A joint publication of: Astro Logos and Zyntara Publications



April 2005

The VAN is a free monthly electronic newsletter
dedicated to promoting awareness of the sky.

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Alignments instead of conjunctions - a new approach to fixed star terminology
To Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moon Light  - Bernadette Brady
    Natal Sky Stories - Darrelyn Gunzburg  

VAN Archive - www.Zyntara.com


As we put this newsletter together, we have two events happening this week - the marriage of Charles and Camilla and the funeral of Pope John Paul II with, of course, the gathering of the world's cardinals in the Vatican to elect a new pope. In the first event there is the handing of a crown through marriage; in the second, there is the handing on of the triple crown of the pope. Whether one is religious or not, the pope commands a "nation" of over one billon people spread over the continents of the globe, making him probably the most influential leader on the planet, a point on display this week with the gathering of the dignitaries who attended his funeral, as well as the fact that the marriage of the crown prince of England was altered to accommodate the rituals of the pope. 

The new pope will be elected after 18th April - the date set for the Cardinal Conclave - so in the next newsletter I will expand on the mundane meanings of fixed stars for a given date for a given city using the new papacy as the theme.

Alignments instead of conjunctions

One of the methods for working with fixed stars is to project the star onto the ecliptic via the lines of longitude from the celestial poles. When a planet was also at this projected degree on the ecliptic, then the only term astrologers had at their disposal was the to label the planet "conjunct" the star. Yet the star may well be around one of the poles, over 80 degrees away from the planet. Similarly if two stars occupied the same projected degree, whether the stars were in the same hemisphere or not, then these stars were considered conjunct. Thus a star could be deep in the south and be considered conjunct a star in the northern sky.

This misnomer has lead to some astrologers actually thinking that the planets were in the same place in the sky as the star. After a discussion in cyberspace with a community of astrologers that do work with projected degrees, it has been agreed to call these configurations alignments. Thus if the Sun is at, let us say, 14 Capricorn, it will no longer be referred to as "conjunct Vega" but rather as "aligned to Vega".

Thus in astrology we will have:

A planet conjunct a planet - the normal concept of one ecliptically-tied body moving to the same ecliptical degree as the other, regardless of their celestial latitude.
A planet in paran to a star - the visual astrology method of linking a star to a planet.
A planet aligned to a star - the projected method of linking a star to a planet.

We hope that by astrologers adopting the term "alignment" instead of conjunction, that collectively we can begin to correct this misnomer and the resulting misunderstandings it produces. Please join us in this endeavour.

To Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moon Light
The Moon and the red star Antares

Bernadette Brady

Antares is the heart of the Scorpion and is generally accepted as one of the Royal Stars of Persia: the Watcher of the West, the guardian of the doors to the underworld, or the one that leads you into the unknown and feared depths of your soul. Antares is not evil - no star is evil. But then nor is the devil. Rather these concepts in our culture represent disorder, emotional upheaval and changes, often through the vehicle of control-addiction and the resulting intense drama. In this way Antares is also similar to the sirens of mythology, those mythical female winged beasts which are symbols of mental obsession[1], when an idea or problem seizes the mind in an iron grip of endless processing which implodes one deeper into the shaky and at times ephemeral foundations of one’s own sanity.  

The bright red star Antares is one of the carriers of these concepts in western culture. But few astrologers appreciate that there is a dance every nineteen years which involves the Moon and Antares, a time when the Moon and all she represents in our astrology steps in and embraces the extreme, the excessive, the obsessed, and the chaotic. This dance is intermittent but lasts for nearly five years.  

Such a dance has just began. From January the Moon has and will continue to occult Antares until early 2010 [2].  Over the next four to five years, when the Moon is in the tropical zodiac sign of Sagittarius, the Moon will at times blot out the view of Antares from the night sky. Exactly when you will see this will depend on your location, as well as the exact position of the Moon in the night sky[3]. The visual effect is that the bright red star Antares creeps towards the Moon and then suddenly disappears behind her, re-appearing about one hour later. Because the Moon has no atmosphere to blur the view, the whole event appears as if the star is switched off and then switched on. There is no gradual fade in and out. But the key point here is that the star appears to catch the Moon as, due to its own orbit around the earth, the Moon appears to move more slowly across the night sky than the stars.  So the Moon does not blot out the star but rather the star catches the Moon and penetrates her, impregnating her with the seeds of its mythology. The Moon becomes filled with its message and, according to Plato in the Timaeus, this message is then transferred to the earth through its lunar phases. The following image is the occultation for 26th April, 2005:

We know from other fixed star work that the stars do not change the meaning of planets or horoscopic delineation but rather they allow the astrologer to delineate a planetary pattern and its unfolding symbolism in a more focused manner. In studying the times of the occultation of Antares by the Moon, it would seem that these are moments when a doorway is opened to us, a doorway that leads to the deeper, more chaotic but highly creative part of our own soul.

This is best explained by considering the following people born at the time of an occultation and letting their own words give us insights into this unique mating of Moon and star. As you think about these people, remember that they all have their natal Moon in Sagittarius.

Victor Hugo (French Author), born on 26th February 1802. (There was an occultation on the 25th February.)

In Hugo’s own words:

An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We  should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.

Such words show Hugo’s awareness of the turmoil within humanity

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russian novelist), born 30 October, 1821, two days after an occultation which occurred 28th October.

In Dostoyevsky’s own words:

Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.

 The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.

There are things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a  number of such things stored away in his mind.

Like Hugo, Dostoyevsky also shows the awareness of an inner turmoil.

Odin Redon (Artist) born 20th April, 1840 on the same day as an occultation.

In Redon's own words:

While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality... true art lies in a reality that is felt.

Here we have an artist stressing the passion and feelings of his art.

Albert Einstein (physicist), born 14th March, 1879, the day after an occultation on 13th March.

In Einstein’s own words:

After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in aesthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.

Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for insects as well as for the stars. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance.

Here we see Einstein’s scientific mind grappling with the unknowable, chaotic or the “whirlpool” of the soul.

And just as these people opened doorway to this whirlpool so that we can peer into a darker, more primal, creative, chaotic, emotional world through writing, art or science, the following events which occurred on occultations also give us more clues:

Ludwig van Beethoven: premier of his 1st Symphony (in C) 12th April 1800 and his 2nd Symphony (in D)  5th April 1803. Indeed large numbers of Beethoven’s premier performances were within days of occultations between the Moon and Antares.

Handel first performed the Messiah on 25th December 1818, the day of an occultation, and Silent Night composed by Franz Joseph Gruber, was sung for the first time.

Saint Bernadette saw her first vision of the Virgin Mary (11th February, 1858) only days after an occultation.

19th March, 1859, the Opera Faust by Charles Gounod premiered in Paris. This is the famous opera that has come to symbolise the dance with the devil. The occultation occurred on 24th March.

24th November 1859, the day before an occultation – Charles Darwin published his work On the Origin of the Species.

1st August 1914, on the day of an occultation – the commencement of WWI. This was a dance with the chaotic, begun in 1912 with the beginning of the 1st Balkans War which officially commenced four days after an occultation on 14th October, 1912, and lasted only 12 months after the occult series was completed in 1917.

Wary of the pitfalls of generalisation, we can, however, with these few examples of mundane events or artistic/scientific works which were made public at the time of occultation, see how they have acted as doorways into other worlds and different ways of understanding ourselves. Astrologically we know that fixed stars blend with a planet's symbolism but it may well be that an occultation is not a blending but a portal, offering a gateway, a doorway or, to use Einstein’s’ word, a whirlpool. This is the case with WWI which seemed to suck humanity into a chaotic state while, in the case of artistic works, it seems to provide not so much a whirlpool but a safer pathway into exploring or becoming aware of this creative, rich, chaotic and disturbing world symbolised by Antares.

This is one more point to add. On 14th March, 1800, a pope was crowned. This was Pope Pius VII. This event occurred just two days before an occultation on 16th March. The crowning of a new pope is not a common event in our world of disposable leaders, so it is worth noting that, once again, another pope is going to be crowned around an occultation of Antares. Pope Pius VII took on the might of Napoleon, resulting in his imprisonment and later being exiled. He was only restored to the Vatican after the defeat of Napoleon. His papacy is considered a watershed period, for he was able to adapt the church to the political, intellectual and social conditions of the modern world. Could it be that this new pope, who will also be crowned around the time of an occultation, will endeavour to undertake steps to bring the papacy into the post-modern world?  Or maybe another exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama, may gain some significant advancements for the plight of the Tibetan people?

A short post script:

The Moon can also occult a planet and probably the most notable occultation of recent history occurred on 10th September, 2001. This was the occultation of the planet Saturn by the Moon. Thus Saturn catches the Moon and, according to the hypothesis in this newsletter, it enables Saturn to seed her with its symbolism and its strengths and thus it intensifies the Saturn. Additionally this occultation was only visible over North America. The day before the 9/11 attack on the USA, at the time of the Saturn- Pluto opposition, Saturn was being emphasised by its lunar occultation. By adding the concept of occultation to this mixture, we may well gain a rationale for the extreme expression of its symbolism.

For those astrologers interested in this area of research I have put on the Astro Logos website a 400 year occultation ephemeris (1700 to 2099) for the Moon to the five bright stars.

[1] My thanks to Liz Greene for this concept.

[2]  The Moon can occult five bright stars - El Nath, Aldebaran, Spica, Antares and Regulus. It is only the two red stars of Antares (the red star which is the Heart of the Scorpion) and Aldebaran (the red star which is the eye of the bull of Taurus) located roughly opposite each other on the belt of the zodiac which receive occultations by the Moon at a regular interval of 18 to 19 years.

[3] Antares is at a celestial latitude of 4S34, so the occultation requires that  the Moon is at the same celestial latitude at the time that it is passing through 8 - 10 degrees of Sagittarius, as well as making sure that the observer can actually see the Moon at this time. Additionally the question of the observed position of the Moon for a given location (known as parallax) must be considered. 

Useful Links

http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/occult3.htm   Free astronomical software to help to track occultations. The software is quiet technical and designed for astronomers but for those that are more technically-minded, you will find it most useful.   

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thefixedstars/  This is a cyber community of fixed star astrologers which is open to any person interested in fixed stars and their role in astrology.




Natal Sky Stories
A Picture worth a thousand words...

 Darrelyn Gunzburg

We have seen the importance of sky stories through the Gathering of Kings (February, 2005 issue) but are these stories also concerned with personal natal charts?

I have a client who has Mercury in Sagittarius in the 1st house, square Pluto in the 11th house which is also conjunct the North Node and her Mercury is at the bends (square the nodes). Chart as shown. This is someone who, through change (Mercury rules the 8th house) and working with groups (Mercury also rules the 11th house) can see and communicate the big picture (Mercury in Sagittarius) using a focused and determined approach (Pluto-Mercury) and who, through tension, is able to creatively take action to solve problems (mutable square). With Mercury being at the bends, this ability to take risks in thinking, focus on the group’s issues (Pluto in the 11th house) and work them through with the group strongly stresses the role of Mercury as being involved with her profession and indeed this is the case.

She is employed by the Australian government (Department of Family and Community Services) to liaise with aboriginal women and their families living in the remote desert regions of central Australia whose health and well-being has seriously declined since colonisation.

Her work was significantly recognized recently when she and one of the Aboriginal women were asked to present their first overseas keynote address at an Early Childhood conference in the UK in March. My client contacted me, nervous about her ability to speak out strongly enough for the plight of the women and children that she represented, as some of the senior Aboriginal women had become quite ill after their initial keynote address in Australia in May 2003. This illness was thought to be the result of the overwhelming hurt and betrayal they felt as they attempted to make their voices heard. She did not want a similar outcome for the 2005 conference and wondered if she was strong enough for all the women that she would represent.

By using Starlight to turn her chart into an image of the sky at the moment of her birth, we can move away from the limits of the two dimensional chart and look at her sky story. In doing this we gain an even clearer insight into her Mercury. We can see that at the moment she was born Mercury was firmly lodged in the jaws of Scorpius.  

The software says of Scorpius:

Scorpius is the most southern constellation of the zodiac. From 5,000 bce to approximately 1,000 bce in the northern hemisphere, the Sun was amongst the stars of the Great Scorpion, Scorpio and Libra, for the Autumn equinox. Being one of the signs of an equinox, it was considered one of the four gateways to the other world and was known as a bringer of darkness, for as the Sun entered this constellation, it moved into the southern hemisphere and this marked the beginning of the dark part of the year.

To the Egyptians, the Scorpion, with its red flashing heart, was one of the great symbols of life and death and as there can be no life without death, it was the Scorpion who showed the way down into the underworld.

So here is my client’s Mercury, her ability to write and communicate and take risks in thinking on behalf of a group, linked with going down into the underworld, thinking or having empathy with the non-rational, chaotic or intuitive ways of seeing the world.  Her work is to think on behalf of an indigenous or marginalized people and to use that to voice the needs of the group. From this imagery we can see that her Mercury-Pluto square is being emphasised, stressed, or underlined by the sky motif. 

My client also has an unaspected Venus in Capricorn in the 3rd house. Her ability to form concrete social networks (Venus in Capricorn) works best when she is supported in business (Venus rules the 7th house) and when she allows her intuition to flow (Venus also rules the 12th house). Being unaspected and cadent, she has to work doubly hard to bridge the times when she feel confident at liaising on behalf of others (cadent) and when she does not (unaspected).

Her sky map also shows that Venus walks in front of Capricornius, the Sea Goat.

Starlight gives us the background to this Sea Goat:

Ea (the Sea Goat) was the protector of his people and from his place in the sky, the great rivers flowed, giving life. Periodically he would rise from these waters, take on human form and teach the people the knowledge they needed for civilisation. He was another Osiris-type of god: caring, educating and civilising….

You may remember that Condoleezza Rice (February VAN) also had Capricornius as part of her sky map but for her, Mars rode on its back. Here, using her ability to liaise and network, my client walks proudly in front of this group of indigenous women whom western society has treated as insignificant (Capricornius also indicates the scapegoat) and on behalf of these women (Venus is cadent), takes on the role of educator for them to the Australian government.

So her natal sky map underpins her natal aspects and paints the picture of a woman who is unafraid to delve deeply into taboo areas that affect a marginalized group of women and to speak on their behalf.

My client rang me after the conference. She had been overwhelmed by the success of the keynote address. Consciously drawing on the strength and sheer grittiness of her Mercury, she had spoken, unafraid of her own strong emotions and the power that her own words could unfold. She and her Aboriginal co-delegate had received a standing ovation and the people who heard them were crying. Furthermore they had been asked to present the work at a conference in Iceland next year. My client realized that, whilst a conservative government is often slow to make changes for indigenous peoples, since she spoke though the jaws of Scorpius and heralded the way of the Sea Goat, the further she could push this work now, the better it would be for them when there was a change of government in the future.

It is a simple case study but the key point for me was that being able to share the actual visual sky images with my client had empowered her to fulfil that which she was more than capable of doing. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I think in the case of a person’s natal sky map this is so very true. 

NOTE: Many people who do not own the software Starlight have asked us about their own natal sky map, so for a short time only, we have set up an online ordering system from Astro Logos. We will produce for you your natal sky maps (two, one the eastern part of the sky and one for the west) in black and white - so you can print them out- and email them to you for £3.00 (about $5 US).  Each map will also be accompanied with a one page printout of your natal star parans and meanings.

Starlight can be explored on the Zyntara home page
A diploma in Fixed Stars is offered by Astro Logos

Just released this month - A Studyshop by Bernadette Brady on star phases and star myths.