Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign Sarah Christensen Fu

Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign
Sarah Christensen Fu

Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014
$18.95 Amazon
The idea of a basic astrology book that points out the bad points of each sign is nothing new, and it's a concept I really like for the simple fact that if people are laughing they may learn a thing or two about themselves without realizing it. While astrology is becoming more and more mainstream, there are still those who think of astrologers like seeing Aughra in "The Dark Crystal": Old people sitting around staring at astrolabes talking about "the angle of eternity!"
There are at least two series in this vein that I'm aware of, and all have a place on my astrology bookshelf: Hazel Dixon-Cooper's Born on a Rotten Day from 2003, with its corollaries Love on a Rotten Day for relationship astrology and Friends on a Rotten Day for friendship; and Stella Hyde's Darkside Zodiac from 2004, with its companions Darkside Zodiac at Work and Darkside Zodiac in Love. Sarah Christensen Fu's Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign is an excellent addition to it. 
What makes Bad Birthdays different from those two is that the snark level seems much higher to me than that of the other two, with Darkside Zodiac coming in second and Born on a Rotten Day coming in third. I'm a huge fan of that style, so I really liked enjoyed the even more "tell it like it is" flavor of this work. 
Sarah Christensen Fu also included something that the other two didn't: A day by day look at the year and a general overview of each from an astrological perspective, which parodies The Secret Language of Birthdays and others in that style. I take those books with a grain of salt, since each particular date is different astrologically from year to year. But honestly, I took off my professional astrologer hat when I read it, and had a really good laugh. Even if the particular date isn't your birthday, as you read through it you'll find entries like:

“Close your eyes and think back to your childhood, [DATE]-er. Was it all picket fences and pies on windowsills? Trips to the mall with your family, with a stop at TGI Friday’s on the way home? You have the strangest, rose-colored glasses of all time, because your childhood actually sucked, like everyone else’s, but for some reason you remember it to be the absolutely epitome of wholeness. This is cute for you, but actually slightly destructive for any offspring you might have, who will be forced to try to recreate these faux memories. Luckily, you’re financially stable and can save up for lots of therapeutic help.”

Also, I really liked the alliterative titles given to each sign. I think my two favorites were the Mercury-ruled signs of Gemini and Virgo, "Degenerate Gemini" and "Vexed Virgo". Mine is “Surly Scorpio”, and it’s one of the better ones. I suspect the author, a Virgo herself, was truly inspired with them. I just love them, for two reasons: One, because they make each sign truly memorable; and two, because they are extremely truthful. The memorable part is important. Each astrological sign has multiple two-word mottos; Aries, for example, is "I am." Most people can't even remember one for their own sign, but this way, it's easy and funny. 
They also have specific sun sign compatibility for each sign combination, as well as a section on “Jobs a [SIGN] might not screw up”, which I found totally amusing. 
This book is much simpler than the others, not really attempting to explain anything astrological. If a Scorpio were reading this, for example, they wouldn’t know who the sign’s rulers are (Mars and Pluto, depending on your perspective). Anything that looks like standard astrology book fare is pretty much left out. If you consider the target audience of this book, that’s a good thing. Likely if you’re picking up this one, you’re pretty new with all things astrological. 
The bottom line: If you’re looking for astrological humor, this one definitely has it in spades, but don’t look for explanations. Just sit back and laugh; you just might learn something in the process. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft

The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft
Lady Sable Aradia
Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014
$14.92 (paperback) / $9.99 (Kindle)

As a Head High Priest of a community and school of Witchcraft, I'm always interested in books such as The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft. It's always great to compare notes and see what other schools of thought are in the area of the Craft.

I could tell there was going be a lot here to like right away, even by looking through the table of contents. A lot of the principles that were nearest and dearest to me were here, from the basic to the more advanced, and it became obvious to me that a person who didn't have access to either an in-person or online school of Witchcraft could learn a whole lot.

One of my favorite sections of the work was about midway through it, and discussed the role of ego in Witchcraft:

“As we are learning to reclaim our power, sometimes we become a little drunk with it, especially those who came to the craft because we felt disempowered. This is commonly called the High Priestess’s disease, and it is associated with the shadow […] This is the stage of development that causes most of the ‘Witch wars’ that happen in our small communities. It is good to recognize that you are divine; but so is everyone else. It seems that humility should go without saying, but my experience in training priests and priestesses tells me that it mostly falls on deaf ears.”

I couldn't agree more with this quote, and considering the empowerment that can occur through the Craft, and the book's title, "Eight Paths of Power", I have met way too many Witches just looking for that next "level up" in their community just so they can have a title they can flaunt. That's ego, pure and simple, and it destroys relationships and communities, and hinders spiritual growth. 
Many people don't understand the tremendous responsibility that you take on as a spiritual leader. A big part of spiritual leadership is putting your ego aside for the good of others and not expecting recognition or reward, financial or otherwise, for doing so, and this book seems to support that theory. 

So I'm repeating myself, but there's so much to like here. Chakra work. Visualization. Symbols. Basic herbalism. Spell work and intent. Astrology. Dealing with psychic vampires. And exercises for it all. It's an all in one resource for those who want to learn the Craft, and in that regard it’s an impressive work.

And then I read the parts in chapter four, “Intoxicants”, about how to connect with the Divine using drugs and alcohol, and what could have been a truly outstanding book took a unexpected and unpleasant turn.

I understand that people have been using both legal and illegal drugs to connect to the Divine for centuries. I don't purport to make that choice for everyone; it's certainly an individual one, and my opinion is irrelevant. With that said, I think it's incredibly irresponsible for a spiritual leader--and if you look at Lady Sable Aradia's bio, she certainly has earned the title of spiritual leader--to put the information in a book, especially one called Eight Paths of Power.

If Witchcraft is so empowering on its own merits, and I believe that it is, then why is it necessary to include information on using intoxicants to connect with the Divine? It sets a dangerous precedent for witches of all levels, and for those considering the Craft as a path, it puts the idea in their minds that this is something that is expected. Yes, there's a statement at the beginning of the chapter, reminding each person that they take no responsibility for the actions of individuals, and that's something you'd expect. The reality is that anyone with an Internet connection can find that information if they choose, but by including it you are tacitly encouraging it, in my opinion, and I do not believe you need to use any sort of drug to improve your connection to the Divine.

With that last chapter being the lone exception, I generally agreed with the rest of what was presented. Every Witch practices a little differently, but what was here was a solid base for anyone who wants to go back to basics on their own.

To me, a classroom setting—even a virtual classroom—is better than a book for learning the Craft. But if that’s not possible for you, The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft is a better way than many to increase your knowledge.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Astrological Year, Part 2

OK, so where did we leave off? Oh yes...the astrological year!

So we know that 1) each astrological sign has an element, 2) each astrological sign has a quality, 3) one of those qualities is cardinal, and 4) a cardinal sign begins every season.

Most of you understand the concept of elements, but to make sure we're all on the same page, each sign is associated with one element--fire, earth, air, or water. Most of you know which element your sun sign is already, but for those of you who don't, they're below:

Fire--Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth--Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air--Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water--Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Now let's talk about the qualities in more detail, but before we do, here's an important point:

Every sign is a UNIQUE combination of an element and a quality, and there are NO repeats.

Here's what I mean. If we didn't have the qualities, then all three fire signs would be the same, right? The same could be said of the other elements. Sure, there are some "fiery", "earthy", "airy" and "watery" traits that all signs of an element share. But the quality makes them very different. 

You know that there are cardinal signs, which begin every season. If you recall from our last lesson, they are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. 

Generally speaking, cardinal signs are powerful and tend toward leadership. They like to be in control and are normally good at starting things. But they're not as good at taking orders or following through on long term projects. Each season begins with a cardinal sign because they get things started! They also are considered the purest form of the element. 

We have two other qualities of sign: fixed and mutable.

Fixed signs are in the middle of each season, and they tend to be your "middle management" types. They're good at long-term projects and following up, and while they can be good leaders, they tend to be stubborn (fixed) and are not as open to new ideas, thoughts, and opinions. They're perfect in the middle of each season--they "anchor" each season as it takes hold.

Mutable signs end each season, and they're the flexible followers of the signs. They tend more toward being able to do more different things and adapt than either of the other two signs, but they're not as good at taking a project and running with it on their own, nor are they as likely to want a leadership role. 

Let's recap. Each season has a cardinal sign, a fixed sign, and a mutable sign, in that order. So you know already that the four cardinal signs are NEVER going to be next to each other in the astrological year. 

Going further, each element has three signs associated with it, and each sign has a different quality. If we know that Aries is a fire sign, and it begins a season, we can deduce that Aries is the cardinal fire sign. There are no other cardinal fire signs; that's why I said "THE". Make sense?

The elements also go in the same order in the astrological year: Fire, earth, air and water. So if we know that Aries begins spring, and it's cardinal fire, then what sign comes next? It's the fixed earth sign, Taurus the Bull. Spring has got to end with a mutable sign, and if we just had fixed earth, then we've got to have mutable air, Gemini the Twins. 

Because of the way it is set up, each season will lack one element. In this case, you noticed that there was no water sign in spring. Our first sign of the summer, however, is cardinal water, and it's Cancer the Crab. Since we just had cardinal water, fixed fire is next, Leo the Lion, followed by mutable earth, Virgo the Virgin. We don't have any air signs in the summer. 

But the fall begins with cardinal air, Libra the Scales. Fixed water must follow in Scorpio the Scorpion. And fall ends with mutable fire, Sagittarius the Archer. There are no earth signs in the fall. 

Finally, we end the astrological year with cardinal earth, Capricorn the sea-goat, followed by fixed air, Aquarius the Water-Bearer. We end our year with mutable water, Pisces the Fish. There's no fire signs in the winter. (NOTE: Aquarius may be the "water bearer" but it is NOT a water sign.)

And what comes after Pisces? We start all over again with Aries the Ram. 

I know the astrological year seems complicated, but if you can remember the qualities and the elements, you'll have a lot easier time knowing what comes next. It's pretty logical, actually. 

Thanks as always for tuning in! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Astrological Year, Part 1

Many of us can't keep the astrological year straight. It starts in March and so that throws off a lot of people right away. And the dates aren't the same every year, so that's a problem, too. So how do you keep track of what's going on?

Well, let's start at the beginning. Western astrology is based on the seasons. Generally speaking, people know when the seasons begin and end, so that's where we'll commence.

The astrological year begins when the sun arrives in Aries, at the vernal equinox, also known as the beginning of spring. When we arrive at the Summer Solstice, Cancer begins. At the Autumnal Equinox, Libra begins. And when the Winter Solstice comes, Capricorn begins. In other words, a new sign begins each season.

The dates the seasons begin can't be the same every year, though, because the sun moves about 1 degree a day through the sky. So we know approximately when a season will start, but we have to check out the exact moment when the sun moves into that particular sign. 

Astrologers of old used to use what's called an ephemeris, a chart filled with tables listing the various times that planets will move into their various signs.

Nowadays computers do the heavy lifting for us. With a few mouse clicks I can tell you that the next season, Fall, will begin when the sun enters Libra at 10:30pm on September 22, 2014 in Occoquan, VA. Winter begins when the sun enters Capricorn on December 21, 2014, at 6:04pm in Occoquan, VA.

[To be a certified astrologer with any reputable organization, however, you must be able to cast a chart by hand. It's a challenge I'd like to be able to take on someday!]

Note for Witches and Wiccans: When the sun moves into a cardinal sign at the beginning of each season, that's the day we celebrate a Sabbat. So this year Mabon is on September 22, and Yule is on December 21.

So you've already got four of the signs. Each of the signs I listed begins a season.

Now, let's talk about the elements: fire, earth, air and water. They are a concept many of you are familiar with. We've got four seasons, and to balance things out, each season begins with an astrological sign in a particular element. Aries = fire, Cancer = water, Libra = air, Capricorn = earth. These four signs are actually known as cardinal signs. We'll talk more about what that means in a future blog. Just know that they are important. But every season begins with a cardinal sign. 

Each element has a complementary element, one it works with better than the others. Earth and water complement each other, as do fire and air. These elements will NEVER be next to each other in the astrological year. In other words, if there's a fire sign, an air sign will never come before it or after it. The opposite is also true. Earth signs will never be preceded by or followed by water signs as well. It's to keep everything in balance. 

To take it a little further, you know that Aries is a fire sign and begins spring. So if you remember nothing else, you know that there won't be two fire signs in a row, nor can there be an air sign next. So by elimination you know that the next sign of spring has to be earth or water!

Thanks for tuning in! I hope to have another blog for you soon!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Random Meanderings for Your Return to Work

1) OK, so July 4th was a really amazing weekend overall. But it sounded like a war zone at my house! Seriously, people...I'm all for embracing the holiday but after 10:30-11:00pm people want to go to bed. And how much do you want to freak out my cats?! If that was your goal, you were wildly successful. I can only imagine what people with PTSD from our various wars think of it. 

2) If you have never attended a "quote along" movie at the Alamo Draft House--for NOVA peeps, it's up in Ashburn, but they have them all over--you really should! It was a whole lot of fun. One of my all-time favorites, "Team America: World Police", was the quote-along movie for July 4th weekend and it was AMAZING! I don't know if I should be impressed or concerned that I know the words to all the songs by heart, especially when the lyrics include "so lick my butt and suck on my balls!" But there it is. 

3) More posts are planned on basic astrology. There's only 2300 years worth of stuff to look at, so I'm pretty sure I won't run out of material. 

4) I love animals very much, and would love to see all stray cats and dogs get homes and not languish  in shelters. With that said, I don't need to see evidence of abused or neglected animals on my social media feeds. I get that you're going for shock value. On my FaceBook, that gets your ass hidden. Thanks for understanding. 

5) I'm always wary of donating money to causes, and you should be as well. Make sure to the extent you can that the funds you donate are going to organizations that are worthy and manage their money well. Way too many of them don't take their role seriously. Just because they are not for profit doesn't mean that the people who run them are trustworthy, ethical or upstanding. 

6) "Glove and Boots" is a YouTube video series that I have totally fallen in love with. It's definitely bizarre but I get a good laugh every time. If you haven't discovered them yet, I encourage you to take a look. I must admit that "Johnny T" is my favorite character. For a more dark humored set of videos, I'd check out "Llamas with Hats", which is funny for all the wrong reasons. 

7) If there's some metaphysical topic you want to see addressed on this blog, folks, it couldn't be simpler. Write a comment or write me an email at hierophant@cox.net.

8) Saturn is applauding my recent increase in blog posts, but he is still upset that there's no discernible pattern. I guess my problem is that I'm still trying to make the Old Man happy. Perhaps we'll hear from him again soon. 

9) WARNING--SHAMELESS MARKETING: The dates and times I am reading tarot at 13 Magickal Moons in Occoquan, VA, are now also listed on a page in this blog. Take a look! 

Hope your 4th was awesome! See you soon. :)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America! A Look at The Sibly Chart

Happy Birthday to the United States of America! I've decided that today I'll put up the chart of the USA, originally done by Ebenezer Sibly, a famous astrologer from the 18th century. You'll find it below. The chart was cast for 5:10pm, July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, PA, and is one of the most well-known charts in the astrological world.



This is the "natal chart" for our nation, and there's a whole lot here to check out. But first, a quote about the Sibly Chart from Benson Bobrick's work, The Fated Sky, which gives an interesting astrological perspective on events throughout our recorded history (and a book a highly recommend!):

"On July 4, 1776, at 5:10pm, in Philadelphia, Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, was rising, the fixed star Regulus--which signified kings--was setting, and the Sun in Cancer conjunct [next to] the fortunate fixed star Sirius, which, by tradition, gave success in war and business as well as faithfulness and devotion, honor and renown. By accident or design, the moment Hancock picked up his pen was both stupendously propitious and symbolically apt, for it would notably link the revolution with energy and enterprise and the decline of royal power."

Here are a few things to think about.

1) Sun in Cancer--The USA was born with the sun in Cancer, and shares many traits of that sign. We're always willing to help, and take the time to "mother" other nations in difficulty. Part of the problem is, like meddling parents, we don't know when to let go. We're always trying to keep other nations from harm. The suffering of others also galvanizes us into action. We also are very warm, just the type of country to welcome others in need. I don't think I need to delve into our history too much to prove those points, right? ("Give me your tired, your poor...")

2) Sagittarius Rising--One of the most important parts of Sagittarius as a sign is freedom. The rising sign, or ascendant, is the mask through which we see the world. We believe in freedom for all to pursue what they will. And Sagittarius loves riding over the next hill just to see what is there! Think out about our movements to the west and into the Pacific. "Don't fence me in!" is an unofficial Sagittarius motto. We're always seeking, looking for what's next. Sagittarius is also a very spiritual sign, ruled by Jupiter, the planet of spirituality and religion as well as the rule of law, and our nation was founded on the principle of...religious freedom. Interesting, no? (Incidentally, ancient Romans used to swear to Jupiter when giving testimony!)

3) Regulus--A fixed star near the very end of Leo (29 Leo). It is considered to be one of the four "royal stars" of ancient astrology. This royal star was taking his leave when our nation was born.

4) Sirius--Another fixed star, Sirius heightens beneficial qualities in planets near to it and can help you go further than you even dreamed you would. Of course, it also has an excessive side. But our nation has come a long way in what is comparatively a short amount of time, hasn't it?

Astrologers are like any other experts in their field; they disagree all the time! And one of the big points of contention in this chart is the time; why 5:10pm, and how did anyone know exactly when John Hancock put his...well, John Hancock...on the line to finish the document? Bobrick suggests that Sibly's "Masonic connections" probably helped; many of the founding fathers were Masons, as was Sibly. So Bobrick theorizes that Sibly came by the exact time that way.

Here's another quote from Bobrick, this time quoting Sibly himself as he [Sibly] made judgments based on his famous chart. Remember, he made these predictions in 1784.

"On the basis of it [the chart for the USA], Sibly declared that America would one day 'have an extensive and flourishing commerce; advantageous and universal traffic to every quarter of the globe, with great security and prosperity amongst its people,' and still more, eventually constitute, 'a new Empire that shall soon or late give laws to the whole world.'"


JFK had it right when he said, "We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution." With all the fireworks and parades, cookouts with friends and family, and other events, I hope you will take a moment to remember just how far we've come. And no matter where you are politically, spiritually, or otherwise, if you're a citizen of the United States, I hope you realize and appreciate how lucky you are today. 

Hope you enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What is an Astrology Chart? Part 2

As we saw in our last lesson, an astrology chart is a complex little beast. At a glance, it can show you:

  • The 10 planets--the "what" of astrology since the energy comes from them;
  • The signs these planets are in--"the how" of astrology because a sign is the "style" in which the planetary energy manifests itself; and
  • The houses and their cusps--the "where" of astrology.
In a chart, you'll find the locations of the following planets based on their symbols. 


Each planet has its own function, and the chart will tell you not only what sign and house each planet is in, but its relationship to other planets, known as aspects, which can significantly change the size and scope of the planet's role in the chart. 

A chart is cast for a specific event, such as a person's birth, known as a natal chart, and while that is one of the most common reasons to cast a chart, it's far from the only one. You can cast one for any event you choose--your wedding, compatibility with another person, the date you started your first job, etc.--in the past, present, or future. 

Astrologers love to look over charts of famous people, for example, but we also like to see what's coming in the form of progressions and returns. That way we can help people plan out when would be a good time to try to have a baby, open a business, start a product line, etc. 

The reason why a lot of people look at charts and get nervous is because it LOOKS complicated. If you've ever played craps in a casino, you'll probably think the same thing. Take a look at this layout. 


Unless you're familiar with craps, you're looking at this going "Holy shit! How can people possibly understand this, much less find this fun?" It's actually a really fun game once you learn the moving parts. Astrology is the same way. 

Don't get me wrong...it can be challenging to INTERPRET an astrology chart, and it takes a long time to learn to do it well. But that's just experience, and there's no substitute for it, in astrology or playing craps or anything else. This was a lesson I was reminded of very recently as I struggled with a particular chart. 

Anyway, the point is that if astrology interests you, start looking at some charts. You're not going to know much about what they mean at the beginning, but take a gander over a few, starting with your own. 

Once you get over the fear of the chart and start to recognize some of the symbols, then you can start asking some questions about what's going on. If you're at all like me, at that point you're hooked and you just want to learn more. 

Astrology is a fascinating discipline with 2,300 years of study and material to work with. Don't let that stop you from taking that first step. 

Many Web sites will do your chart for free, but if you'd like your natal chart done professionally I hope you'll consider contacting me. 

Friday's blog will contain a famous astrological chart: The chart for the birth of the United States, known as the "Sibley Chart". I hope you'll tune in for some insights about this great nation.