Coming Home to My True Beliefs
© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved
ow that I’ve shared my previous post with set-up and background, I can finally tell you the details of what happened during my last Jupiter Return and everything it set in motion. The exact date was October 28, 2006, but as I said in Part 1, I started sensing it coming as early as June of that year.
By August, I was in full spiritual quest mode. I felt what I was missing was ritual, as much as that can be missing for a Radical Virgo with a Cap Moon who works hard to make mundane, repetitious acts almost holy. I had been leading celebrations at the solstices and equinoxes for almost two decades, even performing marriages with my Universal Life Church credential. Suddenly it wasn’t enough.
The Coming of the Three Astrologers …
The Church Steps
My first stop was my local Greek Orthodox Church. This would be an opportunity to better explore my Greek roots, as everything revolves around church in the Greek community. If ritual was what I wanted, Orthodoxy had it in Jupiterian proportions! My birth mom had already exposed me to the complete pomp and circumstance of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and its extreme length, 1.5 hours. I treasure liturgical music, and this would remain the hook to get me to look at anything that provided me with that sacred sound.
Of course, I should have known anything with “orthodox” in the name could not pass muster with my Uranian Sun, even though my Saturn-ruled Moon was in hog heaven. I even took a class and read a book my mom had bequeathed me in her large collection on the history of Orthodoxy. After three or four class meetings, the rigid ideology crossed the line of my sensibilities. Everyone was warm and wonderful to me, and I definitely loved singing the liturgy in both Greek and English. I got that ritual was still “it” for me, but I knew it was time to bless this brief experience and move on.
Next stop: An Episcopalian service, the church comedian Robin Williams calls “Catholic Light.” There I could go to communion just for having been baptized Christian as a baby, no strings attached. In the Greek Orthodox Church, I could not, because I was not baptized into Orthodoxy. We second-class spiritual citizens did get to have blessed bread at the end of the service, a consolation prize unless or until we decided to join the fold. In Catholicism, I’d have to go to church and confess four decades of “falling away” and every sin I could think of. This would be difficult, as I lived my life by a strict moral compass in my own mind, and anything I had learned to confess as a child would truly be trivial compared to the real issues of my life.
The Episcopalians were also warm and welcoming, but the Protestant version of Mass just did not feel right to me. It was like drinking near beer. I guess I’m not a Bud Light or a Catholic Light. I finally figured, if I’m going to do ritual, I may as well do the real thing. I knew it was time to face the biggest abandonment I had ever experienced, even bigger than my birth mom giving me up for adoption … the abandonment I felt by Mother Church. My inability to rectify my sense of what was right with the church of my childhood was a bitter loss to me. It never stopped hurting.
I had known for decades that if I was ever going to be whole, I’d have to heal the residual pain from my Catholic childhood. I dreaded it and put it off as long as possible. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Me, Joyce, the Queen of Reunions. If I could only have one t-shirt with one word printed on it, it would be Gutsy. Yet I trembled emotionally at facing and healing this last loss.
Most but not all my negative experiences with the Catholic religion happened at the hands of the “good” sisters. They were well meaning spinsters who often practiced child abuse in the psychological, if not physical sense (some did both), thinking they were doing God’s will. To be fair, I had gone to two schools in communities forty miles apart. One had a much more painful impact on me, particularly at the most raw-nerve time of life, puberty. I was a very sensitive child, serious about being in good with God. That’s the problem. While other kids could let a lot of the doublespeak nonsense roll off, I took it way too seriously.
When the moment of truth came and I knew I had to “just do it,” to borrow the Nike slogan, I was ready to put on my cross-trainers to pound the pavement and find the right parish. I had to feel safe in the right place to put a toe back into the holy water.
Then I remembered a church I’d heard about more than once, supposedly very liberal. To protect the privacy of everyone concerned, I’ll simply call the church St. Godsend’s or St. G’s and change the names of individuals associated with it. A friend had attended St. G’s in the past and raved about its open-mindedness. She also turned me onto Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hay, a book of often cosmic poems, prayers and rituals by a Catholic priest that got me in touch with the idea that Catholics might have changed since 1966, when I had last set foot in a church unless forced to because of a wedding or funeral.
By then the exact date of my Jupiter Return was days away. I talked a friend into going with me to the weekly Taizé service. For those not familiar with it, Taizé, it is an ecumenical community, started in France, that brings together people of various faiths and beliefs, primarily though a unique and simple form of meditative chanting. Churches all over the world offer Taizé gatherings. Here’s a sound clip to give you the idea. My birth mom loved Taizé and had lent me several audiotapes with the chanting. As I’ve already mentioned, the word enchantment is very literal for me.
However, being out of touch with the liturgical calendar unlike the days when I had it memorized, I didn’t realize that I was arriving on the doorstep of St. G’s on November 1, All Saints Day. (If you also realized it was the anniversary of Chiron’s discovery in 1977, go to the head of the class!) When we arrived on the church steps for the 6:00 singing, I learned that Taizé would not be happening that night, but rather a regular Mass. It was what they affectionately called at St. G’s a holy day of opportunity. I stayed anyway. They had me at opportunity instead of the traditional holy day of obligation. St. G’s passed my Uranian test in the first five minutes.
Not only that, I’d learn that they had a ministry supportive of gays, fed the homeless, and walked the talk of the life Jesus asked us to live more than I had ever experienced in any church of any denomination. I was in love. I dove into the deep end of the baptismal font.
In nothing flat, I had helped restore a Returning Catholics program that had not run for years. I was soon on several important committees, including welcoming and communications. The people I met were beautiful, and the community was amazing—everything I’d ever hoped for.
By Christmas when they read a version of the Gospels that actually referred to the Wise Men as astrologers, I felt I’d found my own Bethlehem Star.
In 2007, Tim and I had our marriage blessed or convalidated in the Church, repeating our vows in the Sacrament of Matrimony. I am still touched to this day by that step. It’s our favorite wedding. (We’ve had three: eloped to Reno in ‘98, vows repeated with a Unity minister at home the next year with closest family and friends, and our sacramental marriage in late ‘07.) Both the wedding and after-party were perfect, attended and in part created by our closest intimates. (My small women’s spirituality group, the metaphysical one, provided the music.) I think we both felt “more married” after that because of the Catholic view on divorce. It completed a circle. We had met and fallen in love as adolescents in a Church-run school. Now we finally had the wedding I had dreamed of back when I was a young girl in a place with stained glass windows where sacred things had happened for nearly a century. I truly did feel my marriage was more blessed. We had done the ultimate marriage ritual!
The Church Ladies
Around the same time, I also became involved in an online group of women bloggers I’ll call the Bloggirls. It wasn’t long into this adventure that I realized they were primarily conservative Christians. There were more prayers flying than howdy do’s, and sometimes I actually felt like I was at a revival meeting. (I’m not kidding, we’re taking “Praise the Lords” and talk of the devil!)
The atmosphere was so Jerry Falwell; one Jewish woman who joined the group asked innocently if it was only for Christians. I was learning a lot about my new career as a blogger, and I was willing to let this experience stretch me for the education, including the expansion of my tolerance for religious conservatives, the one place my own relationship to the Golden Rule could have used a little tune-up.
Ultimately, I found many warm and creative people there, despite our differences in spiritual expression. However, it just got too hard to muffle myself. I felt I couldn’t be me. It was one of the primary reasons I decided to leave the group after less than six months. I dove in. I swam. I jumped out.
Evolution—Written in the Stars
I truly thought I’d found my permanent, spiritual home at St. G’s. The retreats and workshops were so liberal and liberating. We did Soul Collage and Sister Angie even mentioned openly the parallel between these self-created spiritual art cards and tarot cards. Another nun, Sr. Meg, had studied with the likes of Brian Swimme, cosmologist and director of the California School of Integrative Studies. She even hinted at astrology’s role in the huge cycles of human evolution. Nuns had really come a long way from the penguins who taught me the 1950s! When their habits came off and their street clothes came on, some of them became both more worldly and more cosmic.
During this time, I discovered a book by Rev. Scotty McLennan called Finding Your Religion. The Introduction was written by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, an old friend of Scotty’s. Scotty was in part the inspiration for Trudeau’s Rev. Scot Sloan character in Doonesbury.
Finding Your Religion was all about the struggle I was having between my childhood faith and adult spirituality. One of its most helpful chapters contains a Faith Stage Checklist. It describes seven stages of spiritual development from Stage 1 (Magic, full of spirits, demons and a God that makes everything happen, good or bad) to Stage 7 (Unity, a sense of community with all traditions and seeing God in everything).
Another evolutionary idea I picked up in one of Sr. Meg’s retreats: As we grow in spiritual consciousness, we tend to evolve in three broad steps. First, we identify with God the Father (more childlike). Second, we look to God the Son (a mid-step that literally brings heaven down to earth). Third and finally, we perceive God more in his/her Holy Spirit persona. (God is everywhere and in everything.) I was so Scotty’s Stage 7 and Sr. Meg’s Holy Spirit Stage. Free as a bird/dove—still. 
Astrology, Catalyst to Completion
In early 2009 at the last Returning Catholics meeting of the season, one of the people thinking of coming back to the Church asked about its view on astrology. I jumped in. I qualified that the following was my opinion as a former practicing astrologer, but I saw nothing in astrology that flew in the face of true spirituality. Like any tool, the issue is how you use it. We have free will. Astrology merely describes our psycho-spiritual assets and challenges. I blah-blahed it awhile along those lines.
Then Sr. Natalie jumped in and added her two cents. Her bottom line was “astronomy yes, astrology no.” The top of my head almost blew off.
Sr. Nat and I had many discussions in the past. She loved my broad spiritual perspective, volunteered her Sun sign, and told me she enjoyed singing “The Age of Aquarius” from Hair. I was angry.
On reflection, I wasn’t really angry with her. I felt she was expressing “the party line,” which may or may not have been consistent with her own beliefs. But this incident crossed the line for me. My anger told me that, and I had to pay attention and figure out what it meant.
Ultimately, this catalytic moment made me aware that nothing I had ever experienced has brought me closer to God/Goddess/ All That Is than astrology. No one was ever going to tell me it was wrong. Talk about a defining moment. I will always love Sr. Nat for giving me that cusp of crystal clarity.
It was February 2009. Over the next few months, I became increasingly uncomfortable going to Mass or being at St. G’s at all. I couldn’t explain it. The rituals that had been so old-home-week that I devoured like comfort food during a cold suddenly no longer fit. My discomfort was acute and felt like depression. Soon I simply stopped attending and waited for inner guidance on what was next.
I didn’t just bolt. I let key people know what had shifted for me. I knew I was still an astrologer, and I was unwilling to be in a context where I’d have to suppress my self-expression to an uncomfortable degree, like I did with the Bloggirls.
I didn’t have to wait long. As I have shared in other posts, a reader who resonated in big way to my original 1991 article, “The Radical Virgo,” struck up some intense e-mail conversations with me. He convinced me my voice was needed now more than ever. Speaking of need, I needed another blog like a hole in my head. One kept me from getting to longer writing projects as it was. How I’d manage two of them, I had no idea.
Early 2009 held a lot of fruition of the seeds planted during my October/ November 2006 Jupiter Return. I launched the Radical Virgo on Spring Equinox of ’09. It took off like wildfire from the gate.
As time has gone on, I’ve realized even more acutely that astrology is my destiny. Like the Magi before me, I still seek the star of the Inner Light that the Christ child represents and how earth and sky are seamlessly intertwined. (Religion talks about getting to heaven. Astrology provides a map of the heavens and a personal GPS for getting there.) I respect people who think you can only get to “heaven” by being born again in Christianity. My only disagreement is with the idea that there is only one path.
My own opinion (this is a Jupiter Return article, so I can’t resist): I often say it’s a good thing Jesus resurrected, because he’d be rolling over in his grave over the way some Christians follow him. Jesus didn’t want to be king, to be put on a pedestal, and he was not conservative. He was a liberal. (See Jesus Was a Liberal: Reclaiming Christianity for All by Scotty McLennan.) Jesus told us we could do everything he did. To me, we are saved by how Jesus taught us to live through developing our loving kindness and inner light and by following the guiding star of our intuition. The death of Jesus was a heinous political act, and I think humanity could have been “saved” without it—a view actually held by a Christian minority. I find the fixation on Jesus’s death and the concept that he had to sacrifice himself like a ritual animal to be macabre at worst. At best, it sends the wrong message—that we can only be saved by pain and denying the flesh. Why would we come to earth in a physical body to evolve, if being a both a spirit and in a body weren’t important?
I can’t resist a little gallows humor here that comes from a pithy Easter article I read in my local community newspaper a couple of years ago. The religion beat author put forth in so many words how unhealthy he thought it was that Christians wear crosses, a symbol of the form of capital punishment in Jesus's day and his personal vehicle of death. He asked us to imagine Jesus coming to earth later than he did, getting into trouble with the law, and being executed. Would we run around wearing a noose or electric chair jewelry? A 14-carat gold lethal injection needle? Negative Neptune often comes to “light” best through humor. I prefer the fish as a symbol of Christianity, especially for its association with Neptune, feeding body and spirit (the loaves and fishes), and the fact that it’s highly likely that Jesus was actually a Pisces. (See Astrology’s Pew in Church by Don “Moby Dick” Jacobs.)
Jesus was life affirming. He taught us to break bread together. He emphasized that “communion,” the ultimate symbolic expression of sharing, is sacred. We are each other, starting with being Jesus himself—something the mystery of transubstantiation has ingrained in the collective consciousness for over 2,000 years. We are in communion every time we simply love and respect each other and practice the consummate commandment, The Golden Rule. This is Neptune at its most positive.
The idea that we still fight wars over religion and spiritual beliefs in 2011 stuns me. As far as I’m concerned, any way up the mountain to high spiritual ground is the road to good, unless it involves hurting others in the process. It doesn’t take blowing people up to be hurtful; hurt also can come from judgment and thoughts of damnation. I really appreciate it when people with more conservative religious views than mine don’t voice, or even think, that I’ll burn in hell. Thanks for leaving the care and keeping of my soul up to me and my Maker, regardless of how I view Him, Her or It.
I’ll never forget an ill-advised conversation I had with my conservative Catholic landlord in the late ‘90s. I was telling him about the poor Feng Shui in my apartment, where the bathroom and commode were in the money corner. (What was I thinking? I was obviously having one of those unpredictable Uranian outbursts.) He told me I should fear for my immortal soul, get help, and return to the Church. He also felt that the sure sign of Armageddon was when gay people “took over” or had any normal rights. We couldn’t be on more opposite poles of that issue. I think when gays have full rights is the sign that we’ve finally entered the Age of Aquarius and some promise of peace. Gays are the remaining “lepers” in society in the view of too many. We know how Jesus offered nothing but compassion and healing for the suffering and disenfranchised. Whether or not a person is a Christian, Jesus had some admirable and amazing teachings on how to live. He was also a huge iconoclast who broke many rules of his day—very Uranian.
Astrology, My Star
I’ve had numerous emotional conflicts about being an astrologer and fought this obvious way I’m supposed to serve for years. The schism between knowing astrology is what I should do and being afraid to do it has forced me to come to terms with my own chart complexity and some painful past lives as an astrologer. I have finally surrendered. While I tell people all the time that astrology is not a religion; it is a major part of my spiritual perspective. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that the punch line of my last Jupiter Return was to help me realize that astrology is, indeed, my consummate Star of Bethlehem.
I still sing liturgical music in the shower and other places. (My ex-altar-boy husband is never sure when I may burst into a requiem. At least he understands the Latin.) One of my favorite Masses is Haydn’s Theresienmesse, which, ironically, I learned while singing in the Unitarian Choir.
This Jupiter Journey brought me many unexpected gifts, including the one I longed for most—coming to terms with my childhood religion and my pain of not feeling I could be part of something that formed me to the core. The bottom line is still the same. I’m not comfortable being there. But my viewpoint and feelings about it are completely different—that’s how Jupiter impacts us.
Now I’ve had an incredibly satisfying Catholic experience overriding my painful past as a helpless 1950’s kid with no rights, voice—or thank you, opinion. (Now there’s Jupiter in Scorpio for you.) Now I see how my core religious beliefs made me who I am, primarily in the most positive way.
I discovered that Catholicism is my roots, but my wings are free-spirited and draw from multiple spiritual perspectives. I admire the good on all paths. A metaphor came to me just days ago that ties it all together for me. The best moms, from Day One, teach their children to be independent, one step at a time—train them to leave the nest one day. Ironically, even though women are denied roles of power in it, the Church is known as Mother. Mother Church did good work—trained me to leave home, even though it was great to return for a visit. The balance in the Church’s patriarchal picture is that Christians have always had their own Goddess, the Virgin Mary.
Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies. Always, God/dess was whispering in my ear, giving me hints of who I am. My adoptive mom’s original name was also Maria, although she went by Mary. She came from Calabria not far from Sicily. My best childhood friend was named Theresa.
I don’t claim to come close to the courage of the Virgo Mary and the radical “yes” she said to what I’m sure sounded like a cockamamie story about a pregnancy conceived in spirit and how it would change the course of her life and human history. I could wax on all year about my metaphorical takes on many of the Biblical stories, but my ideas aren’t so much the point as how Jupiter expanded them.
I will always say the radical yes in my own way. The latest example was answering the whisper of Spirit to resurrect our local chapter of the National Council on Geocosmic Research (NCGR), an international professional association of astrologers. Ironically, Sacramento Area Astrologers meets monthly on Sundays. I usually start the meeting with an invocation that connects us with earth and sky through astrological symbolism. Interpreting charts isn’t much different from Bible study, both aimed at helping us evolve into better human beings and finding the hidden wisdom in coded information. My Celestial Influences Calendar and ephemeris has as many cosmic happenings to celebrate as saints’ days and other feasts in the liturgical calendar I got every December at St. G’s. Being in communion with other astrologers on a regular basis is like being reconnected with my star tribe. The Internet keeps us in touch with all the other NCGR chapters worldwide. I’m sure we’ve been Magi together in many other lifetimes.
I’ll never stop thinking it’s monumental that three astrologers attended the birth of Jesus and the Christ consciousness on Earth—and that a star led the way.
 Tim still struggles with the concept of the Trinity. The following is my own analogy, not necessarily sanctioned by any traditional church, but it makes sense to me. “The three persons in one God” seems to parallel the roles we play as people. You’re still John, Suzy, or Sam, but you aren’t just “one person.” You’re a father, a mother, a friend, a lover, a worker, perhaps a student, and aunt or uncle—and so on. The Father and Son roles have to do with authority and obedience to it. The Holy Spirit is everywhere, the “free spirit” we get to be when we have internalized Saturn and answer to the God/dess within—conscience.