The main conference days of UAC 2018 were Friday, May 25 through Tuesday, May 29, though I also elected to participate in Karen Hamaker-Zondag’s 6-hour-long post-conference workshop on May 30 on the subject of the 8th House. These glorious days of intense learning, fellowship, socializing (I organized a small-group dinner outing to Greek Town for out-of-state conference attendees the night of Sunday, May 27) and partying (the Chicago “Roaring Twenties”-themed jazz party and silent auction on Saturday the 26thwas lots of fun) were definitely presided over by Airy and Watery Elemental forces.
Friday, May 25, 2018
May 25 marked the start of full-day talks, including lunch lectures, and I selected the following Venusian-themed classes for my Friday’s agenda: “Financial Astrology” by Raymond Merriman,which helped me to better correlate the highs and lows in world financial markets with astrological factors, such as Uranus’ recent ingress into Taurus; next up was my foray into synastry with the charming April Elliot Kent’s examination of “Saturn in Synastry: Soul Mates or Cell Mates?”
Among the many things I learned in that class is that Saturn is exalted in Libra, and it was refreshing to hear April confirm a view I’d long held when looking at couples’ charts:
“There are no absolute infallible formulas for compatibility.”
—April Elliot Kent
My lunch lecture was a treat from Hellenic astrologer Adam Elenbaas: “Secrets of the 5th House.” It was an eye-opening exploration into why the broad array of life experiences we associate with the 5th House—from pleasure to children to gambling to taverns to theatrical performances—came to be associated with that House. Knowing that ancient astrologers referred to the 5th House as “the joy of Venus” is a big clue! But more than that, Adam patiently explained the quadrants of angular triads and how Houses 11, 8, 5, and 2 succeed the angles and evolve from their predecessors thematically. Hence, since the 4th House is equated with family and fortune, “children” as a topic of the 5th House makes sense since children inherit the legacies of their parents. My favorite quote from Adam that day:
“Creativity is actually every single moment. The sky doesn’t stop.”
Once that lecture ended, I sped upstairs to get a front-row seat to hear another one of my astrology idols speak, the amazing Demetra George,who actually first came on my radar in the early 1990s with her women’s spirituality and psychology tome, Mysteries of the Dark Moon. Demetra gave a talk entitled “Hellenistic Aspects and Trauma,” a highly informative foray into how the astrologers of the ancient Greek-speaking world in the Mediterranean basin understood how planetary aspects operated.
In a nutshell, in language that we might find to be shockingly violent today, Classical astrologers spoke of the myriad ways in which the planets were thought to be injured by or protective of another, hurling spears of affliction (kakosis) and maltreatment, with other planets serving as witnesses (indeed, the word “horoscope” itself is derived from the verb horeo, “to observe,” and thus aspects are means by which planets can “see” other planets’ shenanigans). Houses 2, 3, 6, 8, and 12 were considered highly inauspicious, and the Moon in someone’s natal chart served as a general significator for that person’s body.
All of this salacious information is going to be released in a forthcoming book of Demetra’s entitled Ancient Astrology, so if this subject intrigues you as much as it does me, gentle reader, pre-order your copy now from Rubedo Press!
My last workshop of that day was given by Joyce Levine, Chairperson of the National Council for Geocosmic Research and President of its Boston chapter. She spoke about “Extraordinary Events: Working with Transits, Progressions, and Solar Arcs.” Notable quote right from the start:
“Test everything for yourself and don’t trust anything anyone says—even me.”
I was relieved that she taught something I already practice with my clients: when giving a reading, combine your client’s major transits, eclipses, secondary progressions, and solar arc directions for a holistic view. Unlike Robert Hand, she does buy into the commonly held notions of malefics and benefics, especially with Pluto cycles falling into the former camp, noting that aside from being Fate markers, Pluto cycles have to do with major losses. “Hard aspects always work in your life; there’s no denying their influence,” she observed.
We spent the majority of her talk analyzing charts of celebrities like Robert De Niro, looking at the timing of his two Oscar wins, and the tragic event of Robin Williams’ suicide. Her concluding remark:
“What we’re like is fated. What we do with that is up to us.” —Joyce Levine
Saturday, May 26, 2018
The event organizer for this 9th United Astrology Conference was the amazingly talented (and lovely and funny) second-generation evolutionary astrologer, Laura Nalbandian. Her class on “Karmic Astrology: Planets in Aspect to the Lunar Nodes” was first on my agenda for the day, and I was excited to have astrologer Nadiyah Shah seated next to me, and she kindly indulged a selfie.
So which planets serve as signifiers of karma in a client’s chart? Pluto in aspect to the North and South Nodes by Sign and House illustrate a person’s evolutionary journey. (Also note the planet that rules the Sign each Node is in and note the House placement.) What are nodes? Every planet has a pair of them: they are the points at which the planets intersect with the ecliptic in our solar system.
I liked Laura’s description of the Moon’s North and South Nodes. The latter is what Laura terms “the path of least resistance,” the place where, emotionally, may not be the best for us, but we’ve built a habit around it for lifetimes—the things the soul has done over time establishes the emotional habit. Conversely, the North Node represents “our path of growth, dharma.” It’s the place of greatest resistance, where we’re not comfortable at first, just like breaking in a new pair of shoes.
“The soul by whatever means necessary will draw to itself what it needs to grow.”
The more inner work we do to clear our karmic baggage will circumvent the drawing of external drama to ourselves in the form of life crises.
My next class was at 11 a.m. and I elected to attend British Hellenistic and Horary astrologer Marcos Pratchett’s excellent “Identifying Life Purpose with Astrology.” His philosophy was also very much in line with the evolutionary astrology practiced by Laura Nalbandian and others (mine too!), which asserts that “the more unconscious you are, the nastier the external manifestations of bad planetary aspects. This typically happens to us when we’re young,” he noted.
The rest of his class was an exposition on the Lot of Fortune, which represents, in a chart, the body and effect of material status on one’s worldly reputation, and the Lot of Daimon/Lot of Spirit, which serves as a marker of our highest potential in this lifetime and the actions needed to take in this world to manifest that potential. Clearly, the Hellenistic Astrologers’ interests intersect with Hermetic disciplines like Ceremonial Magic and Alchemy, and so it was no surprise to me at all that Marcos recommended that everyone in the room go read Real Magic by Dean Radin, even though the book has nothing to do with astrology per se. We had a lot of fun analyzing Che Guevara’s natal chart as a group.
My 1 p.m. lunch lecture for the day had me attentively listening to another huge mentor of mine, the warm and engaging Santa Cruz, California-based astrologer and TimePassages software developer, Henry Seltzer. His talk was on “Dwarfs, Gods, and Goddesses: Intimations from Beyond Pluto.” It was an exposition of the dwarf planets Eris (which Henry has recently published a book about called The Tenth Planet), Makemake, and Haumea. These are all Deities from ancient cultures: Greek and Polynesian, respectively.
Eris is “the feminine warrior of Soul Intention,” Makemake is a Bird Creator God from Rapa Nui whose planet is associated with activism, and Haumea is a Hawaiian Creation Goddess, Mother of Pele, and Her presence in the natal chart denotes a profound connection to Nature as well as natural charm that can come through one’s personality. We spent the bulk of the class looking at natal charts of celebrities noted for their activism, from U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt to actress Angelina Jolie.
At 2 p.m., I put on my “day job” thinking cap once again and attending life coach Marie O’ Neill’s marketing-related class called “Getting the Word Out.” The class was a Marketing 101 refresher on crafting a business plan on assessing your astrology practice in terms of “the 5 P’s” of product, positioning, price, promotion, and place.
When Marie asked the audience for questions at the end, mine was the first hand to shoot upwards. I wanted to hear her perspective on a sensitive issue that has presented itself to me twice this year for clients of mine who are also personal friends: If that client is going through a rough time financially, do you give them a break on standard pricing or stick firmly to your fee? “Money is energy,” Marie said, cautioning me against compromising my rates; you don’t want to be sending any subconscious messages of devaluing yourself. That said, she says she periodically offers “scholarships” to those in need as well as payment plans: how much can your client afford to pay each month until the fee is paid in full? Set up an invoice once a month on PayPal but absolutely take money up front before doing the reading. That’s pretty much aligned with what I’m thinking.
For my final Saturday class, I elected to take the outer planet perspective from the wise and uproariously funny West Coast astrologer and comic personality, Rick Levine. His first of two UAC lectures was “The Saturn-Pluto Cycle and the Clash of Belief Systems: Waltz Time for Civilization.” His talk was something of a warning for us all to prepare for the January 11, 2020 stellium of planets that will be conjunct in Capricorn: Pluto (22°), Saturn (22°), Mercury (21°), the Sun (21°), and Jupiter (9°).
How do we prepare for the future? By analyzing how these outer planet cycles have affected us in the past, from the 2008-2011 Great Recession, 9/11, and far older events that left indelible marks on the world stage (e.g., the rise of mass fascism in Europe starting in February of 1931, the Catholic Christian Reconquista of Spain in December of 1284, and much more). It was an eye-opening “big picture” focus whose emotional tone of profound disquiet was tempered by Rick’s out-of-left-field quirky jokes and puns.
That heavy subject was emotionally vanquished by the fun and flirty vibes resounding in the hotel’s grand ballroom for the evening’s Chicago/Roaring Twenties-themed party (replete with a jazz band) and silent auction to benefit future UAC gatherings. While my look was off by about two decades because I was consciously going for more of a 1940s pin-up girl look, all aesthetic choices were welcome by way of dress code. I’m a real extrovert (my Myers-Briggs type, if you’re curious, is ESTJ), and I very much enjoy social events where I get to mingle with strangers, even though there were friends of mine on hand to hang out with too, from local astrologers like Illinois NCGR President Janet Berres to new friends I’d just made at UAC since Wednesday, May 23.
The items up for grabs in the silent auction were truly amazing and spanned a range from UAC-branded Sun Sign-themed bottles of wine to Vedic astrology gift baskets to oracle kits to astrology software programs to crystals and much more. I wound up winning a delightful rose quartz pendulum; I loved the box it came in too!
Since I had been up since 5:30 that morning, by 10:30 that night I was absolutely partied out and exhausted, and it was good to treat myself to a cab ride home instead of deal with the subway.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
My morning began bright and early once again—I’d made it a habit of arriving at the hotel before 7:30—and the first class of the day was one of the hands-on variety: “How to Write a Monthly Sun Sign Column” by astrologer Susie Cox. She writes a monthly column for the e-retail site of fashion brand Tory Burch. Using an Equal House system, she walked the class through her methodology and had us all participate with her in crafting her content that will be uploaded for the July horoscopes on toryburch.com. (In other words, she leveraged our collective writing abilities on the spot and is getting paid for our words, ha!)
The question of how much detail to go into for a mainstream audience kept coming up, and Susie’s answer was to be as minimalist as possible, perhaps focusing on just one notable transit or aspect for each Sun Sign. (For a paragraph comprised of two to three lines total.) Don’t write about house placements either. She reminded us that mainstream/Muggle audiences have a genuine fear of receiving bad news—“Astrophobia: it’s a real thing,” she quipped—so the tone ought to be lighthearted and optimistic.
Honestly, that’s not my cup of tea. While I don’t see myself writing a monthly horoscope for a major retail brand’s website anyway, Virgo-Aquarius me loathes the idea of not fully communicating the Truth of a client’s present reality based on all planetary information. As with giving Tarot readings for people, I do not sugarcoat what I see in terms of the energies at work; it’s unhelpful and inauthentic and I’m not in the business of keeping people securely confined within their comfort zones, either.
Here’s a quote from Susie that does align with my viewpoint:
“Planets are our allies. They’re working with us.”—Susie Cox
Colorado-based astrologer Lisa Schaim, who also serves as the presiding officer of the Association for Astrological Networking (AFAN), led the 11 a.m. class that I decided to attend on “The Basics of Electional Astrology.” Simply defined, electional astrology is proactively using astrology to plan the best possible outcome for the birth of any venture, from taking a trip to planning a wedding ceremony to launching a business. (As a kind of political side joke, in this sense, corporations really are people too because they have birth charts based on when they were founded!) By tailoring planetary placements to your purpose (there are many cardinal rules to follow, and I won’t go into them here) and mitigating the effects of malefics, your venture will have a far better chance of succeeding than if you go into the endeavor blindly. In this regard, I think of one of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill: “Let our advance worrying become our advance thinking and planning.”
I decided to forego attending any of the lunch lectures that day so I could have a bit of a leisurely break. I decided to have a consultation with an amazing healer and astrologer, whose astrologically informed gemstone elixirs I cannot recommend highly enough: Diane Swanson of the Sonora, California-based Walela Institute of Imaginal Healing. A couple of days prior, I had met Diane for the first time and given her my natal chart information (place, date, and time of birth) so she could see my current transits, progressions, and solar arc trajectory and read those vis-à-vis my natal chart as well as factor in what issues I’ve been experiencing in my life (read: challenges) and create a custom gemstone elixir for me to ingest on a twice-daily basis as a celestial and terrestrial healing remedy. This is alchemy in every sense of the word, my friends.
It’s so empowering to have a total stranger (but are the esoterically inclined people who attend conferences like UAC really strangers to each other? Certainly not at the soul level) zero in on the Essence of your Being and reveal messages to you that profoundly resonate with the core of your heart, the Truth of your Selfhood. And that’s another blessing of Astrology as the vehicle of Divine Wisdom that it is. Fortunately, Diane was kind enough to allow me to audio record her while she presented her findings to me based on a synthesis of all of my planetary dynamics, and she (Aquarius that she is) sugarcoated nothing when she told me the stark truth of the severe karmic clearings/literal losses that I’ve started to go through and which will really kick into high gear when my progressed Pluto, which just entered Scorpio (it’s always a huge deal when progressed planets enter a new sign in someone’s chart) in my 12th House of the Underworld, will transit my Ascendant in the coming years. The losses happening for me now are paving the way for a mega-acceleration of my Priestess/Psychic Medium/Witch skills and role of public service, especially as Neptune in Sagittarius locks in at the “12:00” position of my chart, dead on my Midheaven.
I’ve since listened to Diane’s recording several times and the absorption of the Wisdom she relays gives me goosebumps every time. As I hold aloft my glass bottle of my gemstone elixir (made with mahogany obsidian, cerusite, banded amethyst, zincite, rainbow quartz, and other goodies, if you’re curious), I give thanks for the ability to understand and to fully embrace the accelerated evolutionary path that my Orí (to use the Yoruba term denoting one’s own Destiny, which is literally seated in a person’s head) has chosen for me in concert with the Fate-full forces of my Gods’ and Holy Powers’ agendas/mandates for me in this lifetime.
By then I knew that my experience at UAC 2018 was representing something far, far bigger than my mere desire to expand my astrological knowledge base as a professional astrologer. ((Clasps hands to heart))
As always, I give thanks to my Gods and Goddesses that such life-altering wisdom can be presented in a manner of liberating levity, not just heavy-hearted revelation. And so it was with great joy that afternoon that I attended Caroline Casey’s Archetypal Astrology class at 2:30 entitled “Liberating Trickster: The Art of Critique and Blessing, in Personal and Collective Cahooting.” How on earth do I sum up this amazing, philosophical talk? Indeed, how does one sum up the nonbinary, label-resistant, astro-provocateur and visionary activist that is Caroline Casey?! The founder of Coyote Network News, she’s a genius—that is without doubt. And given her wildly Uranian, Trickster nature, I’m pretty sure I can guess Who her Guardian Orisha is also!
Caroline’s talk, which tangentially incorporated current astrological transits, was, in effect, an evocation of the Spirits of Tricksters “throughout all time and space,” she affirmed. Is the Trickster welcomed? Can the truth be said without cringing? How can we, as a species, cooperate with all other life forms, as that “is the only viable spiraling forward for humans”?
She reminded us, magician that she is (in the occult/Hermetic sense—not stage entertainer sense) to consider the power of our words, the power of language.
“The power of blessing can metabolize poison.”—Caroline Casey
Using the metaphor of oyster mushrooms demonstrably proven to literally eat up the severe eco-destruction caused by oil spills, she asked us all to walk mindfully in our use of words, that all critiques of Empire need to be couched in loving acts and community-building words of blessing. “Critique without blessing is as complicit as dominance and Empire,” she cautioned.
She issued a call for the West to culturally reawaken to a conscious embrace of animism and shamanism, for “conscious kinship is available and needed for fresh expression” of the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. “Everything’s alive and inviting us to participate,” she said. And she added:
“Magic is the willingness to cooperate with everything.”—Caroline Casey
In a tense, fear-based political climate, our job as evolved beings is to “be an agent of cool response in hot reactive circumstance.” As the film Pan’s Labyrinth taught us, “Fascism arises in the absence of magic.” If we can learn to “approach the world with informed curiosity,” we’ll be in “pretty great shape,” Caroline surmised. Fairy tales can serve as our guides in the collective consciousness: they are stories that almost always begin with some kind of severe betrayal, leading to a journey no one really wants to take, but Animal Helping Spirits are there to guide and protect us so that the stories turn out okay in the end.
And the current astrology is one of our biggest helpers. Jupiter’s current transit in Scorpio, for example, is unveiling on a grand scale all the esoteric lore that we can access to elevate our vibrations. “We’re betting on beauty and ingenuity,” she said, acknowledging that the forces for ingenuity are “neck and neck” with the forces of destruction on the planet. And Jupiter’s current trine to Neptune in Pisces, while it has bad cultural effects of spreading “fake news” and enticing more people to destructive escapism in drugs and alcohol, the solution is to turn Neptune’s “shadow realm of poison and addiction” on its head and just “IMPROVE REALITY! Want to stop the drug problem? IMPROVE REALITY!”
Caroline’s class was uplifting and served as a healthy reminder that none of us exists in isolation, and we’re certainly not figuring out our own or our astrology clients’ cosmically informed stories in isolation.
My final class for Sunday, May 27 was Traditional/Hellenistic Astrologer Chris Brennan’s historically informed exposé entitled “The Origins of the House Division Issue in Hellenistic Astrology.” How did the division in House systems come to be? Which systems were used in antiquity? How did ancient astrologers reconcile different approaches? Were some systems more popular than others? The lecture was largely drawn from Chris’s bible of a book, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune.
Fulfilling the pattern I’d observed earlier with other Traditional astrologers, Chris’s talk also deftly wove considerations of Hermetic/Occult theories. My ears certainly perked up with the presentations of astrologically informed spells from the Greek Magical Papyri (circa 100 BCE), and I really got excited when mention was made of compound Deities like Hanubius, another variant of Hermanubis!
The bottom line: as an astrologer, whether you choose to use Whole Sign, Equal, or Quadrant Houses (e.g., Porphyry, Placidus, Koch), choose your approach deliberately and know why you are doing it. I’ve always been a Placidus person because I like my orbs tight but I am inclined to start giving Whole Sign Houses a try—a view echoed by the friends that I’ve made at the conference, too.
All that Hellenistic-era knowledge definitely spurred my thoughts towards eating at Greek Town for dinner that evening! Social gal that I am, I wanted to serve as a sort of cultural ambassador for my beloved hometown of Chicago, so, using the Facebook Group created for the conference, I quickly posted a dinner invitation/cultural excursion and generated interest among a handful of friendly out-of-towners (hailing from the great states of California, Tennessee, and New York) to meet me in the hotel lobby so we could grab a Lyft ride to Greek Town and eat at the famous Greek Islands restaurant, known for its belly-busting, family-style dining.
It turned out to be a delightful “girls’ night out” experience, and I really did feel wildly happy to be a tour guide, commenting on Chicago’s famous architecture, history of ethnic neighborhood development, and commendable mass transit system along the way to Greek Town.
My new friends Tamra, Suzie, Grace, and I had a wonderful two-hour dinner together, filled with Opaaaa!-laden saganaki platters and exquisite wine. We had wonderful conversations about all kinds of topics, including ones that fostered acute emotional intimacy between us, and I was so delighted to make these deep connections (I have a stellium of planets conjunct in my natal 8th House of Sex, Death, Occult Mystery, and Shared Resources, so superficial conversations are anathema to me!) during a memorable meal / hotel escape.
I went to bed late that night giddy with self-discovery epiphanies once again, and I was emotionally gearing up for the last full day of UAC and the promise of an exciting Regulus Awards Ceremony and dinner banquet for my Memorial Day holiday Monday.
Read about it in Part 3 of my UAC 2018 series!
- Adam Elenbaas
- April Elliot Kent
- Caroline Casey
- Chris Brennan
- Demetria George
- electional astrology
- Evolutionary Astrology
- gemstone elixir
- Hellenistic Astrology
- Henry Seltzer
- House systems
- Joyce Levine
- Laura Nalbandian
- Lisa Schaim
- Marcos Pratchett
- Marie O'Neill
- Nadiyah Shah
- Raymond Merriman
- Rick Levine
- Saturn-Pluto Cycle
- Sun Sign
- Susie Cox
- Traditional Astrology
- United Astrology Conference 2018
- Walela Healing Institute
- Western astrology
- Western Hermetic Tradition