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ASTROLOGY & SHAMANISM

PUBLISHED IN THE ASTROLOGICAL JOURNAL OF GREAT BRITAIN, JUNE 2010

Astrology and Shamanism are twin flames of inspiration that my soul has danced its exuberant dance around for a long time. These flames have the ability to support and inspire each other in many exciting, expanding ways, some of which I would like to share with you. The wisdom of astrology, distilled over millennia, from our Father Sky, pointing, guiding, intimating our journeys and life paths and the earth based tradition of shamanism celebrating the deep wisdom of our Mother Earth, her mystery and majesty, the sacred medicine she gifts us and the ceremonies and rituals we undertake to give back to her. Shamanism has a lot it can teach astrology, through the experiential, inspiration led nature of its path, and astrology can offer a framework, some protective fatherly guidance for that journey into the mystery. Father teach me to think and understand, Mother teach me how to feel and know. Or, as above so below, Mother teach me how to think and understand, Father teach me how to feel and know.

Then there is our position, as human conduits between the two, a sacred and precarious place to be in. It is that position I wish to talk about, because from there we have the opportunity to be the great dreamers, conductors and even determiners of the universal energies and forces that dance above us, as expressed through the planets movements across the skyline. As the planets help and guide us, so we can consciously and intentionally help them on their own journey, but first there are maybe a few things, a few ideas, we have to turn on their head.

Quite often, within modern texts, I am told that the planets are ‘archetypes’. I’m still not sure if I understand fully the meaning of this term, where does an archetype live? What does it eat and where will it go to die? Does it have a soul? What I am aware of is that psychology has gifted us an intellectual framework whereby ancient arts such as astrology can be placed in a context the modern mind is comfortable with. However, in doing so, I feel, it has been too quick to appropriate these arts into it’s own inclusive world view, sometimes robbing them of some of their power and spirit.

I prefer to see the planets as sentient beings with their own innate intelligence and soul. They are our teachers and ancestors, gifts from the creator to help us to get to know our own natures a little better, but they also have their own lives both separate and inter connected to our own. The Gods are Gods, they are not merely metaphors for internal processes. They have a fundamental reality both external and internal to us. How many times do we, modern astrologers talk about my Sun in Cancer, or my Venus in Aquarius etc? Would the ancient have talked about my Athena or my Zeus? No, they would have sought to understand, usually through divination, when Athena or Zeus were interfering or influencing their life, for positive or negative. They would have then known, as all the ancients did, that if this was the case then that god needed feeding. Literal feeding. This cannot be done by thought or understanding alone.

The most prevalent way of feeding the gods that has been done since time immemorial is through ritual and sacrifice. (Sacrifice in its original context of making sacred.) We have to give something back. And the fundamental reason, we have to give back, is that we are in debt. We are in debt to the planets because they have gifted us our birth charts, the maps of our souls. The exact moment we were born they created, through their sacred dance in the sky, the unique set of circumstances, the unique combination of matter and energy, purpose and resonance that gave birth to our soul and destiny. And they continue to shape our souls and destinies, continuing to feed us throughout our lives, by continuing that sacred dance across the heavens and across our natal charts. Astrology is not only a map, it is an interactive exchange. A current that is constantly running between the planets and ourselves, but have we forgotten to consciously and with intention give back in the same way?

So how do we give back to the gods, the planets? Firstly we must remember them. Acknowledge and honour them for who they are, this can be done through doing what we modern astrologers love to espouse, by becoming conscious of their impact upon our lives and the lives of others. However, it can also be done more traditionally and taken further through prayer and worship. We can give offerings to them, literally feeding them. Interestingly, as Mercury is seen as the messenger between us and the gods, often within indigenous cultures, the ingenuity of creating something with our hands as an offering is seen as one of the best ways for us to contact and feed the gods. And they require that.

Would we arrive at the house of an esteemed teacher and friend, expecting to be welcomed in and fed, taught and inspired, empty handed, with nothing but our voracious appetites? It is the same with the gods. They will feed off of the spiritual essence of our offering, its energy and the energy that has gone in to create it. And if we had nothing physical to give our associate in this world then we would give something of ourselves. This can be done also to the planets through the power of ritual, which is the most time tested means of honouring and feeding the forces that have shaped and given birth to us.

Through ritual we intentionally create beauty or inspiration, within a contained space, with no purpose other than that of feeding the gods or planets. Within that space, we also give up our control, we surrender and sacrifice ourselves to allow the gods to live through us, to embody us and touch our souls. We heighten our emotions, our aliveness, which then becomes their food. That beauty can come through eloquence, ecstatic poetry to beguile and bewitch Venus or Neptune, through our hunting or competitive spirit allowing the spirit of Mars to live, the mythical realms of Jupiter can come alive through theatre, through ’play’. Through Dionysian revels we can bring Pluto alive up to the surface of the earth. Through dressing back to front and walking backwards or on our hands we can give the erratic forces of Uranus an opportunity to breathe.

Through these rituals, not only do we deepen our relationship with the planets and come to know them in a way far beyond the intellectual and abstract; by feeding them we also are praying that they are sated and don’t have to then create misery and havoc in our lives in order to be remembered and fed accordingly.

Imagine, as Saturn and Pluto now resume their old adversary in the sky, we create a ceremony to honour and appease them both. We call on the four directions to create a safe, sacred space around a ritually prepared fire. We create offerings; for Saturn we build a spirit house, a model creation of our own homes built with precision and mastery. And maybe, as we are feeling bold, within that spirit house we place some of our blood, our life force, as a gift to Pluto. We then place this offering into the fire, so that both forces may be transmuted through the fire, and our prayers for the planets, both within and without, will travel up to the sky within the smoke.

The drums begin and we start to sway to the movement, surrendering conscious control and hollowing out. Then, the energy of Saturn begins to move us and we dance, staccato like, with form and structure. Taking huge swipes with our scythe. Then the instinctual, primal power of Pluto takes a hold of us and moves us with wild, untamed abandon, we feel the raw hunger of being alive, even bloodlust on our tongue. Maybe we feel these forces separately, one at a time or maybe together and we are somehow shown how to exist within the tension of the opposites. Maybe some participants in the ceremony embody Saturn and some Pluto and the opposites are met by being honoured within the group.

As we feed these majestic planets with our blood, sweat and tears, expressing and embodying the conflict of their opposing natures within a held, contained space, is it then possible that we could have prevented some of the extremes of their forces being unleashed, uncontained, through our personal lives, or even that of the collective? Could we have, by feeding them, prevented them feeding off of us- taking our blood, sweat or tears by creating hardships in our lives? The break down of relationships or power struggles that play out in unendingly different scenarios bearing the same hallmark, the same signature. Wars that rob us of our friends and relations and darken the spirit of our collective awareness, creating ghosts and ancestral trauma that we have to carry. Is it possible that by using the gifts of astrology, that shows us so clearly the meaning of the time, and practically applying that knowledge to feed and appease the forces that need feeding, we can actually alter or shift reality? Prevent things being played out that do not need to be played out? Become, once again, the empowered magi that astrologers once were?

I feel we cannot control, prevent or shift all the forces, and the planets will have their way to a certain extent, but we can help. Take off the edges of the extremes. In this way, astrology can step out of the realms of the purely diagnostic or psychological and into a more holistic and healing art for life. And we can take our place, once again, as alive sentient beings between heaven and earth, and in service to both.

With ritual, we are only limited by our imaginations. We are constantly ritualising our lives anyway, both personally and collectively. Our attraction to the theatre of sport or film, where the gods are constantly interweaving with our lives is an example of this. Yet, the most important part of ritual, and what is often lacking in our rituals today, is the intent behind them. What are we serving and are we coming from the right place? Are we coming from the place of our hearts with intent for healing and the betterment of, not only our lives, but that of our communities, our friends and relations in the human and natural world? If the answer is yes, then we are being of useful service and feeding the planets in a positive way.

Personally, if we are experiencing a particularly potent Pluto transit, or it is prominent in our charts natally, do we need to undertake a sacred burial ceremony? To literally bury ourselves beneath the earth overnight and go through the ritual of death and rebirth, empowering and enlivening our spirit. Or do we need to dance our deaths, saying goodbye to friends, family and loved ones, to all our memories both joyful and traumatic, to scream and move with wild abandon. Then crumple to the earth, our existence extinguished, before rising once again, stripped of all that was weighing and holding us down and ready to greet life once again in all it’s naked, raw intensity.

And if Neptune has a hold over us natally or passes us by through transit, could we place ourselves in a dream incubator? Enter a sacred place to lie down blindfolded for four hours or four days and return to the silky darkness of the void. Seeking visions and inspiration whilst losing our boundaries and merging with all in an ecstatic return to the source.

These are small examples from my own experiences upon the shamanic path, yet there are many ways to ritualise our lives. And we need not make up new ways to honour and feed the planets. Magical text books are full of rituals involving praying to and with the planets, each planet having its myriad of associations with plants and minerals that are a part of these rituals.

As astrologers it could then become part of our sacred duty to guide, with intention and foresight, the ceremonies and rituals that can be created for us as individuals and as a society. To once again feed our teachers and ancestors, the planets, and give life to their souls within and without us. To re establish the lines of communication and mutual respect and begin to repay the debt we humans have built up through constantly taking without giving something back in return. And we could do this with a blessed smile in our hearts, full of gratitude and love for the mysterious, majestic gift of our lives and our birth charts.