The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 143, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Kelly Surtees
Episode originally released on February 20, 2018
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released April 19, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Thursday, February 15, 2018, starting at 11:21 AM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 143rd episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit TheAstrologyPodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with astrologer Kelly Surtees, and we’re gonna be taking some questions that were submitted by listeners of the podcast over the past few days. Hey, Kelly, how’s it going?
KELLY SURTEES: Hey, Chris. Good, thanks. How are you?
CB: Really good. I just did a lecture yesterday for Valentine’s Day on zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Eros and timing peaks in your love life. And I’m excited to record this episode with you today ‘cause I’m a little bit behind this month, so this is actually the first episode of the month.
KS: No, I’m happy to be back. I was traveling a lot last month, so I missed hanging with you guys more in the podcast space. So I’m happy to be here catching up this month.
CB: Yeah, there were definitely some people that noticed. A lot of people were asking where you were for the Saturn in Capricorn episode, and a few people asked for your thoughts on that. You’ve written some stuff on Saturn in Capricorn, right?
KS: I’ve written a little bit. I haven’t done my ebook this year ‘cause I’ve had other projects going on. Yeah, Saturn in Cap. Well, I mean, on the one hand it just feels a bit more calm in general out in the astrological space because we’ve got Saturn now back in an earth sign. And what I’m noticing in conversations with clients is almost like coming back down, putting our feet on the earth. Not that the problems have solved themselves but now we’ve got more of a realistic sense of it. There’s definitely collective things that need that larger restructuring, but I think from an individual perspective there is some opportunity here to kind of get organized, to get grounded, to be practical. I mean, Saturn in Capricorn are both quite frugal, conservative energies. Not that I want people to be driven by fear, but I think having a healthy respect for the passage of time can really help us moderate some of what are otherwise or can be excessive or impulsive choices. So yeah, just a little bit of an ‘off-the-top-of-my-head. idea.
CB: That’s a great concise summary. I like that.
CB: All right, so let’s see, before we get started, announcements. Speaking of what you were just talking about, you’ve got a lot of new stuff going in terms of offerings and things you’re teaching and things like that?
KS: Yeah, I do. I just in February launched my Stellar Insights monthly offering, which is some exclusive video content that is available to subscribers only. Very similar to how Patreon works, except we’re running it just through my website. So pop over to Kelly’s Astrology and click on the Stellar Insights link. There’s a big picture. You can’t miss it. There’s like this psychic hare, you know, celestial hare; it’ll seem familiar. And you just sign up, and, yeah, once a month, on the first of the month, there are five videos released with astro-insights for the month ahead. So that’s really exciting, totally new for me. But I do enjoy the video delivery method, so we’re just testing that out.
So far, we’ve had a really good response. We’ve had people loving the content, the accessibility, and the tips on how to apply what’s happening that month to your own chart. So there’s always a couple of DIY tips in there as well. And then because February’s the month of love, and everybody’s talking about love, the webinar I’m doing this month is on progressed Venus, which will be, I think, February 24, Saturday, at the end of the month. So people can sign up either through my website or Astrology University with the lovely Tony.
CB: Awesome. Brilliant. That’s exciting, and yeah, hopefully, we can maybe do a follow-up show on secondary progressions sometime soon.
KS: I know. And I’m happy we’re not doing that today ‘cause I really have to write something on secondary progressions. And if we do our show in the next few weeks, I’m not necessarily going to be able to write something by then, but hopefully it’ll give me a bit more of a kick in the pants ‘cause it’s a technique I’ve lectured on since. It’s funny, when we were deciding what topic to do for today, I realized my very first official conference lecture was on secondary progressions 10 years ago, almost to the month.
CB: And was that at an AFA conference?
KS: Yeah, at the Sydney conference. It was January 2008, and I was nervous as all get-out. And then I think Richard Tarnas was in the room and then Lynn Bell came in, which did not help with my nerves in any way, shape, or form.
KS: But it was fun. It was like an extension of teaching, which I’d been doing, but just with more seriousness.
CB: Right, right. Good times.
CB: All right, and in terms of announcements before we get started, the only thing is, like I said yesterday, I recorded and presented a lecture on timing peak periods in your relationships and love life using zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Eros. That’s a technique I’ve been researching since 2005 and I’ve done different incarnations of, but I haven’t had a standard recording available on my website. So now I will by the time this episode is up. I should have that recording available on my website for sale at ChrisBrennanAstrologer.com. So just go there and you should be able to find it in the audio recording section, if you’re interested in purchasing that lecture. All right, so why don’t we get into it. So it’s been a few months since I did my last Q&A. You and I actually did the first Q&A ever, I think, like a year, maybe two years ago actually.
KS: It probably was two years ago. How quickly time’s going by.
CB: Yeah, that’s kind of crazy to think about. But it’s been a while since I had you on for one, and I’m really glad that you’re joining me today ‘cause I think we’ve got a really good spread of questions. I put out a call for questions a few days ago from listeners of the podcast, and we just got inundated with a ton of them. So a few notes. So, one, unfortunately, we’re not gonna be able to get all of the questions obviously because we got just too many. Two, we’re gonna probably summarize some of them, ‘cause some of them were a little bit long, and I probably should have noted that in order to be able to read them in their entirety, they needed to be relatively short on the air. Also, we got a bunch of questions on secondary progressions, but we’re gonna save those for a future episode on that topic rather than answering them here. So with that said, why don’t we jump into it.
CB: All right, so maybe you want to start by reading our first question?
KS: Totally. This was actually one of my favorite questions of all the ones we got. Should I say the name of who it’s from?
CB: I think so because most of these were submitted on Facebook.
KS: In the public forum.
CB: Nobody said specifically that they didn’t want their name mentioned. There were only one or two people that used initials. So yeah, why don’t we go ahead and give credit to the questioners.
KS: Okay, cool. So Jessica Merrick is asking, “When did you know you were ready to start practicing astrology professionally? For instance, charging other people, then friends or family for their charts?” And the second part to the question is, “What jobs did you both have in the meantime while learning astrology?” So I don’t know, I love this question. Chris, what about you? When did you know you were ready to start doing consults?
CB: I don’t think anybody ever knows that they’re ready. I think everybody starts by reading the charts of friends and family, but at one point I did start actively trying to make the transition by pushing myself to read strangers’ charts. And so, I did a chart reading for a woman once at a party. It was like a house party that I was at, and I was probably in my late teens or early 20s.
KS: I was gonna say you were about 15, probably.
CB: Yeah, but I’d been studying it for four or five years at that point. And it actually went really well. So the fact that it went relatively well gave me some confidence that I was heading in the right direction. I wasn’t paid for it, but that was the first person I remember doing a chart for that was a stranger and having it go relatively well in terms of being able to describe their life and their personality without knowing them at all. And then I think it was when I moved to Seattle, and I was like a broke college student attending Kepler, that I started doing readings, and I did one for a co-worker. And then eventually I was running a MySpace forum and people started asking me for consultations. And I was doing them as written consultations at first, where I would write everything out in what turned into a 20-page Word document because you think that you have more control over saying exactly what you want to say and then thinking everything out ahead of time. But written readings are just terrible ‘cause they take so much time and it becomes a huge time-sink. So even though sometimes people start with that eventually everybody moves away from that into more of a dialogue-type consultation, I think.
KS: Totally. I have actively resisted doing written readings over my years of consult. I do understand from the client’s experience it is nice to have a written record. But there’s a part of me that’s very business-oriented and always has been, and I figured out very early on the amount of hours it was gonna take to write up a reading vs. the time it would take just to talk that info through. I would say to people, “I’d have to triple or quadruple my fee if you want me to write this rather than even just record it for you,” but I think you make a really good point that it’s a really common starting place for people.
CB: Yeah. And in the meantime, when I was living in Seattle, I was actually working as a barista for Starbucks. So I was making coffee and that was my day job before I fully made the transition into doing astrology, which took a few years.
KS: Totally. So that was your job that you did while you were studying.
CB: Yeah, I got it while I was going to school and studying at Kepler. And then eventually I made the transition to doing consultations full-time for a few years while I was living in Maryland, and then I went back to that for a little bit in 2008-2009 when I moved back to Colorado. But then in 2010, I organized an NCGR pre-conference workshop that was called From Ancient to Post-Modern Astrology. I had speakers from all of the major astrological traditions give 30-or-40-minute talks about what the best pieces of their traditions were. And I had Rob Hand and Rick Tarnas and Demetra and this amazing lineup, and it was like a huge success in February of 2011, at a conference in Baltimore or Cambridge.
CB: And then I had to go back to my day job making coffee, and I was so depressed that I just decided one day, “That’s it. I have to quit and either make-it-or-break-it as an astrologer right now.” And I emailed Leisa and I said, “I think I’m quitting my job.” And she said, “When?” “I think now.”
KS: Like, “I’m doing it now. I’m just giving you a quick heads-up.”
CB: So that was in 2010 and then I just scraped by. And there were a couple of really sparse years that were kind of tough, but eventually through just pushing and trying to keep developing my craft, and also the business side of things, eventually I made it.
KS: That’s fantastic. And you know what strikes me about your story, Chris, which is not that dissimilar to mine, is that our stories as beginner or startup astrologers are no different from the stories of startup therapists or counselors or psychologists or massage therapists or naturopaths, anyone, even lawyer, if they’re going into private practice and they’re looking to start up their own thing, their own gig. If you’re in a service-based business, which is what we are as astrologers, the startup phase is lean.
KS: The first few years for me, I had a part-time admin job answering phones, and it was so boring that I used to just sit there writing astrology shit while I was doing it because I needed to pay my rent. And I just worked literally this 9:00-12:00 or 9:00-1:00 shift right in the heart of Sydney, in the Sydney CBD, which is the Australian version of a downtown, right near the station. But the money that I earned at that time from that Monday to Friday, part-time, that paid my rent, which meant I had the afternoons and then the weekends to try to find clients essentially. And one thing that was a little different for me was that I was self-employed for two reasons in the beginning, because I also trained as a remedial therapeutic massage therapist.
I had been studying astrology since I was probably 10- or 11-years-old, but it was when I finished high school and went off to Nature Care College—which is this big, natural therapies college in Sydney, it used to be bigger than what it is now—I was doing my massage therapy training, and when I was signing up for that they had an elective course that you could take in astrology. And that was how I found my first astrology training program, and I ended up studying with that teacher in Sydney for nearly three years. And the question was, “When did you know you were ready to start practicing?” I laugh when I think about how I would answer that because I was so enthusiastic that as soon as I had enough confidence or just like, “Okay, I know enough that I’m going to be able to help someone,” I was out of the gate.
CB: Okay, so you had no trepidation or anything?
KS: I don’t think so. And I feel like that sounds really arrogant when I think back to my 22-year-old self now because I left a very stable ‘corporate-y’ job. I had done my massage training. I was just gonna be self-employed, and I was gonna get massage clients and I was gonna get astrology clients, and I was gonna be my own boss and do work that I was really passionate about. And yeah, so when that enthusiasm to share overcame the fear of not knowing enough, that was kind of a sweet spot for me. But I do notice in the teaching that I do nowadays a lot of people get stuck at that transition point. So I think that’s where Jessica’s question is coming from: How do you know when you’re ready?
KS: And I think you made a really good point, Chris, that you never have this thing inside you that says, “I know everything, I can do this,” but it’s more like do you know enough to offer something that’s helpful.
KS: Because there comes a point where you’ve learned all you can about astrology from a book or from a teacher, and you need to actually get out there and experience the nuances and the lived manifest expression of astrology, which is what happens in people’s lives with your clients. So there’s no magical place that you get to that you feel no nerves essentially. I was nervous as shit when I did my first reading and I wrote pages of notes, and I went into that consult with 20 reference books around me to make sure that I wouldn’t miss something. And of course what you realize is that you speak to about one-and-a-half of those 20 pages of notes, but the client loves that because that’s what they were looking for. It’s that particular bit of your prep that speaks to their questions on that day. And so, yeah, it’s such an exciting thing to be on the other side of that, and anything we can do that will help people—it feels like you’re taking a bit of a leap of faith. And your leap of faith is in your own ability to just be with your client and share what you can and sort of trust that that’s going to be appropriate for that point in time, I guess.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And, I mean, the two issues are that, one, astrology’s a lifelong study and nobody ever stops learning something. Nobody ever fully masters it in the sense that there’s nothing else that they have to learn. And if that’s true, once you realize that, that means you honestly need to know more than your client does. And as long as you do then you have something you can offer them in terms of your insight in looking at their chart, and hopefully being able to share something interesting with them about their life or help them talk about their concerns.
KS: Totally. And that’s the thing, I think anyone who’s taken a six-week or a 10-week beginner astrology class probably knows more than most people out there. And I’m not advocating that all you need to do is take a 10-week beginner class and then you’re an astrologer, but you make the best point there, Chris, that you just have to know more than your clients, so that you’re sharing with them what you’ve learned and to be aware that you’re still learning and the people that are further down the path from you are gonna keep sharing to you, and you just share it behind you. It’s like a bucket with water in it and you’re all just passing it along.
CB: Right. Exactly. And that’s what the entire astrological tradition is, and always has been in some sense. But as a result of that sometimes it’s good just to throw yourself into it and start doing it, even if you’re just doing readings for free, or sometimes people charge very little initially, even like $5 or $10. You’re still being paid for astrology and that’s something, that’s a starting point. Or some people do a sliding scale, and so on and so forth. So just to ease into it is the best advice and do what you have to do in the meantime so that you can do astrology on the side, whatever that is.
KS: Absolutely. I think that’s a very practical move. You will have to do something on the side. Anybody who’s setting up a business, who hasn’t got a chunk of savings or an inheritance behind them has to do something else part-time to pay the bills while the business establishes itself. And there was something else you just said that I wanted to comment on and I forgot.
CB: I mean, one thing is just getting experience. ‘Cause one of the big secrets is that the astrologer is learning during the consultation—I don’t want to say just as much—but they’re also learning every in every consultation that they do. And that’s one of the reasons why you have to throw yourself into it and start doing it because you need to start getting that experience at some point. Even if you’re just doing the consultations for free, there’s something about that dynamic of what happens and the things you learn by experience in a consultation that’s really crucial and important to your growth and development as an astrologer.
KS: Absolutely, because there are myriad nuances of the way some types of aspect patterns can manifest. Nobody can ever sit down and write a book about the 2,000 nuances of a square aspect, for instance.
KS: But if you are lucky enough to talk to 20 different clients that have major square aspects in their chart, you will learn something unique from each of those clients about the nuances. And actually I remember the point that I forgot—it was the payment point. This is something I’ve noticed when working with trainee astrologers—and I don’t think it’s unique to astrology. Again, it’s when you go into self-employment. It’s very weird to say to someone, “I’m gonna do this thing for you, and then you’re gonna pay me for it.” And getting comfortable with that process of asking for someone to give you money is a big part of the experience. And if you think about it, if you have a job working at Starbucks or working in an office, you fill out some paperwork on your first day, and every two weeks or every month money just appears in your bank account. You never actually talk to someone about the money again. And to go from that experience to then sitting down with someone and saying, “Yeah, actually I’m gonna need you to give me something for what I’m going to do with you,” is all part of building that internal muscle around you, really living the truth that your astrology has value.
And so, I do encourage students, even if you start with a trade like, “I’m gonna do the reading, but can you bake me a cake?” (obviously I have a sweet tooth) or “Can you take me out to lunch?” Even if it’s $5 or $20, or in America, you’ve got the single dollar bills, what you’re looking to participate in is that exchange of “I’m doing this and this is what’s coming as a result.” Once you get comfortable with that exchange, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a one dollar bill or a hundred dollar bill, you’ve now created a pathway within you where you can have that discussion or that exchange. So those are the different ways. Yeah, start at a low rate, get comfortable charging, and just keep building on it from there.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And there’s one or two other things, but we could actually keep talking about this for a long time.
KS: I feel like this has been a big question.
CB: Yeah, which is funny ‘cause I was originally gonna say we were only gonna do like a few minutes per question so we can plow through them all. That often becomes an issue on these episodes because we get such good questions.
CB: But what was I gonna say? The main point is just, yeah, that you have to start doing it at some point. One of the things that’s tricky is that as an astrologer, especially very early on, one of the points you made is you have a day job, you show up and you know approximately how much you’re gonna make per week or per month, but as an astrologer, you don’t. And one of the scariest things, especially early on while you’re still establishing yourself, is how erratic it can be ‘cause you never know when you’re gonna get a client or consultation, or what have you, and therefore your income can fluctuate up and down monthly or weekly.
KS: Absolutely. And that still happens now, even for me, ‘cause Chris and I and Austin have been talking. I do have a very heavily-focused client consulting part of my business; that’s how I earn the bulk of my income. And I think it took between three to five years to stabilize before I could sort of reliably say I’m consistently gonna get about this many readings a week. And I always say I was a bit blessed because I had my massage practice as well. Now the difference there is that people wanting a therapeutic massage will come every week or every month for a massage, so you can more quickly build up that consistent clientele.
One of the disadvantages in the astrological space is that many clients will think about a reading maybe once a year, which is appropriate, and if you’re playing the long game, that’s great. But in the first few years, if you do three great readings the two ways you can benefit from that are 12 months from now those three people will come back to you, or if you’re really lucky, those three people will actually tell three people each. And if you are thinking about the marketing side of it, you do want to encourage those word-of-mouth referrals because that is gold. But yeah, in terms of the repetition with astrology, it does take a while.
CB: When did you make the transition to doing just astrology?
KS: Oh, yeah, that’s a good question. On my Saturn return. So no astrology in play at all there. Yeah, so I shouldn’t be shy about saying this, I had a really good year. Jupiter also was in my 10th house, so that was great. I hit a great target in terms of income level, but I was working so much. Between the massage and the clients and the astrology and the teaching, something had to give, and so I decided to retire as a massage therapist. Yeah, so at 29. And it felt like another massive leap of faith because the massage business was a really good chunk of money, and I had to sort of stop that. And once you stop that and you’re self-employed, there’s no benefits that pay, or sick leave that’s accrued that comes back to you. You just stop it and the money doesn’t come in anymore.
KS: But I worked it out. I was like, okay, I need maybe an extra two or three astrology clients a week and that’s gonna make due. You just adjust a lot. When you are self-employed, you get very used to working out the baseline income that you need to pay your bills. And then when your income’s here, you’ve got that cream and you can do extras, but you will occasionally drop back down into a baseline. It doesn’t mean you failed, but it just means you need to adjust. You don’t want to be paying rent in that cream or mortgaging that. You want to be able to keep your costs, your essential costs as low as possible so that you can manage those fluctuations. So 29 was 10 years ago now.
CB: Awesome. Nice.
CB: Well, it’s good to hear. I mean, you would have switched just a few years before I did it full-time.
CB: So we’ve had sort of vaguely similar paths in that sense.
KS: Very similar, absolutely. Because as much as I say I was self-employed, I was still doing something else in addition to the astrology.
KS: Yeah, so it was 2008. 2008, 2007, thereabouts. 2007, yeah.
CB: Okay, got it.
KS: So that’s the first question, Chris. Is there any more?
CB: So question one down. Only 20 or 30 minutes into the episode.
KS: 25, yeah.
CB: All right, good job.
KS: And the next question is almost a follow-on from this question, if you want to do that one.
CB: Why don’t we? So this is from Sheila Rower who always asks really good questions and usually we end up getting them in the Q&A episodes. She had I think two, but this is the one that was connected to the previous one where she asks, “What do you ask clients prior to a session or at the start of a session in order to set appropriate expectations?” And then she says, parenthetically, “Sometimes clients come with the idea that astrologers are like psychics.” So yeah, what do you ask clients prior to a session? Do you have a statement on your website that says what information you need from them or anything else?
KS: Yeah, so these days I’ve got a bit of an automation scheduling system going. So once clients have organized their receipt and they’ve got their payment done, they get access to the booking form. And that booking form asks them for their birth details, which is the absolute essential of course. It also has info about the Zoom link and how we’ll actually connect. And then there’s a note section where they can add in any info or questions that they have. It’s not like a forced thing. You can leave it blank, and some clients leave it blank. Other clients have some very specific questions that pop in there. So that’s all that’s collected before the session itself for me, but I always ask—and this maybe goes back to my massage therapy days when you would have to ask people, “What’s up with you today?” or “What’s going on?”
KS: I would ask them a variation of this type of question, “Do you have any questions, topics, things, or issues that you want to make sure we focus on together today?’ And because—especially if they’re a new client—we have so much information, even if we’ve got a 90-minute extended session, I could just talk for the next three days on their chart if I’m going to do everything. So I just like to let them know that this is their time, and I want to make sure that I meet their needs as best I can. So at that point they’ll let me know, “I want to talk about career (or relationships).” Or sometimes they’re more specific and there’ll be like a three-minute explanation of a very specific situation they’re dealing with. If at any point I feel like what they’re asking for is beyond the scope of what I do, I’ll tell them right then and there. And sometimes clients will be well-versed in astrology, and they’ll be like, “Oh, I really wanted to check out my current return or something,” which is not a technique that I really work with these days. So I’ll just say, “Look, I don’t really work with that planet, but I can definitely give you information about the year ahead based on these other techniques, if that’s of interest to you.”
So I think Sheila makes a really good point, particularly for new clients, they have no idea what to expect. They don’t know anything about what is involved in astrology. One of the biggest comments I get at the end of a session with a new client, “I had no idea that astrology was so detailed, and I just really had no idea what to expect.” And, look, maybe that’s a comment on my marketing or what have you, but I just think astrology is sort of this weird thing; that it is hard to explain what happens in a session because it’s so unique for each person. And I think the way my clients refer their friends and families, they just say, “I got a lot out of this session. Go and have one. You’ll get whatever you need.” So I don’t have a detailed form. And even if the client’s put a lot of detail in the booking form, when we get to the session—which might be a month or two months later—I will just say, “This is what you put on your form. Any changes on that? Anything you want to add to it?” Because of course when there’s a bit of time lag things can shift. What about you? When you were doing your readings, did you ask for a lot of info beforehand?
CB: I would just ask in general if there’s any topics or specific areas that they want to focus on. I know sometimes there’s some people that either want to explicitly test the astrology or they want to be impressed by the astrologer’s ability to figure out their life or personality or what’s going on with them, or what have you, and that’s a sort of thing onto itself, but that makes things much more challenging. And one of the issues I tried to explain to people is just there’s different techniques that I would look at and prepare with before we talk, prior to the consultation. And if I know ahead of time not the specifics, but just generally if you want to focus on career or if you want to focus on relationships or if you want to focus on something else—you have a health issue that’s going on or something like that—then I would apply a specific technique in each of those instances. In my case, I would use zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Spirit for career or releasing from Eros for relationships.
And one of the issues that I had when doing consultations was I still needed about an hour of prep time because I would do the zodiacal releasing periods and put them in a Word document, and I would write notes next to all of the major ones for the first hundred years of the native’s life, so that it was clear that most of what I was gonna say in the consultation was already noted a little bit in the notes; so that even if I was asking them for a topic ahead of time, it’s not like I’m cold reading them or something like that. Yeah, so that’s the most typically I would ask, and some clients have a specific thing they want to focus on and others don’t, and it’s fine either way.
But the ‘psychic’ part that she refers to is important because some people assume that you can just read their mind and know what they want to focus on when there may be a bunch of different things going on in their chart at the same time, but there’s only one or a few of them that really relate to the main thing that’s on their mind that they want to talk about. And unless they express that ahead of time, you might not end up focusing on it as much as they would like, which can make them feel not as content with the session as they could have been if you really just focused in on the main thing from the start.
KS: That’s exactly it, Chris, ‘cause I think the key is that we are here to sort of serve and support our clients. And I agree with you it’s always interesting ‘cause there are some clients that like to do ‘the test’, or they’ll come into the session and you’ll say, “Is there anything you want to talk about?” “No, I’m just curious.” They kind of give you the blank.
KS: And sometimes people genuinely are, and that’s fine, and then I just dive in and off we go. But then there are those clients that 10 or 15 minutes in, when you’ve said a few things that are really key, they’re like, “Okay, well, what I really wanted to talk about was ‘blah-blah’.” And it’s like, okay, well, obviously I passed the test, and now we can actually get down to business, whatever their actual intention is. And being able to create this dialogue, it comes down to comfort level and your sense of serving and supporting the client, but also collaborating with them. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to be psychic.
It’s not on us necessarily to say, “Well, this is what I divined we should talk about today.” In the same way that if you go to the doctor, they don’t just go, “Okay, I think your heart’s having a problem,” or “Maybe you’ve come to me because you’ve got a pain in your shoulder.” You actually tell the doctor, “This weird thing’s going on here,” and then the doctor will explore accordingly. And I think, similarly, our clients can almost help themselves have a really good experience, which is why I do think you should ask something. So whether you ask in the email beforehand, whether you ask at the top of the session, whether you do both, it’s very fair and appropriate, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad astrologer if you’re asking for preference around topics from your clients.
CB: Yeah, and clients, it’s just better for them to know that it’s much more of a waste of time—that you’re gonna have the most effective and useful consultation if it is more of a dialogue and a back-and-forth; and most astrologers are expecting that rather than just having the astrologer talk at you and tell you everything with no feedback during the course of it. Even if you feel like that’s a good test or something like that, you’re gonna end up getting a lot less out of that than if it’s more of a participatory, back-and-forth-type thing. And obviously that can go too far in the other direction, ‘cause I know that there’s some astrologers who almost rely on that too much, getting feedback from the client or other things like that. But there’s some sort of healthy middle-ground, which is I think the most optimal way to do a consultation. I think most astrologers are generally on the same page about that.
KS: Yeah, I agree, I agree. Yeah, we could keep going on this question, but I know we have many questions.
KS: And I feel like we’ve answered the point of what she’s asking.
CB: Yeah, I think that was a pretty good answer. So the next one I threw in is a more technical question about the houses, and there were two more that followed it, so maybe we can do those. So do you want to read the next one?
KS: Sure. So this is from Sinead Burn, I think, if I’m saying that okay in my Australian accent. “Why does there seem to be more attention given to the Ascendant and Midheaven than the Descendant and the Nadir? Do you consider all four points equally important?” Do you want to go first?
CB: Sure. I mean, I don’t consider all four to be equally important, and I think traditionally the ranking is usually something like Ascendant, Midheaven, Descendant, IC in terms of the level of power and notoriety associated with each in a chart. And part of the reason for that is that the Ascendant and the Midheaven, from an observational standpoint, are just more notable when the Sun especially is in that position. So the Ascendant is when the Sun rises over the eastern horizon at sunrise in the morning, which is extremely notable and is at basically the start of daybreak. And then the Midheaven is—depending on what Midheaven you’re using—more or less when the Sun is at either its highest point or is in the middle of the sky, which, again, happens around the middle of the day, and is at the point when that astronomical body is at its most visible in the sky. And therefore, from an observational or even an divinatory standpoint, it’s more symbolically notable compared to the other two options: sunset, which is also notable, but slightly less so, and then finally the IC, when the Sun is completely below the horizon and cannot be viewed at all.
KS: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think it goes back to the ancient Egyptians who kind of conceptualized that journey of the Sun as the ‘rebirth/death’ kind of cycle where the Ascendant position—which is, in all lists that I’ve come across, considered to be the most powerful placement—is the rise or the birth of the Sun. So it’s that power from revelation and insight, the idea of warmth and light coming in. And then the Midheaven, it’s the culmination of what began at daybreak. And the heat of the Sun is at its strongest in the middle of the day and that is the power of the Sun. The light is brightest and the heat is strongest. So I agree with you completely, Chris. I don’t consider that they’re four equal points.
And I was talking about this, funnily enough, in class this week with students. I sort of think about the Ascendant and Midheaven as the more ‘yang’ expressive points—they’re more dynamic, they’re more about activity or action—whereas the Descendant and the IC are more ‘yin’. And the Descendant, that western-setting Sun, was associated with death by the ancient Egyptians in the way they conceptualized that model, so that’s why it’s not a primary point. So yeah, and then of course the midnight position, the IC, the Sun has no power at that time of day.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good idea, the analogy of what’s happening with the Sun is then extended to the other planets in those positions and are attributed similar meanings. But I like that point about the Egyptians ‘cause that’s a very old doctrine, that notion that there’s four ages, and that the diurnal cycle breaks up the life into four ages. The Ascendant represents birth and the beginning of life, then you move up to the Midheaven, which represents youth and adulthood and being in your prime, and then eventually you have the Descendant, which is associated with old age and the material essence starting to give way, and then eventually the fourth is associated with death and events that happen after death. And there’s a little bit of interchange there where sometimes the Descendant is death and then fourth is things that happen after death, but you kind of get the picture.
KS: Yeah, absolutely. And so, I think if you haven’t encountered that connection, if you like, between those Egyptian ideas and those critical angular points, it does feel a bit arbitrary ‘cause you just hear they’re all angular points, and you don’t know why two seem to get more rave reviews than the other two. If anyone wants to read more on that I’ve found Deborah Houlding’s book, Houses: Temples of the Sky, to be really interesting.
CB: Sure. And what else? I mean, there’s other things tied in with that, especially in the Hellenistic, whole sign context, like the aspects. Like the Ascendant representing the native and the 10th house, or 10th whole sign house, being a superior square overcoming the 1st house—and therefore that part of the power of the Midheaven in the 10th house coming from that—vs. the 7th house being in opposition or the 4th house being an inferior square to the Ascendant. That also comes up in the context of zodiacal releasing and some time-lord techniques where there’s certain angular houses that are more powerful; the 1st and 10th are clearly more active and powerful than the 7th and 4th. So there’s a bunch of different ways that this comes into play.
The last thing I wanted to mention about that is just I’ve been really surprised at how often the 4th house comes up related to that Egyptian doctrine of when death occurs or when death is involved, especially when doing annual profections, where you count one sign per year from the Ascendant and it goes through each of the 12 houses and eventually comes back to the Ascendant every 12 years. 4th house profection years just came up so often for me for the year in which a person died. And I was just reminded of this last weekend when somebody gave a talk for our local Denver astrology group about a famous biography, and the guy died in a 4th house profection year. And it just reminded me of that all over again, something I had seen in the past.
KS: Yeah, so the 4th house, ‘death of the native’. So death of the individual themselves.
CB: Yeah, we’re just so used to associating the 8th house with death, but that wasn’t the only house associated with death traditionally. The 4th was often associated with that very much as well.
KS: Yeah, and I think I’ve seen references to the 7th as well with that ‘setting Sun’ component.
KS: So it is interesting that when you look back, there is death, and the other topic is sex, which seems to have sort of moved houses over the millennia.
CB: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
KS: And I know we have a few questions on the houses, too.
CB: Sure. Do you want to take the next one?
KS: Sure. Oh, my goodness, you did that on purpose. I’m gonna apologize to this person if I pronounce their name incorrectly. Kapunahele—I’m not sure—I’m gonna say Wong.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s correct.
KS: Is that okay? Mr. or Ms. Wong. “Do you or Kelly have a preferred order that you refer to the houses as you delineate a chart? For example, do you go sequentially, or do you prefer to go in order of related areas of life, such as 2nd, 6th, 10th, and so on?”
CB: What do you think?
KS: Okay, so I do have a particular routine, the ‘Kelly’ version of this, which you do not have to do. I always say to students, “You’ve got to find your own way. If you want to steal mine to get you started, go for it.” I always start with the Ascendant, always, and the first house that I go to inside the chart is the house that holds the Ascendant ruling planet.
CB: Say that again. So you start with what?
KS: So if you have a Sagittarius Ascendant, I’m gonna look for the place of Jupiter inside the chart. So whatever house Jupiter is in, in that chart…
CB: Okay. Yeah, you focus on the house that the ruler of the Ascendant is located.
CB: That’s what I do as well.
KS: The house, the ruler of the places, basically; what is the ruler of the Ascendant, and where is it in the chart. So I don’t have a prescribed formula where I always talk about the 1st house and then I go to the 10th house, for instance. I will let the chart tell me where we’re going to go next, basically.
CB: Sure. Or like if there’s a stellium or something in a specific house, that might draw your attention towards that.
KS: Absolutely. And it’s a little bit collaborative in the sense that depending on how I’m working with the client, whether it’s in person or online. And sometimes the client will say, “Oh, my God, look at that thing.” And I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s just gestalt the hell out of this and go straight to whatever you’ve been drawn to.” And yeah, a stellium. I try to talk about the Sun, Moon, and the Ascendant in the first portion of a reading. So, again, I’ll pick the sect light, or if the Sun or the Moon has anything special going on around them. It’s very common for clients, even if they’re new to astrology, they know their sign—they know they’re an Aries or a Taurus or what have you—but they may not know that their Sun is in the 5th house, or that their Sun is conjunct a fixed star, or conjunct a particular planet. So I’ll try and find a feature that they’re unlikely to know about themselves. But yeah, the house of the Sun is usually something I will talk about, just because they don’t usually know about that. And then for a night chart person, I will just go straight to the Moon, and whatever house the Moon is in or involved with we will talk about. Yeah, so I don’t really go sequentially. And if I were to make a confession to the internet and our listeners, I don’t always talk about every house in every reading.
CB: Yeah, I mean, there’s so little time and there’s so much to cover that that would be a reading in and of itself if you did try to go sequentially and try to do all of them.
KS: Yes, that’s actually a really good point, Chris, ‘cause I think that is a reading onto itself. I’m like if you want just to go around the houses, that will be an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half, and we can just delineate house-by-house. But if we’re looking to do any predictive work, or if we’re looking to get the highlights and do predictive work, we cannot do every house in one session.
CB: Yeah, so it just goes back to the first question, or second question, which is just the houses we’ll focus on is gonna be dependent on what topics the client wants to focus on. So if they want to focus on career then you might focus on the 10th house. If they want to focus on financial matters, you might focus on the 2nd house or the 8th house. If they want to focus on their friends or children then the 11th or the 5th house or what have you.
CB: So it’s usually topic-specific I would say most of the time.
KS: And that’s actually a really good point, topic-specific. And even if they say ‘money’, clarify with your client, because as you just mentioned, Chris, money could be 2nd or 8th house. So when somebody says, “I want to talk about money,” I’m like, “Do you want to know about how to earn money or what to do with money from a budgeting perspective? Or are you trying to get a handle on your debt or figure out money with a partner?” for instance, ‘cause then I’m gonna approach the 2nd or the 8th, depending. Sometimes it’s a bit of both, but I think that’s a really good point, Chris. And to answer this person’s question it sounds like we go to the houses in the chart that are either relevant because of specific astrological configurations or are connected to the topics that the client is presenting with.
CB: Yeah, definitely, I think that’s a good answer. But I liked your first point ‘cause that’s also something I do and I think is pretty common amongst traditional astrologers, to focus in on the house placement of the ruler of the Ascendant from the start as indicating one of the most important areas of the native’s life that’s probably gonna stand out. Like if they have the ruler of the Ascendant in the 11th house then friends and groups might be more important to them than it would be for somebody else. Or if they have the ruler of Ascendant in the 9th then travel or education or something might be more important to them than it is for other people in terms of dictating the course of their life.
KS: Absolutely. Yeah, 100%. And I think one of the great things we do when we do readings for people is we help clarify or we sort of give an explanation for something that they’ve probably suspected about themselves but maybe they’ve been judging or they’ve been grappling with; they don’t know if they should be like that ‘cause other people aren’t. And to be so clear—that’s where I think the Ascendant ruling planet is critical. It will be something that’s really important to that person that they kind of need to really flourish, for instance.
CB: Right. Although it’s funny ‘cause on the one hand this is a conundrum that I’ve run into sometimes with consultations, which is that sometimes you’re looking at the chart, and you’re just describing the person’s life as it is, and sometimes it’s just stuff they already know. And there’s almost something—I can’t think of the right word—but I know there’s definitely situations where you’re saying something, where you shouldn’t be able to do that about the person’s life and they’re acknowledging that that’s true. But it’s almost like mundane or not impressive because you’re just telling them things that they already know and sometimes that’s a thing.
Other times the issue you run into is you can be telling a person things—and I’ve talked about this over and over again on the podcast—but sometimes you can tell a person things that are true but just haven’t happened yet in their life. And I remember a reading I did for Leisa where the ruler of the 9th was in the 11th, and I said, “Being involved in astrology groups, looks like it will be important for you,” and she was like, “No, no, that’s not really the case.” And it was funny ‘cause it was almost like one of the worst readings I had because she was very adamant that she had no interest in being involved in groups, in a group setting, or organizations or anything like that, ‘cause the degree of her Midheaven is also in the 11th whole sign house. So it was tying in 9th house matters with the 11th house and the 10th house, and I delineated it pretty straightforwardly. Years later, she’s been the president of an astrology organization for a few years.
KS: This was obviously a few years ago.
CB: Yeah, and she’s been organizing. She’s been one of the three presidents helping to organize UAC over the past four years. So that was one of those ones that came true later on, eventually, but at least at the time it was something that just could not have been more wrong in terms of what she thought her life at that time really was about.
KS: Yeah, and that’s a really good point, Chris. Without getting into all the specifics about timing techniques, the chart is a road map for life, and sometimes you encounter a person partway down that path where they haven’t quite got to some of the other things that are there. And yeah, that makes you feel like you’ve sometimes done a bad job or you got it wrong, but they’re just not there yet, I guess.
CB: Yeah, it’s like a weird occupational hazard of the consulting astrologer. Did you say something that was actually not true, or is this something that hasn’t happened yet? And there’s not really any way to know in some instances ‘cause sometimes it can turn out to be later true in some way. Or more frustratingly, another common astrologer experience is the thing where you make a statement towards the beginning of the consultation, and they say, “No, that’s not true,” and then later in the consultation you find out that it was true and they just didn’t recognize it. If you had phrased it slightly differently they would have acknowledged it. But because you used one word that was slightly foreign or that they didn’t quite connect, they didn’t recognize the truth of the statement, but then it turned out to be accurate. There’s little fun things like that.
KS: Oh, my gosh, Chris, I could go on a ‘Saturn in Virgo’ word choice tangent here, but I’ll make it very brief. It is true—and I noticed this being Australian and moving to Canada. And so, I still work a lot with my Australian clientele, but my North American clientele grew, and there are a different words that mean different things in different cultures, and there are different ways of describing different things, and it really showed me the power of the ‘right’ word or the ‘wrong’ word. I’ve had that experience that you described, Chris, where with a client, you’ll say something and you’ll use a particular phrase or a particular word, and sometimes all they do is they reject the word. They’re like, “I don’t know what that word is,” or “I know that word to be bad, so I’m not going to agree to anything that has anything to do with that word.” And maybe later on you rephrase, or you can say, “Well, let me just say it a different way.” And then sometimes they will actually say exactly what you were trying to say, but using different words, and you’re like, “That statement. That’s the astrological thing right there.”
KS: And to go back to one of our earlier questions today of why you have to go and talk to clients about this stuff, the textbooks only give you one or two descriptions for a certain placement, and each of your clients will give you a unique spin on that that will help you better understand the layers to that.
CB: Yeah, and you’ll see the core truth, oftentimes, of the original delineation that you read, but it’s just the specific manifestation. Literally, everybody has a unique chart that’s never repeated itself in the precise details before. And therefore, while there are some underlying themes that have core archetypal similarities, the specific manifestation is always gonna be slightly different, and is gonna teach you something slightly new about how different combinations can work out.
KS: Absolutely. Yeah, completely. We’re doing a good job in our discussion of client astrology here today, which is great, right?
CB: I know. We should have just made this the ‘consulting astrologer complaint’ episode.
KS: No, it’s good. And we’ve done the houses. And we’ve got one more question on this, don’t we? A nice curly one.
CB: Yeah, so this one’s kind of tricky. So this is from Naomi Bennett. She says, “The strange concept that the 12th house is hidden and cadent, when actually the Sun rises into the 12th, lights up the sky at that time, there’s nothing hidden about the 12th house; whereas the 6th sinks below the horizon and definitely hides planets and the Sun. Why is that?” So she’s basically asking why is the 12th house sometimes associated with ‘hidden matters’ and things like that, even though the Sun and the other planets have just moved up into the sky basically when they get to that position.
CB: This is one of those areas where abstract schematic considerations I feel are more important in the way that astrologers have developed the delineations than purely observational ones. So one of those things is just the fact that the 12th doesn’t aspect through a major aspect the 1st house. So the major aspects are the conjunction, sextile, square, trine, and opposition. And using whole sign houses—which is the original house system—if you draw aspect lines from each of the houses then the ones that aspect the rising sign or the 1st house are generally considered to be ‘good’ houses, and the ones that don’t aspect the 1st house are generally considered to be ‘challenging houses’ that have more challenging or negative significations, with the 12th house being one of those, in addition to the 8th, the 6th, and the 2nd. So that’s one of the things that’s happening there. There’s like abstract or schematic conceptual reasons that are being put on top instead of the observational thing being primary.
But there is an observational component to that, and it’s the notion of the angular triads and the notion of what declining and succedent houses are. Cadent houses—which were known as ‘declining houses’ in the Hellenistic tradition—in whole sign houses are houses that have planets that are falling away from the angular houses. So there’s this notion of decline or falling, or in some instances disintegration and falling apart or losing strength as opposed to the succedent houses, which are moving up towards or building up towards the angular houses. And so, they’re associated with things that are growing or gaining or coming into prominence, whereas declines are ones that are falling away from prominence.
And then tied into that is the notion that if the Ascendant marks the zodiacal sign that was rising at the moment of birth then the 12th house is actually the sign that was rising just an hour or two earlier; so during the process of the native being born. And a lot of the ancient delineations—like in Rhetorius of Egypt in the 6th or 7th century—talk about the 12th house in that context as being kind of a dangerous house that’s in between worlds because the native at that time is in between life and death. And that’s where some of the negative associations come from as well, especially because in the ancient world people would die much more commonly in childbirth, and it really was dangerous both for the child as well as for the mother.
KS: Hugely so. Yeah, I think that’s the big thing that I conceptualize with the 12th house being hidden—that it’s hidden from the native. The perspective, if you like, of the houses is all taken from that, as you said, Chris; the relationship, or the angular relationship, to the Ascendant, or the 1st house. And the 12th house is like in a blind spot position because it’s just behind you, but you can’t actually see it. You know, if you drive, you know what that blind spot is; there’s this awkward spot that you can’t get your eyes on. And some of the houses that have that slightly more challenging topic associated with them have that blind spot configuration. And I think you make the right—well, not the right point, but of course it’s the right point. But you’ve made the point really clearly, which is the difference between the kind of two-dimensional overlay of meaning onto a three-dimensional, lived experience.
The other thing that I have observed around the 12th house—and this is, again, just one of those weirdly anecdotal things from client consults, which I’m not gonna be able to claim that I have a double-blind study to back up. But when people have transits or triggers or activations of some kind to the 12th house, there is this sort of weird devotion to their career that happens in that timeframe. And one thing I’ve come to sort of be reminded of is that the 12th house does form a sextile relationship to the 10th. The 12th house stuff or the topics or matters or triggers to the 12th house are blind to the individual, but somehow available to one’s career or one’s professional undertakings. So it’s just who and what is it blind to, if that makes sense. And I think that subtlety around how we look at the houses interacting, seeing or not seeing each other, can really deepen that question as well.
CB: Definitely, yeah. And that’s probably one we could go into a lot more, but I think that’s good for now.
KS: The next question’s really fun.
CB: Yeah, so the next question is from Adam Madison who is a patron that I was talking to recently about conferences, and he made some comments. So his question is, “Do you have any advice to make the most out of UAC this year?” So out of attending the United Astrology Conference. He’s saying, “If one were to attend, how would you make the most out of it?” So the United Astrology Conference is happening in Chicago in May. It’s the conference of the decade. It’s gonna have like 1,500 or maybe even upwards of 2,000 astrologers in attendance, with over, I think, a hundred astrologers speaking, giving lectures and workshops and other seminars and things like that. So how would you recommend people make the most out of it if they were to attend?
KS: So I think mingle—like introducing yourself is one of the biggest things.
CB: Right. Just go up to people and introduce yourself.
KS: And just say ‘hi’, whether it’s a person, like whether it’s just another delegate, or even the speakers. I mean, one thing I kind of wish I knew when I first started going to conferences was how friendly many astrologers really are. Of course, be respectful. Don’t try and have a chat with someone if they’re about to speak or they’re trying to rush to the bathroom or something like that. And I know it’s tricky to figure that stuff out, but if it’s lunchtime or coffee time and everyone’s just wandering around, it’s totally okay just to say ‘hi’. And then the other part is be selective with the lectures that you attend.
And I say that not because I’m ‘some are good and some are bad’, not at all. It is overwhelming if you were to try and go to a lecture in every time slot. There are so many to choose from. Obviously you want to try and get as much bang for your conference buck, but there’s a huge part of the conference experience that has nothing to do with the lectures that you attend. Not that I’m saying ‘don’t go to lectures’, I don’t want it to sound like that. But the socializing and the networking and that sense of belonging in a community that comes from being in a place with 2,000 people that think like you—I’ll never forget UAC in 2008, my first UAC conference. It felt like a homecoming for me. I was a professional astrologer. I already had clients. I was already making my living as an astrologer. But that idea of being in a place where there were so many people just like me, with my weird little interest, it’s very affirming, very encouraging, so that’s why you should go. But yeah, be selective about the lectures.
And the other tip around a lecture is try to hear one live lecture from all the astrologers that you’re interested in. There is something different about hearing someone present or experiencing someone present in the flesh. So even if you want to hear everything by one astrologer—look, I’m not saying don’t do that—but it’s good to try and at least hear a lecture in person ‘cause then you get a sense of their style, which makes it easier to buy recordings or downloads from that person in the future. So those would be my tips. But I’m interested—I know you did a podcast on this recently, Chris, didn’t you, with Jo and Ryan, about how to have a good conference experience or something?
CB: Yeah, “A Newbie’s Guide to Astrology Conferences” back in October. That was a good episode that people can listen to. I mean, I would say what you said but modify it and say it’s okay if you want to skip a lecture slot. And if there’s friends that are going out for lunch, or you’ve met a group and you’re trying to decide between going to a lecture and going out with people, then it’s okay to skip some lecture slots, but otherwise it is good to attend lectures. And sometimes it can be useful to force yourself to attend a lecture that you might not otherwise if it’s something that you don’t know anything about because it’s one of those rare opportunities where you can be exposed to a bunch of different types of astrology that you may not have studied before, or a bunch of different professional astrologers and very quickly get a sense for what their approach is about and what they’re like as a presenter, and whether that astrological tradition speaks to you in some way. So definitely trying to explore and try new things is a good part of the conference experience, especially UAC, because UAC has an abnormally high number of quality lectures compared to most annual, yearly conferences.
KS: Totally, totally.
CB: So there’s that.
KS: I want to grab my conference guide from 2012 to maybe just show people how much choice there is.
KS: Just talk for a sec.
CB: Okay. Other things—so yeah, push yourself. Also, pay attention to both the pre-conference and post-conference events, of which there’s a bunch of workshops and other things. So there’s workshops by individual astrologers. So for example, I’m doing a post-conference workshop that’s on the advanced form of annual profections and how to time the activation of certain topics in a given year, so that you know how things are gonna go in a given year for certain topics. So there’s individual technique-oriented workshops like that that are given by specific astrologers. But also, the organizations, like the NCGR and ISAR and AFAN, and the other sponsoring organizations, are also doing pre- and post-conference workshops, so you should look at those and see if any of those would interest you because if you want to attend a workshop that’s before or after the main conference then you need to actually come in earlier or stay later than you might otherwise. And it’s good to know that ahead of time since you don’t want to have to already have your plane tickets booked and then find out that you’re not gonna be there in time to attend a workshop that you otherwise would have liked to attend or what have you.
So that, and also pay attention to the schedule to see if there’s any parties or after-hours-type of events happening, ‘cause those can be really good to attend to meet other people; for example, the AFAN suite. AFAN—the Association for Astrological Networking—just about every night of the conference will have a big suite open for people to come and mingle and talk, and there’s drinks and other stuff like that. So it’s good to know about things like that and when they’re occurring and where.
KS: Totally. I mean, that’s the key. I couldn’t find my 2012 UAC program, but I found the ISAR 2016, which is a conference that is maybe a quarter of the size of UAC. So just to give people an idea, this was the conference guide; that’s kind of how thick it is. And this is basically a description of all the lectures, the presenters, the pre- and post-conference workshops. It also has the social schedule that Chris is talking about, because in addition to the formal learning part, there are always drink events. Like the hospitality suite, the AFAN one, it’s free. You just find out where it is, you show up, you can have a drink, you can have snacks, you meet people—it’s that simple. I mean, conferences—if you’re more of an introverted person—then you’ve got to pace yourself about which of these events, the social events, you can go with. Yeah, so the UAC conference guide will be about four-times this size.
I think at UAC there’s 10 or 15 lectures going on at any one time. So you really want to take the time, when you first check into the conference, to read through the conference guide, so that you can figure out what the must-see lectures or events that you want to go to, and then you can fit in all your socializing. I mean, I’m desperate for this conference ‘cause I haven’t seen Chris or Austin in person for a few years now—we’ve just been on different cycles with different conferences—and it’s just so good to be able to talk in person. So whether you’ve got friends you know you’re gonna meet up with, or just the people that you meet, those lunches are great that people do.
KS: I don’t know, do we have more tips? It’s just like be in it, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah, I mean, honestly, there’s probably a ton of stuff we could say about that, but a lot was probably covered in that episode from October.
KS: In that podcast, yeah.
CB: And it’s probably something we could stick on for a while but those are probably good for now.
KS: Yeah. And yeah, if you want more, I guess, check out that past episode, which I thought was just recently but was nearly six months ago, so that’s good.
CB: Wow. Yeah, and if anybody has any other tips for that just post them in the comments section on TheAstrologyPodcast.com website and then maybe you could share some additional tips or strategies for UAC.
CB: Okay. All right, so do you want to read the next one?
KS: Sure. So this is from Claire Moon. “What are some good first books for the baby astrology enthusiast? I want to take classes in the future, I can’t right now, so I’m looking to do something productive in the meantime.” And, Chris, you’ve got a blog post titled “Top 6 Astrology Books for Beginners,” which is great. I’m sure it’ll be in the show listing online.
CB: I actually made a YouTube video about this a few months ago in July, and it’s like an obnoxiously-long, almost 30-minute-long YouTube video, but I go through my top six astrology books for beginners. So I would recommend checking that out. Just Google search for ‘Top 6 Astrology Books for Beginners’, or do that on YouTube and you’ll see the video come on my YouTube page. But just to give you the list really quickly, number six was The Secret Language of Astrology by Roy Gillett, which is a very well-illustrated book and just kind of a nice super beginner book. Number five is The American Ephemeris, which is a book of planetary positions you need to learn. Oh, yeah, let’s see that again. Every astrologer has a tattered ephemeris like this because we use them so frequently…
KS: Every single day.
CB: …and they fall apart.
CB: So incredibly important to get an ephemeris and start learning how to use it early on. It basically just tells you where the planets are.
KS: And that’s how important it is. We didn’t prep that. It just sits on my desk. And so, as soon as you mentioned ephemeris, it’s just right here.
CB: Right. Let’s see, so that’s number five. Number four on my list was Parkers’ Astrology by Julia and Derek Parker.
KS: Oh, that’s a good one.
CB: It’s a great, thick, but very comprehensive book.
KS: Really comprehensive, yeah.
CB: Yeah, so that’s a good starter book. Number three on the list is a little bit controversial, it’s Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas, which I list because it’s good and advanced, but still he’s basically making the case that ‘this is what astrology is and this is why you should pay attention to it’ to intellectuals and to academics. So it’s not necessarily great as a beginner astrology book. However if you’re more looking for some of the theoretical and philosophical and conceptual pitch of how astrology can possibly be valid in modern times then that might be a good book to start with.
KS: It is very dense. But the section in there that Richard has on the planets, where he just describes each of the planets, I use it in teaching because it is a really great segment in that book.
CB: Yeah, and we actually read his significations of Saturn at the beginning of the Saturn in Capricorn episode last month.
KS: Oh, perfect, perfect.
KS: Book number two. I didn’t check this list out before, so I’m excited.
CB: So number two is On the Heavenly Spheres by Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro…
CB: …which was published by the AFA. And that’s a couple of astrologers from Portugal that do traditional Medieval and especially Renaissance astrology. And so, this is more of an introduction to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the more traditional forms, but especially Medieval and Renaissance astrology. But Luis does graphic illustrations, and it has just amazing diagrams illustrating almost every possible concept, and it is also a very comprehensive introduction.
KS: It’s so good. I think it could take you from beginner right through. Like it does get into some fairly high level or more comprehensive concepts, in addition to starting with ‘this is what this planet means’ kind of thing.
CB: Right. And because it’s more traditional, it’s geared towards natal, but it also sets you up well if you wanted to do electional and horary. Even though it doesn’t necessarily teach those in that book, it teaches some of the basic concepts that would later be useful in that.
KS: Yeah, totally recommend.
CB: And then finally my number one recommendation for beginner astrology books was a book called The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology by April Elliott Kent. So I actually really liked her book. It came out several years ago. Yeah, that’s the latest edition.
KS: It did go out of print, and she’s got the rights back now, I think.
CB: Yeah, I was really excited to see that she put it back in print ‘cause it was a great beginner, intro to modern astrology book that I was recommending for several years. It was published by Penguin or something like that and then it went out of print and now it’s back, so that’s my number one recommendation. And then finally, of course I have a bonus recommendation, which is my book published a year ago.
KS: I was like, “I didn’t hear about the best book yet, Chris.”
CB: No, April’s is my number one recommendation. But Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, available at fine bookstores everywhere, and by that I primarily mean Amazon.com. There it is, and Kelly’s got it. Oh, my God, what have you done to it? You’ve got some notes.
KS: This is how you know I love a book.
KS: When you first met me and I was carrying around my tattered Maternus, this is what it looked like.
CB: Okay. Anyways, it’s a comprehensive treatment of the original tradition of Western astrology that covers the history of where astrology came from, how it developed, the philosophy, and also basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques. So it really covers just about everything you need to know about natal astrology and the original approach to it, so I would recommend checking that out as well as a sort of bonus.
KS: Yes. And to Claire’s point, I mean, there are a lot of times where you’re not in a position to be able to study astrology. It takes a big time commitment, so you’ve got to have emotional space for it. It also costs money. If you’re gonna have some classes with some good teachers, you’ve got to pay for them, but you can always be reading. God, I think it would take someone quite some time to go through all the books on that list, so that would be a really good grounding. If where you’re at is all you can do is read some books right now, that sounds fantastic.
CB: Yeah. And, I mean, reading has always been one of the primary transmission methods of astrological techniques for 2-or-3,000 years now. And all astrologers eventually end up building a small library of astrology books.
KS: Small—come on really. The library’s small.
CB: A large cache of astrology texts. There’s never gonna be just that one book that you get that’s gonna teach you everything about astrology, but instead you’re gonna end up getting several or a bunch of different books on different approaches or different topics in different areas that are gonna teach you different facets of the subject. And so, the sooner you start building up your astrological library and reading through different astrological literature, the better you’re gonna be in the long run.
KS: Totally. The only two little books I might throw into this list, Chris—just personal preferences of mine. I agree with all the ones that you suggested. This was one of the first books that I read that helped me understand a birth chart: Stephen Arroyo’s Chart Interpretation Handbook. I actually think the PDF of this book is available free online ‘cause it was published in the ‘80s. It’s got some really good points. And if you’re learning astrology, there is a cookbook section, but it’s a helpful cookbook section that gets you started. So there’s some really good reading in here that I always encourage for newer students to check out. It’s a smaller read, but it’s juicy. And then one other book that I wish was around when I was starting—and certainly when I was getting into traditional astrology—is Ben Dykes Traditional Astrology for Today. That little, brown, slender one.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good intro to traditional astrology book.
KS: Yes, exactly, because Stephen Arroyo and April Elliott Kent’s books—they would be more kind of modern psychological. But April—she is just so funny to read. She’s so engaging that you’ll learn so much from her. But then, yeah, if you need an intro to some of the traditional ideas and concepts, this little book by Ben is fantastic. So I recommend that to students all the time, especially my poor students and clients who’ve been with me my entire career and had to kind of come with me on the switch from more modern psychological to traditional, and then even into whole signs. So yeah, this is the book that’s helped my students keep up with that, which is great.
CB: Yeah, he called that—when he was writing it—his ‘invitation book’ because he wanted to write an invitation like, “This is what traditional astrology’s about and this is why you might want to look into it.”
KS: That’s beautiful. And that’s exactly what it feels like. It feels like there is a different way, and if you want to check it out, just try this. And it’s really clear and really simple, yeah.
CB: Yeah, it’s also a cheap book ‘cause it’s kind of short.
KS: Yeah, totally.
CB: It’s like $10 or $12 or something.
KS: Yeah, I got it when I was in Australia, so it must have been cheap to ship as well.
KS: Shipping’s really expensive to Australia.
CB: Right. Yeah, I have learned that recently…
KS: As you’ve discovered.
CB: …with my poster fiasco.
KS: Yeah, it’s crazy. So yeah, how are we going?
CB: We’re doing good. I think we could plow through a few more, if you feel like it.
KS: Sure, yeah. Do you want to go to Julie’s question next?
CB: Yeah, ‘cause I just had a—well, it’s kind of a complicated question.
CB: What do you think?
KS: I’m just trying to figure out exactly the question in there.
CB: I mean, she’s asking—we’ll just read it really quick.
CB: This is Julie Evans, and it says, “It seems to me that after one learns their astrology lessons, what separates a great [she says ‘astrologist’, I’d say ‘astrologer’] one from one who is only technically…”
KS: No, this is a good question actually, Julie’s question.
CB: “What separates a great [astrologer] from one who is only technically correct is the ability to intuitively incorporate all of the elements of a chart, making it another entity entirely that is then conveyed to the client. A combination of synergy and synchronicity in action. In your experience, is this a natural gift, or can it be learned?”
KS: So I can just dive right in here, if that’s not rude. Yeah, okay, in my experience it can be learned. What she’s talking about is that magical space wherein the separate pieces of a chart are kind of pulled together in a cohesive whole. And you are right, Julie, spot on—that is what separates someone who is a good practitioner astrologer. So someone who can maybe teach or consult is someone who can pull the pieces together. When you learn, you learn by pulling the pieces apart, and then the hard part is how to put it all back together like an origami thing at the end.
Julie mentions one of the words I love to talk about, which is the idea of ‘the ability to intuitively incorporate’ everything. So, yes, that ability to incorporate things, which seems like intuition, is where we’re into a competency space which comes through practice. So I do believe that you can learn it and the way you learn it is by doing. You don’t learn it by reading books or taking more tests—not that either of those things are bad—but you learn it by talking to people about charts, because what you’re learning is the way the different pieces interact. The way this bit over here changes the interpretation of this bit over here, so that we get a unique thread for this particular person.
And this makes me think of Malcolm Gladwell’s idea about mastery, where he talks about the ‘10,000 hours’. If you can spend 10,000 hours doing anything, he calls it ‘mastery’, we might call it ‘competency’. And people like you, Chris, and like myself, who have been working with astrology for a long, long time—and because we started quite young—we hit our 10,000 hours maybe a little on the early side. And so, for people coming in, and you’ve got a couple of hours a week around work and family, you’ve just got to be patient and stick with it. But I do think that any skill that you repeat enough times becomes intuitive, because the more you do it, the more you learn about the deeper layers and those undercurrents and threads of what you do, in the same way as a mechanic or a heart surgeon. Over time a starting mechanic is gonna have to dig in the car for an hour to figure out what’s wrong, and a mechanic who’s been a mechanic for 50 years, they hear your car pull into the driveway and they know exactly what’s wrong because they know the subtleties about the different problems and the way they sound. So that’s my very passionate response to Julie’s question.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And one of the keywords that you used there that’s important probably to clarify is the word ‘intuition’. ‘Cause I feel like oftentimes when the word ‘intuition’ is used…
CB: …it’s almost used in place of astrological understanding or as this other element that is outside of or is something different from actually having skill in astrological interpretation or the ability to interpret, like when people say that they’re an intuitive astrologer. While occasionally there’s people that are ‘okay’ astrologers that say that, I feel like a person that says that they’re an intuitive astrologer, that they’re an intuitive astrologer, it’s typically a keyword that means they’re primarily doing something else, or acting as a psychic rather than being really skilled or really competent as a practicing astrologer with just that tool set. Or there’s something where they’re using the astrological chart as a jumping-off point for their psychic, or whatever, intuitive abilities they may or may not have.
But ‘intuitive’ in the sense that you were using it, like with the mechanic, I really like that analogy because the ability to synthesize chart placements is something that can only come from experience, and one of the biggest challenges that beginner and intermediate students have is how do you get to the point of synthesis. And it’s really just something that comes through repetition and from doing it over and over again, and eventually getting a sense for when a chart comes to you, starting to put it together and seeing the pattern and seeing how everything works together. I’m trying to think of a better word than ‘intuitive’ because of the baggage that term has, but I’m having trouble coming up with one right now.
KS: It’s like a felt sense. ‘Cause I agree with you, I think intuition is often incorrectly used. And yeah, that’s where I was going with the mechanic or even the heart surgeon or what have you, when you do something. So when you’re taking action about this, you feel your way in through it. And it feels like intuition but it’s your instinct or your experience starting to show through.
CB: Right. That’s built up and sort of accumulated as a result of experience, and as a result of sometimes failure or challenge or instances where something didn’t go right, and you learned something from that and then improved over time. Yeah, I mean, one thing that I wanted to say—‘cause I made this point recently on Twitter—is there’s one thing that’s really useful that astrologers have, which is a really heightened sense of pattern recognition.
KS: Oh, yes.
CB: It’s a really good skill to have in order to correctly identify when there’s a genuine astrological correlation and seeing what the astrological placement was and what that’s correlating with, and knowing why it’s correlating with that thing, or being able to see a connection between two things that somebody else might miss that’s actually genuinely there, but also having a developed sense of that in order to be able to discern things that are not genuine correlations or really are random or not connected in a significant way astrologically. ‘Cause sometimes the downside is there’s certain times—and you’ll run into this in the astrological community—where people’s pattern recognition just goes on the fritz and they start seeing correlations in everything or don’t have a very refined sense of that and that can be the downside of it. But that’s a very important skill to learn for both of those reasons—both to identify, as well as to identify things that are not genuine correlations.
KS: Absolutely. I love that pattern recognition. I think with Austin, we’ve talked about that with him as well. To be able to recognize the patterns, but also to recognize what’s not a pattern, where the anomalies might lie. I mean, that’s where I find astrology—especially client astrology—so magical. ‘Cause you’ll sit down with a client’s chart and you’ll recognize a part of a pattern, and maybe a part of a different pattern, and then you’re like, “Oh, my God, I’ve not seen this particular combination before.” Yeah, so what you’re saying there, Chris, is that part of that ability to pull things together comes down to developing that pattern recognition skill.
CB: Yeah, and that being an important skill to develop. I mean, the other analogy—like the one you used—is Lee Lehman titled her book on horary The Martial Art of Horary Astrology. And she has this great analogy towards the beginning where she talks about how in Taekwondo—or karate or whichever martial art branch she specialized in—you initially learn stances and different moves and stuff, but eventually through practice and through just sheer repetition over and over again that becomes a solid movement that just flows instinctually from you as something that you almost don’t even need to think about, it just sort of happens. And that’s sort of what we’re talking about here as well in terms of achieving chart synthesis and the difference between…
KS: Like achieving lift-off, achieving chart synthesis.
KS: It’s a big goal, yeah.
CB: Yeah, so it’s something like that, and it’s hard. That’s why we were giving that advice earlier that the sooner you can start having that dialogue with clients—even if it’s just doing readings for free or whatever—the better, because you’ll start getting your time in and start gathering up that experience.
KS: 100%. And yeah, the 10,000 hours doesn’t start when you read your first astrology book or first take your class, it starts when you do your first consult.
KS: I think the big thing here is repetition that we’re both sort of alluding to. It’s the hours at the coalface, or it’s the hours doing the work that will lead to what other people will interpret. ‘Cause I get asked this a lot of the time, people will say, “Are you really intuitive?” and what they mean is, “Are you really psychic?” And I’m like, “No, no. I know charts. That’s what I know. I’ve looked at many.” And the outside interpretation is, “You must be magic,” but the inside thing is just the work basically.
CB: Right, right, definitely. And I wanted to back up really quickly ‘cause I skipped over one that was a related question to the book one.
CB: If I may, ‘cause I think there was a relatively easy answer to this. So this is from—or do you want to read this one?
KS: I’ll read the question ‘cause you can answer it.
KS: Let’s go with that. So it’s from Luciano de Souza writing from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he would like to know if you think it’s possible to delineate a school of thought based on the several authors who have written about astrology since the 20th century. I’m assuming that’s ‘20th’ there. “Would it make sense to put them in the same category, the books, by, say, Liz Greene and Stephen Arroyo? How can the student of astrology have a more focused understanding of the matter by knowing which authors to follow for a certain method?”
CB: Yeah, so that’s an amazing question, and that flowed very well with the previous top six books on astrology recommendation because one of the things I did in that list is I mixed together different traditions and different approaches of astrology a little bit with that list. But the answer to that question is, yes, in some instances there’s different schools of thought, there’s different astrological traditions, and there’s different branches of astrology. And if you can identify what approach a person is following then sometimes you can see other contemporaries or other people that follow a similar approach, and you can kind of group different astrology books into different categories as a result of that. Now how to do that, unfortunately, is kind of difficult, and I’m not sure if there’s any easy or quick way to do that. But yeah, that was an instance—Liz Greene and Stephen Arroyo, he mentioned specifically—that would represent a specific approach to modern psychological astrology, and the fact that they wrote books together is a good indication. I think they wrote a book together, right? Or am I thinking of Howard Sasportas?
KS: Howard Sasportas, yeah, I don’t think Stephen Arroyo and Liz. But Liz and Howard—there’s a number of books maybe from their lectures together, if that’s what they did.
CB: Sure. But yeah, I mean, there’s other people. Like, for example, Richard Tarnas wrote Cosmos and Psyche, and then recently he’s had a number of students that are following his method, and they’re calling it ‘archetypal astrology’ or something like that. And so, there’s different astrologers who are identifying as archetypal astrologers, like Keiron Le Grice who has written a few books at this point that follow that specific approach; and so you can kind of see him as being in the lineage of somebody like Richard Tarnas. I’m trying to think of other people that are in a specific lineage or represent a specific school. Can you think of anybody?
KS: Well, I guess I’m thinking about the evolutionary lineage.
KS: There’s Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest. Even Mark Jones would sort of be under part of that umbrella, but I couldn’t really think of the next tier down. I’m not quite sure who would come under.
CB: Yeah. But just seeing if they say who their teachers are, or if they studied at a specific school, or if they identify with a specific tradition or approach to astrology then that’s a good indication. And you can sort of look at who their teacher was and see the kind of lineage and see the similarities between the style of the teacher and the student, or what have you.
CB: But delineating and giving a full outline of all the different schools and things I think is a little bit beyond the scope of anything we could do here, but that’s probably the best thing you can do in terms of that.
KS: Yes. How would a student of astrology have a more focused—yeah, it is tricky. But I think if you are looking to follow a particular method—whether it’s evolutionary or transpersonal or archetypal or traditional—it’s almost just a matter of figuring out who are the big authors in that space, and you could probably do that online, I would think, these days.
CB: Yeah, another thing you can do is do a search for ‘branches of astrology’ and do a search for ‘traditions of astrology’ ‘cause that’ll give you an overview. I think you and I, Kelly, may have done an episode on that at one point in the past, and I know I’ve done a couple of YouTube videos on it. ‘Cause that in and of itself will give you the broad outlines of these are the four main branches or applications of astrology, which are mundane, natal, electional, and horary, so knowing that is one thing right on its own. And then ‘major traditions of astrology’ tells you what the major traditions are historically in terms of Hellenistic, Indian, Medieval, Renaissance, and modern, and then whatever the subsets are from there.
CB: All right, I think that’s it. So there are obviously a number of other questions, but I know we’re sort of up for time at this point, right?
KS: Yeah, and I’m just not sure if there are any quick questions.
CB: I mean, the Mac question…
KS: That’s the one I want to answer Marin about, Marin Altman. She was asking—is that okay? Shall we do this one? ‘Cause I think it’s a one-sentence answer.
CB: Sure, go ahead.
KS: “What program would you recommend [I guess astrology software program] for a Mac since Solar Fire isn’t compatible?” And, Chris, you and I both said that we know people who run parallels on their Macs to run Solar Fire. So you can definitely still work with Solar Fire on a Mac.
CB: Yeah. And unfortunately, I don’t use a Mac, so I’m not familiar, and I’m not up-to-date with all of the latest programs that are available for Macs at this point, so I can’t speak authoritatively on it. But I know over the past decade that Solar Fire is still used widely, and it’s still the main program that most people use to the extent that the friends that I do know that use Macs tend to run parallels or some similar program that allows them to run Windows programs just so they can run Solar Fire.
CB: So Nick Dagan Best, our friend Nick Dagan Best, is the one of the main examples that comes to mind right away. On the one hand, he’s a hard-line Mac guy, and he always gets a new Mac every few years, but he always makes sure that he can install Solar Fire on it.
KS: Yeah. And, look, if it works for ‘the human ephemeris’, it’s gonna work for everyone.
CB: Yeah, and I think they’re working on a cross-compatible version, so hopefully that’ll be out before too long. And in the meantime, I always forget to mention on the forecast episodes the promo code. But you can actually get a 15% discount, or 10% discount on Solar Fire if you use the promo code they gave us—which is ‘AP15’—during checkout, when you’re purchasing Solar Fire. So get Solar Fire, use the discount code, and you’ll get some money off.
KS: Yeah, for sure. So yeah, run parallels. And the other thing, if you are a very dedicated Mac user, and maybe you aren’t into running the parallels, there is an app for Solar Fire called Astro Gold. It doesn’t have as much as the Solar Fire software but it will still do a fair amount, Especially if you’re sort of more in that student space, I think you could probably get a lot of what you need from the Solar Fire/Astro Gold app. Now that is not a $5 app. From what I understand it’s like a $50-$60 app, but it’s certainly going to be cheaper than buying the entire software if price is also a factor for you.
And, Chris, I’m like you, I’m a dedicated PC gal. So yeah, Kenneth Miller is someone I know. He actually showed me when I was out visiting him last year, when I was in San Diego, and was like, “Yeah, you can totally do Solar Fire on a Mac. This is how.” He was like, “You create this alternate universe.” So yeah, it’s doable.
KS: And I guess what we’re saying, Chris, is the Solar Fire software is so good that it’s worth going that extra step to use it regardless of whether you’re on a Mac or a PC.
CB: Yeah, honestly, I think there are some other programs. I know Time Passages is one piece of Mac software. I’m just not fully familiar with it or know if it has all of the same capabilities as Solar Fire, and I don’t know as many people that use that compared to Solar Fire, even the ones that have Macs. So you can look into it and do some research. And I know all of them are moving towards cross-compatibility at this point, but as far as I know, in terms of our friends, that’s what I know that they do.
KS: Yeah, cool.
CB: All right, awesome, we did it. Well, that is the Q&A episode. Thank you everybody for submitting questions. I mean, we got through about half of the ones that we had planned to answer…
KS: Short-listed, yeah.
CB: …maybe a little bit more, and we got through a very relatively small percentage of all the ones that we received. But nonetheless, thank you everyone for sending them in, we really appreciate it. And I may schedule a follow-up Q&A episode at some point in order to get to the rest. Maybe next month or the month after, but we’ll see what happens. If you guys enjoy these Q&A episodes then definitely let me know, that way I know that I should keep doing them. I’m never quite sure if I should go crazy doing the Q&A episodes or if I should hold off from time to time, so feedback is always appreciated. Thank you, Kelly, so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
KS: Oh, my pleasure, Chris. Thanks for having me. I’m just glad to be available, so it was good.
CB: Yeah, definitely. I was definitely wanting to and needing to do an episode, and so I really appreciate you making yourself available for this. And it’s always good to talk to you, especially since I missed you last month for some of those bonus episodes.
KS: Yeah, that’s good, thank you.
CB: And people should check out your website for more information, which is KellysAstrology.com, right?
KS: Yes, thank you.
CB: All right, brilliant. All right, well, that’s it for this episode. So thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.