My Experiences at UAC 2018: Part 3

All of the amazing concurrently running astrology workshops and classes comprising the 9th United Astrology Conference, recently held here in Chicago from May 23 to May 30 at the Marriott Magnificent Mile hotel on Michigan Avenue, definitely made it hard for me to choose which world-class teacher’s talk I would attend at any of the time slots for each day. At times I wanted a truly trans-historical, “big picture” perspective on the Cosmic Intelligences at work in all of our lives, while at other times my Virgo Sun Sign made me want to take a more granular view of planetary energies, focusing on present or imminent planetary transits. And while so many of my fellow Americans were planning on celebrating the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, May 28, through the time-honored tradition of outdoor grilling and family barbeques, the fires I wanted to zero in on instead were those of “Mars Transits and the Mars Cycle,” my first class of the day, which was taught by astrologer Donna Van Toen.




Monday, May 28, 2018

All returns, Donna said, are transit charts and a Mars return lasts approximately 22 months. When you look at any planet’s transit in a chart, you assess its overall integration into the chart—its relationship to other planets and its relationship to its natal placement.  (There is always a natal component to a return because natal houses get activated when transiting planets pass through them.)

A Mars cycle has five stages to it, Donna explained. The first stage, when Mars is arcing from New to Crescent, is ideal for starting new endeavors: Mars, of course, provides our energy and motivation for whatever it is we’re seeking to do. The First Quarter phase is when you temporarily halt your movement and check in with yourself: Am I okay with what I’m doing? The next stage of Opposition represents a culmination point: to see where you’re “moving on,” look to the natal Mars House and the House Mars is transiting. The Last Quarter Square stage can bring about two things: either the successful application of what you’ve just completed, or a sense of disillusionment. And the Closing Square stage back at the “12:00 noon” position of the chart means you’re preparing for your next goal.

On June 26 of this month, Mars will officially station Retrograde in Aquarius. How do Mars Retrograde periods affect people? Donna is not an alarmist when it comes to planetary Retrogrades: from our Earthly perspectives, the Retrograding planets appear closer to us, which psychologically translates into being able to get a better grasp on your issues. A common feature of a Mars Retrograde, however, is the turning inward of Mars’ outer-oriented energy: this can result in feelings of low physical vitality, low libido, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and disappointment that things don’t appear to be moving along.

As with other Retrograding planets, verbs with the prefix of “re” are ones to be adopted for actions during a Mars Retrograde: revisit the projects, people, and places that formerly brought you joy but which you abandoned for whatever reason; resume old hobbies; and reintegrateyourself psychologically with your heightened inner evaluation.

“Much of our life is repeat performance,” Donna sagely reminded us.

She emphasized the importance of keeping a journal just for astrology so you can see the continuity of repeated themes between Mars cycles. She urged everyone to especially pay attention to when progressed Mars returns to “ping” your natal Mars. Big external life events and attitudinal changes happen to us at those times.

The emphasis on cycles was really brought home in my 11 a.m. class on Monday the 28th: “Eclipses—Portals of Destiny,”taught by Maurice Fernandez, current president of the Organization for Professional Astrology (OPA). Maurice is a huge proponent of evolutionary astrology, which teaches that our souls guide us towards our fullest potential as human beings through the medium of our natal charts.

It’s helpful, Maurice noted, to look at an astrology client’s pre-natal eclipse—in other words, which eclipse cycle was active just prior to or at the moment of your client’s birth?  (Donald Trump, for example, was born during a major full moon lunar eclipse in Sagittarius [conjunct his Sagittarius South Node] on June 14, 1941.) Look at the degrees of the eclipse and also the nodal axis—the more total a solar or lunar eclipse, the closer it will be to the nodal axis. The nodal axis showcases the development of consciousness in a birth chart: any planet touching a client’s North or South Node is extremely important, amplifying the energies of that planet. (For example, in my 5th House I have my South Node at 5° Cancer conjunct my natal Saturn at 3°: a recipe for karmic relationship-clearing if ever there was one!) These energies certainly affect the collective also, especially outer planet transits: Hence the Pluto-Saturn conjunction of 2019-2020, which will be happening on the nodal axis also, will betoken societal breakdown and breakthrough.

We’re gearing up for three eclipses this summer, starting on July 12. (Fun fact: the last time we had a Mars Retrograde in Aquarius was in 1971, and it was on the nodal axis then as it’s going to be this summer during these eclipses.) First there’s going to be a partial solar eclipse on July 12 (seen best in Australia), with the Cancer Sun at 20° opposing powerful Pluto in Capricorn at 20°. Since Pluto’s Nodes are between 18-21°, this is going to be a major event, a taste of what we’re going to experience for the next couple of years with the Pluto-Saturn conjunction.

The total full moon lunar eclipse on July 27 at 4° of Aquarius, which will be visible throughout all of North America, will conjunct Retrograde Mars at 4° Aquarius and oppose the North Node in Leo. One of the disturbing manifestations of Mars in Aquarius is war via cyber-attack, and considering that the city of Pyongyang, North Korea, will have this eclipse set squarely upon its descendant, belligerence and saber rattling between Kim Jung-Un and America’s own extremely volatile Trump will ratchet up in intensity, as will the revelations of more online security breaches. Hacking is the criminal specialty of Mars in Aquarius.

The partial solar eclipse on August 11 with the Sun at 18° Leo will quincunx Pluto at 20° of Capricorn. And since, as was mentioned above, the North Node is currently transiting Leo with an opposition to the South Node in Aquarius, we’re being tasked, Maurice said, with synthesizing the Leo/Aquarius nodal axis of heart and head within ourselves.

“How can you have creativity with care? Science with heart? Those are the questions being asked of us by the Leo-Aquarius nodal axis.”—Maurice Fernandez

Since “eclipses blindfold the ego,” according to Maurice, reminding you (sometimes forcefully) that “Something bigger than you takes over and can overshadow your reality,” he urges everyone to perform magico-religious ceremonies for each eclipse, “honoring and connecting” with that Something outside of yourself, all while directing your intentions to trust the process that whatever is unfolding/whatever loss you may experience (eclipses often eclipse people, places, and things out of our lives) is happening for your Highest Good.

So Mote It Be!

My third class on Monday was local Chicago astrologer Omari Martin’s excellent blueprint on “ASTROPreneurship,” or fusing astrology with business principles to start or grow an astrology practice. He explained the different levels of businesses organizations that an astrological entrepreneur may want to establish, from sole proprietorship, to a corporation, to a limited liability corporation, to non-profit or low-profit status. In the marketing discussion, he cleverly referred to your brand as “the Ascendant of your business.”

One thing that he really emphasized was that all astrologers need to take the time to research what laws may be in place regarding astrology and other forms of divination in the states and cities where they live in the U.S. In Illinois and in Chicago in particular, the laws group astrology with “card reading” and “necromancy” as illegal commercial activities! The workaround? Use alternate language. Omari shared with us that when he had to fill out paperwork in City Hall for his business SOULAR Wisdom™,he described the purpose of his business not as “astrology” but as “a human personality and behavior analysis business.” I love it!

My final class of the day reshifted my astrological focus from the granular, personal, and local to the transpersonal and cosmic. I attended “Astrology as a Spiritual Practice,” taught by second-generation astrologer and transpersonal psychologist Becca Tarnas, daughter of her famous author father Richard Tarnas. Her talk was largely based on her Master’s thesis in Psychology and centered around archetypal influences in astrology (e.g., Deities, Plato’s Forms, Freudian instincts), transpersonal psychology, and what she called “participatory spirituality,” in which one “creates as more emancipated reality through conscious participation.”

“Spirituality exists in accepting what is and being okay with it, plus owning your responsibility for reacting to it.”—Becca Tarnas


The UAC 2018 Regulus Awards Dinner Banquet and Ceremony

As you know by now, as a local, I had the advantage of staying at home for the 9th United Astrology Conference, foregoing staying at the hotel and making a short commute to Michigan Avenue each day of the conference. However, I decided to splurge on a hotel room at the Marriott Magnificent Mile for the night of the 28th because the Marion D. March Regulus Awards ceremony would run late into the evening.


Obligatory hotel room sofa selfie. I love the Marriott Magnificent Mile and rated my stay and my overall UAC 2018 experience highly: exceptional accommodations and service!

I didn’t want to deprive myself of any aspect of the UAC experience, so I was wholly committed to participating in my first-ever astrology awards ceremony, which recognized leaders in the field across several categories—such as Community Service, Education, Theory and Understanding, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award—and promised an evening of fellowship and fun gathered ‘round the elegant dinner table with strangers-turned-friends.

I loved the room on the 20th floor that I was assigned. Nostalgically, it had views of the IBM building facing the Chicago River, which was the location of my first journalism-related job out of grad school. (I wrote for a monthly trade magazine in the field of telecommunications, just as smartphones and e-commerce were revolutionizing how we communicated with each other and shopped online.) Looking out over the architecturally grand and dynamic landscape/soulscape of my hometown, I felt great pride and a real optimism, that anything I set my mind on accomplishing would of course be done. So much potential and possibility. I happily showered and changed into my silk dress for the dinner banquet and awards ceremony.

I coordinated with one of my new friends, Tamra, that I’d be waiting for her outside the right entrance door to the grand ballroom so we could sit together. I procured a lovely glass of cabernet sauvignon and parked my purse on a cocktail table in the hallway. Everyone was graciously smiling at me as they passed, lifting their wine glasses. I complimented many of the elegantly dressed ladies on their attire and told the ascot-bearing gentlemen that they looked dapper. A woman approached me and squinted at my name tag. Recognizing me as a local (our name tags had our hometowns listed on them, in addition to our Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs), we struck up a conversation. Naturally, the subject turned to work matters once we each identified that we were not yet full-time astrologers. She spoke of her woes in the finance sector and I cheerfully asked if she was a Capricorn. She was! We swapped stories of being on the receiving ends of misogynistic behavior from our bosses and peers in our fields. It sounds like some fields are worse than advertising in that regard! She went to excuse herself for a second glass of wine and I never saw her again, but I appreciated our little exchange.

Tamra eventually caught up with me and we wound up seating with new Queer Astrology friends. I was the only one at my table who’d requested a vegan meal, and I have to say that my baked tofu in a roasted red pepper glaze with capers and quinoa was outstanding. Our dinner conversation as a group was fun: we discussed our natal Saturn placements and our experiences with either our first or our second Saturn Returns. I’m between my first and second, while everyone else at the table spoke of their second Saturn Return experiences. It looks like I have quite a lot to look forward to, even though I’m already well settled into the process of loving who I am as a person and being comfortable in my own skin.

The Marion D. March Regulus Awards Ceremony was exhilarating and jubilant: it was truly exciting for me to see the people I’d admired and looked up to as mentors in astrology over many, many years receive such loving accolades from their peers and students. Laura Nalbandian, UAC organizer, did a great job as the em cee despite suffering from a peculiar bout of laryngitis. Here are some photos taken with my iPhone:

It was close to 2 a.m. Tuesday when I’d decided I’d had enough after-partying, and I was really grateful my sensible Virgo self decided to book a room at the hotel, as I couldn’t fathom either hopping on the subway or getting into a cab and going home only to be back on site in less than 6 hours’ time.


Spirits of the night beckoned after the Regulus Awards ceremony. View of North Michigan Avenue as seen from from the 40th floor of the Marriott Magnificent Mile.

I blocked out the vibrant cityscape lights with my gloriously opaque ivory curtains, and slept about six-and-a-half hours. Coffee was definitely happening so I could be present for the 9 a.m. class I would be attending on this final, abbreviated day of regular classes at UAC 2018.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Astrologer Greg Bogart had a wonderful, pragmatic dual focus for the class I chose to attend: “Vocational Astrology and Career Counseling Theory.” My personal experience as an astrologer has born out that overcoming career confusion is the number-one reason why clients have sought my services. Greg presented several insightful tips on how to help clients with issues like career burnout, stress, retirement planning, and restructuring their work experiences after bouts of unemployment—and Saturn’s ingress into His Home Sign of Capricorn last December is a major ally to this work.

The first step is to help clients awaken the planets within themselves. No matter what a person does for a living, he or she has Mercury to facilitate communication in the workplace, Venus to grant good people skills, Jupiter to provide expansion through planning, Mars to fuel motivation, the Moon to foster a caring attitude, and Saturn to provide focus and sustained effort. Greg spoke of Neptune as a major caution for anyone not employed in an artistic field or the film industry: The planet’s placement is largely problematic, as he sees it, undermining success with lethargy and defeatist attitudes or idle fantasy. (He didn’t speak of Uranus or Pluto at all.)

The second step is to look at a client’s chart and see which planets, if any, are aspecting the Midheaven or which happen to be within 5 degrees of any of the four angles (1st, 4th, 6th, and 10th Houses). The 6th House planets and aspects clue us to a client’s employment, while the 10th House reveals the nature of the vocation and the ambitions that call the client to achieving worldly success.

We looked at a lot of natal charts, from heavy-hitting figures in our late-stage capitalist world like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos to everyday people who are clients of Greg’s.  We saw examples of how Pluto transits can reveal the exposure of enemies in the corporate world, and how outer planet transits to a client’s natal Saturn can trigger career crises, such as getting fired or laid off a job (Uranus conjunct Saturn in the Money Houses: 2, 6, 8).

“Terminations are a part of life. We need to disengage and move on.”—Greg Bogart

Next, Greg outlined several leading exponents of career counseling theory, from twentieth-century theoreticians like Donald Super to administered tests you can ask clients to take like the Strong Interest Inventory or the Occupational Information Network. These can be done online. The job is to then match your client’s traits and factors with vocational possibilities, depending on where they are at in their stage of career development.

It’s a lot of work fitting in various puzzle pieces, no doubt, but the end results are worth it for your client’s peace of mind. I wonder if I should evolve into something more of a licensed Life Coach since I do so much of this anyway. Hmmmmm….

My second and final class for Tuesday was taught by Eileen McCabe, a New York City-based professional astrologer and licensed clinical social worker. Without any visible notes and speaking extemporaneously, she delivered an outstanding talk on “The Journey of Life: Understanding Transits.” It was refreshing to hear her align astrology with tarot, also, and she equated the personal planets’ movements in our lives with the Minor Arcana, and the outer planets’ movements as Divinely imprinted archetypal Forces like the Major Arcana at work to transform us.

“I approach the horoscope as a sacred mandala of personal destiny.”
—Eileen McCabe

The Angular Houses, again, comprise the framework by which we interpret transits. If the Ascendant in our charts marks our physical incarnation and the first breaths we take, the Descendant reveals the integration of that Self with Others. The Imum Coeli (IC), or 4thHouse Cusp denotes our personal emotional integration and the concept of “Mother,” while, conversely, the Midheaven (MC) betokens our expression in the outer world, the realm of the “Father.”

People with a lot of planets in Houses 1-6 develop a rich inner, personal life; the focus is on their subjective experience in the sphere of the lunar. People with a majority of planets above the horizon (that’s me) in Houses 7-12 are dominated by a solar consciousness with public/outer world destinies to play. Objective consciousness is developed and harnessed.

With her clients, Eileen reviews their transits as the focal point of the reading, interweaving placements from the natal horoscope to develop a fuller story of what the client may be experiencing. “Everything in the horoscope is interdependent and connected; nothing happens in isolation,” she reminded us.

In reality, the purpose of transits is simplistically two-fold: (1) They showcase your client’s karma; and (2) they reveal the manner by which the client can manifest her or his Divine potential in this life, which is based on the data provided in the natal chart. The astrologer’s role is to pinpoint the overall message.

For example, most people fear Saturn transits, but that fear can be lessened by seeing how the Saturn transit in the present always contains within it the seed of the natal Saturn’s message. “We’re always reworking that natal issue, but in a new area of life depending on the transit,” Eileen explained. In the case of the unjustly maligned Saturn, His placement in your chart can reveal not just where your work that you ought to be doing is called out, but the support of grounding and stability you may need in the process. “The natal placement of Saturn is the core that has to get integrated into the reading for your client,” Eileen added. Actually, she reads the placement of the Sun in a client’s chart in tandem with Saturn’s placement. The Sun reveals the purpose of the client’s mission in life, while Saturn shows how to actualize that purpose, make it real.

My ears really perked up when she talked about transiting Pluto in the 8th House of Occult Mystery, Death, Sex, and Other Peoples’ Money/Shared Resources. I was born with a triple conjunction of Pluto, Uranus, and Venus—all in Libra, a Sign Venus rules—in my 8th House, and these planets sextile my 12th House placement of Retrograde Jupiter in Aquarius conjunct my Aquarius Moon, a couple of degrees above my Aquarius Ascendant. (I have a lot of Air in my chart, elementally—more than Earth as a Sun Sign Virgo!) These are all hallmarks of pronounced psychic ability and a magnetic attraction to Occult subjects.

“With Pluto in the 8th, death impacts your development from a very early age,” Eileen announced. I felt like she was saying this specifically for me, and I nodded my head slowly with tears forming in my eyes, as that’s exactly what my life experience has borne out for me. “Pluto sits there quietly, natally,” she added. And then came this extremely relevant proclamation, the revelation of which was solely worth my full conference registration fee for this UAC 2018:

“The outer planets force us to separate from attachments we’ve made because of our spiritual mandate to evolve away from other peoples’ expectations of who we should be for their comfort levels. These transits awaken us to something within ourselves.”—Eileen McCabe

It so happens that my progressed Sun has recently entered Scorpio, meaning that I now have a Scorpio overlay to my Virgo Sun identity. Eileen said that a progressed Sun refers to evolved consciousness to help you better manifest the Sun of your natal chart even more profoundly. As Diane Swanson told me when she presented me with my astrologically informed gemstone elixir on Sunday the 27th, my psychic doors will be blown even more wide open now and in the years to come when this progressed Scorpio Sun in my 12th House marches across my Ascendant.

Look out, world!!!

The most beautiful thing Eileen said in her class that morning was this:

“Tell your client that life has meaning and potential no matter what chaos is occurring in their lives.”—Eileen McCabe

In other words, be The Star card to them!

I was really feeling melancholy with the early dismissal from the day’s events until the afternoon’s Closing Ceremonies. It felt like this grand show was coming to an end, the carnival would soon be packing up wholly and leaving town for good to head for places unknown, and I convulsed a little bit with sadness as I took several deep breaths before exiting out the Marriott Magnificent Mile’s Rush Street entrance with my TUMI luggage in tow.

But there was one post-conference workshop day to attend on the morrow: an amazing six-hour workshop taught by one person. Again, the roster of astrology kingpins speaking on May 30 made my post-conference workshop choice a difficult one, indeed. Given my embrace of my Plutonian-driven purpose hearkening back to my natal 8th House stellium of planets, however, I decided to go with Karen Hamaker-Zondag’s “What Do You Really Want with Your 8th House and Pluto?”

To read about my experience and my wrap-up of this life-altering UAC 2018 astrology adventure, turn to my 4thand final part in this blog post series!

One thought on “My Experiences at UAC 2018: Part 3

  1. Pingback: Finding Calm Amidst the Chaos: The Astrology of July 2018 | amor et mortem

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