Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 1, number 12
August 20, 2003
- Update: Lammas Blackberries
- Living in Season: Mars Approach
- In the Library: Astrology Books
- On the Net: Astrological Sites
- Flower of the Month: Dallying with Dahlias
- Current Offerings: Autumn Course
- Signs of Autumn
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
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Update: Blackberries for Lammas
I didn't climb a mountain on Lughnasad as I suggested in my last newsletter but I did go blackberry-picking on Lammas with my boyfriend, Michael. We returned to the same bushes we visited last year on Lammas. Since this summer has been so unusually hot, I expected to find more berries than usual, but to my surprise, only a few were ripe and those were quite small. That's when I realized that blackberries need rain/water to swell to their perfect juiciness. This reminds me again why it's so good to establish rituals that involve interacting with nature around particular dates, as it helps you learn more about your ecosystem. I did manage to find enough ripe berries for a lovely rhubarb-blackberry crumble.
Living in Season: Mars Approach
Thanks to Taffy of Kentucky, Rancher of Rivendell, Rose in Switzerland and Amy who was watching the night skies while vacationing in Massachusetts with her sons, for reminding me of the Mars Approach.
On August 30th, Mars will be closer to earth (it's called perihelion) than it has been in 60,000 years. For the full scientific explanation of why this happens, read the article by Robert Roy Britt at the website that first alerted people to this rare occurrence:
At the same site, Joe Rao provides directions on finding Mars in the sky and what to look for if you have access to a telescope, plus some images for those of you who don't have telescopes:
In Seattle, Mars is currently rising around 9:30 PM over the jagged outline of the Cascade range, in the south-eastern sky. Known as the Fiery Star to the Babylonians, because of its red color, I've noticed that it loses that rosy glow as it mounts the sky. For the exact time that Mars will rise in your location, check out this website:
For a completely different view of Mars, visit the site of David Catling, a NASA scientist who compiled a list of the ways Mars is depicted in popular culture:
Since the astronomical facts are well covered at the above websites, I thought I'd focus on the astrological interpretations of this rare event. I find astrology useful in understanding what's going on in the world, including human behavior. I also love symbolism and astrology is a symbolic language, layered with myth. What could be better? But if you're an astrological skeptic you might want to skip ahead to the Dallyingwith Dahlias section.
The Mars perihelion coincides with several significant astrological events. For one thing,. Mars, traditionally the planet of assertion and desire, is going retrograde (the planet appears to move backwards from our vantage on earth) in the zodiac sign of Pisces, a watery, mystical sign, not a comfortable place for such an active force.Usually Mars passes through a sign fairly quickly but because of the retrograde, Mars will be floating in the Piscean soup of empathy and dreams until December.
According to astrologer, Richard Giles, Mars retrograde may trigger irrational thoughts and actions, self-assessment, sexual and relationship conflict and major rethinks of current projects. Bill Herbst who wrote the feature article on the Mars Approach for The Mountain Astrologer, worries about the aggression and anger associated with Mars and how they might play out politically. Philip Sedgwick expects that for most people during this time, feelings will override reason, and reactions drive decisions.
Also on the New Moon of August 27, right around the time Mars is closest to the earth, it will be conjunct to Uranus, the revolutionary planet that catalyzes electric and radical changes, while opposing five planets in Virgo. My favorite astrologer, Sheila Belanger, suggests the Mars-Uranus combination may awaken latent psychic skills. Or stir us up to defend what we hold sacred.
After all, the Warrior is a sacred archetype. Before he became linked with Ares, the Greek god of war, Mars was an Etruscan god, invoked by farmers to protect their cattle and crops from diseases, bad weather and
evil influences. Caroline Casey in her book on the planetary archetypes writes that "Mars is the heroic, questing impulse to protect self and others."
If you want to look at how Mars might affect you I recommend the monthly horoscopes Susan Miller writes for her website:
Of course, these interpretations are, of necessity, general (since Susan has no way of knowing your rising sign or how Mars impacts other planets in your chart). For instance, Susan thinks I might be evaluating and working on relationship issues since in my ideal chart Mars falls in the 7th house of relationships. And that's true, but I'm also getting lots of action from the publishing world (nibbles from agents and editors, an acceptance from a literary journal to which I submitted a piece a year ago). Perhaps this is because Mars is goosing my North Node in the 9th house (the house of publishing).
If you're interested in seeing how Mars affects your personal chart, consult an astrologer.
Britt, Robert Roy, "Orbital Oddities: Why Mars will be so
close to earth in August," www.space.com/spacewatch/where_is_mars.html
Casey, Caroline, Making the Gods Work for You, Harmony 1998
Catling, David, "Planet Mars in Popular Culture,"
Giles, Richard, www.astrologycom.com
Herbst, Bill, "Close Encounter with Mars," The Mountain Astrologer,
McCann, David, "Mars in myth and philosophy,"
Miller, Susan, www.astrologyzone.com
Rao, Joe, "Mars Watch: Where is the Red Planet Now?"
Sedgwick, Philip, "Martian Madness," July 25, 2003,
In my Library: Astrology Books
I first got interested in astrology during my college years when I figured out that all my romantic interests were fire signs and all my friends, either earth signs or Geminis, a correlation too big to be explained by random chance.
Still I didn't follow astrology much (finding thos newspaper columns entertaining but not too practical) until I hit a volatile mid-life transit, when, searching for some explanation of what was going on, I found my personal astrologer, Sheila Belanger, who has also been a great teacher in this symbolic language. (Unfortunately, Sheila doesn't have a website, but she can be reached to schedule consultations, either in person in Bellingham, WA or by phone, at 360.671.4449).
I have many astrology books on my shelf, but the ones I find most helpful are:
Bloch, Douglas and Demetra George, Astrology for Yourself, Wingbow Press, 1987
I used this workbook to teach myself the basic principles of astrology. It's supportive, simple and clear. You go at your own pace and apply the insights learned to your own chart so naturally it's fascinating.
Birkbeck, Lyn, Do It Yourself Astrology, Element 1996
I especially like the way this book is set up, with a brief description of how the planets function in each sign (Mars in Pisces has an essence of "Getting Through Accepting") and a graph showing how the planet functions when being used unskillfully (volatile, self-deluding, furtive, resentful) and the solutions (being honest about feelings, asserting your talents gently) that lead to more positive results (charisma, tenderness, generosity, healing). Includes tables (1900-2000) so you can identify the placement of your planets. Birkbeck has also written a similar book on transits called Do It Yourself Life Plan Astrology.
Andersen, Jefferson, Sun Signs. Moon Signs
This is my favorite book of all time, the one I turn to as soon as I learn someone's birthdate. Unfortunately it's out-of-print and I haven't been able to find it online. My copy is a little paperback published by Dell in 1978. It lists a clever title and a brief description for every sun/moon sign combination and I've found it incredibly accurate (only wrong once about a totally psycho boyfriend). I've been wanting to publish it online for years (since it seems to be unavailable otherwise and I think it's so valuable).
Bugler, Caroline, ed., The Complete Handbook of Astrology
A gift from my brother and his wife many years ago (thanks, Tim and Julie!) Also apparently out-of-print, but a great reference. This is the book I consult when I have a question about the affects of a transit or aspect. The entry on Mars in Pisces mentions struggles for acknowledgement, self-confidence eroded by hyper-sensitivity and escapism.
On the Net: Astrological Links
Most astrological sites, even for some of my favorite astrologers, are pretty commercial, requiring you to pay or join to go deeper into the archives. Here are two of my favorites, because they are so big-hearted
and give away a lot of free information:
I love the marvelous, breezy tone of Susan Miller's writing and print a copy for myself every month. It's like sitting down with your best, somewhat bossy girlfriend, and having her tell you exactly what you
should be doing.
I love the personal approach of April Eliott Kent who writes engaging personal essays about her life in (cat adoption, home repair) using astrology as a way to understand what's happening, and essays suggesting new ways to view astrological topics (like the Moon
Flower of the Month: Dallying with Dahlias
The Flower of August is the dahlia. Click here to read more about the dahlia's connection with the Aztec hummingbird-war god, Huitzilopochtli.
If you'd rather read my grumblings about the sorry state of flower folklore scholarship and ideas on creating your own floral calendar go to my Flowers Intro page first.
Autumn in the School of the Seasons
A quick reminder that, although it still feels like summer, in the School of the Seasons, Autumn begins with Lammas, on August 1. Order your correspondence course now if you want to get started on Autumn studies.
Signs of Autumn
IJust since I wrote the last newsletter, the rowan berries have deepened from pale to bright orange, and the hydrangeas are in decline. Even the dahlias are looking a bit scruffy around the edges. What are the signs of this season where you live? What crops are you harvesting? Send them to me and I'll post them on the website under Signs of the Season.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
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