Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Darkness to light - tarot version

Here are Death and Temperance from the Wild Unknown tarot, linked to Scorpio and Sagittarius in the zodiac. These are the energies shifting around us right now, the bare bones of the winter and the fires of the returning light. I especially love this version of Temperance, as I have a special connection with heron in my shamanic and magical practice. As Old Crane Wife, I associate her with this time of year, perhaps because of Grey Heron Nights (which I really hope will be back soon!)

Old Crane Wife strips you back to bare bones. I think that's what's in the flame-bag that heron carries, the bones of Death. Heron is singing over them. She is weeping over them, and her tears quicken life. Temperance is the return from death, aflame with the gifts of life. Back you have travelled from the dark, rising up out of the depths of Scorpio to cross the rainbow bridge of Sagittarius visions. Maybe Old Crane Woman guards the pot of gold. For there were riches in the dark, if you knew where to look. If you knew how to look.

And now we carry those riches with us, bringing them into the light.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Monthly Astro Forecast - New Moon in Sagittarius

November 29th brings a New Moon in Sagittarius - what follows is an overview of the astrology of that New Moon, and the astrology for the lunation which follows, until the Capricorn New Moon on December 29.

New Moon in Sagittarius

The New Moon in Sagittarius, for me at least, marks the beginning of the advent season, as we leave the darkness and depths of Scorpio and begin to turn towards the light. We start to feel more optimistic, lighter, as the holiday season approaches. Festivals of light take place to mark the beginning of the winter holiday season, the approach of the Solstice and the return of the light. On the first Sunday of advent (Sunday 27th November this year), many churches hold Christingle services for children. We used to go every year when I was little, so the smell of oranges and candlelight will always be part of this season for me. In my part of north London, we have a lantern parade, with hundreds of people walking through the streets carrying lanterns shaped like stars. The Sun moved into Sagittarius on November 21st, joining Mercury and Saturn who were already there. This concentration of fiery energy gives us the courage and confidence to examine and explore the treasures we brought back from the dark during the Scorpio season. Sagittarius is the sign of the seeker, so this is the time to open our minds, to broaden our horizons, and to begin to consider what adventures the new solar cycle will have in store for us. It's not quite time to take action yet, that comes after the Solstice later in December when the light wins over the dark for another cycle. Now is the time for planning, for using Mercury and Saturn in Sagittarius to give form to ideas and to make plans. Sagittarius is the bringer of visions, encouraging us to see the patterns and meaning both in our individual lives, and in what is going on in the world around us. At the time of the New Moon, the Moon and Sun are squared to the nodal axis, making the red triangle (known as a t square) you can see pointing towards the top of the chart. The North and South Nodes are points in space, showing where the Earth's orbit around the Sun intersects with the Moon's orbit around the Earth. In a birth chart, the Nodes show the relationship between Sun and Moon, between where we are coming from and where we are going. The show the resources we bring into this incarnation, and how we can step into our destiny as more than simply the sum of our past. They are often seen as signifying fate or destiny, and having them so tightly cued into this New Moon gives it an extra power. Many of us feel that we are living in a time of change, a time when the world hangs on a knife edge, and that is reflected in this placement. The forces of chaos and order are out of balance, and so seek a new dynamic through the visionary thinking of Sagittarius.

Space and structure

So what else is happening over the next few weeks? Venus, planet of love, attraction and value, has already moved into Capricorn. In this placement, the goddess of love seeks stability and security, and is cautious in bestowing her affections. At the time of this new moon, she square Uranus, planet of revolution and freedom, and we may find tensions appearing within our relationships. We may find ourselves clashing with those who do not share our values, and need to be careful not to be dogmatic or rigid in the way we think and act. This placement brings an urge for freedom, for not wanting to be tied down, which is at odds with our need for stability and a firm foundation. However Venus moves out of Capricorn and into Aquarius on December 7th, finding the unconventional much more attractive. As the busy holiday season gets going, we value our space and freedom.

At the beginning of December, Mercury moves into Capricorn, giving structure to our Sagittarius visions. December 19 marks the beginning of Mercury's final retrograde period of 2016, remaining retrograde until January 7, 2017. Mercury retro gets a bad press, and indeed if we have planets in Capricorn or the other cardinal signs, we might want to double check our holiday travel plans. But especially in the last days of this dark season of the solar cycle, Mercury retrograde is a good time to take stock, to review what we have learnt. We can take some time (for Capricorn is a slower energy than Mercury is truly comfortable with) to consolidate our knowledge, and to put our affairs in order as the year draws to a close.

Winter Solstice

On December 21st, the Sun moves into Capricorn, marking the Winter Solstice point, when the days gradually begin to lengthen and the light gains in strength. Now is the time to begin manifesting our Sagittarius visions, to set goals and get down to business. Capricorn is the sign of systems and structures, now illuminated by the Sun following the past few months of political change and even chaos. Now we decide what practical steps we can take to build the kind of world we want to live. Rather than getting overwhelming by how much there is to do, Sun in Capricorn asks us to pick a goal, however challenging, and figure out the steps we need to take to get us there. There is a powerful manifesting energy in this cardinal earth sign - it's time to put it to work. What mountains need to be climbed? Where should we focus our energy and hard work in the new year?

The final week of this lunation brings some challenges as we begin this work of world building. Jupiter in Libra opposes Uranus in Aries, throwing the dynamic of self and other into sharp relief. Where are we still stuck in "them and us" thinking? Jupiter in Libra seeks compromise and cooperation, in pursuit of equality and peace. Uranus, now into the final third of its long journey through Aries, asks us to stick to our guns, to stand up for our rights and for what we believe in. Finding a way to balance these two approaches will be our challenge as the new year begins, as indeed it has been for the last few months. As the Moon moves back to conjunct the Sun at the next new moon, Saturn squares Chiron, showing us where our wounds stop us seeing clearly, and where the hard work of healing needs to begin.

Monday, 31 October 2016

In the dark time

Today is Samhain, feast of the dead and farewell to the old year. Yesterday there was a new moon in Scorpio, sign of fixed water and deep mystery. So it's time to go into the dark, and stay there for a little while. To extinguish Hekate's torches, the flames that light our way, and sit in the dark, sit at the crossroads of the year. Scorpio holds our secrets, keeps them safe until we are ready for them. Now is the time to descend to where they are hidden, to shake them out, to see if they still serve us. To honour them, and to release that which needs to be released. It's time to honour the mystery and the dark and the waiting. This is root time, time to delve deep and seek out the riches of the underworld.

It's time to honour the ancestors, to listen to the stories they whisper to us from the dark of the grave. It's time to gather the wisdom of our intuition, and hold it for a while. To listen to the Dark Goddess, to heed Her guidance. Scorpio asks us to honour the shadow, and then to release her hold over us. Scorpio asks us to love the dark, to seek the mystery. For many of us, the dark is a shadowy realm of self doubt, full of nameless imagined fears. But the dark is also a place of power, a place for dormant seeds to wait for their time to shoot up, out into the light. Now we sit in the true dark, and release to Her the fears, the grey murky shadows which keep our light from shining. We thank them, for they have kept us safe these long years. And them we let them go. In the dark, at the crossroads, we sow the seeds of a new self, clear and open. And as the year turns, we will emerge into the light, free of our old burdens and ready to shine like the sun.

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.