Friday, April 3, 2009

The Gene for Astrology

I think I knew I was a Virgo in utero. I can barely remember a time that I didn’t know I was born under the sign of the Virgin. (That still seems like an oxymoron to me, Catholic upbringing and The Virgin Birth aside.)

My mom was especially good at remembering people’s birthdays. While she kept a calendar, I almost didn’t need one. Once I knew a person’s birthday, it was etched forever in my memory. To this day, I can tell you the birthdays of my first pen pal’s children, a dear friend, whose now 40ish kids I only met in person once in my life, when they were 5 and 7! This was one of my earliest hints that I had an aptitude for birth data.

When I went to my 25-year high school reunion in 1990, I reconnected with a good friend of my sister’s who had married a guy in my class. I was amazed at her dominant memory of me: “You were a free spirit, always looking for that something more.” The way she said it, I could see that far-off look in my eye as a teenager, a look that had an eerie similarity to a passage I later read in Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.

Early Influences
Speaking of Sun Signs, Linda’s book, first published in 1968, the year before I graduated from college, had an enormous influence on me. Her description of
Virgo was way more than the compulsive vacuum cleaning archetype. I know she planted the seed in me that would ultimately become “The Radical Virgo.” In something that could only be classified as a full-circle synchronicity, my article, “The Radical Virgo,” is linked on Conscious Evolution, a site that features the original Linda Goodman fan forums founded in 1999.

Linda never bought that Mercury was Virgo’s true ruler. She felt it was the distant planet Vulcan. Shades of Spock on Star Trek! He oozes Virgo. That series started in 1966. Maybe all this cool Virgo vulcanizing strengthened the image of the sign in our collective consciousness. No doubt the kick-butt
conjunction of Pluto and Uranus in Virgo had a lot to do with this visioning of the V-sign at that critical time. Peace, love, and the words from “The Age of Aquarius”—harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust.

By my twenties, I was throwing zodiac costume parties. If I knew where to track down all my guests for permission to publish their photos, you’d see some remarkably creative costumes! (
I love costumes.) How hard is it to dress like a Virgo? A white sheet and a shaft of wheat or a hyacinth in hand.

I think how we discover a passion or a gift is an important story. It is a developmental subtext in our memoirs we seldom consider. We tend to think more about where an interest took us rather than how it lured us and the pure poetry of its evolutionary arc.

Astrology lured me all right. It seduced me and sucked me into itself, like a comet being captured by the
Oort Cloud. Once I moved to California in 1973, it was inevitable that I’d be pulled into astrology’s orbit. On the Left Coast, the ‘60s and ‘70s never died, and by 1980, I found myself taking classes with two fantastic teachers, Gavin Carruthers and John Ruskell. One of their most impressive classes was Family Astrology, where we saw themes carry from the charts of grandparents to the latest generation. There was a lingering rumor in my family about the paternity of one of my cousins. Once we put his chart up with the rest of the relatives, there was no longer any question in my mind. He was an astro-genetic clone of our grandfather!

In this early experience, I learned to hand-compute charts with a calculator, thanks to a special method Gavin devised. (Did you guess he’s a Virgo?). Since I was always math phobic, I was the happiest person on earth when computers took over this drudgework and I could concentrate on interpretation.

Gavin and John weren’t just great astrologers and teachers; their passion for the art was contagious, and their star school in Gavin’s downtown Sacramento apartment was always creative to the max. I was exposed to so many great people through their classes and workshops. This is where I met Donna Cunningham and the late Jim Lewis, inventor of

Astrology Career Arc
That’s how I got hooked. By 1988, I hung up my shingle and became a pro. I did readings, wrote articles, gave presentations, went to conferences at home and abroad, published the international newsletter Chironicles (1992-95), and took 18 people on a trip to Greece in 1996 to share what we knew and to learn more about Chiron, my astrological specialty.

I also was guided to let go of it all, just as my work peaked. While this “stop work order” stunned me, I always listen to my inner guidance. My article on my Writer Joyce Mason website,
Being Chiron, tells more about my long hiatus from astrology and my current return in a new way.

Listening to inner guidance—reading the signs all around me, not just the astrological kind—is what brought me back. (For those want more details, read my article,
Your Cosmic Tractor Beam, if you haven’t already.)

Power Places
I have had some startling realizations along with this magnetic pull back to an old familiar place. My power, both as a person and a writer, is somehow inextricably linked to astrology.

On my birth father’s side, I am the great granddaughter of a Greek Orthodox priest. Our family is from the Island of
Kos, Greece where astrology was transferred from the East to the West. Although I do not know of any family member who practiced astrology, somehow this bit of history of our family’s place of origin vibrated in my DNA.

I am programmed to astrology and to “bridge work” in astrology, which is probably why I fell in love with Chiron. Chiron is the archetype of merging from one place to another, or as Barbara Hand Clow called Chiron in her book title, the
Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets.

So, that’s my astrology story, and I’m sticking to it.

I would love to hear yours, whether you’re a new stargazer, an ongoing student, or a professional astrologer. Please comment and tell us how you started your star trek and what you’ve learned from it, so far.


Photo: Joyce as Virgo, 1969.


Susannah said...

Well, what a lovely photo of you!

I started with the Linda Goodman Sun Signs book (It was my mothers)at about the age of 13 or 14.

I loved reading about the different signs and seeing the traits in the people around me.

Of course at the time I only knew my sun sign so was rather confused as to why I didn't fit all the Leo traits? and could also see myself in my Sisters Gemini description.

When I finally saw my birthchart and understood a little more, I understood that my Venus virgo and Taurus moon toned down my Leo Sun somewhat, and of course the Gemini that I recognised from my sisters description, was my ascendant.

That was the start of a long and still growing fascination with Astrology /Psychology and I love how much it teaches me about myself and others.

Another great post Joyce! :-)

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for sharing your astro-discovery story, Susannah! We were/are on the same page (of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, LOL!). I, too, did not feel like a "textbook" Virgo. Yet it's amazing how the simple alphabet of 12 signs, 12 houses, throw in a few aspects, can tell us so much. Learning the Sun signs is truly the start of something as big as the sky.

Anne Whitaker said...

Hi Joyce

what a great story!One of us astro-bloggers should collect around 20 "How I came to Astrology" tales, and turn it into a book - any takers out there?

I started out as a total dismisser. The strange tale of how all that changed can be found on the Not the Astrology Column page of my website, link