Monday, October 25, 2010
As I opened the door of my office I was struck by Judith’s stunning presence. Thick dark hair, flawless white skin and near-black eyes, framed an impeccable face hinting of sadness as well as "some purity of heart." I knew she was thirty-five years old yet something made her look older than her years. She wore an old-fashioned summer hat and pearl earrings. Judith was coming here today for her first astrological reading, and as she extended her hand, I was impressed by the gracious formality of her handshake.
The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first because after spending a few hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them, and it’s humbling to be so often wrong and to see how graciously they’ve survived even with what looks to be the most challenging of charts. I try to remember that what I see in the chart is partially biased by my perceptions —yet the “woundedness” in the chart always seem to leap out first—the t-squares, the South Node, the oppositions, the conjunctions of certain planets. And, I’m continually surprised by how well most people thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers called “malefic” aspects.
Of course I never use those words--- sensitive astrologers try to avoid any judgments of good, bad, malefic or auspicious. We also don’t know how a person is choosing to live out their chart, or how they’re living out the transits that are happening now. “No transits come before their time” my teacher used to say. Astrologers are aware that certain karmic factors may have been involved with us being ‘fated’ to be born with “givens” such as gender, nationality, good or bad parenting, but the “Formula” I honor is this: fate + character = destiny. The key word is character.
Fate is simply the “givens” at birth; the time and place and zeitgeist of that time—like being born a 1950’s Ford model car, doesn’t really make you better than a sixties Chevrolet. Just different. The force and choices of character however, makes all the difference. It’s about those free will choices we make along the way that determine our destiny.
Judith’s chart had a “motivating” grand cross, and I was curious about her choices and how she was living out this challenging aspect. Squares and grand-crosses like this tend to motivate people because they can be so painful, and some of the most famous “achievers” in history have had motivating charts like this.
And so I invited Judith to sit, motioning her to sit in the soft green chair, hoping she was approving of the setting for her reading. She stared at the carved Goddess face in the black wrought iron inset in the fireplace, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the goddess into the room. Its downward looking eyes knew how to keep a secret.
“Lovely” she whispered, as I silently admired the pristine clarity of her English accent.
The amber stained glass lamp between us shed a warm glow in the room, as I turned the recorder on for our session. I took out the charts in my usual fashion, and was eager to tell her all the good omens of new beginnings I saw there. The “significators” were all there: Jupiter had just crossed her descendant, Saturn was just leaving the 12th house, and the progressed moon would be coming to conjunct her natal Jupiter shortly. It looked like a new beginning if I ever saw one. And so I began….
“The birth chart is like a conference table, and these planets are like the different parts of your self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant has to do with your style of negotiating in the world… and the Nodes have to do with your life direction and soul purpose. See these aspect lines in the center? They connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—these planets—and show where the conversation is challenging, flowing or avoiding…they show the alliances and tensions between different parts of yourself.”
She nodded her head as I went on: “So we see your Sun is in Scorpio, an emotional water sign. There’s a curious hunger about the Scorpio nature, and they look at the hidden side of things, such as secret motivations around sex, power and money. They want to know what the emotional bottom line is….they are gifted with a penetrating intensity and the power to heal themselves and others. Scorpio has three symbols: the scorpion, which is capable of attack as well as killing itself with its tail, the eagle, which gives perspective and vision, and the phoenix which has the power to rise from the ashes of death. Scorpio folks often have had a life of many chapters, in which there are numerous ego deaths and rebirths. Being able to let go of the past is important for them….for you….”
“Oh yes,” she sighed. “I’ve had to do that many times. I’ve had a life filled with so many chapters with radical beginnings and endings. It’s exhausting.”
“And many people with their Moon in Capricorn, as you do, can have a hard time expressing all their emotions. Scorpio and Capricorn don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes they’ve had childhoods with mothers that were austere, strict, or not there in some way….not always, but we see here that the assertive planet, Mars, is in Aries squaring your Moon, so we get a hint that your mother may irritate you, and that this relationship is challenging for you…especially since Mars is coming from the 4th house of home and family of origin.” I was using the “rule of three” here—to see something reflected three times in the chart before mentioning it.
Judith quickly agreed with that observation. I explained the nature of her rising sign—her persona and style in life, and the nature of the “conversation” that was going on with her trines, squares, and oppositions. Then I began hinting at what might have been the emotional climate for her during the last two years while Saturn was transiting through her 12th house of the unconscious—what I call the “house that Carl Jung built.”
“For many people it’s a time of soul-searching and inner questioning; a time for reviewing one’s life, and listening to dreams and synchronicities. For many people it can be a lonely passage, because our culture is more outer directed. It’s a good time for inner reflection and for doing creative things such as painting, poetry, journaling, collage, music—anything that can help you see yourself reflected in what you create, or see yourself as a channel for allowing spirit to enter.”
I waited for a response, but she just looked blankly at the chart. Her Sun was conjunct Neptune, which sometimes reflects a spiritual, ethereal nature or a love of music, so I ventured---“Do you listen to music very much? Has it been a help?” It was interesting for me that I found it hard to tolerate her silence.
“Well yes. It has been a lonely time these past couple of years. I’ve been brooding over the mistakes I’ve made in my life.” She leaned back and stared at the ceiling. She was being polite, but not completely forthcoming about what was really on her mind. Obviously I hadn’t touched on it yet. I could see that she was going to be a bit private till I hit upon something that truly resonated with her. Not unusual for Scorpios to be a bit private, and very “British” as well.
I pulled my thoughts back to the charts and went on: “Saturn often drags up old memories and fears that we thought we’d put to rest a long time ago. It’s been sweeping through your unconscious, churning things up for the past couple of years….I think of transiting Saturn here as the “Graduate School of the Soul” and the good news is that you’re about to graduate! A new beginning….”
“So I’m graduating…” A slow smile began emerging. So what do you see for me spiritually? I mean….I’ve been reading all these books because I’ve been feeling so miserable, trying to meditate, but that’s not working too well. I spend a lot of time taking long walks alone…”
“Everything you’ve said is just right for Saturn going through the 12th house of the unconscious, but now it’s time to start, ever so slowly, coming out of seclusion and into the world more…! Ah…. look here, do you know what this glyph means? I pointed to the symbol of her North Node. This Node describes the direction your Soul wants to grow towards—it’s good soul medicine—and it’s in Gemini.”
She frowned. “But isn’t Gemini disorganized and superficial…and talks too much?”
I laughed and went on: “Gemini is the communicator. And every sign has a negative side that it can operate from, but Gemini is summoned to talk, or write, or teach or somehow communicate with the world. And it has an insatiable curiosity that packs more into one lifetime than most of us ever will. Gemini’s are willing to throw themself into the chaos of life to make order out of that chaos. Their openness allows them to experience such a variety of things, and it’s only from our point of view that it looks out of control at times. Gemini is called to fully experience life— in the valleys and cities and marketplaces of life, rather than in retreat on any “spiritual mountaintop”.
I could see that Judith was with me now. “With a Sagittarius South Node you may have had “blinders” on in a previous life-- if you believe in re-incarnation-- blinders that kept you focused on what you believed. Now your beliefs are getting bigger and being tested by life. You’re opening to a wider perspective. As your South Node in Sagittarius implies, you’ve seen the larger perspective on life--the view from the mountaintop, but you’ve had these blinders on too—now, you’re learning to live with the relativity of things in the everyday world. Not simple anymore.”
Silence. There was so much information in front of me on the chart I felt overwhelmed. It’s so hard, and such an art to try to synthesize the birth chart with the transiting planets and to put it all into words something that will be helpful—suddenly I felt overwhelmed and unfocused.
I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this. It’s so much easier when the client does most of the talking! I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said. But the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.
(continued in next post )