Every person who is into astrology — from the beginners to the world-renowned astrologers — read and follow certain things and not others. David Cochrane mentioned in our Vibrational Astrology classes (I’m paraphrasing) that “each of us takes a very specific slice of astrology,” a small slice, really. He also said that we shouldn’t try to know everything — because we can’t; not even the greatest astrologers are capable of this. Trying would just stress us out and even demoralize us.
So when two people who know a lot about astrology but haven’t interacted with each other get together and talk, they very well may be talking past each other. There could even be an expectation (which is unfulfilled) that their counterpart know certain things that they actually don’t know.
The other day I was talking with Aria Gmitter, who was in our Vibrational Astrology class and who edits YourTango, an online magazine with a rather large readership, about different things (including syndicating my articles on her website, which is great) and we also talked about astrology for part of that conversation.
She mentioned something about critical degrees. I have to admit that I haven’t paid that much attention to critical degrees, which is just where a planet it — where I think it means it’s either between 29 degrees and 30 degrees of a sign or 0 degrees to 1 degree of a sign. Or maybe it involves other degrees — 7 to 8? 15 to 16? It’s not my focus.
I will say that I do, as I’ve written about before, tend to evaluate the degree of a planet on a scale of 0 to 30 degrees, where the higher the degree the more mature expression of a planet. Somebody with Moon at 2 degrees of any sign may be dealing with very primitive emotions, and I have to say that a woman I’m about to have a date with has Mars at 29 degrees, which is great — a mature expression of ego. My Mars is at 26 degrees (Aquarius) and I do tend to appreciate people with mature egos.
My point is that Aria has been studying astrology for a lot less time than I have and yet she knows things that I don’t. This should not be overlooked.
My background in astrology started in late 1997 where my friend Gina exposed me to something called “Personology” which was a newly formed form of astrology that evaluates people for their personality. I don’t know how she found it, although she is a librarian so she has a keen eye for this.
(Actually, a few years earlier my esoteric practice started with the Pythagorean Numerology of Dan Millman as expressed in his book, “The Life You Were Born To Live.” But that’s numerology, not astrology.)
Back to Personology. I read The Secret Language of Relationships around the end of 1997, and The Secret Language of Birthdays came out the same year and I looked at it a little bit. I’ve mentioned the book in a recent post, but I’ll review — it divides the zodiac into 48 periods, defines them, and does each period’s relationship with each other period, which is 482 divided by 2, or 1152 possible matchups.
I was excited to learn this. I told people it changed my life. I was practically bragging about it to my hair stylist, and she said, “But what’s your ascendant?”
What’s that? I asked. If you read this blog, you probably know what an ascendant (or rising sign) is, but she pointed me to Jeanne Avery’s book “The Rising Sign : Your Astrological Mask.” This is an older book; it came out in 1983. I learned I was a Scorpio rising — wow, intense, incisive, powerful. (I was proud of my Scorpio rising, and didn’t really think of the drawbacks of it that much until I endeavored to leave it behind — which is all about relocation). Avery’s book just allots about 40 pages to each rising sign and tells a very long story about each.
From there I found “The Idiot’s Guide to Astrology” sometime in early 1998. Yes, that is a thing. A comprehensive book going into all facets of astrology. It makes it easy. The book had just come out, too. It was praised on the cover by the late Noel Tyl. Wow, my timing was pretty good for going into this field, even as just a student. Do not feel like an idiot for reading this book; it systematically and orderly fills in almost every gap that a beginning or even intermediate astrologer has.
The fourth and final of my formative early sources came from a co-worker. It was called The Round Art : The Astrology of Time and Space. This is a very difficult book to describe but it has beauty and brains and profound powers of observation. The book was so profound that it even contributed to my instability and was one of the reasons I checked myself into the main psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh for the fifth and final time around the Summer Solstice 1999. (Some books are dangerous, even if they are incredibly useful. Embrace the danger, or don’t.)
I got into many other books over the following years and I’m going to try to distill them in some orderly way into this article, unless that makes the article too long. But those were the “big four.” They were books I related to in a way, that other books that many astrologers swear by, I didn’t.
What does this say about me? That I’m interested in personality and character, that I’m interested in the “story” behind a planetary position (Avery and the Idiot’s Guide are great about stories), that I’m interested in psychology in a basic yet profound way.
My father was an educator. He wasn’t a university professor. He was a teacher, covering social studies, mainly for junior high school students; he also taught Special Ed and spent years as an evaluator of children. All of this was in NYC schools, and he retired in 1990. (Mom always said he didn’t know how to run a classroom, but that’s a different story).
The basic environment I grew up in had to do with concepts of basic education — things that are relatively introductory but have a good deal of depth and clarity — things that can still be incredibly useful. I dabbled in a lot of areas of life — I was particularly good at math in my early years, then became disillusioned when I had to take more advanced calculus and basically abandoned that kind of math and went into the humanities.
I studied journalism, politics, philosophy, activism, and, eventually history. I try to be broad-minded in what I try to get into. That does also apply to the astrology I study. The four “big, introductory” sources I read when I got started could not be more different.
I was a big fan of Listening to Prozac, the book that came out in 1993 that talks about how antidepressants not only correct a chemical imbalance (which is measured kind of arbitrarily by clinical personnel, anyway) but can transform the personality (with stories, there are always stories). This was a very influential book for me in trying to get a handle on my own brain, my own cognition. And it wasn’t until 2010 that I got where I needed to be on it.
When I showed the book to a psychiatrist sometime in the mid-1990s, he derisively referred to it as a “pop book.”
Now, what is a pop book? To the psychiatrist trained in medicine through a post-secondary education lasting 10 years (or more) — well, don’t get me started. There is a certain lack of “human-ness” (or humanity) among many trained in that field — it is not “medicine,” it deals in unquantifiable things. It may, I must say, be the reason that outcomes for psychiatric patients run a spectrum, but average mediocre at best. Outcomes are not that good precisely because the humanity of such a doctor has been trained out of them. (There are some really bright exceptions!)
Psychiatrists can be snobs but most people are hungering for something a little different. It is not hard for me to argue that the salaries for (good) therapists vs. (average) psychiatrists should be reversed.
Why is that? A good therapist should at least have the tools for a humanistic practice. She should at least be interested in the humanity of the person she is talking to. Chemical imbalances are real, but they cannot be solved by medicine alone. They require a thing called love.
And again, medicine does often do different things than what psychiatrists think it does. Having more serotonin or dopamine in the brain, if fully understood as to the implications (which is what good discourse does) can in fact transform the personality. I am a living example of this.
Bringing this back to the practice of astrology, I am struck by the advanced nature of some of the sources I have. Some of it is challenging and I’m going to try to distill some books I have lying around me.
Right now I’m looking at Communicating the Horoscope (1995, Llewellyn Publications). This is up my alley. I’m not so impressed by Noel Tyl’s introduction (he edited the book), it gets into abstractions that go over my head. What I’m interested in are the chapters, each written by a different astrologer with a different training, most written by women. I’m going to go down the list and distill some of the chapters for you.
- The Magic of the Consultation Time — Christian Borup
- Creative Listening and Empathy — Haloli Q. Richter
- A Communication Model for Astrologers — Diana Stone
- Solving Problems: Key Questions to Ask Your Client — Donna Cunningham
- When the Client Avoids the Issue — Karen M. Hamaker-Zondag
- Bottom-Line Astrology — Susie Cox
- Telling Stories To Make Your Point — Jeff Jawer
- Working with Measurement, Memory, and Myth — Wendy Z. Ashley
Because all of this is so important for an astrological counselor to grasp, I’m going to be distilling this further in a future post. It looks really good.
For the longest time I figured that even though I knew a lot about astrology, and learning more constantly, I would never make a good astrologer. A good astrologer will listen to their client — will empathize with them, identify their problems, come up with helpful solutions. Maybe it was about four or five years ago that started to change and I began to become more confident. Moving to Denver, CO, with Jupiter moving into my first house really helped. Having a strong 17 vibration (strong connections in my 17th harmonic — empathic, interested in the stories of others) helps too.
Whether I am such a good astrologer or not is kind of irrelevant. What is relevant is that there is a skill set and a certain personality needed. For Myers-Briggs, I am an INFP. Let me say this in a different way. I am not an INTP, although maybe I was much earlier in life. The kind of astrologer who can act as a life coach generally requires the “NF” type, whether the ENFP, ENFJ, INFP, or INFJ. They are not the ones writing hard-to-read books or trying to “outthink” (or outrank) their fellow astrologers.
If you can create such a bond with your client, to resonate well, that ultimately matters a lot more than your grasp of a certain concept unless that concept is directly relevant to the client’s psyche. And, as I’ve said, each of us has our own slice of the astrology pie, not the whole thing.
Okay, just to reinforce the sense of pop literature, I’m going to end this with an article on Mercury Retrograde. Y’all are probably waiting for it to end.