Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Home

I guess it’s a cliché to revisit your childhood home and get all heavy-hearted for the good ol’ days of youth. With rose-coloured glasses on, some of us insist that our formative years were magical, innocent and simpler than life is today. I am certainly guilty of this. True to my Cancerian nature, roaming around in the past is something I do regularly. Recently I had the opportunity to savour this fetish in a real way when I revisited the house I lived in from birth to twelve years of age when it came up for sale.

The experience was strangely consoling. The house is a three bedroom, red-brown brick American bungalow built in the 1920s. Curiosity drew me along with my mother and niece to have a peek when the property was open for inspection in September. Aesthetically, not a lot had changed except for the garden, which had been developed and maintained in a thoughtful way and included a well and picnic table. I noted that the front door with its stained glass of oversized red roses and green petals remained unchanged, more polished and fresher than I remembered. The wallpaper in the hallway had been replaced with a pattern similar to the one I’d known in the 1970s. The fact that these features remained unchanged or altered slightly to resemble what was there before gave me a strong feeling of de-ja-vu. I recall how straightforward and liberal life was then. As children, we drank wine diluted with lemonade at dinner, allowed to puff on our grandfather’s cigarette, encouraged to read books that grabbed our attention, and permitted to watch hours of television without ‘recommended parental guidance’. More importantly, we were let loose in the neighbourhood to run around, play cricket with other kids in the middle of the road, ride bikes or skateboards streets away, and let off steam in a healthy, physical way. There wasn’t much that was regulated in my childhood.

I don’t want to give away the entire address out of respect for the residents, but I do have to mention how significant the house number and street name are on a cosmic level - 40 Fourth Avenue. The prominence of the number four reveals a stable and traditional home, a stronghold well-shielded from the anguishes of the outside world. Occupants of number four dwellings tend to live there long term and are often entrenched in routine. My family lived there for fifteen years (1965 to 1980) before selling it to the couple who recently put it on the market (1980 to 2015). Our next-door neighbours also lived at 40 Fourth Avenue for a couple of decades prior to my parents purchasing the property, and before our neighbours owned the home, their own parents had lived there for some decades from the 1920s when the house was built! I find all this refreshing and comforting in our wobbly times where the status of ‘the home’ is demoted to nothing more than a box where workers go to be watered, fed and rested between long intervals of productivity at the office. It was gratifying to see the place lovingly refurbished to look, feel, and function like a ‘family home’, not an airbrushed real estate brochure. The current Black Plague of overdevelopment spoiling Sydney's suburbs means that houses like Fourth Avenue are an endangered species. Such properties are often targeted for demolition by developers to make way for depressing tower blocks of small cubicles marketed as 'luxury apartments'. On writing, Fourth Avenue would have sold for a ridiculous amount of money, probably to an overseas investor. I don’t know what is in store has for the property, but I hope the Gods are kind.

I am three years away from my number four pinnacle and turning the milestone age of fifty. It worries me when I think about this combination – a middle age where hard work and financial management are at the forefront of my life. How boring is that? I had hoped that by this stage I would be breaking off the shackles of conventional work. The visit to my old family home shifted my perspective. Having Saturn in the fourth house of my natal chart proved restrictive in my adolescence for many reasons, but I now witness the pearl forming inside the gritty shell.  The positive aspect of a fourth house Saturn is symbolised by 40 Fourth Avenue – stability, security, reliability of the people around you, and the certainty of knowing your place in that space. I can take these qualities with me into my number four pinnacle and believe that such a solid base is the perfect springboard for jumping into the activities I want to develop.

As a kid, I was madly creative. Bursting with ideas for plays, films, writing fiction, drawing, painting, and song writing, I knew who I was and what my talents were.  That knowing got lost on the way to adulthood, as it does with some of us. I believe my early development was a result of great schooling and a solid home base. It’s taken me many years to discover the gem hidden within the number four vibration and fourth house Saturn. I have 40 Fourth Avenue to thank for that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life according to Keefe

I am currently producing this year’s issue of Astrobabble, the first in a new cycle where I rehash the astrological signs and planets in my revered and unparalleled style (yeah, right). Anyway, I decided to revisit all things (some things) Sagittarius since I had covered the sign in one of the earlier issues about a million years ago (yeah, right) and felt it needed refreshing, given the current Saturn-Sagittarius cycle.

To get motivated, I began the year with the challenging goal of ploughing through Keith Richards’ autobiography Life - which is the size of a house brick - before my birthday in July. It was effortless. What an engaging tale! At over six hundred pages, this epic work captures the Sagittarian spirit of ‘the journey’ through the well-worn themes of rock n roll, illicit drug taking, and intrepid travel. What elevates this story above the usual rock star dross is Keefe’s unique and unfettered voice, and his profound insight. For the Centaur, the real sport of life is to make ‘the journey’ stimulating, varied, and as expansive as possible. The goal is insignificant. This has been the undisputed path for Keith Richards since the mid-1950s (when he discovered rock n roll), leading to the formation of the Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger in 1962. What followed was a smorgasbord of life experiences spanning decades that would leave more sober astrological signs breathless.

You could argue that it’s difficult to dislike Keefe the man, even if you’re not a fan of the Rolling Stones’ music. While Mick Jagger has the air of a manipulative prima donna, by contrast, Keith appears accessible and genial (Sun in Sagittarius / Moon and Jupiter on Midheaven / Moon sextile Venus). A stellium of planets in the tenth house (Chiron, Moon, and Jupiter) is indicative of popularity and success on a large scale. Shrugging off the clichéd junkie image is a challenge (Scorpio rising / Pluto as chart ruler semi-squaring Saturn in opposition to the Sun / Chiron square Sun), however, the public graciously forgives Keith for his shortcomings and recognises him as one of the ultimate rock star icons (Uranus square Moon on Midheaven / chart ruler Pluto conjunct node in Leo).

A strict Virgo Moon on the Midheaven reflects the need to perfect his craft (blues guitar) with discipline. The Virgo Moon individual finds it difficult to express feelings and can be out of touch with their emotional side altogether if the Moon isn’t supported by meaningful factors in the birth chart. One of the more surprising revelations in Life is Keith’s inherent shyness with women. He claims that when it comes to approaching the opposite sex, he holds back (Moon in Virgo square Mars in Gemini) and waits for the object of his desire to make the first move. An eighth house Saturn in opposition to his Sun indicates his insecurity in intimate situations and the fear of being swamped by feelings that his Virgo Moon works hard at controlling. As a young single guy, Keith struggled with pick-up lines and had a preoccupation with finding the right line or one that hadn’t been used before.

‘I just never had that thing with women … “hey, baby” is just not my come-on’

The life of the mind is important to Sagittarius and Virgo. Both signs travel on a mental level. Intellectuals of the zodiac, they devour books and absorb all forms of knowledge. Another unexpected admission is that Keith is an avid reader who takes pride in developing libraries inside his homes in West Sussex, England and Weston, Connecticut. It's alleged that he attempted to classify his collection using the Dewey Decimal classification system but found it too overwhelming. Moon in Virgo, indeed!

'When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully - the church (Sagittarius) ... and the public library (Virgo) ... the public library is a great equaliser'
On writing, Keefe at seventy-one shows no signs of slowing down. He says that he is still partial to beginning the day by smoking a joint. With the imminent release of his new solo album Crosseyed Heart next month, fellow Sagittarian Tom Waits has penned a interminable poem to celebrate the Rolling Stones guitarist’s legendary status. Part homage to Keith’s questionable physical attributes such as pissing blue urine and smelling like a campfire, the following lines are endearing:
Hands like a woodworker
Arms like a swabby
A back like a soldier
A mind like a detective
Shoulders like a boxer
A voice like a choirboy
And a country-western face

Keith Richards is testament to the Sagittarian adage that if you create your own luck, the road can go on forever. Read more in the new issue of Astrobabble, available at the Manly Zine Fair in September.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Saturn in Sagittarius and the Consequence of Progress

‘As far as your self-control goes, as far goes your freedom’Marie Ebner Eschenbach, writer
The contradictory forces of Idealism (Neptune) and Realism (Saturn) butt heads this year, thanks to Saturn’s entry into the constellation of Sagittarius on 23 December 2014, squaring Neptune in Pisces. Fortunately, the volatile Uranus-Pluto transit has moved into a separating phase, offering us Earthlings an opportunity to observe the interplay of Neptune’s nebulous idealism with Saturn’s blatant reality check.
Saturn’s once-in-thirty-year cycle in Sagittarius raises issues around freedom, growth, and humanity’s perpetual search for meaning. On the transit’s closure - 21 December 2017 - we will have endured a considerable test of faith, both personally and collectively. Saturn equals boundaries, discipline, responsibility, and mastery of skill. Sagittarius, on the other hand, represents expansion, belief systems, spirituality, and the call to adventure. Questions surface in regards to how we master our faith and freedom, and the way society currently manages growth fetish.
Saturn in Sagittarius argues that true freedom comes from discipline. With the square to Neptune in Pisces, the principles we currently live by need to be scrutinised in order to create valuable life experiences. Society needs to examine the ethics behind some (most) decisions made by the current political and corporate forces supporting uncapped economic growth. In the midst of overwhelming materialism, Neptune in Pisces asks benevolent questions: does success by society’s standards come from an honourable place? Is the human race functioning at a lower vibration and is concerned only with what it can get away with? And how long can we continue to function in this concentrated alpha state before we cannibalise? Saturn tells us that growth requires boundaries and responsibility if it is to continue and benefit the majority (as opposed to the ‘one percent’).
The last Saturn-Sagittarius transit - November 1985 to February 1988 – saw the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR) destroyed by fire in April 1986, leading to long-term health, economic, and social difficulties for the region and parts of Western Europe and Britain. The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere that diffused over western USSR and Europe. Classified as a level seven event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, it involved over five hundred thousand workers and cost an estimated eighteen billion rubles. The after-effects are expected to endure for at least a century. There was a substantial increase in human digestive, circulatory, nervous, respiratory and endocrine diseases and cancers in Belarus and Ukraine. The disaster became a key factor in the Soviet Union's eventual 1991 dissolution and a major influence in re-shaping Eastern Europe. Unsurprisingly, the cosmic lesson of tragedies like Chernobyl is that expansion beyond a responsible limit brings consequences.

It was around Saturn’s ingress into Sagittarius that I picked up a copy of issue six of New Philosopher magazine, the theme aptly titled The End of Growth. It opens with editor Zan Boag asking the rhetorical question of whether our unquestioning commitment to ‘progess’ is destroying all that sustains us. Boag makes the analogy that our society parallels the ancient Greek myth of Icarus flying into the sun. Soaring to great heights (Sagittarius) on wings made from wax, Icarus ignored his father’s (Saturn) warning of flying either too low or too high, and instead flew towards the sun where the blazing heat melted the wax on his wings causing him to plunge to his death. Likewise, we continue to soar in our quest for unlimited growth at any cost.

Saturn in Sagittarius exposes a broken economic model where perpetual growth results in the depletion of natural capital. It’s prudent to look to Pluto’s ingress in Aquarius (2023 - 2024) for clues on how to move forward sustainably. Transiting Pluto offers us the chance to let go of things that aren't working to rebirth and evolve. Pluto in Aquarius is symbolic of people power; the transference of power from an oligarchy to the masses begins at the ingress (the last Pluto-Aquarius transit in 1789 triggered the French Revolution). Possible experiences with transiting Pluto in Aquarius may include: robust reactions to duplicitous use of technology; a resurgence of egalitarian principles; people power gaining political clout; increasing unorthodox lifestyles as conventional forms of housing and employment become unobtainable; the mainstreaming of alternatives to money such as bit-coin and bartering; developing complex human relationships and an intolerance for superficiality; breakthroughs in psychology; progressing abstract thought through astrology, metaphysics and other higher forms of learning.

Bring it on.