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The Astrological Journal

The Carter Memorial Lecture
Astrological Association Conference 2017

Astrology, Life, Light and Meaning

by Ana Isabel

This (edited and shortened) talk explores the role that psychological astrology plays in helping us get a sense of identity and a context for incarnation. In our massive universe, where do we fit in? What does it mean to be an individual and why are these questions relevant in helping us develop inner peace?

LightHaving the honour to give the Carter Memorial talk this year has been a great pleasure, because it gave me the opportunity to share the passion for my work both as an astrologer and analytical hypnotherapist. When I realised that the theme for this year's conference was to be “the importance of astrology”, the title appeared fully formed in my head: “Astrology, Light, Life, and Meaning”. I pondered a little as to what the title actually meant. Why did it pop-up in my head so readily? And I realised that this is what astrology means to me. So, in the course of this article, I want to demonstrate why it is that astrology is so relevant, and important. I hope to inspire those of you who are working with clients to think perhaps a little bit differently about the way that you're working so that you are able to enhance your work.

To begin with, consider what light is

It is so vital. It makes us think of the Sun and warmth. It could be symbolic of inspiration, but crucially it illuminates. Historically, the stars were the guides of ancient mariners, lighting their way. The silvery light of a Full Moon can also show us the way. We have the word “enlighten”, which signifies the bringing of meaning and understanding. Astrology, too, has these functions. I am sure that like me, you look to your charts when things start getting a little bit tough. You have an idea of what is going on but you want to have a closer look. You want to know how long this phase is going to last. You want to know what actually is behind the experiences that you are having. When I look at my chart, I am looking for inspiration, for a different perspective on what I'm feeling. In fact, this is why clients come to see us. They want to know how long what they are going through is going to last. They want to know what the outcome is going to be and perhaps without realising it, they also want more. They want to understand “why”.

This is why for me astrology is about “life”.

Astrology is beautiful. Every time we look at a chart, we are looking at an individual’s life story. The past, present, future, karma, the journey of the soul, whatever you are looking for – it is there. And it is a magical experience. To think that we can look at symbols on a paper, understand the archetypes that lie behind them and link them with the planets – all this could almost be described as an act of faith. Which is one of the reasons why we have a hard time convincing so many people that this is real. For those of us who can connect with that larger aspect of life, this is a beautiful system, which is a reflection of life. It has endured opposition from religious quarters. It has endured through scientific revolutions that want to relegate it to superstition. It is alive and well, thriving in a very secular world. It continues to be relevant in a world that is very materialist in its view, a world that is very science- or evidence-based.

So we have to ask: what is it about this beautiful system that has endured through the ages?

There are many reasons for astrology’s endurance

Girl on swingIn this article, I am looking at one reason specifically. I believe that one of the main reasons for astrology’s appeal is that embedded within this system, is the language of archetypes. Archetypes are about psychology. They are ancient psychology. Despite the fact that we as human beings have evolved over the centuries, human nature has not changed all that much. The story of Chiron is as relevant as an expression of human experience today, as it was in ancient times. It speaks to us of human experience that has been distilled over centuries and we connect with it at an emotional level. Our feelings are big. Despite our attempts to use logic and remain cool and collected throughout our daily lives, our feelings are dramatic. You only need to think about dreams to understand how dramatic they are. Our dreams speak to us in symbolic language. Archetypes are symbolic language. Symbolic language that tells us what we really feel and sometimes they shout at us in the big Oedipus-style dramas that go on while we sleep.

This is one aspect of archetypes. Stories also engage the imagination. As you might guess, as a hypnotherapist, I work with imagination every day. It always makes me smile when I meet someone who says that they do not have an imagination. What they mean is that they find it difficult to visualise things and translate their vision into a sculpture, or a painting. They may think that having an imagination means being able to make up stories as writers do.

Yet, without imagination we cannot solve problems. In fact it takes imagination to actually question, to ask, “What if?”

Funnily enough, asking “What if?” can also get us into trouble. Even people who claim to have no imagination have no trouble asking that very question and worrying. When we worry, we are projecting fear onto an outcome. We are imagining something. So our imaginations can bring us hopelessness and fear as well as hope. Astrology, through the language of archetypes, engages feelings and imagination. When we look into the ‘cosmic mirror’, we see reflected who we are at any given moment in time. The chart reflects the fact that we change and evolve. It shows us that we are always a work-in-progress. Considering where we are at any given moment in life, brings up issues of feelings. It is therefore helpful to consider what we need for good emotional and mental health. This is valuable so that when we are looking at the charts, and individuals’ stories, we can have this in the back of our minds. We can be asking or using this guide, as well as the chart to help us to ask the right questions.

LifeOne of the most important things that we need is a sense of control over life. We need a degree of choice. Without this, depression can become a real problem, as can anxiety. There has been a great deal said in the media about mental health. Quite rightly there is a campaign to take the stigma out of mental health issues. This is important because in actual fact, everybody experiences a degree of depression or anxiety at some point in their lives. This often happens when there is a sense of powerlessness. So many things can contribute to this sense. It can be an economic situation, feeling like there is absolutely no choice in life; having to do a job that is draining and unfulfilling; feeling trapped within circumstances. It is easy to see how these types of experiences could create feelings of anxiety and depression. There are other types of situations, too. It might involve being in a loveless marriage and not feeling free to be able to leave. It could be being the victim of abuse. Childhood is often when this begins to be set up. Sadly, many parenting methods have been very authoritarian and have left children feeling that they have very little choice. They learn that they have no choice, they have no power. Later this creates serious problems.

It is also important for individuals to have a feeling of belonging, a feeling of connection. Of course, the very first group that we belong to is the family. If we feel ostracised within the family, or alone in the family, this too can set up problems that manifest later in life. When we do not feel that we belong, we feel isolated. Isolation is another source of depression.

Equally important is feeling heard, being understood. When I am working with clients, this issue often comes up as I'm doing regression work. In dealing with a particular child within the person, that feeling of not being understood, or heard, means that they do not feel loved. Without feeling heard, feelings are not validated. If an individual is not heard, then it means that what they feel is irrelevant. It undermines a sense of self-worth, a sense of purpose. Fulfilment is also really important. Feeling that you are doing something fulfilling involves you within a community; it adds to a sense of being a part of something.

Ultimately, this is all about the questions, “Who am I? And what is my place within the world?” This once again is the beauty of astrology. It shows us that we are connected with something bigger. It can show where life has meaning.

Here are some stories that illustrate how astrology can be used for this purpose.

Chart 1

The first story is about a little girl whose mother was quite autocratic and very much out of reach. The mother’s emphasis was on perfection. This is a child who is not allowed to have feelings. She goes off to boarding school and while there, has an experience which can only be described as being groomed by a teacher. This teacher, sensing her isolation and her vulnerability, makes her believe that he is the only person who could have any interest in her. Nothing too dramatic happened. Yet it was dramatic enough to have a serious impact on her life. When he was exposed, she was made to feel that she was wrong for speaking out. Her mother told her that perhaps it was something she had done. This period of grooming went on during a period of about two years between the ages of nine and eleven.

Chart 1If we look at this chart, you can see the emphasis on the need for perfection. We are looking at the Sun in Virgo. I've had to work very hard to get her to express any anger. The notion that she could possibly have any feelings was initially absolutely impossible for her to accept. Whatever she felt, must be wrong. So here we have Moon in Pisces square Neptune and square Mars. You can see how for this person, feelings could be so completely confusing. Notice also that Neptune is in the 12th house. There is a great deal of confusion around feelings.

She first came to me for issues to do with anxiety. The anxiety being because she was also trapped in a marriage in which she was replaying her relationship with her mother. Note Mars on the Descendent. We began by learning to ask: “What do I like? What don't I like? Is it okay to voice what I like and what I don't like? Can I have the courage to speak out?”

So what is the meaning of all this?

Happily the good thing about Pisces is that there is also an instinctive need to find something to connect with. This has led her to a spiritual approach to life. The Sun is in the 9th house indicating a need for meaning. Healing is taking place as she's come to realise that she would not be the person she is had she not had these experiences. Experiences that were maddening, gut-wrenching, completely denying of the self but nevertheless formative in the questions she has been forced to ask and in what she has learned. She has come to understand that nothing has been wasted. She is now working as a therapist, helping others who experience severe trauma. You will notice that the North Node is in Scorpio, showing a need to look deeply into the human psyche, and to help people to transform.

So here you have within this chart a good description of the problem. As an astrologer, I always have the luxury of being able to look at a chart before a client comes to me. As an analytical hypnotherapist, it doesn't work this way. Rather than telling the story myself, I am listening to the story and I'm looking at the chart, glancing at it, checking to see what's going on there. I am hearing the chart talk to me, so that I know the right questions to ask. I'm looking to see where the hope lies, where the possibilities are. I am looking to help my client find a sense of purpose in life. In this case it was relatively simple. There is this Sun in the 9th house that is very helpful.  There is the Moon in Pisces, also helpful and there is the North Node in Scorpio which is already manifesting itself. I just needed to give her the ability to strengthen herself.

Chart 2

The next chart belongs to a young man who has come from a family that is extremely wealthy. Everything in this family is about money and power, especially to do with the father and brother. Mars is conjunct Saturn in Scorpio, and Mercury is square both of them. Notice also, the Sun- Venus conjunction, square to Pluto. These are probably the most important parts of this chart.

Chart 2The reason this is important is because everything here is about powerlessness. There is an anxiety that at times verges on paranoia, with a fear of being poisoned. This, we have worked out, is symbolic of a feeling that relationships are toxic to him. Thankfully he now understands this, because he's realised that it's not literally that someone is trying to poison him. It's more about feeling subconsciously, that there is something toxic in some relationships. So, part of his journey has been to translate the things that he fears subconsciously into language that's understandable to the conscious mind. If we think about the Sun as symbolic of what we grow into, then as a Cancerian he's really learning about feelings. He’s got the Moon in Capricorn. We’ve done quite a lot of past-life work as well. I must add that this was spontaneous. I was not deliberately regressing him to past lives. Every one of them had this theme of needing to humanise by connecting with feelings.

So here we are in this lifetime, a childhood in which feelings are completely disregarded and in which he is pretty much written off for being a sensitive child. He is having to translate his whole life into something that is meaningful to him. His whole aim is to find a way of doing business humanely and ethically. He is desperately trying to define himself as different from his father. It's very laudable, but at the same time he's also been disempowering himself. 

The language he uses is very black and white, very Scorpio. It is all about good and evil. And if we throw in an orthodox Catholic background, everything is about hell or heaven. There is nothing in between. The work is now about getting him to loosen up a little, getting him to see beyond that black-and-white language, and turn it into something that's much more transformational, the other side of Scorpio/Pluto. This would allow him to say: “This is who I want to be. I don't have to save the world while I'm doing this. Contributing something good is enough”. It is about letting go of the belief that unless he is rescuing somebody, he must be evil, he must be like the others who are unfeeling and unethical. It is about coming to that middle ground of saying: “I am a good person. I'm going to allow myself to follow my path follow my dreams and slowly build something that is meaningful”.

Chart 3

In the next chart, we have another Virgo from a similar background to the last one. She comes from an extremely wealthy family. Notice that there is a very busy 2nd house. She says that money does not mean anything to her, but she is beginning to realise that money is at the core of her life. Chart 3Money is the very thing that her father uses to control her. You would think that being wealthy that she would have lots of choices. Yet, as with my previous client, there were no choices. She was expected to take a particular path within the family business, for the family.  However, if she does a good job it is criticised. Doing a good job means doing exactly to the letter what is said; but if she deviates from that, and has different views, she is doing a terrible job too. This is a no-win situation, there are no choices. You can imagine for Moon in Sagittarius this is very difficult. It's difficult for anybody, but for someone who is instinctively a free spirit, this is very hard indeed.

You will also notice Pluto conjunct the Ascendant. You might think that with a Libra Ascendant there would be plenty of charm, but this is someone who accidentally intimidates people very quickly. She is just beginning to seek to find something softer within herself. That quest for something softer is also about finding out where she belongs. If you refer back to those definitions of what is necessary for good mental health and consider the stories being told by the chart, you can ask: Does this person feel that they belong? What is this person going through? Is it down to some sort of existential crisis of “Who am I? Where do I belong?”

In this case, is she trapped because she wants to feel like she belongs to her family? She is very different from them. So her search is to answer the question, “Who am I?” For her, being with her family is like being an immigrant in a foreign land. This includes issues around femininity. This has arisen as a need be seen as strong and independent in order to survive within her family. So this now leads to asking: “How can I be intimate with someone? How can I trust and be vulnerable?” You'll notice that Chiron is in the 8th house with the North Node.

Imagery that I use for her always needs to be lively. It has to have movement because of that fire within her. She also really likes water; notice the Moon-Neptune conjunction. My job is to help find where she has faith because I think that once she finds that, she will find the strength to define herself. Jupiter offers clues that can help with this. It is in Capricorn and she has faith in nature. What she wants is to be able to set up a farm that's very progressive, looking at health and animal welfare in a very integrated way. This is her dream. She needs the confidence to make it happen.

Chart 4

Chart 4This chart belongs to a Scorpio. You can see that there is quite a lot going on in Scorpio in the 11th house; a Sagittarius Ascendant and a Moon in Aries. So despite the fact that there is quite a lot of Scorpio, there is much that suggests that there is a real extroverted side to this person. When she originally came to see me, she was looking for some sort of sanction for the fact that she was having an affair. She was suffering from anxiety. I explained to her that the anxiety was arising from keeping so many secrets and the fear attached to being discovered. 

The reason for this affair was an incredible sense of restriction from her husband. Notice that the Sun and Mercury are square Saturn. Her husband is a true introvert and doesn't want any family or friends in the house, so she felt very isolated. Between them they had decided that she would stay home and not work, so that she could raise the children. She loves doing this, but what was frustrating her was the lack of social company.

So what's going on here in terms of purpose? Her journey so far is something to do with honesty. This is about honesty in terms of not deceiving others, but also honesty with herself. She is realising that this marriage would never have happened if she had followed her feelings in the first place. She is seeing that there were several points at which she had the opportunity to end things and did not because she was not being honest with herself. She is on a journey about being authentic. The North Node is also in Scorpio. I suggest once again a need to learn to be honest, to be able to say: “This is who I am and it's okay to be this way and I don't have to marry somebody because it’s expected that I should. I can take my time. I have got choices”. This is what it comes down to; the realisation that there are choices.

Chart 5

Chart 5The next chart belongs to an Aquarius. She is a young woman, probably my youngest client to voluntarily seek help on her own. The Sun is conjunct Mars and they are square the Moon and Pluto in Sagittarius. The imagery of her language initially concerned me. It was full of violent rage towards her parents. It was volcanic, explosive, completely damning. This was a child who was absolutely screaming. Listening to her was like watching a horror film and even working with her in hypnosis, in regression work was very difficult. I had to realise that we were not necessarily exploring real memories, but that she spoke totally in symbolic terms of her feelings about the past. I had to let go of any expectation that I might be hearing what happened in an objective sense.

Working in her favour, was a deep sense that there must be some meaning to life. Notice that Moon and Pluto are in Sagittarius, in the 9th house. Here is a resource that gave me something to work with. Finding meaning, because she was so young, was not an easy thing to do. Yet her interest in the deeper mysteries of the bottom of things. She was totally put off school because she is dyslexic. Initially there was no chance of suggesting any study. She was very lost. As I worked with her to build confidence, this translated into doing a course in working with people with learning disabilities. This then led her to doing something that has surprised her immensely. She has completed a short course in psychology. She is discovering her purpose and finding her place in the world.

Chart 6

A Leo with lots of Leo. You can see there is so much potential. You can also see the Moon square Pluto and Jupiter. Chart 6There is a deep lack of a sense of self because there were no choices when growing up. This is a child whose parents left the UK and everything for Hong Kong without any explanation or discussion with her. She had no idea as to why they were moving to Hong Kong. Just as she was getting used to being there, she was sent back to the UK to boarding school.

There was no consideration of her feelings at any point. Her mother had a temper and was an extreme perfectionist. She expected her daughter to perform according to mother’s expectations at all times. She had no choice but to be what her mother expected of her, because her mother’s image was wrapped into having a perfect child so that she could be seen as the perfect mother. There was deep denial of any unhappiness on the part of the child. When the school became concerned about her, because they noticed that she was not eating and was losing a great deal of weight, they called her parents to tell them that she’d been to the Priory to get help. They flew from where they were and charged into the school, denying that there was anything wrong with their daughter. This is a pivotal moment in her life in which she learned that she did not matter. She already knew it, but this confirmed it completely.

So where is the hope in this chart? She is now finding some meaning by connecting with people who suffered trauma. She is in the process of defining who she is outside of being an addict; and all the imagery for her needs to be natural. Note that Jupiter is in Taurus, earth, connecting with nature. Imagery used needs to be vibrant, energetic. After all, her chart is very fiery. It’s about passion. What she wants is to be allowed to live passionately.

Chart 7

I have included a couple of charts that don't have the time of birth as a reminder that even without the time, there is still plenty to work with. (Chart drawing 7 is not included).

This is an Aries with Sun square Saturn and possibly the Moon. I also think it likely that the Moon is opposite Saturn. This is the story of a little boy who grew up without a father. The father died just after he was born. This meant that this family, a family of status, now had no money but they still have to live as if they did. That meant boarding school, but with no money for boarding school. The mother took in lodgers to help make ends meet and this covered the school fees but very little else. In a world where everyone had extra luxuries, this little boy had none. He was painfully aware of his poverty in comparison with his class mates. There is a big sense of restriction about not being able to have what everybody else has. There was also a feeling of not being allowed to even imagine, because imagination was deemed frivolous. This is a fire sign who was not allowed to imagine, to be fiery. This is the fire being put out all the time.

You can also see Venus, Mercury and Mars in Pisces. Chiron conjunct Mars in Pisces. His dream is to be a writer. He's been writing a book for years. But that dream has been sacrificed and what we have is a talent that is being used purely for financial purposes in the world of advertising and he feels like he's dying. This is about imagery again that is colourful and is about movement. He loves skiing, so I always start off with him being on skis, moving really quickly and then bringing other images in to stoke that fire to overcome those passive elements of Pisces and the restriction of Saturn.

Chart 8

Chart 8This probably is the most explicit expression from a client of an existential crisis. This is an Aries Sun conjunct Mercury. He has the Moon in Pisces possibly conjunct Mars, opposite Saturn in a square with Neptune. His mother suffers from depression and the child is taught to completely tiptoe around her. His whole focus in life has been this need to keep others happy. He is a people-pleaser. He has no sense of connection with his feelings. He came to me because of serious anxiety. The anxiety, we worked out eventually, was because of being in a relationship in which he did not want to upset his partner. He wanted to end it because relationships for him are so hard. For him, they carry the burden of the other person’s feelings all the time. It wasn't that she was doing anything wrong, it was that he himself could not cope with the expectation of making someone else happy. This was causing him absolute terror in many different ways.

Working through that meant me asking and getting the reply: “What do you like?”; “I don't know”. “What don't you like?”; “I don't know”. We had to start asking those questions. Just to help him to notice when he was experiencing something, whether or not he liked it. It was a very slow process of re-connection with feelings. We looked at a similar situation earlier with another Moon in Pisces. Creating a sense of boundaries is important, too. A definition of “Who am I?” This is after all an Aries. He is an extremely successful lawyer. He is very good at being fiery and charging to other people’s aid. He's been absolutely awful at being able to define who he is, what he wants, what he likes, what he doesn't like and consequently can't tell anybody what he wants.

The reason I said that this is probably one of the most explicit examples of somebody wanting to know why they are alive, is because he articulates quite frequently a sense that life has no meaning. “Why is it that I'm here?” Magic mushrooms are one of his favourite means of escape. The reason he loves them is because in those moments when he has that high, he can connect with everything. He has what could only be described as a spiritual experience. So together we are working now on finding ways of getting that spiritual connection into his life. Once he does this, there will be a sense of peace.

I have shared with you many examples of how I am using astrology to help people with their issues. This really always boils down to the need to define oneself. Doing this work, I think we always need to start with ourselves. Occasionally it is helpful to check in and look at our own charts. We think we know them, but it is good to have a little review. 

Chart 9

Chart 9So here is my own horoscope. I believe it’s very apt and shows why I am so committed to helping others find meaning in their lives. Beyond the qualities that I listed as being necessary for good mental and emotional well-being, this is something that I know is important intuitively. This is not surprising when you see the Sun, Venus and Mars in the 9th House.

I absolutely need to communicate, having Mars in Gemini on the MC coming from the 9th.  I need to communicate that there is meaning to life. I know that when we do that, when we have that sense of meaning, we are bringing order to chaos. When we understand that things are happening not just because somebody up there decides to strike us down, it lifts us out of a sense of powerlessness. It empowers us to think. I can look at that in this way and learn something. It doesn't mean it is going to be any more enjoyable, but at least I can understand it. 

That understanding is everything for people. Carl Jung said some great things about astrology but I've chosen this quote: “We are born at a given moment in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born”.

I love this because when we are looking at the chart we are connecting with what lies within us, with the heavens, with our solar system, with the universe. We are connecting with something so much bigger and beautiful. We are all a part of that. We all have a part in it, so we are connected with each other, too, because we are all pieces of a jigsaw. In a jigsaw, every piece is important. It is very annoying when there is a piece missing. We all have a part to play.

So this is the beauty of astrology. It gives us that sense of purpose and meaning. It is life. It will continue to bring light to our lives. We will always value what it has to offer. It will evolve, it will change throughout time, because as human beings we are inquisitive. We evolve and grow, but it will always be a part of life. It will not be relegated to the realms of superstition, despite the fact that we are told that “it is for entertainment purposes only”.

This Carter Memorial talk can be downloaded in full as a recording for £10 from http://astrologicalassociation.com. Click ‘CDs, DVDs & MP3s’ option in menu.

First published by: The Astrological Journal, Jan/Feb 2018

Ana IsabelAna Isabel combines hypnotherapy and astrology to help unblock repressed aspects of the personality, and focuses on the links between the birth chart, karma and pre-birth experiences. She works at the Grace Belgravia Medical Clinic whose Medical Director is Dr. Tim Evans, the Apothecary to HM the Queen. Ana broadcasts regularly on matters of astrology as well as mental health. Website: www.lifeastrologer.com.

Image sources:
All charts provided by the author (data withheld for privacy)
Images: CC0 Creative Commons via pixabay.com

© Ana Isabel - 2017/18

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Current Planets
24-Apr-2018, 21:18 UT/GMT
Venus014' 6"20n46
Explanations of the symbols
Chart of the moment
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