, art/science that is Astrology.
We are, after all, all Stardust.
~ by Rhonda, under the New Moon in Virgo, September 17, 2020
A CLOSING VISION
Occasionally, over the years, Lou and Roberta, his grandmother, would sit on her front lawn, side by side, in folding chairs. Wrapped in blankets, they would stare together at the heavens, waiting for shared glimpses of predicted meteor showers. As Comet Neowise blazed spectacularly close to the Earth last month, I pictured the two of them, side by side, gazing toward our little planet, whispering to each other, as they watched the light show from the Other Side.
Perhaps they’re picking out their next astral roadmap for their next big Earth Incarnation Adventure.
Sample Heart-Art-Earth Chart
Available by special order
$30 for 1 hand-drawn, personalized art-chart
A lovely gift for yourself, a friend, a family member or new parents
$50 for chart plus 30 minute intro walk through your chart
If you’re thinking about scheduling your own full-length and indepth astrological reading, I can highly recommend Mara Freeman in Wales (www.chalicecentre.net) and Michael Barwick in Canada (https://michaelbarwick.com/astrology/) You’ll need to provide your birth info: (1) date (2) exact time or as near a guess as possible and (3) city of birth. Mara will arrange a time for a phone conversation/reading of either 30 minutes or 60 minutes. She’ll then send you an MP3 audio file of the reading. Michael‘s readings are done via ZOOM. He will follow-up with a recording of the session and will send you the set of slides from the power-point he will create for your natal chart session of one hour.
“We are lived by powers we pretend to understand.” ~ W.H. Auden