Swamps and Scorpions, Pluto and Saturn

by L. Gabelsberg, written October 8, 2014

Can I overcome Texas?
What correction is this?
The mists, the veil that keeps me here,
bound in a swampy stew.
I have been through with you
for a long time.
Why does some part of my soul
sing in martyrdom every time I come back?
Even with last night’s pesticide in my throat

the train still runs all night,
Screeching and squealing through my head.
The dragon is me, but no fire here.
Only swamp.
It’s not easy sleeping with ear muffs.
Mosquito larvae breed in my throat.
The obstacles to peace are many.
The solutions are few:
A good meal, a good night’s sleep, a song,
the smile of a friend, the laughter of a child.

When I moved back to Texas after four nourishing years living in the desert in Tucson, my Dad had passed away in April of that year, four days after my birthday.  I cried on my way to work every day for most of the following school year, barely able to force a smile.  It was a difficult year.  We lived a stone throw from the railroad tracks in a crummy tract neighborhood I couldn’t wait to move out of.  I truly had to wear ear muffs to get any sleep.  My children were all unhappy to have left their friends in Arizona to come back to the humid, traffic-ridden city, which they no longer considered home.  On my way to my teaching job each morning there would be incredible mists and fog covering the fields that surrounded our neighborhood.  Cutting through that autumn fog every day was a challenge, literally and figuratively.   While still deeply in grief, I composed the above poem.  I thought it interesting that Saturn moved through Scorpio when this was composed and I thought about this poem today in pondering Scorpio and the themes of Pluto as we currently move through a Venus Retrograde in Scorpio until mid-November.

On January 27, 2008, Pluto moved into the sign of Capricorn and remains there until 2024, asking for the collective, generational transformation of institutions, authority, responsibility, and power.

Pluto and Saturn will be coming into a significant conjunction in 2020 while in the sign of Capricorn, which Richard Tarnas writes about, the Saturn-Pluto alignments.

Pluto currently sits at 18 degrees of Capricorn and is still barely more than halfway through the sign.  Saturn joins Pluto in the sign of Capricorn, currently at 4 degrees, though being a faster planet, it will catch up to and conjunct Pluto at 22 Capricorn on January 12, 2020.  By the end of the year in December of 2020, Saturn will move into Aquarius and get all the way to 13 degrees in the months following and turn retrograde.

With these two planets coming into conjunction in 2020, in what ways might society place more limits on those in power, and/or transform our institutions?  When will those in power meet the “restriction” of Saturnian influence?

According to Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, Saturn-Pluto alignments are associated with,

especially challenging historical periods marked by a pervasive quality of intense contraction: eras of international crisis and conflict, empowerment of reactionary forces and totalitarian impulses, organized violence and oppression, all sometimes marked by lasting traumatic effects.[30]

[*quote from from Becca Tarnas’ blog]

Is the current Venus Retrograde in Scorpio/Libra as well as Jupiter in Scorpio, asking us to wade into the swamp and drag out all that is murky and in need of drying out and to prepare for the intensity of this Saturn/Pluto conjunction, Jan 12, 2020?  I believe it could be.

 The very first children born with these Pluto placements in Capricorn are just now ten years old, and all of the children born after Jan 2008 share this Pluto placement, and so we could call these youngsters, the “Pluto in Capricorn” generation. The children born with Pluto in Capricorn will be age 12 or so when this major Pluto/Saturn conjunction occurs in 2020 and will also experience their first Jupiter returns in this same time period of intense conflict and crisis, during very formative years of their lives, then it will again conjunct 30 years hence, when these children reach the age of 42.  I read online from teachers around the country who report or complain that their classes with children of these ages are “different, “difficult,” and “the worse they’ve seen” in many years in terms of behavior, that they seem entitled.  I don’t know whether there is any truth to that, but I find it interesting to note. Don’t we need some changes in our institutions?  Would these young people be the generation to truly bring this about, or at least to experience that transformation most intensely and closely?

(more to follow…while adding in Neptune in Pisces in 2011)









The Birth Chart – New Perspectives and New Questions

For the past four weeks I have been taking an online course on Birth Chart Construction based on the teachings of  Willi Sucher. It has been both interesting and bewildering and I am left with even more questions than when I began, and we have one more class yet to go!

This course comes in addition to on-going weekly phone mentoring for the past three years with Darlys Turner from the Astrosophy Research Center in Meadow Vista, California. Darlys was a student of Willi Sucher’s and my current book study with her of the Introduction to Astrosophy by Willi Sucher has lasted since February of this year.  This online course is led by Jonathan Hilton, also a board member of the Astrosophy Research Center, based in New York.

Jonathan was also a student of Willi Sucher’s, he spent a month in Willi’s home in 1971. Darlys Turner spent four years with Willi once a week and helped with editing his works.

Willi Sucher was a young student of Rudolf Steiner and an anthroposophist.  About 60 participants are enrolled in Jonathan’s course, some coming from all over the world, some of which are enrolled in the Psychosophy Courses at Rudolf Steiner College to my understanding.  This is the first time Jonathan has offered this type of course online and it may be one of the first of its kind to have taken place in this way – exclusively online.  I have been honored to be a part of it.  My Great Oak School teaching colleague, Becky Stemper joined me in taking the course.

My motivation for taking this course comes from working in a Waldorf School  with children ages 7-14, and a desire to understand the complex needs of students we serve.  It is my hope that the study of the birth chart can provide a source of inspiration and insight for child study and adult biography work.

The course outlined steps to a process used by Sucher which involved the creation of several different types of charts.    The first chart is based on the moment of birth, the second chart is based on the moon at the time of birth and maps the prenatal development of the child from the moment of conception to the moment of birth, and the third chart is known as the Spiritual Nativity, and uses the moment when the Lunar Nodes are in the same position as the moon at birth to gain an imagination of the person’s philosophic disposition or attitude as outlined by the Cosmology Courses.   All told, the whole process of chart creation takes many hours.  Jonathan (and Sucher)recommended hand calculation as a practice and meditative contemplation, or an attitude of “holy awe,” when placing the imagiantion of a human life before oneself for study.  Sucher also used three additional heliocentric charts and practiced the exercises Steiner recommended for willing, thinking, and feeling.

I feel I am finally being rewarded with a few hard-won nuggets after three years of taking western astrology courses, reading western astrology as well as Steiner books, working with mentors, and learning what amounts to an entire “foreign language” of symbols and terms, not to mention beginning the practice of constructing charts.   I am finally beginning to come to some sort of ground level understanding of how western astrology differs  from Astrosophy (Sucher) and Anthroposophy (Steiner).   But as yet,  there is still much more to know, learn, and practice.  So therefore, even though I am beginning to understand how these differ, I am still at the beginning.

Now my questions center upon the following:

  • Is there an astrologically sound and yet anthroposophically-based practice or approach to the study and understanding of the birth chart that would provide a source of inspiration for constructive use within child study and the art of Waldorf teaching? Does this exist already?  Who is practicing this currently?

Along with the “how” questions about  chart construction, there come others, mainly dealing with ethics and privacy in relation to the school environment.

  • How can we incorporate star wisdom practices soundly, ethically, and transparently with our community if we choose to do so at all?
  • How do we educate ourselves as a faculty and educate our community to demystify it?
  • Is it possible to seek an understanding of the cosmic forces at work in a human life with integrity and openness and at the same time protect the diverse spiritual/religious beliefs, and along the same lines, the cultural diversity within our community?
  • How do we honor the privacy of children and their families in a school setting?
  • Can star wisdom be applied in the every day workings of a Waldorf school, and if so, what are the best practices?
  • What are the limits? The pitfalls? The potentialities?





Intelligence Vs. Mind

This summer I’ve been looking into Mercury more and thinking about how Mercury impacts student learning. I’m not sure if my investigation has been fast or slow, successful or unsuccessful, productive or completely unfruitful so far, but I remain on the trail.  It was as if as soon as I announced that I was interested in studying Mercury, a giant flash of smoke was thrown in my face and Mercury slipped behind the fog and snickered at me, “Yeah, right, catch me, first.” That seemed about right for Mercury given this archetype of the trickster.

Astrologers associate Mercury with the mind and communication. So naturally I thought  teachers who are given the task of facilitating learning for their students would be interested in Mercury’s influence on the mind.  But I have felt thwarted from the outset to even begin to communicate what I am interested in here and it seems that during the whole of the summer and into the most recent Mercury retrograde this August I had completely forgotten the simple fact that the mental “mind” does not equal intelligence. Well, duh.    This is an important realization for me not to forget as we consider the meaning of Mercury.  Disappointed in myself, I felt I had already hit my first hilarious pothole in the Mercury project and was on the roadside with a flat tire, trying to find my jack when suddenly AAA showed up with wings on their feet just to laugh at me.

Besides the thinking mind there is also the body’s innate wisdom as well as the heart wisdom and collective wisdom, wisdom of the natural world, and many other living systems which provide intelligence to the whole human organism, all of this beyond the confines of our thick skulls.  Then, some believe there are the spiritual hierarchies as well. I have been learning this for long time, but had momentarily forgotten this.

Some meditation schools refer to the mind as the “monkey mind.” I agree that the information-processing brain, with is electrical impulses is not the only wisdom center of our being, even though it may be  the electrical message hub in the body. A gifted psychic friend of mine once told me that God is an acronym G.O.D. for “Getting Over Defining.” That has always stuck with me and has reminded me that words, language and the monkey chatter in the mind are just words (symbols) and while they are important, they are not everything, and they are certainly not Truth (with a capital T.)   For this idea, we can explore the writing of Don Miguel Ruiz.  The simple way to control monkey mind (too much thought) is through breath, as explained in this short video from a Buddhist monk on the “monkey mind.” Gatta love YouTube! Where does breath come from?  It is outside of us, and we have to inhale it, let it circulate, and give it back.  The air itself then contains some wisdom or nourishment, even another form of intelligence.

In the Chartres labyrinth, the mind is only the first part of the maze and only represents only 1/4 of the path of life. One must dive down deep into the heart, facing one’s fears and one’s sense of mortality in order to work one’s way through the whole maze. Then, there is a going back and forth phase where one must be able to go alternate between mind and heart, between self and other and integrate the two before one reaches the center. (For more about Chartres see the work of Institute for Applied Meditation.)


Mercury plays an important part in the nimbleness or flexibility of our intelligence, it’s our ability to mediate between the material and spiritual worlds but it is only a part of a much bigger picture. Perhaps in the same way, Mercury represents this same ability to alternate between our heart and mind, to slide right from one world into another through a cloud of smoke, to “be in the world, but not of it.”

Intelligence (as different from “mind)  is a complex combination of memory (Saturn), the collection of information and communication (Mercury), the perception through the bodily 12 senses (Jupiter and the etheric), emotional processing (Moon), and the values one lives for and the strategies for attaining what is desired (Venus/Mars), or choices and means. All of these are in service to the soul’s purpose, represented by the sun. Back to the drawing board.  The lesson here is that Mercury needs to be viewed in context.

It’s interesting to me that there seems to be among Western astrologers a disinterest in Mercury and an intentional ignoring or downplaying of Mercury in the chart interpretation. It seems almost every other planet is given more significance than Mercury. But this doesn’t daunt me, it intrigues me rather because it would seem to be a pretty big challenge to understand its nature.

In Isis Sophia by Willi Sucher, a student of Steiner’s, the author describes Mercury as the redeemer of Mars. Mars extends the astral forces of sympathy and antipathy coming from the realms of the past while Mercury redeems these from the standpoint of the future and in doing so works towards the emancipation and the individuation of the ego. Perhaps then by observing, whether a child, adult or even ourselves,  we could begin to understand the interaction between the natal Mercury forces and the natal Mars forces and thereby the patterns or dynamics which color the individuation process which begins at the age of seven in childhood and matures with the birth of ego (emancipation) at or near the age of twenty-one.   If we could get a better understanding, would we be able to better support children through the growth process toward a start on a healthy adult life?

Going further, how do immediate real-time transits impact the dynamics in a natal arrangement?  We do not operate in a void.  We are always swimming in a sea of cosmic forces that is constantly changing, so the question of what is happening on a given day, cannot truly be understood unless we understand these forces at a deeper level.

In beginning to think about the real-time influence of Mercury in the classroom, I took a few notes this past month as planets were changing signs moving direct and it did seem to my own way of being that as Mercury changed signs and shifted from retrograde to direct that there were certain and sudden shifts in how I and many of the people all around me were mentally and emotionally processing what they were experiencing as a sudden and noticeable change. This seemed quite real to me.

My larger question is…..How do these Mercury cycles impact a classroom environment where every individual student has his or her own unique perspective and capacities to integrate these forces? Do they merely change the way we perceive? How lasting are the effects? How can teachers become more aware of the integration capacities in their students to handle these changes? How can we observe a student’s ability to navigate between heart and mind?  What can we learn through observing their nightly sleep quality at handshake in the morning, their flow through the daily rhythm, the ability to recall, and the carryover in memory from one day to the next?   Is it unreasonable to expect that  we might someday be able to understand more deeply this underappreciated redeemer, the elusive, slippery  Mercury, the planet which rules the 7-14 year old phase of life?

For a brief explanation of Steiner’s 7 year cycles and the correlation ofthe 7-14 year old child with Mercury please see: The American Institute for Learning and Human Development and an article titled..The Stages of Life According to Rudolf Steiner.

Is there a 12 Steps for Astrologers?

My husband calls me a junkie.  We have a joke that teachers are “Workshop Junkies.” Adding to that, folks in education have overused that phrase, “Lifelong Learner.”  I certainly qualify for this and my passion for studying Astrology over the last few years has only made this worse, poor man.  Being a lifelong learner, is that what we should really be doing?  

I just wrapped up a 5-week Introduction to Greek Myths for Astrologers class, ($265)  offered through Kepler College online.  It was very informative and helped me brush up on these archetypal stories for my 5th Graders.  Sadly, workshops such as these are not free.

Reading and self-education is free, but requires time, something teachers don’t have a lot of, but a lot of interest in.  I have a new book I want to pick up, which was recommended out of that Greek Myth class, I just wish I had more time to read it, so I continue to add it to my reading list.  I have stacks of books I have picked up this summer but am at various stages of working through them and have desire to read them all but now that school begins I find my lesson preparations take a huge amount of time and energy.  It took me three full hours last weekend to plan and execute a watercolor painting for this week’s painting class, though everyone was pleased with the results, this means that many other parts of my life get ignored, like exercise, meal planning and food shopping, and time with my family.

I am currently reading A.T.Mann’s book, A New Vision of Astrology. I am finding his ideas fascinating.  AT Mann was giving lectures at the Rubin Museum in New York this summer which were live-streamed over Facebook.  When I start talking about these topics of interests with people I begin to realize I am getting blank stares and I am beginning to be like that guy in the episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy breaks his glasses and cannot read all of the books, even though time has stopped. This summer I have gradually been learning:  Maybe. I. should. keep. this astrology addiction. to. my. self.  Meanwhile, my quest for learning, my addictive itch is beckoning, “So where is my next fix?”

Now that my Greek Myth class is over I turn to the study of the Ancient Greek Hero through Harvard’s online education programs, at least that is free!  I should be ready to teach my 5th graders all about the Greeks this year.  Will I ever know enough?  Answer: No.  We will never know enough. I will never know enough, and so the addiction grows.

Over the summer I have grown more interested in taking an Astronomy course which would help me for 6th Grade when we come to that subject, but also it will help my understanding of the celestial objects in general.   For that, I may go back to Kepler, which offers an Astronomy for Astrologers course, or I may seek a weekend sky observing workshop in West Texas or Arizona to get fully immersed in sky observing, or both.  Wouldn’t that be fun!?  And now, you really start to see my addiction pattern here.  Time to hop a flight to Vegas so I can earn money for my next fix. (Just kidding, I have never actually gambled to support my addiction.  Yet. )

In November I will go to hear Richard Tarnas’ weekend lecture at the Jung Center ($120). He is the author of several books, Passion of Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche, which I have been reading this past year.   Cosmos and Psyche is a fascinating study of historical trends of revolutions and how those trends follow a predictable pattern when the outer planets Uranus and Pluto are conjunct, square, opposing, and back to square and conjunct.  This picture of larger time cycles puts a single human life into historical perspective.

This is why my “need to know” qualifies me as a junkie. Again, my poor husband. He is so patient.   Adam Gainsburg called this, “Going on a death march for meaning.” I like that.  I think it is true for me in many cases.  I certainly have been on many a death march for meaning.  There, I admitted it.  At least it helps me laugh at this strange tendency of mine.  This I relate to my Pluto in the 3rd House in Libra and Saturn in the 11th House in Gemini.    My Saturn is square to forceful stellium of Aries in the 9th House, which seeks higher learning and philosophy and Pluto opposes the stellium in Aries in the 9th house.    

I realize that perhaps my continual striving for understanding is not the way to do things and I could somehow take it easy, or make it easier for myself and take things as they come.  That isn’t really my way.  I do like a challenge.  But nonetheless, I am beginning to think about this addiction more and how to transform it, I am  looking for ways to try to try let things just come to me, and not be on such a death march for meaning all the time.  Still, a junkie is a junkie.  Is there a 12 Steps for Astrologers?

Astrology as a Powerful Story and a Conversation

I just ran across a great quote this morning, ” [Astrology] at best, merely provides a focus that allows therapy by conversation to proceed.”  This is truly my aim, and perhaps the only real claim astrology can make.  A good astrologer is actually just a really good listener and conversationalist who uses a language of symbols as jumping off points toward the conversation.   The only truth that exists is what gets exchanged between the astrologer and the client and is mutually agreed on to represent truth.

Symbols are  just that and only that = symbols.  Symbols are not “truth” in and of themselves. But, symbols can be quite powerful in life.

Perhaps, if all I deliver in a reading is a good conversation, if I have prompted a client to reflect on their life in new ways,  then I have done my job. I would be deeply satisfied with that.

I don’t pretend to have any psychic ability, nor do I believe that a chart has any special power in itself.   If my clients leave their time with me with new ideas or new perspective to chew on about their life, then astrology has succeeded in creating transformation, simply through art of conversation and the client has the decision-making power to believe what they choose to believe.  That transformation is enough and it could be a lot, depending on what the person decides to do with it.    The meaning of our life is merely the story we tell ourselves and the unfolding action in the drama. We can change that story at any point in the game through what we believe.  That is the potential of the art or craft of astrology in which I am interested – the power of the story we are telling ourselves and creating new ones that lead us to our highest goals in life.



Recommended Astrology Websites

There are plenty of great places on the web to read up on various aspects of your chart, or just to learn more about astrology and the planets.  I avoid the sites with too many blaring pop ups and favor those with higher quality, free reading content like Cosmic Intelligence Agency, and the Astrology Hub.

If you are in the Houston area, you can check out the Houston Astrological Society meet-ups, which organizes free and low-cost lectures on various topics for the public. Their facebook page is HAS Facebook Page