Empowerment. With my traditional chart ruler, Mars, involved in all sorts of astrological shenanigans right through this year, including a major Neptune transit, significant progressions and assorted return activity, I seem to have become keenly sensitised to the concept and to encounter it wherever I turn. I notice it has become a modern watchword for various charitable endeavours and is a term also frequently bandied about in corporate and political environments where harnessing its inherent emotional clout to one's cause can prove very useful.
For myself, a strict religious fundamentalist upbringing initially programmed me with dissonant and confusing messages about when and how it was appropriate to assert myself. A deep fear and mistrust of the world outside my religious community was instilled in me and independent thinking and action strictly forbidden, a rule enforced with the very real threat of expulsion and shunning by even my closest family and friends. Fate loomed large in the image of an omnipotent god to whom I should submit my own will and in whose infinitely wiser and more capable hands I should leave any injustice I personally experienced or observed in my environment. On the other hand, I should value the individual abilities with which God may have blessed me and diligently develop these in order to more effectively promote, and when necessary, defend my religion, mankind's only hope for salvation. Ideally, I ought to do this out of love, but really, there was no other option available given that this all powerful deity was imminently to crush all opposition in a worldwide cataclysm which only followers of my religion would survive. Very likely sometime next month. Or perhaps next year at the very latest. I had no way to identify the sensation at the time, but looking back this was quite the most disempowering experience of my young life. And as you can probably gather from the tone of my writing, having my personal energy and drive co opted to an external cause not of my choosing resulted in a great deal of unexpressed (and for a long time unacknowledged) anger deep within me.
The beauty of astrology, by contrast, is that it links fate and free will in a way which honours both the integrity of the universe and the expression of the individual, perhaps most obviously through the interplay of outer and personal planets. For example, my recent Neptune transit led me to the following conclusion. In our attempts to master the development and expression of our unique and individual identity in the context of the wider universe it seems to me we are like aspiring surfers who cannot control the nature of the ocean or the shape of any particular series of waves. Surfers, moreover, usually have no desire to do so. With a combination of appropriate equipment and dedicated practice a surfer learns to use his or her own unique, individual physical body to ride each wave with deep respect for the ocean's infinity of shifting moods and faces, and with gratitude for the opportunity to do so. Because satisfaction comes not from reshaping the fundamental nature of the sea, but from that moment of perfect balance where surfer and wave move in harmony and the individual may reach out to touch and connect with the encompassing ocean without being obliterated by it. It is in the exhilaration of that moment of combined mastery and unity that I have heard surfers comment they feel most alive.
We can none of us individually control the fundamental structure and function of the universe, the world, the society, the family or even the body, into which we are born. (If you're anything like me, though, you may need to engage in at least a few fruitless attempts to do so before you are ready to consciously acknowledge this fact, along with all its implications for your sense of personal potency!) These things are, in a sense, our fate, unavoidably shaping our individual growth and development to a significant degree. However, astrology provides us with an understanding of our unique individual relationship with our world and the personal equipment available to us so that we too can each learn to more effectively ride the waves of our own lives in moments of personal mastery and fulfilment.
Of course, no aspiring surfer wakes one morning, hops on a random plank and is immediately in tune with and perfectly balanced upon the ocean s/he seeks to ride. It seems to me we too must choose to actively develop our ability to stand as individuals in the world of which we are each an intrinsic part and which provides substance and context for our unique personal expression. My fundamentalist upbringing provided the perfect opportunity for me to become conscious of this choice through the anger it generated in me and I was eventually motivated and energised to take up my metaphorical surfboard and begin learning to participate more effectively in life rather than waiting, passive and unrealised, in the womb of my local congregation for God to destroy the entire ocean and replace it with something more "perfect." (A waist deep, indoor swimming pool, perhaps, gently heated and chlorinated and evenly lined with non slip tiles so that no one need ever exert themselves again.)
It probably won't astonish you to learn that my natal chart ruler, Mars, sits on a Sun/Moon midpoint in Pisces in hard aspect to a 1st house Neptune and an 11th house (chart co ruler) Pluto. It is perhaps not all that surprising I am inclined to see things as I have described them! But that really is the point. Astrology offers us the opportunity to consciously identify and develop an approach to life which is at once uniquely meaningful to and effective for each one of us. What could be more empowering? How do you see the relationship between fate and free will?
Disclaimer: I do not and have never surfed real ocean waves in the real world. I just like to watch now and then.
Clair has been interested in astrology for as long as she can remember, but really fell in love with its rich symbolic language once she began studying formally with the Faculty in 2007. She is now an advanced student working towards her diploma qualification and trying to fit in as much chart interpretation practice as possible alongside her other passion, geriatric care. A career in astrology is her long term goal.