When did you first became interested in studying astrology and what sparked your interest?
Well, I would love to say that it was from an early age and that my family background in some way encouraged it, but that was hardly the case, far from it. In fact I didn’t really become engaged in astrology until adulthood and then it was a slow but perhaps in hindsight an inevitable path that led me there through a series of events and apparent chance encounters, interconnected as they turned out to be, that I experienced in my search for more credible answers than those that I had always accepted but had begun to fundamentally question as they were no longer making sense of me and my own life. My lifelong question is and always was, “why?” I had always had an interest in the newspaper and magazine horoscopes and followed certain favourite media astrologers, I even remember buying particular newspapers simply because of the astrologers who wrote in them but I also remember sometimes feeling frustrated by their seemingly inaccurate forecasts, the good things they promised didn’t seem to be happening to me even if the rest of the population were enjoying wonderful things in their lives. I had also been fascinated by the sky and in particular the night sky, but living in a city with the dimming effect of urban lighting that so many of us experience it becomes an almost half-forgotten afterthought that we are only occasionally aware of, unless the Moon is big and bright overhead or one takes a visit to the countryside or goes on holiday to a less densely populated area.
I started visiting with a friend whose family owned a holiday cottage in the remote Devon countryside and up there at night (English weather permitting!) was a magical night sky, there to behold in all its shimmering and brooding glory. You forget how full and intense the night sky can be until you are standing still and undisturbed beneath its shrouded panoply. One day we went into the nearest town, a quaint seaside one (for afternoon tea of course, what else do English people do at the seaside?), and while I was pursuing one of my favourite pastimes of thumbing through books in the local bookstore I came across an astrology book which caught my imagination, I simply couldn’t put it down, I must have been standing there for ages just turning the pages of this book, this revelation as it seemed to me. It was a proper astrology book, not just one of those generic ones about star signs and the like, quite how it had made its way onto the shelves of this small local bookshop goodness only knows, and there was just this one astrology book sitting there, so of course I had to buy it and take it away and immerse myself in its contents for days. But there was so much in it I couldn’t understand: it talked of an Ascendant, a Midheaven, angles, houses, aspects, what was all this stuff? I realised I just had to find out more, but where, how, who? At that time I didn’t know anyone in the remotest connected with astrology.
Later, when I moved outside of the city myself to a more rural location the night sky became my constant companion. It was simply astonishing, if you spent your whole life in a city or town who would ever know there were so many stars up there. I bought a planisphere and I remember spending many nights outside (often in the bitter cold of a clear winter night) trying to figure out the different constellations and stars and their ever-moving positions across the sky, and planet-spotting, and listening to what full moons had to impart at night-time, and going down the lane in the early hours to catch planets rising over the horizon before dawn; of course Venus, and on very rare and special occasions Mercury, and even once or twice the two together in the pre-dawn twilight. By this time I had become increasingly aware of the connection between the sky and my still limited understanding of astrology and I needed to know more. I met an astrologer at a social event, I really hadn’t wanted to go through the phonebook or call up one of those astrology phone lines, I had wanted to meet a real astrologer. I was introduced to a local astrology group, an informal group run by a dear lady with a Taurus Sun and Mercury in Gemini who held monthly gatherings in her kitchen and plied us with food and drinks while we discussed whatever topic it was she had prepared, and her husband sat in the living room next door with the TV on full blast, clearly astrology was not a shared passion in that household. But it was a wonderful nurturing way to be introduced into the insights of astrology with people who had been studying it for many years in their own particular and personalised ways. After a year or two I felt the need to study more fully, more formally, by which time I had become much more aware of where and how this could be done, and I subsequently enrolled in astrology classes in London.
Becoming interested and then more involved in astrology as an integral part of one’s life is not necessarily an easy or straightforward engagement for many, often it requires us to go against the conventions of our circumstances to take that leap of faith of belief, and this is just a potted version of my own leap into that unknown.
Do you see any value or any need for astrologers to take formal training and certification?
I do see a certain value in undertaking some formal training but as there are so many differing and varied astrological “schools of thought” and methodologies I do feel that it makes some sense to have a reasonably broad exposure before determining which particular path, if any, one wants to go down. Despite what some may wish us to believe, and it is fundamentally a personal belief system that we are talking about here, there is no such thing as “the only way to learn astrology”, quite the contrary, there are myriad astrological systems and consequent ways to learn astrology and one should probably explore what’s on offer and with what organisation and with whom one feels most comfortable. As for the actual value, in terms of the costs generally involved in astrological education, these can quite high for many people so it’s even more important to go with what one feels is right for oneself and not get “sold” on any particular programme, some of which can be both lengthy and expensive, without first determining what one is getting involved in long-term.
As for certification and astrology exams in general I do believe this is very much a personal choice which rather depends on how one feels about the “back to school doing exams again” scenario and what one intends to do with whatever certification and diplomas might be attainable after the time and costs involved of achieving this. Some people go down this route because they like education and schooling in general and it suits them, or ultimately they want to be the “teacher” rather than the “student”, that’s fine if that’s a part of your persona and your ambition, but there is also a certain amount of peer and community pressure to have some of those treasured letters after your name in order to either evidence that you somehow rightfully “belong” or for personal validation (and perhaps self-confidence). Again I think this is all down to individual choice, if one feels free enough in oneself to exercise that choice knowing what the implications of it might be. One is sometimes caused to feel that one is either in or one is out depending on what your qualifications are.
I say all this for multiple reasons but possibly the two main ones are: too many potentially excellent astrologers disappear from the astrological scene, and even sometimes from astrology itself, having been through the whole process, as if either obtaining the final qualification was the end in itself or that the whole process of getting there was so debilitating over a number of years that they just give up on it. And obtaining a qualification is no guarantee that one has actually arrived anywhere, except perhaps at the beginnings of learning to be an astrologer. One might be well-schooled and sound in technique, which are valuable attributes in themselves and not to be underestimated in any way, but astrology is as much about the art as it is the craft, it’s not simply a matter of delineation it is also as much about personal creativity, and that creativity comes from within. As with many things in life, you can be trained with the knowhow but you can’t be bestowed with the gift, that comes from elsewhere.
It should also be mentioned that there are a number of first-class and well-respected astrologers who did not go through any particular formal training and certification programme in their formative years, and it did not deter or disadvantage them, although increasingly the general astrological community these days both promotes and relies to a large extent on formal education and the qualifications that follow from that. And it must be said that there are indeed some excellent schools and training programmes and some fabulous teachers of astrology if one is fortunate enough to be in their tender care. You pays your money and you makes your choice.
Do you have a preference: modern or classical rulerships and why?
I use both but I do tend to look to conventional rulerships as my first port of call since there is so much information to be gleaned in that approach, both with the signs that planets are placed in and with house cusp rulerships (and even intercepted signs in houses, depending on what house system you are using). I would then look at the association of the secondary modern ruler for additional information. Increasingly though, it seems to me that it is a somewhat strange occurrence to have 3 of the signs of the zodiac ruled, either wholly or partly in some type of not entirely comfortable sharing arrangement, by outer unseen generational bodies whilst the other signs do not have that same opportunity. This would seem to present a somewhat unbalanced and skewed approach to rulerships. And since it would seem highly unlikely that a sufficient number of outer planets are still out there in our solar system awaiting discovery to accommodate these further signs with the luxury of an additional or alternative rulership then maybe we should start rethinking how specifically it was determined that these associations would be to the signs of the zodiac in the first place rather than perhaps to houses which, alongside the more modern approach to the “natural rulers” of houses, might provide a more significant and indeed fuller flavour to the interpretation of a house.
And I do also tend to feel that Mars, Jupiter & Saturn are not entirely happy about having half of their dominions carved up and reassigned to interlopers from outside the system. How do we imagine these highly influential planets might then respond in their general operation to being constricted and constrained and being denied the full scope of their influence and even of their inheritance? The system of rulerships that have been passed down to us is beautifully and thoughtfully constructed, should we really be tinkering around with it and unbalance its equilibrium.
What house system do you prefer and why?
I generally use Placidus, although there are times where I would use Equal House, occasionally Whole Sign, it would depend on the particular situation and the technique that I am using and maybe the reliability of the birth or timed data. All house systems have their drawbacks and it is often not explained to us why there are these differing systems and what the differences actually are. What are their points of reference? We often end up using the one we have been encouraged to use when we were studying as the preferred house system of the school or teacher without an understanding of why that might be.
I like Placidus because it is based on a division of space by time and therefore by incorporating time as part of its base of reference it thus provides that frame of time in its house construction which is particularly good for the timing of transits. A house system that is some type of division of space only does sometimes seem to distort or confuse the subsequent application of time to it.
For the Saturday Workshop September 13 you will present “Harmonic Astrology” – can you explain in more detail what we can expect to explore?
The Ptolemaic aspects that we are most familiar with (sextile 60°, square 90°, trine 120°and opposition 180°, plus the conjunction 0°), are themselves derived from the ability to fairly straightforwardly measure the angular relationships between visible planets and points in the heavens through often rudimentary astronomical techniques, such that our ancestors employed. These are what we have inherited.
As the outer planets and other solar system bodies become an increasingly integral part of modern-day astrological interpretation, and as we ourselves move further beyond the principles of “seeing is believing”, it perhaps then makes increasing sense to perhaps open the horoscope, and indeed ourselves, to an extended exploration of the angular relationships contained within, to go beyond this simple rationale of our naked eyes.
To find ways integrate those aspects that are less readily visible, such as the Quintile, Septile, Semi-Square, Novile and so on, with the classical visible aspects of our inheritance, might then enable us to have a more complete perspective on what is already there but not seen by us in a natal chart.
We will start the day by exploring the nature of the angular relationships between the bodies of the solar system, both seen and unseen, and gently work our way through the various ways of integrating both conventional and “Harmonic” techniques using example charts to highlight the potentials and possibilities along the way.
And then hopefully during the afternoon session, applying what we have learned earlier in the day, we will be able to look more closely at our own charts to discover what gifts and opportunities might already be contained therein waiting to be revealed.
So for those who would wish to do so please do bring your own charts and/or birth data along and we will see what might be uncovered that perhaps might make better sense of what we know for ourselves to be true about our inner self but sometimes the use of conventional techniques don’t quite make the fullest sense of us, and then leave us sometimes scratching our heads and wondering if we just aren’t getting something right. Perhaps there’s a further layer in a chart that we’re not looking at.