Chat with Arwynne

arwynneJoan: How young were you when you first became interested in studying astrology yourself and how did having a family of ‘amateur’ astrologers affect your development as an astrologer?

Arwynne: From as early as I can remember, astrology was a part of day-to-day conversation in my family, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I first became interested in the subject. But I was probably around 12 when I first brought home a book about astrology to study on my own. I believe my sole aim at the time would have been obsessively analyzing my compatibility with the boy I happened to be in love with… and, yes, of course it would have been Linda Goodman’s Love Signs!

Joan: How did you find your first client and what was that first reading like for you?

Arwynne: I actually don’t see any clients. My friend says this makes me a “research astrologer,” which sounds a hell of a lot better than how I used to describe it! So I’ll pretend the question was, “how did you begin practicing astrology professionally?” In 2005, one of the astrology websites I read regularly for their coverage of current events mentioned that they were looking for a research assistant. So I responded and ended up working with them for a little over a year, doing research on current events and various topics, editing and writing a number of articles.

Joan: How did you come to develop a specific focus on Pluto and the generational difference arising from Pluto’s transits?

Arwynne: I suppose it could be traced back to Pluto’s placement in my own chart as the ruler of my ascendant. Haha, maybe Pluto is using me as a mouthpiece to tout its own importance (kidding!). Actually, it’s probably because of my interest in history in general, and how historical cycles in politics and culture become so clear when viewed through the lens of astrology. I’m a sucker for “evidence” (or what some might call “confirmation bias”), so it’s very gratifying to find an area where the planetary archetypes are as clearly defined as they are in generational astrology. Also, generations are something that most everyone can relate to. Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y – we can see ourselves, or at the very least our peers, in these labels. So the idea of generations is widely accepted, even outside of astrological circles. It means something when we talk about these groups as though they share certain characteristics and experiences, regardless of race, gender or class. Of course, there will always be contrarians who say, “What about ‘Baby Boomers’ who grew up in Papua New Guinea?” and others will argue that this is a modern phenomenon dependent on mass media and global communications. But I think, in general, it’s widely accepted that generations exist; groups of people born in a given era share certain traits because of the flavor of the times they were born into, and this has relevance and resonance throughout their lives – but of course (wink), this has nothing to do with astrology, right?

Joan: How much do you feel each individual is influenced by the position of Pluto in the natal chart?

Arwynne: It’s very relevant in analyzing generations and historical trends and events, but in the individual’s chart, I think it depends on the strength of Pluto’s placement – just like any other planet. I do think the teachings of evolutionary astrology have a lot of validity but that’s a whole different conversation!

Joan: Are there any books on Pluto and the generations that you would recommend?

Arwynne: Oh boy… I could get really carried away here so, again, I’m going to pretend you asked for my top five! The first would be a book by Philip Brown called “Cosmic Trends: Astrology Connects the Dots.” It was published in 2006, a couple of years before Pluto entered Capricorn, and it analyzes the placements of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus over the last several generations and how those placements are reflected in society. It’s a great reference book because it goes into some depth about the meaning of each planet, the signs they travel through and the aspects they make in combination with each other. It also provides a wealth of detail in the form of lists, sidebars and “activities” that invite readers to identify with familiar trends, both current and historical, in popular culture, politics, fashion and entertainment. The second book is “Dynasty: The Astrology of Family Dynamics” by Erin Sullivan. The first chapter gives one of the best delineations of the generational Pluto and Neptune placements I’ve ever read – a “primer” you could say. The rest of the book delves into familial and individual placements, and it’s all brilliant. It would be criminally remiss of me not to mention “The Book of Pluto” by the peerless Steven Forrest. He goes into every possible aspect of Pluto, including the generations and, as with all his writing, it’s written in the most accessible language and with the utmost humanity and compassion. “The Gods of Change” by Howard Sasportas is another fantastic reference book which gives an in-depth psychological and mythological analysis of all the outer planets, conveniently organized in the familiar “cookbook” format. The last one (and I just realized these are in ascending order of complexity!) would have to be “Cosmos & Psyche” by Richard Tarnas. It’s not strictly about generational astrology, but then neither are the others. It’s probably the most intellectually rigorous, obsessively researched analysis of the relationship of the outer planets to human history. It’s not light reading by any means, but it’s probably one of the most important books on astrology written this century. Also in the first two chapters, he lays out what I consider to be the single most convincing argument for the relevance – and reality – of astrology that’s been articulated to date.

Joan: Do you believe Astrology can provide spiritual insight or is it mostly effective as a pragmatic tool?

Arwynne: Hmm… For me personally, it’s chiefly a pragmatic tool and an endless source of intellectual investigation and discovery. But I think it provides spiritual insights if one is open to them – or to be more precise, it provides insights about the universe that support a pursuit of spiritual meaning. I don’t have any definitive answers or beliefs about the “big picture” but I think astrology, similar to Fibonacci numbers and the periodic table of elements, hints at higher orders of complexity inherent in the universe, independent of, but able to be interpreted by, human reasoning. What it all means, though, if that’s even a knowable quantity is well outside my area of claimed expertise. If I may defer to an “ascended master” of sorts, I think Terrence McKenna said it best; “Science… doesn’t catch the integrated nature of language, the evolution of fairy tales, the dynamics of love affairs, the quintessence of genius; these are the things that as human beings structure and constellate and guide and inform our world. And science has nothing to say about these things… You do not measure the depth of a universal mystery with the neural network of a primate.”

Joan: What house system do you prefer and why?

Arwynne: Placidus – but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a good answer to “why!” Normally I would argue that “it’s what I’ve always done” is a rather lame rationale for doing anything in life, but I’ve tried a few other house systems and have never been convinced (with all due respect to Chris Brennan, I just don’t find Whole Sign Houses compelling at all). There are astrologers who will argue that we’re not supposed to pick a house system based on whether we “like” what it does to our own chart, but really. Who has that kind of will power? My entrepreneurial 10th house sun takes a pay cut in Whole Sign and Equal house systems and my humanitarian 11th house Venus skulks into the shadows of the 12th in the Koch and Campanus systems… but those things aren’t supposed to influence my opinion? Get real! In the absence of a truly convincing and logical argument for another system, I’ll stick with the one that’s most familiar… and flattering, why the hell not?

Joan: Do you have a preference: modern or classical rulerships and why?

Arwynne: Modern for the most part, but if someone prefers to use the classical ones, heh, I can’t get as worked up over rulerships. I personally use the modern ones because, well, I wouldn’t dream of not using the outer planets, so I see no reason to exclude them when it comes to rulership. Also, it’s about clarity of symbolism. For example, I think most astrologers would agree that there is a huge difference between Aries and Scorpio. So, if you choose to use a system where Mars rules both of those signs, you’re going to sacrifice something in your symbolic language. You see what I mean? You then have to come up with a whole bunch more… stuff to explain those differences. But if you have Scorpio ruled by Pluto, immediately you get a much clearer picture of what accounts for those obvious differences, and I think it’s the same for Neptune vs. Jupiter ruling Pisces, etc. Funnily enough, the one sign there’s still a great deal of debate over is my own, Virgo –but I’m okay with Mercury ruling Virgo for the time being!

Joan: Do you see any value or any need for astrologers to take formal training and certification?

Arwynne: Sure, I think it’s wonderful that that’s available, but I don’t think it should be required (the next question would be, to do what?). Since there are so many diversified areas of focus and specialization, it would be impossible to “standardize” the astrological curriculum to the satisfaction of the entire community. But there are many emerging fields of astrological study – for example, all the classical works that are being translated – that require a more structured educational system, and which can only be taught by a few acknowledged authorities in that subject. Also, certainly, there are the scientific and statistical branches of astrology where people are endeavoring to test hypotheses and analyze historical trends – important, rigorous areas of study that are vastly under-explored – which have everything to gain in support and legitimacy by being more closely aligned to traditional educational/ institutional models.

Joan: What inspires you to continue as an Astrologer?

Arwynne: Curiosity! It’s fascinating to be able to observe world events through the lens of astrology, to recognize patterns and cycles in history and society. I love getting to know people and being able to see how their charts reflect their personalities and experiences. I love watching movies and looking up the charts of the directors and lead actors to see how the dynamics of their charts interconnect and contribute to the creation of a great film, especially films that are based on true stories. It’s an endless source of interest and exploration.

Joan: What aspect or pattern in your chart do you like the most or find the most helpful?

Arwynne: Well, aside from my Sun, Moon and Mercury in Virgo (heh, I am “very Virgo”), I’m probably most helped by a very close trine between my Sun and Mars (which is also trine Mercury). My Mars is in Taurus, which is less than helpful but that trine probably assists me even more than I know. I’m an introvert and I tend to instinctively shy away from things that involve self-promotion or – god forbid – any kind of confrontation, and yet I’ve managed to find myself in positions in which I’ve had a public forum (ha, note the use of the passive voice, like I just “found” myself there!). I’ve managed to carve out roles in my work—my day job if you like—which suit my working style very well. So, without a massive amount of concentration and effort on my part, the natural reserve of energy and drive that the Sun-Mars trine represents has been a great supporting factor in many areas of my life.

Joan: What aspect or pattern in your chart do you find most challenging?

Arwynne: Heh… there are a few contenders but I think I’ll go with Mars again, this time opposite my Ascendant. That aspect has definitely meant that none of my relationships have been the smooth-sailing, relaxed, enjoy-each-other’s-company type (not that I would want that anyway, with my Venus conjunct Uranus and Pluto!), but as exhausting as the endless verbal sparring and the inevitable intensity of daily interaction can be, my partner and I have been together for 16 years so I guess it’s working for us! His sun is tightly conjunct my ascendant, so that helps… We “get” each other on the most basic level, even when we’re bickering.

Joan: Is there an astrology teacher and/or book(s) that have influenced you more than any other?

Arwynne: Well, the first three astrology books that I read as an adult (this is after Love Signs as a preteen) were Stephen Arroyo’s Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements, Relationships and Life Cycles, and Astrology, Karma and Transformation. His conversational style is so engaging, accessible and concise and it really laid the foundation for everything I’ve learned since. I’ve also learned tons from Liz Greene’s books (I recently discovered that she and I have the same Sun and Rising signs, which is always interesting to learn about someone whose style you’ve found appealing), but I’m basically evangelizing the deified here, aren’t I? Another astrologer who I’ve found incredibly influential is Jessica Murray, who wrote “Soul Sick Nation.” She’s incredibly inspiring as a political thinker and writer and a wonderfully insightful astrologer. I could go on, but – heh, I realize you did say “an astrology teacher and/or book…”

Joan: How involved are you with your chart on a daily basis?

Arywnne: Wait… you mean we can choose how involved we want to be? Haha… I guess you could say I’m very involved. I was trying to come up with a good example just now but, looking back over my answers to some of the other questions, I’ve probably already given several!

Joan: Do you teach astrology? Arwynne: I guess I will be on March 13…!

Joan: What do you see for the future of astrology?

Arwynne: On one hand, I think thank god for the internet (on a daily basis, for so many reasons)! Not only has it literally given me a career for the past 15 years, but it’s exponentially expanded our ability to reach people with similar interests. With a “niche” subject like astrology which attracts a very dedicated but dispersed audience, the value of the internet is incalculable. Twenty years ago, you had The Mountain Astrologer, you had these massive conferences which were and are quite expensive for the average person to attend, and you had these small groups of individuals meeting maybe once a month in the larger cities – and that was if they were lucky enough to connect through the local paper or a flyer posted on the bulletin board at their local health food store. Now you can decide to publish a blog or record a podcast and more or less instantly for very little cost have your words available to a global audience. So that’s the plus side… On the other hand, I have to admit it’s discouraging to look at the distribution of The Mountain Astrologer, which is still the biggest astrology publication in the world, and see their average monthly print run is less than 17,000 copies. I honestly don’t know if that’s gone up or down in recent years but it’s an astonishingly low number. I mean, your average football stadium is three times that size… but yay, the internet! We can connect from anywhere in the world to support each other’s work and promote our ideas to a vastly wider audience with fewer trees sacrificed. I’m also very encouraged by all the new astrologers out there like Chris Brennan, whose passion and gravitas I really admire, and powerful and distinctive bloggers like Willow and Mystic Medusa. It’s only going to increase, so I’m optimistic about the future.

Joan: What direction are you focusing on in your personal studies and practice?

Arwynne: Well, the main thing I’m focusing on is the astrology podcast I’ve been recording with my friend Alison Price since August 2013. We discuss the current transits, aspects and moon phases, review books and other astrological products, and talk about events or conferences we’re involved with. We feature a new topic each episode which we call “Astrology 360,” so each episode isn’t just relevant for the week of publication. We choose a specific topic and go into depth about it and give examples in the form of celebrity charts, etc. We talk about whatever sign the sun is moving into each month and topics like “Venus and Pluto: the Money Planets,” natal chart interpretation and things like that. And my boyfriend is our producer since he has a background in music and sound production, so it’s been a lot of fun. We release a new episode every two weeks along with show notes, links and charts from each episode on our website, Haha, now how’s that for self-promotion?

This chat conducted by Joan Morton, the president of the Fraser Valley Astrological Guild since October 2013

Arwynne is our speaker for March

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