Astrology Secrets Revealed: Eric Francis Answers Your Questions
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The coming week brings the Pagan festival or High Sabbat (Sabbath) of Imbolc. This is a seasonal festival celebrating the transition from winter to spring, which our many readers in the Southern Hemisphere will of course relate to as something that is not happening to them. Which is a nice lead into our first question for the week, addressing astrology themes in the Southern Hemisphere.
The word Imbolc means 'in the belly' or 'in the milk', which in cosmic terms relates to the fact that those for whom the days are cold and dark right now are deep in the belly or milk of the stars. To this day, Pagans still call this the Midwinter Holiday. The Church took this holiday and revamped it into Candlemas, which is a celebration of light. Tradition held that at this time of year, one counted one's candles, and if there were enough, one would be lit in each window. Modern agrarian culture reinvented this as Ground Hog Day, where two million TV cameras terrorize a poor little rodent in Pennsylvania.
At the opposite time of year, the corresponding festival or Sabbath is traditionally called Lughnasadh, or Lammas by the Christians. This is the festival of the First Harvest or Second Planting, as you wish.
These holidays are based on the solar year, that is, the apparent movement of the Sun around the path of the ecliptic. We're all familiar with the equinoxes and solstices. These are called the 'quarter days', as they divide the year into four. Then there are the 'cross quarter days' -- which include Imbolc and Lughnasadh, as well as Beltane (The May or May Day, May 1, though in some cultures celebrated the 5th or Cinco de Mayo); and Samhain (also called Halloween, October 31, also known in some cultures as 'Days of the Dead'). Of the four cross-quarter holidays, Beltane and Samhain are believed to be the oldest, and address the rather fundamental human issues of sex and death, and all their associated symbolic meanings.
Imbolc falls with the Sun at the midpoint of the sign Aquarius, the Water Bearer, who lives today as the astrological symbol of rebellion and eccentricity. But traditionally, Aquarius is an important sign of tradition. So there are often two versions of the story. Is Aquarius an air sign or a water sign? (It's an air sign with water themes and imagery.) Is it ruled by, or associated with Saturn or Uranus? (Traditionally Saturn rules it, but in modern astrology most astrologers use Uranus.) Do those wavy lines represent air or water? (All waves are waves of energy.) Is the Water Bearer a male figure or female? (Probably male, but usually represented female.)
Aquarius, which has some interesting androgynous qualities, is truly a mix of all of the above, and this happens at a time of the year when many things are changing; when life is a great mix. And so it is.
In other news, tomorrow is the conjunction of Mars and Pluto in Sagittarius, as well as of Mercury and Chiron in Capricorn. As I've been covering these aspects copiously in the daily stars column (both the thought of the day and the sign-by-sign write-ups), I'll refer you to that writing -- as well as to the blog on PlanetWaves.net, where I have posted the Galactic Times by Phil Sedgwick, which addresses the Mars-Pluto conjunction specifically. Please don't miss this excellent article by an astrologer whose work you should know about.
The Australian Awareness Project
OK, let's just assume for a moment that the tropics and polar caps have winters and summers like the more temperate areas of the world. Then I think it would be fair to say that only half the world can be in deep darkness of winter at the moment, and you've sidelined the other half as, well, 'other', as not the half you're interested in talking to. MOST is a pretty big grab on the world's geography.
As I sit here in sweltering humidity literally watching my vegetables run to seed in the late summer heat, I'm really hoping your next forecast might think about the experiences of all peoples of a sign, not just those you can see out your window.
Yes, Australia exists. As does a whole hemisphere we're rarely allowed to hear from in the north. I'm aware that a lot of people, particularly in massive, wealthy countries where all funding to geography programs has been cut to fund national security, have no idea what or where Australia is. For them, we offer our quick "How to Find Australia" checklist, and note that it's a large country with tons of deserts and beaches that occupies an entire continent. Important things to know about Australia:
- South of the equator; go to East Timor and turn left - North of Antarctica - Surrounded by water - Sinks drain in the opposite direction than in Los Angeles - Unmistakable sounds of kangaroos conversing in the distance can be heard from your suburban living room. - Extremely advanced aviation technology. Australians have a knack for inventing useful gadgets for airplanes and airports.
In my astrological writings lately -- particularly since beginning this column and getting tons of mail from Oz -- I've been doing my best to rework my writing style to accommodate the Southern Hemisphere. Has anyone noticed? For example, in both this column and over at Planet Waves, we now refer to the 'Aries equinox' instead of the 'spring equinox' and the 'Capricorn solstice' instead of the 'winter solstice'. This is rewriting many hundreds of years of astrological tradition, something I don't undertake lightly, and which I don't think should be demanded lightly, either.
But this seems to be worth the effort and consideration, because a lot of people down under practice the esoteric arts. In part thanks to your letter, we'll now begin mentioning times of events like the Full Moon in the Sydney time zone as well, along with Greenwich time and North America (Eastern and Pacific time). Hopefully this will not be too cumbersome, but we're aware that we're writing to the English-speaking world and not just one country.
All these are the easy part of the adjustment. I'm aware that there is a rather large and outspoken metaphysical community in Australia. I hear from a friend who works at Chiara College, a metaphysical and healing academy in Sydney, that even people from California (normally thought of as the metaphysical capital of the universe) seek out their programs, not finding anything comparable in the States or England.
However, as we will see, there are some interesting metaphysical and spiritual issues that come up by importing the practice of astrology, which as we know it is a Northern Hemisphere art form, into the Southern Hemisphere. In fact it raises the whole basis and reality of our astrology to question.
These questions are related to the fact that the seasons run in the opposite pattern in the Southern Hemisphere as they do in the Northern. Yet much of the astrology we use is based on the passage of the seasons as we up here in the North know them. In other words, many of the sign characteristics are based on the quality of the weather and the sunlight, and the resulting festivals and celebrations, at the specific time of year when the sign is happening.
For example, in December and January in the Northern Hemisphere, it's dark and wintry outside, and Capricorns are generally described in astrology books as introspective, intense people who don't necessarily strike you as being outwardly warm. That's because all their light is contained inside, and you find out how warm they are once you get to know them. Like things that survive in winter, they are durable and excellent at enduring hardship. And astrologers need to check in with Capricorns on their emotions, because they can be prone to depression -- like many people are in winter.
The darkness of Capricorn time (in the north) is why traditions up here (including Christmas and Hanukah) bring lots of lights and candles to light up our homes and communities.
Another example is that Scorpio is usually referred to as the sign of death and transformation. This is, in part, associated with the changing of the seasons around Scorpio time, when -- at least in the northern climes -- the life around us goes into hiding. There is the unmistakable sense of imminent transformation and surrender at this time of year. And we perceive Scorpios as embodying this particular type of transformation.
Even if you figure that signs have a lot in common with (and even contain much of the energy of) the opposite sign (in the case of Scorpio, that would be Taurus) it would be a real stretch to associate the qualities of Scorpio with springtime, or Taurus with autumn.
To give another example, the two astrological signs associated with high summer in the Northern Hemisphere, Cancer and Leo, are ruled by what are called 'the lights' -- the Moon and the Sun, respectively. This is because the days are so long in mid-summer, and in this season the northern world (where our astrological patterns were created) is experiencing and celebrating abundance and abundance of light. Note that the Sun and Moon each traditionally rule only one sign -- a comment by the ancients on the supremacy of Cancer and Leo in their belief system.
There is an enormous and beautiful body of mythology and culture based on the changing of the seasons, and on the story of the 'quarter days' (equinoxes and solstices) and the 'cross-quarter days' (Beltane, Samhain, Imbolic and Lughnasadh). These myths and their associated festivals all deal with the birth, death and rebirth (transformational cycle) of the Sun or the ego. This mythology, in turn, has found its way into the characteristics we associate with the traditional western astrological signs. We do, after all, work with the 'tropical zodiac' and that is primarily based on the passage of the seasons -- generally not, as some people believe, the stars.
Therefore, we might expect people born in Sydney in late June, when the weather darker and more introspective, to act like Capricorns.
To inquire, I contacted the eminent Australian astrologer (and novelist and journalist) Yasmin Boland with this very Q & A-like question that I'm sure I've seen come up a few times from readers: "Do you notice that there are significantly different sign characteristics in the southern hemisphere? I.e., Leos acting like Aquarians?"
She responded: "Not at all. Think of it like this ... Russell Crowe was born in the southern hemisphere and is a lusty, rambunctious and fiesty Aries who's had fisticuffs and fun all over the world. It's not like he's a fiery, up and at 'em Aries here in Australia but then turns into a charming, art-gallery visiting, peacemaking Libran as soon as he goes over the equator to the US or the UK... That's stero-typing by the Star sign a lot, but you get the idea."
She continued, "Why not? One theory -- because we are just one solar system in a massive Universe and 12,000 miles is less than a millisecond on the cosmic clock."
Yes, we all live in one world and share one solar system. We also need to remember that because Australia was settled by northerners -- Brits, the Dutch, the Spanish and so on -- that the new society imported many of its older European traditions. These include ancient Greek, Roman, Celtic, Pagan and the newer Christian traditions, which gather to make up our astrological thinking. You don't change this stuff around, or recreate millennia of tradition, by taking a trip in a sailboat. Or founding a new city in a nice climate.
The ideas of astrology are contained in something called 'archetypes' -- that is, collective, living thought-forms in a massive psychic database called the 'collective unconscious', which was discovered (in modern times) by C.G. Jung. This is not a theoretical notion; the collective unconscious is something we relate to every moment of the day, and which comes out in our dreams. It is the vast, inner human Internet, through which Tarot cards, astrology, dreams and other forms of mysticism function like computer monitors. As relocated Westerners, even several generations later, Australians still have and use direct access to Western archetypal forms.
So we're left with some insights and some questions. I feel, after writing this, that in an ever-changing world, it's wise to look for more information about how people experience astrology in the Southern Hemisphere. I also know that my own astrology is becoming more influenced by things besides the tropical zodiac -- for example, the Galactic Core, which was vitally important to the ancient Mayans, people who lived close to the Equator.
By the way, Wednesday, Jan. 26th was Australia Day. So I'll end with a little bit of history, researched by Michele Perrin.
Modern Australian history begins in 1606, when the Spanish explorer, Luis Vaez de Torres, sailed through the strait that separates Australia from Papua New Guinea. Prior to this, Australia was inhabited for approximately 70,000 years by 'Aborigines'; this is often referred to as 'pre-history' in Australian textbooks.
The Dutch touched ground soon after Torres, and Australia was finally claimed for the British in 1770 by Captain James Cook.
The American Revolutionary War put an end to the use of the American landmass as a penal colony to ease the problem of Britain's overcrowded prisons. It was the naturalist Joseph Banks, who had accompanied Cook on his voyage, who came up with the idea to use Australia as a solution to this problem.
In 1787, the first fleet containing 750 convicts, both male and female, set sail for New South Wales. The date these convicts arrived, January 26, is now proudly commemorated as 'Australia Day'.
Coming in 2007: Pluto on the Galactic Core
For those new to the idea of the Galactic Core, search the Q & A archive from around Sagittarius time and you'll find lots of references. In brief, our Sun is part of a cluster in space -- an island in space -- that contains between 100 billion and 300 billion stars. Here is a picture of it:
This is our galaxy, called the Milky Way. In the Northern Hemisphere, we can see it as a streak across the night sky in summer. This photo is a composite of many photos that assemble a more complete image.
Our solar system is out on the left-hand edge, not shown. The bulge in the middle, also called the core, aligns with 26 degrees and 57 minutes of Sagittarius. It's also on the ecliptic, which means that planets go by and make close conjunctions and other aspects to the core.
I'm not going to attempt an exhaustive answer of your inquiry, but I'd like to open the subject up for discussion today. Recently I interviewed John Major Jenkins, a specialist in the history, culture and calendar of the ancient Mayans. The Mayan system of belief was based on the imagery of the galaxy and, particularly, Galactic Core. They saw that black streak running across the core and associated it with a kind of cosmic vulva, from which they believed that human life emerged.
The streak, which goes through the core, has a name; it is called the Road to Xibalba. As 2012, a the end of the 'long count' in the Mayan calendar, approaches, the position of the Sun each year at Capricorn solstice (which moves gradually over the centuries) comes close to the Road to Xibalba, finally making a long conjunction that lasts about 30 years.
But as you say, in 2008, Pluto reaches the position of the Galactic Core first, which is an immediate and likely shocking change of some kind. So my sense is that we're going to get a lot of insight into what you might call the meaning of our modern times as Pluto reaches this point.
I associate the core with the highest levels of divinity we can, as humans, access; with deep insights to the nature of reality; and with the source of life, as I view the core as a cosmic source and spiritual reckoning point. I think that the transit of Pluto to this point will do a lot to ground us in a higher vibration, and point the way to something more productive than the allegedly spiritual dogma we are used to hearing.
Jenkins noted in his interview that from the viewpoint of the ancient Mayans, Polaris, the pole star (covered last week) was fading into the past (that is, disappearing from their skies) as time went on, and the Galactic Core was becoming more prominent -- in part due to the position of the Capricorn solstice Sun approaching the core (and the black streak) a little bit each year. They viewed the Sun's approach to this region as an imminent experience of cosmic fertilization, which, again, we go through as 2012 approaches. I would say that we're talking about a very similar moment as Pluto crosses the core -- perhaps a time of preparation, clearing out, or just a time of rapid development.
What House System do you Live in?
My basic feeling is that, at this point in my work, I read the chart that is in front of me. I feel similarly about Tarot cards; I am happy to work with any deck I've got, or with playing cards, or with a D20 or two (20-sided gaming dice) or whatever. Though I use about 80 asteroids and minor planets, most of the time, writing the daily horoscope this week, I dispensed with that entirely and used the most basic charts I have.
Silly as it sounds, the computer from which I export the charts for this column is set to Koch houses. I think the one I'm typing on now is set to Placidus houses. For a while, I would rotate through the house systems and see if I could notice a difference. They all seem to work pretty much the same -- for me. If a client says, "please look at my chart in Regiomontanus houses," of course I will look at it. Basically, as Martha Lang Wescott says, you have to trust your chart.
For a while I used Topocentric houses, part of a new system; these houses are close or identical to the Placidus cusps. What's cool about Topocentric is that when you're casting a chart for Alaska in the winter time (far north, far into the shortest days, important if you live in Seattle for example where tons of people are transplants born in Alaska), no other house system will give you a good chart. So Topocentric has a special application.
Now, when you cast your charts in different house systems, you will notice that some of the planets change houses. But often, the planets that change are near the house they were in, using the prior house system. Other times they are not. The thing to remember is that house cusps, while appearing as lines in the chart, are usually more fuzzy in how they actually work -- most of the time. William Lilly, the first published astrological author in the English language, says that you need to allow five degrees before the new house and begin to count planets in that zone as part of the next house. Usually, you can get a good reading off of the ambiguity; the blending of the houses tells important stories about the nature of our reality.
For example, the 5th is the house of play and the 6th is the house of work. Planets on the cusp between the 5th and 6th will help blend those two facts of life. The 5th is the house of recreation and creativity and the 6th is the house of health. The two themes are associated.
Other times, there will be an exact event when a planet changes houses. I have never done a study of what happens in other house systems when something interesting happens in another system. Basically, unless I have a special reason to make the inquiry, I would not say that one system was more accurate than another than I would say that reading tea leaves is more accurate than reading coffee grounds. I assume that on one important level the whole astrological system is basically a figment of the imagination; it is part of the grand illusion, not an exact science. Astrology is a form of divination -- of asking and receiving information. The house system is like a container for that information. Best not to let it get in the way.
This does not, however, mean that it's not an astrologer's prerogative to choose the right house system for himself or herself. Work with what works for you; if you're curious, study the history of the different systems, see which astrologers are into different systems, and make up your mind based on an informed investigation. Otherwise, just pick a system and work with it.
One potential reason to change houses systems involves the issue of interceptions. An interception is what you call a situation where a sign does not have a house cusp going through it. For example, the 10th house might go through Gemini, and the 11th house through Leo. In that case, Cancer is floating in the middle of the 11th house.
I won't get into that in great detail here -- it's an essay of its own -- but when you change house systems, you can change the interception pattern. In other words, a different sign can be floating in the middle of a house. So -- bookmark that issue, under the general heading of 'interceptions'. It's worth a close look, because they can provide a lot of interesting information from a natal chart.
The house cusps that don't change are called the ANGLES or ANGULAR HOUSES -- the ascendant (1st house cusp), the descendent (7th house cusp), the IC (usually the 4th house cusp) and the MC (usually the 10th house cusp). Some, indeed, many house systems, use the IC and the MC as the 4th and 10th cusps respectively; a few others do not.
All that house systems change is where the cusps of the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 5th/11th and 6th/12th houses are placed. In other words, each quarter of the zodiac is divided by three -- trisected. The different systems use a variety of different methods for doing that division, which I'll get into next week.
Please visit Planet Waves Parenting -- the first astrological journal for parents, at http://PlanetWavesParenting.com/
Bridge to the Core, the 2005 Planet Waves annual horoscope, has turned out to be a very nice web page: up to 1,400 words per sign in the annual forecast area; a number of articles addressing Chiron in Aquarius, Saturn in Leo, and sign changes by two other centaur planets (Pholus and Nessus); an astrological calendar for 2005; and a massive charts resource area for students of astrology or those who are just curious. I've done my most in-depth writing ever on 2012 and the astrology between now and then. There are dozens of magnificent bridge images sent in by our readers. There is writing by Planet Waves literary slugger Jeanne Treadway (who writes about walls, while I cover bridges) and a Mayan astrology report through July by daykeeper Carol Burkhart, of the Galactic Alchemy web site.
Bridge to the Core is free to all Planet Waves subscribers. To find out more, check this link. http://planetwaves.net/2005horoscope.html
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