Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Astrological Case for Brexit

UK Chart

The UK is divided down the middle on the subject of the EU referendum. Before I continue, I'll declare my interest: I'm moderately in favour of leaving the EU. This is because I think that the individual has more voice in small political units. Economically, I think we'll be OK either way. That said, I will now attempt to be disinterested.

This piece began with a consideration of what the basic motives of each side might be. I think there is a fear on each side. The Brexits fear loss of identity in a larger whole. The Bremains fear the unknown, the insecurity of being on our own. I'm not saying these are the only motivations, but I think they may be more dominant than we perhaps think.

The Cancer-Capricorn axis is basic to the UK chart. The Sun-IC is around 10 Capricorn, opposite the Moon-MC at 19-9 Cancer respectively. That is the basic divide in the nation, and it is exacerbated by Uranus the splitter, conjunct the ASC and square the Sun and MC-IC. So it comes naturally to us, if you like, to be divided. But Uranus makes it painful. Our best hope is that Scotland leaves and we have a new chart that is not divided (but that new chart will have its own difficulties.) Pluto is starting to oppose the UK Moon (homeland), which says to me that Scotland is likely to leave in the next 2 to 3 years.

So what is the nature of a divide along Cancer-Capricorn lines, exacerbated by Uranus? Maybe even caused by Uranus, because opposing signs don't have to be opposed, the ideal is that they complement.

Cancer emphasises the home and the security of what is known. Capricorn emphasises finding one's place in the world. The Bremains are Cancer, the Brexits are Capricorn. Usually these things can be read both ways, but I find it hard to see how Capricorn would be a natural Bremainer.

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We have Saturn in the 11th House of group involvement.This shows an initial fear, but also an ability to make a long-term contribution. BUT Saturn is square to Neptune: that is our fear of loss of identity in larger groupings. (As well as Sun-IC in Capricorn).

The UK North Node is in 7th House Aries, square to Sun, Moon and MC-IC. Now there's a package. It draws together and shows, through the Node,  how to resolve the fundamentals of the UK Chart. We need strong relations with foreign countries (7th House Node). But we need to feel we have the initiative (Aries). This is difficult in the EU, because Germany has become so dominant. Aries finds joint ventures difficult anyway, a fortiori when one partner is dominant.

This says to me that Britain is better out than in - more at ease with itself, and more able to fulfil its destiny. Honest, I only reached this conclusion through the astrology, and as I wrote it! I'm not saying that we will vote to leave - I don't think we will. But that won't stop the Tory party fighting amongst themselves while  Labour remains unelectable (though I do like Jeremy Corbyn).

Boris and Dave

The astrological reason I don't think we'll leave is that the transiting square from Pluto to David Cameron's Sun at 15.26 Libra, which is keeping him in power, will not be over for a year or two. Only then will he leave office. If we vote to leave the EU, he won't last 5 minutes. Moreover, if we leave, then Boris' star will rise. Boris' star has already risen to it's maximum height (due to Pluto opposing his MC at 13 Cancer) and he has no major outer planet transits coming up. Therefore we will remain.

Whichever way it goes, in the Progressed UK chart the Moon is in an applying conjunction with the Prog Asc in Gemini: the people (Moon) will be having their say (Gemini).

One way or another, we should be more at ease with ourselves in a couple of years, once the long series of Pluto transits to the Sun, Moon, Node and Angles is over.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Shamanism: Being vs Doing

(Also published at my other blog In the early 80s, after university, I decided to live in a Buddhist community. This was a great disappointment to my father, who had assumed I would have a stellar career that he could be proud of. On
one visit back home, he got a bee in his bonnet about what Buddhists ‘do’. I didn’t really have an answer, as it hadn’t occurred to me to think like that. And the more I couldn’t answer him, the more incensed he got, because for him it was a simple matter, with what should be a simple answer. He kept repeating along the lines of well plumbers fix pipes, poets write poetry, what do Buddhists do? I tried saying stuff about meditation and ethics and enlightenment and all that, but it was nothing he could understand in terms of doing. I was, as it happens, working in a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, but that, of course, wasn’t a general activity of Buddhists that I could invoke.

Black Elk
Buddhism, like any spiritual path, is essentially an attitude to life, on the basis of which the ‘doing’ happens. For us shamanistas, this attitude is well-expressed by Black Elk:

“Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds.

Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather, all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. With tenderness have these come up out of the ground. Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.

This is my prayer; hear me! The voice I have sent is weak, yet with earnestness I have sent it. Hear me!”

I haven’t found this attitude so fully expressed anywhere else but in what we in the West have come to term ‘shamanism’. Attitude is the wrong word, because it is not something added on. It is a way of being, a beautiful and loving way to relate to the earth, that is also true and real. It is based on how things are. And in bringing humans ‘down’, as we might see it, to the level of the elements and other forms of life, it elevates us, it shows us how to be noble human beings.

And for me, this is the essence of shamanism.

The Wikipedia definition reads: “Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.”

This is a definition in terms of doing rather than being, and it is typical of us westerners to come up with such a definition. It is like saying a Christian is someone who performs miracles. OK, technically the shaman is a special type of person who can do the healing stuff, or rather his spirits can. But shamanism has come to mean our western re-interpretation of indigenous spirituality: the healing work is just a special instance of that broader engagement. And for the traditional shaman him/herself, the healing work takes place in the prior context of this sacred but natural connection to the world, without which the healing would be unthinkable.

So I think that shamanism is not to do with whether you can do healing work or lead ceremonies. Shamanism is a context, a context of profound gratitude and relatedness to the natural world. These days, the world is something we take from. But the traditional (and more adult) attitude is that it gives to us. That is the basis. And it’s not the natural world in just the modern, material sense: it is that, but more, it gives us the power to live, and it is the spirit world. Spirit and matter are the 2 poles of life, inner and outer, if you like.

But it is hard to get away from doing definitions. Maybe it always has been. Material existence presses hard upon us, it can seem like it is all there is. One of the main functions of the shaman is simply to remind people about spirit. In my mid-30s I realised that the power to live was not a given, it was something that could be taken away from me. And it had been taken away from me because I had not listened to the call of my spirit. It was a deep turning around for me, my eyes turned inward to a place that was alive and beyond any words or dogma. And at that point I had very little definition of myself in terms of doing. I was being dragged through a deep lesson in being.

So it is this way of being, which is sometimes just an attitude because it’s the best we can do, that matters. That sense of profound connection to the natural world, for me, is occasional, if at all. I enjoy the natural beauty of the beech trees outside my caravan, and I enjoy watching the sheep eat, and sometimes my breath is taken away by the sight of the horses in the field beyond. But when I read other people writing about the importance of feeling our identity with the natural world, I easily feel wrong-footed, like I only have a faint glimpse of it. I also feel wrong-footed when people write (usually in their intros to their healing services) about how they’ve been seers, or something like that, since childhood. I know I certainly wasn’t. (Though I confess I’m slightly suspicious when people do that.) And then of course there are indigenous people, and I’m certainly not the real thing in comparison to them. Maybe I’m just human, and need to forgive myself, and remember that others probably feel, and have always felt, the same way.

Protestant Work Ethic
But the main point here is that more than ever, we live in a 'doing' culture, and we easily define shamanism in those terms, and when we do that we have missed the point. The term 'shamanic practitioner' seems to me to carry some of this bias. 'Doing' is easily the enemy of being, as it devalues being, says that if I can’t measure you, then you are nothing. Astrologically, I call it the western negative Saturn (see my astrology blog). It’s deeply rooted in western culture, I don’t think we can help but do it. It’s a dark spirit we carry with us. Being able to take a holiday from it sometimes is itself an achievement.

What matters is the sense of appreciative connection, firstly to ourselves and then to the natural world and its people and to that thing beyond, however we experience it. If a calling to do healing work, or whatever, comes in as well, let it come to you, don’t seek it out. I don’t think it likes being a day-job.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What makes Shamanism Real?

(Posted at my other blog, I’ve been trying to write a bit of copy to advertise the shamanic healing I do, and it’s not proving easy. I would like to write a load of stuff talking about traditional shamans and what they do, suggesting that I am somehow in that timeless lineage, and that what I do echoes back to the dawn of time etc. But I can’t bring myself to do that, because I don’t think it's true.

I’ve had a fair bit to do with a Chippewa Cree guy who used to come and stay with me over a period of 7 or 8 years, and he did teachings and told stories and ran sweat lodges. We used to have great metaphysical conversations over breakfast, and he said that what I do would be described as a ’personal medicine’ within his tradition. And he also felt the inner connections from which I was speaking when I talked astrology, even though he knew nothing about the subject itself.

But that is the extent of my connection to a living tradition. And I want to be real about that and not bum it up into something it isn’t.

I think that living indigenous traditions are both an inspiration and a burden for us modern westerners. We can be too eager to make the indigenous link to what we do, even if it’s just by implication. And not to put too fine a point on it, I think it is often a bit bogus -  though we may not realise it, because our teachers may have in turn talked in those terms. Mine certainly did, though they hadn’t had much to do with indigenous people. OK, your spirit guides might tell you stuff – I knew one guy whose guide was giving him Lakota teachings, and they were good teachings, but in my book you can’t then say they are Lakota. And I don’t think it’s enough to visit someone in the jungle for a few days – valuable as that might be – and then add it to your CV as indigenous cred. I think the real stuff gets transmitted through getting to know people, and that takes time.

And what I think all this comes down to is the search for authenticity, and what we think of as authenticity, in a time when our own traditions have broken down.

Pluto abducts Persephone
In my opinion, the only thing that is authentic is inner experience, and that is something that is usually hard won. It takes many years. It takes being dismembered so that what is essential can shine through. I am currently being dismembered for the 2nd time (or, as a dream woman told me recently, I am undergoing my ‘second psycho-synthesis’). And I am 58. The first dismemberment was in my 30s. Pluto abducted me into his Underworld. These things have happened to me, I have not chosen them. I still feel like a hot-headed mess a lot of the time. But at best, it means that when I do astrology readings, the symbols come alive, and something real and charged comes out of my mouth. And it also means that I get taken over by a wonderful beast who heals people.

So it is this that is real, not any connection to indigenous people. And – here is my point – I think we can to a degree disempower our own gifts by seeking validation through a supposed connection to indigenous people.

What we do needs to stand alone. We moderns have our own spirit connections. Shamanism is what we do, not what indigenous people do. Shamanism may be inspired by what they do, but for most of us the link is tenuous in real terms.

I’ve been an astrologer for many years, and something I noticed about the astrological world is that it is very accepting of all sorts of different types of astrology. Apart from the odd traditionalist, you don’t get people suggesting that this is real astrology and this isn’t. And the shamanic world similarly seems welcoming of all sorts of different types of shamanism. But it also sometimes seems to me a bit overly-concerned with what is real shamanism and what isn’t. 

Of course you don’t want too many people claiming to be shamanic healers who may have some ability, but who haven’t gone through the years of personal training that are usually necessary to do it with integrity. Though I suspect that flakey - or even dark - element has always been part of the picture. But that’s not what I’m getting at here: it’s the sense that our shamanism is more real if it has an observable link to an indigenous tradition, which isn't that different to Christians quoting from the Bible. And I think there can be an element of wishful thinking, that gets passed on from teacher to pupil.

What I suppose I’m rooting for here is that we need a way of describing what we do without the validating references to indigenous peoples, valuable and profound as their example can be. One of humanity’s weaknesses is an attachment to the past, as though that was somehow more real and validates what we do now. We live in a unique time where it is possible to drop all that and start afresh. Now is a melting pot, where there is room for original inspiration. Our spirit guides know what to do, they're on the case, they can do this thing if we don't get in the way too much.