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Eric Francis Astrology Q&A
Archive for Friday 5th August 2005

Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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Dear Friends, Earthlings and ETs:

It's been a busy couple of weeks of space news, and a busy couple of days for some astronauts orbiting the planet.

By now, I am sure that just about everyone who reads this Web page has heard about the discovery of a planet that's larger than Pluto, which has the provisional designation 2003 UB313. It's also being called Xena (properly pronounced 'Zjana').

Discoveries of new bits of stuff in space are not exactly news all by themselves, though there have been some interesting ones lately, like last year's announcement of Sedna. In all, there are about 250,000 known objects, planets, asteroids, Kuiper objects, centaurs and other kinds of minor planets orbiting our Sun. Of the ones discovered since Pluto in 1930, all are smaller than Pluto and have eluded being classified as planets or for that matter being taken seriously by astrology.

Thus, the discovery of something larger than Pluto really upsets the applecart regarding what we call a planet and what we don't. If it's bigger than Pluto, then it must be an official planet, for some reason. But that definition does not hold up to anything but a kind of emotional scrutiny, or a Sesame Street size comparison. Remember that "planet" is just a name, which means "wanderer," and it's largely an honorary -- and arbitrary -- one. In a moment I'll link you to a fine article that takes apart the whole issue to the point where it starts to look kind of funny.

And it is a cosmic joke, if you ask me.

The fact that they're having the 10th planet debate when there are more than a quarter-million planets buzzing around the Sun, that is, OUR Sun, is so over the top, I can barely type another word. But I will try. It's a perfect example of how the news is largely a big hallucination. The important thing to remember is that there is no real definition of a planet at this point, only nine things we arbitrarily call planets. The other important thing to remember is that some people love to argue about nothing at all.

What would be even funnier is if a proposal to accept asteroid Ceres and Kuiper objects Varuna and Quaoar as certified planets is accepted. Then what would happen? It would be pandemonium at the next big astrology conference, or like, the next 100 of them.

Here is a link from that tells the basic story of what is and isn't a planet; and what might be and why. UB313 was discovered by Mike Brown of Caltech in Pasadena, CA. It was found in 2003 and the orbit was confirmed right before the announcement last week. Mike was also on the observation teams that discovered Sedna, Varuna and Quaoar -- all major discoveries. The guy is charmed. I'm looking forward to the day when I meet him, and ask him to sign a baseball. He's the Babe Ruth of astronomy. He and his colleagues also pick great names.

Speaking of names, UB 313 is being called Xena.

It's my understanding that the name Xena is a faux name that the discoverers have given to the body until something called the International Astronomical Union (IAU) approves the actual name that the discovery team has proposed. Traditionally, the discoverer(s) names their finding and then the IAU certifies the name. (They need to come up with something better than "the moon" or at least insist that it be the Moon.)

Technically Xena is a type of planet called a "cubewano," which means that it must be named after a creation or resurrection deity, according to the IAU's scheme. Xena herself doesn't qualify -- so it will be interesting to see what everyone comes up with.

Mike Brown and friends caused a little fuss last year when they announced the name of another new discovery, Sedna, "prematurely" -- that is, before the name was formally certified by the IAU. Through the magic of the press release, it basically became part of history and culture and nobody was going to call it something different.

The thing about Xena is that even though it's not the official name, it has been bestowed and it will likely stick. And as people who follow astrology, we're the ones tuned into the symbolic realm; and (though some would disagree) the name us there's a symbolic value that's worth looking at.

And here's a little treasure from my inbox written by Lise LePage:

Xena is a fictional TV action hero! How lame. But also a woman warrior, a rare archetype in our world. Not even our girls in the military are giving us warrior adventures or heroism -- they're more on the victimize and be victimized tip in current psychomythology.

So who gets to decide if something is archetypal or a 'myth'? Xena is fictional, but so was Zeus. We don't have bards anymore -- we have television.

So I guess I'm thinking we need to get over it about Xena, and even make the most of her. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the show because it's just way too dumb for me. But I have a young friend named Chris who is completely blown away by her and all she does. He also loves these highbrow anime films with environmental themes and strong girl/women characters. So it heartens me to know that because Chris is one of my favorite people. I also know if the show was evilly sexist or carried a veiled fascist message, he would not be showing me Xena paraphernalia.

Will astrologers stick to the 'original text' when they start to work with Xena -- only materials in Xena's actual made-up history can be considered? Or will we move beyond Xena to the woman warrior archetype in general? The Xena story makes about as much sense as most myths and they certainly go out of their way to cloak her in mythic images and people -- Hercules, Zeus, Julius Caesar...I'm sure there's plenty there.

It occurs to me suddenly that this is the perfect time for the woman warrior to emerge. She's Greek, ideals of fairness and democracy are at stake. She's female and strong -- women are in something like their 6000th year of servitude on this planet. She's sexy. Sex has taken a major beating in the last god knows how many years or so. So perhaps her influence could be restorative as well as destructive, taking out the outworn and troublesome and helping us get back all the stuff that's been taken away.

Maybe Xena says: women must take the lead, men can't do what needs to be done. I like that idea -- almost all the women I know are goddesses in waiting. Then again, most of the men I know would love to be noble and strong and wise and good. Being called a Greek god is still a compliment, but we think we have to aspire to their virtues, not be them. And we all want to be helpful. Listen to the remarks of people who do great things -- I just wanted to help, I just wanted to do my part. So Xena, a superhero from the 10th planet.

Here's an article from Mike Brown's home page on the definition of a planet. Keep your sense of humor on. It's written seriously, but you can tell he's having a lot of fun.

Also, it's been an interesting week for the astronauts of the Space Shuttle. This first flight since the Columbia burned up in February 2003 is the Murphy's Law flight, or is it Mercury's Law. First, during the launch some more foam fell off the fuel tank and nearly clocked the ship, which is what killed seven people last time. Then there was some fabric found dangling from the hull (NASA needs a good Italian tailor), which was removed in a high-drama spacewalk on Wednesday. Now there is an issue with a heat-resistant layer bulging off the bottom of the ship.

I mean, 25 is old for a car. This is a space ship. NASA should at least get a decent used one with under 100,000 miles from somebody else, if they can't afford a new one.

I am sure that many are waiting with baited breaths and prayers to get these astronauts back down from orbit and safely on the ground. In last week's edition, I took a look at the launch chart, and stand by my proposal that they will get back alive and in good shape.

Astrologically, though problem a problem I see is that regarding the chart for the first Shuttle launch in 1981, Pluto is now transiting over the launch chart's 9th house Neptune in Sagittarius. Pluto transiting to Neptune is the end of illusions; and the 9th in Sagittarius has a lot to do with the theme of flight. The Shuttle program is clearly on borrowed time. I hope they call it quits before they lose another crew and orbiter.

Michele, who helps put together this column, sent me this in an email the other day, commenting on the tenor of the news.

"On CNN, itís like a movie -- very Saturn in Leo -- but do you notice how the FEAR factor has just slipped away? I am sure if this were a year ago, the media would be reporting this as 'doomed' astronauts, etc. things are just so much more under control -- grace under pressure."

The same can be said for the crew and passengers of the Airbus that skidded off the runway in Toronto. But that's another chart.

Notes to Readers

I'm in London this week, so I'll be taking a two-week break from reader questions. What we're doing instead this week is a "best of" compilation. When I return, we'll be moving to a shorter answer format.

While I'm in London town, I'll be conducting a workshop about working with Chiron on Sunday, August 7 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. It also happens that this is at the time of the Midsummer holiday, called Lughnasadh or Lammas -- the first harvest or second planting, so we get an important High Sabbat at the same time, tantamount to Beltane or Samhain. This is one of the cross-quarter days because in the Northern hemisphere, it's halfway between a solstice and an equinox.

So bring some food -- it will probably turn to a celebration.

The theme of the workshop is the use of Chiron in astrological process work. It will be part talk, part demonstration. If you're interested, please drop me an email at -- a special address that both Chelsea and I can check Friday and Saturday, and we'll get back to you. Thanks!

And thanks to Michelle and Rachael for pulling together the Best Of edition.

One other bit. I am looking for someone with a talent for indexing, who can help index the entire "Astrology Secrets Revealed" column. If you feel you're that person, please drop a note to the email address above. Thank you!!!

Catch you over at Planet Waves.

Mercury Retrograde at Birth

Hi Eric,

Here's a question that has been bugging me for a while. I am a Gemini Sun with Mercury retrograde. Typically, I know when Mercury is retrograde, as communication gets all boggled up. Is it the reverse for me since I'm already 'in reverse'? Also, does the fact that my Sun is in Gemini play any particular role in relation to this since it is ruled by Mercury? I remember reading this somewhere and wonder your thoughts. Thanks for any insight you can provide.

Petoskey, MI USA

Dear Angie,

Because you have Sun in Gemini, Mercury is definitely an important planet in your chart. It is what some call the 'ruling planet' of your Sun and its movements mark a big aspect of your identity. But I have a question for you, that's personal to your life. What happened, or what was happening with your family, when you were six years old? Here is why I ask. You were born six days before Mercury stationed direct. So that means that by what is called 'secondary progression', your sixth year of life was the year of the Mercury station. And the events of that year will give a big clue to the meaning and purpose of Mercury retrograde in your natal chart.

When a planet is retrograde in a natal chart, it is different than we experience that planet in real-time as a collective experience. Somewhere in the archives is a long response regarding natal retrograde planets, which I'll have a look out for and link to next week when I find it.

Remember: when it comes to natal interpretation, you need to go slowly, and work with a number of different theories, and test them carefully. You need to use your imagination; astrology is really a series of images that we experience and interpret. Retrograde planets in the natal chart are associated with references to the past -- or to internalizing the energy rather than expressing it freely; or both. I have noticed that they have three main associations.

1. A talent or skill we turned off or repressed so as not to threaten our primary caregivers. Often we are in some way more intelligent, aware or expressive than our parents or caregivers. Often, our these individuals lack the maturity to handle this, and kids, being highly sensitive (as a matter of survival) will respond and partially shut down or internalize their best qualities so that people don't freak out (in large or small ways).

2. Some kind of reference to a past life situation. Check the house and sign placement; check the houses that are associated with Gemini and Virgo. The retrograde planet can represent a past life skill, a debility, or a situation we need to work out in the current lifetime. It can represent a growth agenda. This theory is dependent on whether you accept the notion of reincarnation, and whether you think the natal chart has anything to say about it.

3. Something we do our own unique way that has little or nothing to do with the people around us. It is the way we march to the beat of our own drummer. This particular point can encompass both 1 and 2 above, but does not need to. The retrograde may just be a place we come from a distinct place inside.

I would create a bold theory here. Retrograde planets all function a little like Chiron. They have a kind of debility around which power and talent focus. They represent a place where we were hurt, held back, or challenged, and now must grow into our full strength. And they represent places in our chart of unusual individuality.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you can figure this all out in three minutes, but I do suggest that breaking out the old fashioned astrological analysis tools will get you a long way. The first one I thought of was looking up when Mercury stationed direct in your progressed chart.

In summary: describe the house and sign placement of Mercury. Describe the aspects Mercury makes. Say something about the houses where the cusps intersect Gemini and Virgo. As you do this, look for correspondences in your life on points 1, 2 and 3 above. Think of your parents and their personalities, and how they might have responded to your Mercury, were it direct and running at full broadcasting power.

Last, consider what you've learned from the fact that it's retrograde -- and what you've learned, in particular since the age of six.

Predicting Violence

Dear Eric,

I have read many, many horoscope sites, but your site is the one which on a weekly level in particular has always seemed spot on. I was born in Greenwich, London on Aug. 20, 1954, I once read in a horoscope book (not one of Jonathan's!) that anyone born on Aug. 20, 1954 would die of stabbing! As I was at the time a youth worker, I handed in my notice soon after -- what a horrible thing to write. In fact, I still look over my shoulder! I teach teenagers with learning disabilities and a few years ago young lady with serious personality problems chased me around the kitchen with a pair of scissors, once again I was haunted by the thought of being stabbed to death. When this young lady left I breathed a huge sigh of relief. If you do look at my chart and find the time to contact me, I sincerely hope the prediction was wrong...If however...

Anyway, enough of that keep up the marvelous site. I thoroughly enjoy consulting it.

Many thanks

Dear Maria,

I would have to really reach into my most paranoid fantasies to come up with a more irresponsible thing for an astrologer to write.

What many astrology writers forget and some know too well is that astrologers have influence in the lives, thought patterns and spiritual journeys of their readers. I think that what was printed by this writer was the worst kind of abuse of that trust. Personally, I think it's tricky enough predicting anything, and most astrologers these days lean more toward, "If you have a disagreement, work it out honestly" than they do, "You are going to have a disagreement." Even Mystic Meg tells you what you should have for dinner rather than trying to predict it.

One does not need a degree in psychology to figure out that this is more responsible, easier and more useful; it's merely making better use of the opportunity to communicate with the person who is reading and whose life may be affected for years by an off-hand remark in a general audience book or horoscope column that could reach literally anyone.

I would add that there are quite a few people who use astrology as their highest form of spiritual guidance, at least the kind that comes in print. Many people take astrology very seriously and it can, at times, carry the authority of 'word from on high', particularly if it is accurate from day to day. So when something really, really negative like that comes up, even randomly, it can be horrifying, and the more into astrology one is, the more frightening it can be. Fortunately it does not happen that often -- but it happens. There was the time I did a Tarot reading for a terrified young client who had just called the same hotline I worked for, and was told that she was pregnant with a space alien's child.

The question you face now is what to do with the fear, that sense of looking over your shoulder. I personally don't have a special fear of being stabbed but I can tell you that I would be bothered by such a comment; most people would. What we all need to remember is that idiots write about astrology too; heck, they write about lots of other subjects so why not the stars. I have been spoiled by the work of kind, conscientious, ethical and basically accurate astrologers. Most people who wander around this region of the Internet get that kind of treatment. This is not true of everywhere. That may help your rational mind deal with the prediction.

With any troubling astrological or psychic prediction, I would also suggest cross-checking. Do you have any other independent verification of that particular idea? In reality, you have done exactly that, writing to I suggest that everyone seek a second opinion on spiritual matters about which you are having doubts -- but choose your advisor well.

Looking at the astrology for the day you were born, I see nothing that seems particularly violent, much less that specifically involves stabbing. Mars, the planet that about 99% of astrologers would look to first for a question involving a sharp object or anything violent, is having a pretty good day, close to the Galactic Core in Sagittarius, awaiting a trine from the Sun and Mercury. That suggests that confrontations of those born that day can be worked out rather than needing to be acted out in some less friendly way. There is a spiritual approach to confrontation with Mars in Sagittarius and so much working with it in a harmonious aspect from Leo. With Mercury well supported, there is the clear ability to talk about things.

What's interesting, though, is a conjunction that suggests you may be obsessed by the idea of death, even a little more than the rest of us can be. There is a close conjunction of Mercury and Pluto close to your natal Sun. Mercury plus Pluto can certainly put the idea of death into a person's mind, or show that they have a belief to work out. You seem to use this astrology by working in tricky situations with people going through big changes. But I can see this as a possible source of an obsession with something that another person might have forgot long ago.

I suggest you take the thought pattern of that astrological prediction, and the Mercury-Pluto conjunction in your chart, a little deeper. There is something there for you. Death, transformation, surrender, dangerous information, sexuality and obsessions in general are subjects that can be covered by that conjunction. There is also a sense of needing to know the truth about all things all the time, and to live them outwardly with fearless honesty. If you run through that list in an introspective way, checking in with thoughts, feelings and experiences, you might make some discoveries that help you figure out what you really have on your mind.

Meanwhile, poo to astrologers who say mean things to their readers and terrify them for years. Fortunately there are not so many, and I'm happy to know none of the kind.

More about what to do when 'astrology goes wrong' at this link.

Is Saturn Evil?

Hi Eric,

I'm not quite clear about the role of Saturn for people who happen to have that lovely planet as their ruler. Some of my friends look at it as being 'born under a bad sign'. Can you fill me in a bit?


Wrightwood, CA

Dear Zita,

I have a bold idea: here is a picture of Saturn taken from the Cassini Space Probe. What do you see?

Big Saturn

Saturn is an entirely necessary energy. In the world of humanistic astrology, that is, astrology that is equally rooted in the human realm and the celestial realm, most astrologers assess the planets on the basis of their utility. We would all be in a lot of trouble without Saturn's gift of helping us structure and order our lives, set boundaries and be clear about what we must do.

It is true that in ancient astrology, Saturn is counted for a 'malefic' planet. But both astrologically, spiritually or psychologically, or any other way you want to measure, I can see no justification for this. Saturn is, however, an energy that we need to respect, work with and ultimately master if we are going to have a fulfilling life.

I suggest you give a little sneer to people who demonize any planet or any energy. Each and everyone has its uses; they can all be abused; as people who delve into the world of astrology, we must make allies out of each and every one of them. But particularly Saturn. To understand astrology, one must understand, appreciate, work with, deeply respect, and not forget to laugh at Saturn.

If you want a good book that makes it easy, check out "Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs" by Melanie Reinhart available at Midheaven Books or the Astrology Shop in London. For a commercial book, take a look at "Astrology: A Cosmic Science" by Isabel Hickey, available just about anywhere.

Contradicting Transits

Hi Eric,

I've had my natal chart and upcoming transits done through a computerized website (astrodienst), and I've been trying to use it to learn how to do my own predictions. But one thing has me puzzled, and I think others may be wondering about this too. At any given time, there are multiple transits going on to one's natal chart, and sometimes the predicted effects seem to contradict each other. For example, in late July/early August I will have Saturn opposing my natal Mars, but trining my natal Saturn. The former is supposed to cause problems, the latter is supposed to be good. So which one takes precedence (or do they just cancel each other out)?

Is there a rule of thumb for figuring out which transit carries more weight?


Dear Puzz,

Your question reaches to the essence of why we need astrologers to do our charts -- or why we must really use prepared reports in an active way, as a research tool, rather than as a thing we swallow whole. Often the individual interpretations given in a prepared report for a given transit are excellent.

But then we need the mind of an astrologer to assemble the pieces of the whole, and apply the various factors to one another and take the interpretation to a new level. The same holds true for 'cookbook' type textbooks, books like Robert Hand's "Planets in Transit." In much the same way, the individual ideas can be valid commentaries, particularly if you contrast them with others. But then, somehow, there needs to be an added factor of putting the puzzle together.

There are ALWAYS multiple transits going on at the same time. Together, they form a pattern that relates to a set of experiences in our lives. I'll use your chart as an example, since you've written with the question. Since I don't really know what's happening with you personally, I'll need to stick to your chart and let you fill in the more important part, about your life.

Before I do so, I'll add this. I suggest you take a phase of your life that was either very meaningful or really intense (often these factors arrive together). Then, do your transits for that era and see how the combination of forces paralleled the combination of events, ultimately leading to one cohesive experience of life. Studying past transits is a truly valuable way to study astrology.

But as for the present. Here's your chart:


And, though this is in black and white, here's a chart symbols legend.

Let's use the example of transiting Saturn opposing natal Mars, but trine natal Saturn. The reason it can do both of these things at the same time is because you have an exact sextile aspect between Mars and Saturn.

Can everyone SEE this transit? Mars is easy to find; it looks like the thing on the door of a men's room. It's red in this chart. Mars is in Aquarius (blue squiggly lines). When Saturn goes into Leo in July, it will make an opposing transit to natal Mars. To see this, you have to imagine an 'extra' Saturn outside the wheel up in Leo near the left side of the chart. If we can, we'll draw this in using Photoshop.

That's one transit. At the same time, because you have NATAL Mars and Saturn in a close aspect, Saturn will be aspecting natal Saturn as well. Saturn is the yellow planet counter-clockwise. Your natal Saturn is in Sagittarius, and transiting Saturn will be in Leo. That means that Saturn is making a trine (by transit) to your natal Saturn.

Now, as these things go, I would not rate this as a major turning point in one's life. But let's look at the mix of energies and see if we can come up with something that makes sense to another reasonable human being, or to you.

Saturn opposite Mars in Aquarius has the feeling of an obstructing factor that gets you to focus. There is the sense of having a lot of very idealistic creative ideas (Mars -- Aquarius -- 5th) but which you need some kind of containment to express. There's a factor that comes along in the form of that transiting Saturn, which says, 'we want your creativity, but we want it in this particular way, and then you can do whatever else you want'.

Notice how the house placement of the planet(s) involved becomes important. The 5th is a particularly meaningful house for you because you have Chiron there, which really fires it up, and gets you craving experiences that you don't necessarily get to have. We could look at one natal Chiron aspect in particular to see that -- Mercury (in Taurus, up in the 8th house) square Chiron (in Aquarius in the 5th).

I need to interpret here, since I don't have you to ask, but that feels a little like: 'If I dare to express my creativity and let go, I'll cause total chaos. But I really need to express myself. I just don't know how to do it'.

Mars in the 5th is what you would actually be expressing. And it turns out that Chiron is in the transit picture. It's now making a long exact conjunction to your natal Mars. Transiting Chiron, remember, is now in the early degrees of Aquarius. So is your natal Mars. So Mars is getting a conjunction from transiting Chiron and is about to get an opposition from transiting Saturn. It's in a kind of squeeze.

So -- what's the squeeze?

Is it involving a creative project, or a relationship? This is the part where you have to fill in the blanks, wait and see, and take the appropriate action. Here is where the trine from transiting Saturn to natal Saturn comes into play. Your natal Saturn is in the 3rd house, in Sagittarius. This reminds me a little of a fixed belief system that does not want to change when the time comes to change your possibilities by changing your beliefs.

I would add one last transit note. At the moment, there is one you have not factored: transiting Saturn conjunct natal Uranus. This is one that is in progress now. And it's here to show you something; which is how to be the unique person you are in the world of commerce and conformism. Saturn is giving a shape to your 'uranian' energy, and it's also teaching you to be more stable.

All of these transits have the combination of frustrate -- excite -- express all working together. There are similar veins of thought running though them; Saturn both conjoining Uranus and then opposing your Aquarius Mars is the frustrate/contain/focus your energy aspect. Chiron is stirring up Mars (and in reality also Uranus and Saturn, since it's in the midst of transits to all of them). But as far as I can tell, the focus is on the 5th: art, experimentation, sex and taking risks.

I hope this gives you a little idea of 'live interpretation', which is of course only half the story -- the little half. The bigger half is you -- what you DO with these energies.

I could have just as easily put this in the front of this response, but let me say it here. Transits are not just things that 'happen to us'. Au contraire, they are opportunities we have, resources, and energies made available.

And like life, they are always complex mixtures of 'good', 'bad', weird, predictable and surprising. But WE are the ones making the choices, if we can muster up the guts and awareness to do so.

Thanks for writing!

Chiron as True Ruler of Virgo?

Dear Eric
When I first heard about Chiron on Jonathan's pages he said that there was a possibility that this was the true ruler of Virgo. As a Virgo (26th August 1946, 3.15pm, Glasgow, Scotland) I really feel empathy with that idea, particularly as in the last few years I have trained as an holistic therapist (Aromatherapy, Reflexology, IHM and Reiki master) and would like to take this up full time once I retire from my day job. I also seem to have a stellium in Libra with Chiron and would like to know if this has significance. Have astrologers advanced any more in their thoughts about whether Chiron rules Virgo? Also, has there been a recent transit of Chiron which might account for my wish to take part in healing therapies? I would be very grateful for some enlightenment on this.

Thank you
Maureen 'Namaste'

Dear Maureen
The discussion about what sign Chiron 'rules' has been going on since astrologers first started working with the planet. I am something of a purist as far as rulerships go, and I feel that the ancient system of what are called 'essential dignities' is best left intact. I am cautious about saying that Uranus rules Aquarius, Pluto rules Scorpio or Neptune rules Pisces. I will always -- always -- use the ancient ruler (Saturn for Aquarius, Jupiter for Pisces and Mars for Scorpio) first before attempting to use the modern one.

I think there is a lot of room for discussion about Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and I think we need to know a lot more about how these planets evolved into their current meaning at all, as part of understanding the role of Chiron and other new planets. Often it is one astrologer who says something that catches on, and there is little actual discussion, either sooner or later. Often people come out with horrifying interpretations, like the Devil has been discovered, then over time, the other influences are seen.

Seeing the affinities with the signs of the zodiac helps astrologers be more objective and balanced in their views. Clearly, Chiron has an affinity with Virgo. Indeed, in many ways it seems to be redefining Virgo, and helps explain some of the intense properties of this sign that are not satisfactorily explained by Mercury, the traditional ruler: the focus, the dedication to service, the affinity for teaching and healing, the depth of intelligence, the long-term commitment, and most of all, the revolutionary spirit that seems to come pouring through Virgo.

You are an example of someone, and I have met many people by the way, who live out this Chiron aspect of Virgo. Some of the most revolutionary women I've ever known, and some of the greatest healers, have strong Virgo signatures. Chiron seems to blend in with these traits and qualities quite well, though we cannot forget the Mary/Isis aspect of Virgo -- that is, the Goddess.

Yet there is also the Sagittarius aspect. We can't really ignore the fact that there is a huge Centaur in the sky in the direction of Sagittarius, or that a Centaur is one of the most commonly accepted and traditional symbols of this sign. Chiron is likely to be that Centaur, as he was allowed to leave the Earth plane and live on the 'higher' astral plane in the form of this constellation, Centaurus. From this bit of mythology, we can learn a lot about Sagittarius and a lot about Chiron.

Sagittarius represents the 'quest' aspect of Chiron -- the spirit of pursuit of one's goals, of searching the outer world, of seeking for oneself through travel and education, and most of all, seeking awareness of one's higher self. I think that the Sagittarius and Virgo aspects of Chiron go together quite well, and provide a real point of balance.

But then there are the opposite signs, Pisces and Gemini. I am not ready to make the assertion that Chiron is 'poorly placed' in these two signs. I am much more familiar with Chiron in Pisces, as I was born in this era, as were many of my peers. And this placement seems to provide a genuine and heartfelt quest for God and for the spirit of the cosmos. Not one's own higher self, but rather the much greater cosmos that we must live in whether we recognize it or not. Certainly, recognizing our place in the scheme of things is a beautiful theme of modern spirituality, with all we're learning from science, which is often verging on mysticism these days.

As for Gemini, I think Chiron in this sign has a lot to do with healing the dualism that characterizes the physical plane -- the inescapable interplay of opposites, polarities, and dark and light. And there is the ever-important emphasis on relationship that Gemini is such a necessary part of.

So, to sum up, I think that the discussion of the affinities of the outer planets needs to be open-ended, open minded, based on a balance of theory and experience -- and most of all, creative.

Astrological Variables

Dear Eric

I am actively interested in astrology, both Chinese and Western, and the more I learn, the more I am getting confused. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a skeptic. It's just that between Sun, Moon, rising signs, other planetary influence, Chinese signs, elements, life experience and the nature of the human being, I find that there are so many variables and systems that they all seem to blur into a mad lump of confusion. Do you know what I mean? Please tell me your thoughts.

Confused Cancerian

Dear CC:

This is like going on a trip and asking how many maps you need to read to get to your destination. What you need is enough information to get where you're going. Each of the different systems provides differently styled information, but if you compare enough divination systems (including astrology) you will see that they generally deliver the same message, or at least provide you with the information you need when you need it. Typically you don't need the same message from four different sources to get it once. You need the information from one source to get it once.

What all the systems have in common is YOU. Your mind provides the continuity between them; your mind works with the information; and most importantly, you put the information you get to use in your life, or provide it in some clear form to a client.

The systems you describe all interrelate -- that's one of the most fun things about studying esoteric/occult subjects. There are vast tables of correspondences published (mostly by Aleister Crowley) that show you where the different ones line up, which include gems, flowers, essential oils, colors, metals and so on. Crowley was, not surprisingly, the first person to design a tarot deck to include direct astrological references. Some decades later, the Haindl Tarot came out, which includes astrological references, runes and the I Ching on the cards. The correspondences, included by a master occultist who also painted the deck, are extremely enlightening and helpful -- and help show the parallel lines among all methods of divination.

But there is such a thing as too much information.

Generally, tradition holds that with divination, less is more. That means asking fewer questions, refining those questions carefully, and knowing exactly what information you are after and why. It would mean working with fewer systems, and with a greater degree of order in your study.

If you are experiencing confusion, then work to master one system from within its own confines. Pick the one you like the best, and dedicate yourself to it. Go deeply, and really get a feel for how it works -- and plenty of experience working it. If you can focus, for example, on astrology, and you work with enough charts and enough people, you'll soon be able to easily distinguish the differences between the Sun, Moon and Rising signs. But it takes practice, and some good reading books will help; eventually, you'll come to find writers who can explain the differences between the three main signs in terms you can relate to, and eventually you'll also find charts that illustrate the point as well.

But it takes practice, dedication and focus -- and not overwhelming your mind with information that does not support your cause. Eventually, you can (and will) branch out, and when you do, what you learn in one system will be entirely applicable to what you learn in another.

If you happen to be obsessed with working across the systems (which is a tradition unto itself), then I suggest you do so in an orderly way, and work with teachers who specialize in that. It also helps to have a central system which you can use as the focus of your work. Personally, I think that both astrology and tarot work quite well as central systems to organize all the other ones, and they have references that are familiar to our Western thought patterns. They overlap considerably. The work of the two deck designers I mentioned above -- the Crowley Tarot and the Haindl Tarot -- are very helpful, and books about both decks will help you make the connections.

Or, you can get yourself an old Medievalish book like Culpepper's Herbal (by Culpepper, nice if you dig plants) or Christian Astrology (by Lilly, if you like doing spooky astrology and want to learn how to find lost cats), both of which will trek you back through all the old imagery of something called the 'doctrine of signatures'. This is the larger system that says all the systems are connected. It's where we find out that Leo is about the Sun, which is represented by the metal gold, and symbolized by cats of various sorts. Then if you go to Delos in Greece, where Apollo, the god of the Sun was born, you find out that a bunch of cats guard the site of his birth (see article here).

If you happen to be reading Christian Astrology, you'll discover that Virgo signifies a "study where books are, a closet, a dairy-house, cornfields, granaries, malt-houses, hayricks, or of barley, wheat or peas, or a place where cheese and butter are preserved and stored up." This sign, in its worldly expression, is about food and its preservation -- and food for the mind.

From this kind of research, you'll discover that all the different systems are describing the same thing, which is the world in which we live, and the experiences that we have. They just do so in different ways, through different cultural references.

Just remember: the truth you're seeking goes beyond any and all of them.

See you over at Planet Waves. New readers to this column will find my near-daily blog, much writing about astrology and a really cool photo gallery with many pictures from Europe and North America.

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