The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 83, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Ian Waisler
Episode originally released on July 15, 2016
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released June 15, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CB: Hi. My name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Monday, July 11th 2016 starting just after 1:19 p.m. in Denver, Colorado. And this is the 83rd 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 Ian Waisler about his work in organizing the Queer Astrology Conferences. You can find out more information about this project at queerastrology.com. Before we get started with the interview, just a few quick announcements about the giveaway we’re doing this month. So the giveaway is for patrons of the show who donate on the five and 10-dollar tiers, and the drawing will take place at the end of July during the final episode of the month. The grand prize for patrons on the $10 tier is gonna be a free copy of the astrology software program called Solar Fire. Solar Fire is one of the most popular astrological software programs on the market today. It accomplishes the full range of astrological tasks including natal, predictive, relationship, locational, electional, and horary astrology. It also provides tools for various astrological techniques from ancient and classical astrology to Uranian and Cosmobiology. Beginners appreciate the wide array of different interpretations available while professionals enjoy the appointment calendar and the ability to customize the program’s pages, wheels, points, and dynamic hit lists. You can find out more information about Solar Fire at alabe.com. So that’s the grand prize that we’re giving away this month for one lucky winner on the $10 tier. For patrons on the $5 tier, the main giveaway prize is a one-year subscription to the new online astrology program called Archetypal Explorer. Archetypal Explorer is an online program for personal development based in the practice of archetypal astrology. It uses a powerful method of transit analysis combined with cutting edge of data visualization and cloud computing to display the ebb and flow of archetypal activity and time. It renders both personal and world transit activity and will display transits across any scale of time from a week to a month to a year even to a century, navigating backward and forward in time. You can use it to inform, orient, and navigate within your life in powerful ways. So you can find out more information about that program at archetypalexplorer.com. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is become a patron of The Astrology Podcast through our page on Patreon at the five or ten-dollar tier, and then you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing with the winners of this month’s giveaway being announced the end of the month. More details about the monthly raffle and links to find out more information about each of the prizes can be found on the description page for this episode on theastrologypodcast.com. All right. With those announcements out of the way, let’s get started with the interview. Ian, welcome to the show.
Ian Waisler: Hello Chris. Thank you so much for having me. And I wanna make visible all the so many details about how you put attention and care into making this gift to the astrology community and continue creating an archive of what’s happening now. Thanks for that.
CB: Yeah, I’m really excited to have you. Because yeah, like you said, one of the things I try to focus on in the podcast in addition to philosophical and historical discussions and things like that are things that are happening right now in the astrological community in order to give people sort of like a snapshot in time both those that are currently living and maybe 100 years from now people that are looking back and trying to figure out what was happening in the early 21st century in the astrological community. And one of the more important developments that’s been taking place over the last few years is this conference that you’ve been involved in organizing called the Queer Astrology Conference. And you are one of the main organizers of that conference, right?
IW: That is true. I’ve been the continuity person through two conferences so far, and I’m a person who knows a lot of people interested in this work and kind of gather whoever is able to feed into whatever event wants to come next which may be me touring and teaching like I’ve been doing the last few months or hosting conferences here in the bay which is where we have been so far.
CB: Sure. So let’s talk a little bit about your background and just your background in astrology and how you got into it and sort of where you’re coming from in terms of your life and your perspective. So, how did you get into astrology?
IW: I think astrology was in me before I understood that I was in astrology. My earliest memory is driving home from Grandma’s house across town and watching how the Moon stayed out the window even though the car was turning and just feeling that tetheredness to the personal and the lunar always was very alive in me. Certainly in high school I sniffed around the way a teenager can, and in college I started reading things off these bookshelves in Santa Cruz. So I started reading Rudhyar and kind of wondering what was happening. And there was a local astrologer Risa D’Angeles who published in the paper who was a seven rays esotericist, and I was always intrigued by the hidden secret astrology as well. So there was always a lot of hunger, a lot of curiosity, and there still is.
CB: Sure. And are you from the Bay Area or from San Francisco originally?
IW: I spent the first half of my life thus far in Los Angeles. So, I invite everyone to hear the way I look at the world through someone who was born in the 20th century Los Angeles where Jews arrived in Hollywood and took secret money that no one knows quite where it came from, kind of mob activities, Pluto activities and built this movie set in the desert and piped all the water and then created a certain amount of illusion that broadcasts a certain amount of glamour. I moved up to the Bay in ’93 to UC, Berkeley and then transferred to Santa Cruz and have been in the Bay most of the year since then. So, this is where I’m home now.
CB: Okay. And what was your focus in college in terms of what you ended up specializing in or just what your background was there?
IW: I wrote a degree in linguistics, a bachelor’s degree at UC, Santa Cruz. And at the time I was–Barry makes a quote in the intro to the first conference about trying to not be a smarty pants astrologer because we all can find ourselves trying to be smarty pants astrologers who know the answers to things. And, in fact, none of us know quite where this comes from or what its deepest roots are. So I get to college, and I’m a smarty pants kid who was always too smart for school like a Sun, Mercury, Uranus that I am. And I got to linguistics classes, and I said, “Oh, they have a whole way of accounting for sound structure and word pattern and geography and time that I could actually learn something.” And it really gave me a way to organize the way humans translate between sound and experience which I think underlies very much the way I think about the different areas of astrology and how they are translating common mysteries through different cultures and how that puts us in the 21st century kind of getting to write what our astrological culture might look like.
CB: And were you studying astrology sort of in parallel or side by side with that or when did your sort of astrological studies really start to take over?
IW: So I was doing a lot of reading by myself. I don’t think I had any astrologer friends before the turn of the 20th century. I think I met a couple of people when I moved back into San Francisco in 2001. And then in 2004 I did about six months of classes with Risa in Santa Cruz, and it was both an intro class and an intro to esoteric class. And her Piscean style would sometimes get lost on people. And I could at least translate all of the Astro ABCs, so to speak. And so I both got to learn a little bit about mapping seven rays which at the same time I was at the yoga ashram and learning about seven chakras and also was able to translate between the teacher and the students in that class. And I kind of initiated myself into the–I know the ABCs outside of esoteric, so I could step in as an astrological teacher given it’s a place where there’s not necessarily a lot of initiations.
IW: There are schools for some folks, but there’s a lot of us who are self-taught.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely. And I think that was one of the things that Barry said also in the introductory panel of the first conference was just that sometimes from certain people reading introductory astrology texts that sometimes they’re written for certain types of people and not necessarily written with other people in mind and that there can be this feeling of not speaking to them or not feeling fully inclusive. Did that come off to you at that point in your early studies circa 2004 or were you aware of that?
IW: Well, I think that what has happened for me personally in the last three years is that I’ve had a group of people who have had some of the same experiences as queer folks who study and learn and work in astrology. And it’s given me a way to name things that were true for me that I didn’t have a name for before. So I always understood as I’m in elementary school and I was like, “Okay, that’s the activity focus for the boys. That’s the activity focus for the girls. I’m somewhere in between. I can relate to both.” But no one is focused on that in between which even in the seven planets system the Mercurial not benefic not malefic not luminary it’s this in between.
IW: So it’s not until much later that I hear people saying, “Right.” Feminists said subject of the book is always he, and they have to read between the lines to find themselves as a she. And me as a queer body have always been reading between the lines to find myself. But through having conferences and community and ongoing research what I’m finding is that if I put the queerness in the center of the way, my person is in the center of my lived experience that astrology actually reads kind of differently and renders itself in a way that I hadn’t seen before.
CB: So maybe it was something you were sort of already doing or internalizing in some sense but maybe not fully articulating at that point in terms of–Did you have other interests in terms of queer theory or in terms of the LGBT community at that point or was that something that also developed later?
IW: So my connection to a gay and queer community and I specifically found a community that are known as the Radical Faeries which have a little more than 30 years of gathering in a particular lens. I can get back to that. But what I would say is because my experience of personality and environment were pretty rough and traumatic that I spent my teens and 20s finding community on dance floors where there was a kind of communal anonymity and then I went to the yoga center where I learned how to listen to myself for the first time and then learn how to be the person who could listen to others. And then after I had all those technologies in place then I started going to places where some of that intimacy and that gay man who had never been around other gay men and was scared of getting beaten up the way one internalizes the fear of getting beaten up, start to work that out. So it was late 20s that I walked down the street holding hands with a man for the first time and felt nervous about that, and it was in my 30s that I kind of learned that queer space is a place that nourishes me and learned how to find queer spaces in the city and hold queer spaces in the city. And that kind of makes sense. So it’s the politicizing has been more of the last five 10 years. I always knew there was a political instinct. But, again, I didn’t have the consciousness of how to do anything about it.
CB: And how old are you now?
IW: I’m just coming into Uranus opposition. I’ll be 42 next year. And I would say, just to name life cycles, I think Saturn return everyone talks about as a time when one has some solidity or some acknowledgement of who’s the rules and how to play with rules. And I’ve been telling people a lot that at Saturn square which is 35 that you begin to actually know how to use those rules to affect things not just know how to be stable within them. So I track 35 as the first Saturn square and the on-ramp to all the Uranus, Neptune, Plutos as a point when adulthood really takes over from youth.
CB: Definitely. Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that myself. So you mentioned Radical Faerie. Could you explain what that is?
IW: Yeah, I’d be very happy to. So if we think through gay rights or gay liberation, Stonewall is the anchor point. And then there’s various uprisings before and after that. But some folks organized a call for the–I think it’s called the spiritual gathering of Radical Faeries. And it was for faerie-identified folks, whoever that was, who also had a radical as an activist interest. And basically people just stepped into the middle of a circle and told their stories, and people listened and heard their stories told through other people in a way they had never heard them before. And this has created a culture that’s moved throughout the English-speaking and some of the European world and some of the places where there’s a mix between English-speaking and Asian folks. I think there was a gathering in Australia and New Zealand as well in the last few years. The point of that is that when I hosted the first conference, there was a fella named Kurt Kohn who lives in New York who created the Planet Watcher website, app, and calendar. I wanna plug his thing cuz I use it all the time. And basically, we hadn’t met before. We had friends in common. And he said, “When I walked into the first conference, it felt like a fairy gathering.” And there’s a way that there’s this radical inclusivity and this creation of a space and ideas about what will happen but not necessarily the we know what the presentations are before they’ve started ness that comes in with the radicalization for me. So, in terms of how I organize, it’s much less structural and much more improvisational. And that’s kind of where the Radical Faerie spirit comes in. There’s also a big piece around subjectivity that we might get back to at the end. I think I’ll put that on our plan.
CB: And then just in terms of your background, are you sort of in college still or you’re in between sort of college courses?
IW: No, no. I left CIIS after the first conference. My educational process–So I was at the yoga center. I did teacher training, and I think this story is very informative around how I made astrology. I had been practicing yoga for two or three years cuz I needed to learn who I was and how to take care of myself. This is 1999 2000 2001. And I said, “Every yoga class I go to, they’re teaching me something different.” The forms are kind of the same, but there’s something underneath it that is the hidden mystery, and I wanted to know what that is. So I enrolled in a teacher training feeling much too green to know what it was and to be a teacher. And they said, “You’re a natural teacher.” And my astrologers had also said, “You have bright ninth house Sun, ninth house teacher.” So in the same way with astrology, I feel like there’s a way that we all use different forms and surface approaches and different parts of the lens to focus on the kinds of questions we know how to answer. But my own inquiry around queer in astrology or queering astrology is kind of if astrology is something that lives underneath the split between the tropical and the sidereal or underneath the split between the Chinese 12-animal wheel and the so-called Western 12-animal wheel, what is that astrology? So there’s a very radical kind of questioning in my life work around that.
IW: So educationally, so there was the yoga center. And then I started teaching yoga then I was invited to teach yoga students. Yeah, teacher trainees. So that kind of sets me up in terms of I started studying astrology, I started teaching astrology classes, and now I feel my work is in teaching and learning and organizing around how astrology is taking shape in the next few years.
IW: Before I got to CIIS, one other thing that happened is a lot of the people in the Bay that I knew were going to a thing called Witch Camp. And I said, “Well, I’m curious what that is.” And I got very woven into a community that goes back to a book called The Spiral Dance by Starhawk and a community in the Bay who’ve been doing ritual and activism together. And what’s especially important about that is that when Rhea sent her bio to speak at the first conference, the first thing she identified as was as a witch. And the voicing of an identification with being a witch is something that I kind of knew in my private sphere but not in my public sphere. And in terms of the greater coming out from stories that we don’t share publicly into stories that we do, working with ritual, working with magic in very tangible ways as opposed to as outside of the traditional or outside of the real rational comes in through the witchery teaching organizing the reclaiming practice and study. I guess to answer your question in a long winded way, I said there’s this university in town where Greg Bogart and Rick Tarnis among others are teaching with astrology at least kind of referenced even though the program is called cosmology and not astrology. I said, “I should go to there.” And I enrolled, and I realized that the coursework was not what I was looking for but that the cultural environment was. And even though I would have dropped out after one semester, my gut said that something else will happen here. I was running the astrologers club on campus Coniunctio that Erica Jones had started. And I had Jessica Murray come, and I had Lynn Bell come. And then I realized I could host a conference there. And then I just started gathering all the pieces together and was able to, with the support of my department head there, host the conference as a professional activity as a student and position it kind of in the academy half in, half out even though the degree that I was in I already knew was not for me and I left the university right after that.
IW: That’s three years ago.
CB: And to back up a little bit, it seemed like especially in the opening panel and in the book there was some discussion that different people, different astrologers in the community they’d been to different astrological conferences in the past. And then there was this group of you who met up and went to the United Astrology Conference in 2012. And a few of you sort of connect with each other and sort of noticed a lack of talks related to sort of queer themes at the conference, right?
IW: Indeed. It was my first time at a big public conference.
CB: Okay. That was your first astrology conference?
IW: It was my first major astrology conference. I had only been on retreats or to local events in the Bay, so I kind of sniffed around. But for the most part, I didn’t find what was happening there really feeding me. So I got to UAC. I wasn’t even really planning to go and spirit kind of got me there. And first I met very Barry Promane who I saw as someone who just visibly in the environment looks like someone who was out and queer and I couldn’t talk to and turns out he lives in the Bay and, as you know, close in age to me. And then Chani Nicholas came over and said hello. She said, “I love your headband.” And we just started talking, and the three of us had a whole bunch of lunches with other friends as well. But really the three of us all said we are engaged in our queer liberation struggle and we’re astrologers and nowhere in the format or the content or the programming is this place that is the margin that the queer lives in being centered or referenced. And we just started having lunch and getting to know one another really over the next few months. And me, you know, with the uranium light switch was like, “I’ve got a conference that’s happening in July.” Well, it wasn’t happening in July. I said, “Barry, I think I have a venue. Do you wanna pick a date?” He said, “The water trines will be a good time to be with astrologers, I think.” So we picked the weekend July 20th, and there was a grand water trine at I think four or five of the water signs. And that’s one of the signatures of this QA project.
CB: Brilliant. So and I think one of you mentioned in the compilation that you’ve held afterwards that all three of you had Pluto in Libra or several of the people involved in organizing had Pluto in Libra.
IW: Indeed. The three of us are Pluto Libras. I’m trying to think. The conference, there was a kind of body of us that some dropped in and some dropped out. But Stella is also Pluto in Libra, I’m pretty sure. And then Lou would be Pluto Scorpio. This Pluto Libra question right there, there’s a lot of polarization between the Pluto Leos who seem to be the generation ahead that hold power or there’s this reference Pluto Leo-ness that defines what’s happening in the culture. And I think if we read that just through the tropical Pluto and Leo, it’s the intense need to take center stage and to give from that solar spot. So then we’re the Pluto in Libras, and we have the intense need to do it together. And so the speaker can no longer be a talking head. They have to engage the audience or there has to be a panel or there has to be some amount of “I’m here as the speaker, and this is an open-ended inquiry that I’m in relationship to.” And I think those two things are great and to see them in–And I wanna circle around to the fact that, yes, the UAC was not the conference that I dreamed of. But it was the place where people like me who dreamed of the next conference met one another and were able to dream into what our conference would look like. So I say to the young folks even if you’re not sure about what’s happening to come meet the people, and you can always come to a conference by hanging out in the hotel and not buying a ticket if you’re on the cheap.
CB: Yeah. And that’s something we always try to support that–Well, Kurt Kohn you mentioned earlier. That was when he and I ran the Association for Young Astrologers five or six years ago. That was the main thing we tried to do is just get young people to conferences whatever that meant whether it was scholarships or just packing 20 young people into a suite. We just sort of made it happen. So it’s really interesting though, you mentioned that you’re all Pluto in Libra just because that’s often–there was this huge generation of astrologers born in the 1940s who became adults in like the 1960s and professionals by the late 1970s and sort of became the sort of dominant people in the astrological community for the past few decades. And then there was always this question of–they themselves would often ask this question of like where are all the young astrologers or when are the younger astrologers gonna come in. And there was kind of this not missing generation, but there’s always a sort of question of like when is the next generation gonna take over and also what’s that gonna look like. So that was one of the things that made my ears perk up just in terms of thinking about astrology generational is hearing a few of you get together at this conference and seeing that perhaps there’s some things that were more relevant to your generation that weren’t being fully represented there and then sort of taking charge of that and really going out in order to bring that energy into the community and make it more well-known. So that was the genesis of the first Queer Astrology Conference that then took place between July 20th through the 21st of 2013 in San Francisco, right?
IW: Right. That’s true.
CB: Okay. So you put out a call for topics, I assume. And did different people write in, or how did you go about sort of organizing what talks would be featured?
IW: The organizing process was pretty simple, figured out the venue, got a date and a website and wrote a call which was just an open invite that anyone who thought that they had something to say at the Queer Astrology Conference should please get in touch. And then from there I reached out through everyone I knew to find out who already had work that they might wanna show, so there was some reach in through the CIIS community with some people who’ve done academic research and then through the San Francisco Astrological Society. And they put me in touch with Christopher Renstrom and Jessica Lanyadoo who are amazing astrologers and continue to make great contributions within and around this QA intersection. And then Stella and I in particular reached out and Shani reached out, and we gathered all the different folk we could who could commit to being there and were excited to see what would happen and could hold the unknown of it. And we had a pretty full program. And I decided rather than curating summer in and summer out that we were gonna figure out how to schedule everyone who wanted to be there, and it worked pretty well. And we had a pretty exciting event. There was a lot of juice. It was a pop-up style, right? It all happened pretty fast, and no one knew what it was gonna be. So there’s that quality of traction that something that’s coming and going quick is different than something that is established and gonna happen every month or every year. So all those things fit into it, and an amazing group of people got together. Rhea Wolf was introduced to me, and she was an amazing, amazing contributor both in the conference and in getting the book done. Her work was immeasurably powerful, synastry for she and I. There’s an astrologer Yolo Akili who came and did a really interactive piece around like what are our assumptions about a healthy relationship, is it two people? Is it a man and a woman? And how do we read that back into what we’re taught about astrology, right? Taurus is supposed to get on with trines. Or, yeah, any sign is supposed to get on with trines or its opposite. There’s this way that the binary relationship is built into how we think signs relate which I’m not so sure is entirely the only way to read the relationship of science.
CB: Yeah, it just seemed like a really brilliant lineup of speakers. And you guys had some really great talks. But it was also interesting that from the start, it seemed like very open-ended that you were careful to define what you were shooting for and what you were hoping to give a platform for. But at the same time, there was this sort of openness to saying that we’re gonna explore something and try something new and go into this direction. But we’re not fully clear yet what we’re gonna find and that part of doing this is in order to define what we’re trying to create and then find out what needs to be created and sort of give a space for it in some sense, it seemed like. Or at least in the opening panel Rhea seemed to really definitely have that as a general sort of sense of what she was trying to bring to things. So in terms of defining what it was about, maybe we should start by explaining one of the terms that you’re using is the term queer and just what you mean by that and the way in which you’re sort of reclaiming that term in some sense that might not be as familiar to more general audience.
IW: I will be very happy to share what I can about that. So I tend to organize words in terms of where they come from and really try to get underneath the idea of kind of a primitive expression of what is this word saying. Like what’s the root word? What are the linguistic inheritances? And when you look up queer, you get things like eccentric which I think of as outside of the circle, outside of the circular, or not related to the center point. And you get things like oblique which in space I think is about two continuities that aren’t going to intersect or collide or overlap in any rational way. Right. So I wanna work from the second one back to the first one. And what I wanna suggest is a rereading of the Libra glyph. Right. So the Libra glyph, we often get this idea about the Sun setting and the balancing that comes with evening. And we have the word evening where things get even. So the assumption about Libra is that the two things that are being balanced are being balanced around a fulcrum that’s in the middle of that point that therefore becomes the scales of justice that are held in the middle.
IW: If I reread that through kind of what happens when we draw a chart on a flat piece of paper, I say the horizon across the middle of the chart is a line that indicates the visible above and separates the invisible below or within. Every line is a constellation of many parts. So the horizon is in some ways a line across the forward of us, but it’s also a circle around us. And when we think of the Sun and the Earth, we think of the Sun following that horizon when we think of them as parallel in some way. Does that makes sense?
CB: Yeah, definitely.
IW: If we look at the solar system from other points of view, we have–Okay, so we have that parallel. So the horizon is one parallel, and then we have this idea of midheaven which is like center of the Earth expressed through the point that the person is on expressed to the great beyond. And the horizon and that midheaven never intersect, right?
CB: Mhm. Okay.
IW: So those are actually oblique points. And when we draw a chart and we think of the two angles intersecting in the middle as defining a flattening and creating a Cartesian grid, we lose the obliquity. We lose the fact that there’s all these dimensions. So I think this is something astrologers reckoned with and kind of wake up to, but it’s not a place that we start from. We often start from our air element, our Greek reasonable and rational inheritances and elevate the air outside of other elemental facts. So if I reread the Libra glyph from a clear point of view, then I want to look at other tools that are not–if the beams on the pan are not the same length and the weights in the sides are not gonna be managed or balanced in the same way. If we think of the Libra glyph as a continuity rather than a letter and those two lines are supposed to be parallel whatever parallel means, we can imagine that one end of the balance pan is often the infinite while the other one is right here. And we’re privileging the one that’s right here cuz we can’t manage the infinite one, and then the balance isn’t actually what we’re trying to establish when we say balance. Do you follow that as a line of reasoning around obliquity and queer?
CB: Yeah, I think so. And ideas of bringing balance or ideas of bringing in something that’s usually looked at sort of too dimensionally but instead bring in other dimensions or realizing that things are three dimensional and therefore more multivalent or there’s more factors involved than people often realize perhaps is part of what you’re saying.
IW: Indeed. And rather than three dimensional, I would say multi or poly or omni dimensional cuz I think that the way we number things to try to get a handle on them is one of the ways that we are learning of trying to manage and oppress nature in a way that I find isn’t really working for people.
CB: Mhm. So one of the points right from the start is A, you’re using the term queer astrology. And right from the start at the beginning of the book of papers that you guys published which is really amazing–And I’d recommend everybody get a copy of from your website queerastrology.com. But one of the points that you make in your introductory essay on why queer astrology, you said that quote that one of the points at least and this wasn’t the only one. But one point you said is that, “Heterosexuality is often portrayed as the only healthy sexuality, and others are at best ignored or at worst simply declared pathological.” But then you made a more broad statement after that saying, “Our understandings of health and well being, hope and joy may yet open and transform astrological thought and practice in literature through an encounter with otherness.” So I think that was a really important point because it’s–One of the recurring themes I noticed in the anthology and in especially the first conference was just the notion that while sexuality and gender were major elements of what you guys were trying to do and trying to bring into the fold, it wasn’t necessarily limited to that. And that was not necessarily–I’m not sure if I would say–Maybe you would say maybe the main focus, but it was not necessarily the only focus of what you were trying to create. And that was demonstrated by even just using the term queer itself, right?
IW: Absolutely. But I would say there is that queer studies and queer theory and such started to enter the academy right around that same loss generation time ’80s into ’90s, right? There was kind of a–I would love for us to bookmark looking at the Uranus Pluto cycles ’60s, ’80s, and now. But what I would say is that there’s a lot of work on queer theory that started with the Epistemology of the Closet. And if I am radically myself in spite of the rules, I have to create documentation of that and become an expert so that other experts can see that queer experts exist and always have. So when we get to the conference, we’re inheriting what–I think the central theme of a queer space is called intersectionality which means that we’ve come to realize that as long as anyone is oppressed, we’re all oppressed. And as long as we keep pushing someone to the margin, we have to acknowledge that someone has always been pushed to the margin. So the issues of sexuality which we’ve got foregrounded because there was a lot of people in classed privilege, white, powerful gay men who got sick with AIDS that got a certain amount of visibility for the AIDS epidemic. And then the lesbians who came in to support and the other queer bodies, they came in to embrace the greater epidemic, as it’s called. We were able to look at how to collectively get political power and visibility and have demands. And then that moved into, so how does the medical establishment recognize or not recognize us? And how do the marriage and legal and fiscal establishments recognize us and not recognize us? So, as a queer conference, I wanna bring forward I have a very dear friend yoga teacher. And she and her husband and the neighbor– Not the neighbors, but another couple. They were a family together. They all had familial interrelationships, a quartet. But legally, they can’t be a legal family. Even straight identified folks who from the outside look like husbands, wives, everyone maybe wants to express themselves outside of the pious mama and papa are here to make a baby and not talk about the rest of the stuff that is unmentionable kind of model.
CB: So in the book you specifically defined in the introduction, you said that, “Queer indicates broadly anyone who does not conform to traditional patterns and norms.” Is that sort of a good, very broad definition of what you were trying to go for with that term?
IW: Absolutely. I think I like how I defined it then. That was the first of three years of work on this idea of queer astrology, so my ideas keep changing. But what I think about again in terms of our astrological inheritances, the Greeks did a lot with geometries and circles and compasses and rulers. And there’s this thing around the square and the circle. So you talk a lot about what assumptions–You were saying we don’t wanna have any assumptions around what the audience knows or doesn’t know. We don’t wanna make any assumptions about what a person could or could not be or is or is not. And rather if we meet them not as a circle that we need to define but as a being that exists centered where they are and oblique to all the ideas of circularity that we inherit, then we have a queer orientation. We meet them and we co-create the reading or the session or the learning or the conference together.
CB: So generally speaking when you’re using the term or when people associate it with their conference or using the term queer astrology, it seems like there is perhaps a primary focus on sexual orientation and gender although it’s also expanded at different points to include things like race, socio-economic or cultural issues and other things like that, other instances where people find themselves sort of outside of or not conforming to “traditional patterns and norms” as you said, right?
IW: And what I’d like to say there, if I may, is that what I learned in the first conference was that my expectations around what could be produced and documented were different than other people’s. And I had a really, really powerful learning. It took us about two years to close up the ouch that one of the organizers and I had, but we kept wanting to do it cuz we knew that our dedication was there to taking care of it. And basically the message was from them to me, you get to go to Radical Faerie gatherings where you’ve got say 30 or 40 years worth of people who have been weaving a community space where you can see yourself. And this person wanted to organize the person of color space and the trans identified folks caucus spaces, and I wanted there to be some sort of document like recommendations or what happened in that space cuz I wanted to give something to the greater community. And of course Christopher Renstrom was like, “Oh, why did you put me at the same time as the person of color caucus? That’s what I really wanted to go to.” And I said, “Christopher, it’s a person of color caucus. You actually aren’t invited.” All that to say what they said to me is, “We as trans folks, we as people of color haven’t been able to center ourselves and have a space where we can even just even share our stories yet. We’re not ready to give recommendations.” So this kind of echoes the greater political question of like how are we gonna change this question of how we police ourselves or how we look at the state of what is and the state of the nation and queer it hopefully and integrate the fact that we’re all a little weird and that it’s weirder than it is regular. But that really as as allies, which is a word I don’t love. But as, say, a white identified person which is not exactly what I am. But as a person who has the white privileges, I wanna support my friends by saying we’re all in growing pains, right? Jupiter cycles always leave stretch marks and make us exhausted like growing pains or an achy time. And we want to grow, and we’re willing. And it’s exhausting, and all of us just have to be willing to wait until anyone has something to say and be willing to listen which is what happens in the QA space. And I think what is happening politically a lot right now is we’re aching to know what to do next, but we have to listen to others rather than we as the people in charge deciding what to give them or how to fix this. We have to stop and hear one another.
CB: Sure. And it sounds like a large part of the point of the first two conferences so far has just been creating a space for that and allowing for that as an opportunity where you felt like it wasn’t sort of available before in the astrological communit, right?
IW: Absolutely. I did not know until after the first conference that none of the other national organizations and big conferences will present brand new material. Often you are invited to give a lecture that you have already given, at least that’s what I understood in the past. So to have a large visible public event where brand new speakers that no one has heard of and brand new content that has not been presented before, again, it’s something that is a risk that seems obvious for me to take where some of the more established organizations maybe are starting to do that more.
CB: Sure. Yeah. And one of the things I think was pointed out as well is that this is the first time anything like this had been done. There had never been a conference centered on queer issues or indeed even centered on gay issues prior to this conference as far as anyone’s aware, right?
IW: As far as I know, that had not happened.
IW: Two things I–Go ahead.
CB: No, please go ahead.
IW: Oh. Well, I wanna say that there were two things that came into the conference. There’s me and Barry and Shani and the rest of us at UAC all saying, “Oh. Rather than doing the, I’m gonna say adolescent appropriate polarization from that thing we don’t like, the middle age thing to do is say, ‘I see that void, and my work could be to move towards that.'”
IW: There was that. And then at the same time a friend who was working with the San Francisco Astrological Society mentioned that because one of their longtime and wonderful teachers Jack Ferdig had passed away a couple months before, there was talk about doing a day-long something on gay issues, something on his legacy. And I had a meeting with Linet. I said, “Is anyone actually running that? Is there anything other than the idea?” She said, “Not yet.” She said, “How about you get the venue and we’ll support with visibility?” So there was a memorial for Jack that included some astrologers speaking on his legacy as well as some Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who came to do the ritual piece of him being honored as an elder of this practice. The absence of their having been a queer or even a gay astrology conference that we have any documentation over that anyone has been like, “You should look at this.” It’s something that is surfacing. And I think that as more of us support one another and figure out how to do research and how to find funding and support bringing the astrologers out of the closet, we’ll find that there has been more work done then and is already published or that everyone has access to.
CB: Right. Yeah. And I think that’s really just brilliant and inspiring in terms of what you guys did in terms of seeing a lack of something or seeing a need for something in the community and then going out there and creating it yourself instead of–Cuz oftentimes you’re met with that as an option or sometimes younger people perhaps in any community but certainly in the astrological community are sometimes met with that question of, “Do you want to then go into the existing sort of power structures and then attempt to make that change from within them? Or is it sometimes better just to create something new that sort of stands on its own so that it has the ability to be fully sort of not just unique but fully authentic to itself without having to worry about other things like the profitability of like a major conference or something like that rather than the importance of just presenting the information or creating a space for voices that otherwise aren’t usually heard?”
CB: So that was just in and of itself very impressive in terms of what you guys have done in the past few years. And then the other thing I thought was very interesting and very powerful in the introduction to the book that Gary Lorenson talks about is he talks about the Pluto and Leo generation that was born around the 1940s coming in the ’60s and ’70s and having humanistic astrology spring up and this influx of new ideas that came in with the youth of the time which included things like humanism and depth psychology and feminism and civil rights and all this other stuff. But that being gay in astrological circles was still problematic in the 1970s and ’80s. But there were gay, professional astrologers sometimes very prominent ones that were out there and were active. But then, many of them were in the closet. And then the string in the 1980s that AIDS just decimated the ranks of the gay astrologers within the community that were doing that work and that this may have actually set back the integration of the sort of gay community into the astrological community in the 1990s when a lot of this work might have been done 20 years ago but that we lost so many astrologers within the community that otherwise would have done more to bring some of those voices more to the forefront. And part of what’s happening now is maybe resuming that sort of tradition where it was broken off for a couple of decades. Do you feel like that was a major part of the conference? Or was that something that you were sort of actively recognizing at the time as well?
IW: At the time of organizing the first conference, there wasn’t a lot of time to really reflect on the broader cultural, historical trajectory of where we were. I was just kind of like, “I wanna put everything I got into making a solid event that people will want to continue being interested about.” In hindsight, what I would say is it’s a great way to do a queer teaching point. I would say everything you just said is true. I’d say that version of truth. That version of history or story, I would absolutely say yes to. And at the same time if I anchor it in the astrological cycles, right? I’m gonna use the Uranus Pluto cycle which is obviously with us still and say middle ’60s is the new Moon and right now is the first quarter, right? And then we have the ’80s in the middle which is the semi square or the cross quarter or the midpoint of the season.
IW: So I would say in the ’60s, there’s a hatching or there’s a detonation or whatever you wanna call all of the consciousness raising so-called that comes in. And if we look backwards from there, the people you’re talking about are kind of inheriting Freud where we say there’s Eros between people even if they’re not supposed to be the married couple including the parents and children. And then we have Jung which says the dreamscape and the nighttime world is just as real as the daytime world. And then we have all of the kind of theosophical and mystical right all the [Lipovetskys] and the so-called East West, right? The India and west of India integrations that kind of touch on full circle reincarnation patterns instead of just, “Will the child live early elections? And if not, we don’t bother reading its chart.” The life is only successful if it’s gonna bear whatever kind of fruit. So then you’ve got this East West stuff. And then in the ’60s then you get feminism, and then you get gay bodies and queer bodies and disabled bodies and veterans and people of color. And it’s like wait, “We’re already in this pot together, and we’re using an astrology that is still about Roman conquests and Greek conquests and the Sun never setting on the English language. If we step aside from those things, is there an astrology that is still useful and that doesn’t attack us in a way that some of those things appear to be attacking us whether on the outside or the inside right now?”
CB: Yeah. And I think, again, just Barry’s point. I think I mentioned earlier in the opening panel he said that he was a self-taught astrologer. And he said that, “Many self-taught astrologers have the queer bent. I discovered as I was reading the literature that really a lot of what was written didn’t talk about me or my experiences at all.” And Chani and Barry both pointed out that the situation isn’t usually necessarily even helped at conferences. So, part of the point of this movement is opening up the discussions so that more discussions can be heard in the community since in some ways, there’s just a lack of diversity.
CB: No, go ahead.
IW: What’s the question?
CB: I guess I was just going to say that general point about reintegrating or not reintegrating because it’s not something that’s necessarily been integrated, but integrating voices that haven’t been heard. But one of the elements of the conference that I noticed in the first one that was very prominent especially with Barry and Jessica’s discussion was taking the living practice of queer or gay astrologers in some instances doing astrology and developing a tradition around it and what’s appropriate when speaking to specific communities and then integrating that into the living contemporary tradition of astrology and sharing it. And there was something that was very powerful about that just in terms of understanding the ways in which some of the contemporary astrological texts and doctrines that are taken for granted or not always applicable in certain context or sometimes can be hurtful or can be damaging in some sense when it’s being presented to clients and how to develop a type of astrology or an approach to astrology that is aware of that and careful about that and doesn’t commit some of the same eras.
IW: I feel so many themes and juicy things on that point and I want to pick up the thread that I didn’t quite finish about words that were cast during the AIDS epidemic and I would say that my ability to host a conference at the Uranus Pluto square exists because I know that people were doing that work at the epidemic, right, and there’s a generation of people that I can at least say like as elders and peers and mentors, I think I’m doing this thing and they’re like, “Yes, this is the thing that we’ve been doing and this is the thing that we do.” So, right, I’ll parallel it to the occupy movement, right? Like when the occupy movement fizzled, people were like, “Did it fail?” And it was like, no, the waxing crescent or the early balsamic phase was getting awareness of a new name, 1% and other 99%, into the consciousness and now, things that happen next built on that. So that’s where I position that thing.
In terms of hearing Barry and Jessica’s talk, I especially want to reference Jessica because we’ve named Barry so much. Jessica and I were sitting today a couple of weeks ago around giving shape to what is the queer astrology entity trying to be and for her, it was really central that the speakers be out queer identified at least in some way. And then we said, “Well, what does that mean?” And there was all this static around was anyone who wanted to present at the first conference welcomed because there was one person who some of the feminists felt they didn’t love his politics. And I was like, “But he has been working in sexuality and astrology for a long time.” And they were like, “Okay. Well, it’s interesting because in the greater alphabet soup of LGBTQ, the bisexual one, the one who has multiple relationships if you will or multiple vectors gets othered away from the people who are recognizably gay or lesbian or transgender or whatever other their access point is. So, it seems like there’s this natural tendency to other and decide who’s who is in your personal political sphere and who’s a little further out that the queer space actively involves. Right. Again, it’s not one circle, it’s many points and there can be obliquity and there can be disagreement and there’s a commitment to see what’s fruitful about that.
CB: Sure. So, there are active debates about what voices to give space for or which ones to emphasize or what’s important and what you guys are trying to prioritize in terms of doing something that’s very new and innovative and so there’s no guidebook that tells you exactly how you should do it and how you should structure it.
IW: No, absolutely not. I think that’s part of the thing that all astrologers go through is that at a certain point, you have to go from I study astrology, I’m interested in astrology to I’m an astrologer. And in the in the greater legacy of initiatory processes, I don’t know that there are necessarily. There are some initiators on the outside where you can go to someone who will give you a training or have particular sense of you can see what I know how to show you how to see. But in general, astrologers will have to say, I’m an astrologer largely against this mainstream muggle world where astrology is at the margin already, right? Science and religion got together to erase their astrological roots. So, astrologers already get that we’re already reading between the lines when we practice astrology and the QA events try to center the fact that we’re reading between the lines rather than rereading the lines.
CB: Sure. So, in terms of some of the themes from the first conference since it seemed like that was a huge turning point in terms of trying to do something new in establishing what the themes were that you felt like weren’t in other conferences or weren’t in other venues that needed to be given a space for, it seemed like a recurring theme is standard roles and views of pressing or pushing people who are queer in a direction that’s not natural or appropriate or genuine for them and trying to develop an astrology that allows people who are outside of the norm to live in a way that’s genuine to them without it being framed negatively somehow. If you could, do you feel like that was an overarching theme that you kept coming back to in some ways?
IW: Well, I heard you say outside the norm and that’s the sticking point, right? We all are taught in our schools that there are norms that we all have to match if we’re going to get enough of the cookies to survive. And as queer people, we know that we have to pass so-called how well you can pass for White is how much more money you can earn if you’re a person of color, for example and Whiteness is not just skin tone, but it’s style of purchases and style of products use and the rest of that. I think I jumped ahead of myself. Can you remind me where I was? [Ian laughs]
CB: Yeah, just in terms of the use of the term norm picked up from the anthology, but I know that that’s probably not necessarily agreed on, you know? Not everyone would agree with using a term like that, perhaps.
IW: Yeah, I mean, when we talk about the norm, we draw the glyph of the Sun and we say the norm is the center point and it has a particular range and things are either in or outside of it. If we start with, I’m a queer person and I interact with certain governmental norms or certain medical norms or certain sexual norms in different settings, I can move in and out of those zones without having to become neutered if you will by moving into them because they consider me not relevant to them. Does that make sense? Yeah. So yeah, and I want to add.
So, I was at the NORWAC conference which is usually Memorial Day weekend in Seattle. It’s been going for 30 years and they’re doing amazing work. And there’s a whole group of people at the Portland School of Astrology, it’s a young school and it’s overtly queer theoretical and I want to thank them for all their support and send everyone’s attention their way. I know several people who are flying in for their program because it’s the only thing like it to have in person queer astro space or witchy astro space or whatever your thing is, it’s just a really strong school. Anyway, they have a whole cohort of people. So, there’s all these young people and we all are in this queer conversation together and we’re all at this conference together. And at the ending talk, someone was talking about if we let go of the Greco and Roman myths, let’s pull in some more global mythologies and they brought in an energy named or an entity. I don’t know what the right word is. They named heyoka, which is something that I learned about at a sweat lodge community in British Columbia. It’s the first people’s First Nations name for I’m going to say the jackal or the rascal or the coyote, right? This is all a Mercurial thing. And I loved everything that she had to say about heyoka until at the end, she said, “The heyoka is outside because they have to be the like through the looking glass other side of the mirror to what’s happening.” And she put the heyoka outside. And for me, I say, I end up being the jester in the court because I have to say, “Look around the court, the emperor has no clothes on.” Right? If we keep repeating that the other is outside rather than the other is inside, we haven’t quite pivoted to realize that all of us have a part of us that we other whether it’s that other race of people that are trying to take us down or that other god force that wants to punish me or whatever it is. There’s a centering of the other which in the seven-planet model, I would say Mercury is the center of the alchemical mystery and the other planets are in relation to that one rather than the Sun or the Moon or the Earth. I think a lot happens there even without getting to the modern, a lot of words.
CB: Yeah. And you mentioned Jaysen Paulson who is one of the people that runs the Portland School of Astrology and he actually has I noticed on his website as I was preparing for this episode that it’s a nice segue, but he has this notice on his new website as part of his how he felt like he was influenced by your conference the last two ones you’ve done and the general movement around it, he has this really nice at least I thought it was a nice attempt to define what that is, what the queer astrology movement is. And so, he has this thing in his website it says a word about the use of language and he says, “In my work with the queer astrology movement out of Oakland, I’m consciously working at my use of inclusionary language as well as regularly doing personal work around checking my own biases and assumptions and work to operate from a neutral place. To be clear, queer astrology is not limited to “gay” but rather looking at the language we use that excludes the experiences of people of color, people outside of heteronormative relationship structures, people who have a disability, people who are transgender queer, non-binary, etc.” He goes on, he says, “I also practice body positivity, sex positivity, encourage free gender expression and astrological understanding and remove gendered binary and unnecessary language often forced upon signs and planets. This is my commitment to you.” So, at least in terms of what he took away from it and the way that it’s influenced him in his philosophy of astrology, and I’m sure certain things that he’s brought to it at the same time, that’s his synopsis of what it’s about for him or some of the things that he’s taken away from it. Do you feel like that’s a critical-
IW: It’s a beautiful synopsis and I love how that touches the personal work that he’s doing and what his commitment is, right? It’s not just what he’s doing, but it’s his relationship with you as his potential client or teacher. I’d like to add if I may. So, Demetrius Bagley is a really, really, incredibly busy organizer that I know you know, but not all the people will know. He lives in New York. And at the first conference, he sends me an email. He says, “Oh, I was looking for a reason to come to the Bay, maybe your conference is it.” And I said, “Yeah, let me know.” So, I met him and he was organizing four years before I was, so we’ve become very good friends and we have a lot of common vision. We’re talking about what’s next. And after he left town a couple weeks ago, he wrote me his statement of intent which he didn’t give me his permission to share and I’m going to know that he doesn’t necessarily want this public, but I’m going to read it anyway. He says, “Overall, I’m seeking strong structures for astrologers and astrology. This is at least around financials and business, event gatherings and careers. There’s a way astrology needs to come out this century for all people. I feel like I’m part of the soul working on this. We’re in the past around tech and business practices and otherwise, with the orgs and as professionals, we can do better at marketing what an awesome tool astrology is and otherwise making each other even better and greater.” Right. So, in tandem to Jaysen’s personal statement, as a teacher, I get to also share Demetrius’ statement as an organizer and visionary about knowing where astrology is and who the people are and how the people can interact. There’s this beautiful statement of intent.
CB: Definitely. Yeah, and that brings up an important point which is probably relevant in terms of attempting to describe it or define it, it’s a little bit difficult or a little bit challenging because there’s many different people that are bringing different perspectives to it and different opinions in some instances or sometimes different positions that may or may not mesh completely and there’s different people that perhaps are taking away different experiences from it or different conclusions from it. And so, in terms of attempting to provide a broad synopsis of everything, it’s a little bit difficult because there’s so many different groups involved and almost by its nature, it’s difficult to define or constrain that way.
IW: Indeed, and this goes to the organizational model piece quite a lot. I was traveling to NORWAC and back, I had a lot of time in the car to think about how I can participate in shaping this QA project next. And of course, everyone says, “Oh, are you going to do a nonprofit status? And do you have a mission and vision statement?” And it occurred to me or I heard some wisdom voice through me say, mission statements are what are behind missions and the affirmation of missionary position and greater cultural conversation where nonprofits are about saving the other person or going to help them. I don’t see QA as wanting to occupy that kind of legal or fiscal space. So instead, I said, “How about we scrapped the mission statement and a circle of at least five, seven, nine, 13 of us who are actively working at any time could have our personal vision statements for what we are working on and that creates a texture that is not satinized in the same way where it’s a constitution that we’re going to have to retreat to it?” It gives it the Uranian, Aquarian, I keep saying Aquarian which I want to stop. It gives it the Uranian. I want to say Promethean. I want to say that catapult planet, the pivot planet. I want new names for it. But so, QA if it’s structured more like a firework and there’s lots of points of light, it doesn’t have to be the body of QA. It has to be the work that we generate and the legacy that we can send forward in case people need it later.
CB: Sure, sure. And from my perspective, just in terms of somebody that tries to study different eras in the history of astrology and tries to study different traditions in order to see what they were about or what made them unique in that time period, like what they were doing differently that set them apart either deliberately or accidentally from what other people were doing, some of the different things that I tried to summarize especially from the first conference were things like one of them was exploring topics and themes that are relevant to specific communities. Like in the first conference, one of them were topics or themes relevant to the gay community. So, Christopher Renstrom did a talk on the Saturn Return of AIDS that was really powerful talk about his experience partially of being a practicing astrologer during that time period, but also looking for the birth chart of AIDS in some sense in order to see if he could study it from an astrological standpoint and he ended up using the chart for when it was first named by the FDA and showed how the subsequent Saturn cycles coincided with important turning points in terms of the history of AIDS.
Other things that got focused or recurring themes were things like questioning technical assumptions. For example, Rhea questioned whether one of the age-old ideas of that the planet Mars signifies women or like the marriage partner in a man’s chart or that Venus always signifies women in a man’s chart whether that’s actually true in his analysis and sometimes critical analysis of specific technical doctrines to see if they’re either true or see if they’re appropriate within a broader, more inclusive context. Do you think that’s a recurring theme?
IW: Absolutely, absolutely. I think we’re both looking at if we put a gay story and then Christopher did this beautiful work looking mostly through Greek inheritance and deep mythology, not just Zeus mythology, but all the way into the deep symbols and then he jumped over to the fixed stars which took him into Chinese inheritance. So, he was centering a gay subject and using a lot of traditional material to read through and that was one really beautiful way through. On the flip side, you’ve got Rhea Wolf who is saying, “I’m a feminist and a witch and an astrologer. I inherit astrology and I know that it works, but I have to look at how I want to work with it.” So, then you get something right from the position of the Earth in space rendered one way, Venus is on the inferior side, Mars is on the… I’m losing the word superior side. And there is a binary or polarization through those. And then I can say I’ve been reading CPA lectures and I’ve kind of immersed myself in how those lenses were used through the ‘80s, ‘90s and aughts, how they were being taught and I can look at a chart and what I would then use is if I want to look at a story in the past, right, something that we already know about, I might use Moon and Sun for mom and dad or Venus and Mars for romantic partners. I can use those old binaries and polarities to see which symbol is going to come alive and where the juice is for them. But then when I actually interact with them and we’re creating a spell of how they want to live their life, I stop using those as the only construct of what those symbols are going to mean. I say, okay, so maybe you inherit a story that men are whatever it is I read the Mars in the chart, or that men are not the Venus in the chart, or like maybe you inherited that you were supposed to be the oldest son even though you’re born in a woman’s body. I mean, it goes on and on and on. And I just positioned myself at this pivot point inheriting the traditions that I think even if they’re like unconscious assumptions that continue to be abusive, I try to be like okay, well, the tradition is coming in, let me see what the tradition would say and then let me queer it so I can put it alongside our creativity and our ability to work with the moira of it all. I referenced my beloved friend Andy Gehrz.
CB: Yeah, I thought that it was really interesting from a broader technical discussion in terms of the practice and the theory of astrology where there seems to be, for example, in some of the stuff Rhea was talking about in her talk, there seemed to be this tension in her analysis between on the one hand, the political desire to on the one hand reject binaries is limiting and is not fully representative of life at all times, but then on the other hand, still she recognized some value in using polarities in order to establish a certain baseline for things so that you could then identify all of the different shades of gray in between. And I thought it was interesting where she left it in terms of that just in terms of identifying those two almost conflicting desires, but those two desires in terms of what she was exploring in that talk and I’ve seen that come up a few times in different context it seems like with some astrologers that are interested in these things, so I’ll be curious to see how that works itself out over the course of the next century in terms of wherever people end up falling when it comes to that.
IW: For me, it’s just a very practical application of this question of research, right? We have the inherited tradition and the current situation and the people in the room, they exist with that tension, that obliquity, right? Saturn’s rings are flat and Uranus’ rings are oblique to them, or the direction of one is going forward while the other is going sideways, upside down, right? These things are next to each other already. Their orientations are completely different. And that’s the zone that a lot of us astrologers, not a lot of astrologers, there’s a vein of late 20th century, right? Chiron shows up ‘77 is the wound healer, is the healing medicine, is the zone of space especially from Saturn to Uranus and how we traveled that zone. So, the QA projects I don’t think are going to resolve so much as it may become a given that we’re going to juxtapose things that don’t have an answer but I think what those things are hopefully can evolve to meet the needs of the times.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And just by identifying that as something that needs to be looked at I think is useful in it of itself regardless of where a person ends up coming down on the issue because then you’re thinking about something that maybe you hadn’t thought about before, that you hadn’t considered before. And then related to that in terms of the general theme of questioning technical assumptions as being part of this movement or part of this process, Barry pointed out that sometimes astrologers have historically said some pretty stupid things about astrological signatures for homosexuality and that’s something I talked extensively to Christopher Renstrom about last month on an episode about that and Jessica in the same talk made the point that the purpose of astrological counseling ideally is to help people and astrologers are not helpful if they’re projecting poorly thought out technical theories or psychological theories on to them. And so that provides some of the impetus or the need to reexamine some of these things in order to see if these models are appropriate within a modern or contemporary context.
IW: Right. I think of Chinese introduction to her first talk. She gave a talk on Lilith at the first conference and she talked about I’m what some people would call a historical revisionist or feminist radical, I want to rewrite the history. And it goes to this idea of expertise, right? Only an expert can identify a problem and only an expert can solve a problem. And if the queer voices have been erased from the places of expertise, then there’s no way for us to actually even name what problems we want to work on. And it takes us a field, right? She felt conflicted about wanting to publish that because she wanted to publish it with full academic citation and reference and it was just so much more work than she had time to do that that one didn’t get in the book even though he had a decent transcription of it. And for me, as a queer person, right, I have one foot in the academy and I’m looking at all the wonderful work in England where there’s two university programs and I’m also looking at the work on the street where like, can we actually see that astrology renders the place under the freeway as the margin where people who don’t have anywhere to go to go? And that’s the border land where, can we spare any change? Can we even notice that margin or are we too busy trying to survive?
CB: Sure. So, let’s see. So other topics and other themes that came up that I noticed because I realize we’re running out of time are things like one of the points that Jessica Lanyadoo made was that queer theory is as generally applicable to everyone where she pointed out that looking at things through the lens of queer theory can be helpful even for talking about “straight relationships” like she used the example of the distinction of top and bottom being relevant even in a heterosexual relationship and just generally speaking that in some ways, discussions about sex and gender have been worked out more or are better worked out in some sense in queer circles and perhaps that’s due to the overlap with other fields and interests and the academic exploration in that area. But in terms of the astrological community, some of that terminology might be generally useful in being imported into astrological discussions.
IW: Yeah. Well, I’ll catch that through. Right, you talked about us as Pluto and Libras. I want to catch that in the esoteric classroom. I was taught that Virgo, Libra and Scorpio are the zone of crisis as an area in the zodiac and like Virgo and Scorpio both have that glyph that relates to a particular mystery and some people say that Libra is the front half of the Scorpio claw that got cut off. So right, we talked about the Pluto and Leos and all the work they’ve done and the way they have established the astrological as it is in a lot of its environments. And then we have Pluto in Virgo which is when the mid-60s crack happens and they’re like, how do we reorder, how do we sort this out? And then we’ve got us Pluto in Libras that say we have to do it together. And then we’ve got the Pluto and Scorpios that say all that stuff that couldn’t be named and was too taboo which is whether unspeakable because it’s bad or unspeakable because it’s powerful, we have to bring our light to that. So, if I look at that zone and us Pluto and Libras in the middle of that, there’s a way that we want to especially look at the Scorpio as the unmentionable, as the not safe for work where Neptune got there first and the miniskirt got higher and the rock and roll indicated that there was something unspeakable that you might want to go to the rock party for. And then in Libra, we’ve got a or rather with a Pluto coming through next? I’m confused. Uranus comes through next and it switches on the light bulb. It says right Frankenstein’s laboratory is all full of gear and if we switch on the power, we’ll see what it can do. And then Pluto comes through last and it says we have to be a Phoenix Firebird and dive right through this fire in order to get through the other side. That’s the only way through. So, I feel like there’s a lot about bringing the Scorpionic out of the closet.
CB: And that I think you pointed out that in terms of the range, there was this range of concentration of Pluto in Virgo and especially Libra and then to a lesser extent in Scorpio that was starting to become more prominent in terms of the voices that you were featuring, I think, right?
IW: Yes, and the attitudes that they bring. And in terms of language, right, this is the funniest thing and it’s my biggest tragedy that we got only on audio and not video from the first conference of Barry and Jessica, but she says, “Straight people, right, what do they have? Boy, girl, husband, wife, man, woman, sex.” If the book only allows that much language, you can’t really talk about a lot of what’s under the surface of that. But if you have top and bottom and Dom and sub and daddy and butch and there’s all this language that because it has emerged in the real worlds that we live in, it describes the real circumstances. And if we bring whatever the specific context as opposed to what can be published or what we’ve inherited from 100 years ago or 1000 years ago, it keeps us current and the currency and the presence is all here.
CB: Yeah. And that makes it relevant or more relevant to the people that we’re actually working with. And that’s a really important point because even historically, there’s people that are like classicists or people working in academia that part of the rallying call for them for going back and studying ancient astrology from like 2000 years ago or 1000 years ago was they said, “We don’t believe that this is a valid phenomenon because we’re just classicists, we’re just historians.” But if you look at astrology and you look at the way that astrologers interpret birth charts and what they say about their clients and how they talk and interact with them, it tells you a lot about the culture. And sometimes the astrologers will get into areas that can be much more taboo or in which the light isn’t shed upon as much in just like mainstream literature because the astrologers are actually working with everyday people. So, the idea was that you could learn a lot about a culture by studying what their astrologers said and what kind of delineations they used and made room for. And so, in the same way, today, we’d probably want to ensure that the type of astrology that’s being practiced and being talked about in clients was actually reflective of what kind of issues are actually happening in client’s lives so that the astrology itself is fully reflective of contemporary culture in that way.
IW: Yeah, there’s endless work for us to do with astrology and for our beings.
CB: Sure. So, the last point that I wanted to touch upon as we start winding this down that seemed to be emphasized a lot is just the idea of not making assumptions. So, on the one hand, this means things like, for example, Barry not making assumptions about sexual orientation but instead sometimes simply asking, for example, a client if you’re in a consulting setting, in order to be clear and in order to frame the language used in a way that’s appropriate to the client. But also, Jessica then added not making assumptions about relationship structures whether that means monogamous or wanting to be in a relationship or not wanting to be in a relationship or what have you and that awareness and that general theme of not making assumptions seems to be a recurring theme. Do you feel like that’s a major component of the queer astrology movement?
IW: Without a doubt, I would say that’s central to the process that those of us in your age group and peer group have worked out on our own and when we got together, we’re like, “Oh, right, when we don’t make assumptions, this is the things that we do know and these are the things we have to ask.” I would say in the last year, I’ve met a lot of astrologers who are maybe a generation or two up for me in terms of more mature and they’re saying, “So, right now, we have to understand what to do with trans clients and we have to talk about these things that we don’t know and what am I supposed to do.” And my recommendation is hold the space and bring the astrologer that you are in and move right up to the edge of what you don’t know and acknowledge the awkward or the discomfort like name what is already in the room. Say, I’m not sure what pronoun you would like me to use for you. Right. That’s a way to meet it without being aggressive and going into someone’s space, right? So, there’s a way that I’ve learned to ask questions that are very, very open. If I meet people socially, I don’t start with what’s your sign? I start with, do you have a birthday? Right? Because then there’s a level of intimacy that builds around, right? The astrologer wants to create a very trusting intimate space where they can say anything whether about the taboo or the sexuality or that they didn’t know what they were saying and the astrologer wants to bring in the mystic and the mythic and the evolutionary or whatever historical traditional vectors they need. But if we don’t have assumptions about where we’re going, if we’re using the chart as a map rather than mapping a destination, check, that’s kind of where that thought ends.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. All right. Well-
IW: Yeah, thanks for all this chance to just voice what my thinking and understandings have come to and to voice where I’m finding myself politically both as wordy as it’s been and as unsure as it often is.
CB: Yeah, I know. And one of the things I want to say is there’s just so much we wanted to cover and there’s so much else that we could have covered that this is really just the starting point. And I definitely apologize to anybody that we didn’t feature, didn’t cite as much just because I tried to do as much as I could in terms of collecting together some reoccurring themes and things like that, but there’s a lot of other pieces that were relevant to the discussion that I’m hoping that we can come back to in future episodes at some point.
IW: I would be very happy to keep talking. And I do want to just do due diligence, me and Stella the Good Witch is her website and Lu Sagastume are the three organizers. And the thing that we didn’t like in some ways, I wish we had spent the whole hour not on people who might get read as White people or men and the rest of it just because those classes are already so far ahead. And what’s been beautiful is that it was a fight for the people to say I want a POC Caucus space and I was like, “I don’t know what that is and I’m not invited and I feel like you’re doing that against me.” But ultimately, I said, “Of course, I understand why you need to do that and I’m just going to stand back and make space.” And at the second conference, we didn’t have as much physical space and people said, we need to have a POC circle during the lunch break and just said we’re doing this in the middle and there’s this quality of intervention that the greater container at QA supports even if the small intervention is going to be at us. So, there’s kind of a working with the Iranian rebellious instinct as a given and appreciating the zap of it and even learning how to let the lightning bolt wake us all up. Yeah.
CB: So, you guys did the first conference in 2013 in July and then the following spring you published a collection of papers, you and Rhea Wolf edited a collection of papers from that conference which is excellent. I recommend people going to the website in order to buy a copy. It’s not that expensive, so at queerastrology.com. And then you did a second conference in 2015, right?
IW: We did. And what I want to say both about buying the book or accessing the conference is that what we’ve set up is basically two different doorways. One is a, how do I buy a ticket? I go to Eventbrite, I pay money, you tell me how much I pay, done. And the other is a no one is turned away. Let us know what you can pay and we will do our best to get everyone who says they want to come to come. So likewise, the book has costs and then there’s a sticker price which feeds forward into future queer astrology events. But on the queer astrology website, it says, accessibility to resources is something that we stand for and if you can only pay cost on this book, let us know and we’ll send you a book. And if you can’t pay costs, let’s find a way to get you the text. I said something in New York that everyone really stuck on was let’s decouple the dollar from the door so we can make a door that everyone can come in regardless of dollar boundaries and at the same time the people inside like myself can afford to feed myself and make sure that there is a flow of dollars that’s appropriate for the people and the work that wants to happen.
CB: Sure, yeah. And you guys have made all the recordings from the second conference available online through the website I think for download and then the other recordings, the audio recordings in the first conference are available just through a donation, right?
IW: As it stands now, the first conference was available for free for about a year and a half and then I took that off when I put the second conference up for free. It’s interesting that free things don’t necessarily get accessed or don’t get held or valued the same way as things that you have paid for. I’m not too worried about that right now. But yes, anyone who would like to listen to the archives, conference two will be up until conference three likely happens next spring and conference one is available again by donation ideally or because you want or need it, shoot an email through the website.
CB: Okay. And since the second conference, you’ve been doing something called the queer astrology roadshow. Could you talk a little bit about what that’s about?
IW: Absolutely. I flight of fancy a little bit of imagination telling me what happened next, I would say the second conference was sophomoric in a way that second year was not nearly as climactic or novel or anything else, and it was a very successful event. There was plenty of people and a lot generated in relationships and continuing things. But I knew that QA conferences as something that lives in San Francisco and happens every year too didn’t really feel like the spirit of the work, so I took out an ad in the Hexagon magazine and I published an ad that said queer astrology roadshow because basically, some friends in Vancouver said, “Come bring the queer astrology conference to us.” And I said I would. So, I got on the road and hosted events in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and some other points in between in January to learn what the roadshow was and I came up with a model that I think of as a three ring circus where we can start with telling our stories, or we can start with learning technique, or we can start with some arts and crafts integration and you can circle from one ring to the next and it feels like it could be a several days conference where people can move through this idea of telling their own story, or rendering their own story, or listening for a new part of their own story.
So, for myself, it’s been really enriching to get to spend time traveling and have enough time to actually visit with all of my peers and colleagues and incoming Jungians and people who are that older generation who said, Demetra George put out an invite to her list in Eugene that said, “We’ve always wondered where is the next generation while someone who’s doing organizing is in town, come out and have pizza.” And it was a really wonderful, wonderful, wonderful letter to see that she had sent out that she endorsed us next astrologers. It was really sweet.
CB: And that was right after you actually gave a presentation at the last Northwest Astrology Conference in May in Seattle called queer orientations for astrologers, right?
IW: Indeed, yeah. Laura Nalbandian invited me up. I was very happy to be there. My talk was largely around, again, centering queerness which in a very technical way, I could look at how we draw charts, like do we center the zero or the circle or the letter O which we think of as the ring past not, or do we center the cross or the straight lines in the middle? Or are those straight lines, straight lines or are they parts of circles? But if instead of a zero or a one, we’re in the queer space in between zero and one where things can get fractional and etc., then when we look at zero and one, it’s not like God is one, the way that Jewish school taught me or it’s not the mother of the void is giving birth to us and destroying us. It’s kind of like, we’re somewhere around both of these forms and then basically, how I have been taught astrology through this kind of inquiry and sharing that with people. It was a lot of fun.
CB: Brilliant. All right. And finally, you’re in the process of where you’ve just put out feelers for the third queer astrology conference for happening sometime next year, right?
IW: Indeed. So, I went to New York because as a kid from LA, the roadshow wanted to go to New York and I also knew that there’s a lot of people there who are astrologers that would be interested in what I’m doing. And I did three events at Easter weekend and basically, a whole group of people are really excited to do more QA organizing in New York. So, Demetrius was in San Francisco and we start looking at dates and I kind of looked and it turns out it’s the day after my 42nd birthday which has a Sun-Uranus partile opposition is, of course, a hot moment to do the conference the second to last week of April with a main hub in New York. And because I’m the kind of irreverent one who dreams big and then sees what works, I went back to this idea. Right. Stella asked me, what’s my personal intention. I said, “I think I’m going to run two conferences in the Bay and then one in England.” So, I said to Demetrius, “If you’ll actually be on the ground in New York for this conference, I might be in England at the same time and maybe we do a live conference that has two bodies that are not in the same place and do some technology simulcasting and some real-world style confessional booth and just create all sorts of mixed media playful spaces.” Then from there, I thought, well, Jaysen will probably anchor something in Portland or maybe groups of people will want to gather locally for the simulcast or there’ll be several lectures that start in different places. I’m really just playing with format and how we stop thinking about where the conferences and instead when and how the conferences?
CB: Well, yeah. I mean, it sounds like you’re pushing forward astrology not just on a social level, but also just in terms of a technological level and in terms of conceptualizing what an astrology conference is and what you can do with an event like this.
IW: Indeed. And I would say that the people that I spend the most time with at conferences are all saying, “Why are we not getting together outside or at night?’ And I think that just obvious if astrology conferences only happen indoors and during the day, there’s this kind of right in plain sight missing link.
CB: Right, that makes a lot of sense. All right. Well, I think that brings us to the end of our time. So where can people find out more information about your work or get in touch with you if they want to?
IW: So, my personal website is ianwaisler.com spelled ianwaisler.com. And I am not doing a lot of astro teaching right now, but a friend and I are organizing a small circle in the Bay that we’re going to maybe call it astro coven which will be a kind of exploration of various spiritual threads and our queerness and what we want to do in terms of learning and learning through astro. So, I read publicly at a beautiful shop called the Scarlet Sage on Mondays in the San Francisco Mission and I teach yoga classes and all that stuff is on my website personally. The queer astrology website has some photo archives, galleries, it has all the audio from conference two. If you can’t find it, there’s a contact form. And I also have been playing a game to build the mailing list and actually call out people who have more than just the digital level of I’m interested in what you’re doing and send me an email. I say, “If you’ll send me your post office address, I will send you a sticker on a postcard.” And then I was at NORWAC and someone who I barely like, I don’t think I spoke to them at all the whole conference, but they walked by me the third day and we crossed each other in the hallway and she says, “I got your postcard.” And it just made me so happy to know that weaving in the tangible world alongside weaving in the digital 21st century over datafied world is an important part of how I like to work.
So go to the QA website, there’s a couple of us working on a model for a kind of decentralized how do circles self-support and how do we share resources and information and mailing lists. A couple other people to help with things like transcription projects, or to be a webmaster, or to be a database builder, things like this are really useful. So, any of you who are out there listening and would like to get involved, what I say about the QA project is that it’s very generative, it will give you back more than you put in, the money question is definitely a strange one and we’re all working out together.
CB: Brilliant. Well, it seems you’re doing a lot of really important work and this is one of the more groundbreaking or moving the community forward type things that I’ve seen happening in a while especially in terms of the social sphere of trying to move the astrological community forward. So hopefully, people will check out the website and support the work. I definitely recommend buying the book to both you and Rhea in terms of editing it and all of the papers contained and I think it was a major contribution to the field in terms of some of the ideas that are presented and stuff. So, I hope that people check it out. All right. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today.
IW: Thank you, Chris. I’m really humbled to have your recognition and all this time with your audience that you’ve been working so hard to take care of. And I just want to name that there’s so many more voices than the ones we named both ancestors who are ancestors of our astro practice who maybe their work never gets acknowledged, but also so many contributors to all of the things that I get to be here representing that are not me. So, I just want to say I’m really grateful on behalf of all the people that I get to work with to keep moving this work forward.
CB: Yeah. And I appreciate you for doing that and playing that role to represent it sometimes just because it’d be nice to have 20 different people on to have all of those voices at the same time. But sometimes, every once a while somebody has to stand in and represent those voices and I’m glad that in some instances, there’s people like yourself that have stepped up to help do that, so keep it up.
IW: Thanks so much, Chris. I’ll see you soon.
CB: All right. Thanks, everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time.