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Archive for Friday 26th August 2005

Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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Spring Loaded Friday

Dear Readers:

Friday is a spring-loaded day. It's the last of the Mercury-Mars squares, which may help release some of the tension and reveal some of the mystery associated with the recent Mercury retrograde; as well as the last quarter Moon, which can slow things down and help bring some focus.

The Sun is now in Virgo, which brings the last month of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the southern, as we approach the rather potent turning point of the equinox in less than one month from now.

Notably, Venus in Libra crosses the degree of the Oct. 3 annular solar eclipse in the next 24 hours, revealing something of the nature of that event. It's a South Node eclipse, so we may want to keep our eyes on the past for information and an image of resolving past issues, whether from the distant or recent past, in relationships. Perhaps resolve is not the precise word, but I do feel a sense of resolution, whether it's in the form of letting go or someone coming back; whether it's a sense of understanding, or seeing people and events in their place. Only time and experience will tell.

Speaking of, this week I've taken one question only, from Alexandra. It's an in-depth look at one person's experience of her chart, something approaching a real astrological process. I don't profess to answer the question -- only to raise some awareness and see where the discussion goes.

It's based on an email exchange, to which Alexandra consented to be published. Thank you Alexandra -- we'll send out your ephemeris soon.

Please keep those questions coming, and see you over at Planet Waves.


Dear Eric,

I love how much you do with Chiron, which is at the root of my question here. Chiron's a pretty big deal in my chart. Chiron in Aries and my 1st house is opposite Venus in Libra and my 7th. Venus is flanked by Pluto and Uranus, and I'm also a Libra with an Aquarius Moon and rising, trine my late Libra Sun.

So, here's someone for whom relationships are incredibly important, but most interpreters of Chiron have me scared witless about my potential, for one -- as if Chiron were cursing my romantic happiness. To be sure, in my life, forging solid love connections with men has been damned hard for someone who otherwise has much to offer, and I have actually felt pretty cursed. So part of my struggle has been not to give in to this victimy thinking. (I also have Neptune square the Moon, so maybe I'm extra prone to that way of seeing it.)

You tend to have a really positive and helpful spin on tough aspects, and how to engage with them in a purposeful way. I wonder if there's anything you could say about Chiron's role in relationships, and also the potential for healing those Chiron wounds. Are they "unhealable" as other Chiron thinkers have tended to portray them? With therapy and realism understood as part of the equation, can one prevail?

-- Alexandra

Dear Alexandra,
To answer your question in one word, in my vision of life and of astrology -- YES. One can prevail over the things that hold us back, and heal the things that hurt us in the past, or that hurt us today. There would be little point in living, otherwise. There would be even less point in attempting healing, awareness or growth.

I am aware that many, if not most, astrology books, particularly the 'serious' and psychological ones, can present a somber view of life, and often of what happens under the influences of astrology. And though astrology books can present information and examples, they cannot sit with us in the process and help us work through what we need to work through in order to grow. They cannot actually respond to our feelings and our needs. And most important, they cannot cover all possibilities. And they don't include our chart.

Astrology itself also has its limits. Most of the purveyors of any system like to present it as the last authority, or at least need to make a convincing case that it has a lot of authority. Astrology is useful -- to a point, and some of that depends on how you use it. And I think it's a great idea to stay conscious of the limits, and work with them. Within a healing setting, I prefer to think of astrology as a diagnostic tool rather than the final word. From Greek, the word "diagnosis" means "a discerning, distinguishing." Breaking that down a bit, "Dia" means "apart," and "gignoskein" means "to learn." Diagnosis is what we learn, see and discern when we take things apart.

Astrology helps us look into the psyche, as well as the childhood setting, the family line and the parents, and also helps us see what happens over the course of time. All of these things are very helpful in the healing process. But to use a chart without the person connected with it having a voice in the process is a little like having a movie on a DVD but no player. What happens in life is more important than the chart or what it says; the life itself is often more revealing of the chart than the chart is of life; and in my view, astrology must always focus on people, their feelings and experiences, and not their technical details.

No matter how good an astrology book may be, it cannot do this. And no matter how accurate or insightful an astrologer may be, I feel strongly that there needs to be a source and method of healing that goes beyond astrology itself. We could put forth some theories of healing wherein astrology itself works as a kind of tonic, guidance, support, or awareness-raising agency; there are some ways in which it seems to work well -- such as when a natal chart interpretation confirms your life ambitions, or even when a daily horoscope column speaks to you.

It is also possible for an astrologer to study a position or aspect sufficiently and in enough people to present a plausible theory about it in a book or article. And it may be a very good theory and help some readers. Finally, we can use astrology as a means of ascertaining or assigning the meaning of events. This involves taking the bold leap to the idea that the events have meaning; but of course they do. That meaning, or possibilities for meaning, can be helpful. It is very often helpful to see life in terms of what it may be teaching us and why, and to see the underlying messages of events -- and then actually learn something from them! But we are still pretty much in the symbolic realm here. As the Course in Miracles says so beautifully, "Symbols stand for something else, and the symbols of love are meaningless if love is everything."

If you study astrology, please tape this to your computer: What appears in the chart represents events, people, circumstances, situations, feelings, ideas you have about yourself and the world, and so on -- but you and what you actually feel and experience are the reality. How you correspond to these symbols, and how they develop over time (that is, when transits happen), is what I feel needs to come out of astrological work. Then, through this process, the experience of the chart can gradually be understood in the present, and an astrologer can help the person whose chart it is make the decisions they face today.

Since we are using symbols, and since we don't quite get that love is everything, we need to find out what they stand for. We need to peel back the onion in terms of personal experience and interpretation of life. This should take some time, say, at least a couple of sessions, and in the space remaining, I will give a few basic examples of where we might go with this from a real dialog with Alexandra -- a totally new approach for this column.

When an astrologer is presented with a client and a chart, I suggest that the first thing that happens is a process of getting acquainted; that is, the use of the chart to see what's happening, and what has happened, with the client, and enlisting the person to help clear up what's stated in the chart. I recognize that there are some astrologers who can, or feel they can, psychoanalyze the client entirely based on the chart; and even if they can do so, I am not sure of the use of that. In any event, it would be a speculative interpretation, no matter how accurate the interpretation worked out to be.

This is no small matter for astrology, but it's so large that it rarely comes up. This approach to astrology is my response to the "fate versus free will" discussion that has plagued our work. Is the chart "deterministic" or does it point us to choices? Are we free, or little cosmic puppets? Well, it depends on how you deal with the situation. If astrology is going to be about free will, we're going to get there by free will.

So, Alexandra, as you know, I wrote to you with some queries. First, here is your chart:

Alexandra chart

When I saw this chart, the first thing I felt needed attention was the Moon. I say that because: the Moon is rising, in the first house -- so it's prominent and influential, if not immensely dominant; it is in the last degree, which is an indicator of something -- of what, I don't know; and it's square Neptune. And the Moon is in Aquarius, meaning there is something interesting about the mother that we need to learn more about right away. So, I requested a little biography of mom, as the Moon points to mom.

The idea of this process is to get a better idea of what's going on beneath the surface. Clients come in saying one thing, and often something else is afoot.

So, I asked: please tell me a little about your mom in three paragraphs. Here is the first paragraph, verbatim:

"wow, umm... ok, she was the middle class, middle child of three, and her older sister and younger brother were problem children but she wasn't (I mirror this exactly). her one "demand" on her folks was that she got polio as a baby. never suffered any physical damage except it weakened her back a lot, which has plagued her ever since. my grandpa was gruff and authoritarian but loved my mom dearly. my grandma, one of the sweetest women to walk the earth, was also a bit of a martyr and though my mom turned out to be a self-sufficient working single mom of three--totally self-made, self-educated, really refined--she took on some of those martyr qualities in dealing with her own health."

[We also find out in the rest of the post that mom raised the kids herself while running a business and getting back surgeries, and that dad abandoned her several times.]

To be useful as an astrologer, it helps a lot to really listen. Out of that paragraph, here is what I noticed, one particular sentence:

"[she] never suffered any physical damage except it weakened her back a lot, which has plagued her ever since."

This felt like a giveaway; something became transparent to me.

I quoted the sentence and sent it back, and asked her if she noticed anything interesting about it. Alexandra responded:

"at the risk of being impossibly concrete, compared to so many of those polio kids that were paralyzed, she got off easy and she always said as much. her childhood was healthy after that, too. but her back started to get really bad after we were babies -- hoisting us out of strollers was probably what did it. she had two back surgeries when I was about 8 and 10, and I and one of her good friends became her primary caregivers during that time. when we were kids and desperately wanted mom to arbitrate our endless fights, migraine headaches would prevent her from showing up.

"yes, I have some issues with my mom over her health."

My reply:

Thanks for responding. You said, "yes, I have some issues with my mom over her health." I believe you! -- and that was not quite what I was onto! Here's what I was onto, and I get that she did not really get whacked full on by the polio. Here's what you said, and I think it reflects something important, look at your sentence structure carefully, I think you said it quite precisely:

"[she] never suffered any physical damage except it weakened her back a lot, which has plagued her ever since."

Nothing really, except it weakened her back, a lot?

In essence, the statement is either contradictory, or an appearance on one level or the reality on another level, or at best, a kind of minimization. I think it reflects more about her than about you -- about the perception you were taught to have of her, something like that.

I think [with that statement] you may have the codes on that late degree Moon rising, square Neptune.

Is it, or is it not? Is it strong, or is it weak? What is it? What edge is that Moon hanging out on, and how does it have so much influence over you? What about your mom don't you know yet?

Also -- back surgery is excruciating, dangerous and it doesn't always work so well. That is a lot for a kid to deal with. I am sure that at 8 years old, you felt pretty grown up, because you had to -- but you were little.


Also, I would add now there is the implication that Alexandra is blaming herself, or was blamed, for her mother's back surgeries. She said, "hoisting us out of strollers was probably what did it. she had two back surgeries when I was about 8 and 10..." This is the kind of belief, if unquestioned, that can be very debilitating to an adult.

Now, I'd like to drop in a little aside here. Alexandra wrote asking about Chiron and her relationships. I wrote back and asked about her Moon, in the form of her mom. I did not know what I was going to hear, but I had a hunch it would be applicable. Relationships with parents have a lot to do with relationships we have as an adult, and they are also quite influential in setting up what we believe about life. This is not a discussion about the past. It's a discussion about what we may believe right now.

For one important thing, relationships with parents can and often do set the limits of our bliss. They can set the limits on what we feel we deserve. They impart all kinds of ideas we may have no clue exist, until some process opens up the subject and we start to listen to ourselves.

Alexandra replied:

"when I look at her life from my adult perspective, I don't know how she managed. she kept a one-woman business running in the middle of those two surgeries! I know now, after one month of grieving over my dad's death (and many, many more to go) how much people need to shove big, scary, life-changing stuff to the background so they can show up for work every day when they are their own boss. even though my mom would bitch about her back (and her migraines) to us all the time when we were kids, and we'd roll our eyes as kids always do, I can only imagine how much MORE pain and fear and worry and stress she must have faced when she realized she'd have to have surgery. so even though I experienced her health as a very central thing as a kid, she must have tried to downplay it to herself lest she go fetal from fear.

"not sure what you mean when you say 'the codes' but me and my mom are like a never ending story. a therapist friend once told me, as I was describing my relationship with my mom, that it was crazy-making because I was running on two separate realities: on the surface, mom was dedicated, and put us at the center of her life. but we had to walk a very fine line not to be in her shithouse. I knew how to walk that line and got a lot of surface approval, but felt a TON of internalized disapproval, because it was really negative conditioning ("don't do this or mom will..."). I got good grades in school and was self-sufficient as a kid (read constantly, didn't cause too much trouble) but as I became a teenager, attempts to express myself as I pleased did not go over so well. imagine how little miss iconoclast aquarius rising punk rock high schooler managed being raised mormon! I actually left home for two months at age 15 due to a major dust-up with mom and refused to come back unless she'd let me stay home from church. she agreed, but watched me like a hawk til I went to college. we have since made peace--I was always the family-appointed Sane Child-peacemaker--and I owe her so much of my success now as a grown up writer chick in the big city. but it was a struggle, man."

My reply: "You owe her what?"

Alexandra replies:

"haha! I was just rereading my reply and thought you might jump on that. her example was a lot of it: she started what has turned out to be an oddly-recession-proof business out of good taste and thin air, and she showed me how to do that every day (she worked out of home so we witnessed her whole career as kids, and I used to come with her on appointments after school). she wears her expertise comfortably--which was a good example to me, who makes a living by expressing expertise in a breezy enough manner to be palatable to magazine readers. she paid for my private high school education and college when she could not afford it. she really raised all of us to feed our brains. she's compassionate, articulate, has a ton of backbone (ha! irony!), integrity, etc. and was always very vocal about the importance of those things--they became core values for me too. so in a lot of ways, she laid the groundwork for me to do what I do now by her example and just by being a hardworking mom. that said, when I first told her I wanted to be a writer, she said, "are you sure? that's a really hard career path." oh well. I showed her.

"also, I'm feeling extra indebted to both my parents after my dad's death, and one of my reactions to it is, appreciate mom as much as you can while she's still alive to hear it."

Okay: appreciate, say thank you, give her a big hug, go forth and be happy, right? In my view, we don't owe our parents our success, or our lives. We're not their property, or their vassals, or their surrogates, nor is our destiny their business. They hopefully do their best as parents, and get out of the way -- or we learn to get out of their way and move on, as you seem to have done. But that Aquarius Moon rising is a kind of a warning that unless you take over the process of running your own life every day, mom's presence will loom large all the time.

Rather than our owing our parents anything, I would propose that our parents have a responsibility to help us deal with the unprocessed material that they passed onto us; with their burdens that they passed onto us; and with their false beliefs that they passed along. They are the ones, if anything, who owe us OUR lives. And they need to pay up and be on their way. Few parents do; few cop to the damage they do; instead, many try to keep control, and engage their kids in neurotic relationships where nobody gets to be an adult; it's always parent-kid stuff, and we see this played out in the world all the time.

The dynamics of control are particularly insidious between mothers as regards their daughters. Many never give up their grip, and many never stop living vicariously through their daughters. Men at least are rewarded for a measure of independence, professional, financial, sexual or otherwise.

I had one last query for Alexandra. I saw that she had a stellium of planets across Libra, and I know that Chiron came through there in 1994. So I asked her to tell me a bit about 1994-1995, because I felt a turning point. She said:

"in 93, I decided pretty suddenly that being the assistant to a bigwig hollywood producer sucked and that I needed to do something for myself. los angeles. depressed me, I felt alone and depressed as hell (hello, pluto transiting square the moon) and knew that I needed to leave my mother's city--she was too needy of me coming by a lot and I just needed more air to breathe. I applied to creative writing graduate programs and wasn't accepted to any and so decided what the f--k? move to new york and just see what happens! I had $200 in my pocket and no savings and showed up in april of 94. crashed on my sister's slummy couch on 14th and b, got a job in a restaurant, saved cash and in the fall of 94 was approached by nyu--which had turned me down for creative writing--to see if I wanted to enroll in a new cultural studies masters program. I felt like it was destiny--I did cult studs in college and it was a passion. 'this is fate telling me I should be an academic!' flailing for an intellectual purpose, and feeling like I was being called back to a different home (academia) that I had abandoned, I accepted, figuring I'd re-enroll in a phd program. I was a very passionate student. that period refined my mind, gave me soap box after soap box in class, taught me how to write (I read and wrote coverage of movie scripts during grad school and when you're paid by the piece as opposed to by the hour, you better learn to write FAST). I grew tired of academia after year two and ended up doing journalism as soon as I got out in 96 thanks to the open rolodex of a dear friend. I've been doing it ever since.

"In some respects, 94 was the real beginning of my life."


So, what do we learn from this whole process?

Hmm, first, there's a heck of a lot behind a chart -- a whole life! And the life is a lot more interesting than a jpg. And a heck of a lot in that Aquarius Moon rising, square Neptune. As you were reading along, did it occur to you that you would not read that in a typical astrology book? There is a lot behind every aspect, and more important than the story is understanding the beliefs that the events impart. That "giveaway sentence" -- about mom having no damage except a bad back -- revealed an interesting set of beliefs. And to do astrology well, we would need to be on the lookout for all the strange little ways they operate today. Neptune is very hard to see. And just because you can see the fog doesn't mean you can see the road. Sometimes you have to get out of the car and walk.

Then, looking at a Chiron moment, in the form of 1994, we saw a turning point, where she found her way and heard a calling, or took control of her destiny. Read that paragraph carefully, the one beginning, "in 93," and you will see a prime example of how Chiron can get life going. It is truly the "inconvenient benefic," as Al H. Morrison said it so well, way back at the beginning.

Last, we discovered the idea that Alexandra feels she owes her mother something. I am not suggesting that she be ungrateful, but rather, I am suggesting that there is no debt. I am not being a philosopher here, but rather proposing a hacksaw where I see a chain. The sense of owing mother something can easily translate into "owing everyone everything" -- and one is probably not going to have happy relationships in that case. Relationships are an exchange -- and it can take a long time to learn how to live in that exchange.

We have not looked at Alexandra's natal Chiron, but it sure is interesting: in Aries (a big subject by itself, if we want to get into theory -- the ultimate astrological identity crisis, which can be exceedingly productive), exactly opposite Venus and Uranus in Libra; and here is what I think is super interesting: it's square Juno and Pallas in Capricorn; there is something about marriage here, which is another way of saying something about the need to be free. It is a square, after all; it's not just going to sit around smoking expensive cigars. It's gonna stir stuff up.

Because so many marital relationships involve everything but freedom, and because nearly all romantic relationships are based on the marriage model, it can be rather difficult having relationships once you've figured out you really need to be free. And that Aquarius Moon needs nothing if it doesn't need to be free. But then what? That is a big question, and I'm going to let it hang like that Moon on the horizon.

One last point. How much do you see in the water signs in this chart? Even adding five extra heavy-duty planets -- Pholus, Nessus, Asbolus, Hylonome, Quaoar and Psyche -- just two planets, angles or points in her entire chart fall in a water sign -- Neptune, and the North Node.

Water is the nearly missing element. Because it involves Neptune, to the extent that it's present, it's going to function as intuition. But because the Moon is square Neptune, there may be quite a lot in the way of intellectual material, ideas, beliefs and so on that seems to contradict or get in the way of that intuition. And those things need to be observed carefully.

Water is also an essential element in relationships. It's going to need to come from somewhere -- most likely a partner who is deeply emotionally grounded and able to navigate in this element, which we all need to do, no matter what our charts say.

Were this a live session, I would set the work down for a week and come back to it a week later with Alexandra. At that point, I might talk about her chart. Certainly, it would be an informed discussion -- that is, informed BY HER. And all the little details would make a lot more sense in the context of what we learned today.

Alexandra -- thanks for writing, and for letting us use your chart and our email exchange. See you next week, or see you over at Planet Waves.

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