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The Astrological Journal

My Family, Me, the Autistic Spectrum, and Eris

by Paul Mayo

ErisIn this extraordinarily frank memoir in two parts, the author (a highly popular speaker on the astrology circuit) reveals aspects of his life and family for the very first time, encompassing the autistic spectrum and dwarf planet Eris in the charts of loved ones.

A bad case of Eris

The old argument about whether the 10th house indicates mother or father is moot for me. With the newly-discovered dwarf planet Eris proving to be natally in my (previously untenanted) 10th, one or other of my parents was going to demonstrate it to me either way, so I thought.

Paul's Dad's chartLooking back I could see that my father was definitely my prime 10th-house-Eris candidate [see chart]. He also has natal Eris in the 10th by the way, at the end of Pisces. This is interesting because at the end of the 19th century his grandfather (my great-grandfather), a gypsy born at the side of the road like all his ancestors, saw the way the wind was blowing and became the first in the family to settle down in a house. I have come to associate Eris with gypsies; a moment’s consideration would show the parallels, though I won’t spell it out here.

Dad was like a throwback to his gypsy forebears, with wiry dark curly hair and a swarthy wood-smoke complexion. He was also a bully and totally misogynistic. He could never settle in one job for long (so that’s where I got it from!) but when he was conscripted into the army he caught TB and nearly died. Years of recovery meant relocating to the clean air of the country, away from London.

Gypsy caravanDad was antisocial, paranoid and, perhaps wrongly, diagnosed with schizophrenia. Diabetes, which runs in our family, is often misdiagnosed this way. He began to spy on our neighbours, convinced they were spying on him including tapping his phone. He made my mother’s life a living hell, but as she has natal Juno conjunct the Sun and natal Saturn on her IC she naturally stood by him, partly from fear of change. Have you ever come across a Gemini afraid of change?

By the time Dad’s diabetes was recognised it was too late. He died literally whilst I was giving a lecture at the August 1999 AA Conference, trouble to the last. Yes, my father definitely personified my natal Eris in Aries, though I haven’t told you the half of it.

My mother was born in the beautiful Murree Hills in India (since Partition, relocated in Pakistan). Although she had a two-year nervous breakdown when my father was ill with TB, leaving me with a lifelong craving for the rich-tea biscuits she shoved into my mewling infant hands to keep me quiet, she was otherwise a very normal and attentive mother – very much a gentle 4th-house mother in fact (Libra rules my 4th, with my Venus conjunct Saturn in Virgo). She carried out her motherly duties fully responsibly with great attention to every detail. But she was a very anxious person, like a schoolgirl perpetually wary of being told off – and she was also very conventional indeed.

After Dad died she coped well for a while, but then began her long slow slide into Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia. It was then that I realised she was slowly taking over the Eris role (i.e. Eris in my 10th house) vacated by my father’s demise.

The first time I realised how seriously Mum was affecting me I was walking along the street when suddenly something soft hit me massively on my right side, knocking my spirit half out of my body. I reeled sideways and nearly staggered into the road, totally disoriented.

From then on, every time she had a fit of anxiety or any strong emotion, Mum would come blasting over to me and knock me sideways, making me feel as awful as she felt. Never mind that she was housebound and lived over a hundred miles away from me - it was ‘distance no object’.

At first she found it hard to locate me if I was not somewhere she could picture, mainly at my home. This meant I could drive off somewhere and get some peace and bemyself. But it only took her a few years to find a way of tracking me down wherever I was, probably via my car which is familiar to her. Since then almost the only respite I have is when she nods off to sleep or focuses instead on one of my siblings or a visitor to her house (or my poor wife instead of me!).

Paul's mum's chartIf you look at Mum’s natal chart you’ll see that she has an exact conjunction of natal Jupiter and Eris in Aries [see Paul’s Mum chart]. She was also born very close to the conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in Aries, making a powerful stellium of uncontrollable energies with no adequate outlet, part of a grand trine in fire. It may have been hidden or inactive for years, but ultimately she became Eris personified – angry, melancholic, sorrowful, intrusive and apparently exiled in her own home.

The children of dementia patients often reject their beloved parents because they simply cannot cope with them, effectively exiling them. In my case it doesn’t matter who visits or telephones Mum or how often, she cannot remember the contact even an hour after they have gone - so that it seems she has been exiled by her own family.

No wonder she has had to resurrect the ghost of family past; Dad in bed all day long or out with his church friends; the children no longer old grandparents themselves but soon to be home from school and what can she give them to eat?

“Dad’s long dead, Mum; he died many years ago!”

“Yes, but what can I give him to eat when he gets up out of bed?”

One curious thing about Eris is that she seems to have the attribute of being hidden in a chart for long periods (even as in my mother’s case where Eris is conjunct open-sesame Jupiter!), but when she emerges, Watch Out! I can certainly track Eris back over the years in my mother’s behaviour, but only through brief and occasional glimpses, including examples of how psychic she is. It wasn’t until her brain started to crumble that Eris began to poke through in a seriously problematic way.

She may be my beloved mother but no way would I now invite Mum to my party. She cannot travel physically to be with me, but since the Alzheimer’s took away her rigid Saturnian self-control, Mum (in her Eris personification), has found a way to intrude uninvited into my very soul.
Help! My kingdom for a horse!

Diagnosis: A bad case of Eris

All three of my children are “in the autistic spectrum” as they say, a problem which affects 1% of the whole population. It meant that neither my wife nor I could do a normal job, once the kids started to come along in 1982, as we were both of us needed at home to keep them safe and to help and educate them. Luckily by then I was already on the road towards becoming a full-time astrologer and could work from home.

BoyThe most difficult child to deal by far with was our eldest, but here I shall just focus briefly on Daniel, our second-born. He was such a beautiful child that he totally enraptured everyone who met him; indeed a photographer who came to take some pictures of me for some article or other, actually spent all her time on Dan, once she caught sight of his long blond curls and huge wide-open blue eyes staring unblinkingly down at her from a fork in the old apple tree in our garden. We knew Dan could earn a small fortune as a child model, but he consistently refused to countenance the idea as that was not his path, he felt.

Little did the photographer know, but at that time, aged four, he was still in nappies day and night. Like many autistic children he hardly spoke in his early years and when he went to school wrote in perfect, neat Persian! At least we thought it was Persian until someone held a mirror up to the page, which showed it was actually very neat English, written backwards and right-to-left. The stories he wrote in this peculiar script were amazingly imaginative and interesting.

Told to write a poem for homework he submitted one that got him (and us!) into trouble for getting his parents to write it. The teachers and Head just wouldn’t believe it, but in actual fact it was all his own work and far better than anything his parents could have aspired to write. At the age of nine he won a national poetry competition – and never wrote another poem.

This was perhaps because an interest in science was beginning to capture his attention. At eight years old he picked up a degree-level chemistry book from a jumble sale for 10p of his own money. With Capricorn rising and Saturn exactly on his MC he was always a prudent child.

For months he and the book were inseparable. Unable to credit that he might actually understand its contents I interrupted his bedtime reading one evening and asked him if he did. A husky “Yerss” led to me opening the book at random and asking him about bromide – what was it usually extracted from?

“Seawater” he replied economically. Never one to waste words, Dan.

Mmm, that’s right I thought, surprised. “OK, tell me how it’s extracted!” I demanded. He told me, briefly, succinctly and correctly.

MathsWe tried to get him some extra help and accelerated schooling, but after a very long and tiresome process we discovered that our county had no provision at all for bright students like Dan. We managed to get him an offer of a scholarship at the local public school with superlative facilities but Dan refused to go, on the grounds that it was an elitist institution!  That’s a true Aquarian for you.

He gave the same reply later when questioned about why he refused to even apply for Oxford or Cambridge universities, when he had the highest ‘A’ Level results in his whole school – straight A’s in difficult subjects like physics and computing.

Dan was perfectly unflappable in nature, a fact that was underlined when a former client who had deliberately taken a bad turn in his life and became seriously mentally ill as a result, rang us one evening having been released from prison. Dan, aged ten at the time, answered the call and took a message for me.

“Who was that, Dan?” I asked, coming downstairs.

“Oh... it’s just a silly man,” he said, not wanting to burden me with the message.

“What did he say Dan?” I insisted. ”It might be important.”

“OK. The man said to tell my dad that he was coming round to our house this evening to cut my dad’s throat,” said Dan, as calmly and matter-of-factly as if he’d been passing on a party invite. “Don’t take any notice,” he advised sagely. “He’s just being silly.”

I didn’t like to tell anyone that the man in question was a deluded Pisces fantasist, built like a brick shithouse and well capable of overpowering anyone he wanted to.

That evening our phone line went dead, as did that of several neighbours. After nothing improved in three days we got the engineer to visit and put it right. He soon discovered the problem. Someone had climbed the telegraph pole opposite our house and sawed through the (thick copper and well-shielded) cable with a very sharp serrated knife quite high up the pole, cutting us all off. We took it very calmly – hadn’t Dan told us the man was just being silly? Nonetheless, the next time we heard of the Pisces man he was back in prison.

At seventeen Dan was finally officially diagnosed with dyspraxia; too late to get the help he had needed all along. The medic said that Dan had already worked out for himself all the techniques he could use to adjust for the condition, which involves for example a very strong need for (and attachment to) his mother, and an inability to walk in a straight line (serious if you need to stay on the pavement).

More significantly for his education it meant he had to study the simplest written question for about fifteen minutes before he understood it, unless somebody read the question out to him in which case his understanding came instantly. He was entitled to this type of help in exams at both school and university and it was promised – but he never got it.

Straight from university he was headhunted, which became the pattern all the way. By the age of thirty Dan was ‘Chief Architect’ in charge of two large teams of geeks developing artificial intelligence solutions for the financial regulator in the City of London. For a boy who still couldn’t tie his own shoelaces at the age of thirteen, he’d come a long way.

Nature spiritsPlease forgive me if I don’t include Dan’s birth details with this article, as I don’t have his permission. But I can say that when dwarf planet Eris was discovered I hastened to calculate where it fell in his birth chart – in the 16th degree of Aries (Sabian symbol: “Nature spirits are seen at work in the light of sunset”). That’s Dan all right, a gentle force of nature, hardworking and dedicated. Natal Mercury in Aquarius makes an exact bielvtile (two elevenths of the circle) aspect to Eris, if you’re into these exotic aspects.

Once we’d realised that the complex and very different problems each of our children had were all classic autistic spectrum, it forced us to consider how and where they had got these problems. Had we not fed them on wholefoods and given them a healthy lifestyle, including clean local spring water to drink?

In the end we realised it must be from us, the parents. Somehow the kids had inherited it. We looked at my wife’s side of the family and realised it wasn’t that. She had the brain-boxes in her family for sure, including an uncle high-up in MI5 in the War, who signed the surrender of the Japanese in Burma in the absence of his boss, Earl Mountbatten. She had multi-linguists and a spitfire pilot amongst her immediate forebears. Even her father was offered a first-team place for Sunderland at the time they were heading to win the FA Cup Final, which he had to refuse owing to the paltry pay of footballers in those days (£15 a week, believe it or not). He was a member of MENSA, so no slouch in the intellect department either.

So it had to be on my side of the family. Pretty soon I realised that my mother, even though she was very intelligent and clever in a non-book-learning kind of way, had always described herself as “dull”. Time after time at school she had been told this until it became an ineradicable part of her self-image. The justification? She couldn’t read more than a sentence or two before the page began to swim in front of her eyes. She was unable to study from books – only from being told verbally. She was seriously dyslexic (part of the autistic spectrum), unrecognised as a problem when she was young.
My father too was appallingly boorish and seriously alienated everyone sooner or later – one of the classic symptoms of the Asperger syndrome he undoubtedly had. Even he was clever in a technical sense, being part of the small groups of engineers who designed and built the first heart-lung machine, the first body scanner and the prototype of the Concorde aeroplane.

So if my parents had it and all my children had it, how come it had skipped me?

Then I realised: it hadn’t skipped me, not at all.

I was over fifty at the time but as this began to sink in and I took the tests (80% autistic), I had to re-evaluate all that I knew about myself.

Of course, there was my inability to read handwriting or text-speak, which has always had to be translated for me. Then there was the fact that I never understood a single joke until I was thirteen. Even now I tend to interpret things too literally. My boorish stonewalling my wife worked very hard for years to ameliorate - and had great success eventually. I just used to think I had zero personality and no charms or social graces whatsoever and put it down to being my father’s child.

Even as an old man I still have periods of days at a time when I simply cannot speak. Even now I still have the residue of my old dislike of being touched, a kind of super-sensitivity that made me reel with shock if someone even brushed my coat-sleeve lightly in passing. I couldn’t wear jewellery if you paid me. Thank God my wife is very tolerant of all such things.

PebblesThen there was my peculiar habit of picking up stones from the ground, which I found to be very relaxing in its repetitive rhythm. When I was twenty-two a fellow allotment-holder described me as “Pecking like an old hen”.

And I’m not talking the odd stone; I mean hundreds of tons of small stones, mostly relocated to make an all-weather track round the local fields for dog-walkers. Regular walkers call me ‘The Stone Man’ over there, as they rarely saw me without a heavy sack of stones on my back. All of the allotments and gardens I’ve ever had (dozens) ended up almost stone-free with fine soil quite marvellous for growing straight carrots and parsnips. Everything has its upside, even if it’s an upside-down kind of upside.

I won’t go through all the symptoms as it would be labouring the point, but suffice it to say that I’ve never until now told anyone in the astrological community (or any of my other friends) about this aspect of myself, for obvious reasons. I hid it as best I could. I went into astrology in the first place partly because it is a fringe subject. Then I found myself on the fringe of astrology too. I saw that astrology has its own built-in orthodoxy and didn’t want to make myself even more excluded than I felt already by admitting my mild disability. Well I call it mild anyway.

Paul's chart So what has changed?

The discovery of planet Eris in 2005 for a start. When I placed Eris in my natal chart it was a revelation. The nearest body to my MC, just a few degrees into the 10th house, it filled a sensitive place where there had been only a void before. Visually it dominates my chart, with more partile aspects than any other body, especially if you include all the Keplerian aspects - and all the exact Quintiles, Noviles, Septiles and Elvtiles [not shown]. It looks like a big hat with multi-coloured streamers.

So there the troubled goddess was, in the 8th degree of Aries (Sabian symbol: “A large woman’s hat with streamers blown by an east wind”), glowering down on everything else in the chart; the goddess who was not invited to the party. Indeed, deliberately excluded, now back to dominate the scene.

I’m the sort of person that people from all around the world come to when they have a seemingly irresolvable problem. They lock into my exact Chiron/Chariklo conjunction exactly trine Midheaven (and trine Eris), so that I feel their pain, their problem, though I really don’t want to, before they even ring up, before I know anything about them. On call, I see what they need to learn and teach them to overcome their problem - then retreat straight back into my cave, soon forgotten.

Would I be invited to their party if times were good for them? Of course not! I’m far too intense, scary even. I may bowl a lot of golden apples, but it’s down to precisely how those are used as to whether it heals and informs or causes mayhem.

The second reason that I’m sharing bits of this for the first time is that the post-2012 world is now in a new era of building bridges, a theme this year’s AA Conference organisers have very cleverly picked up on. People have been saying on social media that we are in the last minute of the last hour before the Next Great Extinction, and they may be right. Either way the time for separation, for hiding lights under bushels and for extreme self-protection is over. Either human people start to bond and work together in full tolerance of each other’s many faults and weaknesses and in celebration of each other’s strengths and capabilities, or else we shall very soon become a minor footnote in the Earth’s history.

Paul Mayo: 5th Aug 1949, 4:20am (3:20 GMT), South London England. Exact coords: 51N25'04”, 0W10’13”
‘Dad’ 13 Dec 1923; PM rect clock time 17:25:47; Mitcham England 51N24'22”, 0W09'51”; Zone 0hrs
‘Mum’ 16 Jun 1927; PM rect clock time 11:00:00; Khanspur, Pakistan 33N54’, 73E24’; Zone -5:30hrs

First published by: The Astrological Journal, 2016

Paul MayoPaul Mayo is a veteran of many thousands of astrological readings, a popular speaker who is always happy to use his decades of professional experience to help the next generation find their way around a complex subject. He has famous and eminent people on his books, including several scientists and astronomers. Paul is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Astrologers.
At the 2016 Astrological Association Conference (9-11 September 2016) he gave two talks: ‘Twelve Commandments’ (and their ancient roots to astrology) and ‘Who counsels the Wise One?’

Image sources:
Charts provided by the author/AA Journal
Gypsy caravan: CC0 Public Domain, by WenPhotos via pixabay.com
Blond boy (not Dan!):  CC0 Public Domain, by WillieMac via pixabay.com
Child with formulas: CC0 Public Domain, by geralt via pixabay.com
Sunset with birds: CC0 Public Domain, by WimdeGraaf via pixabay.com
Pebbles: CC0 Public Domain, by Pexels via pixabay.com

© Paul Mayo - published by The Astrological Journal / 2016

The Astrological Association

AA LogoThe Astrological Association is a registered charity dedicated to the support and promotion of astrology in all its branches. For over fifty years, it has been serving the astrological community through informing and bringing together astrologers from all over the world, via its stable of publications, its annual Conference, Kepler Research Day and other occasional events, and its support of local astrological groups. It also represents the interests of astrologers generally, responding when appropriate to issues raised within the media. 

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