Article by Daliah Roth DFAstrolS
Walking the quiet streets of Oxford to Exeter College, the air felt inherently filled with esoteric wisdom, accumulated over centuries in the ether. I tentatively drank in this knowledge with each breath, then held for a moment. I thanked the universe that I was and that I was there – so grateful to be able to attend Summer School for the sixth time.
The Faculty of Astrological Studies’ annual Summer School takes place at Exeter College in Oxford (UK) and is one of the highlights of astrological events worldwide. Internationally acclaimed astrologers like Melanie Reinhart, Robert Hand and Richard Tarnas, to name just a few, come to teach here. Faculty alumni include Liz Greene, Mike Harding, Charles Harvey and Howard Sasportas, who are known for their pioneering books, which are essential for any serious student of astrology.
For me, studying with the Faculty – the oldest school for astrology in the West, founded in 1948 – is a true blessing, a Chiron experience: healing through the great teacher. Even after so many years, having received my Diploma from the Faculty, I still find courses and workshops at Summer School that satisfy my hunger for more knowledge and my desire to refine my skills. Highlights of this year for me were Medical Astrology with the wonderful Jane Ridder-Patrick, and Local Space Astrology with Glòria Roca – a fascinating technique to bring astrological magic into your house and home.
Founded in 1314, the mesmerising Exeter College is located in the heart of Oxford, right next to the famous Bodleian Library, which can be seen in many Harry Potter scenes. In her welcome speech, Cat Cox, the Faculty’s President, reminded us of some of the extraordinary students that have studied here in the past: writer Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), the Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and, of course, the remarkable J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings) who is said to have witnessed dancing fairies in the Fellows' Garden.
Consequently, the cherry on the cake of my experience was when I got home and watched the newly released Tolkien film on iTunes. Sixty minutes into the film, Tolkien (played by Nicholas Hoult) is scolded for traversing the very lawn we are not allowed to cross each summer, and he speaks to his professor in the mentioned breathtaking Fellows' Garden we visit for quiet contemplation in between classes. In the fencing scene, we see the Jacobean dining hall where we eat. Focussing on the delicious meals (compliments to the chef, by the way, who went out of his way to prepare wonderful vegan alternatives) is not an easy feat in surroundings so laden with history; there is just so much to explore! No doubt, a flair of Hogwarts is ever-present: it may seem like the many life-size portraits of former rectors looking down on you will come to life at any moment.
For anyone contemplating coming to learn at Summer School, it may just be the experience of a lifetime. (Having said that, my fascination with this place seems to correlate with past life memories I have of Tudor England, so I may be a bit biased.) This year more students than ever attended, travelling from as far as Macedonia, Iceland, Japan, China, Canada and the US, and coming from 39 different countries.
A thirst for real astrology and trustworthy mentors of this ancient art seems to be increasing. People seem to be growing in awareness and it is no longer considered ‘fringe’ or ‘woowoo’ to explore and apply techniques that cannot be validated by the limited approach of mainstream science – mirrored also by the increased demand for alternative medicines and energy healing. When I left to live in Nepal to study Tibetan Buddhism and meditation 21 years ago, many smirked and said, “Ha! She is trying to find herself.” These days, it is hard to find someone who has not tried some form of yoga or read about the many benefits that come from meditation. Even within academia, many great minds have realised that the Buddhist concept of emptiness as an explanation of the nature of reality correlates with the principles of quantum mechanics. Perhaps real astrology (which excludes sun sign columns, a.k.a. “horoscopes”) will also one day be fully acknowledged, appreciated and applied for its invaluable benefits: to help increase our awareness and bring healing and transformation into our lives.
Summer School attendees have the commitment to look into astrology in depth – beyond what can be found on the web or on phone apps. I have met such beautiful individuals here – teachers, staff and students alike – and I have seen many bond deeply, starting and rekindling life-long friendships. Again and again, I heard newcomers say, “I am starting to share with friends and family that I am now studying astrology earnestly, and they are ok with it.”
In the film, when asked what Tolkien’s novel was about, actor Hoult says: “It’s about friendship, fellowship, courage – but, mainly, it’s about the journey.” Summer School, for me, is just that. And, as Cat Cox put it so poignantly, each year there is a sense of homecoming.
Daliah Roth DFAstrolS is a London based astrologer with a background in Tibetan Buddhism and an interest in Peruvian shamanism and energy work. She helps clients around the world understand the potentials and challenges indicated in their birth chart and offers consultations in-person and online in English and German. Daliah can be reached through her website at thehighgateastrologer.com.