Sunday, May 27, 2012

United Astrology Conference: Vicarious UAC #2

Electronic Voodoo

© 2012 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

There's so much  more I want to share about UAC!  But I'm having a personal Mercury Retrograde to beat all. The internet connection at the hotel has rarely worked, and my laptop is on its last leg--to be replaced when I get home. (It's limping along like it has a prominent Chiron.) Wrote you a great second UAC post that got gobbled up in these glitches, all but the first paragraph.

In my new stress control plan, I have decided to let it go and write a few retrospective posts when I get back. That means I'll have more experiences, adding on the time I would have been blogging, and more excitement to share.

In summary, UAC is awesome! 

Still wish you were here ... 

Here are links to all the Vicarious UAC Posts, if you want to read the entire series:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

United Astrology Conference: Vicarious UAC #1

Astrology and Voodoo Everywhere

© 2012 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

My trip to New Orleans from Sacramento was a lesson in how not to let a bad day go downhill. I was having one of those personal Mercury Retrogrades—glitches that could demoralize or derail a less seasoned traveler on the journey of life. Left my glasses in the car. (My husband had to drive back to the airport after he’d already hit the highway.) That put me late at the security checkpoint, where I had to put up with what my malaproppin’ mama used to call a lot of “rigamarow.”

Since I have sleep apnea, I have to travel with my CPAP breathing machine. It uses distilled water. (Tap water ruins it.) Never knowing if or when I’ll find a place that I can get to easily which sells distilled water (other distilled liquids flow freely in NOLA), I always take a small plastic bottle of my special water, clearly marked. Since it violates the 3-ounce liquid rule, the TSA team has to test it to be sure it’s what I claim. More delays.

My layover in Las Vegas was a cheap thrill, thanks to a nickel slot machine at the gate where I tripled and lost the same dollar. That 15 minutes of fun was worth the buck. On the plane, I noticed someone reading an ephemeris, said “you must be going to UAC” and introduced myself. That moment UAC finally felt real!

One last glitch could have been a true disaster. I opened my wallet to look for something else and noticed one of my credit cards missing. Oh, expletive! (Did I say that out loud?) Fumbling with too much luggage, paper, and fears of having to call in a missing card and its financial fallout, I blessedly got a grip. I remembered the restaurant where I’d used it the night before, called them, and they had it. (Whew!) They’d keep it safe till my husband could pick it up. Best of all, it wasn’t the credit card I planned to use this trip. (Triple whew!)

A lucky Jupiter transit enabled me to come to UAC. I wanted to share the experience with you, especially those of you who couldn't make it. It's fun for me to relive the excitement in the telling!

Once I hit the ground in NOLA, it got more real as I bumped into Doug and Polly. I’d met them last year when I spoke at the Arizona Society for Astrologers (ASA) in Scottsdale. I tingled with excitement about the best part of this kind of conference--meeting up with wonderful people from around the world. Though I rarely see many of them in person, they feel like soul family.

Soon, Sara Fisk, my UAC roomie and NCGR-Sacramento Area’s graphics girl and web wizard, had landed from her alternate route (Sac to LA versus my trip via Las Vegas). Best of all, she landed with a smile and a hug. We corralled our collective luggage onto the Airporter van where I was thrilled to see Demetra George after many years and other conference goers.

Room without a view?
A day that could have gone from bad to worse just kept getting better. I bumped into Arlene, whose home was my hospitable haven on that same Arizona trip last year. Sara's and my “small” room that wasn’t supposed to have a view (that costs a lot extra) turned out to be more than sufficient in elbow room. Our non-view is wonderful! The bridge, the Mississippi River, the local Harrah’s nightclub and other interesting French Quarter architecture. Internet connection has been spotty, but if you’re reading this, it worked when I needed it most.

Pisces with Taurus Rising at Red Fish.
Dinner at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street was classic New Orleans. After cocktails (a strong pineapple Mojito for me and a jazzy cajunesque Bloody Mary for Sara), we shared some lovely appetizers and dishes: shrimp toast (more a confection than seafood) and barbecued shrimp with cream cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. This was all much lighter than it sounds, especially sharing half portions, complimented by salad and fresh spinach. We had room for the dessert invented in the Big Easy, Bananas Foster. It was a big easy for a Taurus and Taurus Rising to savor it to the last bite.

Sounds like a Pluto transit.
We tripped on voodoo shops, street musicians, and every kind of club and biz imaginable. I bought my husband a beautiful, artsy New Orleans jazz t-shirt at Bayou Threads. The very local-color shopkeeper (love that accent!) told me how he "happened" to meet someone that day with his same birth date. I told him I was an astrologer, part of a convention in town, and urged him to learn all he could about his birthday twin and why it could be important to him. He sounded jazzed! And I was jazzed to find this synchronicity and opportunity to turn someone onto the stars. When we got tired, a CVS Pharmacy rose up out of the night sky on Canal Street in lights and signage that made me think of a mini-Mormon Tabernacle. It drew us in for any necessary supplies—milk for Sara’s coffee and the magical distilled water for my CPAP.

When we got settled and sunk into our comfy-cushy beds, I slept like a baby, woken by the bright morning light through our window. I said good morning to the Mississippi—and Sara, whose eyes opened not long after mine at 6:30 am. I didn’t even notice that it was 4:30 am at home … and look forward to telling you all about Day 2 tomorrow.

Wish you were here!


Photos by Sara Fisk, a roommate made in heaven. She likes to take pictures and doesn’t like to blog. I’m the vice to her versa, and vice versa, I’m sure. We're at the Red Fish in this photo (the restaurant's namesake must be a Pisces with Aries Rising). We look a little Neptunian to me. That's where our photo-blogging adventure was born on May 23, around 7:30 pm. (What time zone is this?)


Here are links to all the Vicarious UAC Posts, if you want to read the entire series:

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Chiron in Pisces Healing Story


© 2012 by Mads Elung-Jensen, Guest Writer
All Rights Reserved

Note from The Radical Virgo: So many readers are approaching their Chiron Returns during the current transit of Chiron in Pisces. Mads gives a bigger-than-life example of how the Pisces modalities of music, dance, and the arts in general are healing power tools for those with this placement. His experiences illustrate not only how music heals but the powerful healing capacity of Chiron in the 6th house. With Chiron in Pisces in the sky until 2019, all of us, regardless of our Chiron sign, can take a note from Mads’ song and  ”Pisces up” our tool bag for the current times. Not exactly a tough prescription and pill to swallow—go out and dance, sing, make love, and make beautiful art!

See Photo Note 1
The number of skeletal muscles in the human body varies from about 656 to 850, depending on which expert you consult. But only one set of muscles in the human body, the vocal folds, commonly known as the vocal chords, is not controlled by the conscious brain. Phonation is controlled by the vagus nerve. Besides outputs to the various organs in the body, the vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body's organs to the central nervous system. It also acts to lower the heart rate.

So, when you speak and when you sing, you do it always by activating unconscious reflexes and impulses. But while speaking involves involuntary diaphragm usage primarily, singing involves voluntary diaphragm usage.

When singing, the relaxed breath flow starts in the diaphragm. The baby’s eternal screaming without ever getting hoarse, is the best picture of how the still unconditioned human being instinctively knows how to use the right set of muscles. In most cases, the process of learning to talk leads to a letting go of at least parts of this instinctive knowledge of voluntary diaphragm usage. In extreme situations, experiencing joys, laughter, crying, surprises, shocks or other acute traumas, we can immediately, again, gain access to this knowledge. Also, stutterers who have trained as performing vocal artists, and thus have strengthened their diaphragm, tend to stutter when speaking but not when singing.

This connection of the nervous system, the heart rate and the vocal chords contains the physiological secret of why singing, can have such an impact on us all. Our primal feelings and anxieties, our sorrows, joys, angers and lusts are all stored in the diaphragm. Through the vocal folds’ unconscious connection of heart rhythm and diaphragmatic breath, you easily get in touch with this treasury of feelings that you have collected and stored. 

Laughter and crying both immediately release blocks in the diaphragm. But the magical key to a profound healing and transcendence of these feelings through singing is that you connect with the steady breath flow and, of course,  through music. 

Singing, together with dancing and sex, are generally considered the three primal ways of expression, producing endorphins, the happiness hormones. If you’re desperate, sport apparently also works.

Of these three, which I all love, singing is my professional field, my vocal organ is the only one that I take money for using, but I have personally often experienced a direct connection between the sensations of sex and singing.

So many people are intimidated by singing in public. Countless times, people have told me that they can’t sing, that nobody should ever wish to listen to them singing. The very idea sometimes seems worse than walking naked through a busy town. Even most of my well-educated and acclaimed singing colleagues' will rarely be heard singing outside the secure context of a concert hall, a practice or a private nursery room. With my unaspected chart ruler, my 1st house Venus in Libra conjunct my Libra Ascendant (and/or my Leo Moon and Mercury), I have, till now, never been able to restrain myself to that, and I think this has been my salvation in facing my life’s various challenges.

On YouTube, there is a wonderful interview with the reclusive Swiss operatic diva, Lisa Della Casa, celebrating her 90th birthday in 2009. She sits in her castle at the Bodensee with her husband, happily smoking cigarettes. When asked whether smoking is not dangerous, she matter of factly states, ‘There is nothing more dangerous than singing!’  

This statement rang a bell deep inside me. With a Scorpio Mars, and, especially, having my generation’s Pluto/Uranus conjunction opposing Saturn/Chiron, in my case rather unaspected in a 12th house/6th house axis, their only gateway to the personal planets is through their connection to my Neptune/Mercury square. At times, I seem to be attracted to danger like moths to the light, and I cannot think of a better way of living it out than through singing.

And to me, the quest of finding my true pure voice, trying to find a way of letting go of all mannerisms and defense mechanisms, has also been the most dangerous path I have ever had to walk—yet also the most rewarding.

Remedies for Sorrow or Pain 

  1. Delight
  2. Weeping or groaning
  3. The sympathy or company of friends 
  4. Contemplation of truth 
  5. Sleeping and taking baths

~ St. Thomas Aquinas ‘Summa Theologica’ 1274

Music was my first love and singing my first language. My parents met in a choral society and would always sing to me. In my father’s family there are many singers, actors and musicians, and my mother’s parents and grandparents all loved to sing. 

According to my mother, I was singing long before I started talking. I would pick up songs from my parents, from the radio, from the gramophone, no matter what source or what song, as long as it could be sung. Strange as it is, neither my older sister nor my younger brother can hit a note straight. It doesn’t keep them from enjoying singing, but the musical inheritance was exclusively given to me. 

We grew up in an old orchard in the countryside in Denmark. There was no kindergarten. Our neighbour would come and mind the house and us, while our parents worked as teachers in the city. 

When I was four years old, Uranus left my 12th house and transited my Ascendant. It was discovered that I had some very unusual learning abilities. When I was six years old, Pluto also exited my 12th house and transited my Ascendant, and nothing was ever the same again. My parents divorced, and for some reason they never told anyone, including us children, that they had done so. Both stayed in the house with new partners. It became my father’s wife Hedvig’s ungrateful task to inform a very naïve, frightened and terribly enraged child about life’s facts.

But thankfully, she survived my attempt to kill the messenger. For the last 40 years, she has been a loving, inspiring and steady factor in our volatile lives, and through her, over time, I gained three more brothers.

Mads jumps stones as child. See Photo Note 2.
Around the same time I started school, and it was decided that I could skip first grade. School was easy, but connecting to my classmates was impossible. To them, I seemed to come from a different planet, which I might as well have. Instead, I would retreat into my own world, reading books and singing songs from the radio, song books, anything as long as it could be sung.

One rainy summer, when I was about 10, and Pluto passed my natal Libra Venus, my father and Hedvig borrowed some records of old Danish cabaret music from the public library--elegant, witty and cheeky stuff--and I was delighted and saved. 

I learnt all the songs instantly, performed them whenever there was a possibility and also at many impossible occasions. Nothing would keep me from singing my songs. Many of the sexual implications of the songs might have escaped me, but I could always recognize a good rhyme.

Things lightened up even more, when at 15, I changed schools, entered high school, and Saturn, having passed Pluto and Uranus, crossed my Ascendant for the first time. I started making friends, some of whom I still have. Turned out I was no alien after all (or maybe just a friendly alien). It was not a big problem being brilliant in school anymore, and then I saw an ad that a church choir was looking for tenors and basses. They amazingly paid for the people singing! I immediately auditioned, and even though my voice hadn’t finished breaking, I was accepted as youngest tenor.

Singing hymns, the thrill of the dancing rhythms of baroque music, learning to blend your individual voice with colleagues, learning to be on time, practicing and practicing, striving for perfection, almost attaining it at your level, and then performing in wonderful church rooms with fantastic acoustics, what a wonderful world!   

I sang and sang, and then I heard a program on the radio with an opera singer with a resonant bass voice telling about opera and his life. And I was thrilled again. Singing and even acting, what could be better?

How do I get to be an opera singer? I asked myself. I was 18, walking around in the countryside, my voice was developing but I had no idea, if it was good enough for a professional career. I auditioned for a voice teacher at the local academy of music, who was cautiously encouraging. 

That was enough. It was really a thing I couldn’t leave alone. Neptune passed my IC, and I left the countryside with a table lamp in my hand as my only luggage apart from my clothes, moved to Copenhagen and signed up for musicology at the university. 

I also at the time realized that I was homosexual, and thus the big city held more than a few attractions and infinite exciting possibilities for me. Pluto conjuncted my Scorpio Mars, when I was 20. I sang and sang, in choruses, in churches, and I took solo lessons. In my free time I did astrological readings for friends and gay radio programs about rent boys and Nazi experiments with homosexuals in the Second World War. Sans comparison, I did my own experiments, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I also contracted a little virus. At 21, I auditioned for the Royal Danish Academy of Music and was accepted.

I also went to Switzerland, to take master classes with an old Swiss tenor, Ernst Haefliger. In his time, in the 50’s and 60’s in Europe, he was the preferred tenor for Bach’s passions, for Mozart’s operas and for all kinds of works that required musicality, style, beautiful sound, an open heart and a highly developed intuitive brain. This was perhaps the most decisive encounter for me, and I went to Switzerland for six summers to learn and learn.

Things developed quickly by then. I had a huge capacity to learn and understand music, well developed organizational skills, and an enormous appetite, curiosity and stamina. What I might still lack in technique was compensated by energy and will power. I was offered many exciting jobs, just by being at the right place at the right time. And I got into the world of creative artists, experiencing composers’ work with musicians, and later on having them write music for my voice was another incredible world. 

While singing in the Danish Radio Chorus, I was also discovered by a German Chorus Master, Uwe Gronostay, who invited me to audition in Berlin and engaged me as a soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, in the Berlin Philharmonic, of all sacred places. My first foreign job, at 27, it was all very surreal. 

See Photo Note 3
At the same time I gave my debut as an opera singer, and I felt I could walk on water. I was invited many times to Germany. I sang in Holland, in England, in France and at home in Denmark, of course, and I was still a student. My technique was by now pretty steady and my sound clear.

I graduated around my Saturn Return, and the reception was suddenly not so enthusiastic anymore. Musical, yes, big understanding, yes, but the voice had weakened in power and beauty of sound.The telephone didn’t ring as often and I got a part-time job as manager for an ambitious contemporary music orchestra. That was interesting too, but I had to work full-time, getting paid part-time wages, and had no time for singing.

I started having strange sicknesses, and over three months, I lost 25 pounds due to an intestinal infection. The musicians were difficult to deal with, and I felt very wasted. After a year I quit the job and tried to find my voice again, but something was not working right.

I finally asked for an HIV-test. I had had a negative one at 19, with a very scary two weeks’ wait before the result. After that first time, it had just been too frightening to deal with the whole AIDS thing, that I hadn’t been around a doctor’s (for that) since. 

I didn’t dare to call the doctor for the result. When a month passed by, I convinced myself that no news is good news. But then she called, and it was positive. I was to go to the University Clinic for more tests and consultations with an expert.

Since it was 1998, the combination treatment had existed for a couple of years, and the prognosis was: I would probably not die from AIDS, but live a perfectly normal life. But it was a close call. I had just 13 T-Cells left and a lot of virus.
Apart from my first two years in Copenhagen, I had been so scared about the whole AIDS thing that I always had had protected sex. But not back in 1985. That was when we Europeans thought, it’s just an American thing, avoid Americans and you’ll be safe. We were wrong. Due to whatever strengths lie in me, the virus had been dormant for so many years. 

Somehow, life went on, and I was in good spirits most of the time. I worked for awhile as a tour guide in Spain, meeting new friends and earning enough work hours to make sure that I wasn’t thrown out of the Danish unemployment benefit system. 

The cure worked little by little. Soon, the virus was untraceable. I lived, and good friendships deepened much in quality. I was sometimes devastated about my voice, it just wouldn’t find its old sound, and getting used to a lesser quality of sound was not very satisfying. 

The lowest point was performing Iago in Rossini’s Otello (in this opera Iago is also a tenor). I got a review, saying I sounded like a Hoover vacuum, blowing the air outward. I didn’t perform as a soloist for a year after that. By that time I had met a lovely man, a doctor, and we lived together and got married. (In 1989, Denmark was the first country in the world to introduce same sex marriages with totally equal rights).

I went to Berlin to have voice lessons to try to improve my sound. It got steadily better, but still not like before. But it was good enough to sing rather well professionally. Better that, than not singing at all. Once in Berlin, I then stumbled upon a German male group from the 20’s, The Comedian Harmonists, who had toured the world with male harmony music.

That was love at first hearing. I assembled a group of colleagues, we rehearsed for a long time and had a short recital in the Danish Radio House to very enthusiastic reception. In the following years I wrote three theatrical shows for the group, I had always known I could write, there had just never been a reason to do so. People wouldn’t stop laughing at my jokes. 

I had an acute eye for the potentials of my cabaret partners and drove them to very friendly places of their capabilities, places they had never imagined that they would ever visit. Work again thrived. Singing fun music released a lot of my vocal tension. I got opera jobs in Germany and in Denmark again, I did recitals, and it was so indescribably wonderful to be back singing again, successful and having fun at it. Good family life, health, big dinners, surrounded by loving friends. 

But after awhile I got restless. My voice was still not totally the way I knew it could be potentially, and I got a strong urge to carry on with my youthful sexual experiments. This was fun and liberating, but also detrimental to our marriage, which started slowly but steadily going to pieces.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quotes for the Planets #1

 © 2012 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

We’ve had a lot of fun over the past few years with eight posts on Quotes for the Signs. I thought I’d mix it up a little and try some Quotes for the Planets. Don’t let the cartoon and short-but-sweet nature of these gems fool you. They’re profound. Enjoy!

Sun – Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

~ Hafez

Moon - Language exerts hidden power, like the Moon on the tides.
~ Rita Mae Brown
Mercury - There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.
~ Jean Baudrilllard

Venus – Venus favors the bold. 

~ Obid

MarsAnger is a short madness.  

 ~ Horace
JupiterFor me, exploration is about that journey to the interior, into your own heart. I'm always wondering, how will I act at my moment of truth? Will I rise up and do what's right, even if every fiber of my being is telling me otherwise?

~ Anne Bancroft
SaturnAnd this is one of the major questions of our lives: how we keep boundaries, what permission we have to cross boundaries, and how we do so. 

 ~ A. B. Yehoshua

Chiron You are all things. Denying, rejecting, judging or hiding from any aspect of your total being creates pain and results in a lack of wholeness. 

~ Joy Page

UranusOur ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more. 

~ Oscar Wilde
NeptuneWe each have a sixth sense that is attuned to the oneness dimension in life, providing a means for us to guide our lives in accord with our ideas. 

~ Henry Reed
Pluto - Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection. 

~ Arthur Schopenhauer


Photo Credit: aliens fast food © stokkete |, enhanced by The Radical Virgo