Saturday, 21 August 2010

Rob Hand in Oxford

This little chap is a guardian of the
chapel at Exeter College
When it comes to casting the film Rob Hand: Astrologer and Scholar, the first person they'll call is surely Philip Seymour Hoffman. You may have seen him in Capote or The Talented Mr Ripley. He already has the voice just right, and the posture.

So imagine Seymour Hoffman looking a lot like Santa Claus but without the red suit. Then you will be able to see in your mind's eye, the figure Hand cuts, strolling across the ancient quad at Exeter College. Short, paunchy with the gait of a sailor; his snowy hair fluffs about in the summer breeze and a stream of acolytes trails after him, each waiting to get a word with the master. He's clearly a generous man, because he dispenses (hard-earned) wisdom with grace and without condescension.

Exeter from Turl Street
For those of you who don't know, Rob Hand is one of the most respected astrologers alive today. He's been at this game for 50 years or so and it shows. I've heard talks by a lot of astrologers in my time, and I haven't heard anyone yet with quite his combination of compassion, erudition and practicality. He sees all the little tiny parts of the chart and still keeps a grip on the broad story - or as he would put it, scenario.

I watched him look at about eight charts this week at the Faculty of Astrological Studies Summer School, here in Oxford at Exeter College, and it was remarkable to see such a synthesis of knowledge and sensitivity.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

How I struck oil on holiday

On Winchelsea Beach, the mud is dark sable. Sometimes, you slither across the top of it. But sometimes your foot sinks right in, mud spurts between your toes. And sometimes, you sink much deeper, over your ankles, up to the knees. When that happens, your feet encounter another texture, silkier than the ordinary mud, yet more delicious. You pull your foot out and it's covered with thick black goo, much, much deeper and darker in colour than the rest of the mud. It's darker than the darkest chocolate, absolute black.

Yes, you have struck oil.

My children and I struck oil daily a couple of week ago, which set me thinking about the black stuff and what the planets have to say about it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Times are changing

This is from an old copy of the defunct magazine Punch. I can never see the joke, but it does seem appropriate.
We had dinner with an entertainingly gloomy Irishman last night. He's clearly enjoying the credit crunch a lot - because it means that he can wallow in deepest pessimism, which makes him strangely cheerful. So far he's been very accurate in his economic forecasting - but then it is his job.

He's one of those people who thinks astrologers are in general deluded, slightly sad-sack individuals who need to prop themselves up with a false set of beliefs in order to make their small lives more bearable. I hope - and indeed expect - he assumes I am bizarre exception to the usual rule.

The funny thing is though, his whole feeling about the current situation in the world reflects exactly what the planets are telling us. How annoyed he would be to know that the people making predictions closest to his own are a crazy bunch of astrologers.

I don't think this feeling of trouble ahead is true of everyone. Unless they have already been directly effected by the crunch and its consequences, a surprising number of people still seem to be under the illusion that somehow things are going to get back to how they were in the nineties and noughties.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

When it rains…

I've been looking at pictures of the Biblical floods in Pakistan, listening to the statistics - more people affected by this than by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Is this possible?

So I found a map and realised that the area being flooded is the Indus Valley itself, one of the cradles of agriculture. Two of the world's earliest cities, Harrappa and Mohejodaro were built here, maybe 4000 years ago.

The people who lived there all that time ago worshipped a Mother Goddess. She of the twin snakes, goddess of the corn, similar to Demeter in Greece, Ceres to the Romans.

And today it is - or was - one of Asia's great breadbaskets.

So what's going on in the sky that might relate to the disaster(s)?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Stress for Leos

Tonight is the New Moon at 17 Leo in "interesting" aspect the outer planets. Anyone with a birthday around now - that is between August 5 and August 15 is probably feeling very stressed out. You are under tremendous pressure from the planets.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

What is the point of your astrology?

This is one tiny bit of the magnificent Jantar Mantar or astronomical observatory in Jaipur built by Jai Singh II in the early 18th century. Those Mughals took their astrology seriously.


I had an interesting conversation with a friend visiting from Calcutta last weekend. He's an important business associate of my partner, and from his point of view, our prosperity is his prosperity and vice versa. In short, we are all one family in the eyes of the Hindu gods. I am very pleased with this because I've always wanted Shiva, Lakshmi and the gang in my house. Because of this interest, my friend likes to make sure our house is arranged appropriately and we're not doing any silly Western things such as cooking facing South or leaving our shoes in the wrong place.

Now, I know a bit about Indian astrology, but I'm no expert. Nevertheless, I recognised the rings on my friend's fingers as astrological remedies.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Howard Hodgkin - soul spa

Home, Home on the Range, 2001 - 2007 © Howard Hodgkin, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

I went to see an exhibition of recent work by Howard Hodgkin at Modern Art Oxford. Wow, so great.

Beautiful. Powerful. Moving. It's painting that you drink in with your eyes as you feel it in your solar plexus. I came out feeling as if I'd just taken my soul to a spa.

Howard Hodgkin - painter, print-maker, collector - puts pure emotion into colour. So I wondered what his chart was like, and how it would compare to other great colourists - Matisse, Hockney, Warhol… and especially Rothko, whose work speaks to the soul in a similar way.

Venus is the planet that rules art and also colour and harmony, so I'll look at her first. I thought I'd pop in th asteroid Pallas as well, whose proper name is Pallas Athena, goddess of, among other things, weaving. This asteroid is said to be prominent in the charts of artists, craftsmen, people who seek and create patterns.

So the results were uncanny - and not quite what I expected.


Monday, 2 August 2010

Between land and sea


I've just come back from a week at the beach in Winchelsea, East Sussex. It's an uncanny kind of place with a wide tide. At high tide, it's an ordinary shingle beach. In the distance you can see the eerie power station at Dungeness and a huge windfarm. As the tide goes out another world is revealed that has been hidden under the water: seaweedy, muddy and strange. There's a petrified forest under there, so as you slither through the crab-ridden rockpools, you have to be careful not to sink into oily mudholes. The mudflats pop and gurgle and skitter with life - altogether it is enchantingly different and delightful.

It set me thinking about the places between things: liminal space and where we find that in our own lives.

Hear the lion's roar


The Sun's gone into the sign of Leo now. It's full summer, the time of the Lion, as hot as it gets in the Northern hemisphere. Leo is a fire sign of course and its ruler is the Sun, by far the brightest thing in our solar system. No wonder Leos have a reputation for  loving the limelight.

In my experience this is one of the Sun signs that's easiest to feel. Often Leo Suns are the people who can change the energy in a room as soon as they enter - for better or worse.

If you have any other planets in Leo in your own chart, they will be feeling the warmth of the Sun now.