My Life in Astrology


There is not a place in my memory when I did not know the time of my birth. For some reason, this was information that my mother thought relevant, along with the fact that I was a Gemini. At some point in my childhood sun sign columns appeared in the local papers and she read them  after breakfast – in the kitchen in the winter, out on the lawn in the summer. This was on the days we didn’t walk down the hill to the road where we waited for the bus to school.  My youngest siblings don’t have this memory, but I was the eldest of five and we lost our parents quite early, so perhaps, had she lived, we would have all grown up with this astrological sense of ourselves.

From mid-teens to my early twenties I was in a Roman Catholic boarding school and later a Catholic college taught by wonderfully intelligent Ursaline nuns and Jesuit priests. I don’t remember any astrology there at all, not even in our subversive phases.  (We were already reading the then most controversial Père Teilhard de Chardin only a few years after his death). But once I was out and free to fly, it seemed to be everywhere. It was the mid 1960s and a new kind of freedom was flourishing amongst the youth of America and Europe. After graduation, I worked in an office for three months to make the money to go to Europe. I planned to travel a bit and then come home to further my education; become Something.


In October 1967 a college friend and I were standing in Trafalgar Square in our duffel coats and our innocence, open to everything. We had come to ‘undo our education’ in every way we could.  A rather dishevelled young man with a beautiful speaking voice came up and asked for a cigarette and that began an adventure that lasted for years. That summer I ended up on the Isle of Wight working for his splendid Capricorn mother in her hotel and astrology was around to the extent that we all knew each others’ signs and she read us our horoscopes every day from the newspaper. One night a cantankerous old man in a pub heard me say something about astrology and began baiting me: “You just guess what sign I am if you’re so smart.” I said, “I don’t need to guess. You’re a Taurus.” I was as shocked as everyone else to get it right and responded sweetly and with delight when he bought us a round of cider.   

What stands out most powerfully from that time was that there were kindred spirits everywhere.  It was mostly the music that bonded us in our youth, and the substances that were floating around that aided us in seeing patterns we might not have noticed without special training!  

Admiration From Afar

Previously published in the AA Journal in 2013

When John invited me to write a piece on someone who has inspired me I was deep in my ongoing research of the previous six historical period when Pluto was in Capricorn together with Neptune in Pisces.  So this is about three people from these other times and other places who have stirred the breath of wonder in me. In each case, I was inspired – felt touched by something beautiful – and I admired and was awed by their wonderful courage.  The first is:


(c. 500 – 28 June 548)

Empress Wife of Justinian

Sometime between 497 and 510 C.E. a girl was born in extremely humble circumstances.  She became the most powerful woman of her time – the Empress of Byzantium. She is said to have been the daughter of a bear trainer who died when she was seven.  Her mother got herself a job on the stage and brought Theodora and her sisters along too.  It was a very rowdy life, very sexual, from an early age.  When the famous historian of the day, Procopius, wrote his Secret Histories after her death, he wrote that, before her marriage she was ‘licentious and depraved, spiteful, greedy, an intriguer, a demon in human form.’ He said that before she met and married Justinian she ‘sold her attractions to anyone who came along’. He admitted she was ‘extremely clever and had a biting wit,’ but she had not a bit of modesty.  I cannot quote much of his graphic descriptions of her activities on the stage, as our modern sensibilities would find them much too shocking.   In any case, when the taciturn and meticulous, hard working and canny Emperor Justinian met her, he took her for his own, and he had the laws changed so that he could marry her.  It is said that he was utterly faithful to her until her death that and she was his only complete confidante.  They made a formidable team.