Sunday, 1 November 2009

Saturn returns...

I don't know why we’re here, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not in order to enjoy ourselves.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Saturn lately. He always seems to catch up with me around this time of year, as the sun’s rays weaken, plants wilt and winter’s chilly mantle creeps over the northern hemisphere. And since he's in my Fifth house, he represents writers' block, a sort of party-pooping curmudgeonly approach to life and an inability to see the good in anything very much. He's Lord of Winter, the Greater Malefic – other guises include the Grim Reaper, Cronos and Old Father Time. I also think I’m going through a bit of a Saturn contact. It’s not much fun, but I maintain it’s pain for a purpose, like childbirth (although my other half maintains that's not as bad as the bad back he had recently. He's got that on very good authority from his (male) osteopath, so I couldn't possibly comment). What that purpose is often takes a while to figure out (a clever way of getting someone else to bring in the logs and produce supper on a tray perhaps?), but every so often, like Persephone, I reckon you have to go down into the underworld and eat a few pomegranate seeds or whatever it is.

Saturn has never had much of a glowing press in the astrology world – a significator of boundaries, restrictions, discipline, fear, self-doubt, realism – and, obviously, death – and in the practice of traditional horary astrology he’s an indicator of impaired judgment if found in the Seventh House; he’s universally feared, shunned and regarded with suspicion.

Life. Is. Difficult. This is the First Noble Truth of the Buddhist canon (although it's arguable whether the Pali word Dukkha translates directly as difficult – it has been variously translated as pain, struggle and simply suffering, and I can't claim any expertise in the realm of middle Indo-Aryan languages, but in broad terms, the message is: it’s not much fun). As a child, two of my favorite stories were Androcles and the Lion and Beauty and the Beast (I always felt so sorry for the Lion and the Beast – mind you, I also felt sorry for Rumplestiltskin, poor foolish Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk as well as the boy with the shard of ice in his heart in The Snow Queen... In fact I think I may have spent much of my childhood feeling sorry for one thing or another – I just felt so darned responsible). The point is, both stories entail something that’s initially feared or reviled, and after spending some time with that something and learning to understand the source of what we were originally afraid of, embracing and accepting it as a necessary part of us, and becoming the wiser (if sometimes sadder) because of it.

Saturn is also about Time – there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. We need to genuinely confront Saturn, find out why he’s so glum or growly and find a way of accepting him as part of the richness of the universe. I really don’t think life was ever meant to be about pleasure-seeking, relaxing, enjoying – well, at least not all the time. The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers, as M Scott Peck suggests in his excellent Saturn-embracing tome, The Road Less Travelled.

* * *

We’ve all got Saturn lurking somewhere in our birthchart, so perhaps it’s about time we learned to get used to him. Mind you, it’s easy for me to say that – mine’s a nicely dignified Saturn, even though he’s party-pooping in curmudgeonly fashion somewhere it my Fifth house of fun, childhood, gifts, pleasure and love affairs, at least he’s not doing it in a whiny, grizzling Saturn-in-Cancer or bossy, hotheaded Saturn-in-Aries type of way. He’s just a bit sensible and serious and, let’s face it, not exactly a bundle of light-hearted fun and frivolity. By rights, I shouldn’t really have a sense of humour, but if I occasionally manage to see the funny side of things, it’s usually a bit sardonic or ironic – gallows humour is Saturn’s kind of humour.

Saturn is about growing up, getting older, letting go of things past and facing our responsibilities. The Saturn cycle is roughly somewhere between 28 and 30 years and can be divided into quarters for each different stage of life. It’s about death, but it’s also about moving on. Saying goodbye to one stage of life always means you’re on the threshold of the next, and progress ultimately cannot be gained without letting go. Your first Saturn half-return comes round about the age of 14. It represents the loss of childhood, but it also represents the onset of adolescence; at 21 it’s about moving on to adulthood and facing up to a new set of responsibilities. The first full Saturn Return strikes around 28-30 and asks us to re-examine where we are and whether we’re traveling in the right direction. Ignore Saturn at your peril – he has a habit of hanging around underneath the surface of things and coming back to bite you at the next bit of the cycle if you don’t discard outgrown habits and confront the next phase your Saturn responsibilities. The permatanned youth culture of wrinkle-free skin, pert flesh and dewy radiance – well into our nineties – is just one example of Saturn-denial. Life is sometimes tough, we all get older, and hopefully a bit wiser – just get on with it.

Where your Saturn is by sign, house and aspects dictates how he behaves and how you need to approach learning to live with him. Dignified in Capricorn, he’s determined, ambitious, often disciplined and practical with a strong sense of duty and a well-developed work ethic. Difficult aspects can have a restraining effect on other planets and there’s often a lack of spontenaity and a stern sensibleness that makes you, well, hardly the life and soul of the party (think limited singing ability and odd, random arm movements by way of dancing), however trines and sextiles harness that steady dependability. Saturn is also traditionally dignified in Aquarius, but operates slightly differently (you've got the Uranus effect going on there, too). Think strong ethics with an often humanitarian flavour, however there’s a high degree of independence which can err into obstinacy if Saturn is badly aspected. Aquarius Saturn people can often feel worried about not being in control, which can then bring out their bossy side – the key is possibly to try to let yourself feel comfortable in situations where there's absolutely no need for you to be in control.

Exalted in Libra, this one of the least problematic places – a natural sense of justice tempered by human understanding and practical common sense. Badly aspected, though, this can make for rigidness or intolerance, or mistrustfulness. Try questioning your own conviction that your way is the only way, and understand that people with different views are not necessarily critisising you. Cancer is difficult for Saturn – there’s often an inclination towards worry, a huge need for emotional security or a tendency towards self-pity. Oh dear. Although I don’t have any personal experience of Saturn in Cancer, I would imagine the trick here would be to cut yourself a bit of slack and try not to be too hard on yourself. Yes, I know – easier said than done. Other positively aspecting planets can help a bit, and it depends which house we’re talking about. Ok – send over your details and I’ll have a look.

Aries, too, is a bit of a tricky one – you get something of a push-me pull-you effect with the restraining cautious energy of Saturn pitted against the positive energetic quality of Aries. Try to relax a bit and understand that assertiveness and defensiveness are two sides of the same coin. Taurus is generally good, if a bit plodding at times, however there may be a tendency to worry unduly about having sufficient money or resources. Developing an ability to trust – in yourself and others – is key. Gemini – hmmm. Doesn’t strike me as a match made in heaven, however positive aspects can put a brake on the multi-tasking motormouth effect of Gemini, and this does bode well to being able to apply yourself to study. Try not to be such a doom-monger – healthy scepticism is fine, but try not to let this spill over into suspicion. Saturn can have a bit of a dampening effect on the sunny warmth of Leo. At worst, a Leo Saturn can be bossy and autocratic, however if it’s a steady kind of perseverance and drive you’re after, this combination could make for the ideal 1950s kind of husband. Just make sure you’ve got his slippers in the oven and some nice meat and two veg ready for when he pitches up home from the office. Avoid drifting into the shallows of self-importance and dogmatism; a certain amount of pride is good, but you need to keep this in perspective.

What’s left – oh, Virgo. Great if you’re a routine-freak, like to keep an eye on the bank balance and there’s often lots of practicality there, too. There can be a bit of a perfectionist streak here, though, so try to keep things in perspective. Virgos are usually the worriers of the zodiac, and Saturn can exacerbate this. Try to relax a bit – it's good to have high standards, and to expect high standards in other people but sometimes you have to look at your priorities. Sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything totally perfectly. Scorpio’s always a bit of a dark horse with any planet. Think brooding intensity – I’m getting a sort of black-leather-jacketed Alain Delon-type with moody eyebrows and a gun in his pocket. Best not go there unless you're into a bit of murky subterfuge. And like your screen detectives mean, moody and determined... Obviously if you have a Scorpio Saturn, I’m afraid you’re stuck with it, so try to keep a lid on getting things out of proportion, seeing slights where none are intended and thinking everyone's out to get you. Really, they’re not. Well, at least not all of them. Sagittarius – expansion and contraction. A bit polarized, so think yo-yo dieting, yo-yo moods, a dab hand with a little sort of wheel thing on the end of a length of string – although, joking apart, this is actually quite a good placing for a philosophical outlook, depending on other aspects and whether Saturn or Jupiter has the upper hand. You make a great devil’s advocate, but don’t set too much store on being seen to be right all the time. Life’s just too short. Last, but by no means least is Pisces, where there can be plenty of empathy and humanity, however, this can spill over into pessimism and self-criticism giving you an unnecessarily hard time unless you can channel it into something creative. There can be a tendency to going over and over the past. Do your best to nip this in the bud whenever you notice it – at best there's a limited amount to be gained by raking over and over old coals.

Brown Dog will be offering Saturn clinics between 10.30am and 12 noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just bark over your details.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Mercury retrograde (and why you should never start anything under a new moon)

Mercury goes retrograde around every three months. That’s at least three times a year, so you’d have thought we’d be used to him by now, but somehow he always manages to catch us out. Well, me, at least. Cars break down, wires get crossed, trains fail to connect and telephone and broadband connections inexplicably go up the spout. 2009 is a busy year for Mercury, which goes backwards and forwards no fewer than four times. This time, Mercury started travelling backwards on May 7th, and you’ll be pleased to know, he turns direct again on May 30th / 31st, depending where you are in the world. All will be well until September 7th, when he’s back to his old tricks again for the best part of that month.

Mercury is possibly my favourite planet (well, I would say that – I’m a Virgo. Well, I’ve got a Virgo ascendant, which means I pretend to be a Virgo because everyone's always so afraid of Scorpio – oops, did I really say Scorpio?). Apart from when he goes retrograde, that is. He’s the fastest guy on the track – the winged messenger – and when he’s doing his fleet-footed thing, he can outrun the sun on a good day. He rules connections, communications, messages and journeys; the only god who can travel down to Hades, come back and live to tell the tale. He’s also the trickster, the silvertongued charmer who’ll slip through your fingers just as you think you’ve finally pinned him down...

He never strays far from the sun on his travels – it’s hard to see him through the sun’s glare, even harder to pin him down. People get worried about retrograde planets, but there’s nothing heavy about Mercury. He’ll duck and dive, outwit and outclass you, but at the end of the day he was only having a bit of a laugh. Don’t believe you can outwit him, though – he’s still a god after all. He's fastest in air – think of all those Gemini characters who just love to argue the toss and talk the hind leg off a donkey. He rules Virgo, too – I think it's the mutability of the sign – and don't be fooled by the quiet, demure front, when they're not being complete control freaks, Virgos can be surprisingly – well, surprising. The only element he's not always comfortable in is water – not a great swimmer, you see. In water signs, he's said to be mute – I'm not convinced that's totally true. Brown Dog has his Mercury in Pisces, and he is tragically far from mute.

When Mercury’s on his backward track, he’s quite a different character from the sunny, shiny chatterbox Mercury that skips and runs ahead of the Sun with his pin-sharp observations and bright ideas. Every three months or so, though, he needs to travel back down to the underworld, to revisit the darker realms where his quicksilver words will be lost in the deep, cool darkness – a profoundly different sort of place, but somewhere, nevertheless, where he needs to go to recharge those Duracell batteries. On his sunshine travels, he lives among writers, communicators, publishers and dreamers – Bob Dylan has the most powerful Mercury I think I’ve ever seen in a chart – but on his backward travels, wires get crossed, journeys interrupted and things fall apart. But it’s important to recognise that Mercury retrograde (just like almost everything else that’s irksome or annoying in astrology) is just another way of making us realise we can’t control everything – the only way to deal with a retrograde Mercury is to go with the flow; accept and take note. Retrograde Mercury is often about stepping back, recuperating, revisiting. Unfinished business is sometimes brought to the fore with a Mercury Retrograde. Sometimes something from the past will unexpectedly catch you on the back foot; unfinished business that has to be dealt with.

I had a retrograde Mercury moment this weekend. I ran into a friend of a friend in the village who was staying here for the bank holiday weekend – coincidentally, a Gemini, it was his birthday the following day – and for some reason we got onto the subject of school days (not a favourite subject – I hated mine). It turned out this person had been at school with my brother. I haven’t spoken to my brother for several years. I’m not actually that freaked any more by these odd coincidences – as a Mercury person, they seem to always be happening to me. I once worked in an office where no fewer than four people had some kind of connection to my past (a bit spooky, as I turned out to be kind of related to one of them).

Geminis and Virgos are particularly affected by the moods of Mercury. You’ll also feel it if Mercury’s station* touches a sensitive point on your own natal chart. The only way to deal with tricky or troublesome planets like a retrograde Mercury is to step back and try to tune in to what they have to say. Sometimes it’s hard when Mercury retrograde coincides with a communication breakdown, a broken promise or an interrupted journey, but trite as it sounds, it’s usually something that’s happened for a reason – unfortunately, that reason is often buried in the murky underworld and sometimes seems almost impossible to locate. Believe me, though, a Mercury message is much easier to tune into than a Saturn one – after all, he is the god of communication.

Mercury retrograde do’s and don’ts

Make any important, life-changing decisions
Apply for that job
Start a new diet
Embark on an important journey
Buy a new computer, telephone system, radio or tv
Put your house on the market
Start anything new – a job, a relationship, a house purchase
Schedule a book launch, go live with your new website, make an important speech
Book your car in for a service

(If you have inadvertently embarked on any of the above, not realising Mercury was retrograde, don't fret. Any annoying difficulties and hold-ups should probably be just that, and all will sort itself out once Mercury goes direct.)

Have a good clear out – that long lost photograph, letter or document will probably turn up
Tackle that humungous pile of filing
Return to unfinished projects
Rekindle old friendships
Mend bridges
Repair, reassess, rethink, research…
Basically, anything that feels like delving into the underworld.

Unless you’re Barack Obama, of course, who seems to be an exception to just about every Mercury rule…

I was going to talk about why you should never start anything under a new moon, but in typical Mercury fashion I’ve gone on too long and run out of time. Just take it from me – don’t.

* When a planet is retrograde, before it can go direct it slows down and sits on its station for a while before turning. This ‘station’ point can often be a powerful trigger.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Full Moon and my fifteen minutes of fame...

“Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil”
John Milton (1608-1674)

I’m always slightly amazed when I come across astrologers who never seem to look up at the sky. And while I’m by no means the most dedicated of star-watchers, given a clear night and the right time of year, I can usually pick out Taurus (follow the three bright stars of Orion’s belt and you’ll find it halfway between that and the Pleiades), and the curving shape of Scorpio apparently spiking poor old Sagittarius on the bum, or Virgo with Spica – her brightly shining ear of wheat and the lucky star (which for some reason always makes me think of Margaret Thatcher – certainly not everyone's lucky star, that one). The most obvious thing in the sky at any time of year (unless, of course, it's cloudy) is, of course, the moon, which waxes milky full before gently waning to a thin sliver each month as it glides swiftly along the ecliptic, brightening or darkening the sky. The phase and sign of the moon is something traditional astrologers would constantly have been acutely aware of – it seems a shame that, to many astrologers nowadays it’s just another glyph, albeit perhaps a slightly more important one, on a horoscope chart. OK, let's just forget the precession of the equinoxes for a moment (which means Aries is really Pisces and Aquarius can sometimes even be Taurus. Really, it's not something you need to worry about unless you're into biodynamic gardening, and then you just need a different book...)

I’m lucky, admittedly, in that we have very little light pollution here, and our village nestles in a wide, shallow basin which offers an excellent vantage point for star viewing. Even so, the fabulous full moon in Virgo on Tuesday night was clearly visible all over the UK – in fact I got a text from a (non-astrology) friend right across the other side of the country in Tunbridge Wells at about 7pm saying just that: Fabulous moon! I was in the car when my mobile buzzed, trying to track down where I’d left H’s copy of The Guardian which I’d picked up at lunchtime from the shop en route to do about seventeen errands and had left it somewhere along the way (sadly, an all-too regular occurrence...) I parked up alongside the allotments, and there it was – the most beautiful, bright, bright moon hanging low and glowing softly over the sprouts and Bernard's now burgeoning asparagus bed. While I was gazing up at it, another villager passed by, commenting, “What an amazing moon!”.

I knew it must be in Virgo (the full moon is always directly opposite the sun, currently in Pisces), and later that evening I checked my ephemeris – 20 degrees of Virgo – almost slap bang on my Ascendent. Given the moon passes through every degree of the zodiac, every year, there’s always going to be a date somewhere around the 11th of March where it crosses the horizon of my own natal chart, but for the moon to be exactly full at this point is something which happens, on average (given a conservative one-degree orb), just once every 180 years. Not even a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “I bet I get some publicity for the allotments book over the next couple of days…”

The symbolism isn’t remotely obscure or difficult: the bright full moon illuminates the point of the zodiac over which it passes; the moon in full is at its most powerful. Basically, if you’re trying to do something you don’t want anyone to find out about, don’t do it under a full moon – likewise, don’t attempt your next attention-grabbing publicity campaign (or indeed anything you’re going to need recognition for) under a new moon. The energy filters through the sign the moon is in - Virgo: Demeter, Ceres, earth goddess, allotments... It couldn't be more perfect. I always think one striking example of the exposing rays of the moon in full is that early paparazzi shot of Lady Diana Spencer snapped at the kindergarten where she was working with the light shining clean through what she obviously didn’t realise was a diaphanous skirt. That shot sums up for me the effects of the full moon (which, given the nature of pic and the fact that it was probably shot in mid-Spring, was almost certainly in Scorpio!)

In short, if I’d planned the launch of my allotments book to coincide with this March’s full moon, I couldn’t have picked a better moment (In point of fact the idea hadn’t occurred to me). Completely unexpectedly, the story was picked up not only by The Sun, but The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Metro (although, be warned - I look as though I'm hanging on to the allotment sign for dear life in fear of being suddenly abducted by vegetable-crazed aliens) and I was asked to do down-the-line interviews with BBC Radio Sheffield, Radio Berkshire and Radio Five Live. I’ve also got Cotswold Life coming to shoot the Gardeners’ Question Time recording on Monday for their society pages (Society pages? Me?). I think it may be time to go out shopping for that diaphanous dress…

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Is this the dawning of the age of Aquarius? (or Herschel finds his mojo)

I have been getting back into astrology after a long time away. I think it might have something to do with Uranus passing over my descendent, although it could just be that I’m finding myself with more time on my hands (did I really just say that?) – the practice of astrology can be inordinately time-consuming once you get sucked in. Uranus is often the planet said to rule the practice of astrology – a maverick, eccentric, unpredictable star; the ruler of revolution, electricity and the unexpected. It’s the symbolism that attracts me about astrology – I love the glimpses of the ancient and the universal in the everyday; the creak of Pluto undermining the stability of the world financial system (Capricorn) or the discovery of electricity (Uranus) on one of Saturn’s moons just as the two planets meet one another in opposition across the heavens. Is it coincidence or synchronicity? Or just wishful thinking? Who’s to say? Not me, that’s for sure. I don’t want to be prescriptive with my astrology – for me, it’s simply a symbolic language; a metaphysical reflection – sometimes astonishing in its perspicacity – of what’s going on in the world.

There are different kinds of astrologers – some embrace chakra theory and various strands of Eastern mysticism or make links with native American mythology – each to his own; if it speaks to you, that’s all well and good. I’m all for people finding their own niche, but dreamy, West-Coast-type touchy-feely stuff, I’m afraid, is really not for me. Maybe it’s my repressed Virgoan side, but I find myself thinking it’s all a bit vague and Neptunian (Neptune being the ruler of Pisces and the polar opposite of Virgo). I’m frankly not nearly flexible enough – either literally or metaphorically – to get in touch with my chakras, and if I’m being brutally honest, I’m afraid I can’t help finding a lot of it rather flakey – heck, I don’t even accept the idea that Chiron is a proper planet - I wish I could manage to find a way to eradicate it from my astrology software. Traditional astrology is rather prosaic by contrast – there are set rules and strictures and everything relates back to first principles. The symbolism has a long tradition – it has been practiced for centuries by scholars, scientists and philosophers – it’s only really recently that the flakey people got on board, and I’m not even really sure some of them are on the same ship at all. There’s quite enough going on for me with traditional astrology; seven personal planets with three trans-Saturnians if you’re feeling a bit modern – you really don’t need any more. I certainly don’t want to confuse myself with things like Sabian symbols and Jungian theories of the collective unconscious – I’m easily enough confused as it is.

I love the way that astrology reflects our psychology, too. Everyone’s chart has all the planets in it, and the way we ‘do’ them is successful to a greater or lesser degree depending on how well they’re integrated and how easy we find it to connect with their energy – they’re all there, even the most mild-mannered bespectacled librarian will have their Mars (albeit, perhaps in Virgo or Capricorn) and even Pollyanna had a Saturn (although where she can have kept it, I can’t imagine – 12th house, possibly?). I, for example, don’t find Uranus at all easy to connect with – I let H do all the Uranian stuff in our house – the quirky, the humanitarian, the eccentric, while I take on all the practical Virgoan stuff – DIY, bill-paying, drawer tidying, etc. I take a slightly irrational pleasure in the fact that the glyph for Uranus is based on the letter H (for Herschel, the astronomer credited for originally discovering the planet back in 1781- not for my husband, though in another space-time continuum, perhaps it might have been), making it his, not mine, although I fully realise on some level I’m projecting my quirkiness on to him – it’s easier for me that way. But like anything, the more we repress it, the more restless and insistent it becomes, and there’s nothing quite like a repressed Uranus for erupting out and biting one on the bum (or perhaps not the bum, exactly – the mojo, perhaps? See the mythology further down the page).

* * *

Anyway, it was in just this kind of unexpected Uranian way that I stumbled upon details of a talk on the planet Uranus a couple of weeks ago, tied in with a visit to the Herschel Museum, conveniently in nearby Bath. It sounded really interesting, was conveniently on a Saturday afternoon which didn’t clash with anything else, and despite not having done anything astrological for the last four or five years, I thought I might as well go.

The discovery of Uranus back in 1781 – in the aptly named New King Street in Bath – coincided with a time of great change in the world; revolution was happening in the new world as well as at home in the form of the industrial revolution; civil unrest was brewing in France, huge scientific discoveries were being made which were to challenge the status quo and irrevocably alter our perception of the world, and the philosopher Immanuel Kant turned contemporary understanding on its head that very same year with his publication of The Critique of Pure Reason.

So far, so symbolic, with resonances of the ancient Greek myth which is all about rebellion, where the sky god Ouranus is pitted against (and ultimately castrated by) his own son, Cronus (the Roman god Saturn) possibly the ancient world's first teenager. Up until the discovery of Uranus, the ‘cosmos’ was thought to consist of the magic number of seven heavenly bodies – Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the great material planet of boundaries, Saturn – encircled by the backdrop of the fixed stars of the zodiac. The discovery of Uranus as a planet, not a star or a comet as was first thought, turned this understanding on its head. The castration symbolism also has resonances in the association of Uranus with ideas of androgeny and ambiguous sexuality, which are also echoed in the story of the planet’s discovery – the astronomer William Herschel was working closely with his sister Caroline, also an accomplished astronomer, and it seems unclear whether it was actually William or Caroline who first spotted the planet.
Actually, I think it was probably both. (Bizarrely, when I google to see if I can find an online version of Caroline’s chart to save myself using my own software with the offending Chiron on it, I’m directed to a website called Astroqueer which claims her as a lesbian – she does look extremely masculine in her portrait and indeed, she may well be gay, with Venus and Mars in mutual reception in each other’s signs (Venus at 16 Aries; Mars at 13 Taurus) – so lots of ambiguous sexuality there – while Mercury, planet of communication, is keeping quiet about everything and letting her brother take all the glory, mute in an early degree of Pisces). And in another uncanny castration parallel, it is Herschel's own son, John Herschel, who ultimately demolishes the former's enormous 40-foot ground-breaking telescope when it is damaged by a gale some years later.

I find the Bath astrologers in the café where they are meeting without too much trouble – an unusually large proportion of hats, ‘interesting’ hairstyles and items of purple clothing help to give them away. I had a sudden feeling that this might turn out to be more of a Neptunian than a Uranian experience, but it transpires that most of the purple people are in fact artists, not astrologers at all, but somehow linked and at the same time not linked – boundaries are blurred in typical Neptunian fashion. As the astrologers break away to head off to the museum and do their astrology, the way out is temporarily blocked by one of the artists bidding what seemed to be an unduly fond farewell to one of the astrologers.

“But you seem to be saying goodbye in a way that suggests we may never see each other again,” complained the artist, plaintively hugging the astrologer close.
“But we probably never will see each other again,” reasoned the astrologer, breaking free. Whether the two had actually known one another before the meeting in the café was, in true Neptunian fashion, unclear, but the astrologers somehow managed to detach, Uranian style and head off to New King Street – a beautifully restored Georgian house in an unexpected corner of Bath. The theme of androgeny is echoed further, as I realise that Jodey, the astrologer billed to give the talk turns out to be, not a woman, as I'd initially assumed, but a man.

The museum is lovely in an understated, Farrow-and-Ball-type way, with reproduction Brussels weave carpets, meticulously restored and polished instruments and handsome pieces of Georgian furniture. I’m not sure the Herschels would have had it quite like that – as far as I could gather, when they lived there the house was full of half-finished home-made telescopes and books about astronomy. An introduction is given electronically by Patrick Moore, who is rather distractingly wearing a monacle attached to a piece of red string. I can’t help feeling my presence here is in some way fated, though – why this should be, I have no idea, but there are further bits of synchronicity when I realise that the Superintendent of the Royal Observatory in Herschel’s time – someone who would certainly have come into contact with Herschel – was later to become the rector at our village church, and one of the musical instruments in drawing room (Herschel was also a talented musician and teacher) was made by the firm of musical instrument makers owned by my own great-great grandfather. Perhaps these were just more coincidences.

Jodey, thankfully, turns out to be a traditional astrologer like me, and he knows and trained alongside some of astrologers I knew in London. He doesn’t have any truck with Chiron or Sabian Symbols either, I’m relieved to find out. He talks about the symbolism of the Uranus discovery chart in a way I can readily understand - it has some beautiful symbolism: Gaia, the Moon (yes, I know Gaia is the earth goddess, but please bear with me – the Moon is the universal mother symbol, and Gaia is in fact also the mother of her husband, Uranus) gives her son, Cronos (Saturn) the knife (Mars, disposed by the Scorpio Moon, conjuct Saturn) to castrate Uranus, who he confronts in the 8th house (house of death, sex and regeneration), directly opposite. Like the myth itself, it’s horribly violent, but its symbolism is somehow horribly perfect, too.

* * *

Which reminds me of a typically Uranian moment with my father in law at H’s fortieth birthday dinner – an eminent urologist, now retired, while not exactly involved in the business of castration I guess he was working in the same general area. We were in a very nice restaurant in London waiting to be served when the jazz band struck up with the famous Muddy Waters number, Got My Mojo Working.
“What’s a mojo, d’you suppose,” asked H’s mum, to no one in particular.
“I’m not sure,” replied FIL in his carrying consultant’s tone, much to the amusement of the table next to us. “I think it’s probably his penis.”

Bath, the city where Uranus was first discovered, is, of course, Aquae Sulis – the city of Aquarius, the water carrier.