Full Moon in Taurus: Los Dias de los Muertos

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

This article was originally published at MoonCircles.com 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.

Eclipses in 10th and 4th Houses: Direction and Connection

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART 5 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 a couple of years since our young woman rediscovered that story she’d written, and eclipses have moved on to the 10th and 4th houses of her chart. She’s happily married, emotionally sound, she has new friends and creative energy to burn; but she finds herself feeling the lack of a strong purpose, a direction, a sense of meaning to her life. She dislikes her job and doesn’t feel she is working in her ideal profession; her boss is a real tyrant, and lately has been piling lots of work on her and blaming her for missing deadlines she didn’t know existed.

Her husband encourages her to leave the job; after all, they both can live on his income. But that wouldn’t solve the problem, because it goes deeper than just her problems with her boss: she doesn’t know what to do with her life.

She might have more clarity, she suspects, if her mother had provided a stronger role model. Her mother stayed at home and cooked pot roast and raised her kids, and that certainly is not the direction our modern young woman wants to take.

Then one day, as eventually happens in life, her mother dies. Our young woman returns to the family home –and, metaphorically, to her fourth house– to celebrate her mother and mourn her loss, to grapple with endings and mortality. One day, sorting through a trunk of her mother’s mementos, she finds something that shocks her: the yellowed, hastily scrawled pages of a short story her mother had written years before. Her mother, a writer? She’d never thought of her mother as a writer, or indeed as a creative person at all.

If the 10th house and Saturn, its natural ruler, send you out into the world to see the meaning of life, the 4th house and the natal Moon send you on a treasure hunt deep within yourself and into your lineage. Here, you’ll find the raw material, the diamonds in the rough, that you can polish and refine into a meaningful gift to offer the world.

Part 6: Eclipses in the 9th and 3rd 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.

Eclipses in 11th and 5th Houses: Crisis in Reception and Self-Expression

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART 4 of 7. |  Read Part 3 here

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

After awhile our young bride, a little stronger and better rested, emerges into the world to reconnect with her old friends. But some of those friendships didn’t survive her disappearance. Some of her single friends are convinced they were right about her dumping them when she got married, and don’t return her calls, while others insist she continue the social pace they enjoyed together when she was single. Some of her married friends have upped the ante and moved on to having kids, and have no time for her. Maybe her marriage required her to move a great distance from her ordinary support systems; maybe in making the life-changing transitions of getting married and confronting her past, she has outgrown a lot of her old friends. Anyway, it seems that everyone has abandoned her at once, and the more she tries to pretend that everything is the way it’s always been, the worse she feels.

One day, while unpacking some boxes, she runs across a short story she had started writing a few years ago, and then set aside when she became engaged. Reading through it, she starts making some notes in the margins; when she looks up again, she notices that several hours have passed. She sets the story aside to make dinner – but is excited at the prospect of getting back to it tomorrow.

As with eclipses to Uranus, the ruler of the 11th, this eclipse cycle finds you out of step with those around us. The crisis lies in rediscovering the 5th house part of yourself, those creative passions that are more compelling than any dinner party you could go to and that eventually lead you to share yourself with the rest of the world. When you’re able to share what you truly are, you’ll naturally attract the friends and associates who are right for you.

Part 5: Eclipses in the 10th and 4th 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.

Eclipses in 12th and 6th Houses: Crisis in Retreat and Adaptation

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART 3 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.

After the hectic activity of eclipses moving through the first house and seventh houses, eclipses move into the 12th and 6th house, and our young newlywed finds herself in a Crisis in Retreat and Adaptation. After months of frenzied activity, planning a wedding, setting up a new household, our young couple enters the honeymoon phase. For a year or so they barely leave the house for social engagements; they’re just plain worn out, and they need some time alone.

Our young bride is wondering just when the exhilaration of married life is supposed to kick in! She adores her husband, and their wedding day was beautiful. So why does she feel so tired all the time? Why does she find herself crying at odd moments, picking fights with her husband over inconsequential things? Why does she feel so weird?

Meanwhile, she’s spent hours changing her name on countless documents: the DMV, the passport office, Social Security office, credit cards. People call her by her new name and she doesn’t even know who they’re talking to.

Living with someone new has brought about the challenge of working out new routines and adapting old habits. Will we have separate bank accounts or joint? Which toaster will we keep? Who does the dishes? After years of sorting out her own routines, each day with her husband is like recreating the wheel!

Eclipses in the 12th house, like eclipses in aspect to Neptune, are times for retreat and recuperation. Our young bride is recuperating not just from the wedding, but from a lifetime of bad relationships, stored up hurts and disappointments – and confronting her illusions about relationships, and her new husband. Now that she has a safe haven, she can surrender her armor – and purging the emotions that have resurfaced is a tiring business.

Eclipses in the 6th house, like eclipses in aspect to Mercury, find you delineating and defining roles and expectations, and dealing with the day to day reality of living with whatever changes were made during the cycle of eclipses that fell in the 1st and 7th houses.

The fundamental crisis of this cycle involves honoring your need for solitude and contemplation, while simultaneously taking care of the mundane tasks that take up most of our time on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, you can bring some 12th house contemplation into those mundane 6th house affairs, and approach your day-to-day tasks as a spiritual journey – instead of envisioning spirituality as something which occurs apart from the everyday world.

Part 4: Eclipses in the 11th and 5th 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.

Eclipses in 1st and 7th Houses: Crisis of Individualism and Relationship

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Houses.

by April Elliott Kent

This is PART 2 of 7. |  Read Part 1 here

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

We meet a young woman who has just become engaged to the man of her dreams – a fairly common event during this cycle, with its connection to the seventh house of partnership. She can’t believe he loves her and treats her so well—all the other men in her life have been rotten. He wants to take care of her, support her emotionally and financially, and she’s torn between not believing her luck and really not believing her luck. “What did I do to deserve this?” she asks herself, just like all those other times when the treatment she was receiving was not so loving.

Her decision to marry him will probably be the simplest part of this cycle. The minute they announce their plans to marry, their excited friends and families pounce, anxious to help, to give advice. Before the bride knows it, the plans for her wedding day have been taken over and she has ceased to be a flesh and blood person: she is now a “bride,” constantly shuffled around from caterer and wedding consultant and her new in-laws. As the weeks pass, she shows the strain of constant planning and decision making, trying to please new and important people in her life, trying to keep everyone happy as the plans for the wedding progress — she becomes more and more frantic and exhausted.

Meanwhile, people are treating her differently. Her single friends wish her well, but they treat her with a curious mixture of enthusiasm, resentment, and sadness – “We’re losing you,” they tell her, and she wonders with a start if that’s true: will she be one of those women who abandons all her friends when she gets married? Her friends have helped her define herself, and the thought of losing them is like losing part of her identity. She becomes anxious that the “I’ will not survive becoming part of a “we.” She finds herself growing short-tempered and defensive with her husband to be, who tries to be understanding but has worries of his own, particularly about how much she’s spending on the wedding.

Eclipses falling in the first and seventh houses don’t always describe a marriage, but it is an event that well describes the fundamental crisis of this cycle: profound challenges to self and identity brought about through close relationships with others. It’s a cycle that frequently describes turning points such as marriage, divorce, or moving away from home.

Like eclipses in aspect to Mars, the planet associated with the first house, this cycle is a time of marking out important territory for yourself in the world, and trying to defend yourself against perceived attacks on your individuality.

As when eclipses aspect Venus, the planet associated with the seventh house, you may find yourself evaluating your self-worth and values in the context of personal relationship.

And because eclipses falling in the first and seventh often square natal planets in the tenth and fourth houses, you may find that changes in your identity and personal relationship status can also have an effect on your career choices, as well as marking a significant change in how you relate to your family of origin.

Part 3:  Eclipses in the 12th and 6th 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.

Prediction: When the Future is Beside the Point

Posted by & filed under Astrology Techniques, Professional Astrology.

by April Elliott Kent

Originally appeared in The Wholistic Astrologer, May 2000.

prediction and astrologyOccasionally life finds us playing out some familiar piece of personal theater — a self-destructive response to particular situations, for instance, or a predilection for inappropriate relationships — when suddenly we experience a breakthrough of objectivity. We are able to observe ourselves as if from a great distance, as if watching a character in a movie — a genre movie, one that goes according to a well-established formula, like a teen slasher movie…

Our intrepid teenage heroine returns home from a hot date to find her front door wide open. Instead of running for dear life (obviously the sensible response), she wanders slowly into the house, her eyes glazed over, almost as if she can’t help herself… This is the point at which those in the audience—who’ve seen dozens of these slasher flicks and can predict exactly what’s going to happen next—rise up as one and shout at that luminous projection on the movie screen, “Don’t do it! Don’t go in that house!”

After all, our protagonist would presumably have seen a few of these films herself, and should know better! But of course, just because we the audience see what’s coming next doesn’t mean we can do much about it. Even when it’s ourselves we’re observing in the all-too-familiar film of our lives, often we can only sit and watch in disgust as we wander, eyes glazed, into that house — and get ripped to shreds by a mutant serial killer.

Prediction in astrology seems to have roughly the same drawback (without the mutant serial killer): Even if we could use astrology to predict exactly what’s going to happen next (and I don’t believe we can), I’m not sure our predictions would be helpful or even particularly relevant to our clients, who have usually decided exactly what they’re going to do well before they come to see us. Yet as astrologers, we have a powerful incentive to predict because when it works, we fulfill society’s expectations and both we and astrology look good.

I came to astrology solidly on the side of free will and spent the first few years in practice neatly sidestepping the entire prediction issue by giving people full psychological profiles of themselves, which may or may not have been helpful, but for which I was certainly in no way qualified. There were plenty of astrologers in my immediate circle, however, who were prediction fundamentalists: transiting Saturn squaring your Moon was going to pin your mother under a large rock, period. While I was stumbling along in agonizing baby steps, struggling against the prevailing paradigm and irritating my few clients with my refusal to predict, my fatalistic colleagues were having little trouble attracting — and satisfying — clients.

This apparent victory of fatalism over empowerment flew in the face of everything I believed to be right about life in general and astrology in particular, but I wanted to build my practice; so for awhile I tried to play along. I grew despondent as it became apparent that prediction actually could work on this fatalistic level, and that furthermore this is what most clients claimed they wanted. But it really bothered me whenever I got lucky and “predicted” something for a client that “came true”, and they came back to me wide-eyed and impressed, wanting more. It bothered me because I couldn’t get this question out of my mind: What is the point? Why is this helpful, “knowing” what’s going to happen? Presuming we can know?

Today this kind of rhetoric runs fast and furious throughout the astrological community as we grow increasingly disenchanted with the old predictive model and embrace astrology’s unique ability to inspire and empower. But as our approach to astrology becomes (we hope) more sophisticated, we have to battle the impulse to feel frustrated with, and a bit condescending toward clients and their very human desire to know “what’s going to happen next.” Because let’s be honest: Despite our attempts to distance ourselves from this approach to prediction, to honor free will and present a more balanced and metaphorical astrology, speaking in terms of archetypes and psychology rather than events — when we’re working with our own chart in a predictive way, don’t we look at that Pluto transit bearing down on our natal Venus and instinctively jump to the very best or very worst conclusion, hoping for the best, fearing the worst, with very little of the proportion we try to offer our clients? Despite our best efforts to rise above superstition and fatalism, astrologers are after all mere mortals; and the need for predictability appears to be a generic human instinct.

There are practical reasons for wanting to predict the future. Ask any farmer whose livelihood depends on predicting cycles of weather. But your average urban client is not seeking advice on optimal planting times, and I suspect the majority of astrology clients in the industrialized world would tell you they seek predictions out of a need to feel “in control.” In fact, I think many of us would rather have advance knowledge of a miserable future than entertain optimistic uncertainties; at least we’d know what was coming down, instead of sitting back grinning and hoping, then looking like an idiot when life pulls the rug out from under us. Just as often, though, the desire for prediction seems to have the opposite motivation: A need for assurance that the future is preordained and we therefore have little control or responsibility for creating the future we want.

Astrology’s dirty little secret is that even with a strong grasp of traditional predictive methods we cannot predict events with absolute reliability, because we are only human and because our clients have a great deal of influence on how their lives play out. For skeptics, that’s precisely the point at which the entire argument for astrology falls apart. But what if we could predict the future precisely and reliably? Even on those occasions when I play the prediction game, it’s my experience that very few clients alter their behavior based on what I predict. We’ve all had the experience of being asked for advice by a client, or even just a good friend, and after we’ve given advice—really great advice, we think, usually a variation on “Don’t go into that house!”— they listen carefully and nod and say, “Yes, you’re right, you’re absolutely right.” And then they leave and make a beeline for whatever destructive person or situation we discouraged them from pursuing! Whether or not my prediction will eventually be proven correct is, at that point, completely irrelevant; the deed is done, and the best my client can do is benefit from 20/20 hindsight.

So if we can’t necessarily predict events too well with astrology, and if to the extent we can people don’t heed our warnings anyway, what are we left with? Hopefully, a system that encourages personal development and change. Whether it’s ourselves or our clients whom we observe playing out the same mistakes over and over, our new paradigm for predictive astrology is a tool to help spot destructive trends and redirect energies into more creative channels. But change and empowerment are a hard sell, compared with the passive gratification of predictions.

It seems most of us must come to a point of flat-out emotional trauma before we’re willing to consider change. It’s when we’re at this point of crisis—when we have been liberated by pain from our usual defenses– that counsel of any type seems to have the best chance of actually making a difference, but it’s also when we seek “prediction” most desperately. It’s at these moments of crisis that astrologers feel most pressured to give clients what they want: prediction, and the certainty it represents. But prediction at this stage of the game is dangerous, because it encourages a mindset which seeks a static future — and that is not a mindset conducive to transformation in the present.

If we choose to work in the so-called “predictive” realm—if we choose to draw correlations between planetary cycles and cycles of human transformation — we need to find a way of interpreting the astrological language in a way that places past and future events in the context of a larger landscape. Understanding can go a long way toward substituting for certainty; if we have understanding and perspective, we have an inner compass that guides us through whatever external dramas come our way. Used as a tool for building this kind of understanding, astrology can reveal possibilities in an exciting and meaningful way and offer a satisfying alternative to the no-win choice between fatalistic, head-in-the-sand fortune telling and the kind of squooshy, feel-good soft-pedaling that leaves clients feeling angry that “You didn’t warn me that would happen!”.

One of my favorite tools is the use of eclipse cycles to help clients recognize the recurring patterns in their lives, interpret what these patterns mean, and work productively with moments of breakthrough crisis. The emphasis is much less on using cycles to predict the future than on using them to understand the present within the context of the past. By tracking eclipse patterns through the chart, I’m often able to demonstrate how these patterns link together unexpected periods of our lives and offer us healing through a series of developmental crises. But more to the point, I try to present this information in a way that supposes astrological cycles have something worthwhile to offer us, that they needn’t serve merely as a cheap cinematic trick to flatter astrologers into feeling omniscient or to let our clients off the hook as co-creators of their futures, but rather as tools to excite curiosity and promote imaginative responses.

Used thoughtfully, eclipse cycles or any other predictive technique can offer a way to anticipate, revision, and ultimately heal the life lessons suggested by natal aspects. Having a tool for anticipating the next chapter in the unfolding drama of our lives can help us understand not so much what events will take place, but what part of us will be summoned up by those events and given the opportunity for further development.

So here it is: I don’t subscribe to a causal astrology, which suggests that the planets cause us to behave in certain ways, or cause things to happen to us. What interests me is using the birthchart as a kind of roadmap to divine the roads available, determine paths of least resistance, and play with alternative ways of imagining one’s life, maximizing personal growth, and having the most fun allowed by law. But any roadmap is limited to showing us the roads available; it can’t tell which road we’ll choose to take, or how we’ll react to what we meet along the way. In short, maps—including birthcharts—can tell us how to get where we’re going, but not where we’ll end up!

I can’t speak for all astrologers, or even for the few whom I consider kindred spirits. But my personal astrological mission statement is expressed to my clients as follows:

When we work together, I’ll aim to present my perspectives in an enabling, imaginative way; to speak clearly, in meaningful language; to use your birth chart to reveal something of your choices and challenges. I won’t tell you which road to take, or presume to know where you’ll end up. Instead, we’ll use the symbolism of the chart to gain perspective, when you’re uncertain about which road to choose; to find hope, when life has disappointed you; and when you’re lost, to help you find your way home.

© 2000 April Elliott Kent. All rights reserved