A Chironic View of Astrological Counseling
As astrologers we are privileged to behold some of the many turns of the cosmic kalidescope which horoscopes represent. Each chart, each person, is an opportunity to witness another form of Spirit. Each encounter is a mirror reflecting another part of ourselves. Looking deeply into our own charts, and into those of our clients, we gain valuable insight, which enriches both our personal and our professional lives. An astrological session is not a one-way occurrence, but rather a dynamic, mutual exchange. If we ask ourselves, what is the purpose and meaning of this particular client coming to us at this particular time, we open ourselves to more profound level of growth and service.
Any astrological counseling session provides an opportunity for integration and healing for both the astrologer and the client. While it seems evident why a client would be contracting for a session, it is less obvious, but equally important, to look at the benefit (apart from financial) for the astrologer. What draws us into this kind of work? What keeps us doing it? And what are we really doing?!
We are healing. The word “heal” comes from the same cognate as the word “whole”, so etymologically and psychospiritually, to heal is to make whole. In providing a universal language which validates personal and transpersonal experience, we are helping both ourselves and our clients become more whole, more in touch with the essential self and the spiritual dimension of life. In using the archetypal symbols of astrology, we participate in a mutual growth of consciousness. Both people are changed as a result of the interaction. The astrologer benefits just as much as the client in terms of opportunities for consolidating and integrating their own experience and understanding. In order to guide or counsel, one must have achieved a certain level of mastery. The client-counselor relationship allows for the continual testing and refinement of that mastery.
That mastery is a lifelong process. Each client provides an opportunity to see how far we have progressed with the issues being presented. Over months or years, we may notice a predominance of certain archetypes or themes in our practice. (For example, with a strong emphasis on Cancer and the Moon in my own chart, I find that many of my clients come with lunar issues.) We may also find certain themes in our clients’ charts which coincide with transits we are currently having or have recently gone through. This again allows us to review and share our personal experience as well as our professional knowledge. As astrologers, often the most valuable gift we have to give is not our technical expertise, but the understanding and compassion we have achieved from grappling with our own issues. Like Chiron, the archetype of theWounded Healer, having made a healing journey ourselves, we can and often become guides for others on the way.
We can’t help but do our work through the filter of our own perceptions and issues. That is part of being human, and part of the gift we have to give ourselves and our clients. We are all in a continual process of becoming. By deeply studying our horoscopes we can identify our latent potentials, unconscious patterns and lessons for growth. The astrology chart is an extremely powerful tool for this kind of awareness.
Each symbol in the astrological langugage is an infinitely fertile area for self-exploration. Those discussed below symbolize areas of our psyche which are often subconscious or shadow material, and which are very directly engaged in counseling situations. Use this listing as a self-awareness exercise, noting areas which you might like to explore further in your own chart and life.
1) The Ascendant or Rising Sign is how we initially relate to the world and to new experiences. This can be a difficult aspect of ourselves to get in touch with, because the assumptions symbolized by the ascendant sign are imprinted at an early age, and are not often questioned until other people or events draw us into examining our fundamental paradigms of reality. The ascendant can be like glasses on our face, so close and familiar that we forget we are wearing them. The Rising Sign can be an accurate and necessary shorthand of our personality, or a bias indiscriminately projected on all our interactions.
The placement of the Ascendant ruler, by its house and aspects, planets in the first house, and planets closely aspecting the Ascendant strongly modify the Ascendant expression, and can also unconsciously color our world view, our self-image, and what we permit others to see of ourselves. We tend to directly evoke and express the archetype symbolized by the planet(s) involved. For example, Uranus aspecting the Ascendant strongly individualizes the expression of that ascendant sign, and draws that person into playing a Promethean role in life. What are the qualities symbolized by your Ascendant and its ruler? What planets aspect your ascendant? How are their energies incorporated into your self-image and world-view?
2) The sign on the seventh house cusp and planets in the seventh house represent qualities we often project onto and/or seek in others in one on one ongoing interactions (counseling relationships as well as romantic or business partnerships). Like the Ascendant, this can be automatic behavior and initially difficult to recognize. The qualities represented by the seventh house cusp and planets tend to be projected first and later reowned, reflected back to us in the mirror of relationship. What is the sign on your seventh house cusp? How do you express (or project) those qualities in your life? What are you most attracted to in a partner? What drives you crazy?
Oppositions are very similar to the 1st-7th house axis, symbolizing polarized but complementary energies. They are often played out in relationships, with one end of the opposition projected onto another person or situation. This is even more likely when an outer planet opposes a personal planet. A person with Pluto opposite the Sun may struggle with a domineering parent or partner until they are able to develop their own constructive use of power and will. Someone with Uranus opposite Venus may perceive themselves as loving and receptive, but see their partners as unwilling to compromise or commit, until they recognize and honor their own need for freedom and exploration. What dynamics are indicated by oppositions in your chart? If you don’t have any oppositions, review outer planet transits which have opposed your natal Sun, Moon, Venus or Mars for insight as to how this dynamic may function. How have oppositions helped you become more aware and balanced in those areas of life?
3) Stelliums or conjunctions can be blind spots of powerfully projected energies, or areas where we struggle to find constructive expression of a combination of qualities. The ease or difficulty of achieving a positive, unified expression will directly depend on the mixture of energies involved, their aspects, and the age and maturity of the person. The sign and house location would supply clues as to the activities and environment necessary for this integration. For example, a person with a conjunction of the Sun, Mars and Uranus may not be aware of the strength and individuality they project, nor able to productively harness that energy until a certain amount of life experience brings a reorientation from self to collective concerns, such as in participation in new technologies or social reform. If you have a stellium or conjunctions in your chart, explore the individual drives of each planet, looking at how each is similar to and different from the other. What are they trying to acheive as a unit?
4) Hemisphere placement, like the Ascendant, can indicate a general (and often unconscious) response pattern and worldview. Many planets above the horizon signal a socially-oriented lifepath; below the horizon, a more subjective and personally focused life. Planets in the Eastern, or rising, sector tend to operate more independently; planets in the West tend to respond and be more relationship-oriented energies. A predominance in any one hemisphere or quadrant predisposes one to value and view that quality as a primary mode of being. In what hemispheres are your planets located? What assumptions about life might that indicate?
5) Elemental dominance, many planets in one element or the absence of planets in an element, can constellate an marked tendency to value and engage in the activities symbolized by that element. For example, a person with many planets in earth is drawn to pragmatic, tangible endeavors and results in life. Conversely, someone with few or no planets in earth may be aware of the need to be practical and productive, and may seek associations with people who have those atttributes. What is the elemental composition of your chart? What element is most comfortable for you? Which is one gives you difficulty?
6) The Nodes of the Moon are the points in space where the Moon crosses the ecliptic. They symbolize the interface between the Sun, Moon and Earth and indicate where we derive nourishment for growth. The South Node, representing what has nourished us in the past, may be an area where we unconsciously replay old patterns or hold attitudes which need to be balanced by the qualities of the North Node. The sign and house placement of the North Node, symbolizing our spritual frontier, may also be unconscious territory for us, but for the opposite reason, as it indicates the next steps which need to be taken for the evolution of our consciousness. Where is your South Node by sign, house and ruler? Where is your North Node? What qualities or attitudes need to be balanced in this polarity?
7) The sign of and planets in the twelth house can be parts of ourselves which we hide from others or have hidden from ourselves. As the metaphorical attics of our psyches, these patterns may remain largely unconscious until a major transit or interpersonal dynamic activates them. Planets in the twelth house or the cusp sign represents qualities which we must experience and express both personally and transpersonally. For example, a person with a Sun in the 12th house might best discover their self identity through experiencing selflessness in meditation, dreamwork, altruistic occupations or other transpersonal actitivites. What sign do you have on the 12th house cusp? Where is its ruler? How are you expressing those qualities (and any planets in the 12th) in your life?
8) The sign of and planets in the 4th house represent foundational energies connecting us to family roots and experiences of our home environment. These can also symbolize what we feel a family should be, and what may help us achieve a stable emotional base. It is especially important here (and with the symbol of the Moon, which follows) to remember that there are at least twelve ways of perceiving and coping with life. One person’s emotional needs may differ vastly from another’s; what would nourish one might be frustrating to another. For example, a Piscean need for retreat might at times be at odds with a Gemini need for communication. Understanding and honoring the differences as much as possible and healthful is crucial in any relationship, counseling or otherwise. What is the sign and ruler of your 4th house cusp? What does its sign and placement suggest about your psychological heritage?
9) The sign of and aspects to the Moon suggests what we need to feel safe and supported. It symbolizes our daily habits, emotional patterns and needs, as well as our storehouse of memories and subconscious drives. It is the archetype of the inner child and the mother principle, and provides clues as to experiences of nurturing and our relationship to the feminine. It is also our style of response to stress and how we can best nurture ourselves. What is the sign, house, and aspects to your moon? How do you express these qualities in your everyday life? What activities nurture you and keep you in touch with your feelings, the feminine, your inner child?
10) The placement of Mercury and planets in the 3rd house may show our preferred mode of communication and how we most easily receive and process information. It can also give us valuable clues as to how to best phrase concepts for optimal communication. A Mercury in Pisces might be more “right brain” oriented, and relate best with images and metaphors. A Mercury in Virgo might be more “left brain”, focusing on rational detail and getting “to the point”. As counselors relying largely on verbal communication, this is an important symbol to keep in mind. Where is your Mercury? What aspects to it modify your communication style? What do you like to think and talk about? What things do you have difficulty discussing?
11) The placement of Jupiter and planets in the 9th house indicates our philosophy of life and the assumptions we make about the meaning of our experience. It also can show how we see opportunity for growth and participation in our social and cultural environment. This, like the Ascendant is an especially important factor to bring to consciousness, because these beliefs color and filter all of our experience. In utilizing a symbolic system like astrology, much of our task is about imparting meaning to experience, so our own philosophy can strongly bias what we see as meaningful and what we promote as growthful. This is not to say that we have to be totally objective; that may not be possible or even desirable, but that we should be as aware as possible of our philosophy and be able when necessary to honor beliefs that differ from our own. What is your philosophy of life? What do you really believe in? What makes life worth living for you?
12) The placement and aspects to Saturn reveals where we have been denied something in the outer world in order to develop it within ourselves. In alchemy it is the base material which is transformed into gold. It can be the place where we feel our “judge” or internal critic most strongly, and can be both a place of avoidance and obsession in our lives. It symbolizes where we have felt deeply scarred by a lack of structure or external support, and where we feel least secure until we have worked to build our own structures and become our own parent or authority. It can be a point of great fear, and when transformed, a place of great strength. Where is your Saturn by sign, house and aspect? What are your attitudes toward discipline, responsibility, self-sufficiency? Where is your psychological Archilles heel? Where have you felt most limited or tested by life?
13) The placement and aspects to Chiron indicates where we encounter a deep wound, and also the qualities which will bring about its healing. Orbiting between Saturn and Uranus, Chiron represents a bridge between physically oriented reality and the collective or spiritual dimensions. It awakens us to an expanded understanding and acceptance of earthly trials, which, from a personal perspective, would seem unremitting and unendurable. Within the question lies the answer; within the wound lies the path of healing. Chiron represents the shamanic journey, and teaches us that ultimately all wounds heal through the integration of the mundane and divine. Where is your Chiron? What type of wound is symbolized by its sign, house and aspects? What do you need to learn and teach for its healing?
As astrologers we embody the archetype of the Wounded Healer. We provide guideposts and understanding for the journey of our clients. Like Chiron, we bridge the mundane and the divine worlds and help point the way to healing/wholing the Self. But also like Chiron, we have to make the journey ourselves, deeply exploring our own charts and lives. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we have to teach. The more we teach, the more we learn, and the spiral continues…
Each planet, and the myriad of other aspects of astrology can yield important insights; explore the symbols and techniques which speak most to you. Best Wishes to you in your journey.
About the Author
Stephanie Austin M.A. is an astrological counselor, teacher and writer in Orinda, CA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1972 and her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies in 1985. An adjunct professor at John F. Kennedy University, she teaches Archetypal Astrology and other topics at the Graduate School for the Study of Human Consciousness. She also teaches astrology privately, in tutorials and biweekly study groups for beginning and advanced students. In her counselng work she specializes in career, relationship and lifepath concerns.