The Astrologer as Healer

Why is astrology so often separated from the notion or practice of healing? Many of us, when we hear the word ‘healing’ in the context of astrology, immediately think of that vast and daunting field officially known as Medical Astrology. With its mountain of complex techniques, rules, correspondences, midpoints, hylegs, strictures… no wonder the average student and  practitioner shies away from thinking about healing.

In centuries past, astrology and healing were one. Astrologers were also physicians, wise women, herbalists, midwives, alchemists, and healers of all sorts. This split between astrology and healing parallels the split between science and religion, between the sacred and the profane, physics and mysticism,   mind and body, all of which have developed through our collective embrace of the mechanistic world view of Descartes and Newton.

Much of today’s astrology is a reflection of this analytical, left brained, mechanistic approach to life. The computerisation of astrology, while a wonderful timesaver, is reinforcing this trend. We now have an endless array of instant data at our disposal. Scores of techniques, points, charts, systems, harmonics, fixed stars, asteroids, midpoints. All of these techniques and points,  choices and options, are useful and interesting. But, there is a real danger of becoming so overwhelmed in such a mass of data, numbers and paper, that we may begin to lose sight of the whole chart before us.

Even more than that, perhaps the element of the sacred in our ‘divine art/science’ is being lost. I remember the joys of drawing a  chart by hand in the days before computers, watching it unfold as I laboured over each calculation. I coloured it. It felt like a mandala. I do wonder whether that sense of play and of the sacredness of astrology may be disappearing through the computerisation we value so highly.

The New Physics is reformulating our divided Newtonian/mechanistic world view into a more synthesised ‘whole’, or New Paradigm. Some physicists are beginning to see the interpenetration of matter and mind. Perhaps it is also  time for a new astrological paradigm: time perhaps to resore a greater sense of ‘wholeness’ to our astrology.

 

Healing means ‘becoming whole’

To adopt a healing approach towards astrology, to see ourselves as  healers, means  to question our belief systems and to change the way we look at a birth chart. It also means to understand and widen our concept of just what constitutes ‘healing’.

The word ‘heal’ comes from the Germanic hailaz meaning ‘whole’ To heal is to make whole. And what an apt symbol of ‘wholeness’ we have in the round form of the horoscope. The dictionary defines to ‘heal’ as to “restore (person, wound) to health;  become sound or whole”.

To look at the birth chart from a ‘healing’ perspective is to see it as a symbol of our wholeness, of our journey towards individuation or self-actualisation. As astrologers, do we attempt to view the whole chart, to look at the purpose of the life, and focus on what sort of whole embraces the bits? Or do we focus on the bits, the points, the transits, the events at any one time? Do we see life as an ongoing cyclical process, a process of cycles within cycles, or as a series of linear events separated by moments of time?

If we start to see the birth chart before us as a sacred symbol, a mandala, we can begin to shift our perspective to a more healing-oriented one, because we are now looking for wholeness and potential, meaning and purpose. This, to me, is a healing approach. It’s looking at the whole. It’s shifting our focus from events to process, from parts to wholes.

 

Astrology as revealer of the life ‘purpose’

My personal view of astrology is that it reveals our cosmic purpose, if we could only but read it! Dane Rudhyar described the birth chart  as our “sacred name”. [1] Others have described the horoscope as a blueprint, a map, a plan. Where, then, has this plan or map of our psyche, this mandala, come from, if not from something stupendous, something much bigger than our small humble selves? We can call this ‘stupendous something’ god/goddess, the cosmos, the universe, the divine, the transpersonal, the collective unconscious.

The purpose of astrology, surely,  is to try to glean some tiny glimpse of the nature of our role in this great cosmic drama. A purpose-centred astrology seeks to answer the age-old questions: who am I? , why am I here?, where have I come from?, where am I going?

I believe that the sacred signature of the birth chart can reveal  our highest potential, or that which we may become.  It can also suggest ways in which we may best participate in the process of unfolding and actualising this seed-potential, through an analysis of the transits and progressions. We cannot look at these areas if we are focussed on answering the client’s every question, if our practice consists primarily of advice-giving, warning and prognostication. There is a place, of course, for all types of astrology. However, if we wish to reconnect with the ‘astrologer as healer’ archetype, we need to look at the chart more from this perspective of purpose and wholeness. We can still address the real everyday concerns  about health, wealth, love and career.

 

Reconnecting with astrologer-as-healer archetype

To bring the healing perspective into our chart analysis, we need to balance the current left-brained focus of astrology with techniques which are more right-brained in their orientation. This will help us to open up more whole-brain processes. These techniques can open up a more intuitive, imaginative and  feeling approach to chart interpretation.

 

How to look at the chart from a healing perspective

Look at the whole chart

Look at the whole before looking at the umpteen  astrological bits. Just look at it, stare at it. Where do you feel drawn? Look at the shape. Are the planets clustered in a particular way? Is there a loner? Look at the patterns. Colour the aspects first (eg. red for hard, green or blue for flowing) and look at the pattern or patterns  formed by all these interconnecting lines. Sometimes you will find a tent, stars of various harmonics and degrees of symmetry, interlaced envelopes, an arrow, a box. Use your creative imagination. See the mandala take shape.

Focus on the life purpose

I suggest looking at the whole chart and trying to sense the overall life purpose before proceeding with any predictive work. Obviously, the whole chart reveals our purpose. But to become specifically purpose-centred in our approach, it helps to focus on:

The Ascendant – as significator of the soul’s purpose in Alice Bailey’s Esoteric Astrology [2]
The  Nodes – as significators of how to integrate the yin and yang, or lunar and solar functions
The Sun – as significator of the integrated personality and creative potential
The Midheaven – as significator of vocational potential, and how the other energies of the chart can be filtered through a meaningful contribution to the world.

Focussing on purpose does not preclude looking at problem areas. The shadow areas need to be brought into the light, recognised, accepted, embraced, and integrated into who and  what we are. Part of our ‘purpose’ may be to experience the pain of suffering in some area of life, and to learn from that suffering something about compassion, forgiveness, becoming more assertive, developing strength, accepting one’s limits, and so on.

Focus on the resolution of conflicts

Focus on the stressful (red aspects) and get a sense of the essential nature of the stress. For example, with a T-square, there may be a picture of excessive energy, frustration, anger. Instead of dwelling on what our parents may have done to us to create this problem, (although awareness of this is important), and instead of accepting this ‘problem’ or complex as blind, irrevocable fate, we can look at it in a different way. We see the T-square, we identify and recognise the problem, and communicate this to the client, but then we can look at ways of resolving the dilemma of the T- square. [3] We can look at ways to facilitate outlets for this excessive energy through trines and sextiles to the T- square. We can focus on a more positive expression of a ‘troublesome’ planet, eg. the apex planet of the T-square. We can focus on synthesising the polarities of an opposition. We can find resolution points. A midpoint is a resolution point. The empty leg of the T-square is a resolution point. It helps to visualise a positive meaning for this point, in terms of the sabian degree meaning, sign and house placement.

The Sabian Symbols

These are a set of symbolic pictures for each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac, and are an excellent tool for helping us to open our more intuitive right brain awareness.  The sabian symbols give a qualitative meaning to our planets and points, and greatly enhance our understanding of and feel for a planet.  For example, one of the archetypal meanings of Chiron is the ‘rainbow bridge’.  [4]  The sabian symbol for the degree of Chiron in Chiron’s discovery chart is 4 Taurus: “The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”. [5]

Re-imagining aspects

A useful technique is to imagine ‘hard’ aspects as flowing aspects. This does not mean turning a square into something it isn’t.

We may struggle with a Moon/Pluto square, for example, and all the issues of abandonment, rejection, powerlessness and fear that this implies.  But, at some point, we may also also choose to imagine how we would express a Moon/Pluto trine. We can observe how our friends and clients express their Moon/Pluto trines. We may be able to learn some new ways of expressing that Moon/Pluto energy. This involves opening up new channels, and reprogramming old ways of being, feeling and thinking that may have outlived their usefulness.

Of course, there is a fine line between attempting to find more harmonious ways of expressing our Moon/Pluto square and repressing our Moon/Pluto issues. A healing approach includes accepting who we are, warts and all, our darkness as well as our light. We need to retain an awareness of our hard natal aspects, but we don’t have to stay stuck in our pain and complexes forever.

Balancing the Elements

This is a very useful approach developed by medical astrologer Ingrid Naiman. [6]  It helps us to look at the chart from a healing perspective, through bringing more balance to areas of the chart which are out of balance. With the aid of some simple guidelines, we can determine the constitutional type by assessing the balance and mixture of the elements. Naiman has also outlined a range of therapies which assist in ‘pacifying excess’ and ‘stimulating lack’ of a particular element. The principle is simple. Look at the chart and note if there is an excess of, say,  the fiery element. This is increased by aspect patterns between fiery planets (Sun, Mars, Jupiter), by a cardinal emphasis, by transits of Mars.

If the person is prone to headaches, fevers, irritability, accidents, recklessness, eruptions, violence, and so on, there may be a need to balance or heal this excess fire. Water pacifies fire.  We can therefore recommend water in all  its shapes and forms to antidote this excess –  drinking lots of fluids, going swimming, cold showers,  avoiding hot and spicy food. Someone with an excess of the air element may benefit from earthy or grounding activities, like gardening, walking, rhythmic exercise, routine. I have found this  ‘elemental’ approach to be a very simple and very practical technique.

Focus on Chiron

This is an entire subject unto itself, but to focus on the nature of Chiron in the birth chart, by sign, house and aspect, is to bring a healing dimension into our chart work. Chiron is the archetype of the wounded healer. It reveals where we have been wounded, where we tend to be the wounder, and where and how we can use our own painful experience in this area to heal, teach and mentor others.

 

A basket of techniques to facilitate a whole-brain approach

1.  PRAYER AND MEDITATION

Meditate on the birth chart. Think deeply about it, while washing the dishes, having a shower. Picture it in your mind. Sense the whole. Visualise it as a mandala. Just prior to a reading, say a prayer, dedication, invocation or do a meditation. Ask for help and guidance in working with your client.

2.  OTHER DIVINATORY TOOLS

A range of divinatory tools, including tarot cards and the I Ching can be used to provide an extra focus for a reading. I use the Findhorn angel cards. I focus on the chart in question, think of the person, say a little prayer sometimes, and I ask for three cards that describe what the client is most wanting or needing to focus on right now.

3. DRAWING AND COLOURING THE CHART

Hand drawing and colouring the chart help us to attune to it more deeply. It becomes a form of sacred play, and enables areas of the brain, other than the rational parts, to open up. Drawing pictures in the houses,  doing a collage chart, and adding the sabian symbol meanings, all help to enhance this more right brain awareness.

4.  EXPERIENTIAL TECHNIQUES

It is possible to act out the planets in our charts. We can do this on our own, in our heads, in writing, or with a group. Another technique is to feel our chart as a real space around us. Notice where east is in relation to where we are facing, and feel the sunrise energies of the Ascendant pour into us. Face the direction of our Midheaven and contact that sense of purpose and contribution to the world.

I once constructed a very large zodiac herb garden, and divided it into twelve segments, and planted corresponding herbs in each house/sign of the zodiac. I would sit in the centre and look towards each house and feel the energy of  the planets as they were reflected through my choice of plants. I walked around the space and stepped into each of my houses and each of my planets, and experienced them in new ways. Experiential techniques like this can be very useful and great fun!

5.  PSYCHOSYNTHESIS AND GESTALT TECHNIQUES

Techniques drawn from Psychosynthesis [7]   and Gestalt  psychology  [8] are also very useful in helping the chart to come alive. These techniques involve attributing parts of the personality to each of the planets,  and personifying them. For example we may see our Mars as  The Fighter, our Scorpio Moon as The Control Freak, our Aquarian Sun as The Rebel. We can set up dialogues between these ‘subpersonalities’, and attempt to resolve conflicts through each recognising the other and coming to some sort of acceptance or compromise. This is something we can do through journal writing, or as psychodrama in a group setting.

6.  HEALING TOOLS

There are as many healing modalities as there are people. However, I have found some work particularly well in conjunction with a chart reading. One of my favourites is the flower remedies, including the Bach, Californian and Australian collections, amongst numerous others. We can use the birth chart to increase the client’s awareness and help pinpoint emotional issues and mental dilemmas. The flower remedies can then help the client to make those changes and psychological shifts which the reading has highlighted as useful for future growth.  Flower remedies are a simple tool which can motivate the client to make that decision, to take the necessary action, to make the much-needed changes. They help the client transmute awareness into action, and can greatly enhance the effectiveness of a reading.

 

We are all Healers

There  is a healer in us all. And I do believe that all astrologers are, at heart, healers or whole-makers. Look at our own horoscope – if that is not a symbol of wholeness, what is?

-by Candy Hillenbrand

 

 

Notes:
[1] Rudhyar, Dane., Person Centered Astrology, Santa Fe: Aurora Press, 1981, p. 43.
[2] Bailey, Alice A., Esoteric Astrology, NY & London: Lucis Publishing Co, 1979.
[3] Marks, Tracy., How to Handle your T-square, Arlington, Mass: Sagittarius Rising, 1979.
[4] Hand Clow, Barbara., Chiron: Rainbow Bridge between the Inner and Outer Planets, St Paul, MN: Llewellyn Pub., 1990.
[5] Hill, Lynda & Richard., The Sabian Symbols as an Oracle, Sydney: White Horse Books, 1995, p. 30.
[6] Naiman, Ingrid., The Astrology of Healing Vol 2 – The Elements: Symptoms of Disease, Santa Fe: Seventh ray Press, 1989.
[7] Sasportas, Howard., “Subpersonalities and Psychological Conflict”, in Greene & Sasportas., The Development of the Personality, London & NY: Arkana, 1987, pp. 165.
[8] Marks, Tracy., Turning Oppositions into Conjunctions: Gestalt Therapy and Astrology, Arlington, Mass: Sagittarius Rising, 1980.