Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Continuing with our review series, here's an astrology book review...

Review of: The Dawning: Shedding New Light on the Astrological Ages

Author: Terry MacKinnell

Publisher: Xlibris

Price: £19.71 Paperback £6.38 Kindle

Reviewer: Diana McMahon Collis – for the Astrological Journal May/June 2013 Issue Vol 55 No 3

A lifetime’s earnest work, research and observation has gone into the content of The Dawning, which automatically makes it a valuable document because so much insight is distilled in one place. Terry MacKinnell has worked to balance use of a sound historical framework with knowledge of astrological techniques, whilst conveying awareness that both disciplines involve selective operation, particularly when handling complex material. For this reason the author has favoured a modern Western astrological approach, whilst observing an ancient technique from very early, observational astronomy/astrology, to re-examine the Astrological Ages, or Precesssional Ages – ie the twelve ages within the structural framework known as the Great Year.

The book may not necessarily sit well with astrologers well versed in traditional methods, or those who have ever wondered at the logic of plucking the Astrological Ages out of ancient methodology to sit rather awkwardly around the rest of the mainstream astrological techniques, like a late adopted child. Nonetheless, this uncomfortable status and lack of true integration of the Ages has, itself, hinted at a lack of overall work in thoroughly examining what they are truly about. MacKinnell should therefore be applauded for taking on such a monumental task, perhaps not least because his work lends something to historical perspective as well as making a significant contribution to astrology. The book is a great boon because, if we accept the author’s conclusions, it helps to clear up some confusion and fill certain gaps.
MacKinnell’s writing shows how the Astrological Ages provide a kind of meta-text of world events and human tendencies, not unlike astrology itself. He has the knack of bridging different worlds, such as history, astrology, psychology and human internal experience (imagination and mental projections) through a common denominator, such as the Archetype – a concept most astrologers will be instantly at home with.

The book touches upon many aspects of astrological theory and practice, underpinning an understanding of the Ages. Of notable interest are:

Standing stones and time measuring Heliacal Risings and Settings – their significance in rectifying the Ages pre-Hipparchus

Vernal Point - used by Hipparchus (and his methodological error)

Visual vs mathematical astronomical/astrological techniques – the author places value and emphasis on practical observation, as the ancients did

Constellations – the fact that they were developed as a visual technique

Precession of the equinoxes – and significance of the third movement of the Earth, its wobble

Decans – the divisions of zodiac signs into sections of ten (explained most clearly in the Glossary)

Sign Cusps – rather than house cusps, which may have a firm basis in traditional astrology but no place in an understanding of the Ages

Overflow – a one-directional effect, rather like a hangover, of the previous Age sign affecting the currently-named sign.

Retrogradation – the fact that the Ages work backwards through the zodiac

Correspondence – between events in the world with Astrological ages and their zodiacal archetypes

Sub-ages, Micro-ages and Nano-ages – divisions of the Astrological Ages

Quasi Ages and Age Pairs – which together provide a situation analogous to the lunation cycle.

There are also three appendices, covering historians’ perspectives, zodiacal archetypes and the somewhat daring rectification of the Aquarian Age.

As the subject matter is vast, the entirety of this volume is quite dense. I had initially thought this was going to be a book to zip through, adding a little more knowledge about past, present and future events. It has turned out to be an intriguing read, which inspired me to keep reading and really take on the relevance of the Astrological Ages. In the explanatory sections the author often writes with a marvellous use of analogies and metaphors, which help what could, at times, be a dry and difficult subject become lively and within the reader’s grasp. I especially liked the description of how an astrologer attempts to create a 3D reality from the limited, 2D reality of the chart, which aptly captures the reality of the struggle that many practising astrologers experience in trying to make sense of people’s lives from a diagram!

One of the greatest achievements of the book is to explain why there is so much confusion around which age we are currently in: the Aquarian Age or the Pisces Age. MacKinnell explains that the name by which the Age is known reflects qualities that are not usually fully realised or observable until quite a long way into the cycle – possibly around midway the baton is passed to the relevant sign from its predecessor (moving backwards due to retrogradation, so that, for example, the Pisces Age gives way to the Aquarian age). The fullness of what the Aquarian Age is really about, however, does not come through until towards the end of that ‘Pisces-Aquarius Age’ cycle, which he argues runs from around 1433 – 3574 CE. Earlier Ages are discussed in depth, with convincing historical evidence shown in the form of events that correspond with the archetypal meanings of the Ages. Clearly there is a vast knowledge of history here and the correspondences seem persuasive; for example, the focus on writing and education in the Gemini Age (framed as the Gemini-Taurus Age in the author’s pairing system). The need for financial accounting during this period fostered the development of writing – which seems to powerfully link the archetypes of the two signs together.
In a book that focuses on history there is necessarily a lot of information concerning the past. There is also a chapter devoted to climate change and another focussing on forecasting the future. The author is at pains to clarify that the exact details of the future cannot be mapped out, any more than we can easily find the truthful, 3D version of someone’s life, experiences and future conditions from the 2D situation of the birth chart. However the rise and fall of civilisations can be mapped around the Age-Decan cusps and a number of potentials can be indicated – although events in future cycles won’t be identical to those of the past, not least because history does not repeat itself. Equally, connections across astrological cycles are always slightly different, in totality, as they go forward.

The Dawning is extremely well annotated and thoroughly researched, due in no small way to the author totally embracing his subject over many years. This is not just some dry tome of academic theorising and soulless pulling together of floating ideas; instead, the author draws you into an explanation of why there’s been a problem with the existing theory around Astrological Ages, how the ages are sub-divided and why they are significant. The book also has a good index and bibliography, with references that made me instantly want to read more. Hamlet’s Mill, Astronomy before the Telescope, Babylonian Star-Lore and Cosmos and Psyche all leapt out as texts not to be overlooked by anyone interested in archetypes, mythology, astronomy and the bridging of ancient and modern astrology. It could be argued that The Dawning does for the Astrological Ages what Richard Tarnas’s Cosmos and Psyche has done for planetary archetypes and transits. The Dawning is a brave book and a carefully considered contribution to a previously under-developed area.

Terry MacKinnell is in the process of writing a follow-up volume, homing in on the sub-divisions of the Ages. I am looking forward to reading the finished product.

Diana McMahon Collis

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Cosmic Tarot Deck Review (Norbert Losche)

And since we're on a roll now...! Please note, this is the original, unadulterated review, which appeared in the 2001 Winter edition of the TABI ezine - complete with links from back then, tarot impressions from yester year and probably a different writing style. If anything doesn't work, please feel free to let us know.

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
(English Edition FX Schmid 1988. Art Nr. 15530 – 1)
Reviewed by Diana McMahon

This is the main deck that attracted my attention when, perhaps for want of a better term, “psychic responses” to my Rider Waite cards suddenly began to dwindle. In terms of early reading development the Rider Waite deck had been a fantastic learning tool, taking my understanding of tarot from confused to much clearer. Thanks to the proliferation of imagery my ability to quickly put a meaning to a card and provide insightful readings had developed in leaps in bounds, so I shall always be grateful for the introduction to that deck. But when things went quiet in my psyche I realised I needed some sort of new stimulus and this is exactly what the Cosmic Tarot deck provided.

The deck is not to be confused with the Cosmic Tribe by American creator Stevee Postman which, whilst also very strong in imagery, is a very different deck. Ditto the Cosmic Egg tarot, by Guido Gillabel and Carol Herzer, which features more abstract, brightly coloured images on square shaped cards. The Cosmic Tarot with its mix of intense and pastel shades of predominantly blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and brown was created by Norbert Lösche and originally published by the German company Schmid though it is also available via US Games. I bought my copy in one of the book shops in Glastonbury.

The cards are beautifully designed and the artist, who has a natural interest in the esoteric, has drawn on a combination of symbolism from various cultures and perspectives. Some cards feature symbolism related to Arabic, North African and Asian influences, for instance the Four of Wands, featuring Egyptian pyramids and the Four of Swords set in the desert with a camel in the background. Others, such as the Ten of Pentacles, with its robed and stockinged suitor have a more European, historic feel. And then there are cards that seem either timeless, e.g. the evocative Ten of Cups featuring a semi-naked woman sitting among an array of overflowing cups. Finally there are the more modern and contemporary images found in cards such as the Four and Nine of Pentacles, featuring Twentieth Century houses and clothing.

Many of the Major Arcana cards in this deck also have a timeless quality. In many cases the imagery is excellent at conveying facets such as movement and fluidity (in Judgement and The World for example), opulence (The Empress) and stasis and spiritual reflection (The Hermit).

With the Court cards, even though these often feature characters in historic clothing, it soon becomes evident that the artist’s consciousness also encapsulates film history and images. Some of the faces on the minor cards look distinctly familiar and you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an image of, for example, Elizabeth Taylor in the Queen of Wands or Sean Connery in the King of Cups. However this is not, in my opinion, the most predominant feature of the deck. What is more important is that the images are so varied and dense whilst maintaining an integrity of their own.

For those with an astrological awareness I would say that this deck would appeal especially to the sensitivity and romance of Water types. Although it also has a wide ranging appeal that will reach many kinds of tarot card readers, if you respond to soft, dreamy imagery, this could be the perfect deck for you. I use the Cosmic Tarot frequently for my own readings and find that clients often choose it, too. A further feature that appeals to me as a reader is the clear labelling of the title of each card. It doesn’t interfere with my reaction to the card because there is no extraneous information but what is there is clear and easy to recognise. This is a deck where, when the cards are turned face up, you know without hesitation whether you are looking at an upright or reversed card. When the cards are face down you only have that information through noticing the colour of the Sun images on the backs of the cards. Unless you are focussing on that you may well miss it, which can be ideal for readers who still want to maintain a practice of selecting upright and reversed cards “blind”.

Is this a useful tarot deck for the absolute beginner? Certainly the images are very striking but in all honesty I think it is better suited to someone who has a basic grasp of tarot and is looking to work with a new and interesting deck. The imagery will, in some instances, take you quite a way from what you may have learnt from tarot books and the Rider Waite styles of decks. That is not necessarily a bad thing if you wish to expand your tarot imagination and psychic “vocabulary” but it could be a bit confusing to switch mid stream to a deck such as this if you are still learning your basic language of the cards.

A final note is that whilst a lot of the images are gentle and peaceful, those that are “darker” are often quite intense. That is often no bad thing because powerful and distinctive imagery can be a great help for clear and effective reading responses. But if you are going to use these cards for face to face readings you may want to work up quite a relationship with and understanding of the more powerful cards. These include the Nine of Swords, featuring a man under attack from flying swords and the Ten of Wands, showing an individual burning up amidst a stack of flaming wands. All in all I am glad I found this deck and very much enjoy reading with it.

Publishers & Images:
F X Schmid GmbH & Co. KG Bachstr. 17, PO Box 1465, D-83209 Prien (English edition)
Also available from US Games Systems: http://usgamessystems.com
For images online, one source is: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cosmic/index.html
For comparison with images from other decks with Cosmic in the title, visit
For the Cosmic Tribe deck specifically, visit author Stevee Postmans’s site at: http://www.stevee.com

The Intuitive Tarot Deck Review (Deck Author/Artist: Cilla Conway)

We have been promising to feature here some of the reviews written for various outlets over the years, so that more people can access them. From the vaults, then... (drumroll, please!):

The Intuitive Tarot Deck & Book Set
Created by: Cilla Conway
Reviewed by: Diana McMahon-Collis

(This review first appeared in the Yule 2004 edition of The Tarot Reader (formerly TABI News Quarterly), the journal of the Tarot Association of the British Isles).

The Intuitive Tarot Deck & Book Set
Author: Cilla Conway
Publisher: Connections Publishing
RRP £19.99

Purple is such a popular colour choice for tarotists and so you may be instantly attracted by the purple box that these cards arrive in. On the other hand if you are a chocolate lover you may keep thinking they are a box of Milk Tray and develop designs on eating them! Seriously, once you open the box containing the Intuitive Tarot set it is quite obvious what is inside. This is a set that follows a similar but by no means identical format and design to some of the other sets reviewed from Connections, previously in TABI News, such as the Beginner’s Tarot and Tarot de Paris.

With the Intuitive Tarot you receive a lidded box with, inside, a paperback bound book with pages that have very attractive printing and backgrounds - and of course the all important deck of cards itself. From the sets that I have seen from Connections so far, I would say that each one has a unique style even if it does in some ways bear similarities to other sets from the same publisher – which is pretty much what you would expect. In this instance the containing box is of soft, almost matte card. The colouring of the book cover and the backs of the cards keeps up with the purple theme. The card backs seem somewhat similar to the aforementioned Beginner’s Tarot as they have one main, strong colour with a contrasting design in silver which, here, is an oval frame in the centre of the card (which has a special significance, as you will see later). Importantly then, these cards are fine for working with reversals; that is, for choosing “blindly” and not knowing ahead if the card’s face will be reversed.

Continuing with the purely cosmetic factors of the set, Cilla Conway’s Intuitive Tarot is an altogether larger sized set than the Beginner’s Tarot and also smaller than the Tarot de Paris. The Intuitive cards measure approximately 3” x 4¼”. The card stock itself is similar to other Connections cards in being not overly glossy and, compared with some of the other tarot cards that I have generally handled, I think it is fair to say that they seem less resilient to the touch. This is a very subtle difference that gives them perhaps a slightly papery feel, which, if you are used to handling a lot of tarot cards you too may be aware of.

Generally much more significant than these exterior factors, though, is the depth of the artwork and the special messages of the cards – plus of course what the book’s text has to offer. I do very much like the way that Connections produce their books. The inner pages of the Intuitive book are very attractive, with not only an image of each tarot card by the main text, but also a blown-up version of the card’s core image in close-up, as a background “wash” on the final page of each card section. This page (or half-page for the minor cards) is given over to you, as the reader, for “intuitive notes”, which you may like to jot down as you carry out your readings. I think is it a very nice touch that you have the interior of the image right in front of you on the text page. This is what I mean about Connections focussing in on the unique qualities for each set of cards and books that they produce. I believe they work very closely with their authors and designers to present products that have an inner coherence. So, for example, you do not generally get the sense that the deck was created by one person and the book thrown in later, maybe by someone else. It is far more of a cohesive whole with the Intuitive Tarot set. Maybe this is because the cards have been “an integral part of the author’s self-development for the last twenty years”.

With that in mind I should explain now that the oval symbol on the backs of the cards is there for a meaningful reason, it is not just a decoration. Cilla Conway has an oval theme running through all of the card images because she is interested in early Goddess cultures and the Divine Feminine. From what she says in the book, I get the impression that she sees the oval image as being one of the most mentally creative of symbols. The reference back to the egg and the way that growth takes place in this dark, nourishing place, might be intertwined in some way with her ideas about how intuition and the tarot work together.

Indeed, the set is not called the The Intuitive Tarot without a very good reason! The author clearly wants this deck to be one that you can work with on a deep level, bringing your intuition into the fullest play as you look for meaning in the cards. I must say that I have found them very powerful to work with, in terms of having graphic, “telling” dreams the night after using the cards. In fact I found that, although at the time of carrying out my reading I was a little unsure immediately of what the cards were saying, I clearly had had some response to their images and reached some insights by morning, after “sleeping on them” – so to speak.

So what is it exactly about these images that is so powerful? Well it is actually hard to put one’s finger on it. Maybe Cilla Conway really does have something with this oval frame that she's’ using to encase the scenes. But I can certainly say that the colours employed in the artwork are quite striking. There is a wide palette range here. We are not confined to primary blues, reds and yellows or anything of such a simplistic nature. I think, in fact, this set might be one of the closest that I have seen in a while to the Crowley Thoth deck, in terms of complexity of colours. I don’t want to stretch that comparison too far, but there are at times when I am sure I can some similarities in the two decks’ designs, even though the Intuitive Tarot obviously has a uniqueness all of its own.

What you will see here for certain is a mix of vibrant oranges and yellows, but also some olive shades, muted teal green blues and some graduated pinks and crimson, together with lilac, aubergine and violet. Rather more than your average rainbow, then! I feel compelled to say that I really like the variety of colours; it is quite refreshing. Maybe it has been made possible because some of the images are relatively abstract. For example the Three of Discs shows three cogs working together, with a background that looks somewhere between an industrial factory and a Moorish hotel in the Middle East (to my eye). This is also a good point at which to mention that Suit-wise, the definitions here are Discs, Swords, Rods and Cups - and the Courts are Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. The Major Arcana have the conventional names that you will be used to from decks like the RWS. However, Justice is numbered VIII and Strength is XI – plus the Wheel of Fortune is simply called “The Wheel”.

In terms of image design, many of the cards have an interesting fluidity, especially where Cilla is dealing with human figures. The eyes and other facial features are not clearly defined; there is more of a ghost-like, or semi-alien, quality. The bodies are almost like some of those in the work of the artist Klimt, in the way that they entwine or become quite fluid with the designs around them, on clothing and artefacts. Temperance is the card used to give the book cover its design and this is quite stunning, with a person who seems to be a wizard or alchemist, pouring liquid from one jug to another. His coat almost has feathers, so there is a suggestion of the peacock about him. Again, I need to emphasise that this is very much my own personal response, but I hope it offers some idea of the richness of the imagery that you will find in this deck - and how it somehow does “play” on the mind.

There are also cards over which I have drawn a slight blank at first. But then, like me, you may find that the closer you look at them, the more they start to throw up images that you didn’t realise were there! I can’t pretend that these card images are all comfortable or inherently attractive to my eye; what seems more important is that they stir something up in me. There seem to be memories of films I have seen, people I have known or experiences I have had. A crystal ball suspended almost as though within an egg timer in the Four of Rods is filled with an idyllic image of a house in the mountains. There is a figure in the foreground: is this Heidi from the childhood story? Or am I reminded, overall, of the snow globe and Orson Welles’ reference to Rosebud, the child’s sledge, in his film Citizen Kane? I am really not sure, but the card imagery certainly conjures up a lot at once. To my way of viewing cards some of the images are even a little scary at times. The Knight of Swords looks particularly daunting! Maybe it is because he is faceless, behind the mask of his armour plating. Yet it is a card that I feel I want and need to work with in this deck! I suppose what I am getting at is this: if you want something pretty-pretty and light-hearted to work with, this is probably not the deck for you. But if you are open to a challenge - and want to explore hidden depths – I believe this is the sort of deck that will allow you such access, in a safe way.

Although Cilla Conway makes it clear that she is influenced by Goddess culture, this seems to me to be a deck that has a strong mix of both feminine and masculine qualities within it. So I think it will be perfectly accessible for both genders of reader. Although the set is recommended for all levels, I personally feel it could have the most appeal for the advanced reader. I am not suggesting that a novice would be unable to find any meaning in the cards but that it might be better to begin with a more traditional deck if you were just starting with the tarot. But then I am bound to say that because we work with the Rider Waite deck with beginning students at TABI! To be fair, this is the Intuitive Tarot set, so I suspect it is a deck that is bound to “speak” to your intuition, no matter what level you have reached with your tarot reading.

Focussing in specifically on the value of the Intuitive Tarot set, what exactly does the book’s text have to offer? Well, firstly, there is a description of the card alongside its image. This is followed by traditional meanings for the card and then with an idea of how to work with it intuitively, together with the space to write down your own responses. In the book’s introduction the author shares her technique of "dialoguing" with the card and also covers issues such as difficult cards, negative reactions, random falls and reversals. There are also explanations of how intuition and the tarot work. Plus, at the back of the book, some sample readings (very helpful, I found) together with a nice selection of spreads to experiment with.

I should clarify that the images on the interior pages of the book are not in full colour but neither are they purely black and white. I do not know enough about printing terms to describe the process, but the effect is rather like two-tone when using just two colours, though it is more subtle than that, in terms of gradation of shades. It is a very pleasing effect anyway and I think this approach lends something special to the book and set as a whole. It becomes not just another tarot text book but an item that is fun and fascinating to read, explore and work with. That is very much how I am approaching the Intuitive Tarot deck at the moment. I would like to thank Cilla, for being courageous enough to share something so personal with us! I look forward to working with the Intuitive Tarot some more.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Prince Rogers Nelson – Horoscope Astrology – Birth Chart and when Prince was Last Seen

The Story so Far

The discovery of Prince Rogers Nelson’s death the late morning of 21st April 2016 at his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, shook the world like an emotional earthquake.  Many of us felt the tremors, because the music meant something special to us and, like many fans, I have been following the news around this event.  As an astrologer, I am naturally curious about how it may be reflected in the patterns of the stars, too.  In the days following Prince’s death, nobody yet knows exactly what happened to bring about that shock outcome – as far as we are concerned, he died before his time, at an unexpected, unforeseen moment.  He was known to have anything but a rock and roll lifestyle in the usual sense of drugs and alcohol excesses.  It has been reported, though, that, less than a week before, there had been a possible overdose of Percocet, a prescription painkiller, leading to a stop for medical assistance at Moline, Illinois on April 15th.  At the airport there, Prince is alleged to have received a “save shot” from paramedics – a strategy to counter serious effects of such drugs, including loss of consciousness.  The more general story around in the media was that he was suffering from flu symptoms and/or “walking pneumonia” – an atypical form of the disease, often characterised by fever, sweating, headache and myalgia/muscle pain.  And he may have received some kind of flu shot.

The last sighting of Prince in public seems to have been at a pharmacy near to his home on the evening of April 20th – reports give 8pm and indicate this was the last of four trips to the pharmacy, following the non-fatal overdose, to collect further prescriptions.

Percocet is a narcotic painkiller consisting of a combination of paracetamol/acetaminophen (an anilide analgesic) with oxycodone, an opioid analgesic. Along with other, similar combination pharmaceutical drugs, such as Vicodin, there has been pressure in the USA for its sales to be limited since 2009, due to knowledge of alleged high incidences of deaths from acetaminophen overdose and associated liver damage.  A Canadian study reported in 2009 also cited a doubling of all opioid-related deaths in Ontario alongside a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths across 1991-2007.

The idea of Prince possibly dying from a further drug overdose might seem especially non-sensical to fans, many of whom are familiar with details of his clean-living approach to life.  A non-drinking, anti-drugs, vegan Jehovah’s Witness probably quite fairly describes the kinds of choices that Prince made about the lifestyle he was going to follow, for the larger part of his life.  Given this backdrop to the usual excesses of a rock and roll lifestyle, it may therefore not be surprising that so few health issues have been noted in relation to the so-called ‘Purple One’.  What has been reported is that he suffered from epilectic seizures as a child and, in mid-life, was thought to be fighting a private battle with hip pain across the last seven years of his life.  Reports have suggested this was the issue that was being treated with painkillers, particularly around April 14th 2016, when he is thought to have complained that the pain was much worse after his gig in Atlanta on that date.  A hip replacement operation had been considered in the 00’s but it is thought he backed away due to his religious faith, which would not have allowed for any blood transfusions.

There is also a story in the media suggestion that Prince’s history of epilepsy may have been relevant in that, if he was given medication for influenza – which he may, apparently, have had for a couple of weeks before the emergency stop in Illinois for medical treatment – it may not have been ideally compatible with that medical status.  In a few weeks perhaps we will know the fuller story.  For now, some of us can only follow the media and contemplate the stars.

The Astrology

Friends with an interest in astrology have been asking about the planetary patterns in relation to Prince’s life and death (maybe partly because they know that I studied his chart for my astrology certification in the 1990s).  As for many people, Prince’s music was a big part of my life then and I was an avid fan.  When I first encountered his music, I was studying for a BA Honours degree in the early to mid 1980s.  With friends met through University, astrological studies and personal growth courses, I was later lucky enough to see him perform three times live: on the 1988/89 Lovesexy Tour at Wembley Arena, the Diamonds and Pearls Tour in June 1992 at Earls Court and the Act I and II Tour (featuring songs from the Love Symbol Album) at Wembley Stadium in 1993.  It was exhilarating being in his presence and the music was truly amazing live.  He was the obvious choice for my astrology course paper!  Once I began working with his chart I realised I had given myself a tall order, because it is a deep and complex chart, which will probably come as no surprise when thinking about the complexity and range of his music output.  Surely it takes a special kind of person to have that kind of breadth and associated impact from his work.  At the time I was first writing about him, an interviewee had noted that he could play 22 musical instruments.  That number is curiously present in his birth chart, with Saturn at 22 degrees of Sagittarius, the asteroid Chiron (aka ‘The wounded healer’) at 22 degrees of Aquarius and a retrograde Jupiter just pulling back from that same degree (and the 12th house cusp) in Libra.  For anyone who doesn’t already know, Jupiter is thought to be the planetary symbol for faith and the 12th house is said to be the place of undoing in a birth chart.  Jupiter also happens to have co-rulership (with Neptune) over the Pisces Moon in Prince’s chart, placed close to the cusp of the 4th house, which is said to signify “the end of the matter” and can also indicate something about the end of life circumstances.

But what of Saturn?  Saturn in Sagittarius, according to the Dictionary of Medical Astrology by Diane L. Cramer, is associated with hip joint disease.  Prince hip pain was thought to be a result of his dancing and jumping acrobatics on stage, as well as his wearing of high heeled boots and shoes.  Pisces happens to be associated with the feet.  For dancing, in its expressiveness, I think of the sensual, provocative, beautiful and artistic planet Venus – although fast-moving Mars in Aries might be a symbol for acrobatics, especially as it is linked with agile Mercury in Gemini (by sextile aspect).  Mars is squared by Saturn, too, in Prince’s birth chart – a difficult and painful square if ever there was one.  Traditional astrologers talk about these two planets as the “malefics” and although modern astrology often sidesteps such descriptions, I think it is hard to skip over them (no pun intended) when they’re in your face around issues such as pain (Mars) and death (Saturn).  It is also, by the way, rather hard to see it immediately in the chart because those two planets are both in Fire signs and usually we’d be looking at a friendly, kindly trine aspect between the two  But take a look at the degree of Mars – it’s at 0 degrees of Aries, therefore fresh out of Pisces (since the degrees of each zodiac sign run from 0 to 29).  And the range of orb between those two planets, with Saturn at 22 degrees and 52 minutes of Aries, is just 7 degrees and 39 minutes of separation.  It’s like saying that Mars can’t outrun Saturn during this man’s lifetime, even though Mars is technically the ‘stronger’ planet by sign.  The trouble is, if Mars is at all malefic by nature, you don’t necessarily want it to have great strength in a chart.  Traditionally, it is a Fire planet and so has associations with inflammation – perhaps one of the key factors with painful joints.  Mars also rules the 6th house in Prince’s chart – the main area associated with health.  It is additionally associated with fevers.

Transiting Mars – that is, the planet up in the sky currently and just a little while ago – moved into Sagittarius on 6th March 2016 and moved through the first 8 degrees and 54 minutes of the sign until it visually “parked” itself at that degree and turned to a retrograde pattern on 18th April.  That is, it appeared to be moving backwards against several of the other planets (only several because a few, such as Jupiter and Saturn, were already retrograde).  As though it didn’t want to be left out, the once heavyweight outer planet Pluto, these days reduced to ‘dwarf’ status - but nonetheless still considered to be mean, toxic and potentially deadly in its astrological symbolism – also turned to retrograde motion that day, at 17 degrees and 29 minutes of Capricorn.  Why does this matter in this discussion?  Because  Mars and Pluto happen to be joint rulers of the Ascendant in Prince’s birth chart, at 16 degrees and 42 minutes of Scorpio.  The Ascendant and 1st house can be viewed as the same point, in charts such as those shown in this article (and even when astrologers use different house systems: I use Placidus).  So when I speak about the Ascendant I also mean the 1st house.  The 1st house is traditionally associated with the body and the planets that rule that area become extra important in matters of life and health.  For both of the rulers of the 1st house to be slowing down says something: maybe Prince was meant to be slowing down (according to his body’s needs?)  Maybe he knew that and maybe he didn’t.  Symbolically speaking, one of the powers of a planet such as Saturn is the power of denial.  Maybe, to an extent, he could deny the extent of his hip problems.  Possibly, prescription drugs could numb out the pain to a degree – for a while.  But with any kinds of drugs, (legal or otherwise) the threat of overdose is very real and sometimes hard to avoid.  Whether that was a factor in his death – and we don’t know, at this stage - an intuitive take, from the astrology of Prince’s chart, is that he truly didn’t see that kind of outcome coming.

That may sound obvious, but, if painkillers were in any way implicated, why would it be?  For someone who not accustomed to using drugs in any format, why would he have been an expert on their effects?  It is, after all, the fate of many a rock star to succumb to a drug overdose – not necessarily through the often-assumed (and perhaps media highlighted and stereotyped) problem of indulgent excess, but because of the general complications of addiction issues coupled with the too-powerful effects of anything toxic.   In reading the under-stories through more detailed biographies, it seems some stars had been trying to quit a drug-addicted lifestyle – and had not been taking the obviously threatening substances for a while – when they had slipped up and then a final small dose, or a dabble in something relatively minor (for anyone without addiction issues and the related tolerance complications) took their lives. According to recent documentaries, this seemed to have been the case with performers like Amy Winehouse and, further back, Janis Joplin.  In the case of Prince, here’s someone whose lifestyle, by all accounts, was already very clean.  But prescription drugs do have risks attached and it is possible to underestimate their risks and then, partly through the components they contain, to experience memory impairment.  Perhaps amidst the intensity of pain creeping back in all too quickly, someone could simply forgot how many doses have been taken.   In Prince’s birth chart, Mars is sextile Mercury (ie 60 degrees between them) and both of those planets make a minor but significant aspect to Neptune in the 12th house – an aspect called a quincunx or inconjunct, which represents a 150 degree relationship to the other planet, in each case.  This configuration of three planets, as a whole, is known as a Yod, or Finger of God.  And Neptune is associated with drugs and escape (often escape from something painful).  We cannot of course draw any definite conclusions, but the inconjunct aspect between planets is traditionally linked with the idea of a blind spot; it's as though they can't recognise one another.

A Sequence of Events

In the run up to Prince’s death, transiting Mars squared his chart’s Ascendant (4th September 2015) and traversed across all those points in the left upper quadrant, linking with Pluto, the Midheaven (MC), Jupiter, the Moon’s North Node and Neptune.   We’re talking about a lot of planetary activity here, linked with a planet connected with quick actions and, sometimes, impulsive and rash decisions.  Mars was well placed in Aries in Prince’s chart – such impetuosity may often have served him well.  But when usually ‘helpful’ planets go through a retrograde phase, people can be out of sorts and may not always have such a strong, intuitive grip on the very best actions (as with all astrology, we have to remember this is sometimes true – and not always inevitable, neither would it always have dire consequences).  It is notable that Mars was conjunct the Ascendant in Prince’s birth chart on 4th February 2016, then square the Moon on 11th March and trine Uranus on 12th April.  This planet, strongly placed in Prince’s chart, as we know, was, by transit, making contact with planets involved in many of the main configuration groups in his chart, too – and there are several of them (outlined below).  But after transiting Mars turned retrograde in the sky on 17th April, it then made a second connection, by trine, to Uranus in Prince’s chart.  Just a little old friendly aspect that one, the trine – representing, possibly, a day to day occurrence – or maybe a reoccurrence.  Maybe the symbol of a repeat prescription?  Or a repeat sudden event  leading to who knows what – a heart attack?  A seizure?  Maybe not such a little event, after all.  But we don’t yet know.

Planetary Configurations in Prince’s Birth Chart

What we do know is that, in his birth chart, as well as the Mars/ Saturn square and the Yod involving Mars/Mercury and Neptune, there are also two T-squares – big, powerful groupings of planets that aptly describe the power house that was Prince!  (and at one time, ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’... known identified then by a symbol of love, in order that he could take control of the contractual and distribution side of his music career).  Anyone who understands Pluto’s symbolism will likely pick up on the power issues associated with Pluto on Prince’s chart’s MC, opposing the Pisces Moon and squaring Mercury in Gemini – the planet of agents, discussions, liaising and agreeing contractual arrangements and so forth.  Again, the pattern is slightly hidden because Pluto, rather being in early Virgo, is in late Leo – it’s a dissociate, or ‘out of sign’ aspect.  But it is very fully there.  The other big T-square in the chart involves Venus in Taurus opposed by Neptune in Scorpio (with the Moon’s North Node), square to Uranus in Leo.  This is strongly descriptive of Prince’s shock aspect and his tendency to spring new developments, so that his fans might suddenly need to flock to a venue to catch his latest impromptu concert (for example).  He was nothing if not unpredictable!  Thinking about the involvement there of Uranus in Leo – and a discussion recently with my colleague and friend, Helen, about Prince’s chart’s progressed planets – we noted that the progressed Sun in Leo was moving to a conjunction with progressed Uranus (12th May).  Real life events around planetary progressions often don’t occur ‘to the day’; they are thought to act as a backdrop and so we tend to allow 6 months either side for progressions to show and indicate something significant for someone.  Leo relates to the heart in the health and physical body side of astrology and its ruling planet is the Sun; Uranus relates to sudden events.  This looks like a possible signature for a heart attack or some other sudden event involving the heart.

There is a further major aspect in Prince’s chart which we mustn’t skip over and that is Saturn opposite the Sun in Gemini.  If we are all wondering if there was anything shown in the chart about a shortened life span, well, possibly, there it is.  But remember, astrology students and fans who know their chart placements, that does not mean that everyone with a Sun/Saturn hard aspect is going to life a short life!  We can’t think about it in that way.  We have to look at the individual situation.  And in this case the individual situation suggests that Saturn in Sagittarius signified hip joint issues for Prince.  Together with this aspect to the Sun, the symbolism might describe a life (Sun) strongly affected by that issue – and potentially limited for it.  I can’t imagine Prince would have been especially happy singing in a wheelchair, although who knows.  But he was such an active and physically alive person in his stage performances, it’s hard to imagine the man with only the music and not the action – albeit that he was an incredible composer, singer and musician.  Just to say, though , that this is an example of a limitation.  Death is obviously the final limitation.  There might be others and, in some cases, people would find a way to live with them.  We have to take the whole chart into consideration, as astrologers, which means considering what was going on with other planets, too – Mars, Neptune, Uranus - all those configurations involving them, too.  But it is nonetheless remarkable that transiting Saturn was once again in Sagittarius all through this year and last year.  Like it or not Prince Rogers Nelson was heading towards a Saturn return around the time of his death.  For some people the second Saturn return – close to the age of 60 – provides a chance to deal with something not dealt with at the first return around age 30.  We perhaps cannot know what all of this meant for the notoriously private Prince.  But we can calculate the date range of his second Saturn return.  Incorporating Saturn’s retrograde phase, this created a ‘triple transit’ –that is, three points at which Saturn in the sky would be in the same place as Saturn in Prince’s birth chart: 19th February, 30th April and 10th November 2016.  For whatever reason, the cosmic pattern seems to describe that Prince’s time had come.  And maybe if certain things had been a different way, it would have come out a different story – if he hadn’t been alone that night, for example.  We can only conjecture.


The Chart Astrology for When Prince was Last Seen

The last known public sighting of Prince was the night before his death, when he visited the local pharmacy at 8pm in Chanhassen, Minnesota.   In traditional astrology theory, it is thought that an event chart can show the events before, during and after a particular event – the time, date and place for which are the data used to construct the chart.  The event here is the pharmacy visit, with this being a significant moment – the moment Prince was last seen alive (as far as we know). 

A couple of factors leap out, astrologically, in this chart.  Firstly, retrograde Mars is close to retrograde Saturn in Sagittarius.  Mars is co-chart ruler and indicative of a male – as such we might take it to symbolise Prince.  As we know, Saturn can symbolise boundaries and endings, occasionally including actual death.  Combining this with a more intuitive take on the symbolism, the term and state of retrograde movement of a planet is often connected with words that also have the ‘re’ letters (and meanings) before them.  In this case, the term recall came to mind.  Noticing both planets in Sagittarius, a sign with spiritual and faith connections, the Archer’s arrows here seem to be pointing upward to the stars and the heavenly realms above.   The gap between them, in terms of astrological degrees is about eight degrees; sometimes such a gap can be linked with a correlation to timing of events in the life situation.  There is a possible suggestion here, then, of Prince’s death having occurred around 8 hours after that 8pm visit – ie between around 3-5am the next morning.

The Moon has special significance in event charts and in traditional astrology generally.  Here, the Moon in Aquarius has recently separated from a sextile aspect connection with Mars and is heading towards a square with the Sun in Taurus.  Squares usually represent challenges of some kind and the potential to turn a corner.  Taurus is a Fixed sign, by quality, suggesting that whatever was around that corner, there probably wasn’t an easy way back.  In Sagittarius a planet (or what it represents) might be negotiable, but rather less so in the Fixed signs like Taurus.  

There is another interesting anomaly; Saturn is in a mutual reception by ‘term’ with Mercury in Taurus.  Terms are weaker than rulerships where planets are concerned .  So although a mutual reception represents movement, through a possible swap – and maybe therein ‘another chance’ – it seems it wasn’t enough to get Prince out of trouble.

Others may see other factors in these charts and it’s always interesting to extend the astrological discussion.*  For now, I wanted to note Pluto and the MC in Prince’s birth chart: they are on the royal star, Regulus, a significator of success, wealth and prominence.  The event chart features some interesting ‘Parts’ (from Arabic astrology – significant pointers found through mathematical calculations of factors in the chart): the Moon conjunct the Part of Spirit and Pluto conjunct the Part of Nobility and Honour. There have already been many respectful, loving, heartfelt tributes by many colleagues, fans and admirers.  There is every likelihood that Prince will continue to be remembered well in the hearts of many people, and across the music airwaves.   Time now, I think, to gather together the CDs and tracks, in their various forms, for a trip down Alphabet Street, noting the Little Red Corvette in the parking lot, waving to Anastasia and others, who have hopefully avoided the Thieves in the Temple and too much Pop Life and Controversy.  (Who was wearing the Raspberry Beret, by the way?) ....  What a rich life he created!

* For those interested in further research: my friend Helen noted the officially recorded time of death, at the Coroner’s office, for Prince as 10.17 AM on 21 April 2016 (in Chanhassen) and felt that the chart for that time was also quite telling.  I had a brief look and noticed that the Moon in Libra, ruler of the chart was conjunct Black Moon Lilith opposing Venus and Uranus in forward-thinking, impulsive, ‘do it now’ Aries, in a T-square with Pluto in the rather more reserved Capricorn.  Lilith is often associated with the ideas connected with other ‘dark’ goddesses, such as Kali and Persephone.  She represents untamed energy, often linked with sexuality, but refuses to be submissive.  If Prince was controversial it was generally around the explicitness of lyrics in his songs, around themes of a sexual nature.   M.  Kelley Hunter, in her article on Lilith in the April/May 1999 issue of the Mountain Astrologer mentions a shift in the collective image of the feminine and ‘some deep undercurrent of unease that needs to be acknowledged and healed in our personal lives’.  I am reminded of Prince’s androgyny, as well as the way he raised the image of women as musicians in his bands.   It was quite something to be in the same room with Sheila E opening Prince’s concert at Wembley Arena with the most amazing bass coming from the drums at what felt like a ‘forbidden’ level of thudding sound that went right through the body – and such a spectacle, to see this stunning, long-haired woman in what I remember as a gold bikini type outfit, looking very sexy whilst fully in command of her performance.  A woman drummer!  This was the 1980s, of course, when looking powerful, whether or not that encompassed looking sexy, was a big deal for women (remember those statement shoulder pads!)  The discussion still continues in the twenty-teens, as to whether it is actually a position of strength for a woman to appear as ‘sexy’, within the music industry or otherwise – chances are, Lilith probably wouldn’t have cared what other people thought!   There are some great pictures from the tour on the Prince Lovesexy board at Pinterest.

Copyright Diana McMahon Collis, UK 25/29 April 2016
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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

By the Light of the Moon's Phases

The Moon reflects the light of the Sun and hence has associations with mirrors, water and silver, which all have reflective qualities.  Astrology is a vast subject, eternally fascinating, but can lead in so many directions, with such a lot of information that it can seem overwhelming to get to grips with.  There is a whole subject within the subject, though, which is lunar astrology - literally, that which focuses on the Moon as a celestial body (ie something significant in the sky above us).   The three main areas of lunar focus for most Western astrologers are these: the Moon's Nodes, which have karmic and past life associations; aspects of the Moon to other planets, which are used by horary astrologers, looking to answer specific questions from a horoscope chart drawn for the moment of the question - and, finally, the Moon's phases from its cycle in its relationship to the Sun.  It is this, latter focus that most people are familiar with, where we talk about the New Moon, Full Moon and Half Moon.  There are also special names for the Moon's positions in between, but usually we stick to talking about the Moon at, respectively, 0 degrees, 180 degrees and 90 degrees from the Sun and those are normally the positions you will find mentioned in an average diary or calendar for the year. It is this simple lunar phase cycle that I have chosen to focus on as the inspiration for my new column at totally4women.com.  Due to ongoing, passionate interests in health and healing, writing and editing, you will find that this is not a typical column just about predictions - although I do look at the current trends of the month, both there and in other astrology columns that I am responsible for creating. Usually my focus will be the New Moon, since this is often such a potent and positive point; but you may also find mention of other aspects of the cycle or other features of current astrology where they are relevant. I am grateful to Maggie Steele, for her fine work in making my copy look pretty with beautiful, appropriate images!  And to the late Carolyn Lazarus for her vision in creating the site. We hope you will find something that interests and inspires you at totally4women.  My recent contribution can be found at: http://www.totally4women.com/2016/01/05/astrological-inspiration-jan-2016/

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Note About Comments to CelestialSpot

I wanted to say a big thank you to those who read the blog and it is wonderful that you find it interesting.  Also to add that the comments on this blog are moderated.  Therefore, if someone posts a nice comment about a post, any kind words are appreciated, however, the comment may not be automatically posted.  The reasons why it would not be posted might be, for example, that it includes a link directing visitors to an unknown website, or where the content is in any way inappropriate.  In recent months there was a spate of comments of this nature and I was unable to post them.  However, sometimes it is harder to spot the more genuine in such cases and I will be checking back soon in case I have made any mistakes (for which I apologise ahead) and your comment will be posted.  Thanks to everyone for their co-operation.