Author Archives: Helena Avelar

Astrology is a bitch (and we love it)

It was an innocent walk in the park. Luís and I were just trying to relax after a long and exhausting week. We were not expecting what happened next. As we were strolling along, something heavy and compact bumped into our legs. A small black dog, friendly and jumpy, just came out of nowhere and stood for a moment in front of us, smiling like dogs do, before going off running again after another dog. Cute, we thought, and we continued our walk. After a while we noticed that the dog was following us. The other dog had gone home, but this one had stayed. He is not really following us, we said to each other, he’s just going home, and it happens to be in this direction. Could be – but in the back of our minds we noticed that he had no collar. A few more steps and we reached the end of the park. Further ahead there were busy streets full of cars. We turned back to return home, hoping the dog would finally go his way. No – he kept following us, this time in the opposite direction. We stopped. He stopped in front of us, waiting. There was no doubt: he had adopted us.

We are both animal lovers, Luís and I, but truth be said, we are most definitely cat-persons. We have cats at home. Cats – not dogs.

So, there we were, the two of us and the black dog, in the middle of the park, on a Sunday afternoon. Now what do we do? A horary question, of course! Luís had his iPhone and there is an app for that!

Here is the chart: 31st January 2010, 16:16 UT, Lisbon, Portugal (ASC 22ª08’)

Quite surprisingly, the dog is represented by dignified Jupiter in Pisces; it is posited in the 8th house, which is the 3rd derived from the 6th (small animals). It was therefore in good conditions (dignified benefic) and possibly close to his home. We concluded that the dog was OK and that it would be just a matter of time before his owner would take him home. We walked around the park. We asked some people passing by. We waited for the dog to tire of us and go home. All in vain.

So, how could this be? How could the chart say one thing, and reality, another? Another quick look at the iPhone, just to confirm if the chart was radical – and it was: the ruler of the hour was the Moon, and the Ascendant was Cancer. Definitely, a valid chart – and still, so different from reality. How could this be? And then we finally realized: the dog was OK because he was with us! No owner was about to appear, we were the ones who were going to take care of him! In the chart, the Moon, ruler of the Ascendant (and therefore representing us) applies to the opposition of Jupiter (the dog). So, we were taking the dog in. It was an opposition because it was complicated for us, because of the cats. Another thing: Jupiter was in the 3rd not because the dog’s home was nearby, but because we live in the neighborhood.

So, it was not the Astrology that was wrong. It was our understanding of the chart that was incorrect.

Ok, then. The dog’s fate was up to us. We started to make phone calls to everyone we could think of, to get the dog a temporary home, while we found him a permanent home. A nice old lady passing by produced a piece of rope, and we manage to improvise a leash. We could not risk crossing a busy road with the dog without some kind of restraint. We took him to the vet (there is one open on Sundays near our home) and we confirmed that he had no chip implanted. Then we took him home (just into the hall, because of the cats), to give him water. And we waited for a miracle.

And the miracle came: Luís’ father has a friend who keeps his dogs in a private kennel. He accepted to lodge this one for a few days, just to give us time to get him a proper home. Halleluiah!

So off he went to the kennel. The dog didn’t wanted to stay there, and it broke our hearts to leave him in a box. We just had to do it, for his own good. He is now protected from cars, warm and well fed; and he has a future, something he would not have if he had stayed in the street – but we cannot explain this to him.

We are now publicising the case, trying to find it a home. Does anyone want a nice friendly dog?

And by the way: it is a bitch!

Helena Avelar

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Murder, She Wrote: the strange case of the medieval sniper

Being an enthusiastic student of history and having the habit of scrutining ancient chronicles in search of the birth data of historical figures, I am always thrilled when I eventually find such data. This is the case of the Portuguese Duke Dom Pedro, whose birth data can be found in the Chronicle of Fernão Lopes [1] . Dom Pedro was the second son of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster (herself the first child of duke John of Gaunt and Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster). Here is his natal chart, calculated for the 9th December 1392, 01:00 am LAT (Local Apparent Time), Lisbon, Portugal.

The most evident feature of this chart is of course the Moon conjunct the Ascendant, suggesting movement, adaptability and popularity; the latter is further emphasised because the Moon rules the MC. The Moon is in airy and sanguine Libra, another strong sign of sociability and politeness. The Moon in 4th quarter adds a phlegmatic note to his behaviour, thus making him somewhat shy and introverted. “He was graceful in speech – the chronicler says – and his sentences were grave and substantiated”.

Saturn in the 1st house also contributes to the reserved side of his nature, but as it is strongly dignified by exaltation, triplicity and face, results in a courteous and somewhat sophisticated manner. “He was liberal in the right measure (…) and he delighted in study”. Indeed, he was exceptionally intelligent and cultured, having translated into Portuguese some of the classical Latin works. Saturn is also the almutem of this chart, which confers upon him a pronounced sense of individuality. Among his brothers and sisters, he was called ‘the English one’, that is, the one closest to the English style and character of his mother, Phillipa.

As to his physical appearance, it was also determined by Saturn as all the chroniclers describe him as having a “long face… thick nose…and coarse hair”. As to the Moon, it can be detected in his ‘dull eyes’ – definitely an accurate description, although not a very pleasant one.

He had a great devotion to the Archangel Michael, and because of that the adopted the archangel’s symbol of the Scales in his coat of arms. Could it be just a coincidence that is Ascendant is Libra, the scales?

He travelled widely, visiting the courts of London, Bruges, Venice, Rome, Germany, Hungary and Spain. All these travelling brought him the nickname of ‘prince of the seven corners of the world’. Travels are suggested by the angularity of the Moon and Mars which is still conjunct to the MC, although debilitated, in moveable signs. Also the ruler of the 9th house, Mercury is in the 3rd, closely aspecting the Ascendant and the Moon, therefore promising several journeys, both short and long. The main motivation for his travels was definitely mercurial; he wanted to learn and to experience new places and new people. For him, the words ‘prince’ and ‘wise’ “should be one and the same thing”.

But as both Mars and Mercury are debilitated and retrograde, there is some difficulty or discomfort related to travel and learning. In fact, the other reason for his travels was that he felt undervalued.

As the second son of the king, Dom Pedro was not meant to reign, however, his natal chart says otherwise, as it places the ruler of the MC in the Ascendant. In fact, a complex set of circumstances led him to a position of great power.

His older brother, Dom Duarte[2], died in 1338 at the age of 47, a victim of the plague. He left his six year old son, Afonso, as heir to the throne. The obvious regent for the kingdom was the dowager queen, but she was rejected by some because of her Spanish ascent, and eventually ‘invited’ to return to her natal Castille. Being Afonso’s paternal uncle, Dom Pedro was the next logical choice as regent. Life at court was not what he had planned. He had intended to retire to his duchy near Coimbra, to study and work in translations, but he decided to accept. He ruled wisely and capably, for an entire decade. During that time, he developed a good relationship with his nephew, and even after the young king’s coronation he maintained his position as political adviser and favourite uncle. He also arranged Dom Afonso’s marriage with a suitable bride – which coincidentally happened to be his daughter. Wise man, indeed.

But during all the time of Dom Pedro’s rulership some factions at court had been undermining his work and poisoning his relationship with his nephew. In Dom Pedro’s chart Mercury rules the 12th house of secret enemies, thus pointing to intellectual, argumentative and crafty enemies, and because the planet is debilitated, also disloyal, prone to gossip and intrigue. Mars is also debilitated, rules the 7th of opponents, and is conjunct the 10th house, therefore pointing to strong opposition; the debility of Mars suggests resentful and covertly aggressive opponents. The Moon, ruler of the MC, aspects the two malefics, Mars by square and Saturn by conjunction; all the planets are in angles making the situation impossible to hide. And though technically the Moon is not besieged because Mercury interposes[3], it is still in a very difficult position; and besides, Mercury is the ruler of the 12th house, being therefore of little help in this matter. With all these conditions, difficulties and oppositions, both in personal and in public life, are to be expected.

The young king soon came under the influence of Dom Pedro’s enemies, and believed that his uncle was hindering his plans. By the spring of 1449, things at court were so tense that Dom Pedro decided to withdraw to his duchy, hoping that this would help to calm down his opponents. It was a wrong move. His enemies took advantage of the situation and set a trap for him. The Duke of Bragança (who was his half-brother[4] and main opponent), accompanied by a heavily armed escort, demanded permission to cross Dom Pedro’s lands, pretending that they were in a rush to get to Lisbon. Dom Pedro took this demand as a personal offence and sent his own army to intercept him. Again it was a wrong move: this was the excuse his enemies needed to provoke a conflict. The news soon spread to Lisbon and the Portuguese nobility immediately began to take sides. The king supported the Duke of Bragança, and a large faction of the nobility did likewise.

In spite of his fall from grace, Dom Pedro still had some powerful allies. His 11th house ruler is the Sun, a clear symbol of power, dignified by triplicity, thus ‘among his own’ and in the 3rd house of close relatives. One of his supporters was his younger brother Henrique (Henry the Navigator), who tried to intercede.

But it was already too late to achieve any agreement: incited by the Duke of Bragança and other noblemen opposite to Dom Pedro, the young king sent his army to engage his ‘rebel’ uncle. Meanwhile, Dom Pedro and his men moved towards Lisbon – yet another bad move. The two armies clashed in Alfarrobeira, on the 20th of May, 1449.

Now here is the mysterious part: Dom Pedro died in this battle, but the circumstances of his death were never clear. He was shot in the heart by a single arrow, but his body presented no other wounds, nor any sign of a fight – definitely not the classic case of death in battle. Actually, it would be very difficult for an enemy to get close enough to attack him, even in the heat of battle, because he would have been at some distance, overseeing the battle, and surrounded by his escort at all times. As it would be expected of a 57 year old man and a member of the royal family, only on occasion would he have engage in combat.

The circumstances of his death are described in his natal chart: Venus rules both the Ascendant and the 8th house, identifying the individual and death – he contributes to his own downfall. But this possibility of danger would not by itself be enough to predict certain death, if it was not aggravated by the poor condition of Venus, combust and cadent in the 3rd, and afflicted by the opposition of Mars in Cancer – an arrow (Mars) through the chest (Cancer).

Some of his allies at court were not convinced that he died in battle; there were rumours that he had been assassinated by a cross-bowman – the medieval equivalent of a sniper. If so, his death was murder, not a casualty of battle.

The chronicler, Fernão Lopes, seems to have no doubts about this, as he clearly says “the bowman who shot him was well known and very skilful in the craft”, and “he was chosen [by Dom Pedro’s enemies] to hasten his death”.

So, he says it was murder, and the solar return for that year agrees with him:

– The Moon is again conjoining the Ascendant in a airy sign, and this time it rules the 3rd house of brothers and short travels. Once again it is afflicted by the malefics, as it separates from a dissociate square of Mars and applies to a square of Saturn. In fact, he was confronted by his nephew (another 3rd house signification) and his half-brother while travelling to Lisbon;

– The ruler of the return’s Ascendant is Mercury which is afflicted by combustion in the 8th house of death, thus suggesting a dangerous, if not fatal, situation. Furthermore, Saturn, ruler of the 10th in the return, is peregrine (therefore having no support) and is conjunct the South Node (loss, depletion), pointing to a possible loss of status;

– Allies are of little help this year, as they in the return are signified by Jupiter, ruler of the 11th, which is peregrine and cadent in the 6th house; it also rules the 7th and 8th houses, therefore identifying the allies with the opponents and death.

– On the other hand, the enemies are strong: Mars, the ruler of the return’s 12th house of secret enemies and conspirators, is strongly angular in the 10th house. (It is worth noting that Mars rules the natal 7th of opponents.)

Everything in Dom Pedro’s solar return speaks of betrayal and death. Shot by a sniper? Most probably. The astrological chart also confirms the chronicler’s theory.

So, murder it was. Even with 600 years of delay, it is good to come to a conclusion.

Note: this stet conflict between uncle and nephew has a wider context, as it symbolises the conflicts between two forms of government: the medieval, exemplified by the king and feudal lords, and the modern principles of government, incarnated by Dom Pedro, a forerunner of the Modern Age. Things were changing rapidly in the 15th century, and in astrological terms, this corresponds to a major change, as the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions were shifting from the Air signs to the Water signs. The conjunction before the battle occurred on 17th July 1444, at 9º Cancer – right on Dom Pedro’s MC!

Helena Avelar


Endnotes:

[1] Crónica de D. João I, written by Fernão Lopes (reprinted in 1983 by Livraria Civilização). The chronicler says “he was born in the city of Lisbon, one hour past midnight, nine days of the month of December of 432 years” (Era of Caesar); although the medieval chronicles are often wrong when it comes to dates (as this one is), there are several other documents which confirm the year of 1392.

[2] The name “Duarte” is a Portuguese version of the English name “Edward” (another version is “Eduardo”); although not a common name for a Portuguese king, it was taken from his maternal great grand-father, King Edward III of England (the father of John of Gaunt).

[3] Technically, besiegement occurs only when a planet separates from an hard aspect with one of the malefics and applies to hard aspect of the other; in this case, the Moon separates form the square of Mars, but then it applies to the sextile of Mercury (which is not a malefic), before perfecting the conjunction of Saturn.

[4] Afonso Duke of Bragança (1377-1461) was the bastard son of King João I and Inês Pires, a commoner.

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The cat eclipse – a horary tale

This is another cat story, one of a long stream of animals we have rescued throughout the years.

Some time ago I was working at the office, in our 3rd floor flat, and because the windows were wide open I could hear the neighbours talking in the backyard. I was only vaguely aware of their presence, because my focus was on work, but somehow one of the sentences captured my immediate and total attention: “the cat is going to die”.

My immediate reaction was to rush to the window and try to find out what that was about. I saw a man and two children in the backyard of the next building. The children, two girls of about 10 and 12 years old, seemed distressed, and the man, a builder, seemed totally indifferent to them. As he moved way to the farthest corner of the yard, I called the children and asked them what the problem was. The problem was, obviously, a cat – or more correctly – a kitten.

According to the girls, a stray kitten had “inexplicably” jumped into the sewage pit, which had being open for repairs (later I found out that the kitten was trying to escape the children’s unwanted attentions). The girls thought they could pull him out, but they soon found out it was impossible, as the hole was too deep and too narrow; the kitten could not climb out and the children could not reach to pull him out. As they had been warned not to disturb the kittens, they knew they would be chastised for their actions. So, their first reaction was to hide the fact and hope the kitten could miraculously escape, which of course did not happen.

After some time, the builder appeared and started to put back the final section of the drain and its cover – therefore, unknowingly, burying the kitten alive. By then, the girls were so distraught they were willing to risk a reprimand, as long as the kitten could be rescued. So they told the man what was happening, hoping he would help. But, shockingly, the man showed no compassion either for the animal or for the children. It seems he had warned the girls earlier that day not to chase the kittens, so he thought it was only logical (and, in fact, educational) that the cat should die a horrible death, just to prove his point! His reply to the children’s request, “the cat is going to die” was the sentence I had overheard.

As soon as I realized the gravity of the situation, I called Luis for help. During all this time he was at the computer, totally unaware of the situation, but it took only two words – “cat emergency” – to prompt him. We rushed to the neighbouring backyard with a transporter box, and we got there just in time: in that brief interval the builder had sealed the drain, and the kitten was now imprisoned inside the pit. Trying to remain calm, we asked him politely to remove the cover, but he replied he had to go, because he had finished work for the day. And so he did, totally indifferent to the fact that a living being was choking inside the pit.

We promptly removed the tube to allow some air and light into the drain, but the problem remained, as the hole was too small to allow rescue. Fortunately, Luís found an alternative: the main junction of the sewer was just a few centimetres away, and if we could remove the lid, perhaps the cat could be retrieved through the opening, which was considerably larger. It took great effort and co-ordination to remove it, as it was stuck fast, but Luís did it, and the sewer was finally open.

The kitten was at the bottom of the pit, facing the opening, in deep shock, and no longer reacting. It was a pitiful little thing, cold, wet and dirty. He didn’t try to escape, and didn’t even move when Luís reached in and grabbed him. We showed him to the children, who were extremely relieved, and hurried to bring him home. We cleaned him and tried to raise his body temperature, as hypothermia is an extremely serious (sometimes fatal) condition in a cat. He reacted eventually, but remained inert and somewhat vacant. By then we realized we had a previous commitment, an astrology class, and students should be arriving at any moment. So we left him in a warm room, with a bed, food, water, a litter box and an electric heater, and went to the class. Because so many of our students are animal lovers, we talked about the situation after the class, and asked them to help us find a good home for the kitten.

The kitten just after being rescued
The kitten just after being rescued

Back from the class, later that evening, we found the kitten a bit better, but still not reacting; he had not touched the food or used the litter box, in fact, he hand’t even moved from his previous position. We were not certain that he would recover from his horrifying experience.

So, we asked the question: How is the cat?
Here is the answer.

The chart is very clear: the cat is great! The Sun, ruler of the 6th house, has just entered Leo, therefore becoming dignified. The previous situation is also clearly represented: the Sun (kitten) is just separating from the South Node (diminishment, damage); so the kitten is just moving away from a potentially damaging situation. Furthermore, this Sun-Node conjunction was a solar eclipse, which occurred in the last degree of Cancer. This is very descriptive of the situation: the cat (Sun) has disappeared into a drain (eclipse in Cancer, a water sign). But right after that terrible event, the kitten enters a new and much better condition (represented by the sign of Leo, which it rules). The kitten was therefore very well, or it would be well soon.

This proved to be right, as the kitten fully recovered within a few days, and we found him a new home, a week later. He is now being properly cared for and loved, and we hope the terrible experience in the sewer will eventually fade from his memory.

Kitten a few days after

Kitten a few days after

Helena Avelar

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Anna Kingsford: a warrior for her beliefs

Since we are talking about animals in The Tradition web log, it seemed appropriate to evoke the life and work of Anna Kingsford, one of the most prominent, and yet relatively unknown, British women of the 19th century.

Anna Kingsford was born at 5:00, 16th September 1846 in Stratford, Essex, England (the chart was corrected trough the primary directions to 4:53 pm) [1].

In her natal chart Saturn, the ruler of the Ascendant, is strongly placed in Aquarius (a fixed sign) in the 1st first house, clearly describing her strong will and firm sense of individuality. But the harsh, saturnine traits of her personality were somewhat softened by her sanguine temperament, which conferred her sociability and versatility.

While conducting a busy practice as a physician, she could still find the time to pursue many other activities in the areas of spiritualism, literature and charity. She was a writer, a feminist, a lecturer, a spiritualist and – above all – a devoted supporter of animal rights.
Her 9th house of beliefs and religion starts in Scorpio, a fixed watery sign, which associates stubbornness and emotional intensity to these matters. The 9th house ruler, Mars, is combust and therefore distempered by the Sun; this configuration adds impatience, boldness and excessive zeal to her beliefs, sometimes to the point of obsession. In fact, she could go to extremes, devoting all her time and energy to what she believed it was right.

In order to continue the animal rights and anti-vivissection campaign from a position of authority, she decided to study Medicine in Paris. She left for France with the blessing of her husband, but at the university she was confronted with aggressive rejection from some of her teachers, who could not accept a female student.
At the university she witnessed some horrific situations of cruelty against animals in the vivisection laboratories, and these visions would haunt her for the rest of her life. Again, the Sun-Mars conjunction can be linked to this ‘haunting’, as it is placed very close to the cusp of the 8th house, of fears and death.

In spite of all the odds, she managed to obtain her degree in Medicine – and she achieved it without ever performing a single experiment in animals, something unheard of at that time. Her final thesis, later turned into a book, endorsed the benefits of vegetarianism.

She was also active in the spiritualist movement in England, and became president of the Theosophical Society in 1883. Most of her works in this field are now available in digital format.

At heart Anna Kingsford was a writer and a communicator as Mercury, dignified and angular, stands as her main vocational significator. The participation of Venus, which is conjunct to Mercury and in mutual reception with it by term, makes her also a poet and a storyteller. She started writing poetry and stories at a very early age, published countless articles in the field of medicine (especially about vegetarian nutrition) and was for a brief period director of an avant-garde magazine.

Throughout her life she suffered from poor health, and her passionate campaigning efforts in favour of her causes ultimately contributed to her premature death at the age of 42.
In 1886 she travelled to Paris to visit Louis Pasteur, a well-know vivisectionist, trying to collect evidences of cruelty towards the animals in his laboratory, in order to publicly expose him. In November 17th, while waiting in front of Pasteur’s laboratory, she was caught in heavy rain; she stood there for several hours, her clothes soaked and exposed to cold wind. Her already fragile health suffered terribly because of this episode: what could be a simple cold developed into pneumonia and later into consumption. She never recovered, and died 15 months later, on 22nd February 1888.

Helena Avelar


Endnotes:

1) Among other indicators: Ascendant in primary directons squaring her natal Moon, ruler of the 6th house of illness, by the time of her death. The differences between the two charts are minimal, although important. For the 5:00 pm chart: Ascendant: 17º00’ Aquarius; MC: 11º47’ Sagittarius; P. Fortune: 03º58’ Capricorn. For the 4:53 pm chart: Ascendant: 13º53’ Aquarius; MC: 1 0º08’ Sagittarius; P. Fortune: 00º48’ Capricorn.

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Old habits die hard: a practical guide to the contemporary traditionalist

Old habits die hard – this is certainly true for astrology students who try to ‘go Traditional’ after several years of contemporary practice. As an increasing number of students reach intellectual maturity, they choose to study the Tradition, in order to expand and deepen their astrological knowledge. But this study, although simple at first glance, is in reality quite difficult. It requires a complete mind set change, discarding the old habits and allowing new ways to ‘think astrology’. It is a major change, for it implies modifying the very core of astrological perception.

This change has proven to be as difficult and challenging as, say, learning to write with the non-dominant hand – no simple thing, as can be easily confirmed by anyone who tries it. The difficulty resides in the long-established habits of thinking (the more physiologically-inclined would refer to the neurological pathways of the brain) which prevent, or at the very least make it very hard, to have new thoughts regarding ‘old’ topics. In other words: it is difficult to learn a new astrological approach (in this case the Traditional one) because of old, deeply embedded astrological habits, which in most cases were learned and practised for years.

In this article we will present some suggestions on how to bypass these old habits, in order to establish a solid foundation to the leaning and practising of the Tradition.

Pride and prejudice

First of all, let us talk about the most difficult factor of them all: pure and simple pride.

Those who studied contemporary astrology enthusiastically and whole-heartedly for years, no doubt take some pride in their technical knowledge and delineation skills. It is therefore understandable that they respond with raised eyebrows to any suggestion that they might be partially wrong. How can they be wrong? Well, it happens. Everybody is wrong on occasion, but only a few will openly admit it. It surely happened to the contemporary renowned traditional astrologers as they, just as everybody else, started by learning contemporary astrology, and at a certain point they had to admit they were wrong, in order to expand their astrological knowledge. So, if they did, why don’t we?

Those who surpass this first obstacle soon find themselves in new and exciting territory, full of possibilities. Some see it as an alternative to the more contemporary approaches of astrology – and here we find our first prejudice. Traditional astrology is not just another alternative; it is not another way to look at it, or a new trend born out of the dusty mind of some eccentric traditionalist, and soon to be forgotten. Traditional astrology is ‘the real thing’. It is astrology as it has been practised interruptedly throughout the centuries, without major reformulations or additions.

Traditional astrology sets the rules for reliable delineation and it offers the possibility to accurately predict future events. ‘To predict’ – here is another prejudice related to Traditional astrology, the recurrent accusations of determinism. It is out of the scope of this article to discuss this matter in depth, so we will only state that astrology (whether Traditional or Contemporary) is not fatalistic, although some astrologers (again, Traditional or Contemporary) are. This concept emerged around the beginning of the 20th century, and it has ever since been used as an excuse to dismiss the Tradition, it came forth from the ignorance of some astrologers, who simply could not understand the Traditional rules (or go to the trouble of study them) and so decided they had to be reformed, to adjust to their own and simplified view of the Universe.

Yes, it is possible to predict with Traditional astrology, as long as the Traditional rules are correctly understood and applied. And by the way, the long-term dispute between fate and free will is, in fact, pointless as they both have their place in Traditional astrology.

Less is more

The first practical step towards the Tradition is to ‘clean’ the chart, to make it work better. Simple and clear charts work better, cluttered charts confuse the mind. So, what should we take away? Well, modern astrology, of course, and all that pertains to it!

– Planets

Let us start by taking of the modern planets – all three of them, Uranus, Neptune and dwarf Pluto. And since we are at it, let us also remove the asteroids, planetoids, midpoints, etc. Every celestial body that cannot be seen by the naked eye has to go. For some astrologers this is a bold step and a frightening one too. Facing an almost empty chart is almost like looking into the abyss, but as Nietzsche would say “it also looks back at you” (1), and in this case it reveals the very essence of the chart. By clearing the chart, we allow the mind to quiet and to focus; only then can we perceive the perfect balance of the spheres, without the ‘white noise’ of all the extra planetary bodies. From the apparent emptiness surfaces a complete and deep delineation.

– Aspects

Since we are talking of ‘empty’ charts, we might as well know that there is yet another level of emptiness to achieve that is, the removal of the aspect lines in the centre of the chart. This avoids distractions, and keeps the students from jumping into the aspects right away, even before weighing the planets and determining significators. Although removed from the chart, the aspects will not be lost; they can be listed on the side, or simply calculated when needed during the delineation (and yes, this is perfectly possible, as any of our 1st degree students would confirm). Another important change: only the conjunction and the major aspects – opposition, trine, square and sextile – are considered in the Traditional system; all the minor aspects disappear (2).

– Orbs

Since we are at it, we might as well reset the orbs of the aspects according to the Traditional rules. That means that instead of orbs by aspect, we will have orbs by planet – a totally new concept. In practice, we gain some aspects, and we lose some too; the results are sometimes surprising.

So we now have an empty, almost ‘zen’ chart, with ‘only’ the seven classical planets, and ‘only’ the classical aspects, with no aspects lines in the centre, and with a completely different concept of orbs.

After all these changes, are we ready to go traditional?

Not quite yet. There are a few more technical adjustments to do.

– House System

The other main technical point is the choice of a house system. We will not go into much detail here, as this topic has been widely discussed among the main experts of this field. Some astrologers choose a house system appropriate to the period he/she intends to study, while others prefer to apply different systems for different purposes (for instance: one for natal, another for horary), and others look for a ‘universal’ system, suitable for all purposes and periods.

In any case, astrologers should understand, at least in general terms, the mathematical and philosophical principles of the system of their choice. And we don’t mean just to know that a give system divides time, or another divides space, we mean the mathematics! Again in any case, they should not choose randomly, nor use a system just because it is the default of the computer, or because everyone else uses it.

So finally, we have attained the technical basis for a Traditional chart – a simple, clean and functional chart. But there is something still missing. The Traditional chart is just the starting point, not the goal in itself. We still have to learn to interpret according to the Traditional rules, and for that we need to shift from a Contemporary mind set to a Traditional one – and that is the real task.

No artificial additives, please

Here is the really difficult part: even when we understand the technicalities and have the ability to ‘read’ the chart in the appropriate language, we can still feel the need to add something more to the reading. For some astrologers this means adding some ‘extras’, like tarot, chakras, crystal-therapy or reiki (or everything together). While all these topics can be valid ways to express one’s spirituality, they can also be a distraction to our main goal: astrology, and the ability to deal with it efficiently. And for some astrologers this habit of adding extras is so embedded they cannot read a chart without them.

Among the most common additives to astrology today we find mythology, psychology (in some cases, psycho-babble) and all sorts of therapeutic approaches. Although it is appealing to combine astrology to all these things, the fact is that the majority of practitioners replace astrological knowledge and technique with them. Therefore, their replacements are used as ‘patches’ to compensate for technical inconsistencies and to cover for pure and simple ignorance of the astrological system.

To put it crudely: if astrology doesn’t work without ‘extras’, it is because the astrologer didn’t learn it properly, and so it is the astrologer who cannot ‘work’ properly. This should not be taken personally, for it is not that big a deal. The great majority of today’s astrologers have learned astrology the ‘bad’ way (that is incorrectly, incompletely and mixed with other subjects), simply because that was the only astrology available at the time. Only afterwards were some of them able to un-learn the bad habits and begin to move towards a better astrology – as so many students are trying to do now.

When we understand the main astrological techniques and achieve some proficiency, we perceive astrology as an autonomous and proficient knowledge, able to function by itself, so no additives are necessary to make it work.

Learn it properly – from the start!

If we study the Traditional system thoroughly, with dedication and commitment, we soon find out that it works. Astrology describes reality as it is, and if we learn to read a chart (whether natal, horary or other) according to the Traditional rules, we can attain that ability. We fail eventually, of course, but it will be by our misunderstanding of the system, not by astrology’s fault.

Unfortunately, some prefer to attribute their own mistakes to any other cause but to themselves. Therefore, some say the ‘malfunction of astrology’ results from the loss of ‘ancient knowledge’; although part of this is possible, we have nonetheless a significant amount of knowledge retrieved from ancient sources, more than enough to provide complete and accurate readings. Others prefer to attribute their astrological faux pas to the gap between ‘old’ astrology and ‘human evolution’, arguing that humanity has reached a state where the ‘old’ techniques no longer apply. To those it must be pointed out that astrological knowledge is perennial and therefore appropriate for all stages of evolution; cultural or technological change should not be confused with the transcendence of the human condition; all things considered, in essence we are really not that different from our ancestors. In fact, the so-called malfunction of astrology is due to a simple fact: students don’t learn it properly. They should allow themselves enough time to learn, to practice, to fail, to understand the mistakes and to correct them.

Our suggestion is to keep astrology as a separate field, at least during the learning process. This will give it room to develop as an independent field of knowledge and allow the student to apprehend its specificity. If we don’t do it, we will never be able to learn astrology properly, by itself, and we will go on insisting that it does not work.

No shortcuts

This process of learning astrology in its purest state – that is, according to the Traditional rules and without mixture – requires two things: patience and trust. It takes a while to learn the basic concepts, and a while longer when we have to un-learn the contemporary theories and then re-learn everything according to the rules. It takes a bit more to re-gain proficiency in interpretation and prediction, and much more to achieve a deep, intuitive (often a misused word) understanding of the astrological principles. Only deep study and commitment can bring depth and solidity to astrological knowledge. But patience is only a part of the requirements to get rid of old habits and re-learn astrology; trust is the other, and no lesser, part.

As we all know, trust does not come easy; trust grows in us – slowly and tentatively. This is so for any situation, and it is particularly true for astrology students, as they are trying to make sense of a singular and somewhat marginal knowledge, very different form the present-day Cartesian-based thought. In astrology, trust must come from study, deep thought and experience – and all this requires a long period of development, which brings us back to the patience topic. So this is the knot we have to untie: on one hand patient study which requires an a-priori trust in the astrological system, on the other, the ability to trust the system even before it has proved itself reliable. Unlike the proverbial Gordian knot (3), this one cannot be impatiently severed by a stroke; the only way to do it is the patient way. There are no shortcuts in astrology.

Here and now

Still talking about ‘extras’, it is worth mentioning that some astrologers feel the need to refer to the native’s past lives while reading the chart. This is a rather common practice, and in fact it is regarded as a ‘must’ by some. Nowadays it is almost compulsory for the beginners to bring the subject into their readings. This distracts the native from the most important moment of his/her life: the present. In short: while reading a chart, keep the past lives in the past and the evolution in the future; focus on the present. Describe the native’s here and now, enhancing his/her skills and possibilities, goals and challenges. A good, solid reading, delivered in a clear and realistic manner, is much more impressive – and more useful, in both the material and the spiritual planes – than any speculative interpretation of past or future lives.

Thou shall not preach

Personal beliefs are not part of astrology. Some astrologers are deeply religious, others are not. They both can be good astrologers, or they can be bad ones – it all depends on their astrological skills, that is, their capacity to interpret an astrological chart. Personal beliefs do not necessarily enhance the astrologer’s abilities; in fact they can even diminish them, as they hinder the astrologer’s neutrality and clarity of mind.

So, astrologers should suspend their pre-judgements when it comes to this matter. Spirituality is – we must keep in mind – a very personal and private matter, totally independent of the astrological practice. Opinions and experiences regarding spiritual matters can of course be addressed on many occasions, as they constitute an important part of life for many people; they should not however be mingled with the astrological reading, nor should they be imposed in any way (directly or indirectly) through astrological means. Astrology is a language, and it is meant to be clear and reliable, it should not be a means to impose on others our own personal views.

Becoming an astrologer

So here it is, a general overview of the ‘old habits’ that any student must bypass in the transitions between Contemporary and Traditional astrology. To get over these habits is the task of all serious astrologers, as they stand in the way of astrological maturity.

Paraphrasing Simone de Beauvoir, we could state that one is not born an astrologer, but becomes one (4) – and we may add that the quality of what the astrologer we will become depends largely on our effort and commitment to overcome our flawed education, eradicate old habits and finally reconnect to the source of astrological knowledge – the Tradition.

Helena Avelar

Endnotes:

(1) From his book, Beyond Good and Evil; the exact quotation is “… if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you”.

(2) Except in primary directions, as exemplified by William Lilly in his delineation of the Merchant’s chart, Lilly, William, Christian Astrology, pg. 765.

(3) Gordian knot: a metaphor for a intricate problem where the only solution would be a sudden stroke; the name comes from a legend related to Alexander the Great.

(4) The correct quotation form Simone the Beauvoir (1908-1986), is “one is not born a woman, one becomes one”, or alternatively “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (alluding to the pressure forced upon women to act and behave only in the ways approved by the patriarchal society).

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Autopsy of a bomb attempt

In a previous post we had a brief look into Claus Stauffenberg’s nativity and predictions for the time of the bomb attempt; let’s now study the day of the event, 20th July 1944. The bomb attempt took place inside the Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair), Hitler’s military headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia (present day Poland).

From the astrological point of view, the day of the event is extremely interesting. The day started with a solar annular eclipse at 27º 22’ Cancer, which occurred at 7:43 AM, Berlin, local time. It falls very close to Hitler’s natal MC (1), which could be a sign of loss of power, but its effects are not strong enough to overthrow him, because it is not visible in Northern Europe.

Stauffenberg took a plane from Berlin to the Wolfsschanze, having arrived around 10 AM, to attend a military conference. In his briefcase he carried a bomb intended to kill Hitler. The device had a detonator that would take approximately ten minutes to activate the explosive. The conference started at 12:30 PM, some minutes before the Sun reached the MC; the Ascendant was 18º Libra, curiously enough, very close to Hitler’s Ascendant (2). A few minutes later Stauffenberg made an excuse to leave the conference, entered an empty room and armed the bomb. From that moment, he had ten minutes to place the bomb again inside the briefcase, re-enter the conference room, place the briefcase close to Hitler, in order to kill him, make another excuse to leave the room, and finally reach a safe distance to escape the explosion – a sequence of actions that only someone with nerves of steel could perform. In astrological terms, this ‘ten-minute window’ is exactly the time the Sun-Node conjunction takes to reach the MC. Claus Stauffenberg managed to do all this without raising suspicions, and then he waited at some distance, for he wanted to be sure that Hitler would die in the explosion.

The explosion: 20th July 1944, 12:42 PM (CEDT -2:00), Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair), 54ºN04’46’’, 21ºE29’37’’, East Prussia (present-day Poland)

The bomb detonated at 12:42, right when the Sun-Node conjunction reached the MC. This configuration can easily be correlated with the concentrated power of a bomb and to its ‘public’ nature. It is quite appropriate that the conjunction occurs in a watery sign, because the bomb had a ‘liquid’ detonator (the detonating process was activated by the crushing of a copper tube and the consequent release of the acid contained within; it would take about ten minutes for the acid to corrode the metal blocking the firing pin to hit the percussion cap; once released, the pin would hit the cap and the bomb would explode).

The chart has 20° Libra rising and the ruler, Venus, is in fiery Leo, a feral sign, in the 10th house of public actions, suggesting a high profile and uncontrollable event. The Moon is also in the 10th, and applying to the conjunction of Venus which rules both the Ascendant and the 8th house of death.

The explosion destroyed the conference room and mortally wounded three officers and the stenographer; Hitler survived, having suffered only minor injuries. But outside the building, at a distance, Stauffenberg heard the explosion and assumed the Fuehrer was dead. He immediately decided to drive to Rastenburg airfield, and from there take the plane back to Berlin. During the trip to Rastenburg two major changes occurred in the astrological configurations. At 12:49 PM the Moon entered Leo; as the Moon rules the MC in the chart of the explosion it can be seen as the leader (Hitler) moving away from danger (combustion, the explosion); between them is the North Node, a benefic, which can be interpreted as a protection. Two minutes later, at 12:51 PM, the MC moved from Cancer to Leo; this also suggests a change of scene. These two occurred right after the detonation when the military managed to rescue Hitler (only slightly wounded, but considerably shaken) from the debris and move him into a more secure place – therefore we have the leader, signified by the Moon, moving away from the explosion (the Sun) and going into another room (new sign).

Stauffenberg’s aeroplane took about two hours to reach Berlin, and during that time the Ascendant changed from Libra to Scorpio (at 01:38). So now Mars rules the Ascendant and Venus rules the Descendant, which is the opposite of the chart of the explosion. This suggests a significant shift in the balance of power; it corresponds to the period when the Nazi leaders at Wolfsschanze regrouped for the counter-attack.

The plane landed in Berlin around 3 PM, and Stauffenberg immediately phoned to the Bendlerblock, the centre of the military resistance. He victoriously announced that Hitler was dead, but in turn was confronted with contradictory reports, saying that the Fuehrer had survived. By that time Mars, the ruler of the new Ascendant, is culminating, pointing to the rise of a new, aggressive power. From that moment on, the plot follows a hesitant and disruptive path, with some conspiritors implementing Operation Valkyrie in certain parts of the country, and others demanding a clear confirmation of Hitler’s death, and eventually changing sides; this lack of cohesion ultimately led to the failure of the plan.

By 7 PM the situation reached another critical point: Hitler had already recovered enough to talk on the telephone, confirming that he was alive. He ordered his troops to surround and seal off (but not to invade) the Bendlerblock, in order to regain control of the situation in Berlin. The corresponding astrological movement occurs in the MC, as it changes from Libra into Scorpio, (at 7:05 PM), thus placing Mars again in control.

Inside the Bendlerblock the situation had completely gone out of Stauffenberg’s control. He and three other conspiritors were rushed to the courtyard outside the Bendlerblock and executed by a firing squad at 00:10 AM of the 21st. The execution was hastily ordered by General Friedrich Fromm, which was intended to cover his participation in the plot (a vain effort, as he was exposed and executed a few months later).

The execution: 21st July 1944, 00:10 AM (CEDT -2:00), Berlin, Germany

At the moment of the execution, the Ascendant was at the beginning of Taurus, which is remarkable, because in the attempt chart this sign is on the 8th cusp. The situation set in motion by the bomb, is now coming to a conclusion; the possibility of death (the 8th cusp in the attempt chart) is now emerging (the Ascendant in the execution chart). In addition, all the planets that culminated by the time of the explosion are now in the 4th house, the lowest point of the chart, signifying the end of things.

The opportunity to overthrow Hitler was gone; he was to remain in power for another ten months, until his defeat by the Allied troops.

Helena Avelar

(1) Adolph Hitler’s chart was originally set for 18:30, according to the time given in his birth certificate, and it was later rectified for 17h58, by Wilhelm Wulff; in any case, the MC would vary between 04º Leo and 26º Cancer, therefore not very far from the eclipse.

(2) According to the time registered on his birth certificate, Hitler has 26º Libra Ascendant; Wulff’s rectification pointed to 20º Libra.

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Claus Stauffenberg: the man behind the hero

The Hollywood mega-production Valkyrie called the public’s attention to the failed attempt of 20th of July 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and to one of its protagonists, Count Claus Stauffenberg.

The attempt was meant to trigger Operation Valkyrie, an emergency plan approved by Hitler and intended to come into force in the event of the Fuehrer´s death or physical incapacity. This plot was the last of a series of attempts of the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi regime. Its uncovering, and the subsequent execution of thousands of suspects, ultimately destroyed the resistance movement in Germany. (learn more)

Although Stauffenberg had no previous personal contact with Hitler, his military rank and functions granted him direct access to the Fuehrer, as well as first-hand knowledge of all his schedules and itineraries; thus he became a key element in the plot.

The birthchart

Claus Stauffenberg was born on 15 November 1907 at 1:00 AM, Jettingen, Germany (source: Astrodatabank, quotes birth certificate in Astrolog).

Claus Stauffenberg’s chart has a predominantly Melancholic temperament, which is prone to solitude and caution, rigorous, spartan in his habits, and a bit withdrawn. These traits are further stressed by the Moon-Saturn conjunction which emphasises and distempers the Melancholic temperament by adding to it a depressive tone. He also has some Choleric traits, which confer on him energetic and imposing qualities; these are also distempered by the two Choleric afflictions of the lord of the Ascendant: the combustion and the square of Mars.

The Melancholic-Choleric combination enhances the dry quality of the temperament (1), thus conferring strong will and a distinct trace of harshness, which is further intensified by the distempered conditions of Mercury (combustion and square to Mars) and the Moon (conjunct to Saturn), often turning into an oscillating behaviour, alternating between periods of solitary introversion and sudden outbursts of impatience (2).

His significator of mentality is Mars, which is in Aquarius, denoting a stubborn mind, determined to have things its own way and at its own pace, not easy to persuade and prone to arguing (due to the square to Mercury). Venus participates with Mars and because it is angular and aspects    the Ascendant, it adds a more polite and agreeable demeanour.

He had a difficult temper, but in social situations he was able to control it, enhancing his better side and deflecting the more aggressive traits of his nature to his military career. He was very determined (due to the emphasis of the Dry quality) and persistent, able to go to extremes to accomplish what he thought to be correct.

His military vocation is shown by the exact square of Mercury, the main significator of vocation, to Mars, its dispositor; note that Mercury rules both the Ascendant and the MC and Mars is in its house of joy. They are therefore strong significators of military vocation. This is further enhanced by the conjunction of Aldebaran, a star of the nature of Mars, to the MC.

In this chart there are clear indications of violent death:

– the ruler of the Ascendant, Mercury, is afflicted by the ruler of the 8th house, Mars, which is in a human sign (3), which points to death by the hands of men;

– the main significators related to death in this chart are placed in violent signs (4): Mercury is in Scorpio, Mars in Aquarius and the 8th house cusp in Aries;

– both luminaries are afflicted by the malefics: the Sun (which is also in Scorpio) has a square to Mars and the Moon is conjunct to Saturn, also suggesting active enemies and possible violence.

The chart also presents several configurations which suggest difficulties and struggle:

– the ruler of the Ascendant is combust and retrograde, and the Sun, which combusts (subdues, obliterates) Mercury, is the ruler of the 12th house, thus bringing into play some hidden or uncontrollable factors (12th house) into his life;

– Mercury squares Jupiter, the ruler of the 7th house of enemies (posited in Leo, a feral sign, in the 12th of secrets and limitations);

– the Moon-Saturn partile conjunction in Pisces, a strong significator for enemies and opposition.

The bomb attempt

Let us now see how these configurations where activated by the time of plot. We will use Primary Directions, Profections and his Solar Return of 1943, which was still active by the time of the bomb attempt, 20th July 1944.

Stauffenberg’s directed Ascendant was at 9º Libra, conjoining the antiscium of his natal Moon-Saturn conjunction in the 7th house (5). This configuration is a ‘red flag’ by itself, as it activates the potential for strong opposors signified by the natal Moon-Saturn conjunction. The Moon is also quite probably the hyleg of this chart, thus having determination over life. Additionally, he was in a planetary period (firdaria) ruled by Mars and the Moon, which due to the significations of these planets in this chart, also reinforces the possibilities of life-threatening situations.

As if these testimonies were not worrying enough, the solar revolution chart presents striking signs of danger.

In the revolution chart we find the Moon, Mars and Saturn conjunct the Ascendant – a configuration which speaks for itself. The Moon and Saturn are significators of enemies in his natal chart, and are activated by the directed Ascendant; furthermore, Saturn is the ruler of the 8th in the revolution chart. As to Mars (6), it is the natal ruler of the natal 8th house. It is therefore a clear configuration of grave and immediate danger, with the possibility of death. The Ascendant and the planets are in Gemini, which in the natal chart corresponds to the 10th house of public image, which emphasises the visibility of the event. Therefore some dangerous (Mars) enemies (Moon-Saturn in the natal 7th) which would come to him in this period (conjunct the Ascendant in the revolution).

The ruler of the Ascendant in the revolution is Mercury, the same as in the natal chart, and again it is combust, only this time in the 6th house, a weak and debilitated place. It receives a square from Jupiter, which rules the 7th house of enemies both in the natal and in the revolution charts. He was in a weak position before his enemies and too debilitated to overcome them – as we can see clearly in the revolution chart.

Helena Avelar

Notes:

(1) As the Melancholic is Cold and Dry, and the Choleric, Hot and Dry.

(2) For a complete calculation on the Temperament refer to Luís Ribeiro’s article “Judging Temperament: a study of the method”, published in The Tradition journal, 1st and 2nd issues (Autumn 08).

(3) William Lilly, Christian Astrology, page 646: “human signs, denote death by a man, as by arms or violence”.

(4) The violent signs are: Aries, Scorpio, Capricorn, Aquarius and Libra, according to William Lilly, C.A. page 644. For the complete delineation for violent death refer to C.A. page 644, chapter CLVI (of death, whether violent or natural).

(5) This event helped the rectification of this chart; the original time given by Astrodatabank from the birth certificate was 01:00 AM, which corresponds to 10º32’ Virgo rising; the chart was rectified in 6 minutes, which changes the Ascendant into 11º38’ Virgo rising.

(6) To be precise: Mars is in the 12th house, as it does not comply to the 5 degree rule, but its orb still reaches the Ascendant and it is conjunct the Moon and Saturn, which are conjunct to the Ascendant.

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