The starry night we see is a portion of our living brains. Waves and particles of light and sound ripple out from every source, reflect off the surfaces they encounter and create the unpredictable future. Each one of us receives and transmits the thoughts emotions and sensations that flow in and through our bodies. Telepathy means no more than being open to sensing what's coming. The shaman, the priest, the astrologer, the prophet, the poet and the scientist have all tried to scry the distance and the future, connecting their community to its infinite environment, and some have done their best to keep their flocks bamboozled too, just to keep their jobs. The harmony of empires was thought to depend upon unity of belief and the martyrdom of heretics, and those ideas still sway our modern emperors.
At some point humans started counting. Counting their cows, counting the days, counting the stars. A hundred generations back in Babylon the priests knew that 235 full moons made 19 years to within a few hours and used this to predict eclipses. Yet only six generations back at the time of Napoleon, educated people in Europe still believed that the best time of the month to make a baby was in the days immediately after menstruation, and that having lots of sex prevented conception. Astrology was once studied in universities but has probably never been on the school curriculum. It has remained popular despite the progress of scientific knowledge because it attempts to predict what science has not yet offered (except in cases of terminal illness) to predict, our personal futures. The planetary orbits contain some interesting harmonic ratios, some of which I will mention, but to the scientists these are just coincidence, as they know of no physical resonance that causes them.
To me it doesn't matter if they are just coincidence, they are still the rhythms that our globe revolves in. As botanists divide the land into a grid of squares to minutely scan the grass beneath their noses, astrologers divide time using the rhythm of the spheres. It is just a frame to hang events upon. Certain cultures, like the Roman Empire and the United States, have preferred rectangular divisions of land. The older way was to use the curves of valleys and to tune to a female sprite embodied in each stream. All our perceptions are filtered by some grid or other, maybe built into our sense organs or maybe into the assumptions of our ideas such as up and down, me and you. Astrology first came home to me at age 19 as I was cruising down from an LSD trip on the campus of Warwick University.
I lived in a commune of performing artists called the Exploding Galaxy in North London and we'd been booked for an event at Warwick University along with rhythm and blues man Graham Bond. After the gig, as I sat with my friends in the back of a van to be taken to stay the night in a house in Leamington Spa, a man in uniform knocked on the back door of the van. I assumed it would be more official persecution but we opened the door and he was only the chauffeur who had driven Graham Bond to the gig. Bond had taken another lift and left a book in the man's car; if we were returning to London could we make sure it got to him? I offered to do so and took the book and opened it. On the first page was the ancient diagram of the Tree of Life of the Qaballah, with ten spheres and twenty-two paths, and Hebrew names. I had never seen anything like it before. Or not in this lifetime.
The signs of the zodiac, the planets, the tarot cards and the Hebrew alphabet were all hung on this tree, as well as 88 different colours. It was fascinating, complex and dense. Over the next six months I studied it and made it my own. I never got round to finding Graham Bond and returning the book. A few years later he threw himself in front of a London tube train. I began to haunt occult bookshops and discovered other treasures, a gospel hidden in the Vatican that preached running naked in the woods, a book on nutrition by a follower of Rudolf Steiner, a book of astrology with an image for each day of the year. Had I needed greater complexity I might have discovered Enochian magic, tried to calculate my biorhythms (the interweaving of 23-, 28- and 33-day cycles) or learnt about the Mayan calendar with its 260-day year based on 13 times 20. I'm sure all these systems work equally well for those who choose to use them, but I didn't happen to bump into them at that time.
The Babylonians - or someone before them - divided the circle into 360 degrees, which is 3 times 4 times 5 times 6 and is just five and a quarter short of the number of days in the year. Seven became the favourite number in the western tradition, because 2 to the power of 12 is almost the same as 3 to the power of 7, the difference being called the Pythagorean comma, and hence eventually (after J S Bach's Wohltempierte Klavier) came the seven white keys in each octave on the piano and the five black keys between them. Until Uranus was discovered there were seven planets (including sun and moon) and supposedly seven colours in the rainbow, though all depends on how you see and hear. Natives of South America valued four colours of beads as currency; red, white, black and yellow. Blue and green were already everywhere. The Chinese had five elements instead of the Western four (or the Nordic nine) and the Chinese zodiac was applied primarily to a 12-year cycle, which corresponds to the cycle of the planet Jupiter against the fixed stars. The Hindu festivals of Kumbha Mela also follow that cycle. The Buddhists were especially fond of dividing things into eight, and maybe found some confirmation in the most impressive diagram of modern science, the atomic table, with eight elements in each row. But I've never heard of anyone using that table as a metaphor for human psychological types. All the pre-scientific systems were intended to apply to every field of study.
As the years went by I became in turn a Scientologist, a Maoist, a libertarian socialist and a pagan, though I was never entirely any of them and the phases overlapped. I had long ago studied and absorbed my own astrological birth chart (30.5.1948 10.50pm Chiswick Middlesex) and I was always up for a good astrological conversation, but I didn't have much faith in any astrological system. However I often studied and made time charts of the different phases of my life, jobs, houses and relationships. I noticed a two and a half year cycle in such events was quite frequent, and I realised that my usual view of the future was to look ahead no more than six months. In the early 1990s I lived on the boat Tao on Portmeadow Oxford and a man called Rob Valentine became my neighbour on his boat Camelot. At that time he was a keen astrologer though later he ditched it in favour of astronomy. We discovered we had both lived in Edinburgh in the early 1970s and both moved to Oxford about the same time and known some people in common but never met till then. Conversations with him convinced me I ought to look more closely at astrology again (while he moved the other way).
I knew of the work of the Gauquelins comparing the birth charts of a large sample of fairly famous people in history which found a significant correlation between the planet in the midheaven at birth and their field of excellence, corresponding with the traditional meanings of the planets, e.g. Mars for soldiers. They could find no correlations to do with sun signs or rising signs, the factors most astrologers today would consider most important. They also found the correlation no longer held good from the time when hospitals began to induce births. I wasn't interested in proving astrology right or wrong, just in finding out what might work for me and my friends. Since I'd begun to attend pagan gatherings I had become convinced that the phases of the moon affected the way I felt and the accidental encounters that happened to me. As far as I know there is no way of scientifically testing this kind of belief because it can only be noticed by someone who is looking out for it. My scepticism was not of the variety, "you must be imagining this because there is no way the moon's gravitational pull could make these things happen", but of the variety, "what you believe influences what you notice, and what you give attention to is encouraged either to come closer or to hide" (fascination or fear).
Since 1993 I had been involved in the road protest movement, at Twyford Down and other sites. Although I already had some history in politics, it was pagans who first inspired me to take direct action. In the winter of 1995 we were getting ready to resist the Newbury by-pass. I thought it was a bad choice to be made into the movement's biggest battle, because unlike many other road schemes too many locals wanted the by-pass. I had also been helping my young friends Oak and Star to build a tipi for the Oxford rainbow family. I had heard astrologers talk about the Saturn return and how it can be a difficult time in people's lives. This seemed wrong to me as not everybody has a particularly tough time at age 29 and I didn't feel that I had. But as I was poring over the ephemeris (the book of planetary changes) I noticed that Saturn was due to move from Pisces into Aries that spring, and the beginning of Aries is the beginning of the whole zodiac. Then I realised that the previous time Saturn had moved from Pisces into Aries was the spring of 1967. Though that year is known as the Summer of Love and has a somewhat legendary status, deserved or not, for me personally it was a time of total transformation. I turned from an awkward isolated dreamer who had never been kissed into an active participant in an artists' commune where I had sex and took LSD.
I had recently (in 1995) been reading John Martineau's Little Book of Coincidence, which collects the known harmonies in our solar system and leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. There I first read about the Metonic cycle mentioned above, 235 full moons equals 19 years (to a couple of hours' accuracy). I had long felt that I had been sort of reborn when I took LSD and somehow disconnected psychologically from my preceding youth. Now it struck me that I had taken my first LSD trip on my 19th birthday, when the moon was in the same degree of Pisces that it was when I was born. I had my first astrological premonition. I was sure that the spring of 1996 would be a time of transformation and an echo in my life of 1967. From the moment of my premonition of course it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Events, both in the road protest movement and among my friends, were already building in that direction. I don't remember who I told about my premonition, I didn't shout it from the rooftops but it changed my state of mind and that had some effect on others. Not to the extent of the road protest movement, in which I was a tiny player, and which in hindsight was already on a roll. Newbury, though the road was built, halted the road building programme, and, just as importantly for me, it brought together an extraordinary collection of activists who inspired each other in legendary fashion.
Each astrologer and each school of astrology will have a different system. Some of this will be derived from tradition or someone else's system, and some will be derived from the astrologer's own observation. This is much the same in medicine. Even if there is no statistical proof for the differing characteristics of the twelve zodiacal birth signs (and the studies I have seen seem to have set out with the intention of proving astrology either right or wrong) I suspect that any random division of humans into twelve types would produce some workable results, because the system would give the observer something to check against reality. In addition, it may be that humans respond to the expectations of those that are observing them (including even hidden observers). In my LSD days I was happy to identify with the classic characteristics of Gemini, and happy that my birthday was the day before Walt Whitman's. But it was the moon cycle (29 and a bit days) the Metonic cycle (19 years) and the Saturn cycle (29 and a bit years) that later impressed me as actual predictors of events, or rather they helped me tune in to the rhythm of events.
One example among many of the power of the moon cycle happened to me when I was living in an abandoned village in the Italian Alps two hours walk from roads or electricity. There were two other people there with me, a Belgian man and a Frenchman, we were all new to each other but living together at a distance from civilisation brings you closer. One hot morning a friend of the Frenchman arrived to join us. He persuaded the Frenchman to leave in about an hour to go to some festival together. The Belgian said he would stay and maybe follow them later. Just as they were leaving he changed his mind and went with them. In a few seconds I was suddenly and unexpectedly left alone in that isolated place. I was stunned by this sudden abandonment. I remembered it was around dark moon time, and I looked at the ephemeris, which I hadn't consulted lately at all. The time was noon and the dark moon was at noon precisely. My feeling of abandonment turned into a sense of cosmic awe, and at once I began to write a song about it. Time perfect time brings everything in its season.
After discovering the effects of the Saturn cycle in my own life I realised that the one long relationship of my life had covered the years from when I was 29 to when I was 42, in effect the Saturn return of my childhood. It was also Thatcher's eighties, and my interests turned from art, politics and adventure, to work, house and history. My stable partner was an echo of my mother's role in my childhood. It came to an end with the Saturn return of my puberty. My second adolescence saw my interests turn back to collective and creative adventures, and like my first adolescence it lasted into my twenties (this time my fifties). My love life was occasionally exciting but more often empty, though the lovers I found were increasingly younger than me. At the point of the second Saturn return of my birth I began a relationship with a woman who was approaching her first Saturn return. Apart from my only long-term relationship (mentioned above) this was the most fulfilling partnership of my life, because it had just the right mixture for me of freedom and stability, thanks to the other person's similarity of mindset to mine. Although it only lasted just over a year, it transformed my inner feelings so that the ten years since, though almost empty of love interest, have been very satisfying for me. Not only did it begin at my second Saturn return, but it ended, on her decision, at her first Saturn return. Since then she has pursued a life of greater freedom, while I have moved into my third childhood, and concentrated once again on history. (See also my article Overview of my History Project).
I realise that for some people I have given too much personal information, while for others I have not revealed enough about myself to create interest and understanding. I also expect that most of my readers (who got this far) will seek to reinterpret my story to fit their own astrological, or else sceptical, theories. Whatever.