Red Dress



The color of the dress was Fire Engine Red,

the color associated with Valentine’s Day cards,

lacy white hearts pierced by Cupid’s arrows.


Giraffes pranced round the hem;

with nothing better to do

than my grandmother’s bidding: dancing in circles


like painted horses on a merry-go-round, the sort

you can just get on and ride forever – over the river

and through the woods to grandmother’s house


through the autumn leaves

piled high into racetracks in the backyard.

Who can run fastest, jump highest, come first?


The color of the dress was Devil’s Red,

the color associated with Satan,

fallen angel with a pitchfork for a tail.


Neither Satan nor Cupid practiced their piano,

but I did. Each morning mechanical fingers

gave voice to another prideful, grand-matriarchal gift.


The dress and the piano, how did I miss the clues?

Even Red Riding Hood knew wolves

wore her grandmother’s shoes.


What child is this, who fails to adore

the gold, frankincense, and myrrh laid at her feet?

Come on, kid, we all know this ain’t no one way street.


The giraffes had two rivals: prettier,

more lively, less sweet.  But at Sibley’s Department store

on that sweaty summer’s day, granny would have her way.


The color of the dress was Blood Red

the color associated with needles, transfusions,

debilitating intestinal bleeds.


Dancing in circles, those giraffes could never win

and neither could I, from that first day at school, a giraffe

appliquéd where my heart should have been.

The Dangers of Individuality – The Sabian Symbol for Today

With the Sun moving towards 24 Leo, the Sabian Symbol for today is an ‘untidy, unkempt man’.

Usually with Leonine energy, we think of proud playfulness, openhearted generosity, and confident charm.   But sometimes, it can all go wrong.

The ruler of Leo is the Sun, which can be equated with the Ego – that part of your personality that maintains the balance between impulses (‘id’) and conscience (‘superego’).   When balance is achieved, you have the unruffled self-assurance so often associated with Leo.  Actually, you’d expect nothing else.   Leo is ‘fixed fire’.  The Leonine ego must come to terms with itself by turning not to the world outside, but instead to within.

Yet after such intense soul-searching, it’s imperative to share your hard-won wisdom with your fellow man.  Most spiritual traditions emphasis this final leg of the Self’s journey as the most important.  This makes perfect sense as Leo’s balancing energy is to be found in its opposite -Aquarius -the epitome of social responsibility and the egalitarian ideal.

But when the ego fails to find balance, the result is complete self-obsession and an unattractive insensitivity to the wider world.

Today’s Sabian less is not just for Leo, but also for everyone.  Individuality is key to human happiness.  But without balance, the exact opposite is attained.  Hence we find the image of this Sabian Symbol – a negative, perverse satisfaction in the neglect of self.

The Hungry Hole in Group Dynamics – It’s Waiting for You

According to social psychology, a group is defined by the ‘glue’ that holds it together.  This could range from simply sharing a common fate (like passengers on a high-jacked airliner) to those joining together for a common goal based on a group ideal.

Since your self-worth and personal identity is intimately bound up with group membership, it isn’t surprising that you function better within groups where you consciously identity with group goals and ideals.  Of course the group imposes norms or standards (allowing for predictability and order) with which you are expected to conform.   You can’t always be yourself in a group.  There’s much evidence that groups have ‘minds’ of their own.

There’s also the suggestion that predominantly unconscious patterns underlie the functionality of a group.  Group dynamics put you in touch with the unconscious bits of yourself.  Whether or not you like it, you play the role of energy you bring into the pattern.  In other words, you ‘plug in’ to the group energy in a way that suggests that more than interpersonal synergy is at work.

How one measures this is up for grabs.  There’s a suggestion that harmonic patterns formed by groups gives insight as to which planetary energies it ‘pulls’ from any given group member.  This can be quite different depending on the particular harmonic involved (there can be several for a group).   If you’re not in touch with a particular energy in your chart, it could come out in the group – with a bang.

Groups form important vessels allowing you to learn more about yourself.  After all, you can only see yourself through the mirror of others.  What better mirror could you find than a group of like-minded ‘selves’?

According to Bernadette Brady, life is more about ‘patterns’ than ‘aspects’.  So if you want to look beyond traditional synergy aspects between individuals, then group dynamics is for you.  Remember that it’s the empty or unfinished point in the group pattern that’s key – it’s hungry and looking for someone to fill it.

If you’re that someone, then pay attention.  The way you interact within that group tells you much more about ‘you’ than it does about ‘them’.

For more information click here.

Faces Within Faces – Revealing the Secrets of Your 5th House

Conflict exists between the face you believe that you present to the world and that which you actually do.  If you don’t wish to take yourself at ‘face value’, then dig deeper.

Astrology offers a way to do just that.   Like artists, astrologers seek to capture the essence of their subject – that unique signature style that sets one apart in the sea of humanity.

The best place to start is with the 5th house.  It’s here that you find your potentiality for self-expression.  Keep in mind however, that you could choose to use this energy to camouflage your real Self.

The 5th house is a place of enormous complexity.  It symbolises not only that in which you take pleasure (Venus ‘delights’ here), but also it’s home to your heart chakra.  The 5th house channels your life’s vital energy.   It also symbolises your ability to give and receive without strings.

If your 5th house energy is inhibited or blocked, you’re unable to fulfil your promise.  In this case, the ruler of your 5th house (and any planets residing there) provides clues.  Societal attitudes toward self-expression are also synthesized in the 5th house.

I have Scorpio on my 5th house cusp.  This makes Pluto (in my 2nd house in Leo) and Mars (in Virgo conjunct Venus in the 3rd) the co-rulers of the face I present to others.  As Scorpio is renouned for being guarded and suspicious, it’s little surprise that, for my own protection, I hide myself away.  Perhaps early on I learned that expression of the ‘real me’ was dangerous?  I realise that under my easy Libran smile, my teeth are always clenched.  Clearly something intense is going on under the surface.  Maybe it’s the ever-present survival concerns (Pluto in Leo in 2nd house) especially in regard to financial security?  Or maybe I’m mistrustful of life in general?

People have told me that I have a piercing gaze.  I hold eye contact with them longer than is comfortable.  What am I looking for?  My Mars in Virgo squares my Moon.  This suggests my playful Gemini Moon is seeking a way to relax and let ‘go’.

Can others see this in my face?  Can I?

The Astro-Art of Wisdom

Regardless of what the dictionary says, I believe that ‘wisdom’ requires more than knowledge and understanding.  Wisdom requires using your imagination to literally push knowledge and understanding beyond itself into the realm of experience.

This can be accomplished through looking at life through the eyes of an artist.  Artists communicate through symbols.  Artists evoke moods and emotions using pictures and words.  Artists connect us with’something’ that breathes fresh air into otherwise stale lives.

Neptune may very well represent that ‘something’.  Neptune is the astrological symbol of the deep unity with all things into which artists tap.  It’s rumoured that great sculptors connect with the imprisoned energy of a stone.  With their tools and skills, they free that energy for all to enjoy.

The artist’s tools and skills are represented by the Saturn function as that symbolises one’s ability to plan and achieve.

Thus Neptune and Saturn might well be the two most important astrological signposts toward your attainment of wisdom.   By putting Saturn and Neptune together you can make manifest something that jumpstarts your innermost Self to life.

If, like me, you have close Saturn/Neptune contacts, you can work with them through the energies they represent.  For example, I have a Mercury/Saturn/Neptune conjunction in Libra.  Libran outlets through which I might gain wisdom are relationships (all types), law (I am a lawyer), social connections, and artistic endeavours (I’m pursuing a degree in creative writing at Oxford University).

Even if you have no Saturn/Neptune contacts in your natal chart, at some point they’ll come by transit.   Prepare for this golden opportunity by learning how to best exploit what you already have.

Astro-dynamics of My Knight in Shining Armour

In yet another characterisation exercise for my new memoir, I’m digging into the astro-personality of my husband, JWM.  He plays the knight in shining armour who rescues me from the Wicked Witch of A ‘dam.  

Although he won’t admit it, JWM’s father is a huge influence in his life.  This makes the nature of the bond between them even more important because it operates unconsciously.

The key astrological configurations in  father/son relationships are (1) Saturn (discipline and control), (2) the Sun (validation of Self) and (3) Mars (survival instinct).  The concepts here are clash, struggle, opposition, fear, defeat, and betrayal.

In myth, Saturn and Mars are mortal enemies.  Yet they absolutely need each other.  It’s interesting that Saturn functions not only as the father figure in a young man’s life but also as the unavoidable aging process that eventually brings the young buck to his knees.

But back to the Wicked Witch of A ‘dam.  JWM was a young man then.   He had not yet undergone his Saturn return during which he would gain his sense of perspective.

JWM’s Saturn (structure/perfection) in Aries (sense of omnipotence) sits on his father’s Sun/Uranus  (break w/ tradition) in Aries; JWM never stops judging his father.  His father doesn’t know how to react.  Their interactions take on a decidedly defensive tone.   The young ram must butt against something if he’s to make any progress at all.

A young man’s sense of direction must come from his notion  of the ‘father figure’.  Because his Sun is in Aquarius, JWM needs his father to be a visionary who accomplishes nothing less than transforming the free world.  Whether his father achieved this isn’t the point.  The point is that with JWM’s Sun square Mars/Neptune conjunction (dissociation from action), he needs to see his father that way.

So not surprisingly, when I first met JWM in A ‘dam he was an unfocused drifter.    His father had failed to unleash JWM’s Mars energy  (there’s no synastry there).   But I did.*

According to Liz Greene, the energy of Neptune/Mars often manifests through romantic heroism.   That’s just what it did.  Enter my knight in shining armour whose Neptune/Mars in Scorpio formed a perfect trine with the Mars (Cancer) of Alieke, the Wicked Witch of A ‘dam.


* My Uranus (liberation) in Cancer (nurturing) trines JWM’s Neptune/Mars in Scorpio (passion).

The Wicked Witch of Amsterdam – An Astro-story of Sex & Lies

Upon asking her magic mirror who is the ‘fairest’ of them all, the Queen sees Snow White’s reflection instead of her own.

Instantly jealous, the Queen vows to destroy her rival and in the process destroys herself.

Such is the stuff of fairy tales and compulsive relationships.

Yet while all relationships are mirrors, compulsive relationships show you something very special.  Compulsive relationships show you a dangerous archetypal pattern so deeply ingrained in your psyche you’ll never see it except through someone else.

The Queen can’t deal with the insecurities stirred up by Snow White’s pretty face.   So, like most of us, she projects her anger onto the ‘other’ – in this case the girl.   Thus they become locked into an archetypal dynamic of destruction and renewal that neither can control.   Note that in the original (unsanitised) tale, the Queen was Snow White’s real mother and she intended to eat Snow White’s heart to boost her own power.

Her mother’s treachery serves as Snow White’s initiation to adulthood (the ‘father’ is noticeably absent).  When Snow White succumbs to temptation and eats the apple  (fruit of the tree of knowledge), her child ‘self’ dies.  It is only after a period of dormancy and mourning that she can move forward again.  By the end of the story (in the original version), Snow White marries a prince and, as the new queen, Snow White behaves just like her mother.  We come full circle as the new queen forces the old queen to dance herself to death wearing red-hot iron shoes.

Some years ago, I was trapped in a compulsive relationship with an older woman in Amsterdam.  She was my boss.  Her Chiron (healing) was conjunct my Mars/Venus (passion).  It likewise set off my Moon/Mars square (anger at ‘Mother’).  We had mutual Mars/Uranus (sex, sex, sex) contacts.  With her, I experienced desires I’d never before (or since) known.

I was scared.  I took the moral high ground and played Snow White to her Wicked Witch.  Constantly, she baited me with the apple (sex), which I was never allowed to taste.  Jealously, competition, and mutual admiration were the foundations of our relationship.  We had much in common, but for me, the attraction lay in what she had that I didn’t.

Finally, it dawned on me that we were acting just like my mother and me.  But this time I wasn’t a child.  With help from transiting Pluto squaring my natal Venus/Mars I made my escape to London.  I went straight from the pan into the fire.

Although my relationship with the Wicked Witch of Amsterdam had put me in touch with my long suppressed anger and thwarted ambition, another woman (my new boss) made it clear to me that I had no idea now to use it.

But that’s a story for another day.

The Astrology of Friendship or Why THEY drop ME !

The English word ‘friend’ is related to the Old English word ‘freo’ meaning to be ‘free’, ‘exempt from’, ‘not in bondage’.

The primary sense seems to have been ‘beloved, friend, to love’, which in some languages (notably Germanic and Celtic) developed also a sense of ‘free’, perhaps from the terms ‘beloved’ or ‘friend’ being applied to the free members of one’s clan (as opposed to slaves).

Interestingly, ‘friend’ (Old English ‘freond’) was paired alliteratively with ‘feond’ or ‘fiend’ (the enemy) although of course they weren’t directly related.

Astrologically, the state of your friendships can be understood through the symbolism of your 11th house.

I have no planets in my 11th house and Taurus is on my 11th house cusp.

I don’t have many friends.  I’m not sure why this is the case, however, because it hasn’t always been this way.  In my teens, I happily belonged to a very popular clique.  My best friend in those days was a Virgo (Virgo is on the cusp of my 3rd house which symbolises among other things – neighbours – of which she was my closest one).

Today, I tend to attract Taurus types.  And although you’d think that all my planets in Libra would get on well with Taurus (both Libra and Taurus are ruled by Venus), it hasn’t worked out that way.  Initially it seems that Taurus and I have much in common.    I’m attracted to their strength and practicality.  I enjoy basking in the motherly warmth they radiate.

But then it all goes wrong.  They become cold, critical, exacting, and possessive.

My Gemini moon (fast-footed and ‘free’) takes fright…. and not surprising, suddenly they drop me.

Mercury in Retrograde – what does it really mean?

Royal Mail Ford Transit van (September 2006) C...
Image via Wikipedia

OK, we all know Mercury is retrograde for the next three weeks.  But what might this really mean?

The general consensus is that at least on the surface when Mercury is retrograde communications of all types go awry – letters go missing, phone calls remain unanswered, misunderstandings arise – and oh yes, do expect delays.

In horary (a type of astrological divination as well as lost and found), retrograde Mercury suggests a change of direction.  Business deals near completion are renegotiated.  Friends and associates have a ‘change of heart’.  Ideas we thought absolutely brilliant before Mercury switched gears now lose their appeal.

The thing to remember with Mercury, is that he’s not his ‘own man’.  As Liz Greene put it, in terms of psychological astrology Mercury has no goals or purpose of his own, he’s always in service to another – and that other is usually the Sun.

Our astrological Sun is akin to our personal ego – it gratifies our existence and gives meaning to our lives.   It is (more or less) conscious of the path we’re meant to take toward individuation.  Like a lighthouse beacon shining bright into the night, the job of the Sun is to steer us clear of the rocky shallows into which we’d otherwise surely stray.

On this mission, Mercury plays an important part.  Like an advance scout, Mercury scours out the information necessary for the Sun to do the job right.  Most of the time, the focus of Mercury is strictly outwards – into nitty-gritty of commerce in the ‘real world’ of men.  Hence Mercury is in charge of all types of exchanges – language, travel, contracts, and even the Royal Mail.

But when Mercury goes retrograde, his attention turns inwards to bridge the layers of our consciousness.  No longer concerned with that which is obvious and visible, retrograde Mercury slips into the unchartered territory of our unspoken thoughts and dreams.  It’s as if Mercury’s energy has been redirected from our ego to our unconscious, which, according to many psychologists, is really in charge.

So when Mercury is retrograde, don’t just despair when you miss your train.  Take the space so inconveniently provided to jot down how you’re feeling, read that interesting newspaper article you’d otherwise have had to skip, or strike up a conversation with the person next in line.  Who knows where it might lead?

When Mercury is retrograde use your time and energy to research, review, re-edit, re-negotiate, reconcile, and reunite.  The message of Mercury retrograde is to stop pushing forward for a time and instead ‘go back and try again.’

The Dangers of Magical Practice – Ego Gratification vs. the Divine

As transiting Neptune slides into Pisces, many will become more interested in the occult.   If you decide to dabble in anything more strenuous than practical household magic, it’s worth keeping in mind one point that just might save your life.

In his excellent book, The Philosophy of Magic, Arthur Versluis reminds us that in both Eastern and Western traditions, Magic has always been worked for the grace of God – not for ego-gratification.

Sadly these days, however, the situation is quite the reverse.

“As a result, one can see today a situation arising which involves the greatest possible danger to those who misguidedly become involved with ‘pseudo-traditional mysticism’ or ‘neoshamanism’, not recognizing that these are, for reasons we will discuss later, but ‘inverted’ images of the traditional, be it Buddhism, Islamic or Christian, and can well lead to the psyche becoming irremediably lost in the labyrinthine confusion of the ‘second world’.”

At the foundation of Western magic, lays a Platonic universe consisting of three inter-connected spheres.  According to the Corpus Hermeticum, after being created in the image of the highest sphere – The Divine – man descended through the starry heavens to the planet of illusion – the moon – whence he landed with a resounding thud.  It was there while gazing in a pool of water, that man fell in love with his own reflection thus binding himself like a slave in chains, to the lowest sphere – the material world.

Since then, man has worked through magic to transcend his ego (which through an illusion of immortal permanence in a constantly changing mortal world, keeps him firmly earth-bound) and ascend back up through the spheres to be reunited with the Divine.

According to Versluis, in correct magical practice, the magus transcends to the higher spheres when his ego is subsumed by celestial realities.

However most modern magical practices work in reverse – keeping the ego firmly in charge.  As Versluis points out, the dangers of this are significant and real.

“…(i)f the visualization is of the Divine, enclosed within tradition, then one ‘ascends’ and radiates beneficence.  But if the visualization is, inversely, governed by ego, outside tradition – then one ‘descends’ and is overwhelmed, destroyed by the infernal and malignant.”

As an example, he cites the experience of the Belgian spiritualist Alexandra David-Neel who during a ritual in Tibet created a small round-faced monk who was greeted by others as quite real.   The monk, a product of David Neel’s own mind, eventually became so independent she could no longer control him and it was with great difficulty that he was dissolved.

“This story carries within it the implicit danger of ritual visualization, for the ritual changes the very nature of one’s relationship with the celestial world.”

Some years ago while innocently dabbling in Wicca (with what I believed was proper supervision),  I myself had a similar experience that made me physically ill for many months.

The lesson to be learned here is to take great care when following any ‘spiritual path’.  Without proper grounding and years of trainingwithin that tradition – you might just find yourself getting more than you bargained for – dumped head first into the proverbial deep end unable to swim.