The optimism of uncertainty

Posted by & filed under Not Really Astrological.

This essay was passed on to me by my splendid sister-in-law in Australia. It was most comforting yesterday, when I was in the depths of despair ( which seems to be happening at least a couple of times a day), as was this note from an Australian reader:

Yes our world seems as if it’s slipping back into the days of religious persecution but my gut is telling me its like a wave of fear based fundamentalism on every level before the lightwave hits. Am I being the idealistic Pisces Ascendant too much?

Maybe, but I hope in this case that idealism is next to realism.

Summer Astrology: Behind the Wheel

Posted by & filed under Seasonal Essays.

by April Elliott Kent

When I was a kid, we spent several late-60s summers visiting my mother’s sister and her family in Los Angeles. After school let out for summer vacation, my brothers and sister and I would pile into the back of our Oldsmobile station wagon with a stash of science fiction novels, comic books, Spirographs, snack foods, pillows, and blankets to keep us occupied over the long, three and a half day haul across country from our home in Indiana to southern California.

The best part of the trip was staying in small motels in remote towns along Interstate 40 with exotic names like Tucumcari, Amarillo, and Flagstaff. These motels had large, neon signs and shimmering swimming pools that looked absolutely enchanting after a long, hot day of staring at steaming, never-ending blacktop. I don’t remember ever actually swimming in one of those pools, though; we usually ended the driving day with just enough time to have a fast-food dinner and watch a little TV before turning in early, so we could get up before dawn to hit the road again.

Daybreak was the very best time of day. We’d check out of the motel before dawn and drive for a couple of hours, dad and mom quiet in front, kids dozing in the back, stirring to watch the sky gradually transition from inky to crimson to pale blue. Then, just after sunup, we would pull over for pancakes and hash browns at some greasy-spoon, truckstop diner.

I loved those trips, loved being on the road, jostling along for days at a time; it was like being on a cruise. What luxury, to be in a small contained space for days at a time with nothing to do but munch Cheetos, read great literature like “The Adventures of Tweety and Sylvester,” and fight with your sister. When you’re young you instinctively feel safe with someone else, someone you trust, behind the wheel. All you have to do is sit back and entertain yourself while the world drifts by, filling you with a sense of adventure and endless possibilities as wide as the big desert sky. (more…)

Full Moon in Taurus: Los Dias de los Muertos

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Scorpio, Taurus.

This article was originally published at in November 2001.

losdiasSan Diego, where I live, is a long way from New York; but every day I think about that huge, smoldering mass grave on the southern tip of Manhattan.  It’s a horror even from this distance; I can only vaguely imagine what it would be like to be living there.  Some believe spirits need their bodies to have a proper burial before they can be at peace, but it’s possible that’s just something that the living need in order to put death to rest.  In any event that beautiful city, normally such a jewel in autumn, must be a shattered place now, a tortured place, heavy with a spirit of reluctant and sudden death.

My culture is generally ill at ease with death. We are mostly ill equipped to mourn, and when we try to do it well meaning friends jump in to get us “back on track,” to urge us to go on with our lives as quickly as possible.But what makes us think that dealing with death is not a part of going on with life?  To be preoccupied with death to the exclusion of celebrating life is nonsense – but then, so is denial of death.  This Full Moon, when the Sun in Scorpio representing the inevitability of death and decay dances with the Moon in Taurus, representing the abundance of life, we’re reminded again that each of these is one side of the same coin, incomplete without the other. We see the call and response of life and death in agriculture, in the lunar phases, in the seasons: Life carries a price tag of eventual death, but death is arguably just a doorway to another kind of life.  That’s not always a comforting thought when it’s your loved one who has died, or when you are facing death yourself; but it does seem to be the way the world works.

America was an interesting place to be in the month immediately following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Even for someone like me who lives 3000 miles away and didn’t lose anyone I knew in those attacks, the assault on my sense of security felt very much like losing someone close to you:  Shock, disbelief, depression, rage, disorientation, terrible loss. We huddled around our televisions, posted messages on Usenet groups, talked about the events incessantly; that’s what you do after a loss.  That’s part of working through the grief.  And for once, because everyone was grieving together, no one was rushing anybody through the process.  For once, we all understood together exactly what everyone else was feeling.

It’s been an unusual time. Yet interestingly, given our usual discomfort with death, Halloween has been growing in popularity for years; it’s now second only to Christmas in popularity among American holidays.  Its origin is sketchy – it seems to be descended from a Celtic harvest festival that honored the lord of the dead, brought to North America by the Irish. (Halloween seems to be celebrated primarily in North America, Britain, Ireland, and the Philippines.)  The emphasis of our modern American celebration of Halloween is on fear, and primarily geared toward children, who wear “scary” costumes and go door to door “threatening” adults into giving them candy.  It’s also the favored season for movie studios launching big budget horror films filled with gore and nasty surprises.  The Halloween “season,” once a single night, now is stretched out to encompass as much time as possible in order to facilitate consumerism, so for several weeks each October, American invokes death and the supernatural with a weird incantation of innocuous fantasy, grisly horror, and candy corn. This feels, especially in light of September 11, a rather inadequate way in which to acknowledge death.

In soulful contrast, Mexicans observe Los Días de los Muertos (the Days of the Dead) on November 1 and 2 – days when those who have passed away are imagined to be allowed to return to earth to visit with their families and friends.  Ceremonies and festivals honor those who have died, and bring focus to the other aspects of the life cycle: fertility and life. Los Días de los Muertos are traditionally celebrated by cleaning and decorating the cemetery, creating special flower wreaths, making calaveras (skulls made of sugar), and selling items for the ofrendas, altars made of offerings to the dead to assure continuity of life.  In the Mexican tradition, those who are dead provide a connection between the living and God and the Saints.

Recently I listened to an interview with a photographer who is creating a photographic legacy of the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse. He spends each day at Ground Zero, recording the light and textures of the effort — his ofrenda is a camera on a tripod.  A friend of mine, a writer and filmmaker in New York, published on his website a marvelous essay about the week following the attacks and some remarkable footage he’d shot; his computer, his videocamera, and his website are his ofrendas.

Whether you build a traditional altar or create one through your art, this Full Moon, on the night we celebrate Halloween, is an extraordinary opportunity to acknowledge both death and the continuity of life with an ofrenda of your own.  For mine,  I’ll be visiting my favorite Mexican bakery for sweets, and buying fresh apples and the most beautiful marigolds (the flowers of the dead) for my mantel.  I have my eye on some little calacas (skeleton dolls) to commemorate my personal loved ones on the other side — my abuelos, my padres, my hermano, my tía.  I’ll light candles, build the first fire of the season in the fireplace, and play some of my very favorite music.  And I’ll open up the windows and invite the Full Moon onto my altar while I dance with my loved ones, living and dead, and with the beloved dead I never knew, who dance thousands of miles away on the ofrendas of New York.

© 2001 April Elliott Kent

Eclipses: Defending Your Life

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Learning Astrology.

by April Elliott Kent

defending Albert Brooks’ gently amusing film Defending Your Life presents a vision of the afterlife in which the newly deceased are sent to Judgment City, a sort of cosmic Ellis Island where each spends four days in court viewing days from his or her life, defending the choices and decisions made on earth and examining his progress in overcoming his fears. A person who led a fairly fearful life might examine events from as many as twelve or fifteen days of his life, while the relatively fearless might only look at a few days. A defense lawyer helps the deceased “defend” his life, while a prosecuting attorney points out his most serious miscalculations. Finally, two judges rule whether he “moves on” or returns to earth to try to get a better handle on his fears.

Brooks, as we soon see through the filmed excerpts from his life, was fairly ineffectual at mastering his fears in life. His troubles continue in Judgment City, where he falls in love with the radiant and fearless Meryl Streep but limits his involvement with her out of fear he’s not “good enough” for her. It soon becomes obvious that even his own death was not enough to persuade Brooks to live his (after)life to the fullest! (more…)

Eclipses in Capricorn: The Winter of Our Discontent

Posted by & filed under Capricorn, Eclipses.

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us.  Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourg’d by the sequent effects…we have seen the best of our time. (The Duke of Gloucester in King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2)

winter of our discontentThe Duke of Gloucester is despondent.  He’s just watched in horror as King Lear capriciously drop-kicked a trusted advisor and favorite daughter, and now believes he (Gloucester) is the target of a murderous plot devised by his own son. So much tragic weirdness in so short a time has affected the Duke deeply, and like any good pre-Christian fatalist he blames it all on eclipses.

Oddly enough, while I espouse a free-will oriented astrological party line I nevertheless find myself increasingly sympathetic to Gloucester’s position.  In fact, I fancy I’m already feeling the impending Christmas day solar eclipse.  This morning when I stepped out for my walk I noticed the atmosphere felt…weird: static, tense, surreal. When I lived in LA there was a similar feeling in the air before and after any good-sized earthquake, and for a moment this morning my senses responded with familiar, queasy apprehension; then I realized it was only a Santa Ana, a weird, hot, dry wind peculiar to southern California.  A weird, hot, dry wind, I might add, that feels particularly incongruous at winter’s epicenter.

Later in the day I received a Christmas card from my recently widowed uncle, and the sight of his shaky, unfamiliar handwriting (I doubt I’d ever seen it; my aunt always wrote out the Christmas cards) struck me as almost unbearably poignant; all at once, weeks of holiday tension and election bullshit converged and I wanted to throw a few heavy objects, then plunk down and weep helplessly.  A world from which both my mother and my aunt have gone, leaving my gruff old uncle to sit and write out Christmas cards; in which a friend from my youth has resurfaced to announce he is dying of AIDS; in which my country will be led for the next four years by someone who makes Dan Quayle look positively statesmanlike — all this has left me both cranky and heartsick.  A hot, dry wind has blown through my life, and I’m pretty much of a mind with Gloucester that “we have seen the best of our time.”

But.. blame it on eclipses? Well, no, not really.  After all, plenty of people are having a grand old time at the moment; we’re all on the same planet, under the shadow of the same eclipse, yet while I’m gnashing my teeth and wringing my hands many folks seem festive. Besides, I truly believe anything astrological should be read as a poetic reflection of a past/present/future amalgam, rather than a portent of things to come.  And the poetry of eclipses, dark and dramatic and edgy, is a haiku of change.  Some of us like change better than others.  Some changes are more welcome than others.  But there’s always something changing in our lives, and eclipses tell us where the changes are taking place at any given time.

As an earthquake or a Santa Ana wind disturb our physical atmosphere, eclipses reflect a disturbance in our emotional atmosphere. In my experience it’s not so important whether it’s a solar eclipse or a lunar one, or a total eclipse or a partial one, or whether or not it’s visible where you live.  What’s more important is the placement of the eclipse point in your natal chart, which acts as a marker to identify the toxic corners of the psyche which want to be dredged; the shaky places where you need to shore up your foundation; the dark places where you are ready to go a little deeper and untangle yourself from old habits and destructive patterns.

For a couple of years now, eclipses have fallen in the signs of Cancer and Capricorn. The houses in your chart where Cancer and Capricorn live have been like superfund sites, toxic dumping grounds where you may be feeling the scratchy anxiety of winter’s discontent all year long.  Likewise, any planets in your birthchart in cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) have presented their messages and lessons for your meditation. These houses and planets describe the parts of your life that probably look much different now than they did a few years ago.  Whether they look better or worse depends on you.

As for Gloucester’s superstitious musings about eclipses and fate, I think the response of his treacherous bastard son Edmund is actually quite sensible:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune — often the surfeits of our own behavior — we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance […] and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! (Lear, I.2).

While I think Edmund was laying it on a bit thick with that whoremaster business, I suspect both he and his father were right, in the end.  Things change, and not always in the way we would like.  In fact some changes, as Gloucester noted, feel so dreadful as to seem apocryphal, and eclipses provide an eloquent dramatization of such feelings. But what we resist on the outside, I suspect, speaks volumes about what needs changed on the inside; and those are the changes that ultimately determine our destiny.

© 2000 Apri Elliott Kent. All rights reserved.

Eclipses in 8th and 2nd Houses: Crisis in Intimacy and Self-Sufficiency

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART  7 of 7. | Read the previous installment here

dancing_dark_mainDon’t know how to find where an eclipse will fall in your birthchart? This post will help.

It’s perhaps a year since our protagonist made her dramatic leap of faith, throwing herself headlong into a bold new enterprise. The thrill of sleeping late and taking long lunches with her friends has worn off. She and her husband are beginning to notice the loss of the income she was earning at her job. And she finds it’s every bit as grueling to sit alone in a room writing all day, as it is to sit in an office hunched over spreadsheets.

The book is shaping up into something a little different than she had anticipated, and in exploring the motivations of her characters as she writes she is confronting some of her old demons as well. She catches herself brooding; she’s often troubled, for reasons she can’t quite explain to her husband. A good friend discovers a cancerous tumor; and in the face of her friends’s ordeal, our young woman feels increasingly ridiculous, sitting around in a room writing stories all day – and even more ridiculous for feeling increasingly depressed.

Her moods are straining her warm relationship with her husband. He applauds her compassion for her friend, but doesn’t understand why she seems to be taking it so personally. “You should be enjoying what you have,” he tells her, “instead of feeling guilty for having it.”

But that’s part of the problem, because more and more she’s feeling like nothing she has is really hers. She’s unaccustomed to being completely supported by someone else financially, and it makes her doubt she’s worth anything on her own. She might eventually be able to sell her book, but she is realistic enough to know that might be a long shot. So the crisis becomes, is my worth dependant on how much money I’m earning? Is the worth of anything I do accurately reflected by the money it can earn me

The questions of this natal eclipse cycle are among the most fundamental: who am I really, and is that of any intrinsic value? What’s important in life? Usually you’ll experience some level of psychological discomfort, as you’re tested in your resolve to pursue whatever you went after in the previous cycle, or sometimes through exposure to the illness or death of others. Usually, this cycle also introduces financial discomfort, because money, in our society, has come to define our self-worth; working through financial difficulties often clarifies for us our true self-worth, apart from our bank balance. And we must know what is valuable about us before we enter relationship with another—which is the promise of the new cycle ahead.

And what becomes to the young woman in our story? Well, maybe the financial strain weakens her marriage and she experiences real problems in this area as eclipses move back into the 1st and 7th houses. Maybe she completes her book and takes it out into the marketplace (7th house) during the next cycle. Maybe she just incorporates a whole new level of understanding of herself and what’s important, into her existing relationships, so that they became richer and more authentic.

© 1999 April Elliott Kent.

MoonShadow reportWant to know more about how this year’s eclipses will impact your birth chart? Order my Followed by a Moonshadow eclipse report – 3 years of eclipses for only $35. Click here for a sample and ordering information.

Eclipses in 9th and 3rd Houses: Crisis in Mastery and Skill

Posted by & filed under Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART 6 of 7. | Read the previous installment here

dancing_dark_mainDon’t know how to find where an eclipse will fall in your birthchart? This post will help.

It’s been some months since the death of her mother, and our young woman has a secret: late at night, after everyone has gone to bed, she has been rewriting her mother’s short story, and it’s been growing and growing. She’s added pieces of her own story, the one she found in that box a few years ago. And she thinks – just maybe, when she dares to think about it – that it’s good, this story, and she thinks if she had the time, she could maybe even make it into a proper book.

One morning at breakfast she confides in her husband about the story, the idea of the book. He tells her what a marvelous idea it is that she has, to write this book! “Oh, leave that damn job, you’ve hated it so long – why don’t you take a chance and do this marvelous thing?” And the more supportive he is, the more resistant she becomes. “I’m not a real writer, I majored in accounting, if I leave my job and this doesn’t work out it’ll leave this big embarrassing hole in my resume…”

In her heart of hearts, she knows she’s found her career, you see. The hours she has spent working on this story have been the happiest she’s known in years. But the thought of committing to something so unknown terrifies her. Who is she, after all, to think she can be a writer?

She feels she needs an objective analysis of her ability, so she decides to take a creative writing course at the local university. For her final paper, she submits part of her story. A week later she receives her paper in the mail with her professor’s glowing comments. The next day, her heart absolutely in her throat, she goes to work and gives two weeks notice.

Eclipses in the 9th house, like eclipses in aspect to Jupiter, invite you to take a chance in life, to act on faith, even though you may not feel that you’re up to the challenge.

Eclipses in the 3rd house, like eclipses in aspect to Mercury, provide the impulse to develop skill. Often, this is the cycle when you finally take an existing interest to the next level – like making the leap from reading and writing a language, to actually speaking it.

Part 7: Eclipses in the 8th and 2nd houses »

© 1999 April Elliott Kent.

MoonShadow reportWant to know more about how this year’s eclipses will impact your birth chart? Order my Followed by a Moonshadow eclipse report – 3 years of eclipses for only $35. Click here for a sample and ordering information.