This chat with Chris McRae was with Joan Morton, the president of the Guild and Anne Massey. Chris has a long and distinguished career in astrology, has written three books and contributed to another five. She lectures all over the world and serves the astrological community as a Vice President for International Society for Astrological Research ‘wearing many committee chair hats’. Chris has lectured and presented workshops at the Guild a few times over the years, Chris McRae in October 2015 at the Guild. Read more about what got Chris into astrology and keeps her engaged and engaging so many of us all across the globe.
AM: When and how did you get involved in astrology?
I believe my interest in astrology, or I should say, “in the night sky”, began as a youngster in a small town in Saskatchewan when the sky seemed alive with brilliance and patterns in the winter time. My earliest recollection was seeing Cassiopeia and the Dippers. The wonderment of it all made my mind swirl and my heart sing. I still recall the feeling! The wonderment never left me as I grew up and wondered about the meaning of the stars. I began a search for literature on astrology, and then one day I found a source through the AFA and their wonderful list of books. I began ordering them by the truckload and devoured every word like a sponge☺. I believe some inner force guided me to the right books. Perhaps it is Saturn conj. my South Node in Sagittarius in my 8th house.
AM: You have been a professional astrologer for many decades now, what keeps you interested?
Every chart is so different and yet generational groups have similarity. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to experience so many lives through their charts and learn so much through our work together because I can only live one life. Then when I want a switch or change, I can roam through history and try to understand how various aspects and patterns played out over long periods of time. It seems like change melds into change and each individual life span participates in them.
AM: Chris, I know you have professional certification as an Astrologer from more than one examining body: which organizations are you certified by and why so many? how valuable do you find it professionally?
I attained my PMAFA (AFA) many years ago because it was the only one at the time that could test my accuracy and skill. Then NCGR came along with a different certification approach that was broader and more encompassing so I tested myself on that one too. Then I became very personally involved in certification program with ISAR. One part of certification that seemed to be missing was in dealing with a client. Thus was born ISAR Consulting Skills training. Professionally we also needed a more complete Ethics document. The idea was and still is to raise the bar on our own professional approach and recognition. If we wait to be accepted by academia perhaps in the area of psychology, philosophy or other humanities, it would either continue to ignore us, or manipulate and perhaps even dilute some of the concepts in the integration process. Perhaps our very creativity would get swallowed up in the other disciplines. So, it seems appropriate to upgrade ourselves with professional standards, not only for our own recognition but so that the public has some way of judging the qualification of an astrologer.
AM: Why do you think certification of astrologers is important for astrology?
At the present time, anyone can read a book or two on astrology and call themselves a professional astrologer because they do a few charts and charge a fee. We need to help the public be aware that acquisition of a certain body of knowledge can qualify them to do so. It is a way of lifting us out of the hobby stage to professional acknowledgement. However, that does not discount the fact that some people just like to study astrology as a highly significant self-awareness tool and never intend to do it professionally. But I feel there should be a way to signify a professional status beyond our own judgment.
AM: As a very experienced teacher of astrology both locally and globally,what kind of topics do you teach? What is most rewarding in this part of your practice?
I love seeing clients because I learn something from every life I study and work with. I also love teaching beginners getting them excited about the knowledge that lays before them and watching when a light of understanding suddenly flashes. I also love teaching advanced students and watch how they extend their environmental scope into cosmic dimensions. I like the enthusiasm of new students and I love the developing understanding of the advanced students. Some students never want to leave class.
I teach many facets of astrology because I have developed a semester structured program that takes a beginner into advanced study, depending on how far they want to go. The different semesters include a good basic foundation, progressions, returns, transits, the unfoldment of patterns in a chart, Advanced Chart Reading, relationships, Relocation, Horary/Electional, Mundane and even basic medical astrology. I also have an advanced course that includes a mixture of topics such as rectification, application of fixed stars, Arabian points, etc.
I have made an intense study of eclipses both in personal effect and world events, as well as Great Conjunctions as movers and shakers of the societal thrust. Every facet of astrology intrigues me because the study is never ending.
JM: Do you have a particular focus when doing private readings/consultations? What house system do you prefer and are there specific techniques you use that you feel are most beneficial to your clients?
I focus on whatever is needed and I aspire to give insight and clarity to the present. I like to unfold a natal chart background according to patterns in the chart as well as subtle background influences such as lunar phase, birth planetary hour, out of bounds planets, speed of Moon and Mercury in birth chart, planetary distributions and ease of planetary energy. Then, every chart has its challenges and also shows the way through a dilemma to growth and understanding. Then, what are they tapping into at the present time that is influenced by the natal patterns? How are they fitting into the changing society and what is their role in it?
What house system do I use? Many years ago, I did an extensive study of various house cusp structures. I wanted to understand why they were different and why we had so many different ones. I found a book called Elements of House Divisions by Ralph Holden. Then I needed to observe which system was more consistent at various latitudes. From that study extending over a long period of time, I determined that the Tropical Placidus system works well at most latitudes. Of course, the closer we go to the central zones, the less difference there is in which system is used. At my latitude the difference is much greater. For instance, at my latitude Koch starts breaking down much faster going further north than Placidus. What I mean by that is that the house cusps become more distorted due to the tilt of the earth on its axis causing vastly unequal days and nights. I am not convinced that whole sign houses is the answer either.
AM: You published a book entitled “Understanding Interceptions” which won The Paul R. Grell Award for the “Best Book Published by the AFA 2000-2002”, what drew you to that topic?
Thank you for bringing this up. I just got word a few days ago from the AFA that they would like to give it another printing because it covers everything imaginable about interceptions including how they affect our psychological thrust and also how they shift by progressions, etc. Of course I am delighted.
I was automatically drawn to the potential influence because of the number that occur at the latitude that I live and do so much of my work. In the Placidus system, at my latitude of 53N32, about 82% of our charts have one pair of interceptions, about 10-12 % have none and about 8-10% have two pair.
If we decide to use a cusp structure, we then need to be judicious about which one we use. I studied the influence over many years through different systems, both through the charts of my students and clients.
Of course we know that the angles remain the same in each different house system. It is only the intermediary cusps that change and these can be influential in a chart.
AM: You also wrote “The Geodetic World Map”. I have not seen another astrologer publish a book on this topic. What was it that made you investigate the map of the world astrologically? Is it different from relocational astrology ? Where can we order your books?
That first Geodetic book has been out of print for a number of years. I just finished a new one called Astrology Geodetics for Relocation and World Events. That title may yet change a little because it is presently in the publishing stage by Wessex of London and should be out this fall in time for my trip to the AA Conference in England. It is a remake of the original rather than just an update. It has new charts and new insight. I still have the large Geodetic wall map for sale. It was designed many years ago by a Cartographer/student of mine named Rob Mason and is still relevant.
From a personal point of view it is a relocational concept. Instead of the more traditional ACG concept of every chart having its own angular influence, in Geodetics the angular zodiacal positions are permanent on the map and our natal planets fit into it by their angular position any place on earth.
The concept of geodetic cusps for any geographic location was first very briefly written by a fellow named Sepharial early 20th Century. I believe I was the first one to realize these angles could be drawn on a map for visual impact, both as a relocational concept as well as determining global hot spots by eclipse and powerful transit positions.
JM: Your new book ‘Astrology Geodetics for Relocation and Mundane which is being published by Wessex Publishers in England, will be available this Fall, 2015, can you give us a brief synopsis to describe it? Do you need a background in this topic to understand it?
I believe all anyone needs in order the understand Astrology Geodetics is a basic knowledge of astrology. The concept is quite simple yet enormously revealing in its application and scope. The book clearly illustrates its many uses with example charts showing how we respond to various geographic locations, and it also has a great variety of global or mundane event charts based on the geodetic framework. These include geophysical activity, storms, political events, and many other notable events that appear in the news. These events show up through the Geodetic angles and other geodetic house positions, depending upon the type of event.
AM: You are the Vice-President for ISAR, what do you find rewarding in this volunteer position?
Yes, it is a volunteer position. The great benefit has been in working with so many brilliant and dedicated board and committee members. We appreciate each other, support each other, and all strive to provide programs for other ISAR members and for the betterment of astrology. I feel it is my way of supporting the endeavours of ALL astrologers worldwide. The profession has been kind to me so I feel it is important to give back and support others. Working with others in such a cooperative way also helps to develop some of my own resources. Much earlier than that I was also on the Board of the AFA, as well as on the AFAN Steering Committee. We all need each other as we grow collectively in influence. I believe quite miraculously I ended up on the ISAR Board at the very time that ISAR and I were of the same mind in developing a program that could help move astrology to the next level of its professional development. It fitted my Mars/Venus conj my Capricorn Midheaven as an integral part of my Sun/Mercury Aquarius positions.
AM: When was the ISAR Certification Program first launched and how does it benefit astrologers?
It took several committees working about 7 or 8 years to craft the entire program. The parts I was most responsible for was in crafting an agreeable body of knowledge and a testing process via the competency exam. It meant working with notable teachers and academics worldwide to attain a broad source of opinions. It meant discussing with academics both in and out of astrology, what constituted a good professional final or graduating exam. We needed to make sure we were the right track professionally for what astrology needed at this time in its development.
The consulting skills portion tested 3 different models over a long weekend, utilizing the participation and input from about 30 notable astrologers and teachers. The final version was selected and then polished from valuable input received from the experiment. Gisele Terry and Richard Smoot created and polished the model that was adopted into the Certification Program. Glenn Perry was largely responsible for creating the Ethics document that is also a very integral part of the program. My final input included the development of the Competency Exam and of course now administering the whole program.
We launched the program in Chicago in 2005, and at the same time invited input from about 30 astrologers literally from around the world for their opinion, input and approval during a full day seminar.
There is one other contributing factor. We invited schools and teachers to submit their curriculum to match it with ISAR’s expectations. Some even enlarged their program in order to be listed on the growing list of schools on our website. Anyone in Vancouver can be sure that Anne Massey has a very good sense of what is required and teaches to this standard.
AM: What is happening with the ISAR certification program presently? In addition to the United States where ISAR originated, what other countries participate in ISAR?
The development of the program, as indicated, had input from astrology professionals and teachers worldwide. ISAR is an International organization designed by and for global integration. Once the program was presented first at a Conference in Chicago, it quickly began expanding internationally. Presently it has been translated and developed into Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Slovenia, Hebrew, and Chinese. This fall we will be introducing it into the UK. Astrologers worldwide are enjoying the global recognition and status. We are gratified that it has been so well received. It makes all the effort worthwhile that went into it by so many.
AM: We are very excited to have you present the ISAR Consulting Skills Program on October 9, 10, 11, 2015 and the Competency Exam on Monday, October 12, 2015 here in the Vancouver area.
We are excited and thrilled that this is the first offering of the program in Canada, engineered by Anne Massey and The Guild. However, we do have several ISAR CAPs in Canada taken through other sources, including five in British Columbia, the most in Canada. The ISAR certified astrologers are Janice Brown, Marnie Jamieson, Phyllis Chubb, Rose Marcus and Anne Massey.
What benefits do astrologers report from taking the Program and the Exam? What level of astrological knowledge/experience is required to participate?
Anyone at just about any level of astrological studies can benefit from taking the ISAR Consulting Skills Program. We will learn that reading a chart is not just about how much information we can deliver in the time we are with a client, but how we can be there in the moment with them and their issues because we are all working at something in various stages or phases in our lives. A client needs to feel validated or understood. The ISAR Consulting Skills course is all about how to really communicate with a client or even anyone else we are in conversation with. It seems that everyone who ever comes out of the program wants even more because they felt it was so beneficial. We learn certain skills and then practice them in our work or in our daily lives.
JM: What aspects or patterns in your natal chart do you find especially challenging?
I love the challenging aspects the best because they elevate and teach us. I now know that my most challenging aspect is in reality the best and is the one that is responsible for any of my achievements. We need to be challenged to learn and grow, otherwise we would be happy little blobs just bobbing our way through life and never growing, achieving or contributing anything to the society into which we were born. I love my Mars in Capricorn square my Jupiter/Uranus conjunction. It is linked by dispositorship or rulership into my Saturn/South Node in Sagittarius.
One of my favourite quotes: “We cannot change the wind but we can adjust our sails”— Bertha Callaway
JM: What aspects or patterns in your natal chart do you find especially helpful?
My Earth Trines have kept me grounded and focused in what needs to be done in the here and now. My Mars/Uranus/Jupiter square will not let me rest until it is done. My most heavily tenanted element is Fire and my Quadruplicity emphasis is Cardinal. I relish my Ascendant ruler Mars being tightly conjunct my Midheaven and Venus as why I get so involved in my profession and its status.
JM: What advice would you give students who want to make astrology their career? Is it possible to make a living as an astrologer today and if so what steps should students take to make this a reality?
When I first got into astrology, there were very few making a decent living as an astrologer but today there are many doing so. Of course electronics and the internet have made it a remarkable public relations tool as well as a classroom. Many young astrologers have been able to build their clientele and teaching through the internet without having to transition from other careers. My clientele was built long before the internet but now of course I also have clients internationally through my travels and lecturing. I have not set up on line classes because I teach locally and my clientele schedule is extremely full without adding anything new into my already loaded schedule. I did teach a 7 week course on Horary and Electional Astrology for Chinese students in China but it was through their initiative and Webinar. That was good fun. I have done so much international work that working with an interpreter is not a problem but it does set a different pace.
I have noticed that there are quite a few young astrologers who are full time and making a reasonable living or they would not be able to do it and go to conferences where I meet them.
JM: What are your thoughts on the possibility of astrology once again being a respected part of the main-stream culture? Is it likely to thrive as its own discipline or would it more likely be included under an already-existing discipline like psychology/counseling?
I would surely hope astrology would not be integrated with psychology even though many astrologers are also psychologists. The two work nicely together. However, I feel astrology must remain its own body of knowledge rather than integrate with another discipline. I believe it would lose too much or get swallowed up.
I do feel astrology is working its way into respectability and professionalism because we have more qualified astrologers today. Certification does ascertain one has attained certain knowledge and skill. That is surely one way to protect the public against someone who has read a couple of astrology books and calls themselves an astrologer. I would hope the public would learn to ask for an astrologer’s qualifications.
I have noticed a distinct shift in my own clientele to many more professional people including doctors, lawyers, Corporate CEO`s and so on. I also have many more professional men seeking council, particularly if they get dislodged in their career or are getting ready for retirement. Right now there are many young people from the Uranus/Neptune in Capricorn conjunction that are the new group of clients as well as students. Of course they are now in their 20’s prior to their Saturn Return. They are very bright and receptive. It is gratifying.
In my opinion, western astrology has become less of a predictive tool and more of a self awareness tool. My clients appreciate knowing the cosmic shifts in understanding what is happening not only in them but around them. It is interesting how many lay people are aware of the Mercury Retrograde periods through the Internet.
Two of my favorite quotes: There is no bar to knowledge greater than contempt prior to examination: Emerson.
We cannot change the wind but we can adjust our sails: Bertha Callaway
JM: What an exceptional interview!! Thank you Chris for both the depth and range of your responses – much appreciated!!
AM: We look forward to seeing you at the Guild and the ISAR consulting skills that will be presented in October. Anyone wishing to participate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. I will see you before then, Chris, at the Astrology Conference in Edmonton when both of us are presenting.
Chris’ website is: www.astrologychrismcrae.com/