Ep. 31 – Learning Astrology and Becoming an Astrologer

Episode 73 Transcript: The Life of Demetra George

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 31, titled:

Tips for Learning Astrology and Becoming an Astrologer

With Chris Brennan and guest Kelly Surtees

Episode originally released on May 18, 2015

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Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at astrologue@gmail.com.

Transcribed by Nicole Miller

Transcription released August 31, 2019

Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

Chris Brennan: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. You can find the show at theastrologypodcast.com, and you can also listen to it by subscribing through a podcast app, such as Podcast Addict, Stitcher, or iTunes. Today is Friday, May 15, 2015 at approximately 4:34 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 31st episode of the show. In this episode I’ll be talking with Kelly Surtees about some tips for learning astrology and starting the process of becoming a professional astrologer. For more information about Kelly’s work, see her website at kellysastrology.com. Kelly, welcome back to the show.

Kelly Surtees: Thanks, Chris! It’s always great to be here.

CB: All right. I’m excited about our topic today because it’s connected with I think one of the most popular blog posts that I wrote on my blog ever, which was my 10 tips for learning astrology. And I wanted somebody—and I thought you would be a great person for this—to just go over some different tips for learning astrology because this seems to be one of the questions that a lot of new students of astrology have. It’s like people come across astrology, they find out that there’s more to it than just Sun signs or what have you, and they want to learn more. They want to figure out how to get into this field and really dive into it. 

Yeah! So let’s start with that as sort of our main focus. And maybe you could talk a little bit about what are your main overarching tips for a person to sort of set a backdrop for this discussion about learning astrology.

KS: Sure. Look, I am always recommending that there are three things that you need to do if you want to learn astrology. And they sound simple; each of these three things can take a lot of time or as much energy as you want to give it. But basically, you need to read, you need to talk, and you need to study. And what I mean by that is you need to read astrology as much as possible. So, blogs, books, websites, posts online—you kind of want to start to immerse yourself into the world of astrology.

You need to talk to other people. I think this is a really underestimated kind of learning tool, which is you need to interact with other people around the language and topics of astrology. So find a meet-up group in your area, or see if there’s a local astrological organization. They are all over the place. Even though it may be new for you coming into astrology, there’s a whole lot of us out there, and we crave that contact and interaction. So if you scratch the surface a little bit, you can usually find a group to meet up with in person, and if not, there are lots of great groups online where people are very active with commenting.

And then the third thing, I do always—I think one of the best things you can do of course is to take a structured course. One thing I don’t think people realize when they start dabbling in astrology is that diving into astrology for most people becomes a life-long calling or passion or interest. And so when you get started, it’s really important to get a solid foundation, or some great grounding in the basics, and I think one of the best ways to do that is to find a teacher and spend a couple of years learning from them.

One teacher will not teach you everything you need to know in astrology; it’s far too vast a subject for one person to cover. But getting your grounding really solid with one particular astrologer will give you the foundation that you need, then when you start perhaps going to conferences, or you want to specialize in a particular area, you’ll have a really solid foundation in the language of astrology. Once you can speak that language, a whole world opens up to you.

CB: That makes a lot of sense. So your three sort of overarching tips are: read, talk, and study.

KS: Yes. So if you can do that—and these days with the Internet, you can do all of this without actually having to leave your home, if you’re kind of a socially—if you’re not super comfortable in big groups or what have you. If you’re a bit like me and you could talk to the lamppost outside, then there’s a lot of people out there that will talk to you about astrology. It’s a passion for most of us, so don’t be afraid to ask.

I know I get emails occasionally from my website, and you probably do, Chris, about people thinking, “Oh, my god, I want to get into this. Where do I go?” They’re some of the most exciting emails for me to get because helping someone get started on this amazing journey with astrology—it’s been good to me, and I’ll give back to anyone I can in any way, even if it’s just a referral to someone in your local area type of thing, so yeah.

CB: Sure. And that’s good advice, because I think most astrologers are like that in terms of if you ask an astrologer for some advice about how to study the subject or where to go with it, most of them will give you their opinion about what would be the best route for you.

KS: Absolutely. Yeah, I think as astrologers we may have an image that might be a bit mystical, or perhaps we’re a bit otherworldly in some way because we do—relatively, to the lay-person, what we do is a bit magical. But we’re all really approachable, so I would encourage people to reach out for sure.

CB: All right. So let’s expand on some of those and go into some specific points and just take it from—let’s sort of assume, like I said at the beginning, we’ll start back from the beginning and say that a person knows nothing about astrology, and–

KS: Yes, okay.

CB: That’s our hypothetical example person. And they may be you’re sort of familiar with the idea of Sun signs or they know their Sun sign and perhaps have some interest in their daily horoscope or something like that, but otherwise they’ve just found out that there’s more to astrology than that, or they’d like to find out what’s beyond that.

So, the first step that I usually recommend is to go to www.astro.com and get a copy of your birth chart from them. The birth chart really is the foundation of just about most of Western astrology, I would say, over the past two thousand years.

KS: Yes.

CB: Would you agree with that?

KS: Oh, my gosh. A hundred percent, a hundred percent.

CB: Okay, and that’s oftentimes most people’s entryway into the more advanced forms of astrology is realizing that astrology does not just consist of one’s Sun sign or the 12 signs of the zodiac, but there’s also other planets that can be in different signs of the zodiac or different ways that those planets can be aligned in different parts of the sky that are relevant in terms of what that means about a person’s life. And all of that’s contained in the diagram that is cast for the moment of a person’s birth, which is known as their birth chart, which you can get a copy of for free at astro.com.

So you need to know your birth date, which includes the day, month, and year. You need to know the city you were born in and state and country. And then finally you need to enter in the exact birth time, since the birth time for most forms of natal astrology is actually pretty crucial in terms of being able to calculate an accurate and complete chart, or birth chart for yourself. So that’s the first starting point, I would say, is get a copy of your birth chart from astro.com, and yeah, that will become the foundation for most of the rest of your studies.

KS: Yes, yes. And I would just add to that, Chris, that—get a copy of your birth chart, and then there are two points to keep in mind: one, it will probably be confusing the first time you look at it because when you learn astrology, you’re learning a new language. And this language has a set of characters and symbols that will be initially unfamiliar to you. So embrace any initial confusion and then go from there.

CB: Sure. And that’ll actually be our next tip, but as a quick digression, one of the funny things—I want to at some point record a separate show, which is—I don’t want to like scare people away from doing this because there’s a certain amount of it that’s appropriate, but there’s also a certain amount that’s funny to watch when a person gets into astrology, especially if they go to a conference, and they will often constantly bring their chart out or try to get other astrologers to read their chart.

This is more pronounced, I think, in online forums, where it’s like, if there’s a new astrology forum and a new astrologer will show up and try to get people to read their charts. And this is kind of like a bit of a faux pas in the astrological community where you typically don’t want to just whip out your chart and ask other people to start to read it. I mean, there’s a little bit of that that’s appropriate, and it’s okay, because astrologers oftentimes will ask each other sometimes about placements in their birth chart as part of getting to know another person. But usually that has to be initiated by the other person, and there’s somewhat of almost a social issue with sometimes initiating it yourself.

I don’t know, that’s almost like a separate show in and of itself, but maybe that could be part of our early tip, which is to get your chart and start learning about it, and you can ask other people questions about astrology, but don’t constantly bring your own chart up as a point of conversation or something like that.

KS: Yeah, I mean, when you kind of whip out your own chart like that, and you’re like, “Hey, look at me,” it’s a little bit like having had too many drinks at the bar and taking your top off.

CB: Right.

KS: It’s—and again, similar to you, Chris—we don’t want to scare anyone away here, and enthusiasm for sure—questions are always good, but I guess the point is there’s a time and a place. And sometimes, especially if you’re talking to an astrologer with a fairly high profile; I don’t know that I’d recommend whipping your chart out in front of Rob Hand or someone like that.

CB: Right. He’s had that happen like thousands of times. I can only imagine.

KS: Yeah! Yeah, so wait to be invited in that context. And the flip side, I would say, of course, when you get your chart, you want to know all about it because it’s all new. So consider investing in a reading with an astrologer that you like. I actually think it’s one of the most helpful things for students to do is to sit down with an astrologer and talk through your chart. It’s almost like having a one-on-one tutoring session, and you will get so much out of it that’s really relevant for you.

Yeah, just as a—so if you really want, for people in those situations that really—because there’s two reasons I think people get into astrology in the very beginning, and it’s either because they want to know more about themselves, or it’s because they’re genuinely interested in the practice or the craft of astrology.

CB: Mhm.

KS: Just think about your motivation. And it’s okay to say, “I just want to learn about myself,” and then there are more appropriate ways to pursue that, and then if you want to learn about astrology itself, then you might go about it in a slightly different way.

CB: Yeah, and that’s a really good point that most people do get into astrology, especially natal astrology, in order to learn about themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a matter of figuring out what the social norms are within a specific community. And also the fact that if you’re coming up to another astrologer in person that typically it’s what they do for their job, and so they’re reading charts constantly all the time, so they don’t necessarily—and additionally, because there’s often preparation involved, it’s not something that a lot of astrologers just randomly do to start throwing out statements about a person’s life when a stranger has pulled out a chart.

Okay, so that’s a starting point, is get a copy of your birth chart. Step two is: start making some effort to learn the symbols in the chart by learning the specific symbols for the signs of the zodiac, the planets, and the aspects. I’m not sure if there are other symbols; I think those are the primary ones because I think one of the points that you mentioned is that learning astrology is kind of like learning a new language. And it has its own alphabet, which are the symbols for the planets and the signs of the zodiac and its own kind of language. And the starting point for that is to learn and memorize each of those symbols.

KS: Yes. Yeah, and I actually—I don’t know if I should have mentioned this before or not—I have put a free download of those symbols on my website to help people at this very stage because a birth chart is a very rich piece of information and insight, but you can only get into it if you know the symbols. Yeah, it is the number one thing, and I think it’s—to have to learn the symbols, to learn the astrological alphabet as you said—it’s the one thing that confuses people right at the very beginning is, “How can I learn astrology? I don’t know what these symbols mean.” And that’s where the memorization has to come in. And you do it once, and you’ll never forget it once you learn it.

CB: Sure. Yeah, and it becomes kind of like a second language to you in some sense. So yeah, so there’s your website, and I’ll link to that on the podcast page for this episode, and then there’s tons of other websites where you can just—or any intro to astrology book will show you, typically, what the symbols mean in a chart. And that’s really got to be your starting point is even if you don’t know what the placement itself means–

KS: Yes.

CB: If you don’t know what Jupiter in Scorpio looks like, at least just being able to identify that the symbol for Jupiter is this, and the symbol for Scorpio is that, which means that in this chart Jupiter is in the sign Scorpio means that you’ve made the first step in understanding specific placements in your birth chart as well as in other charts.

KS: Yes. It is, and it all starts by learning how to name or label things, and you’ve made an excellent point there, Chris.

CB: So this brings us to the next thing, which is to make use of—and this is a point that you already made—which is make use of free resources online. So this can be for simple things like learning the symbols for the planets and the signs and the aspects, but there’s just so many—this is such a great time in the history of astrology to become an astrologer or to learn astrology–

KS: Yes.

CB: Because there’s so many free resources online. It’s really almost endless at this point.

KS: You know, Chris, that’s true. I’m just thinking: you and I are pretty young, especially in our field, but even when—I know when I started and perhaps when you did too, I still had to draw charts up by hand. And so just in our generation, the amount of information that has now become freely available online and the quality of that information—there’s no reason for somebody who’s got, say, a small budget to study astrology—there’s so much good stuff out there that… kind of like a kid in a candy store.

CB: Yeah, I mean especially with the growth of blogs; there’s hundreds of astrology blogs that are out there being written daily by different astrologers—sometimes top astrologers writing just free articles on astrology. There’s different websites themselves that are not blogs, but websites like astro.com or Skyscript which have just tons and tons of free resources and sometimes PDFs of free astrological texts and other things like that. There’s different podcasts that are available, such as this one, that have free episodes that teach you different things, or you can find lots of other podcasts through iTunes or other websites.

There’s YouTube; there’s tons and tons of astrology videos and almost more every day of specific astrologers that are making instructional videos on YouTube. If you do searches for specific topics or techniques, and so on and so forth. So there’s just tons of online resources that you can take advantage of, and I’d really recommend doing that.

A few that deserve maybe special mention is: The Mountain Astrologer has a beginner’s astrologer series that teaches you just the basics of Western astrology, and I’ll link to that in the description page for this episode. Skyscript has tons of excellent articles and books and different things like that at skyscript.co.uk. And then other websites like—I’m building one called The Astrology Dictionary that has specific definitions of terms and concepts so that if you need to learn a concept that you don’t know or a word that you don’t know, you can just look it up for free online, and there will be a detailed article on it.

This is actually a good place to mention one free resource that normally a lot of people would take advantage of that’s not a very good resource, which unfortunately when it comes to astrology is Wikipedia. So there’s some okay astrology articles on Wikipedia, but unfortunately over the past decade, astrologers have kind of lost the battle with skeptics on Wikipedia, and the way that it’s generally gone is that because skeptics don’t think that astrology is valid, they’ve felt kind of like they have a right to try and get rid of astrology articles or make them shorter or, in some instances, delete them entirely from famous astrologers who used to have detailed entries on Wikipedia and now don’t. So I don’t actually typically recommend Wikipedia as a very good source for astrology.

The other problem is that for the articles that do exist, a lot of them aren’t in great shape because a lot of the astrologers left Wikipedia years ago, and there’s not as many good people doing work there at this point, or there’s not as vibrant of a community as there was about, let’s say, 10 years ago. So probably for the most part—and maybe in some instances you can use it—but for the most part I would avoid using Wikipedia for astrology stuff because you might get the wrong idea about certain articles, unfortunately.

KS: Yeah, that’s a challenge, unfortunately.

CB: Yeah. Okay, so that’s that tip. So at some point though, and this brings us to our next tip, you’re going to—I don’t want to say go as far as you can, because probably the free resources available are pretty endless—but at some point, you will want to start investing in some specific astrology books. And at some point you’ll realize that that’s really where, in most cases, the best information is. Because there’s a ton of information online that’s good, but a lot of astrologers still will keep some of their best work and their best insights for their books.

KS: Yes.

CB: And there is just an endless, again, a huge amount of astrology books out there that have been published, not just over the course of the past few years or the past few decades, but for centuries now astrologers have been writing books, and many of them are available to purchase in various places today either as actual print books or ebooks or what have you. So, our next tip would be to get some beginner astrology books because there’s a lot of good beginner astrology guides out there. And that’s usually a good step is to have an actual book—a full book that’s written with the intention of taking a beginner from the basics all the way through the intermediate and advanced steps in astrology.

So in terms of beginner books, there’s a few that I would recommend; I mean, I have a kind of short list of a few that are pretty good, although there’s a lot that aren’t my list or that I can’t think of right now that I would still recommend. But one of the ones that’s more recent that I’ve really appreciated is called The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology by April Elliott Kent, who writes a pretty popular astrology blog called Big Sky Astrology.

And I really like her book because it’s—it’s not like a huge book; it’s a reasonably sized book—but she does a really good job laying out the concepts in a simple and kind of easy to grasp manner. And she also has a good sense for layout and design and things like that, so when she presents concepts, it just seems very intuitive and easy to pick up and understand. So that’s one of my favorite books. What’s one of your favorite intro to astrology books?

KS: Look, April’s book is my new favorite, so I won’t go off of what you said. She’s wonderful; in fact, when I used to go to the library when I first started studying astrology to get online years ago, April’s blog, Big Sky Astrology, was one of the two or three that I used to read way back in the day. And she’s always been a very engaging writer and teacher of astrology.

So I would second what you’ve said, and then the one that I—and I actually use this when I teach my beginner’s classes—it’s an old-school one called Chart Interpretation Handbook by Steven Arroyo. And it’s a very clear—it was published in 1989, so this is clearly not the latest thing. But the way that he spells out the basics—planets, signs, houses, the elements, the modes, how the ascendant works in a chart, he also does some great insights around aspects—it’s just a really good basic primer book. I would recommend that one too.

CB: Yeah. That’s a great book. And then another old-school book that a lot of people recommend, although it’s because it’s so comprehensive, is Parker’s Astrology by Derek and Julia Parker–

KS: Yes.

CB: Which I think it’s been in different editions, and it’s been in different print in different forms since like the 1960s or 70s.

KS: Yes.

CB: But they keep revising it and updating it and putting out new editions every few years, and it’s just a nice, very comprehensive book that teaches you both the basics but also has a lot of interpretations so that you can look up what specific placements in your birth chart look like or how to interpret specific placements. So like what does Saturn in the ninth house mean, or what does Venus in the second house mean or what have you. So those are some good intro to modern astrology books.

Another book that came out a few years ago that’s more traditional is a book called On the Heavenly Spheres by Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro. And that is a great book; it’s probably one of the best books right now on the market to older or more traditional forms of astrology from prior to the 20th century. So if you’re getting into astrology, and either for some reason you specifically want to go a traditional route right from the start, or if you’re getting into astrology, and you want to study both modern astrology as well as ancient astrology, that’d probably be my primary recommendation at this point is to pick up that book as well.

And then finally, if you’re looking for a more, let’s say, high-brow discussion of astrology that includes not just the basics of planets and signs and houses and aspects but really goes into some of the deeper cultural and philosophical issues associated with astrology, I’d probably recommend Richard Tarnas’s book Cosmos and Psyche, which I think was written with that specific intention in mind of kind of like exposing astrology to the broader public and presenting it in a respectable fashion that people could understand as sort of higher form of modern astrology.

That’s not a book that’s going to teach you the basics of chart interpretation in a conventional sense of what the houses mean and what different things like that mean, or how to interpret them in your own chart, but it is going to show you a high-level introduction to contemporary astrology. Are there any other books that you wanted to mention?

KS: The only other one that just comes to mind is a new one that’s just coming out, Principles of Practical Natal Astrology by Kevin Burk. And his—similar to Parker’s Astrology and April’s book, Essential Guide—just a really solid start at the beginning, know nothing, and work your way from knowing nothing, not being able to tell Saturn from Mars and the symbols, to being able to do some fairly comprehensive interpretations, so yeah. And the one other thing I would say on the books as a general topic is: you don’t need all the books, you just need one or two that you’re actually going to read and refer back to. So don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune right up front. One or two books, and read them, and then reread them, and then read them again, and that will get you going.

CB: Sure. Yeah, and certainly if you want to buy a lot of books that’s fine, or another resource—it’s sort of hit or miss depending on the area you’re in—some libraries do have decent astrology book collections, so always remember that you can go to a library and sometimes check out books from there. And one other book—yeah, Kevin Burk’s book, which is coming out later this month, is good–

KS: Yes.

CB: And he does a good job of integrating modern and traditional astrology–

KS: That was the point I wanted to make, thank you, yes.

CB: Sure. And another book like that is Demetra George’s book, Astrology and the Authentic Self, which is more of an intermediate level book, but it has some basic introductory concepts and terms of merging modern and traditional astrology as well.

KS: Beautiful, beautiful.

CB: Get some books because they’ll tend to present—most of the stuff you’ll find online will be like little snippets and shorter articles, but the books are generally supposed to give more of a complete sort or systematic or overall approach to astrology. And that can be really important in terms of setting you up with a complete understanding of astrology right from the start and all of the various aspects and parts of it.

Another book that you should probably get—well, actually, I’ll save this for later. So during the process of the book—getting together books and starting to read and expose yourself to different things—one of the next steps I would really recommend is subscribing to The Mountain Astrologer magazine, or at least getting a few—getting an issue of it, getting whatever the latest issue is of it, because this is really one of the primary magazines that’s available. And it’s one of the most up-to-date and regular and reliable resources in the astrological community.

So it’s a little magazine that comes out every two months, I think it’s bimonthly.

KS: Yes. Yep.

CB: And basically just they do a really good job of trying to solicit articles from different astrologers in different parts of the community in order to give a nice cross section of what’s going on in the astrological community at any given moment in time. And they’ll have beginners’ articles, they’ll have intermediate articles, and sometimes they’ll have advanced articles. They also have a professional astrologer’s directory, where you can see all of the different astrologers that are advertising consultations of different types. They’ll have monthly forecast sections; I write a monthly section on auspicious electional charts that are coming up. There’s a cartoon section that sometimes has like humorous astrology-themed cartoons.

KS: They’re fantastic.

CB: Yeah! I mean, there’s just a lot of different stuff, and people don’t… I mean, I wish I had been more aware of The Mountain Astrologer when I was early on in my studies because that’s really the best—the most perfect time for it. I mean, I still subscribe and read all the issues today. But I think I would have gotten even more out of it in the first four or five years of my studies just because it does a really good job of exposing people to the work of different astrologers in the community and really giving you an idea of what’s going on in astrology today and what some of the latest currents are within it.

KS: Yes. Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s one of the number one things I recommend to students, and The Mountain Astrologer has a dedicated student section in it these days as well. So there’s always at least two or three articles designed for people who are just getting started, so you certainly don’t need to be advanced astrologers to subscribe.

And I agree, Chris; not only is it full of great information from a wide range of voices of people working in astrology today, I always find the ads are great too because it’s a great way of keeping up-to-date with what conferences might be coming up or what new books are coming out or what kind of great online resources you can access. So clearly I’ve used the word great three times in this sentence; it’s clearly well worth subscribing to.

CB: Definitely. That would be one of my tips just all on its own because that’s one of those tips that I wish I had gotten earlier on in my studies. So subscribe to Mountain Astrologer magazine. You can find their website at mountainastrologer.com.

And okay! So the next tip is—and this kind of relates back to the books section—but it’s almost a tip in and of itself. But the tip is this: is to get a copy of an ephemeris and learn to read it. So this ties together a couple of different parts. On the one hand, typically an ephemeris—what it is is it’s a book of planetary positions that for each individual day of each month in a given—let’s say, half a century or sometimes an entire century—for every day and every year, it’ll tell you at the beginning of that day where each of the planets was located.

So this is obviously important for astrologers because on the one hand, you can use it—it was originally used in order to calculate a birth chart because you can look in an ephemeris back to the day you were born, and you’ll see exactly where the planets were located at the start of that day. But you could also use it in order to determine where the planets are now.

For example, if I was to open the ephemeris and look up May 15, 2015, I would see that Saturn is at two or three Sagittarius, and Mars is at two Gemini, and Mercury is at 12 Gemini, and so on and so forth. So it would tell you exactly where the planets are now. But in addition to that, it can show you where the planets will be in the future because it’ll show—for example, my ephemeris shows where the planets will be all the way every day until the year 2050.

So it becomes a really useful tool, not just for looking up where the planets are on a given day in the past or the present or the future, but also learning the different speeds of the planets; seeing how quickly a planet like Venus moves through a sign of the zodiac compared to a planet like Jupiter. So Venus taking, let’s say a month or so, to move through Cancer versus Jupiter taking an entire 12 months or a year to move through Leo: there’s something mentally useful about learning how to read the ephemeris and getting comfortable with it because it can teach you things about planetary movement that you might not know just coming into this field but things that would be very important for you to know.

KS: One hundred percent. It’s—and students sometimes say, “Well, do I need an ephemeris? I mean, I’ve got free charts online, or I’ve got software,” or what have you. The answer to that question is: you still need an ephemeris. I have two, probably similar to you, Chris. I’ve got my 20th century, from 1900 to 2000. And then I’ve got my 21st century that’s doing the 50 years from 2000 through 2050. And it’s a book that I use so much that I have actually—what is it, 2015? I’ve already had to get a second book for—in the last 15 years, I’ve worn out my first one for this current time period’s, so-

CB: You’ve only worn out one? I’ve worn out like three or four of-

KS: Oh, my gosh, now you make me sound lazy!

CB: Well, yeah, I mean that’s probably partially just overuse. Like I have one—I have to have strategic, I found at this stage in my astrological career, like strategic ephemeris placement at different parts in my house because you never know when you’re going to be wondering like, “Where was Mars on February 6 of 1992?” or something like that. And if you’re on the couch watching TV, you need to have a strategic ephemeris located within reaching distance.

KS: In arm’s distance.

CB: Yeah, so I have a few strategically placed. But yeah, they tend to—I’m not sure if it’s because they… I mean, most of them are the printed ones. Most people buy the American ephemeris from–

KS: Yes.

CB: ACS. And part of it is overuse because you’ll end up using the thing hundreds or thousands of times, and so it’ll eventually fall apart. Part of it’s just because they’re just little paperbacks that are glued together not very well. So they probably fall apart partially for that reason. But it’s very useful to have the printed version. If you don’t want to get a printed version, then you can also go to astro.com–

KS: Yes.

CB: And they have a free 5,000-year ephemeris or something like that that you can download in PDF format for every year.

KS: Yes.

CB: And that works just as well. But generally speaking, it’s good to have the actual book itself and to start familiarizing yourself with it.

KS: Well, for sure. And that kind of leads into the next point too, doesn’t it?

CB: Yes. So the next point is to start following your transits. And one of the ways to do this is to just use the ephemeris itself. And so you have your birth chart, and you have a copy of your birth chart. And then you get your ephemeris, which tells you where the planets are placed now or in the future, and just start referencing—for example, going through your life chronology when important events happened in your life and comparing where the planets were on that day to where they were in your birth chart. And you’ll start to see some of the different correlations of important transits, basically planetary placements in the sky at the moment of an important event aligning with important placements in your birth chart itself in different areas of the zodiac.

So start following your transits on a daily basis though, and one of the good ways to do this is using astro.com because they have this awesome thing called the personal daily horoscope, which sounds like your generic Sun sign column, but in fact what it is is they take the birth chart information that you’ve already entered in, and then they tell you for any given day of the year, especially for today or the next day or two in the future, what transits are active in your chart at any given point in time and especially which transits will be going exact today or tomorrow or were exact the previous day.

And that can be just incredibly useful if you’re just starting out in astrology because right away it can tell you exactly what types of things to expect or anticipate on a given day. And you can learn a lot just by observing what transits you have on specific days and what kinds of events or experiences you have as a result of that or coinciding with that. Is that–

KS: Yeah I think that’s a really good point to make, Chris, is that when you are learning, it’s as much about being aware and observing as it is about trying to learn theories. I mean, when you learn astrology, you’re learning it on two levels: there’s book learning—this is the technique, or this is the theory, and this is how it should or is most likely to manifest or show up—but there’s richness, and you add depth to your knowledge, when you take the time to see how it actually does manifest or show up.

If you’ve got a particular configuration in your chart, or even if you’re just very, very basic, and you want to get a sense of how the houses work for you, and you track the Moon through the houses, which you can do—it’ll be changing every couple of days—or you might track the Sun through the houses, they will start—just those little gentle triggers will start to show topics that get repeated every time the Moon is in your seventh house or every time the Sun is going through your 10th house of career. So that observational piece is so rich in how it adds to your learning and your knowledge.

CB: Definitely. And this is where this empirical element also comes into astrology, where astrologers actually do learn and do develop a lot of their opinions as a result of observing events happening in their lives and what transits correlated or coincided with those events. So this is a really important—this is the first step in the process of developing an empirical understanding of astrology and how it works and what each of the planets mean and what different parts of your chart means is just by following where the planets are on a daily basis and how that relates to your birth chart.

So… yeah. So use astro.com for that, or use an ephemeris. And astro.com you can actually use the ephemeris and still get interpretations if you get a copy of Robert Hand’s famous book, Planets in Transit, which is one of those books that every astrologer, at least typically lots of astrologers, have in their library, especially prior to when astro.com came around and started using the delineations in Planets in Transit because it’ll give you an interpretation of a few paragraphs for every possible transit. 

So if the Moon is conjunct Mars one day, he’ll have a four or five paragraph interpretation for that. Or if Saturn is square Neptune or something like that, he’ll have a delineation for it. So that’s also a good book to get just because it can be useful just in terms of not just identifying what planetary transit you’re having but also getting some tips about how you might experience it at that given time in your life.

KS: Yes. One hundred percent. And then whenever someone talks about Planets in Transit, it reminds me of where I got about half of the books that I have by Rob Hand, which was in a little secondhand bookstore down in Hobart in Tasmania, which is literally the bottom of the world basically. But the point there is that if you’re looking to build up your astrological library, do check out your local secondhand bookstores because every now and then an astrologer’s like, “I’ve got to declutter my library,” or maybe they’re a little bit more elderly, and they’re downsizing, and all of a sudden you can get a bunch of great astrology books that you can pick up for a fraction of the price.

CB: Definitely. I know that I went to, for the first four or five years of my study, this little metaphysical bookstore in Denver that was called The Metaphysical Bookstore. I think it’s called Shining Lotus Books now, but I think I literally put at least one or two of their kids through college from all of the used books that I was buying from that place for the first four or five years, as well as some of the new books.

But yeah, that’s a great tip to find local used bookstores because you can usually get a lot of really good astrology books from them, especially the really popular ones like Planets in Transit or sometimes an ephemeris or things like that that are things that every astrologer has. And sometimes when they get rid of their library for whatever reason, those end up in used bookstores.

KS: Yes, yes.

CB: Okay. So that brings us to our next tip, which is: it’s not enough just to study your own chart and to study your own transits and things like that, but at some point, even though your primary interest in getting into astrology oftentimes will be yourself and your own life, one of the other things that’s really cool that you can do with astrology is you can use it to understand other people’s lives as well, especially other people that are close to you.

So the next tip is to study the charts of other friends in your life, family members, or even famous people or people that you have some interest in that are famous out there in the world, and you have some particular interest in their life story. So you can do this just by basically going through the same process of going to astro.com, and you need to have their birth information, their birth data. So you need their birthday, time, and place. But enter that into astro.com, get a copy of their birth chart, and then sometimes you can either just use the chart itself and observe how the placements in that person’s chart reflect different events or different circumstances or realities about the person’s life.

Or you can also go through the process of following their transits. So if you know when important events happen in that person’s life, you can look at where the planets were placed on that day and learn something about what that meant for them. Or if you want to study a famous person’s chart, sometimes astrologers will have asked the person or through some other means gotten the birth time of a celebrity, and oftentimes those birth times are available on AstroDatabank, which is another subset of the astro.com website. So basically just start studying the charts of other people, and start studying their transits, and start to apply the same process that you used to your own chart to the charts of other people. Is that something you did as well? I mean, it’s something I did. I don’t know if—I think it’s pretty common. What do you think?

KS: Oh, my gosh, completely. I’m thinking of myself as a lovestruck 18-year-old, when I would’ve started studying astrology.

CB: Right.

KS: I’m sure I would’ve been looking at the chart of any boy who caught my eye. Yes. So you may not be quite as sad as I was at 18 or 19, but a lot of people—it’s actually one of the most common things that students will say, which is, “It really helps me understand my husband or my wife,” or, “It helps me understand my kids or my sister, who I’ve always thought was crazy. And now she just happens to have—” I don’t know. It gives people a bit of compassion for the fact—it’s almost like it makes real that idea that we’re all different, and astrology can be a way of conceptualizing how we’re different or in what ways we’re different. And it actually is very helpful from a relationship perspective either in your personal or professional life.

CB: Yeah, definitely, and helping you to understand and have greater compassion for people in your life, or even celebrities for that matter, and understand where they’re coming from and what they’re about in some sense. As well as at that point you can start getting into other applications and other branches of astrology, which I’ve talked about in a previous episode, which are things like synastry—so comparing the birth charts of two people in order to see how they interact—or other more advanced relationship compatibility-type applications, like composite charts, to see the chart of a relationship itself, or what have you.

Once you start looking at the charts of other people, you start getting a sense for, again, expanding the empirical study of astrology by making observations about people’s personalities or their lives that you already know or have some familiarity with and then seeing what that looks like in their birth chart but then also starting to branch out into other applications of astrology, such as synastry.

Okay. So that brings us to—at this point, I think the person is pretty well establishing the basics of astrology, and they’re getting the basics down, and they know their chart, they know some other people’s chart, they have some books, they’ve read a bunch of articles. At some point, the next step that I usually recommend is—and it’s good to do this pretty early in your studies—to start connecting with other astrologers online, primarily through online discussion forums.

There’s a ton of these in different parts of the Internet, so I can’t summarize all of the great forums that you could participate in, since there’s tons of great astrology forums. But I would definitely single out, for example, SkyScript has a great forum, especially for traditional astrology. Astrodienst finally a few years ago launched a forum, and it’s very active for different types of astrology. And then more recently over the past several years, Facebook has become a really active place for different astrology groups.

So I’d recommend starting to connect with other astrologers and starting to engage in and follow different discussions about astrology through some of these online forums. Is that something that you did during your studies, Kelly, or where—at what point did that–

KS: Yeah, I did. Yeah, very early in the day, when I would toddle off to the library up the street, I would—AstroDatabank. They used to do these chart discussions, where there’d be chart of the week or something, I guess, and people would comment. They’d post a short bio, post the person’s chart—famous people from the arts or politics or entertainment or sports. And then they’d put some discussion questions to get people commenting.

And I was probably more of a lurker than an actual commenter, but it was really interesting to see other people having a go at a chart or how they would approach it. Or they might point out things that I was too young in my practice to see or notice yet. So, absolutely.

CB: Yeah. And this can be a huge thing because one of the things that’ll do is that it’ll expose you to different forms of astrology and different ways of thinking about it. And sometimes if you have a question you can ask other people out there that have been on the same path that you are and have been attempting to learn the same thing, but in some instances, they’ve been doing it for slightly longer than you or, in some instances, a lot longer than you. And so sometimes you can get shortcuts basically, or tips from other people, that can really save you a lot of time in terms of your own studies just by asking questions or following discussions or sometimes engaging in discussions about the topic.

So do some searches online—just do some Google searches—and find different astrology forums; there’s tons of them out there, so they’re not really that difficult to find.

KS: No. Again it’s that idea, isn’t it, of just scratch the surface and a whole new world opens up.

CB: Right. Definitely. And that brings us to our next point, next tip, which is: at some point, you’ll sort of go—I don’t want to say as far as you possibly can with an online forum because the discussions on them are endless, but at some point it’s good to actually meet up with other astrologers in person. And for this, first, you should start locally by trying to meet up with other local astrologers in your area.

So the best way—there’s a few different ways to do this; there’s three primary ways basically. The first one that I would recommend is check meetup.com and see if there’s any astrology groups or local astrology meetups in your area. A lot of groups at this point are using meetup.com in order to organize local astrology meetings, and so usually if you just search on that site, you’ll be able to find one.

Another thing you can check is the NCGR—or the National Counsel for Geocosmic Research is one of the big worldwide, or primarily in the US, but quasi-worldwide organizations. And one of the primary things that they do is they have chapters in different parts of the country and different parts of the world. And most of those chapters host monthly meetings on astrology where there’ll be usually a lecture; there’ll be an astrologer presenting a lecture on a specific topic or a specific astrological technique. So if you go to the NCGR website, which is geocosmic.org or something like that, you can see if there’s a local chapter of the NCGR in your area. If you live in a major city, then there’s a pretty good chance that there is.

And then finally the third one is just to do a Google search for local—the name of your city or the name of your state or area and “astrology group.” And you’ll probably find something in your area because sometimes the NCGR won’t have a chapter, but instead, there’ll be some other local chapter that’s formed in a specific area of the country or area of the world that doesn’t have an affiliation with either meetup.com or with the NCGR, so it’ll be like an independent group.

So for example, in Seattle, the group that meets there is the Washington State Astrological Association. And they are not part of the NCGR or—actually they might have a Meetup at this point, I think they actually do— but nonetheless they have their own independent website. So it’s good to do a search just to see what groups are in your area, and usually they’ll be hosting monthly meetings, and you can go and actually meet other people in person and maybe start catching an astrology lecture in person. Do you do local group stuff, Kelly?

KS: Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually—where I live is not a major city right now, but we’re building a little bit of a community here. But even in Australia, the Federation of Australian Astrologers, local groups, and I do think your point around Google these days because there can be independent groups that may not be part of a national body that are meeting, and you’ll get so much out of it.

CB: Yeah, and one of the tips that I also try to give people, or that I urged people several years ago, is that if there’s not a local group in your area, then start one.

KS: Yes.

CB: You can go on meetup.com, and you pay a monthly fee; it’s not huge, it’s like 15 or 20 dollars or something like that. But with meetup.com, you can actually pretty easily set up and start organizing a local group that holds regular meetings. And once you start a group, for example, let’s say on astrology, the way that meetup.com is set up is that when people sign up for the site, they list a handful of different interests that they have. And so if a new group forms in their area, let’s say within 50 miles of a person, and it matches the interests that that person says they have, then they’ll get an email saying that this group has been just formed and they’re going to start having meetings; would you like to attend their meetings.

And so, just by starting an astrology group in a specific area or a specific city using that website, usually you can attract a bunch of people to start attending your meetings right away. So it’s easier than it’s ever been probably ever to start an astrology group these days. And if there isn’t an astrology group in your area, then I would recommend starting one.

And I’m not just saying that like people should go off and do that, but that’s what I did in Denver, and we just celebrated our seven year anniversary this month. So we’ve had something like 80 plus meetings, and the group is really growing and flourishing, and we get regularly 20 or 30 people attending each meeting. So it’s definitely doable, and it’s something I recommend doing if you don’t have a local group in your area.

KS: Yes, and you reminded me: when I was in Sydney years ago, we started a Young Astrologers group. Just people a little bit young; we were all in our 20s. And it’s amazing—it’s a little bit like, I don’t know, moths to a flame that if you start a group, you will be surprised at how quickly other people will jump on board.

CB: Yeah, definitely. And it’s really useful to start building up bonds with other people because then you can have a study buddy to study with, or you can have other people to bounce ideas off of. Or you can find people that have different ideas from you and that maybe you don’t agree with, but you can more easily define your own position or your own views on astrology more readily by contrasting them with other people.

There’s so many different things that local astrology groups, and just meeting up with other astrologers in person, are good for. I really recommend it as a step, as part of the process. Even if you’re not a very social person, or even if you tend to be shy or something like that, just the fact that there’s other people in your area that you could meet with in order to study or talk about this subject that you’ve been studying and that you’ve become very interested in should be enough to push you towards doing that, even if you’re reticent about it in the first place.

So, that’s that step. Eventually with the local groups, eventually you’ll again reach a—I don’t want to say a plateau, but there’s only so many astrologers in a given area. And most astrology groups probably attract, let’s say, 20 or 30 people to a meeting, give or take, on average or maybe tops. Eventually what you’re going to want to do is expose yourself to other forms of astrology and get more serious about learning it in a controlled setting.

And at this point I would recommend taking a course on astrology either from a local astrologer, if there’s a good course that’s being taught locally in your area. Or probably more likely, take a course online through some sort of school or some individual astrologer that offers individual training for just astrology in general or for some specific techniques or some specific approach to astrology.

This is what I did about four years into my studies. Four or five years into my studies, I started attending Kepler College and ended up going through I think the majority of their entire program before pursuing my studies elsewhere. And I’m very happy and very glad that I did, partially because they exposed me to a lot of different types of astrology that I probably either wouldn’t have exposed myself to because I didn’t think I needed to, or I would have put off for 10 or 20 years.

So it actually advanced and kind of sped up my studies much more than I ever anticipated it would just because they knew things that I needed to learn that I didn’t know I needed to learn. And that’s generally the case when you take a course with somebody is that there’s stuff that you don’t know that they could teach you, and you don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve learned it. Yeah, so that’s that tip. Did you take any courses, Kelly?

KS: Yeah, absolutely. I studied with a woman, an independent woman, in Sydney and studied with her for about two years and as a result of that got connected into the Federation of Australian Astrologers, which is the Australian premiere astrological organization. And I did there advance as well. So, yeah, I recommend, whether it’s through an organization like Kepler initially, or whether there’s somebody local that is of a decent quality that you can study with.

It’s so important to take those few years because the biggest thing when you’re beginning is you just have no idea what you don’t know yet. And sometimes students will say, “Gosh, there’s just more—” at the end of the course, there’s so much more. And astrology is like a bottomless pit; it’s like Mary Poppins’ bag. I’m not sure that you ever get to the bottom of it, but that’s the beauty of it.

CB: Yeah, and there’s tons of courses out there. There’s both major online schools like Kepler College or the International Academy of Astrology, the Faculty of Astrological Studies. If you wanted to study Indian astrology, there’s the American Council of Vedic Astrology. There’s also the Organization for Professional Astrologers, which is more for people that are going specifically for the professional route.

But there’s also individual people; there’s specific astrologers that have apprenticeship programs or that teach correspondence or online courses that you can take if you want to study a specific type of astrology or study under a specific astrologer whose work that you like. For people that do evolutionary astrology, for example, there’s—Steven Forrest teaches an apprenticeship program that’s very popular. Or there’s people like Mark Jones that also does an online course that’s very popular. If you wanted to study older forms of astrology, there’s people like myself that teach Hellenistic astrology through my online course, or Demetra George does correspondence courses as well. Kelly, I think you’re working on a course that’s supposed to come out at some point this year–

KS: Yes!

CB: –or you’re working on some stuff?

KS: Yes, I’ve had my online courses for about seven years now, so I’m just refreshing and revamping them. And they are—I call them practical astrology courses. But they definitely have a traditional influence, so you can get that bit as well.

CB: And typically these are—for yours, for example, these are live webinars or live discussions and live lectures that you’re actually presenting online, right?

KS: I do, yeah; I know we were talking about that earlier. I really enjoy teaching; it’s something—I just love it. So I do—even when I say my course is online, it’s like a live online course. So there are live lectures each week to come along to, as well as written work and reading to do in between the classes. So I know sometimes—I know with your course, Chris, the online is sort of a more pure or proper online. Mine is like an online with a twist.

CB: Well, and I really like that because it’s such a different time—like the past five or 10 years, suddenly you don’t have to—it used to be that you had to either live in the same city as a famous astrologer in order to attend lectures by them, or you had to go across the country or to a different part of the world in order to attend a conference where you would see them speak for like 75 minutes and then that would be it.

But nowadays, you can actually, like with your courses, you can actually find somebody whose work you really appreciate, or you can find a famous astrologer whose work you really like and follow, and if they do an online course or if they do online webinars or lectures, you can attend lectures by that person semi-regularly from the comfort of your own home. And there’s something really amazing about that in terms of what it’s doing for the astrological community and for the quality of astrology and how much better that can make an individual’s studies by having access to those things.

KS: 100 percent, Chris. And to add to that: again, it’s sort of that idea that there’s no reason that you can’t be exposed to high-quality astrology information or teaching. And the other beauty of the online forum or platform is that it’s more affordable typically than perhaps the in-person form. And I had another point and now it’s just escaped me. It’ll come back.

CB: Okay. Yeah, so… Take an online course or a local course. Local courses are good as well if you can find a good teacher or if you find a teacher who’s teaching a course. You can find some really good ones locally, and that’s what going to the local astrology groups is for. 

KS: Yes. And the other point—sorry, I just–

CB: Go ahead.

KS: –had a Neptune moment. The idea is that even if you think, “Oh, my gosh, that online lecture is—I’ve never done anything about that,” or, “Maybe it’s a bit above my current learning standard,” or what have you, take it anyway. You will always get something out of being exposed to high-quality astrological information.

It doesn’t have to be the most advanced stuff out there, but if you get the chance to hear someone like Demetra George or Rob Hand or Lee Lehman or Deb Houlding, just some names off the top of my head; if you get the chance to hear them speak, just take it. Because when you get to be in the presence or to hear from people that are at the top of their field, it’s going to be very, very inspiring for you.

CB: Yeah, I mean the fact that you can go and see a webinar nowadays by—like Robert Hand is doing a webinar every month, or Demetra George for the past year has been doing–

KS: Her houses series.

CB: Yeah, a series where she does an entire one or two-hour lecture just on each individual house. And she blends both the modern significations of the houses and the traditional or ancient significations together. There’s just really amazing work that’s being presented through some of these webinars, so it’s really good to take advantage of.

And I just wanted to make that point just because it’s great that you can both go and find an entire school that will take you through an entire program, like Kepler or like the International Academy of Astrology, but then there’s also these individuals where you can go through a specific individual’s program. And there’s pros and cons to both approaches, but there’s definitely some great benefits you can get from either one.

KS: Absolutely. And yes, we could go on about the courses all night I think. The other point that I just thought of is that organizations like Kepler and I’m pretty sure the IAA do this as well is: every month they do a free online lecture, or every two weeks. So even if you’re not formally enrolled in their official training program, if you get on their mailing list, there are these opportunities to participate in these great lectures; either free or for a very nominal five or ten dollar fee.

CB: Yeah, Kepler’s doing at least one or two free webinars each month. If you sign up for it, you get an email, and it gets sent to you afterwards as a video, even if you don’t make it to actually attend and see it live.

KS: Yes.

CB: So yeah, lots of good stuff like that. And then that brings us to our next tip, which is to join an astrological organization. There’s a bunch of different astrological organizations around that are in the world. Some of them are national organizations that are unique to specific countries, some of them are international organizations that have a more international presence, some of them are organizations that are set up to promote specific subsets or approaches or specific things within the astrological community.

But basically there’s a lot of great astrological organizations out there that do a lot of great services that connect astrologers together. They often have a member letter that gets sent out every month or every week or what have you, they often have a journal or a magazine that has different astrological articles in it that’s only available to members, and they also sometimes host events or conferences, which you can get discounts on if you’re a member or things like that.

The main organizations in the US—actually I don’t know if I can—I don’t know if I want to frame it like that, but there’s some really big astrological organizations in the US. So there’s the National Council for Geocosmic Research, or the NCGR. They excel or they specialize primarily in having the chapters, as I mentioned earlier, different chapters in different parts of the world that host different meetings. But they also host major conferences every few years, and they have two different journals that they send out in different intervals. So they offer a bunch of stuff.

There’s the International Society of Astrological Research, which is similar, except it has more of an international focus in that they have different vice presidents in each country that are representatives of each country, and so they have more of an international flare to their organization. They also have a journal that comes out three or four times a year, and they also host major conferences, including one that Kelly and I both attended last September in Arizona.

There’s the American Federation of Astrologers, which is the oldest astrological organization in the US; it was formed in the 1930s. And they have been hosting conferences for decades, and they have an amazing library, which I got to check out last month when I was there for a conference in April. And they also sell books; they’re a major book distributor, so they have some very great books on their website and do a lot of really great work in terms of giving grants for research and things like that and having a research journal.

There’s also AFAN, which is the Association for Astrological Networking; they were formed in the 1980s in order to help connect astrologers together. And they do a lot of helpful things in terms of helping astrologers to fight legal battles and things like that, or they were much more active for that in the 1980s and 90s when there were more court cases against astrologers. That’s become less of a primary focus for them nowadays, but it’s still something that they’re very much known for.

Let’s see… I guess I could keep going—I don’t know if I’d rattle off the entire list. What organizations are you familiar with or a part of, Kelly?

KS: I’ll give a shout out to the Australian organization, the Federation of Australian Astrologers. They are a national body in Australia; we—as a smaller country, we just have one federal level, or national level, organization. And they have branches or member organizations which operate in each of the main states, or in most of the states in Australia, particularly Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart. I’m not 100 percent sure on South Australia or Western Australia, although South Australia and Western Australia have their own independent organizations as well.

The big thing in Australia there is there’s a conference every two years, and the next one is in January 2016, which is almost skipping ahead to the next point. So there’s that in Australia, the Astrologer’s Association of Great Britain; I can’t—when I’ve met astrologers from other countries, even in some of the European countries, I feel like they’ve all had astrology associations there too. So again, it might just be a matter of a quick Google search because if they are there, they will be fairly prominent in terms of having their own website or what have you.

CB: Yeah, definitely, for different countries and different locations, and even for different special subsets. For example, one organization that I was part of for a while and still am a member of is the Association for Young Astrologers; that’s a group to helps to promote and support both bringing in and supporting younger people in the community but also just newer people that are coming into the community as well. And they provide a lot of useful resources and scholarships, and they now have a journal that’s amazing. Their first issue came out last fall, and I think they’re working on their second one right now.

KS: Yes.

CB: So AYA has a lot of very useful—or the AYA—has a lot of useful services. And then there’s other specialty groups like OPA, or the Organization for Professional Astrology, that focuses on certification and training for how to transition into doing astrology as a primary or secondary profession. So that’s something I’m taking part in later this year, where I’m going out to give a three-day intensive on a specific technique with them. And that actually workshop is now filled up since we have 10 people signed up for it.

KS: Oh, fantastic!

CB: Yeah! I’m actually really excited about that. It closed really—got filled up really early; there’s now a waiting list, and if any spots open up, people can still possibly get in. And I’m going to be talking to anybody that doesn’t make it in afterwards about connecting with them further training things. But anyway, OPA is a really interesting organization that’s up and coming and trying to focus on the specialty issue of transitioning into being a professional astrologer and doing astrology as a practice.

There’s also other specialty groups, such as the American College of Vedic Astrology and its related organization, which I think is called the American Council of Vedic Astrology, which focuses on Indian astrology in particular. And they host their own conferences and have their own newsletter and other events as well. So there’s tons of astrological organizations out there; I think we’ve covered a lot of the main ones, but we’ve probably overlooked some.

KS: I’m sure we’ve forgotten, but yes, there’s—as long as people know to go looking for them, that’s the biggest thing, isn’t it?

CB: Yeah, definitely because they just provide a lot of useful services, and yeah, again it’s something that will help to expand and broaden your astrological horizons by exposing you to things and telling you about things that are going on in the community that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

KS: Absolutely. And I think your membership fee’s usually between 40 and 60 dollars a year, and that gets you a discounted rate into any events that they might be hosting, whether that’s a conference or a monthly meeting. And some of the larger organizations do offer a journal that comes out; usually they’re every quarter, some of them might be a bit more frequently. But you pay a little bit of money, that’s what you get in return. And it’s your key into the larger astrological community

CB: Definitely. And that brings us to our next point, which is–

KS: Oh, yes.

CB: One of our final points, or getting towards the end, is one of my final tips. And this is where I ended with my original article for tips for learning astrology is to attend an astrological conference. And astrological conferences are usually these big events; there’s usually only maybe one or two or three of them a year of varying sizes, depending on which organization is putting it on. But sometimes it’s hosted by private individuals, other times—most of the time it’s hosted by an astrological organization, such as the NCGR or ISAR or the AFA. Other times, it can be—sometimes a conglomeration of two or three different astrological groups can get together and host a huge conference.

But generally speaking, what it is is it’s a few day period where a bunch of astrologers go to a big hotel that has lecture rooms and lecture halls attached to it or as part of it, and there’s basically a few days or a week of astrology lectures from early in the morning, from nine o’clock in the morning usually, until about five o’clock at night. And you’ll get at least four astrology lectures in, if not more, each day over the course of a week.

So during these events they usually have a bunch of professional or famous astrologers that are well known in the field for different things fly in to give lectures on different topics on things that they specialize in or have been researching or are otherwise known for. And the lecture rooms themselves will be packed with a bunch of astrologers that have come to hear these people speak, and then afterward there’ll be a lot of socializing and people meeting up and hanging out and talking and getting to know each other and talking about astrology.

So they’re really important events both because they’re good learning events in terms of attending the actual lectures and seeing some of the latest research in the field during the lectures themselves, and then on top of that they’re really great in terms of connecting with other astrologers from different parts of your country or different parts of the world and meeting new friends and building new connections and exchanging information and learning, again, as a result of that social interaction.

Yeah?

KS: Yeah. I was going to say: a couple of years later you can sit down and do podcasts together with people that you meet at conferences!

CB: Right! So we finally met—so we’d had little, tiny interactions, but we finally actually met at UAC in 2012, right?

KS: Yes. Yes.

CB: Yeah, and then just by hanging out then and then hanging out, especially at NORWAC the following year in 2013, developed a friendship and a rapport with each other so that we’ve continued to talk and interact and check in with each other since that time. So you build actual friendships and connections with people at these conferences that can last for years and can sometimes become very important.

KS: Yes. The other—I remember one other thing: my first big astrology conference. I had gone to the ones in Australia, which are quite sizable; the FAA gets between two and three hundred people usually. And that’s—I don’t know if that’s an average conference. There are some that are a little bit smaller, maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty. UAC of course is the astrological olympics, I guess, where there’s a thousand people.

But going to UAC in 2008, it made me feel like coming home that there really were a lot of other people like me that were passionate about this weird thing called astrology or that were inspired by it. And so there’s a sense of community I guess that you get at a conference that you won’t get anywhere else.

CB: Definitely. And it’s much more—you have a much better chance of finding other astrologers that are heading in the same direction with you or have similar interests or similar focus on the specific type of astrology you’re doing at a conference compared to your local astrological group, where you’ll have a much more limited group of people that may or may not have similar interests as you.

KS: Yes.

CB: But at a conference, where you’ve got 300 other astrologers, obviously that ups your odds of finding somebody else that is doing similar things.

KS: Yeah, is interested in the same specialties, or even is at the same level as you are at the same time, because then you find your crew, or you get to bond with your particular generation, if that makes sense.

CB: Yeah, and people meet up at these conferences once those bonds have been built; they’ll meet up every year or every other year for the rest of their astrological careers. So some of these older astrologers have been meeting up with each other at these conferences for decades now. And they’ve seen each other grow and develop, and they’ve gone off and had their own careers and families and things, and then they always meet up again at these conferences, and yeah. It’s an interesting way—I think some of the older astrologers always said that they used to tell time by UACs basically.

KS: Yes!

CB: Or they would segment their lives or their calendars by what UAC it is; if it’s a UAC year for the United Astrology Conference, or if it’s not, or if that was two or three years ago, or what have you.

KS: Yes, it is. And beg, borrow, or steal; I know it’s a little bit more of a financial investment to get to a conference, but the rewards, as you’re saying, Chris, it’s phenomenal and pay you back 10 times over.

CB: Yeah, and that’s—they can be expensive, and that is one of the biggest barriers to entry for the conferences that you’ve got to pay, typically, a fee to get in. So there’s the ticket fee to get into the conference; there’s the plane flight, usually, to fly out there; and then there’s the hotel room that you’ve got to pay for however long you’re staying.

But there are different ways that you can whittle down that price and make it more manageable. And organizations like the Association for Young Astrologers and others have been really good about finding different ways to do that, to get people to conferences, such as offering scholarships that are usually available from the Association for Young Astrologers or the other organizations like the NCGR, or NORWAC is offering some scholarships this year. There’s also often room share agreements, like AYA sometimes will set up things for different people to share rooms together in order to help with that cost. There’s lots of different ways that you can make it possible to attend the conferences or at least cheaper than it otherwise would be.

So speaking of conferences, we’ve actually passed—most of the major conferences have already happened this year, but there’s one more coming up next week that you and I are getting ready to attend, which is NORWAC. So what are the dates on that again?

KS: NORWAC is—okay, let me grab the calendar—it’s the 21st, so next Thursday there’s some pre-conference events, and 22nd, the official kickoff. And it runs right through until May 25. And that’s in Seattle in Washington state, so on the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast.

CB: Okay. And I’m still getting my lectures together for that. I’m giving two lectures and a workshop. What lectures are you presenting?

KS: I’m also giving two lectures; I’m going to be talking on some specific tips for working with the seventh house of relationships and the tenth house of career. And my second lecture is on doing—the idea of progressions and rebirth, looking specifically at progressed Mercury, Venus, and Mars. So one more for birth chart, natal chart work, and one’s a little bit more on the predictive side of things. And your topics, Chris?

CB: I’m giving a talk on timing the activation of the rulers of the houses, so interpreting what it means for the ruler of one house to be in another house, like the ruler of the seventh in the tenth, or the ruler of the tenth in the ninth and then how to determine when that placement will be activated in the person’s life using annual perfections; so that’s my first talk.

And my second talk is tips for becoming a professional astrologer. So once you’ve been studying astrology for several years, and you want to transition to doing it as your primary career, how to make that transition. And then finally I’m doing a pre-conference workshop that I’m very excited about on timing peaks and transitions in a person’s career using the timing technique called zodiacal releasing. And that’s the one I’m the most excited about because it’s a full workshop prior to the conference, and we’re going to be able to get really into the technique.

KS: Yeah, that looks fantastic, actually.

CB: So those are my three, and that’s next week. And I think that’s really the biggest conference of the year. There’s also the OPA Retreat, which is in October, but that’s more small; it’s not necessarily a huge conference in the same way. And then I think you said the FAA is hosting a conference already early next year?

KS: Yes, the FAA, which is the Australian association, has a big conference in Sydney at the end of January over what’s called the Australia Day long weekend; end of January 2016. And the other one, if you’re on more the East coast of the US and Canada, is the State of the Art Astrology Conference, or SOTA, which happens at the end of October. And that’s just in upstate New York, actually. So that’s a great—that’s a small conference, but they do actually have some beginners’ lectures there as well. So, depending on whereabouts you are—I know the US and Canada is very big. And there’s probably a conference in the summertime—July, August—in the UK; they often do a conference. So, again, depending on where you are, there’s always lots to choose from.

CB: Yeah, definitely. Okay, so that gives people some idea of the conferences coming up, and, in terms of our lecture descriptions, the types of things that you’ll sometimes see presented at them. So that brings us, I think, to our final point, which is: the very last thing, I think—usually I end this with just go to a conference, but one of the last things that you might be able to do as well, and that some people debate the pros and cons of, is getting certified.

So this is the point at which if you actually want to start calling yourself a professional astrologer—there’s a difference between someone who’s an astrologer and does astrology and knows it and identifies with that as a thing they’re doing with their life versus someone who wants to practicing and accepting money for it and doing that as a primary or secondary vocation. And some astrologers recommend getting certified in order to do this or in order to appear more legitimate or to just have the right training in order to get into being a pro astrologer.

And this is a debate in the astrological community. I don’t have a real strong feeling about this; I think there’s some definite pros to getting a certification through especially the online schools, like Kepler or the International Academy of Astrology and saying, “I went through this program and got this certificate of completion,” or what have you so that people can say, “Okay, they went through that program,” or what have you.

Versus, also, some of the organizations like the NCGR or ISAR or others offer their own certification for different levels of what it takes to be a certified astrologer according to that organization, and at their conferences sometimes they’ll run tests or different things like that to pass in order to get the certification. And there’s different arguments in favor or against that. I don’t know, what are your thoughts on certification?

KS: Yeah, look, I agree that it’s not a topic that I get up on my soapbox about. But I think, if I had to say, I do think it’s important. I don’t think you have to have it to start serving people through astrology. I think it’s good to do because it forces you to be really thoughtful and considerate in the way you express what you know about astrology. But whether—and then there’s which one do you do? I don’t know that one is better or more right than any other. I think if you were able to get a formal certification, it’s good to do. I think you and I both have a formal certification of some kind, so I certainly think it’s a good thing to do.

CB: Sure. Yeah, and it’s like I have some certification, but I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t usually gauge a person’s level of respectability or something like that based on their certification. None of the certifications are viewed—are recognized outside of the astrological community, so it’s not like a client’s going to come to you and say, “You don’t have level 4 NCGR certification, so I’m not going to see you.” I don’t know that that’s a huge motivational factor in terms of actual clients.

KS: I would agree, and I meant to say that, so thank you for bringing that up. I’ve never had a client ask me what certification I had or whether I had certification. It’s more something, I think, for your own sense of pride or sense of commitment to the work. Yeah, it’s not something that clients really seem to notice.

CB: Sure. And for that reason, I think I usually will typically recommend people focus on—if it’s not about the certification, then it’s more about what you learn from–

KS: Knowledge.

CB: Yeah, the actual knowledge that you’re receiving from that program or that certification process or that school or course that you’re taking. So if that’s the case, then it’s really better not to focus so much on the certification but instead focus on where are you going to learn—get the best knowledge that’s going to be the most effective in training you to be a good astrologer, especially if it’s in a specific type or a specific approach to astrology that you’re interested in. And just focus on that and go through that line of training and that line of certification with the intention of becoming a better astrologer.

And if there is an endpoint to that where you get a certificate of completion or something like that that certifies that you’ve completed this course, then that can be a helpful encouragement, and it can be something to show for that you’ve completed that course. But otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it too much when it comes to needing to have certification in order to be recognized as a professional or something like that.

KS: Absolutely, because ultimately, when astrologers are talking over their glass of wine at the bar or talking between lectures, we’re not so much quizzing each other on our formal training, we’re more talking about how you use astrology or in what ways you apply astrology. And so, ultimately, your work and your understanding of the material is going to stand for itself or speak for itself. So that’s really—if there’s a person whose work you admire or who the way they conduct their business is something you aspire to, you should study with them for those very reasons.

CB: Definitely. All right, well that brings us—at this point, if you’ve gone through this entire process, then you are—I want to say not just well on your way to becoming an astrologer, but you’re pretty much already there if you’ve gone through all of this stuff at this point. And this kind of takes me back to one of the early shows that I had—early discussions that I had, I think—with Nick Dagan Best, which is what does it mean to be an astrologer? Or what does that term mean within the context of the astrological community?

And in my own perspective, what that typically means is that the person just has a deep interest in—they think that astrology is a valid phenomenon in and of itself, and they have a deep abiding interest in studying that for whatever that means for them throughout the course of their life. And once you’ve gotten to that point, or once you’ve gotten to that point through this list, this point in the list, I would definitely call yourself—I would consider you to be an astrologer at this point, even if it’s not your primary vocation. Because you’ve learned enough about it, and you’ve become integrated enough in the astrological community, and you’ve presumably seen it work enough times that you realize it’s a valid phenomenon that I would consider you to be an astrologer at this point for the most part.

KS: Yeah, I would say too that to get through all the points that we’ve gone through today, that’s going to take you a couple of years. This is not something you’re going to whip through over the summer or over next winter.

CB: Right.

KS: I mean, it’s a minimum of two years we’re talking but more like four or five. And that’s very normal; consider it your apprenticeship. And I often think too: people do—students get through their two years of training, or they’ve been to three or four conferences, maybe they’ve done Steven Forrest’s apprenticeship, what have you; they’ve done a lot of stuff, but they’re nervous about calling themselves an astrologer. And the thing that comes to mind is: we have the same problem with writers as well. I do a lot of writing in my work; 99 percent astrologically. But the idea is that a writer is a person who writes, and an astrologer is a person who does astrology. 

And you can be doing astrology in a variety of forms or methods; you don’t just have to be seeing 20 clients a week and charging 300 dollars a session. You might just be helping your friend out with her teenage daughter who’s a bit cray-cray because sometimes teenage girls go through phases. If you’re using your astrology in a way that’s perhaps helpful or of service to others, then you’re an astrologer.

CB: Definitely. That is a great, very concise definition, I think. All right, well, yeah. So that will bring us, I think, more or less to the end of our list. So maybe we can start to wrap this up by just talking about what—what are you doing in the future? Or where is your work taking you from this point forward?

KS: Yes. From this point forward I am going to be jumping on a plane. So I’m out to Seattle next week for the NORWAC conference, as we talked about. That’s at the end of May, and then I’m actually back in Seattle the first weekend in June; I’m doing a workshop through the Washington State Astrology Association. And after that, home for the summer to do some writing. And then I’ve got SOTA in October, which is upstate New York. And then out to Sydney for that FAA conference, which is my hometown conference, in January. So lots of conferencing.

CB: Yeah.

KS: Which is the fun par really! It’s the fun part.

CB: Yeah. I’m really excited about NORWAC. I’m looking forward to seeing you next week, so I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun. And I definitely look forward to meeting anybody who’s listening to this episode of the podcast there as well.

KS: Yes. I hope one of my online students from my Kepler class, who I’ll be able to meet; she’s been studying with me, and we’ve never met in person, but she’s going to be at NORWAC, so yeah. Come up and say hi. It’s fun to meet people, isn’t it?

CB: Yeah, definitely. All right, well I think that brings us to the end of this episode. I’m sure there’s going to be things that I forgot to mention that I’ll remember in about 10 minutes, but–

KS: Of course. And they can all go in the blog post.

CB: Right, yeah. We’ll add it to the blog post for this episode. So, I guess that brings us to the end of this episode. Any last words on your part, Kelly?

KS: No, I think we really covered a lot. And I just want to say thanks again, Chris, for having me. It’s always great to sit down and talk shop, as they say, with you.

CB: Yeah. I’m really glad to have you on. And the other thing we should have mentioned also is your column. I like the column you’ve been doing for the Mountain Astrologer on their blog lately, where you give the general astrological weather each month. And that’s something that would be actually really good for students of astrology to check out as well.

KS: Oh, yeah, thank you! Yes, I’m really enjoying it, and we’re getting some really good feedback, so yeah. Definitely come check me out there. Thanks, Chris.

CB: Excellent. All right! Well, thanks, everyone, for listening, and we’ll see you next time.