Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pluto: Ravaged or Nurtured?

Reflections from the Rebirth Canal

© 2014 by Joyce Mason

 My Soul Collage Card, “Blind Trust”  [1]

My very wise astrologer friend, Linda Byrd [2], told me recently that she sees the outer planets as nurturing parents, nudging us to grow for our own good. I have to agree, but it has taken a lot of living to have experiences with Pluto less like I describe in The Depths of Change and more like my current process of morphing. Today’s encounters feel inside-out compared to previous Pluto transits.

Earlier in my life, especially when Pluto conjuncted my Sun on one occasion and later Chiron, the external upheaval in my life was horrible—abandonment, betrayal, and serious illness for starters. Because of the accompanying emotional turmoil, my interior felt like a kayak in tsunami.

This time ‘round as Pluto kissed my Moon and has squared Venus, Neptune and is heading toward its square with Mercury: the internal upheaval is far less and the outer evidence of growth much more. I’ve never been calmer. I share this for several reasons. I’d love to know others’ experiences with Pluto transits that aren’t textbook hell on earth. I’d also like to give you hope that all Pluto transits are not created equal. My current rendezvous with the P-planet, of course, also involves its square dancing partner, Uranus … and earlier this year I got the full fireworks of the Cardinal Grand Cross. You’d think with all that, I’d be leveled. I’m not just still standing. In many ways, I’m thriving—though I won’t kid you. Some parts of these transits are trying, others just weird.

I’m not a kid anymore, and what has changed about my Pluto transits is me. I no longer resist them with the might of a toddler in the Terrible Twos digging all digits into the nearest carpet, furniture or human while impersonating an army tank.

As a younger human, I did not “get” surrender and the idea that some things are too big to fight. Most of us would know better than to take on someone twice our size in a fist fight, yet some of us still are naïve enough to think we can take on universal energies tantamount to the Not So Jolly Green Giant. I thought I could will or “positive think” my way through anything. Stuff happens. How life works for us—or doesn’t—depends on how we respond to our current assignment in growing up even more.

The metaphor of the outer planets as parents works well for me, particularly because I have Pluto conjunct Saturn in the 4th House. Thinking in those terms, Pluto and Saturn have both nurtured me and provided my foundations. Since the 4th is the natural house associated with the Moon, the roots and solidarity this pair has provided (with Pluto as my outer planet parent) often involved being there for me through a lot of emotional chaos.  

Younger Me operated on the clinging, power-struggle side of Pluto. Older Me is learning much more about surrender, the polar and positive side of Pluto’s energetic continuum. I suspect this is why my current Pluto transits don’t hurt as much, large as they are (involving several personal planets).

But I did mention weird. The biggest thing I’m getting more familiar and comfortable with is being in what I call the Place Between. That’s where, in the process of morphing, you’re no longer a caterpillar, but you’re not yet a butterfly. Furthermore, in the goo state of formlessness, you can’t see what you’re becoming. I talked about this in The Depths of Change as transformational blindness.

It’s difficult be fully comfortable in this place, because in a lot of ways, it’s a no-place.  I try to view it like the empty mind we seek to achieve in meditation, creating a space for universal love to flow in and not just guide us—but to be us. Our interior becomes our own compass. We feel one with the cosmos.

My visualizations around the Place Between lately are more like a newly blind person going to mobility training, learning how to use her figurative white cane in this place of darkness and uncertainty. I feel less fear and more wonder. This will probably sound odd indeed, but every morning the word I wake up with in my mind is “wow.” Even when I’m greeted with one of my arthritic pains on rising, my response is “wow.”

"Wow” has become my mantra for greeting the day.

It’s not like me to avoid talking personal specifics about what I’m going through, but I want to minimize the details about my external events and ask you to fill in the blanks with your own challenges as you read about them. Mine involve my husband’s health, disability and mobility challenges. Because of his physical limitations, I have increasing responsibilities for the operation of our daily life together. Health issues affect every aspect of our existence from finances to housing. We need to move to a single-level home from our current bi-level, as Tim can barely do the interior stairs anymore. The idea, over the months ahead, of completely dismantling our home of 16+ years with limited help would almost be enough to do me in and send me into a Neptune-square-Moon state of complete, freeze-frame overwhelm. (I’m not moving so swiftly myself sometimes lately, thanks to stiffness from arthritis.) In the past it would have—and at first, this time, it did, too. The sale will help our finances enormously and meeting this milestone is clearly the light at the end of the tunnel. But first, the tunnel.

I realized that I am the hub of our operation. Without my functioning at an optimal level, our family and home life will fall apart. There are physical challenges, like giving Tim lift assistance out of chairs or if he falls, plus a boatload of mental and emotional ones. My husband is one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known, an exceptionally sweet and loving soul. He supports me to the max from an emotional perspective, and it’s not difficult to want to return the favor at every level. It takes a lot of heart and humor for us both at times to deal with our situation, but all in all, I think we are pushing an A in this course in the School of Life—and I’m a tough grader.

Our relationship is so clearly karmic as reunited childhood sweethearts, I kept coming ‘round to the idea that our challenges intersect (not to mention our astrology charts, born 10 days apart). Tim’s situation has finally made me see that I have to “train,” literally, for the next stage of my life. For both of us, at some level, the issues start with the physical.

Being a Triple Earth, you’d think that being in my body would be a cinch for me, that I’d love exercise, sports, etc. Well, until lately, think again. With an outer planet squaring each of my Big Three (Sun/Uranus, Moon/Neptune and ASC/Pluto), half of me is floating around in the stratosphere somewhere—why so many people mistake me for an Aquarius. I do have the earthy body type and love of food. Thanks to a gourmand mother, being a foodie is a genetic fact of life. I have a long history of struggling with my weight. However, I am not really what you would call a big woman at five-foot-nothing. Helping to lift a 200-pound man has taken its toll on my back, but on the plus side, it has finally helped me see that physical training is a major part of my preparation for what’s next.

Like a lot of people, I’ve never been able to sustain doing what’s good for me in terms of diet and exercise. While I lost nearly 30 lbs. at Weight Watchers in the early 1980s, I can’t count the times I’ve started and stopped the program since I regained those pounds—and then some—starting a few years later.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of stresses in my life. Tim had two hospitalizations last year alone that put me over the top. I’m a stress overeater, and Pluto’s current travels with Uranus brought the clear insight that taking care of myself on every level is the key to our happiness. Like a lot of “professional givers,” what I won’t get serious about doing for myself, I will often take on with gusto if it has to do with helping someone I love. (As I’ve grown in self-esteem, it’s now easier for me to do this for both of us.)

Fortunately, I’ve been doing Jazzercise for several years because my dear friend Dana is my instructor. (Again, without someone I love offering the classes, I’m not sure I’d get up and jump around several early mornings a week.) Her class is geared toward the 55+ crowd, and low-impact aerobic dance is perfect for me. While not being interested in sports, I love to dance. Since we use hand weights in a lot of our routines, I’ve even got budding biceps that help me when I’m doing those lift assists, not to mention heavy grocery bags.  Helping Tim without hurting myself has been a learning curve, and we use various adaptive equipment, including a back brace for me.

Speaking of backs, I’m back at Weight Watchers and have already lost 15 lbs. Different this time is my level of commitment. I realize that I have to own the Lifetime Member status I once gained (by loss!). Weight Watchers has to be a weigh of life for me. This time I have vowed not to quit no matter what, and I now regard it a lot like AA, one day at a time as long as I live. Even once I’m at goal weight, maintaining a weight loss involves constant awareness of my relationship with food. Luckily, it’s a program where moderation rules, and that’s what I have to learn. A foodie will never give up the occasional indulgence, why I like a live-it (as opposed to a die-it) that trains its users to navigate real life and its never-ending food festivities. Tim is also benefiting from following my new eating behavior, as he, too, has considerable weight to lose.

There are changes other than physical that my new leg of life requires me to accept. I’m in training on enduring and learning to embrace the Place Between, the place that still feels weird. The image of the woman in my Soul Collage card with a box over her head is where I live. Self-care involves a tremendous amount of time and putting so many things on hold; I have to force myself to “sit in the silence” often in my current blindness rather than get stuck in OMG loops. (“OMG! How/when will I get this writing or publishing project done, everything cleared out and cleaned up for house sale, blah-blah.”) I’m learning to trust that everything will fall into place in its own perfect timing. Because I have stretched myself to the breaking point for so many years, I have also had to accept a long period of rest and recovery. This is like a foreign land to a go-getter. I cannot tell you how strange it feels to sleep a lot, not push myself, not to live by the clock and to put myself first after so many years of helping others before anything else.

A huge positive to come out of my down time is realizing that I love having “white space” in my life. I never want to be that overcommitted and over-extended again. I have read 22 books so far this year, whereas I could barely eke out a few all year in the past. I am doing more yoga, qigong, meditation, and I've started taking hula lessons. I’m reconsidering everything I used to think I “had” to do. I’m allowing a clean mental slate for how I want to configure my new life, as it evolves.

My brain and body have slowed down enough that I can hear my inner voice and direction. I can now solve problems more quickly and creatively. In the end, doing less might be more time-and-results efficient than trying to do everything at once.

I’m learning to walk my talk about trusting the universe to guide me every step of the way. Collective creativity sometimes delivers us interesting icons in pop culture to support us, if we only have the eyes to see. Mine is Auggie Andersen on the TV show, Covert Affairs. Auggie was blinded in an explosion during a mission with Army Special Forces in Iraq. He is the most mobile “blind person” I’ve never met. He has an assortment of high tech gismos that help him navigate his life as Annie Walker (Piper Perabo)’s handler at the CIA. Of course, Chris Gorham who plays Auggie is not blind in real life, so there’s a serious suspension of disbelief required to appreciate his portrayal of a high-functioning blind man. What he does exude that’s authentic is a demeanor of relying on his intuition to tell him who’s worthy of trust to take his arm and keep him from bumping into a wall—or to keep him from getting killed in one of his forays with Annie into the field and the unprotected world outside Langley. I love this about him, as he remains feisty, vital—and a hot lover, by the way—despite living in the physical equivalent of my Place Between.[3]

In some ways, I feel like I’m heading toward graduation when it comes to Pluto. I respect Pluto, a respect that does not come from fear, as it once did. Now it comes from getting what Pluto is and does. Pluto is the force of change that’s bigger than the both of us and required for the personal and collective good. We’re all interconnected. My growth is yours, yours is mine, and that’s why sharing is so important to appreciate where we’re at in the process of personal and planetary evolution.

Pluto has saved me from situations that would have only brought me further pain and suffering. It has introduced me to principles that saved my life, literally and figuratively. These are conclusions one can only draw from enough living to look back on Pluto and see its dual role of protector and catalyst. Just like a good parent, Pluto protects to a point, yet nudges you out of the nest to fly on your own. Just like any good parent, we often do not like at the time what mom or dad “makes” us do.

When I was back home in Chicago a few years ago, I bought this wonderful t-shirt at the Museum of Science and Industry, commemorating the demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet status in 2006.  I had been afraid, up to now to put it on for fear of evoking Pluto in his Darth Vader archetype or otherwise bringing unwanted, negative Plutonian experiences into my life.

I’ve been to Pluto. I bought the t-shirt. I’m ready to wear it.

I am no longer afraid.



[1] Soul Collage is an intuitive artwork process for allowing inner guidance to come through you by way of creating of collages of images that you’re drawn to. The “cards” you create are reflections of various aspects of yourself. Part of the process, when the card is finished, is to go inward and complete the sentence, I am the one who … The sentence for this card, created July 28, 2008, “Blind Trust” is: I am the one who leads you to shine and share your gifts, even when you feel completely in the dark.

[2] Allow me to introduce you to Linda, a multi-talented astrologer and metaphysical consultant. I endorse her heartily. Since I am no longer doing private consultations, please consider Linda when you feel a need for guidance:

Linda Kubota Byrd is a certified DREAM COACH and has used Astrology as a personal growth consultant for 20 years. She was a volunteer with the Aspire Foundation, using Transformational Astrology for 10 years and has earned a Level II Certificate in Evolutionary Astrology from Steven Forrest's Apprenticeship Program. She has studied with John Ruskell, Gavin Carruthers, Tom Lescher, Maurice Fernandez and many others. Facilitating workshops for 16 years, she combines Astrology, Energy Psychology, Handwriting Analysis, Conscious Creating, NLP, etc., to "untrain" conditioned patterns to empower authenticity and embrace the unique gifts in us all. Contact: Linda does long-distance readings via phone or Skype.

[3] There’s no doubt there’s a connection between my diagnosis of glaucoma and these “blind” metaphors I’m living. My condition is now stable with no discernible visual loss, I’m happy to report. That may have as much to do with my “new vision” about Pluto as my medication and other management regimes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How the Signs “Do” Summer--in Pictures!

© 2014 by Joyce Mason

Not long ago, we looked at How the Signs “Do” Spring. There’s a new season to celebrate! This time, I thought it’d be fun to do it in pictures. Enjoy the party with the dozen guests you’ll find at any shindig: summer, winter, spring or fall.










Photo Credits: Sign of Summer - © Carlo Toffolo -
Aries - © Rostislav Sedlacek -
Taurus - © Kostiak -
Gemini - © benjaminnolte -
Cancer - © olgavolodina -
Leo - © Cherry-Merry -
Virgo - © travnikovstudio -
Libra - © meteo021 -
Scorpio - © ekhphoto -
Sagittarius - © Costin79 -
Capricorn - © Pavel Losevsky -
Aquarius - © Larry Gevert -
Pisces - © Rawpixel -

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Astrology of Independence

© 2014 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In Celebration of Independence Day in the USA

Gestalt Prayer
 © Frederick (Fritz) Perls

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to
live up to your expectations,
and you are not in this world to
live up to mine.
You are you,
and I am I;
and if by chance
we find each other,
it's beautiful.

A really savvy mom I knew many years ago once told me, “I realized when my sons were just babies that I was training them, bit by bit, to leave home.” Never mind that she was a Sagittarius and would be more keenly aware of the joys of leaving the nest. This is still a remarkable realization for someone not far from the glow of early motherhood.

As we celebrate the 238th birthday of the United States of America on a holiday called Independence Day, I thought it would be interesting to look at the quality of independence—so revered by Americans—how we find it in an astrology chart and to consider its importance to us as individuals. But before we jump in, I think Americans have to remember that our values about individuality and independence are not globally accepted as a good thing. It’s really enlightening to see ourselves from others’ points of view. That’s why my husband likes watching news from the BBC or any country other than our own.

The vast majority of Radical Virgo readers are American, but let’s start with the one way others see us that we share.  In An Adventure in American Culture and Values, an international student guide to the USA, individuality is at the top of a list of major US American values. Single-family, individual, separate homes are one way this is expressed even in our urban planning. We are rewarded as kids for being goal-oriented and not too clingy to family. “Going away to college” has long been considered the norm and ideal for making the first big break from mom’s apron strings.

Like all continuums in life, the one that starts with Dependence and ends with Independence is a pathway we traverse, back and forth, through our entire existence on Planet Earth. We have to find where we fit between its two extremes. And, of course, where we reside on the road between Commune and Single Family Dwelling may vary during our lives. Our natal astrology charts will reflect our basic independence orientation. Aquarians might be happy living in an individual pod on the Planet Far Out, as long as everybody got together for group fun and games now ‘n’ then. The most typical Cancer might be happy never to leave home in the first place.

Let’s look at the signs, planets and houses most associated with “being independent.” Look at your own chart to determine your personal emphasis. The idea of this exercise is to see the level of independence your birth chart calls for—and to find out if you’re answering the call. Does your life match your birth chart’s wiring on this issue?

“In my humble opinion” rules what follows, and I’d be happy to hear your ideas in the Comment. (For another view, here’s a Top 5 Most Independent Signs list.)

Independent Signs

Aries.  It’s the opposite of Libra, the relationship sign. We joke about Aries being “me first” and literally being first whenever possible. Pioneers and trailblazers tend to travel alone—or at least at the front of the pack, far from the others left in the Ram’s wake of charging forward.

Virgo.  Virgos are known for being self-contained. See The Radical Virgo, the article after which this blog is named. In the sign of Virgo, an individual learns self-reliance and the inner wholeness that can lead to having his or her whole self to give in the next sign, Libra.

Scorpio.  Scorps can “go either way” when it comes to the issue of independence.  They are often fine with long periods of isolation, and when they partner, they tend to focus (obsess?) on one partner deeply. Their quiet introspection, and on the darker side, their sometimes brooding nature does not court frivolous attachment. Not only do they often go it alone for extended periods; they very selective in the company they keep—in some ways, even outdoing Virgos. (Would-be suitors, be prepared to fill out an invisible application form.)

Sagittarius. You’d think with all the travel, talking and philosophizing that they do, Sagges would be the poster people for interaction. They are but their mantra is, “Don’t fence me in.” I know one Sag who took over 20 years to say yes (finally) to her fiancé’s proposal. (Talk about a patient man.) This individual requires a lot of freedom in relationship, as do all the “independent” signs.
When a person is in relationship because they want to be instead of because they think they should be; when he or she finally says yes to a long-term commitment, it’s momentous.

Aquarius. Often cited as the archetypal independent sign, Aquarius is often too busy with issues of society to get too close to individuals. Not to mention, with Uranus as its ruler, Aquarius is about as predictable and constant in relationships as lightning in a summer storm. Changeability is deeply woven into the Aquarian nature, and like Sag, Aquarius does not like fences or “shoulds.” On the other hand, when Aquarius—or any of the more independent signs—is there because they want to be and aren’t pressured to commit until they’re ready, they can ultimately thrive in relationship and learn to relish interdependence.

"Independent” Planets

While each of the “independent signs” has a ruling planet, there are other planets that get into the act when they have a lot of emphasis in a chart. If you have a lot of aspects to any of these planets, it increases your I.Q. (Independence Quotient).

Sun.  “I gotta be me” is the Sun’s tagline, and taken to an extreme, very Solar people can be self-centered. A Solar emphasis can keep a native isolated at the hub of his/her personal solar system, to the point of not needing anyone’s help or input, thank you. In this case, the Sun-emphasized chart can speak to a need for a lot of independence—and perhaps being “too independent.”

Mercury.  Mercury is one of those “can go either way” planets when it comes to independence. Mercurial people think a lot, which is a solo activity—but they love to communicate, which takes others. However, there can also be a danger with many aspects to Mercury of talking more than connecting, a potential distancing strategy.

Jupiter. The grand gestures of the Jupiterian person can be as distancing in a certain way as the verbosity of an overly Mercurial type. Gifts and huge kindnesses often leave the recipient feeling beholden to the giver, even if that is not the conscious intent of the Jupiter person. This creates a certain distance and discomfort. (How will I ever repay him or her? What is really expected of me?) Always being the giver leaves a person in a psychologically superior position. They don’t have to have the humility of thanking someone kindly nor the possible appearance of needing help. They can view themselves as strong and never needy. If you’ve got lots of Jupiter or even a good Jupiter trine going like I have, look at how your generosity can be a sign of over-independence, especially if you rarely allow yourself to receive.

Chiron.  Since Chiron is my area of expertise, I thought I should comment that the same thing can go for always being the teacher/healer as it is for Sagittarians who are always the giver. After all, Chiron and Sag are both centaurs! (Some say the same centaur, but that’s another conversation.) If you have a lot of Chiron aspects, look to see if you are using your healing and counseling skills to create I/Thou distances between yourself and others. Do you really enjoy being the centaur, healer or teacher on the mountain—or would you prefer to be more down to earth in peer relationships where sharing each other’s gifts occurs in a more egalitarian flow?  Food for thought …

Uranus.  As the ruler of Aquarius, of course numerous aspects to Uranus will impact your Indy Quotient. It’s hard to find fellow unicorns so far out on the leading edge, and this loneliness tends to be a life-long challenge. It’s not that Uranians don’t want friends; they love friends. However, finding friends that really understand them can be quite a quest.

It’s not surprising that the entire Independence/ Dependence conundrum is contained within the essence of Uranus and the sign it rules, Aquarius. Uniqueness is the ultimate form of independence. When we regard independence highly, we have to find our way to allow others to do their own thing while we do ours. Solving this interpersonal puzzle is why The Gestalt Prayer was so popular in the 1970s when Pluto was conjunct Uranus and our relationship to both of these powers was being transfigured.

Pluto.  Which, speaking of, brings us, finally, to Pluto. If you’re like me, one of the astrologer/astrology students who is still laughing over the “demotion” of Pluto from the status of planet to dwarf planet, you’re laughing not to cry over the irony. Like all the outer planets, Pluto is potent—and if I had to name only one that’s the most powerful in its effects, I’d have to say Pluto. Pluto is the power you will not win against. Pluto is about joining your small will to the bigger will—some would say God’s Will or Universal Will.

Unfortunately, we experience Pluto most in its negative archetype. We have plenty of cultural icons to fill the role. There’s Darth Vader in Star Wars. In Harry Potter, it’s He Who Must Not Be Named (but I’m Uranian, so I’ll say it—Voldemort—ducking lightning). On The Sopranos, it was Tony Soprano. They may have had their minions over whom they had power, but did any of these guys have any true, close friends?

Power may be the ultimate aphrodisiac, but in the end there’s no one to do it with but yourself. That is when power is one-way. The ultimate Plutonian lesson is to harness The Force and the power of good—and to help everyone find that power within themselves.

If you are very Plutonian, how are you harnessing your power? Does your power frighten? Put off? Plutonian independence can come more from isolation due to the difficulty others have being in your energy field without a lead vest. (A Plutonian who transmits fierce energy probably has not yet come to terms with his or her own issues of power abuse, usually as a victim.) This chart emphasis calls for the ultimate inner work to find your rightful place on the Dependence-Independence gamut. That involves finding your own positive power and empowering others to live in their own light. When those lights blend the fireworks are amazing—the kind we’d ooh and aah over any 4th of July. Some positive Plutonian empowerment figures are Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and a host of other celebrities who have overcome power abuse of various kinds.

On Independent Houses

When working with the astrological alphabet of planets in signs and houses to make sense and sentences out of horoscopes, I think the houses are generally neutral on the Dependence/Independence scale with a few of exceptions. A very emphasized 1st house can indicate strong need for independence, just as a strongly emphasized 4th or 7th can mean a strong need for relatedness. Some houses can lend themselves to independence by over-emphasis not in and of themselves—but by how you live in them. For instances, if you’re obsessed with money and have a crowded 2nd, you may shut out relatedness for the pursuit of wealth. Same thing with workaholism in the 6th house of work or the 10th of career. On the other hand, if you’re wired for relationship, you could be a team player and do the activities of these houses with others. However, the four angles and their house pairs do have Dependence and Independence built into their oppositions—1st/7th and 4th/10th.

Putting it All Together

If you look at your chart through the lens of your Indy Quotient, the next question is whether the way you’re living your life fits with your dependence or independence needs. Sometimes life just isn’t working, a general malaise you can’t quite name. The “cure” can be something as simple as realizing the mismatch between your life as it is now and your actual needs.

Even if you only learn from this review of your own independence factors that you’re living your dream—and isn’t “the American Dream” what we celebrate every 4th of July?—it’s worthy of waving a few sparklers for the wonderful freedoms we have to live our lives in the main however we want. To live in a country where we can decide how independent to be—or not to be—is a gift as precious as life itself.

And, of course, the chart of our country also reflects the puzzle of the Dependence to Independence continuum—Venus, Jupiter, Sun and Mercury in Cancer, Aquarius Moon and Sag Rising.[1]

Click chart to enlarge

Happy Independence Day—and Happy Independence Day every day, as much of it as you want or need.


Photo Credits: US Flag and Fireworks © romantiche -; Alone on Own Planet © prihodkosvetlana -


[1] The  Sagittarius Rising or “Sibley” chart of the USA is the most popular among astrologers, but it’s not by any means the only one advocated. Search “astrology charts USA” to learn about some of the interesting alternatives.