In this era of social distancing amidst this pernicious COVID-19 global pandemic in which we find ourselves, focus on how your solitary spiritual practices can not just grow, but thrive. One helpful method of personal spiritual battery replenishment takes its cue from the swelling Traditional Witchcraft current in contemporary Paganism, whose tenets include, among other things, establishing a dynamic relationship with the spirits of your local landscape.
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.
I’ve had a week to process the conclusion of one of the most formative experiences of my life: the 9th United Astrology Conference (UAC), which was held here in Chicago from May 23 to May 30. Sponsored by the International Association for Astrological Research, the American Federation of Astrologers, the National Council for Geocosmic Research, the American College of Vedic Astrology, and the Association for Astrological Networking, UAC is the world’s largest international astrology conference, and it gathers every three, six, or nine years somewhere in North America. I felt so lucky to have had this 2018 9th gathering take place so close to my house, which definitely helped as a cost-saving measure; I certainly wouldn’t have been able to attend if it were held elsewhere.
This week-long “staycation” for me was prompted by a profound inner urging to not just accelerate the developments of my skill sets in astrology as a profession, but to heed the soul’s prompting to undergo a profound journey of self-discovery and self-actualization, a journey which entailed a major healing process for me as well—one that I didn’t (consciously) know that I needed. So many of us ask “the biggies” about what we are doing here on this earth, the lessons our incarnation brings us (as well as how to resolve past lessons so we don’t tote around so much karmic baggage!), and how to find our true purpose by maximizing the gifts we were born with and living a fulfilling life of self-development and service to others. And through it all, we acknowledge the acutely limited time allotted to us as mortal beings, which definitely adds to a sense of urgency to “figure it all out” before we grow too old and convince ourselves that our dreams have eluded us.
As Above, So Below
That’s the beauty of studying astrology. By highlighting the interrelatedness of the cycles found in the “Greater”/Cosmos with the cycles in the life of the “Lesser”/Individual—yoking together an understanding of “the Without” with “the Within”—astrology affirms a worldview based on the assumption that Divine Intelligences exist and are constantly orchestrating a meaningfully notated symphony of All That Is. Using the tools of astrology, people can pinpoint the section of the symphony that they are tasked to play and see how their individual parts relate to the whole. I’m not using this musical metaphor blindly because the perfection of numbers (yes, I’m a Pythagorean!) is at the heart of it all.
The greatest joy for me as an astrologer is to hold up that veritable cosmic mirror to a client and see how he or she lights up when coming to a profoundly joyful acceptance of their Being and Becoming as revealed through the language of planetary positions and placements in their natal and progressed charts. The “Aha!” moments of self-recognition are facially expressed with widened eyes and huge grins: yes, that’s why I knew I never wanted children—Saturn in Cancer in the 5th House!
I had a plethora of such “Aha!” moments myself throughout the entire magical week of UAC 2018. If you’d care to take my hand, I’ll walk you through my experiences by day, each of which seemed to have its own distinct Elemental character.
“Hymn to Hekate”
(c) A. Applegate 2017
We give greetings to fair Hekate,
Mighty monogenes--sole child of starry Asteria and the Son of Eurybia.
Titaness of the Threefold Realm of Earth, Sea, and Sky,
Revered above all the Ancient Powers by Olympos-dwelling Zeus Himself.
With pleasing eyes, accept our sacrifice
Mistress of the Underworld surrounded by swarms of spirits,
And open the ways to the dreaded realm of Thy majesty,
That we may claim our rightful power in service to Thee.
With pleasing eyes, accept our sacrifice
Strong One of the Wine-Dark Sea,
Who birthed death-dealing Skylla,
And open the ways beneath the waves,
O She-Wolf, O Sea Wolf,
That we may draw into the depths of our being
Unending praise of Thee.
With pleasing eyes, accept our sacrifice
Queen of Angels, Savior of the World-Soul,
And open our ears to receive Thy counsel in the Music of the Spheres.
Hidden Hekate, fair of face,
Mighty Hekate, Lady of Power,
Lead us through the crossroads at the behest of Thy grace,
In our magical endeavors,
Help our workings to flower.
In heartfelt devotion,
We kneel before Thee,
“Hymn to Hermes”
(c) A. Applegate 2017
We give greetings to Hermes,
Clever Son of Zeus and Maia,
Wanderer of all the worlds
God of great cunning
Who, on His very first day of drawing breath,
Proved Himself a maker of music and mischief,
Strummer of the lyre,
Thief of the cattle of Apollon
The One Who achieves fame amongst the Gods by His deeds
The Prowler by night Who lurks in the street before the gates.
We hail holy Hermes
Who wards all wayfarers
Whether travelers for pleasure or commercial pursuits,
or those seized by thanatos
Who wend their way into dark caverns to be seated as guests
in Hades’ great, gilded halls
We hail Hermes Psychopompos,
His most sacred charge
Serve as our unerring Guide, our Companion, O Khthonios,
May Your lamps reveal the Mysteries
Glory gleaned in gloomy depths
To those ready to receive the Light of Your Wisdom
Hermes of Arkadia’s dawn
Hermes by Persephone’s shade
Be here with us as our magic is made!
Mark your calendars, Chi-Town readers! My next Polytheist-centric workshop at World Tree Healing metaphysical resource center in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood will take place on Saturday, April 15 (the day Venus goes Direct!), from 5 to 7 p.m. Behold, my glorious marketing copy: Continue reading
I just returned home from burying my beloved animal companion of the past 12 years–my cat Thor–on my parents’ property. I am exhausted, and tears have freely commingled with sweat and snot on my dirtied, makeup-smeared face. I look like a parody of a zombie meant to spring out upon unwary, cash-paying visitors to “haunted house” attractions in this Halloween season. Everything about me feels “off” today because it’s plain that my visible manifestations of grief, what used to be publicly acknowledged as mourning, are no longer welcome in this death-denying, youth extolling, commodifying, grinding capitalist world where productivity comes at the expense of our collective humanity. A grinding world where, especially when it comes to the loss of a treasured companion animal, one is met with snide remarks of “Get over it–it’s not like a person died” or “It was just a cat. The city is crawling with them; just go get yourself a new one.”
This grinding world is the locus of disenfranchised grief, which noted grief expert Dr. David Kessler defines as “a type of grief that other people might deem as ‘less than'” (You Can Heal Your Heart, p. 136). Pet loss is the most common form of disenfranchised grief; the losses women experience after undergoing an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage are even more glaringly absent from any form of public discourse.
Death. I’ve been acutely reminded of its omnipresence in many ways lately. Seeing the low angle of the sun at this time of year has begun to trigger my seasonal affective disorder. My nightly cemetery walks have been tinged with greater pensiveness and even despair. It’s a gloomy, cool day here in Chicago as the Sun gets ready to enter the eighth sign of the zodiac, Scorpio, herald of the mysteries of death and rebirth. I’m still processing the devastating news I received on Tuesday when I took my 11-year-old cat, Thor (a feral kitten rescue from Hawaii), to an emergency veterinary clinic for an abdominal ultrasound and other tests. My regular veterinarian had performed an X-ray on Thor to determine the cause of his misshapen stomach and elevated liver levels revealed from recent blood testing. The X-ray indicated a mass protruding from Thor’s liver–one so large it had actually pushed Thor’s stomach at a 90-degree angle. No wonder Thor’s lost 9 pounds in a little over two months. Was it a tumor? If so, could surgery be an option? I was referred to the emergency clinic, which is equipped with an advanced radiology department, to find the answers. Instead, the main veterinarian there stunned me with the diagnosis: advanced pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and lungs. And then those horrible six words, laden with the iron weight of finality:
“There is nothing we can do.” Continue reading
Great news! I’ve just received word from the organizers of the annual Chicago Pagan Pride celebration, which is scheduled for Sunday, September 13, in Oak Park, Illinois (a beautiful southwest Chicago suburb known for being the birthplace of one of my favorite Modernist authors, Ernest Hemingway), that my proposal to lead a workshop and ritual honoring the Great God Set has been approved! Huzzah!