Monday, 24 October 2016

Shadows and revolution

The world is kind of overwhelming right now, I mean more than usual. There's a lot of negativity about, and an awful lot of intolerance. The level of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and anti-women rhetoric around is frightening, with all sorts of shadows being brought to light - the sexism of Donald Trump, the rise in hate crime following the Brexit vote (up 14% on this time last year, and that's just what is reported), an attempt to ban abortion in Poland. It's hard not to feel like the apocalypse is finally upon us, or at best some sort of creeping dystopia.

So of course, I look to astrology in an attempt to make sense of it all. For the last few years we have had Uranus, planet of revolution and awakening, squaring Pluto, planet of the shadow and transformation. Uranus in Aries seeks radical change, Pluto in Capricorn demands that the establishment, the structure of state, are radically transformed. It was inevitable that those structures, those with power in the conventional sense, based on the current hierarchy of wealth would dig their heels in, and I believe that we are now seeing the effects of that, the desperate grasping at power of those who already have it and don't want to lose it. With the Sun and several other planets (Mercury and Jupiter, and until a few days ago, Venus), it's not surprising that the polarity of male female energy has been in the news. The chart for full moon in Aries, on October 16th, shows Venus in semi square aspect to Mars - female and male energies clashing. A few days later, on October 19th, Mars was conjunct Pluto, highlighting the shadow side of male energy - "locker room talk" and individuals seeking power.

In the last few days, we have moved from the polarity and balance seeking of Libra into Scorpio energy. We are already familiar with Scorpio energy, this year - Mars was retrograde in Scorpio for much of th EU referendum campaign, until just after the vote, anger and action turned in on itself and travelling though deep waters. The Sun moved into Scorpio on October 22nd, and Mercury two days later. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, so we can expect to see more shadows coming to light, more difficult truths to face. Pluto intensifies whatever it touches, and also takes it into the underworld, so that we feel disempowered and despairing. Who can fight tides like these?

We all can, says the same full moon chart from October 16th. The full moon in Aries was conjunct Uranus - revolution and radical change, remember?! - and increasingly, powerful voices are speaking out. Michelle Obama called Trump out on his sexism. In Poland, parliament voted against a tightening of anti-abortion laws after women took to the streets in protest. At the full moon, things come to a head, brought into the light so we can see them as they really are. And Uranus says, we will no longer stand for this, for insidious sexism and entrenched racism. Uranus says, we will call you out, we will stand for what is true, we will do what we can to make the world a better place. There is an echo of this full moon energy on the day of the American presidential election, when Mars (ruler of Aries) moves into Aquarius (ruled by Uranus).

Such times make activists of us all, not just in the petitions we sign, the letters we write to our MPs. We can work for change with every choice we make, choosing not to give in to the dominant paradigm, the one which tells us that working for the man is the only way we are allowed to live, that buying more stuff is the only thing that will make us happy. The one that encourages insecurity in women, telling us we are too old or too fat or too unfashionable to be taken seriously. The one where some people think it's ok to yell at complete strangers who are speaking an unfamiliar language on the bus.

Hope is a radical act, in times like these. Reaching out and connecting with others, gathering our courage to stand up for what we believe in. But its also a radical act to make space in our lives for the things that make us happy. Seeking our bliss, even for a few snatched minutes, is a revolutionary act in a society which encourages insecurity and discontent. Maybe even honouring this hibernation season, being gentle with our selves for a while until we feel strong enough to take our fire back out and change the world, is a radical act.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Relating beyond the human

With the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter all moving through Libra right now, I've been considering right relationship, how we connect with other beings, empathise with them, work with them. More specifically, I've been wondering about how we connect with the land, with the earth around us, her guardian spirits and energies. As I alluded to at the end of my last post, I feel that awakening those spirits of the land, bringing them back to life with stories and connection, is crucial if we are to develop the shift in consciousness we need to survive, and to thrive. Right now, too much is wrong with the world. It's easy to be isolated, focused only on ourselves, our success, our comfort. Even those who follow a spiritual path often take self actualisation as their highest goal. And it is a worthy goal, not least because each of us needs to be our very best self to navigate these difficult times.

But we need to look beyond ourselves too. To connect with each other, with our communities, real and virtual, local and global.

As I type, there is a fox asleep on next door's shed roof. An elderly one I think, rusty fur fading to white, black tipped ears still alert.  It's distracting me, and I can't stop watching it, because there is something compelling about the wild, basking in the autumn sunshine in amongst the trees of my little corner of north London. We all have this urge to be part of nature, to connect not just with our fellow humans but with the animals, trees and other beings around us. We can build that relationship just by stepping out of our front door, by getting to know the nature around us. Watching the plants and trees as they cycle through the seasons, noticing the birds that visit our gardens. One of the most powerful things we can do is simply spending time in the wild, even (perhaps especially) the micro-wilds of our cities, sitting, being, listening to the wind in the trees and feeling the deep earth beneath our feet. We need to show up, to bring our open and authentic selves, to allow the land to get to know us as we get to know her.
Sleeping fox, apricot tree where the blue tits live, sycamore where all the local wood pigeons like to hang out
So we build a relationship with the land, with the non human beings with whom we share our lives as well as the human ones. But what do we do within that relationship? In pagan and new age circles, there is often talk of healing the land, good and powerful work done to try to right some of the wrongs done by humanity. But many also believe that the earth is perfectly capable of healing herself, that it is arrogant and anthropocentric to imagine that only we can solve the earth's problems, especially as we caused most of them. I veer towards the second approach, but I also can't help feeling that since we did the damage, we should at least acknowledge that, offer respect and gratitude. I like the idea of earth exchange, of creating beauty where we have wounded the earth.

In my personal practice of connecting with the land, I find its best to ask. What the land wants, what the tree I greet every day at my local park feels, how the spirits of the land want to relate to us, if at all. So far, I've always had a fairly positive response, as long as there is reciprocity. That its ok to wild harvest a little, or to seek our human-centric meanings and messages in the land, as long as we care for her in return. Picking up litter, singing a song, making some nature art. Teaching my children and their friends the names of the trees and the birds, so that the next generation does not grow up even less connected to the earth than their parents. As with magic, I think its the intent that counts, our spirit or energy passed into the land, the trees, the nature around us. With any relationship, we need to show up, build shared experience, find ways to cooperate and learn from each other. It may be arrogant to assume that we can heal the earth, but perhaps we can find ways to help her heal herself, and find healing for ourselves in the process.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

All the waters of the summer

Swimming in the Essex Stour
It's been a summer of travelling around the country, visiting friends and family, and along the way there always seems to have been water. I swam in the river Stour in Essex, as well as running and walking beside it. I swam in the sea at Hove, walked on beaches in Essex and Somerset. Stony beaches, sandy beaches, a beach where the sea retreated so far at low tide it was barely visible. There were canals and rivers in Somerset, Essex, and my own London.

The Stour at Flatford
Bridgewater and Taunton canal at sunset
Ebbs and flows, source and sea. I visited the springs at Glastonbury, the White Lady and the Red. The sound of rushing water, of gently lapping water, of crashing waves, is the soundtrack to my summer.

 At the River Dee in Chester, I found a shrine to the Roman goddess Minerva, which got me wondering about the pre-Roman goddess who was inevitably there. A little meandering research led me to the goddess Aerfen, a Welsh battle goddess, whose grove was near the source of the Dee in Snowdonia. Visiting Buxton in Derbyshire at the beginning of September, I found more waters, another sacred spring, and a Goddess of the Grove - Arnemetia. The Romans called Buxton Aquae Arnemetiae.

Finding these waters, and connecting to these goddesses, has been a powerful practice. I have followed the call of the water to find the stories, the local folklore of the land and the water. In awakening the stories, we bring meaning and enchantment back to the land, and to our lives. In awakening the stories, we re-awaken the spirit of the land, and bring the sacred back to the wild. In this age of secular materialism and political craziness, I'm increasingly convinced that there is nothing more important.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Autumn Equinox

As seems to be my way these days, I have been celebrating the Autumn Equinox all week. We have been out enjoying all the changeable autumn weather, playing in the sand pit in the rain and splashing in muddy puddles reflecting vivid blue sky and bright sunlight. Out in the woods with my ritual group last night, the moon was bright, making the trees monochrome and dappling the woods with silver.

 On Wednesday, the actual day of the Equinox, we celebrated by making an autumn leaf mandala. We'd been collecting leaves all week, from various parks and our local nature reserve, and I pressed them between some boxes to make them nice and flat. As we gathered them together, I talked to H and A about what the Equinox means, about the balance of light and dark, about how harvest is more than food and material goods. Then we decorated the leaves, writing and drawing the things we have harvested this year. I loved seeing how H, at five years old, interpreted what I had said. She drew tiny detailed butterflies and flowers and wrote on one leaf "I love singing". We made a mandala by sticking them on the wall, and they will stay there as we move deeper into autumn, reminding us of the gifts of the season.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Journalling the Zodiac: Virgo new moon / eclipse

 Early this morning (ok, yesterday now, it's just after midnight as I'm typing this) there was a partial solar eclipse in Virgo. A solar eclipse is like a supercharged new moon, as the earth where we live our lives and manifest our dreams comes into alignment with the heavenly energies of the Sun and Moon. We can shake up habits, refine goals, set an intention for the coming months. A solar eclipse in Virgo is a good time for starting new habits of well-being, self care, healthy eating and exercise. Virgo teaches us to listen to the wisdom of the body, to cleanse and refine what we put into it. The day before the eclipse, I was at a yoga workshop, which included a vegan lunch, bringing the body into balance as summer moves into autumn. Virgo is the sign of out everyday temples, the body, our home, the environment we live in. And Virgo rules our sacred work, those things that we spend our time on, day to day, and the meaning these sacred duties have for us.

The Sun and Moon at the eclipse are in the twelth house, where we serve something greater than ourselves. This eclipse asks us to look at the work we do, whether for a paid job or otherwise, and consider why we do it, what it means to us, and what ideal or higher power we are serving. As we transition from the creative, outward flowing energy of summer to the more reflective energy of autumn, we deepen and refine our goals and our visions.

When I looked at my journalling questions for Virgo, I focussed on what I am in the process of perfecting. But as I wrote, it occurred to me that perfecting is maybe the wrong word. It implies that an end point is possible, that perfection can be reached. But perfection is surely a kind of death, an ultimate achievement - where do you go from there? Even death is simply a change in manifestation. Virgo is the sign of the harvest, and the harvest is part of the cycle, life and death and rebirth. The fruit contains the seed of the next cycle. We don't harvest when something is perfect, we harvest when it is ripe. 

As usual, I spent much of August peeling and cooking apples, as we have an apple tree in our garden. If we hadn't harvested them, they would rot and fall to the ground, and all the hard work of the tree in manifesting apples would be lost. Or at least, not optimised. Instead I change their manifestation, transforming them into endless jars of chutney and a freezer full of stewed apple. So it seems to me that ripening is a much better word for Virgo than perfecting. Virgo is also the sign of discrimination, which the incomparable Dane Rudhyar tells us is the meeting of analysis and intuition. We need to work hard on our chosen projects, our sacred duties, to bring them into manifestation. But we also need to use our intuition, to understand which of our plans and ideas are ripening. We can know this by sensing pieces falling into place, by noticing the synchonicities around us.

More and more, I think that Virgo is the sign of practice. We practice yoga, or writing, or gentle parenting, or mindfulness. Whatever it is, Virgo asks us to show up, every day, to put in the time and the work. Through this discipline, we learn to discriminate. We learn when something is working, and how to refine it when it isn't. And so we ripen, growing ourselves and our work into our full manifestation. And when it is ripe, we harvest, and plough the seeds into the next project, and begin the whole process again. This solar eclipse, in the twelfth house, is the dark point of this cycle - our energies have gone out into the world, in the tenth and eleventh houses, and we can no longer control the fruits of our labours. Instead we wait in the dark, to see what new seeds will germinate in the coming months.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Journalling the Zodiac: Taurus

Well the Sun is in Virgo, and back I go to the last earth sign of Taurus to review the journalling I did. Here are my journal prompts for Taurus:
  • What do I need to feel stable, rooted and secure?
  • What do I most value?
  • What is my most treasured possession and why?
  • Where am I reluctant to change?
  • How well do I connect with body wisdom and physical sensations?

It's interesting how I always start writing based on one of the prompts, but end up covering at least one or two others. Writing about my treasured possessions, I started writing determined that I didn't have one. No one thing that I would save, in a fire, once everyone living was safe. And that's true, there isn't any one particular thing I would be anxious to save. But then I thought about my books, and my tarot cards, and even my tablet computer, all of which give me access to so many different worlds. And then my sewing machine, and my lovely overlocker, and all my sewing and crafting supplies, which allow me to make things and that makes me happy. All of these possessions, they don't make me feel secure because they exist or even because they are mine, but because they are resources. And aren't all the earth signs about resources, and how we use them, in the end? My most valued resources, physical or otherwise, are the ones that help me to connect to spirit, to create, because connecting to spirit and creativity are two of the things I value most highly. The possessions, or resources, that I value most, are the ones that enable (another good earthy word!) me to feed my soul, that teach me and help me to grow.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Journalling the Zodiac: Leo shining

I've missed several signs I know, and I'll write them up soon, but with just a few hours to go before the Sun moves from Leo to Virgo, I'm feeling the need to seize the last of that shining summer energy. So here are my journalling prompts for Leo:
  • How do I express my creative energy?
  • Where do I create drama?
  • How do I play, and how do I connect to my inner child?
  • Where do I shine, and how do I help others to shine?
  • Where do I demand recognition?
 One of the things that has been bothering me about my journalling lately is how self-focussed it can make me - always analysing and working on myself, rather than putting what I've learned into action or looking at the wider picture. Leo is the sign of individual self expression, of our unique self, but has its opposite in the collective self of Aquarius. With Moon in Leo and Sun in Aquarius, this is a dynamic I am constantly working with. But we always slip into our lunar comfort zone, so for my Leo journalling, I tried to get out of my own way, and got this...

Leo is the sun, shining. Leo is you, shining, so bright you make others shine too. Each shining is unique. we are all creators - we are creating ourselves and our lives, anew and afresh, moment by moment. What happens when you let yourself play? What magic unfolds? We are all a process of becoming, creating our deepest, most authentic self. We are all radiant, vital, alive. Leo is life as drama, as theatre, as myth. Leo is us, larger than life, shining so brightly that while planets are set in motion around us, Our Leo self can give and give and give, our fires burning so bright that we light the spark of the divine in anyone who comes close. and they will come close, our Leo self demands it, not ashamed of our pride or our urge to be noticed. Leo self is all heart, standing strong and shining bright in the spotlight of our own personal theatre.

My Leo Moon is opposite the personal gateway of the Ascendant, so I have a habit, aka another lunar comfort zone, of giving that energy away. Writing the above reminds me to take ownership of it, Leo as a part of myself as well as something I see in others.

And in just an hour or two, the Sun will move into Virgo, and we begin the process of refining what Leo has helped us to create. So here are my journalling prompts for Virgo:
  • Where and how do I give service? 
  • How can I best us my powers of discrimination?
  • Where can I be of practical help?
  • How can I use my ideas to make a tangible difference?
  • What am I in the process of perfecting?