24 June 2008

What the stars say

We’re moved by two things only, said Napoleon: fear and self-interest. And that’s why the predictive arts, such as astrology, are so popular.

We’re moved by two things only, said Napoleon: fear and self-interest. And that’s why the predictive arts, such as astrology, are so popular: they address some of our fears; and they’re focused on the fascination of me, me, me.

About four years ago, I approached popular Johannesburg astrologer Linda Shaw to do my chart. We knew each other a little – we’d worked together occasionally, shared a platform at workshops, and unwound afterwards over a glass of wine.

Linda, once met, is never forgotten. She’s formerly a journalist, and her formidable intelligence and street-smarts means there’s an utter lack of the whimsical huru-guru about her, in spite of her dramatic dress sense and Medusa-like head of flaming hair.

She’s got a laugh that can start a party. She’s wise, and kind, and – well, I couldn’t think of anyone who I could have more fun with while confirming my inherent fascinatingness. Of course.

To prepare, astrologers need some basic details, primarily the exact date and time of your birth. This is used to track exactly what was where in the heavens, and draw up a life chart for you; additionally, Linda was going to prepare a chart that looked at the two or three years immediately following the consultation.

I checked with my mother, and emailed Linda the information. She got straight back to me saying my mother had got it wrong. Er… really? I checked again with my mother. She was a little sniffy, but conceded she might accurately shift things by half an hour or so.

This time, Linda was satisfied.

The reading
In common with some other astrologers, and knowing how quickly we overload in consultation, Linda records sessions with clients. Just as well: listening to the tape now, four years later, I can hear in my voice how quickly I became overloaded with information. And certainly, I appear to have forgotten every word of it in the intervening years.

Astrology is not a simple matter: it pulls together many esoteric disciplines. The Three Wise Men didn’t get to be wise by simply gazing at the stars, saying “the moon is in the Seventh House” and then stumbling upon Jesus in the manger. It’s a symbolic language. Each planet symbolically represents aspects of the psyche; and to be brutally brief, it’s a study of cycles and innate (inherited) patterns.

As a starting point, though, Linda points out one needs to be able to go with the idea of reincarnation as a possibility – the theory is that between lives you consult with your advisers and decide what’s unfinished, what you still need to do, and that’s what you come back with as a project for this life.

Each of us has three signs: the sun-sign (the usual one you define yourself by), a moon sign, and a rising sign. The first represents your soul and your ego, but it’s often the most ‘shy’ of your signs, and it may only be those who know you well who see you in that way; the moon sign represents your emotional side, and the child in you; and the rising sign refers to your personality and physical self; the way you relate to the world. It tells the story of how most people see you.

In the full knowledge that though I consider my own charts to be unspeakably fascinating, you might not, I’ll refrain from going into the glorious detail of what my particular trio represent. But what is interesting, is that my sun sign – a water sign, and female, and particularly fey in the personality line-up, is quite far removed from my rising sign (air, male). So the ‘real’ me and the social me are very different. It may be so for many people.

Oh alright, I can’t resist: I particularly loved the detail that my charts indicate I am so over the corporeal world – I’ve had it with life on earth, would far rather not have to be here and would prefer to never have to do so again. But also, they say, since I am here, I’m determined to live life through the intellect because, in a previous life, I was somehow burned by my involvement in spirituality and my defence, this time around, is to believe only what I can see. I’m thinking Joan of Arc…

For my reading, I was less interested in specific predictions than I was in looking for explanations of certain patterns, and it was a revelatory couple of hours on that front. Linda articulated a couple of concepts that hit me in the solar plexus in their direct, simple truthfulness. And no, they’re personal, so I’m not telling. But of course, four years later, I was curious – did Linda in fact tell me anything at all that has subsequently “come true”?

She was right on my history: she identified the period of 1988 and 1989 as the years when an old life ended, and a new phase of life began. The next time things would become really difficult again, she said, would be in 2009 and 2010. Ulp.

Between 2004 and now, though, what happened?

  • This is a time of great change, said Linda in 2004 – everything is in flux. Though there was no way Linda (or I) knew this, a few months after the reading I was to be made an offer which turned much on its head and which, I suspect, has not yet worked its way through in terms of the possibilities it opened up.

  • Home is going to lose its feeling of safety – “home is where you go to rest your soul, and you will lose that”, says Linda – and so it came to pass a few months later, during renovations on our home that went bad. In the end, through one thing or another, it was almost a year before we got our home back and I know that that experience continues to define some things today.

  • There will be complete career change in 2007, Linda said. In April 2007 I left the security of full-time corporate employment, for the first time in a decade, and launched into a freelance career, including online media.

None of these may seem wow. Maybe they’re not. And certainly they weren’t in my head when the offers were made, or the decisions were taken. But they do represent the three defining moments of my past four years.

More to the point, though, listening to the tape again, I’ve felt myself inspired again, and grounded, by Linda’s analysis of my strengths (and weaknesses), obligations and roles. I’m more aware of the areas of avoidance in my life; I’m more focused on the processes I should go through – the checks and balances I should apply – when making difficult personal decisions.

And I’m going to read up on Joan of Arc.

Johannesburg readers can contact Linda Shaw on for private readings; alternatively, keep an eye on the website of the Astrology Society of South Africa - a directory of practising members is currently being updated.

(Heather Parker, Health24, June 2008)


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