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Brussels, Friday, November 24, 2006

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The Celtic Wings

WHEN I had finished my last political job before becoming an astrologer, I packed up my Mac II CX into my old station wagon and one dusky Friday evening drove up the New York State Thruway from Westchester, back home to Rosendale.

I had been living at the house in White Plains where the Center for Judicial Accountability was, and still is, based.

At that point I had just won my lawsuit against the State of New York, my environmental magnum opus had just been on the cover of Sierra, and with a moment where there were no other pressing commitments, I did a short stint as a writer and publicist for CJA. It was an intense month. In the run-up to the 1994 midterm elections (which in New York included the election of the state attorney general), I was given the job of researching, writing and placing in The New York Times an advertorial (Op-Ed page ad) on the issue of corruption in judicial elections. That is to say, judges sitting on important courts being elected in rigged elections.

The Times had refused to cover the issue as a news story, but they did accept a check for $17,000 for a quarter-page spot on the Op-Ed page, as long as it looked good and made sense. Op-Ed page ads are reviewed by a special committee of the Editorial Board the day before they are published; whoever reviewed the thing had no questions, though I was fully prepared for the most thorough fact-checking session of my dreams.

The piece focused on a case called Castracan vs Colavita, wherein a bunch of political bosses were caught divvying up powerful judgeships in five wealthy counties near New York City, ensuring that about seven separate elections were decided up to three years in advance -- long before the first voter had cast a ballot. It was a fascinating project, and working there rearranged my worldview (not exactly for the better, but at least I learned the truth of what happens in New York's judicial elections, and what is probably happening in many other regions). Having accomplished what I was hired to do, and collecting my best writing fee ever, I headed back upstate.

When I got home, my cats were happy to see me, and my apartment was cozy and quiet. It felt so good that a home was waiting for me, at the edge of some woods near the Binnewater Lakes, about 10 miles north of New Paltz. But I didn't have a job of any kind, having pledged to call it quits from journalism and politics for a while.

Earlier that year, when my environmental reporting was reaching its peak, I had begun to research astrology, and was at that point studying one particular daily horoscope column to see how it was done. I was first beginning to take apart my natal chart and get a sense of how it related to my life. I was also indulging my love for tarot cards, having recently re-discovered the Crowley/Harris deck, that is, the Thoth Tarot or "Tarot of the Egyptians."

Using this deck and the associated Book of Thoth, I made the most progress ever on learning tarot, but I did take advantage of an unusual opportunity to get some practice.

Over the past summer at some point, I had on a lark applied for a job advertised in the Village Voice for a company looking for phone-line tarot readers. I passed the interview and reading test, and was given a login and password to their automated call distribution system. But I was troubled by the fact that callers were paying $4 per minute to talk to readers, and that the ads for these services were often pretty trashy. I had been hired by the Jackie Stallone Psychic Circle, if you can imagine that, old Jackie insinuating that she would personally pick up the phone and read the caller's cards (apparently she actually did at some point in the past). I scribbled the log and pass info onto a Post-It and stuck it on the wall next to my phone, where it lived for quite a while.

Then one evening a few days after I returned, I decided to dial into the system and log on. To my surprise, my account was still active. My phone rang a few minutes later, and it was a caller expecting a reading. So, I took out my cards and read them for the client. It was pretty easy and straightforward; the client was sincere and receptive.

About 15 minutes later, the phone rang again, and I did another reading. It seemed normal enough -- not so different than working anyplace else, such as at the National Beer Wholesalers Association conference, where (working there as a reporter years before) I did my first readings for other people. The phone part was nice -- an efficient way to communicate that kind of information. But I still had the same issues about the TV ads and the cost, and the next day I called up the company to see if I could talk to someone who could answer some of them.

I got through to a guy named Virgil, who managed the card readers. Virgil was a fellow Fish, and we warmed right up to one another. He had a gentle, expressive voice, and a great sense of humor. What I took away from the conversation was that the company was made of real people who were trying to do their best for callers, despite the ads, the absurd fee and the perils of hiring card readers from out in the wild world.

Virgil actually worked for a subcontractor engaged by the Jackie Stallone hotline, and its job was simply to process the calls, i.e., to provide the actual service. The marketing was done elsewhere, and actually several different services fed calls into the company that Virgil worked for. He explained how many bites out of the pie were taken from that $4 per minute (a mere 35 cents of which ended up with the reader), including a percentage that went into a chargeback fund for unpaid readings.

What occurred to me was that however it happened, the end result was a client seeking information from a reader. I understood that whether the process had any integrity at all involved not the company I was working for so much as the work that I personally did. I figured out that if I did not answer the phone, someone else would. And if a client paid $40 and got a good 10-minute reading, in truth they could do a lot worse. I had enough confidence and experience to know I could do good work.

Virgil needed people to work at night, and he offered to raise my priority rating to 1 if I would agree to work from about 10 pm till 6 am. I agreed to give it a try. That night, I logged in and the calls started coming quickly -- a lot more quickly than when I had priority 2. And so I began my first steady work as a consultant, which I would do in one form or another for a decade and change. All that winter, I stayed up nearly every night, reading cards for people calling from every imaginable part of the United States. When there were lulls, I studied my new astrology books in the sweet silence next to those old woods, my cats curled around me.

Between studying and all the readings, perhaps 15 or 20 a night, I was getting the perfect blend of the theoretical and the practical, which was like being in boot camp for my later work as an astrologer. It was satisfying, and I felt I was doing it well; that I was really providing a service to the people I spoke to, and my callers were grateful, and expressed that. I also began to get the sense that I was an operator working for some kind of strange National Mental Health Hotline where the operators used esoteric tools. (We really need one of these, in case anyone would like to invest in one.)

Notably, for the first time in quite a few years, I had steady pay. I would work, and checks would actually arrive in the mail. Working five or six full shifts, I could bring in about $400 a week, more than I had ever earned. That meant I could pay my rent and car insurance, and get anything I wanted at the High Falls Food Coop, including healthy cat food and votive candles and all. Oh, and as many books and charts as I wanted from the Astrology Center of America. (The Astrology Center has a lot of decks and some books on tarot as well.)

But the real gift was the discovery that I really, really liked the work. Compared to journalism, it was so basic and human. People came with a need, and I had to do no convincing. Journalism is grounded work, for sure, but you do spend most of your time scaring people and not (in their minds) helping them. I like talking with people, and listening with a mind to figure out what they're really getting at.

There was something transcendent about these mysterious calls coming in all night, people calling facing potentially anything, from heart-woes to breast cancer to a wide diversity of human problems such as lost pets or lost jewelry. Moments opened up wherein there was no space between me and the callers, like we were sitting in an etheric room speaking quietly in sanctity of the cosmos.

A Tarot Spread for the Job

BUT often I had to work fast. In fact, if I didn't have the caller's attention in about 15 seconds, they might hang up. There was a game with call averages, and you basically had to keep your average up (five minutes average was considered acceptable). The way to do that was to not lose calls, and to do this you had to get that first card right. (You could also say something to terrify the client, as some readers did, but there were obviously better and more productive ways to go about the work. Other companies who shall remain nameless encouraged readers to gab on to run up the bill; Virgil encouraged his readers to do a short, meaningful reading and move onto the next client. If necessary, we could also do what he called 'counseling readings' which would go for about half an hour.)

The first moment, however, was the point of contact. So the spread was designed with the intention that you could put down the first card, start talking, and keep drawing cards. And while the cards have an order, part of the [6th dimension] architecture of the spread is that you can actually put the cards down in any order, and it corrects itself. Thus, I could start the spread anywhere and fill in the rest.

Once I had the caller's attention, a real conversation could happen. It was here that I first experienced the mental judo necessary to turn the conversation around from something in which I was supposed to be rambling, predicting and revealing the intricacies of another person's life, to a true dialog. It's actually easy.

People are often so starved for talking about themselves to someone who will listen that all you have to do is ask one question or reveal a passing interest, and most people -- particularly if they are grappling with a problem -- will start talking. Astrology and tarot are both excellent tools for coming up with useful inquiries, or at least getting a clue to the general climate. My basic program was, and still is, to put the cards out and then fill in the blanks with a real conversation. It is, after all, their life; they know it better than I do.

Celtic Cross
Here is the spread. It's called the Celtic Wings. It's a 10-card layout, based loosely on the Celtic Cross.

The cards, face down, look like this image to the left (Haindl deck, by the way).

Here is a digital version of the spread programmed by Tracy Delaney.

The digital version uses the Rider-Waite deck, drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith and licensed by U.S. Games Systems. Not everyone likes this deck, but I think it's a pretty good one, that is, in my experience, it harmonizes nicely with the mental plane and overall gives clear, balanced messages.

The positions of the cards, in the sequence that they are drawn, are like this diagram below and to the right.

Celtic Cross Typing this, I'm just noticing how the spread seems to weave as you place the cards down. It almost feels like one of those Celtic knots, or a dance. As you may notice, the pattern loosely corresponds to the Celtic Cross, only there are a couple of revisions, the spread is symmetrical, the positions have new names, and there is a simple system of reading aspects in the spread. At the time I invented it, I viewed it as a simplification and streamlining of the Celtic Cross, but over the years it has taken on a life of its own.

As for the setting: quiet helps, but I've worked in some noisy places, including during Western line dancing every Wednesday night for a while. I've found that cards like to be read on a wood surface, a mirror, or on a cloth-covered surface. Do the cards themselves have a preference? Perhaps; but the realm of the tarot is that of relationships with living archetypes who respond to our requests. They just might have a preference. Mainly, they like to be kept clean, dry and wrapped in cloth when they're not being used.

The cloth you wrap the cards in can be used as the surface if you're in a pinch (i.e., doing a spontaneous spread at the local diner), or you can use a separate cloth, such as a tablecloth or thick piece of red felt or velvet. I happen to like using a mirror because whenever you're looking at the cards, you're looking at a mirror and this is a reminder that the cards are a reflection of something else.

In any case, the surface needs to be clean, that's what matters the most, you know, no corn flakes, organic fish oil or chunks of grapefruit too nearby. As you can see from the picture, I sometimes work on a hardwood floor, as long as the floor is clean. Any space can be 'made sacred'. But defining the space always helps, as it puts your mind in a receptive state and makes room for the information to come in.

If you're using real cards, shuffle them till you get into the shuffling, till there is a rhythm and it feels good. I suggest the traditional three-way cut with your left hand, noticing in what order you or the querent places the stacks down, and how you're closing them up. The way you or whoever closes the cut deck can give a clue to whether the main topic will pertain to the past, the present or the future. This may or may not be meaningful.

In the digital version, you shuffle as many times as you like, then start choosing cards. There is no cut, but you can visualize one. Whether using cards or the mouse, I suggest using your left hand, to connect to your right brain (the supposedly more intuitive side). As you choose, open up to the feeling that you're reaching into the unknown. Then reach in, choose, and place the cards face down.

Some people use reversed positions, i.e., the cards mean something different upside down. Sometimes I used inverted positions, but with some reservations. If an inverted card feels like it should be turned upright, I will turn it upright on the spot. If it seems to have a message or raise a question, I'll work with that. If the queerent places the card down inverted with a thump, I'll leave it that way for a while, till I figure out why it's there.

Or, I'll ask the querent (or myself, if I'm reading for myself) to speculate as to why it is inverted. Usually, inverted cards are that way so that something can be worked out. However, I am mainly a devotee of the Crowley philosophy of tarot, and he makes no provisions for inverted cards, nor does he offer interpretations for them (he never even mentions them, that I have read). They have their place, and I think we can live without them, too.

For now, you're on your own as to what the individual cards represent, but hands down, my favorite two books are The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, and Tarot: Mirror of Your Relationships by Gerd Zeigler. The reason I got interested in the Thoth deck was because I noticed the books about it made more sense (to me) than most books about other decks. There was clarity and the logic was easier to follow, as well as a respect for tradition. Crowley was a true esoteric lore master, and Zeigler is a therapist. So, on that basis, I decided to explore the deck itself more deeply and used it to develop this spread.

Tarot gets its information from many sources, though you get to choose which one you want for yourself. The archetypes depicted in the cards exist as living entities in psychic space, to whom we relate; and also to living people and circumstaces. But in a sense these characters dance to the tune of your deeper cosmic affiliation: love or fear.

Cards and the patterns they arrange themselves in mirror our state of mind astonishingly. They also mirror reality to a startling degree. The comment here is that one's state of mind helps shape what we perceive as reality. This is why many people begin tarot work with an invocation to goddess/god, the higher self, the holy spirit or something else on the vibe of 'the greatest good for all concerned'. It is well advised to do so, as tarot and any other esoteric tool opens us up to other dimensions of reality, sometimes slippery ones where we're less accustomed to negotiating.

If you ever get lost in a situation or find yourself experiencing fear, whether reading for yourself or a querent, call on the holy spirit's assistance and you'll get it. That being said, let's get on with the show.

1st Position. Here/now. The starting point, the general conditions, and potentially a significator card representing someone key to the reading (not necessarily the querent, but it could be them). This is the feeling of the moment. This card, however, is not necessarily turned over first. It works as the first card, but it may be turned over second, or at some other point. A little suspense may be helpful. In the old spread, this is called 'this is what covers you', a somewhat ambiguous way of saying 'here and now.'

2nd Position. Foundation. This card is the ground on which the circumstances of the spread are standing. This is the 'how you got here', or where you came through to get here, card. This is a historical card, telling the basic perspective on the past that's operating now, revealing some past event, or telling the story of the past as it pertains to this situation. Clue: if something appears in this position, it is in the past, but it is still a factor, or being treated as a factor. Therefore, you cannot just dismiss it; you have the information for a reason. Traditionally, the position has a window of about three months. But it could be longer, and it's good to stay loose. The card itself may give a clue to the time frame. The thing about spreads is that you get to define or refine the meaning of each position. It's better if you understand in advance what you're going to read in that position, and then when the card shows up you match the two up.

3rd Position. Most recent meaningful development. Whatever appears here is still in the process of working through, but toward the end of that process. It's much more of a current factor than the 2nd place, which points directly to the past. The traditional spread calls the equivalent of the 3rd position, 'this is what surrounds you and is in the process of leaving'. It is still having a tangible effect, and who or whatever is there is still available. Other cards will reveal the circumstances that affect the 3rd position.

4th Position. What you want. That is, what the querent wants. This is the key position in the spread. You could just read this position and have a good discussion that would work out everything. What the querent wants is the most important factor in the whole business; this is logical. But it's necessary to interpret this card intuitively, cleverly or both. When you see a difficult card there, or something that looks painful or a bit disastrous, this is the opportunity to clarify the values around the wanting. Ask the question: is this really what you want? Amazing how far that one little question can go. From the old spread, this combines, 'this is what crosses you' (from the Celtic Cross) with 'this is what crowns you and could come into being'. The cross position (number two in the Celtic Cross, which is placed sideways on top of the significator) is generally seen as some kind of intervention or fated encounter that happens immediately. In combining them, I am revising the theme of how the future manifests, on the theory that you are more likely to get what you want than what you don't want. One's intentions, will and actions generally add up to something. The 4th position tells you what that is very likely to be.

5th Position. The next development. Where things are headed, as they are going now. Equivalent to the position 'this is before you'. It gives a hint to the immediate or medium-range future, a development or encounter that is a likely occurrence. It can also describe the conditions, psychic or physical, that are developing. Looking at this card is a good time to choose; this card is the crossroads of the deck, located as it is right in the center. So, ask again: is this where you want to be headed? Based on that question, you get to use some discernment and make a decision. Note, I am saying specifically that the cards do not predict the future, but rather, they illustrate a probable future, which has not happened yet and is still in flux.

6th Position. What you don't want, or what you are resisting. This is equivalent to the position 'negative feelings' in the old spread. It is a present-time position, reflecting the querent's state of mind now. This describes what the querent is holding back on, denying, struggling with accepting, or such. Often, curiously, this will be one of the more pleasant cards, which is telling; they might be resisting success, money, love, the things they say they want. But if it's not, if you get a card illustrating struggle or strife, the message is something like, 'you know about your own negativity, and through your awareness you can keep it in a sane place'. You can learn as much from the 6th (what you resist) as from the 4th (what you want); they are kind of like opposites, and together they form an aspect. Between looking at the cards representing what someone wants and what they don't want, you can pretty much work through the whole question, and see why things are the way they are. These are the two most meaningful places to make adjustments.

7th Position. Environment. First of two cards with this role. This is the inner card, the closer, more obvious, apparent, or immediate circumstance, or person, or impression of that person. In the old spread, there is one card for 'this is what surrounds you'. But the environment is a meaningful enough factor, and complicated enough one, that two cards seemed better than one. This at least gives the ability to compare appearances with the underlying reality, allows for the idea that different people around you can be in relationship to one another, and so on. These positions will talk about relationships, and the querent's perception of relationships. Look for factors like: if a person is illustrated in this position, are they facing into the spread, or out of the spread? Do they appear to be coming, or going?

8th Position. Outcome at the present course and speed. Simply, if you keep going the way you are going, making no adjustments, this is approximately where you wind up. In the old spread, this is called 'the outcome', but the outcome is a variable as long as you are working with the cards; that is the point to making the information available. The purpose of doing the cards is to give you a choice in any matter about which you inquire. I recognize that this pulls the rug out from many other tarot theories where the cards are supposed to tell you what's going to happen, theories and approaches I feel are useless, outdated and disrespectful of humanity. The 'outcome' position in this spread is more of a look at the logical course of events as they are unfolding. The values displayed in the cards are, however, variable. There are no absolutes, as long as you can use your mind and make a decision.

9th Position. Second environment position. This goes deeper into the surrounding or seemingly external factors. The 7th place relates most significantly to the 9th, and vice versa. The two form an aspect, which involves studying how the two cards harmonize or contradict with one another. In any event, they have a relationship, and the relationship is something you can read, and also something you can ask the querent about. You can, for example, contrast what you immediately perceive (7th place) with what is occurring in the background (9th place). This can be useful if you're trying to figure out if the guy has another girlfriend, if someone you're doing business with is sincere, and so on. Contrasting the cards, you can also see when an environment that looks dicey may actually be supportive, if you go deeper -- or the other way around. As regards the ethics of reading where second and third parties are concerned, I will skip a diatribe and say that the most ethical approach is don't be nosy. Focus on your own business. The cards are a personal growth and healing tool, not a spying device. I suggest you use good common sense, and be gentle.

10th Position (optionally, drawn later). This is a second way of looking at 'the outcome' -- as something that descends as a logical conclusion of the spread. One version of the outcome (8th position) is a step-by-step process in time. The other, 10th position, is a more philosophical approach. If you are reading remotely for someone, you can use the position to check your work. In doing any kind of esoteric work, it's wise to build in a review phase of the process; in effect, to have a way of using the tool to grade yourself. This may give you a reminder that you need to do more work, or that you've basically accomplished what you need to do. The 10th position is the summary of the session, of the spread and it can help sum up the encounter with the querent.

11th Position. Protective influence. (Optional position, on top, completing diamond shape; this card is drawn later, after the main spread is complete). Use the 11th position if you still have questions, if you're looking for a different way to think about 'the outcome', or if you need to inquire about what kind of protection is available. In this spread, there are really four potential positions that point to the outcome: 4th, 8th, 10th and 11th. They should all be taken into account together. They will point to different aspects of the developments in question, and the use of multiple outcome positions suggests that usually there is no one outcome -- rather, there are choices involved in everything, and that different factors will work together.

Reading Aspects

TAROT cards, like planets in a chart, are more meaningful when they are related to one another. Indeed, the other cards of the spread provide the context for understanding any one of them. As you can see from the individual card descriptions, there are many instances where the inherent value of the position is considered in context of some other position. If you want to help your client or figure out what you need to do personally, it helps to understand the relationships between the cards. That is where the real information is; the context factor is the true art of reading the cards.

For example, positions 7 and 9 (the environment) can be contrasted to look for harmony or dissonance in your environment. The seeming contradictions can yield a lot of information. There may be two people depicted, who are having a relationship independent of the querent's relationship to either of them. There will be a story in that illustration. Look for motion. What direction is a Knight traveling in? What direction is a person facing?

Positions 4 and 8 make an interesting contrast: what the querent wants versus what they are actually manifesting.

Positions 4 and 6 are also worth comparing: what someone wants, versus what they are resisting. About half the time, it seems like the card in position 6 (resisting) is something friendly and position 4 (wanting) illustrates some strife. Sometimes it will seem logical to swap the cards. You can try that and see how it feels to the querent. "What if you considered wanting this, and resisting this, instead?"

Contrasting positions 3 and 6 often reveals something. The 3rd is the past influence and the 6th is the quality of resistance. Often there is a relationship, as people tend to get stuck in the past. So, you can run a quick check on the 'stuck in the past' theme contrasting the 3rd and 6th positions. Indeed, though the 6th is a position revealing present feelings or beliefs, the fact that there is resistance implies the past all by itself. Presumably one has been resisting things for a duration of time. The 6th position will help you qualify what is going on, or identify the source or nature of the disturbance.

Positions 5 and 7 show the point of contact between the querent and the environment. Position 5, 'what happens next', is often influenced by another person, or involves a meeting with whoever or whatever is represented in position 7. Considering that point of contact can reveal the influence someone has over the sequence of events -- and once it's brought to awareness, it can be addressed on the level of desire and choice.

Story boards. You can use the spread to tell stories. For example, you can consider the sequence of events implied reading five cards across: 3rd, 1st, 5th, 7th, 9th, from left to right, as a story involving a relationship. Just consider what it says. Other story boards are three diagonal to the left (6th, 5th and 4th) or three diagonal to the right (2nd, 5th and 8th).

Brief Conclusion

The tarot is a journey and it has many dimensions. It's also a relationship: with the deck or decks you use, with the people you read for, and most of all, with yourself.

If it's not clear from what I've been saying over and over again, I suggest that we hang loose with the tarot as a tool, and not get too hung up on what's supposed to happen in the future, but rather, consider where we are at now.

One of the most beautiful things about the tarot is that it communicates in pictures rather than in words (if you don't count the card titles, and I would much prefer that the lower arcana did not have titled cards -- but many decks now do). Images lend themselves well to the imagination, to intuition and to interpretations that are not etched in stone.

But the miracle of the tarot is in the choosing: just how is it that these cards we draw, supposedly randomly, have so much to say about our lives?

Ah yes, good question.

Planet Waves
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, November 24, 2006, #638 - By ERIC FRANCIS

Sagittarius Solar Returns: Who Are You?

IT IS NOT just Sagittarians who are having birthdays this time of year, it's everyone. The planets have been clustering like a bunch of sheep since early summer, following the Sun and being herded together by the Moon, sheepdog that she is. When the entourage began to arrive in Scorpio six or so weeks ago, it joined slow-moving Jupiter, which had already been there for a year. When it began to move into Sagittarius, it was time for Jupiter to return to its own sign, joining Pluto, which has been there about 12 years. Within a couple of weeks, every traditional planet except Saturn (in Leo) and Uranus (in Pisces) will be in Sagittarius: Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Pluto.

Pluto, for its part, is about to make a conjunction to the Galactic Core for the first time in two-and-a half-centuries, the first time since we've known about the existence of either Pluto or the Core. The Moon enters Sagittarius for the New Moon on the Galactic Core on Dec. 18 just as the Sun and Pluto meet up there (though by that time Venus has moved onto Capricorn). All of this places an unusual focus on Sagittarius: unusual by the standards of our current already-full-throttle time, and unusual by the standards of the past couple of centuries owing to the focus of Pluto on the Core and the presence of Jupiter at the same time.

This is an explosion of consciousness for everyone, and incomparable news for those born with the Sun in Sagittarius. There is no one having a solar return now whose chart does not have some highly unusual features, and a rather shocking diversity of influences shaping the landscape of time.

Early Sagittarians, those born the first week of the sign, will pick up the most influence the fastest, and the waves of change have already come into your life. Numerous planets are, or will be, making conjunctions to your natal Sun in a short time. The first sense that arrives may be the one that you're finally seeing what you've been missing, the lights coming on or your sense of presence on Earth materializing like you were just beamed in. For many weeks and much of the past year, your life may have felt like a dream happening on the other side of the wall, an effect of such a strong focus on Scorpio, your 12th solar house, or hidden house (most particularly Jupiter).

As planets change to your 1st solar house, that is, your own sign, this is a symbol that your sense of self-awareness, presence and sense of purpose are gathering strength. Honestly, it's a lot all at once, verging on too much; we can't really say too much because the concept doesn't quite exist for Sagittarius, but this is still an unusually strong surge of energy and a stretch for any mortal working the planet. Every pattern that you have established, every self-concept, god-concept, creative process are having the energy turned up so high that exceedingly little is likely to be the same in one year, and there will be many significant developments in this one short month that the Sun is in your sign.

It is impossible to predict what this will do, but it is possible to say you will have a choice in many matters that have seemed far beyond your grasp for many years. One of these is the choice for how to define yourself.

Consider it this way. Beginning in the mid-1990s as Pluto worked through the early part of Sagg, the choices all seemed to be about what you were giving up, who you were not, what you could not be, what you could not resist and thus had to surrender to. This way of life never really ended. Then in 2003, Uranus entered Pisces, a mutable sign much like Sagittarius, and there have been so many shake-ups that it was very nearly impossible to get a firm grasp on yourself, a steady pattern to your life, or to define any particular thing that amounted to security.

Having been through this training program, you are now well prepared to consider some new possibilities. One by one, you will see, feel and experience them, as planets pass over your Sun like a lens shaping the light of day, or a prism refracting it into its many colors, revealing what you could not see before. The ability to decide, as the Course in Miracles puts it so eloquently, is your one remaining freedom as a perhaps unwitting inhabitant of this world.

And, with this power comes responsibility to choose. It is true that we seem to have so many options in life: paper or plastic, smoking or non-smoking, credit or debit. But usually they are meaningless. The real decisions, and by that I don't mean the ones we make with a gun to our heads, but the ones we make in freedom, are often the scariest. Usually, there are all kinds of concepts in the way: responsibilities we don't have, adherence to religious beliefs we don't even know about, paying silent homage with a thousand subtle insecurities to parents whose respect was mainly earned through domination.

By now, I trust you're thirsting for some freedom. By now, I trust you have an idea what you would do with it. Yet it remains to be seen whether you will be able to muster the heart, soul, mind and guts necessary to act on your own destiny. It remains to be seen whether you will have the guts to ask who you really are, and live your life as if that is true.

When good fortune arrives, most people recognize it only vaguely, seeing through sleepy eyes and hearing with dim ears. This is the time to notice; a time to not just ride on the wave of energy that is coming into your life, but rather, the time to create this moment into a threshold to the rest of your life, and to fill your heart with the confidence you need to live the dreams you have been secretly harboring for so long.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Loved ones seem to be running ahead of you after spending so much time lost in the sauce of their own ideas about themselves. Thankfully, life is not a race, and thankfully again, everyone is waking up fast. One of the great awakening elixirs that has come into your life lately is words. Ideas can crystallize and find their meaning through expression with words; they can help us create a framework through which to understand our lives. With each passing day, your words grow more meaningful, and more influential in the lives of others. Use them carefully; they are sharp when broken. Family Focus: Now's a great time to get together with your mother, grandmother or aunts.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
It's not easy being a Taurus -- and I'm not being patronizing. I know this for a fact. The symmetry and elegance that are qualities of the world you love never seem to find a home in your inner life, full as it is of molten lava, elements that crash and collide into new substances, and the god Vulcan hammering away at his iron rods in the smoky blacksmith shop of your soul. But the goddess who rules your sign, Venus, has immensely more respect for this path than she does for the warrior of the gods, or for that matter, the king of the gods. Make room in your life for the companionship you want and need. Family Focus: Teach everyone that having no secrets is the best policy.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Well, I bet you're glad that's over. It's funny how after being the dark star of such a fabulous controversy, you can suddenly find yourself the flavor of the week. It's all part of the legend of the Phoenix -- or perhaps just evidence of how completely confused the human race is about its own existence. What I hope you've learned from the experience is that as long as you've got your mind and feelings in one piece, you're basically fine. Oh, and as long as you're not afraid of your own power: and these days, you're glowing so bright you could melt your own sunglasses. Family Focus: Everyone thrives in an atmosphere of love.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Remember this motto: "I am never too busy for love." You are busy, true. But a relationship may be calling you, presenting a new opportunity, or reminding you there is more to life. It's rarely easy living one's professional life fully at the same time as one's personal life. Success always seems to come at a cost. But I assure you there is plenty you can do to minimize the cost and not only create some balance, but live your whole life very fully. This is not a laid-back time for you, and it's no ordinary time either. Live like it matters, baby. Family Focus: You can foresee major changes long before they arrive.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
What a difference a month can make. What was once an emotional bog, where the people and places of the past were preserved like a jar of pickles, a brilliant adventure has taken its place. Why has this happened? Well, astrologically we can say it's happened because there are rewards for knowing yourself, for being honest with yourself and most of all, for loving yourself. To do that, you need to face your doubts and voila, you have succeeded. They were dark and they were deep, and the life you can live in for many moons is bright and wild. Family Focus: Be a kid -- let your own kids teach you how.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
All our lives, we are fed a lot of stuff about how women only want security and men only want sex. Oh, and all women are monogamous while all men are polygamous. Hey, it's a free country, we're all God's children, and with recent political developments, we may even be able to get a little free speech at half price. So anyone can say whatever they want -- and, notably, that doesn't make it true. To paraphrase Ben Franklin or one of those revolutionaries of old, those who would trade sex for a little security deserve neither. Family Focus: Be aware of who is feeling safe and who is not. You may be able to help.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
As an honorary Libra myself, it's my pleasure to tell you that this would be a great year to write a book. Who knows, you may even write three books. Just remember, you're the writer and the Universe is the publisher. What you think, say and put on paper is, as well, above reproach. I assume you're committed to a path of integrity when I say this, and that you're speaking honestly from your heart. As long as those things are true, nobody can judge you and no one will. Therefore, put your Bible back in the drawer, and just tell the truth. Family Focus: You are a mystery to your partner or children, but they love you for it.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You are a rich person. In fact, you're incredibly wealthy. Do you know it? Do you realize that all your life you've been making payments into a cosmic bank account, which has collected interest and has compounded and has suddenly grown and swelled to 100 times its original size? I didn't think so, but I'm here to bring you the good news. I'm here to sing your praises and inform you that you've collected a heck of a lot of good karma the past dozen or so years, even if you spent most of them in school, being brainwashed by evil people, or told you're nothing special at all. Family Focus: Loved ones will still respect you if you're wildly optimistic.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
The world is not only your oyster; it's your home. Sagittarius is, however, one of those signs that typically feels like you beamed in from the Planet Centaur and are living in a strange dimension full of so-called people who spend most of their time getting dressed. Take a lesson from the elegant women of Paris: pull on some nice jeans, a sexy sweater and the right hat, and get on with your adventures. Many of them await you. You're currently getting a clue how many, and how exciting they may be, but I assure you, this is just a clue. Eric Francis has more of your astrology for you at PlanetWaves.net. Family Focus: Make sure you have enough time for the people who love you.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Those who can see the future have the best chance of getting there. And if there was ever a time when your mind, both 'asleep' and 'waking', was filled with images of what could be, and what will be, and what you want to be and are dedicated to creating, the time is now. At this point, however, you face the formidable challenge of every creative person: gradually manifesting your ideas into the tangible world, and sharing them with others. Family Focus: Teach the habit of taking life one day at a time.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You can count on your friends; in fact, that is all you can count on, but this is a direct consequence of your being such a dependable and honest person. Even if you have your doubts, I suggest you promote yourself in this way, because what we tell ourselves has an odd way of becoming true, or more true. You may at times this month and over the next four seasons wonder if you're really worthy of the good fortune that comes your way. I assure you that you are, and I would remind you to pass it on. Family Focus: Bring your kids to gatherings, meetings and parties.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
You are never too old to accomplish great things, or for that matter, too young. So embrace the moment; there is a lot to embrace. Believe in yourself, because there is so much to believe in. But most of all, hold a vision for yourself. Really look into your mind's eye and see yourself in some place, condition, state of mind, relationship or on a mission that would suit you perfectly. The powers of manifestation are aligning rapidly, making what was absolutely impossible last week into an extremely high probability today. But you won't know until you try. Family Focus: Whether you have kids or not, you are a parental figure to many.

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