A new comet has appeared in our skies this month. This comet was named Neowise, for the space telescope that first spotted it. She first came into our consciousness on March 27, 2020. At that point, she could only be seen by telescope. This comet spun around the Sun on July 3, 2020, and as always with comets, there was some uncertainty as to whether she would survive this passage. She did, and she is now visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye. She is the brightest comet we have seen in over 30 years.
Traditional View of Comets
Comets were seen as omens and harbingers of important events. Unfortunately, these events were usually tragedies. In most cases, they warned of famine, floods, invasions, war, plague, and things of that nature. They could also indicate the death of a great Ruler and an overthrow of the current power structure.
In the sense that comets are usually considered bad omens, they are like eclipses. On the other hand, unlike eclipses, there does not seem to be any prohibition against looking at them from what I can tell. I think that this may be because eclipses represent a time of choice for Axial Beings.
In contrast, comets are seen as a warning of Divine intention to intervene in worldly affairs. Indeed, there are many stories of kings and rulers who have redoubled their efforts to consolidate their power after seeing a comet and lose it anyway to an unforeseen event. This makes it seem like it does not matter whether we look at the comet or not. Comets foretell an act of Divine Will, not an opportunity to exercise our own Free Will.
The belief that comets represent Divine Intervention and are usually seen as bad omens raises a difficult question. Does Dea intervene to do us harm? This is a particular problem for monotheistic religions and invokes the old paradox, “if God is all-powerful, God cannot be good, and if God is good, God cannot be all-powerful.”
In one sense, all true religious traditions believe in One Ultimate Source. Outside of the Abrahamic faiths, however, many also believe in a pantheon of deities, which can also be seen as aspects of the Ultimate. Not all of these deities are nice or friendly to human beings.
The Deanist/Filianist answer to this is that this is one of the things that we cannot truly understand from an unEnlightened state. Pain, sorrow, and tragedy are a part of manifest existence, and everything other than Ultimate Reunion with Dea is temporary, even Paradise. Death and destruction are a part of life, even though we experience these things as negative.
Interpreting Comet Neowise
An astrologer’s job when it comes to comets is to do her best to interpret the Divine intent and help people prepare accordingly. To interpret the meaning of a comet, astrologers use everything about it, including its color, direction, and the constellations and fixed stars in its path.
It can be tempting to get complicated about the interpretation of a comet. Yet, if we understand it to be a message from the Divine, we can probably assume that the Divine wants us to understand it, so at least on some level, the message will be fairly clear.
Details about the current appearance of Comet Neowise
In traditional times, a comet would be considered to arrive when we could see it with the naked eye. Now, we can detect comets with telescopes much sooner than we would be able to see them in the night sky.
Comet Neowise was first spotted on March 27, 2020. This is when many places around the world started to go into lockdown because of the virus, Covid-19. She went around the Sun on July 3, 2020. It seems that she could have gotten burned up by the Sun, so it was not until after she passed that it was certain that she would come and visit our skies.
She was first visible on Earth on around July 12, 2020, and she will be visible until at least July 23, 2020, in the Northern Hemisphere. She may be visible longer, though. Comets tend to be rather unpredictable, even to modern science. She will not be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
Comet Neowise is multi-colored, but the main ones are gold, orange, and yellow. With respect to comets, these colors relate to the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. This comet also has two tails, and the second tail has just appeared. The direction of the comet is downward, and she appears to be falling from the heavens to the Earth.
This comet first became visible in the constellation Argo, the Ship. She is moving retrograde or in the opposite direction of the planets, and her path will take her through Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, and Canis Major.
Ursa Major, the Great Bear
Of all of the constellations that Comet Neowise will pass through, as a Filianist, the most interesting is Ursa Major, the Great Bear.
Ursa Major is probably the oldest constellation that has been passed down into modern times. In recent times, there is a uniform system of classifications for the constellations, but this was not always the case. Different cultures had different groupings and mythology for the various stars. Ursa Major, however, is uniform throughout many cultures, including indigenous Native American cultures. Almost universally, Ursa Major is seen as feminine.
Ursa Major is one of the circumpolar constellations in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that she is always up in the night sky, never rising or setting. The southern parts of this constellation can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere as well.
Bear worship was common in prehistory, and there is evidence that it was a part of Neanderthal cultures. The Sami in Northern Scandanavia and the Ainu in Japan still worship the bear today.
She can be seen as a Mother/Protector Deity. She can be fierce but her devotion to her children is absolute.
Orbit of Comet Neowise
Comet Neowise is thought to originate in the Oort Cloud, meaning that she comes from the very outer edges of the influence of our Sun. The outer edges of the Ort Cloud are 3.2 light-years from the Sun. This makes her a long-period comet. Long-period comets have orbits of thousands of years.
While planets have regular orbits, the orbits of comets can be complicated. There are some, like Halley’s Comet, which have a regular orbit. For others, the passage around the Sun warps and changes their orbit. Some have there orbit changed so much that they fly out of the solar system.
Many articles state that Comet Neowise has an orbit of around 6,800 years. This is not quite accurate. It will be 6,700 years before she will be visible on Earth again, but the last time she was seen would have been around 4,400 years ago. See the Wikipedia Article about this comet.
This means that she would have been visible sometime around 2400 B.C.E. This was the time from which we have the earliest written records of the history of this planet. This is the time when it is currently believed that Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid were built.
The oldest recorded comet is from China in 2296 B.C.E. It is interesting to speculate that maybe this comet was Comet Neowise. The records from that time seem to be vague, though, and I was not able to find any evidence that would either support or refute this speculation.
I think that it is very likely that this comet relates at least in part to the current Covid-19 crisis. She came into our consciousness at about the same time as the pandemic was taking off on a global scale. Her appearance in the sky coincides with the disease spreading like wildfire in many places, including the United States.
Comets are often associated with a change in rulers. Some speculate it might have to do with the current president of the United States. While that may be the case, a comet is too large of a sign to be associated with the regular transfer of power as a result of an election.
I do think that the symbolism is pretty clear that there will be a rise in the Divine Feminine, and that patriarchal structures based on war and military force are going to fall. The symbolism of the Mother Bear deity coming to Earth seems quite powerful.
One of the interesting things about the coronavirus pandemic is that the way to combat it is through mutual cooperation. The most effective tool in preventing the spread of the virus is mask-wearing, but the mask only offers limited protection to the mask-wearer. Instead, we are protected only if others are wearing masks when they are near us. Governments that can convince or compel their population to wear masks for the common good are getting the virus under control. Places that have governments that are unwilling or unable to do this are being devastated.
I also think that this comet is another sign that changes on a scale that is difficult to imagine are coming. We are already headed for a change from an era dominated by Earth to one dominated by Air.
Below are my thoughts and recommendations in light of the appearance of Comet Neowise.
Feel free to look at her if you would like. Right now Comet Neowise can be spotted near the Big Dipper in the Northern Hemisphere. It might be hard if you live in a city, and you will get a better view with a telescope or binoculars.
While comets are usually bad omens, they are also indicators of Divine interest in our world. Try to set aside fear. The changes that are happening have passed beyond human control, and it is best to put your trust in whatever Higher Power that you believe in.
Let go of your attachment to what you have always known. The less you are attached to the familiar, the easier the transition will be to what is to come.
Nurture virtues within yourself such as caring for others and the common good. Resist urges such as selfishness, combativeness, and competitiveness.
Rather than fear the loss of the structures of the past, foster hope that the future will be better.
One of the important teachings in Filianism relates to the interaction between the home, or the Hestia, and the marketplace, or the Agora. Both are necessary for us, but in many modern cultures, there is a huge imbalance in how we treat both. The Agora is seen as central and more important than the Hestia. Filianism teaches that the reverse is true, that the Hestia is central and primary and that the Agora is secondary.
The Year of Sai Rhavë
In the Filianic calendar, the year starts on March 21, which is the day that we ritually celebrate Eastre and the Equinox, regardless of the day that the Equinox actually falls on, which varies from year to year. The day of the week that this day falls on is the first day of the week, and the Janya, or Great Angel, that rules that day is believed to govern the year.
This year, March 21 fell on Saturday, so the Janya of this year is Sai Rhavë, whose planet is Saturn.
On my astrology site, I talked about the astrological chart for the physical Equinox. If you are interested in reading it, here is a link to that article:
Yet, as a Filianist, I also believe that the Janya who rules the year also takes on added significance during the year.
Sai Rhavë is a severe Janya, and She often makes life difficult for us on the physical plane. Even so, She is necessary and a manifestation of Dea. Her lessons are important, even if they are not ones that anyone would wish for.
As we start this year, for most of us, the themes of Sai Rhavë are quite clear. All around the world, people are in quarantine and isolation due to a rampant pandemic that is sweeping the world. The Rhavic symbolism behind this is obvious.
Yet, as is always the case with Sai Rhavë, we can also learn some very important lessons from the experience.
I believe that one of these lessons is the importance of the Hestia, as well as a deepened appreciation for the sectors of life that are traditionally associated with the Feminine Principle.
What is Essential?
In the state of the U.S. that I live, we are under a “stay-at-home” order. All businesses, except for those deemed “essential” are closed down. In effect, the Agora has been effectively shut down. It is interesting, though, to learn what business activities truly are essential.
Of course, in this crisis, medical care providers are essential. Yet, the businesses that directly support the Hestia are also essential, such as food providers, store clerks, and sanitation workers. Many of these people do not generally get much respect in our society, but during these times, they have been heroic in helping to provide for our comfort and our needs, risking their own health and safety.
Teachers and those who care for children are also getting new respect as parents are attempting to teach their children at home.
In addition to those who are still at work, we are also learning about what it is that we actually need, as well as the strange things that we think that we need.
Most of those in the U.S. have never really experienced shortages. We might be limited by our financial resources in what we can buy, but there has always been the sense that we could buy whatever we needed or wanted if we could afford it. Now, we are discovering that many things are quite difficult to find.
One of the stranger things has been just how important people seem to find toilet paper, which has now become a scarce commodity. Although, I remember many conversations with my late grandmother in which we talked about a new invention or technology, and she recounted to me that she remembered when they invented toilet paper. I wonder what she would say about all of this.
Taking Stock of our Personal Hestia
Now that many people are at home, we are gaining awareness of our own Hestias and our own immediate families. There are those that are experiencing loneliness and boredom, particularly those that live alone. There are those that are having to be together with people that they have spent very little time with. Ironically, for some, such as housewives and stay-at-home moms, this is a time of greater engagement with the Agora, with spouses working from home.
While this is uncomfortable for many people, it is also a great opportunity to really examine our own Hestia and to see what changes need to be made.
This is not just a matter of practical considerations, such as working on our housekeeping or our relationships. It is also a matter of examining our hearts and souls and taking a hard look at our priorities.
Finding New Ways to Do Business and to Connect with Others
One of the things that we are having to do is to find new ways to connect with others. People need contact with other people, and right now, physical contact is dangerous. Yet, for most of us, there are other ways to communicate. Churches are finding that they can have Services electronically. Families can keep in contact through phone calls and video chat. While this might not be as satisfying as being in person, these methods do serve to meet our social needs.
In many ways, we are much more fortunate than our ancestors who had to deal with various kinds of plagues. Even 20 years ago, this level of non-physical communication would not have been possible.
Indeed, I think that this is a large part of the big picture. We are moving from an era dominated by Earth to one dominated by Air. We are moving away from the physical and into the world of ideas and electronic communication. While this pandemic is pushing us faster in that direction, we were going there anyway.
Many people are worried about the economy while we are not able to do business in person. That an understandable fear, but I believe that those companies that can adapt are going to survive and flourish, not just during this scary time, but into the future as well.
There will be change and turmoil, and some jobs will disappear. This happens whenever there are advances in technology. Yet, new jobs will emerge, and people will find ways to make a living.
Even after this pandemic is over, our world will not go back to the way it was. For better or for worse, we will all have to adjust to “the new normal.”
A Ray of Hope
In a crisis, the best and worst in people come out. Yet, so far, there seems to be a lot more good than bad.
Yes, some people are selfishly ignoring precautions or hoarding items that we all need. Yes, some politicians and leaders are being less than helpful. This is not the full picture, however.
Some people are doing their best to be good. Performers and entertainers are giving free video performances. People are going out of their way to support and encourage each other from a safe distance. Businesses are doing their best to respond to this crisis by giving paid sick leave and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.
In the U.S., for the first time in decades, opposing parties are working together for the common good.
Even though the physical borders between countries have closed, all over the world, people are working together to fight the same enemy. Many people are sharing their experiences in quarantine and isolation, and in some ways, this has brought us closer as a worldwide community than ever before.
Like all crises, this is an opportunity for us to call forth our best selves, whether we are heroic first responders, faithful grocery store clerks, or one of the many who are called to protect our own health so we don’t contribute to the spread of the disease or further tax the available medical resources.
This is a time of uncertainty and fear. Yet, this is also a time for us to take a deep look at ourselves and our values. Life has been changing over the last several decades, but this new crisis is pushing us headlong into that change. In particular, we are being forced to examine our relationship to both the home and the marketplace, and examine our priorities…as individuals, as families, as cities, as nations, and as a world.
2020 promises to be a year of big changes astrologically, culminating with a Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction, also known as a Great Conjunction, in Aquarius at the Winter Solstice. This will mark the end of a two-century era in which the Great Conjunctions fell in Earth Signs and the beginning of a new two-century era in which they will occur in Air Signs.
As if this were not enough, before Jupiter and Saturn can come together, they will both have had to cross the path of Pluto. Saturn closed in on Pluto on January 12, 2020, and Jupiter will meet with Pluto three times, on April 4, June 30, and November 12.
While all astrologers agree that the Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction has great significance, what about the meaning of the conjunctions of both of these planets with Pluto?
Answers to this question will vary widely by who you talk to. A Modern Psychological Astrologer or an Evolutionary Astrologer will attach deep meaning to these transits, while a strict Traditional Astrologer might say that they have no meaning at all.
In order to examine this subject, it might be helpful to take a closer look at Pluto, its history, and the significance that has been given to it by astrologers.
The History of Pluto
Before we delve into the astrological and metaphysical meanings of Pluto, let us step back and look at what we know about the discovery of this planet, its demotion, and its current place in modern astronomy.
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh when he was 23 years old. He worked at the Lowell Observatory, and his job was to search for Planet X. A century had not yet gone by since the discovery of Neptune in the mid-1840s.
Apparently, in the late 19th century, some astronomers believed that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were not what they were supposed to be and speculated that there was another planet causing the anomaly. This undiscovered planet was called Planet X.
Percival Lowell was a wealthy Bostonian and scholar who was interested in a variety of subjects, including mathematics and astronomy. He founded the Lowell Observatory, and searching for Planet X was one of his pet projects.
Percival Lowell did not live to see his dream become a reality, but one of the glyphs that is commonly used for Pluto has a combined P and L, which in addition to being the first letters for the name of the planet, were also the initials of his name.
Beginning in the early 1990s, barely 60 years into its discovery, Pluto’s status as a planet was beginning to be called into question. Part of the reason for this is that astronomers were finding out just how small Pluto really is. It is about two-thirds of the size of the Earth’s Moon.
Another difficulty is that Pluto’s orbit is quite messy. Like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Pluto’s orbit is filled with other space objects and is now known to be a part of a region that has been named the Kuiper Belt.
Pluto’s final fall from grace happened when another body larger than it was found to be further out into the Kuiper Belt. This body eventually became known as Eris, after the Greek goddess of strife and discord.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially determined the definition of a planet to be a celestial body that 1) is in orbit around the Sun; 2) has enough mass to be round; 3) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
Celestial bodies that have only met the first two criteria are now known as dwarf planets, and there are now 5 bodies that belong in this classification, among them, Pluto, Eris, and Ceres.
Pluto’s demotion was highly controversial. In his book, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and one of the key players in Pluto’s reclassification, tells the story of the popular outcry. Apparently, Dr. Tyson received quite a bit of mail complaining about the demotion, which included letters from elementary school children. One letter even included a picture of Pluto crying.
It turns out that the elementary school children discussed above may have been right to be concerned about Pluto’s feelings. Unbeknownst to anyone, Pluto apparently has a heart.
In 2006, the space probe, New Horizons, was launched to explore the outer Solar System. This probe arrived at Pluto in 2015 and mapped this celestial body along with its largest moon, Charon. Charon is so large in comparison with Pluto that Charon does not actually orbit Pluto. Instead, these bodies orbit a point between them.
New Horizons sent back a great deal of data about Pluto. Some of the most interesting discoveries were that the most prominent feature of Pluto’s landscape is a large heart-shaped region and that there may be water beneath its surface.
Pluto in Astrology
Pluto’s role in astrology has also taken many twists and turns. At the present time, Pluto is just as controversial in the astrological community as it is in the scientific one. For the most part, Indian astrology does not incorporate Pluto or any of the modern planets, but for such a small celestial body, it has become a very big bone of contention among Western astrologers.
Below are some of the views of Pluto based on three of the main branches of Western Astrology.
Strict Traditional or Classical Astrologers ignore Pluto altogether. They also ignore Uranus, Neptune, and all of the asteroids. They primarily use the Seven Traditional Planets and see no need to make room for any of the planets discovered in modern times. This is, in part, because of the doctrine of visibility, which is that only the bodies that are visible have meaning to our lives.
Yet, there are many astrologers, some of them quite well-known, that use mostly traditional methodology and still incorporate Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in their readings.
In general, though, these astrologers do not assign the planets the rulerships of any signs, and instead, stick to the traditional rulership scheme.
Modern Psychological Astrology
The most common branch of astrology that is practiced in the West can be loosely described as Modern Psychological. Actually, this is far from a unified or organized school of thought, but there are some common themes.
The reason it is often termed psychological astrology is that its primary purpose is to describe people’s personality traits and internal psychological dynamics. Often, practitioners do not try to predict events that will happen in people’s lives but instead focus on a person’s Free Will.
Planets and celestial bodies are often incorporated into the system shortly after they are discovered. Innovation is welcome and even encouraged by practitioners.
In Modern Psychological Astrology, Pluto governs deep internal psychological forces. The associations for Pluto are often quite dark, although, it is also termed the planet of “transformation.” Pluto is assigned the rulership of Scorpio, sometimes alongside Mars, the traditional ruler, and sometimes in place of Mars. Areas assigned to Pluto are the areas of the psyche are ugly, violent, and that most people try to keep buried.
On a global level, it has been noted that Pluto was discovered as we were discovering atomic power, and the element named for it, plutonium, was used in the first atomic bomb detonated in war.
Pluto’s demotion has not changed its usage by most Modern Psychological Astrologers, although some have included other dwarf planets, such as Ceres and Eris, into their readings.
Evolutionary Astrology takes Pluto even further, teaching that it is central to a person’s soul. Indeed, it points to the soul’s karma and its intentions in this present life. One of the major schools of Evolutionary Astrology is known as The Pluto School.
This branch of astrology also combines a sign, its ruler, and the house whose number corresponds to that sign, and gives them all a synonymous meaning. In this system, Scorpio, Pluto, and the 8th House all mean approximately the same thing.
Interestingly enough, this system places a heavy emphasis on Free Will. The chart is just a reflection of your past up until the point that you were born, and you can decide what to do with it in this life.
Even so, in many cases, Evolutionary Astrology often takes a close look at the traumas and unpleasant experiences that one has encountered in this and previous lives.
Further Discussion and Research
Last spring, on the Astrology Podcast, hosted by Chris Brennan, there was an interesting episode titled How Did Pluto and the Outer Planets Get Their Meanings. The panelists were Chris Brennan, Kenneth Miller, Sam Reynolds, and Lisa Schaim.
This was a very good discussion, and I highly recommend it.
One of the more interesting parts of this video was a discussion by Kenneth Miller about a study he conducted regarding the views of astrologers concerning Pluto since its discovery.
According to his research, for the first few decades, most astrologers were unsure of whether Pluto did have meaning and if so, what that meaning was. Sometimes it seemed to impact people and sometimes it did not.
In most cases, astrologers from the early decades of Pluto’s discovery seemed to think that Pluto was only relevant in a birth chart if it impacted other planets or chart points in the chart.
In modern times, however, Kenneth Miller observed that astrologers who use Pluto are convinced that it does have meaning, are confident of that meaning, and see evidence of its influence whether or not it is connected with the more personal planets.
In the episode, he pondered what that might mean, assuming that both the astrologers of the past and present astrologers were faithfully reporting their professional observations. Could it be that Pluto actually is more influential now than it was in the past?
Also discussed in this video was the practice of ascribing meaning to Pluto and other celestial bodies based on the name given to them by astronomers as well as by what was going on in the world during their discovery. The basis for this practice is the doctrine of synchronicity. One of the observations made, however, that there did not seem to be any discussion of the significance of Pluto’s demotion according to synchronicity.
Pluto and Free Will
One of the central controversies in astrology concerns the roles of Fate and Free Will in our lives. This is not just an abstract philosophical discussion. For astrologers, it has profound practical implications. Our position on this issue governs how much we think that a person’s astrological chart can tell us and what we believe that we are able to predict by the movements of the planets.
Ultimately, every astrologer must come to terms with this question for themselves, but the different branches of Western Astrology tend to have different beliefs the interplay between Fate and Free Will.
Modern practitioners of Traditional/Classical Astrology tend to fall heavily on the side of Fate. There are a few who go so far as to think that our entire lives can be predicted with mathematical precision from our charts. This is an extreme view and is not held by many practicing astrologers, however.
Astrologers in the Hellenistic Age seemed to have a more nuanced view and in general, believed that some things were fated and some were subject to Free Will. I have found that most modern Traditional and Classical Astrologers would agree with this. Yet, I think that almost all would say that Fate plays at least some role in what happens to us and that we can predict our present and our future to a certain extent from our birth charts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Evolutionary Astrologers who do not believe in Fate, but ascribe everything to Free Will. As discussed before, in this branch, our birth chart only reflects the choices that we have made in past lives. Our present and future paths are up to us.
Most Modern Psychological Astrologers fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
For my own thoughts on the subject, I refer the reader to the article below:
One of the things that I have noticed is that it seems that there is a correlation between how much astrologers believe Pluto and the Outer Planets impact us and how great of a role Free Will plays in our lives.
I do not think that this is a coincidence.
Thoughts and Reflections
When I first read, The Feminist Universe, by Miss Alice Trent, I learned about the modern poisons of atomization, deracination, and deformation. Atomization separates us from each other, deracination separates us from our Source, and deformation twists and inverts that which is good and beautiful, making it an ugly parody.
If you are interested, you can purchase a copy of The Feminine Universehere.
When I was reading about these poisons, I was struck with how similar they were to the accepted meanings of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Based on these reflections, and in monitoring my own chart as the charts of my clients and others I know, I have developed my own practice as to how I use Pluto and the Outers.
I do believe that they can have an impact on people, but that this impact is almost entirely the result of Free Will.
I believe that the Traditional Planets, which we can see with the naked eye, cannot be avoided. We do have some Free Will with respect to how we interact with the principles they represent, but we are fated to deal with them as Axial Beings in the material world. For example, a mortal cannot avoid Saturn. We will all face the ravages of time and will eventually die.
We can, however, avoid delving into the depths of Pluto. In order to see it, we must go to substantial lengths and effort to do so. I think that is a metaphor for the Pluto principle as well.
On the other hand, no one is an island, and if our society has embraced Pluto, we will be impacted by it at some level whether we want to be or not. I find it interesting that there has been an outcry against the demotion of Pluto, and that many astrologers have ignored it completely.
If synchronicity was involved in its discovery, surely its demotion was meaningful as well. I think that, perhaps, we have been given the choice to reject the principles that have been associated with it. Maybe, over time, our society will be able to make that choice.
Perhaps, we can use this year of changes to stop employing Pluto as a symbol for the principle which encourages us to dig up parts of our psyche better left buried or to take apart the building blocks of matter giving the power to destroy ourselves. Instead, we can let it alone to be a teeny world at the edge of our Solar System. We can enjoy its dance with its partner, Charon, let it have its heart, and speculate about what might be in the oceans beneath its surface.
I have been rather quiet on my various blogs recently. This has been a rather busy time for me. During the month of May, I took a course at Kepler College called Crash Course in Indian Astrology, which was taught by Kenneth Miller. The course proper is finished, but I still need to finish the final homework assignment.
I had wanted to study at Kepler College when it was still able to offer Master’s degrees, but at the time, it was not possible for me. I have also been curious about Indian Astrology for a long time. Unlike Western Astrology, Indian Astrology has a living tradition, so it did not seem fitting to attempt to learn it through self-study. It just so happened that I learned about this course at the same time that we got a nice-sized income tax refund, so I decided to go for it.
At the time, I had no intention of “converting” to Indian Astrology. I was only seeking to learn a little more about it so that I could talk intelligently when asked about the subject by friends or clients. A “crash course” seemed perfect for that purpose. Now that I am in the home stretch, I find that I am re-thinking the entire direction of my practice. Before I discuss this, however, I want to talk a little about the differences between Indian and Western Astrology.
Differences between Indian and Western Astrology
Indian Astrology, or Jyotish, is a different astrological language from Western astrology. It is a related language. Much of the vocabulary is recognizable, but it is used in different ways. Below are some of the main differences that I have learned so far.
Even beginning astrology students usually know that most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, which is based on the Solstices and the Equinoxes. When learning this, students also learn that Indian Astrology uses “the” Sidereal Zodiac which is based on the constellations.
As it turns out, this is not really accurate. To begin with, none of the Sidereal Zodiacs in use by practitioners of Indian Astrology truly correspond to the actual constellations. For one thing, the constellations are not all the same size. The largest constellation, Virgo, is about 3 times the size of the smallest constellation, Capricorn. Just like the Tropical Zodiac, the Sidereal Zodiacs divide the ecliptic into 12 equal parts.
The difference is merely in where 0° Aries begins. In the Tropical Zodiac, 0° Aries begins at the Spring Equinox. In theory, the Sidereal Zodiacs begin at the first star of the constellation Aries in the sky. There is a problem, however. There is no bright star at the beginning of Aries to measure by.
As a result, various calculations of what is known as the Ayanamsa exist. The Ayanamsa is the difference between 0° Aries and the Spring Equinox. Apparently, historically, different almanacs were published in different villages with different Ayanamsas, most of which were calculated using one of the bright stars at the end of the constellation Pisces.
This became a problem not just for astrologers. In India, the dates of most of the major festivals are based on the position of the stars. The different Ayanamsas meant that different villages were celebrating their festivals at different times. To remedy the chaos that this could cause, in the 1950s, the Indian government standardized the Ayanamsa using modern scientific methods. This became known as the Lahiri Ayanamsa.
This did not settle the issue for astrologers, however. Apparently, rather than using stars at the beginning of Aries or the end of Pisces, Lahiri uses Spica, which is at the end of the constellation Virgo, and sets 0° Aries opposite to this fixed star. There is no traditional authority that allows the Ayanamsa to be calculated in this way, so there are quite a few astrologers who reject this calculation.
All in all, it seems like the calculation of the Ayanamsa in Indian Astrology is as chaotic as the quadrant House divisions are in Western, if not more so.
Other Technical Differences
Speaking of House divisions, practitioners of Indian Astrology, by and large, use the Whole Sign House system. This goes a long way in reducing the amount of chaos that the different Ayanamsas would otherwise cause.
This brings me to a different issue. Even though most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, there are some that do use one of the Sidereal Zodiacs. There was a time that I did not have an opinion on this, but now I do. My current opinion is that this is not a good idea.
There is some research that suggests that Vettius Valens, a renowned astrologer of the Hellenistic Era, used a sidereal zodiac along with or instead of the Tropical Zodiac. Even if this was the case, the methodology of Western Astrology has developed using the Tropical Zodiac for almost 2,000 years since that time. One of these developments has been quadrant-based House Systems, such as Placidus or Regiomontanus, and there is no real consensus between Western Astrologers as to which one to use. So, if you combine the uncertainty as to the Ayanamsa with the uncertainty of quadrant-based houses, you are increasing the chaos exponentially.
Even if you use a Whole Sign House System, the methodology of Indian Astrology is very different than Western. For example, Indian astrology does not use the five-tiered dignity system that Western Traditional/Classical Astrology uses. It does use exaltation and rulership. It also uses something that is known as debilitation, which corresponds to Fall in Western Astrology. Aside from that, dignity is based on a system of friendship and enmity between the planets and a complicated combination of other factors, many of which are not considered or are considered differently in Western Astrology. Also, Indian astrology does not use the Ptolemaic aspects. Instead, the only aspects it recognizes are planets that are in the same sign and opposite signs and special aspects for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Given these differences, in my opinion, it does not seem wise to “mix and match” by using one of the sidereal zodiacs with Western astrological methodology.
While there are major technical differences between these two astrological languages, the most profound differences are in their philosophy. While people of other religions can and do practice Indian Astrology, by and large, it is rooted in Hindu beliefs and religious rituals. This gives it a rich philosophical and spiritual foundation that is mostly lacking in Western Astrology as it is practiced today.
For example, in Indian Astrology, the planets do not operate mechanically. They are governed by Intelligent deities. This means that if you are having trouble with a planet, one of the things that you can do about it is to appeal to the deity of that planet for relief. Hinduism also has rich teachings about karma that explain the interaction between Fate and Free Will in a very profound way.
It is also a common practice for Jyotishi (practitioner of Indian Astrology) to say prayers to the planetary deities before reading a chart. Our instructor began each class with one of these prayers.
As I said, when I started the course, I did not intend to “convert” to Indian Astrology. Now, I am not so sure. Obviously, I do not know enough after a “crash course” to switch at this point in time. I will still be offering my services in Western Astrology for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, I have been working on developing what I have been calling Essentialist Astrology. Essentialist Astrology is more of a philosophy of practice rather than a methodology. After learning about Indian Astrology, I wonder if this is not a fool’s errand.
Much of what I have been trying to do in Essentialist Astrology is a regular part of the practice of Indian Astrology. Indian Astrology is patriarchal, of course, but not as much as one might think. For example, the planetary deities are all masculine, but the stars and the deities of the Nakshaktras (the Indian version of Lunar Mansions) are all feminine.
Also, while Indian Astrology is mostly rooted in Hinduism, there are many practitioners of other faiths such as Buddhism and Jainism. This is one of the reasons that the instructor prefers the term Indian Astrology to Vedic Astrology. When I asked what practitioners of other religions do, I was told that it was perfectly acceptable to substitute the angels or deities from one’s own tradition for the Hindu gods. Apparently, Buddhist practitioners use bodhisattvas or aspects of the Buddha, and Christian and Jewish practitioners use the Archangels.
So, substituting the planetary Janyati for the Hindu gods does not seem like it would be a problem either.
Given all of this, it seems like it may be more productive to study Indian Astrology than it would be to keep struggling with Western Astrology. I do not know yet, but it is something to seriously consider.
My New Shrine
One of the things that I have done is to make a new shrine, which is on the top shelf of the desk that I work at. In Filianism, it is encouraged to use images for Dea and the Janyati from living traditions rather than historical ones whenever possible. This is because with living traditions, we have more confidence that we are using the images correctly. I was able to stick to this practice with my new shrine, as you can see below.
Surprisingly enough, I had the most trouble with Sai Mati. I thought I might use an image of Sophia or even a historical image such as Athena, but I could not find one I liked. I found an image of Uma in a catalog, and I kept being drawn to it. I did some research, and I discovered that She is a mountain goddess of Wisdom. I found a story about Her that I really liked in which She taught Agni, the god of fire, and Vayu, the god of wind, about humility. This reminded me of The Sermon of the Apple Seed from the Feminine Scriptures, which I try to keep in mind in all of the work that I do.
Where Do I Go From Here?
So, the question is, now what? Where do I go from here? The answer to this is that I do not really know. I guess the first thing is to finish the last assignment from my class. There are a few books that the instructor recommended that I have not had the chance to read yet, so that will probably be the next step.
I guess after that, I will let the Janyati lead the way and see where that goes.
There are some topics in Western Astrology in which there is a widespread consensus. The meaning of the Moon’s Nodes is not one of them. This article will talk about what the Nodes are and discuss various approaches taken by Modern, Classical, and Indian Astrology. Finally, I will talk about the approach that I have developed in my own practice.
What are the Moon’s Nodes?
From the Earth, it looks like the Sun travels through the sky in a circular path which is the same every year. This path is known as the ecliptic. The other planets, including the Moon, all have orbits that vary somewhat from the ecliptic. The Moon’s path varies about 5°. Because the path of the other planets varies from the ecliptic, they all cross the ecliptic twice along their orbit. The places where they cross are known as the planet’s nodes.
Of the planetary nodes, it is the nodes of the Moon that are of the greatest significance. This is because, from the perspective of the Earth, the apparent size of the Moon is the same as the apparent size of the Sun. Thus, whenever there is a New Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Solar Eclipse, and whenever there is a Full Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Lunar Eclipse.
Modern Karmic Interpretation
In recent years, the most commonly used interpretation of the Moon’s Nodes is that they relate to personal karma. In this interpretation, the South Node relates to one’s past lives and the North Node relates to one’s future. A complex version of this method of interpretation is put forth by Steven Forrest in his book, Yesterday’s Sky. In this method of interpretation, Steven Forrest explains how he uses the South Node’s sign, house position, and ruler as well as the planets that aspect the South Node to tell a story about a person’s past life. He makes no claim that this story represents a factual past life. Instead, he claims that the themes of the story are what is important and that by understanding these themes, one can heal from one’s karma. From this idea, he has developed an entire branch of astrology, known as Evolutionary Astrology.
Not all Modern astrologers go this far, but the use of the South Node to indicate past lives and the North Node to determine one’s future direction has become widespread.
Other Modern Interpretations
While the karmic interpretation of the Nodes seems to be extremely popular in the present day and age, it seems to be a relatively recent one. For example, in an astrology textbook from 1971, The Compleat Astrologer, by Derek and Julia Parker, there was no mention of the karmic interpretation. In this book, the North Node was described as beneficial and having characteristics similar to Jupiter, and the South Node was described as adverse and having characteristics similar to Saturn.
In her book, Classical Astrology for Modern Living, by J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D., Dr. Lehman discusses a Nodal Cycle that seems to have been derived from Dane Rudhyar. This cycle traces the Moon’s path along the ecliptic as it travels across the North Node, reaches her Northernmost point, travels South, crosses the South Node, keeps going until she reaches her Southernmost point, and then travels North again. Dr. Lehman gives complete delineations for each of these stages when they are found in a Nativity Chart.
Classical/Traditional Western Interpretation
There seems to be a fair about of confusion and ambiguity about the meaning of the Nodes in the Western Tradition. In Book 1 of Christian Astrology, William Lilly reports that “the Ancients” considered the North Node, or the Head of the Dragon, to be of the nature of Jupiter and Venus and a Fortune. According to him, the Ancients taught that the North Node was good when conjunct good planets and evil when conjunct evil planets. In contrast, the South Node, or the Tail of the Dragon, is evil when joined with good planets and good when joined with evil planets.
After this description, William Lilly disputes with this interpretation, saying “upon what reason grounded I know not.” He says that he as always found the North Node to be the equivalent of the Fortunes and that:
when joined with the evil Planets to lesson their malevolent signification; when joined with the good to increase the good promised by them. For the Tail of the Dragon, I always in my practise found when he was jointed with the evil Planets; their their malice or the evil intended thereby was doubled and trebled, or extremely augmented.
He then wrote that when the good planets were joined with the South Node the good that was promised by them was disrupted and often came to nothing.
In his book, Hellenistic Astrology, Chris Brennan discusses a variety of approaches to the Nodes taken by astrologers in the Hellenistic Tradition. Some viewed both of them as negative because they were the places that eclipses formed. This was particularly true when either of the luminaries was found with them. The approach of “the Ancients” that William Lilly described seems to have been recorded as far back as Rhetortius of Egypt in the early Sixth or Seventh Century.
Rahu and Ketu in Vedic Astrology
In Vedic Astrology, the North Node is named Rahu and the South Node is named Ketu. Rahu and Ketu are considered planets in their own right. According to myth, the Devas and the Asuras worked together to churn to the ocean to create a substance called Amrit, which was a nectar that would grant immortality. The Asura stole the Amrit for themselves, but Lord Vishnu took an incarnation as a beautiful woman, Mohini, to distract the Asura and take back the Amrit.
Mohini then went to the Devas to distribute it. One of the Asura, named Svarbhanu changed his appearance to obtain some of the Amrit. He sat between the Sun (Surya) and the Moon (Chandra), but they recognized him and exposed him to Lord Vishnu, who severed Svarbhanu’s head. Svarbhanu had already received a drop of the Amrit, and thus, did not die, but remained forever split in two. The head is Rahu and the tail is Ketu. Since that time, they have taken revenge against the Sun and the Moon by swallowing them, but as the Sun and Moon are also immortal, they always emerge intact.
Rahu is the head and has a mouth with no stomach. This means that Rahu can never be satisfied. Rahu is what we desire but can’t get enough of. In contrast, Ketu represents the things that we have no interest in and that bring us no pleasure.
How I Use the Nodes
Given the diversity of opinions on the Nodes and what they do, as a practicing astrologer, if one is to use them, one must work out what to do with them. For myself, the one thing that is clear about the Nodes is that they are the places where eclipses form.
In my own research, I have noticed that people who were born into eclipse seasons tend to be heavily impacted by larger social events or movements on a personal level. This impact is not always traumatic, but it often is. If they were born between eclipses, this impact will influence their entire life, but its power will dissipate somewhat when they progress into an un-eclipsed Lunation (New or Full Moon). The direct effect will largely subside at the first uneclipsed New Moon, although they will still bear the scars. If a person progresses into an Eclipse season, the impact will begin at that time rather than at birth.
For those who were not born during or progress into an Eclipse season, I treat the Nodes as collective karma rather than as individual karma. I look at their position in the chart and their interaction with other planets to determine where and how collective karma impacts the native.
In addition, I have considered integrating the principles of Rahu and Ketu, and I have seen some positive results in my initial research. On the other hand, I am a little dubious of “mixing and matching” principles in this way.
In my last article, mentioned that I had started a new project, a website called Quiet Heroines. This website will feature the stories of women who have led extraordinary lives, but whose voices have been lost to history.
I intend to feature a new heroine every month. There will be a main article with historical and biographical information about her which will come out on the first Sunday of the month. After that, throughout the month, I will add bonus articles, often discussing astrological information relevant to the heroine, such as a birthchart analysis, a proposed rectification chart, or other things that may be of interest concerning her.
The first heroine is Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and the main article is:
As an astrologer, I am very conservative about adding new techniques into my practice. In my experience, when reading an astrological chart, in many ways less is more. I have found that the more techniques I throw at a chart, the harder it is to interpret, and the fuzzier my reading becomes. For this reason, I was not immediately ready to jump on board when I first heard about an Ancient Hellenistic technique known as Zodiacal Releasing. This past February, however, the Hellenistic Astrologer, Chris Brennan released a podcast and YouTube video on this technique which included a good basic description of how to use it. You can find this video here.
What is Zodiacal Releasing and How Does it Work?
Zodiacal Releasing is a Time Lady technique. Time Lady techniques divide a person’s life into sections, with a planet or planets ruling each section. Zodiacal Releasing is a little different than many of these techniques in that it uses zodiac signs rather than the planets.
It is a rather complicated technique, and the division takes place on four different levels, with Level 1 spanning years and sometimes even decades and Level 4 spanning days or sometimes only hours. This technique uses the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune as the launching point depending on what you are using it for. Chris Brennan describes it as dividing one’s life into chapters and paragraphs, but it makes more sense to me to use the analogy of trilogies and story arcs.
Evaluating New Techniques
Before I go into my thoughts about Zodiacal Releasing, I would like to explain my process for evaluating techniques to determine whether I will incorporate them into my practice. The practice of astrology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ready availability of computers has made casting a chart much, much easier than it was when I was twelve years old and learning to cast a chart by hand on the kitchen table using my mother’s astrology textbook. Furthermore, everywhere you look on the Internet, there is someone talking about a new (or old) technique or practice. If one were to learn and use everything available, it would be chaos. To manage this, I have a process I go through to sort through techniques that I encounter.
1. Is the technique sound on a metaphysical or philosophical level?
While some astrologers take a purely pragmatic approach to our craft, it is my own belief that we cannot separate what we do from our philosophy. Sometimes, with older techniques, it is not possible to know their metaphysical basis; however, from my perspective, the older the technique is, the more likely it is to be sound on a metaphysical level, even if we do not know the underlying philosophy.
2. What is the lineage of the technique?
I think it is very important to know where a technique comes from to the extent that it is possible. Now, while I am not one who believes that we must trace every technique to an Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance text, I do tend to favor techniques with a deep historical lineage. There is a problem, though. In the West, we lack a living tradition. At most, we have remnants that have survived through the ages. So, when we uncover older techniques, we must reconstruct them, and we are very likely to get it wrong.
So, from my perspective, the best techniques are the ones that have stood the test of time. Given how broken the astrological tradition is, there is a surprising amount that has survived relatively unchanged. For example, with the exception of granting the Outer Planets rulerships over signs, the rulership system has remained largely unchanged since the Hellenistic Era.
With respect to modern techniques, I do not reject them out of hand; however, to me, the burden of proof with respect to them is extremely high.
3. How well is the technique understood?
In the past several decades there have been many dedicated translators and researchers who have worked hard to recover traditional astrological texts, including the late Robert Schmidt, who founded Project Hindsight, and Robert Hand. Even so, the process of recovering and understanding techniques is not an easy one. In many cases, all we have are incomplete texts without a living teacher to explain them properly. So, even when we have ancient techniques with a solid pedigree, we must still proceed with caution.
4. Does the technique work?
While this is not my first consideration in evaluating techniques, I am a practicing astrologer and not a researcher. If I am going to use a technique, it needs to work, and it needs to work reliably and consistently. Most of the time when techniques are presented, the astrologer will give example charts, and of course, it is important to carefully listen to the examples presented. That is not enough, though. The technique needs to work for me.
I first test a technique on my own chart. The reason I do this is that I know my own chart the best, and I have the most information about my own life. There is a disadvantage in that it is hard to be objective about one’s own chart, but I have long experience as an astrologer and in testing techniques on my own chart. If the technique does not work on my chart, and I cannot see a good reason why it would not, I usually reject it out of hand.
From there, I test it on other charts that I am familiar with, and then move on to charts of celebrities and famous people. I am a bit ruthless when it comes to these things. For me, the burden of proof is on including a new technique, not excluding it. I generally expect a technique to work at least 80% of the time, and for there to be a good reason why it did not work on the other 20%.
5. Does it tell me something I did not already know?
I already use a number of different techniques, and it is hard enough to juggle the sometimes confusing amount of information that can be gleaned. While there is something to be said for getting the same information from several different techniques, life is short. If a technique does not improve my readings, even if it meets all of the above criteria, I will not take the time to incorporate it in my practice.
Evaluating Zodiacal Releasing
So, now that I explained my process for evaluating techniques, how did Zodiacal Releasing do? The short answer is…very well! For the long answer, let’s go through my criteria.
1. Is Zodiacal Releasing sound on a philosophical and metaphysical level?
The technique of Zodiacal Releasing was found in Book 4 of the Anthology of Vettius Valens, and he attributes it to Abraham. Generally, when a technique is attributed to a religious leader by a Classical text, it is an indication that the source is Ancient revealed knowledge. As such, it can be presumed to be sound on a metaphysical basis, even if we do not fully understand it.
Yet, the details of the technique also suggest its philosophical basis. In using the technique, one moves the Lot of Spirit, which is related to the mind and the will through the chart. In doing so, one pays attention to its relationship to the Lot of Fortune, which is related to bodily matters as well as luck or chance. In other words, this technique considers how one’s will interacts with the forces of fate or chance.
2. What is the lineage of Zodiacal Releasing?
As mentioned above, the technique is found in Vettius Valens’ Anthology and is attributed to Abraham. On the other hand, the technique had largely been lost, and as far as can be known at present, there is no mention of it in the texts from later traditions.
So, by necessity, we are dealing with a reconstructed technique. This is not an ideal situation, but if it passes all of the other tests, it is certainly not a reason to exclude it from consideration.
3. How well is Zodiacal Releasing understood?
There have been astrologers, including Chris Brennan, who have been researching and working with Zodiacal Releasing for over a decade. While there is a lot of work still to do, this seems to be a good start.
4. Does Zodiacal Releasing work?
When I watched the YouTube video explaining this technique, I was impressed from the beginning. With just a superficial understanding, the technique captured the major turning points in my life. The more I learned and the more I played with the technique, with my own chart and the charts of others, the more impressed I became. I think I can safely say, even with the limited understanding that I have, it is by far the most accurate timing technique that I have come across.
5. Does Zodiacal Releasing tell me something I did not already know?
Yes, it does. In applying this technique, I understood things about my life and my life direction that had long baffled me. When I practiced the technique on a couple of my friends, they reported that it really helped them understand the meaning of things that they had gone through in their lives.
How to Learn Zodiacal Releasing
Zodiacal Releasing is one of the more complicated techniques that I have come across. I would definitely classify it as an Advanced technique. I would not recommend it to a beginning student of astrology. A good understanding of astrology in general and at least some familiarity with Traditional/Classical Astrology is necessary.
As mentioned before, the technique is described in Book 4 of Vettius Valens’ Anthology. A full translation of Anthology translated by Mark Riley is available for free pdf download here. The technique is also described in great detail in the last chapter of Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology.
On the other hand, this is one technique I would not recommend learning on your own, even if you are an experienced astrologer. If you are interested, I would start by watching the YouTube video I linked to above. From there, I would highly recommend Chris Brennan’s course.
As you might imagine, it is not often that I incorporate a new technique into my practice, so it is always exciting when I do. I still need to work with and practice this technique before I fully incorporate it.
For a while now, I have been considering a new project. I got this idea when I listened to the full soundtrack for the musical Hamilton. The final song talks about Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and all that she did after he died to preserve his memory. I thought about the many other stories of feminine bravery that we know nothing about. My idea was a site specifically devoted to telling these stories. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I did not know how I would find time for another site.
Yet, with this new technique, it occurred to me that I could combine this project with my research of Zodiacal Releasing. My plan is to write a biographical article about each woman, and then to include bonus astrological articles about them whenever possible, using Zodiacal Releasing and other techniques.
When reading the article on my astrology site regarding the Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019, a friend of mine noticed that I suggested that the launching of the modern Olympic Games was related to the Saros Series that this past Lunar Eclipse belongs to. In response to that, my friend asked me whether eclipses could bring good things?
It would take a wiser person than I to have anything that resembles a full and complete answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. To start with, I think that it is undeniable that eclipses can bring things that are beneficial to some people. For example, I live in the United States, and I would not be living here if the discovery of the Americas did not happen. On the other hand, this discovery was not beneficial for everyone, and indeed, it was quite harmful to the original inhabitants of this continent.
In order to unravel this mystery, it may be helpful to look at the Symbol of the Cross and our nature as Axial Beings.
The Symbol of the Cross
I have discussed the Symbol of the Cross before, but here is a brief overview. The Cross relates to the material world. It has two axes, the horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis relates to pure materiality, and the vertical axis relates to spirituality. Even though they cross in the middle, these two axes are independent of each other. One can do very well on the material axis while falling into Darkness on the spiritual axis. In the Christian written tradition, Jesus is reported to say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, NRSV. Likewise, it is possible for someone to do poorly on the material axis while rising towards the Light on the spiritual axis. Indeed, in the same Christian tradition, this was the fate of the saints and martyrs.
So, in effect, there is no reason why there should not be things that are beneficial on a material level associated with eclipses. I would say that even so, there is a good chance for there to be an element of Darkness involved as well. That is certainly the case with the discovery of the Americas, and it could be argued that there has been some Darkness surrounding the Olympics from time to time in its history. I will address the Olympics in more detail later, but before I do, I would like to discuss another element of discoveries related to eclipses.
Eclipses and the Modern Scientific Worldview
Not only have there been many discoveries that have been astrologically associated with eclipses, but eclipses themselves have led to direct discoveries about the Universe, or at least the mechanical workings of it. While these discoveries are interesting and even useful, they have also prompted the current belief system of the modern Western scientific community. This belief system appears to be that the Cosmos is merely a mechanical place governed by chance and random events. In this belief system, an eclipse is merely a shadow.
Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is almost a religious fervor to encourage people to go out and watch eclipses. In a sense, viewing an eclipse seems to be almost of the nature of a religious test to prove that one is not bound by the “superstitions” of the past. In this respect, I do believe that the modern embrace of eclipses is an intentional movement into Darkness, even though there have been technological advancements associated with it.
Our Nature As Axial Beings
This being said, I think there something different going on in the case of the Olympics. Yes, there have been negative things associated with the Olympics including violence and countries using them for political purposes in terms of boycotts and the like. On the other hand, I do believe that the modern Olympics is a positive development not just on the material level, but a movement towards the Light on a spiritual level. Indeed, even the negative things that have happened may have prevented wars and more serious problems as countries could take their aggression out on the Olympics instead.
Yet, it does appear that they are related to eclipses. There was a Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on November 4, 1892. Later that month, on November 23, 1892, Pierre de Coubertin launched the plans for the modern Olympic Games. This eclipse was 44 minutes long, and if you count a month for every minute of totality, this would mean that the full impact of this eclipse would not be felt for another three years and four months. This would be the end of March and early April 1896. This was the beginning of the first modern Olympics in Athens.
So, what is going on?
I think this has to do with our nature as Axial Beings. Humans are the ones with the power to choose. Even if Darkness is present, we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. From my research, one of the features of eclipses is that they seem to be times when our Axial nature is tested. There are many repentance stories surrounding eclipses. One of them was the Eclipse of Thales that stopped a war according to Herodotus. There was a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. There was a Solar Eclipse that occurred during the battle, which caused the parties to stop fighting and negotiate a peace.
Perhaps the launching of the modern Olympic Games is of this nature.
So, what does this mean?
In Modern Astrology, often eclipses are presented as times of opportunity and spiritual growth. It would seem that this might be the case from what I have said.
Yet, I think this goes too far.
Of course, whenever we have a crisis, there is an opportunity for growth. When there is a death in the family, when we have a tragedy, or when we face a serious illness, it is common for people to view these as turning points in their lives. They can even be the catalyst for deep spiritual awakening. Does that mean we should embrace these times? There is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
This leads to the deeper question of what is the point of suffering, which is a subject that has confounded spiritual leaders and theologians for millennia.
I cannot claim to have the answer to this question; however, I think that the best practice is still to avoid eclipses as much as possible. Yes, it seems like it is possible that good things can come from eclipses, but it is not something to expect or hope for. Just as we might experience spiritual growth from a tragedy, we would not willingly embrace such a tragedy to obtain this growth. In the same way, it seems like a bad idea to embrace eclipses.
One of the biggest challenges as a Filianist is that there is no living tradition to draw upon. As I have been thinking of this, it has occurred to me that this is also a challenge for Western astrologers who are trying to work in a more traditional manner. I would like to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this.
What is a Living Tradition?
Before I begin, it might help if I explained what I mean by a living tradition. A living tradition is one that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to student from either a time that cannot be counted or from a genuine source of revealed knowledge. With respect to Filianism, such a living tradition no longer exists. We believe that there was a time that there was a feminine living tradition, but any line between teacher and student has long been broken.
There are remnants of the feminine tradition in the patriarchal traditions practiced today, and there is archeological evidence that there was a feminine tradition that existed in the past. While these things are to be valued and treasured, they are a poor substitute for having a true living tradition.
In Orthodox Filianism, this is dealt with by keeping to very simple devotional practices and by not allowing for priestesses or anything of that nature. This is in the Orthodox version only, however. Many independent Filianist groups do allow for priestesses.
The lack of a living tradition is also dealt with by being honest and humble in what we profess, exercising a great deal of caution. We use the remnants of the feminine tradition that can be found in various cultures today, in the East and in the West, and supplement this with some of our own materials and practices.
The problem of a lack of a living tradition is faced many who are not Filianists as well. In the West, Christianity was ruthless in rooting out “pagan” religions and traditions, so those who wish to explore these forms of wisdom and spirituality are in a similar position.
One of the other ways to deal with this problem is to try to reconstruct these traditions from the written and archeological evidence that we have available to us. An example of a reconstructed tradition is the modern Druid movement. It could also be said that the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology is a reconstructed tradition.
Uncertainty of Interpretation
The difficulty with a reconstructed tradition is that there is very little certainty that one is interpreting the material that we have accurately. In many cases, we do not have written records. If we do have written records, they often must be translated. Furthermore, we have to deal with the problem of texts. The printing press was not invented in the West until the 15th Century, even though it was developed in China about 600 years earlier.
Before that texts had to be copied by hand. Of course, the scribes in those days were surely more accurate than someone completing such a task today would be. On the other hand, we are still dealing with uncertainty that increases the further the text is in time from when it was written.
The other big problem is that even when we have written materials and even when we have original texts, not everything was written down. Of course, some information was probably deemed too important to reduce to writing, but even more of an issue is that writing was a major project. Just as secret matters would not be written, neither would things that were common knowledge. It would be far too much of a waste of time and resources.
Adaptation to Modern Times
Even if we did have perfect information about broken or destroyed traditions in order to revive them, we would still have the problem of how to adapt them to modern times. I do not believe in evolutionist ideas about “progress,” nor do I think that we are more advanced than our forebears. However, we are not the same as them either. Our physical, mental, and spiritual capacities are greatly reduced. At the same time, we have more technology which artificially enhances our computational abilities.
Because of this, any revival of spiritual traditions, or any revival of traditional sciences such as astrology, needs to take into account our reduced abilities to understand and to implement its doctrines or teachings.
In a living tradition, this adaptation would have taken place over time, as spiritual leaders or masters of the craft would have made small adjustments from generation to generation. Every now and then, there would have been major changes as a leader emerged. In the present, we tend to think of these leaders as innovators. Within a true living tradition, however, these leaders are not innovating but are making large-scale changes to adapt a tradition to the present age.
This idea is reflected in the Christian tradition in the Gospel According to Matthew when Jesus says:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Matthew 5.17 New Revised Standard Edition
Without that organic adaptation over time, modern scholars and practitioners are in a very difficult position. This often leads to one of two extremes. On one extreme, scholars can decide to bend and shape the tradition to fit the modern world until it bears little resemblance to the original. On the other extreme, scholars can rigidly hold on to the letter of what was written to the point that it is unworkable in the modern world.
In Traditional/Classical Astrological circles, there are those who go to both extremes, and sometimes the same person will do both at the same time. For example, there are Traditional/Classical Astrologers who will insist that any technique or practice must be attested to by a traditional, pre-Enlightenment source, while at the same time also insist that astrology is purely mechanical, denying any spiritual or Divine powers that may be at work….a position that would have been considered absurd by pre-Enlightenment thinkers.
Now that we have looked at the problems with reviving broken traditions, what about modern revelations? There are many who have claimed to have received revelations about spiritual matters. In modern astrology, one of the most influential sources of alleged “received wisdom” comes from the Theosophical Society. One of the early leaders of this Society was Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have received revelations from a brotherhood of Great Masters. On a smaller scale, the founder of one of the main branches of Evolutionary Astrology claims to have received some of the major tenets in a dream.
The problem with modern revelations is very similar to the problem in reconstructing or reviving broken traditions. The issue of continuing revelation is a subject of great controversy within a number of religious denominations. Those religions that do accept continuing revelation usually have some means by which to test and evaluate them.
Without a living tradition, it would seem that evaluating such revelations would be extremely difficult. How do you know where the revelation is coming from without a tradition to use as a standard?
So What Can We Do?
From all of the problems that I have raised, it would seem that the situation is impossible. How can one know anything or be sure of anything, especially in the West? There are some who turn to Eastern forms of spirituality as a solution. Within astrology, the Vedic tradition is one of the few surviving astrological forms that still has a living tradition to draw upon. The problem with that is similar to the problems with reviving historical traditions, however. As a Westerner, is it really possible to understand the Vedic tradition and get it right, especially without a guru?
Despite the broken tradition and despite all of the problems, I do think that there is value in the Western system, particularly for Westerners. This is the reason that I am slowly working to develop what I am calling Essentialist Astrology.
On the other hand, I think it is important to be aware that we are dealing with a broken tradition. As such, it is necessary to proceed with caution and humility, and to be cognizant and honest about what we do not and can not know.