Astrology is a symbolic language. Every aspect of the chart contains a mythic story, a hero’s journey that is expressive of an aspect of ourselves mind, body and soul. The chart is a snapshot of a moment in time that freeze-frames the archetypal play that was occuring at the moment of birth. The archetypal players of the grand cosmic story give us a starting point like a genetic code that symbolises our potential. The energies of those characters are incorporated into our psychic make-up. Some characters we warm to immediately and we seek to emulate them, some we can’t stand, some we ignore and some remain hidden from view until something happens that reveals them.
Each character in myth has a greater and lesser story: their part of a story taken at face value and the greater meaning we can attribute to it. Our ‘little’ lives are a reflection of the heavely stories told through the movement of the planets and stars. The greatest stories told are those that not only entertain us but those that stir us. Stories that speak to those deeper parts of ourselves that dissolve all boundaries of age, race, gender and sexuality.
Archetypal symbolism is something we can all relate to. The images conjured convey concepts that we cannot describe in words alone. The beautiful language of astrology speaks to us because it is our own mythical journey. It speaks to the part of us that understands symbolic language, sometimes by passing conscious functioning to speak straight to the soul. In modern times we have lost much of our ability to understand the language of symbolism even though we recognise it. It’s rather like listening to Shakespeare – you know it’s English but it doesn’t quite make sense on first listening! The astrologer’s task (and that of the dream interpreter) is to understand the symbolic language and translate that language so that the client understands the story being told and how it is manifested in their life. Perhaps more importantly, it is to translate the story so that the client understands how they are connected to the greater pattern and that they have a unique place and perspective in the universe. The art of translation is a subtle one and it is sometimes hard not to lose the original meaning. This is why it is important that the client is encouraged to make their own connections and find their own meaning rather than to be told what the meaning is.
For me, dreams and astrology are intrinsically bound. They speak the same language. It was dreams that brought me to the path of the astrologer; dreams that have given me first hand information on a myriad of events in my life. Dreams are the direct connection to the inner spirit and to the heavens and through them the energy of the planets can speak. Working with both dreams of my own and others it never ceases to astonish me how planetary symbolism can filter vividly into dream life.
When I was a child I used to dream of a man with a long white beard who pointed to the sky to show me how the stars moved. I’ve dreamed of meteors without knowing we were in the middle of a yearly shower. I’ve dreamed of the Moon hanging right outside my window at an eclipse, dreamed of walking on Mars whilst he was travelling through my first house. Last year I dreamed of a strange four dimensional chart that looked something akin to Lyra’s aletheometer. As the planets moved across this great machine I could simultaneouslsy see the chart and Time within it. Saturn was just crossing into my second house at the time and I decided to formalise my many years of astrology study by enrolling with The Faculty of Astrological Studies.
As an example of how cosmic energy can manifest in dreams I would like to talk a little about the following chart…
A few years ago I was working with a lady who suffered with a Grand Cross in her chart. Now the Grand Cross can be very energising and capable of great things. Like any aspects in the chart they an be used to positive or negative effect. But this particular subject had found herself endlessly swinging between the two great oppositions in her chart. Sitting almost directly on the the ASC-DESC and MC-IC axis, this Mutable Grand Cross manifested as a great weight upon the client.
With Pluto and Uranus conjunct her Ascendant and Chiron opposite in the 7th (conjunct Saturn in the 6th) the two squared Jupiter in the 10th and the Moon in the 4th. She felt bound by duty (Saturn in the 6th) and often unable to express the creative person she was deep inside. Deeply wounded in a relationship, she had focused her attentions on the duties at hand such as caring for an elderly father. Blessed with musical talent (Venus in the 5th), she often expressed an uncertainly at making a living from something she loved (Jupiter in it’s fall in the 10th). Jupiter however also happened to be the handle of a text book Bucket Chart.
The client’s call was triggered by a vivid dream that had prominantly figured a horse, a struggle and a race. The horse was running in a figure of 8 and was often ignored by the dreamer in the dream. The dream was so detailed that the client knew that there was some great meaning to it but found herself struggling to make sense of it. Jung most likely would have called this a ‘Big Dream’.
What I found fascinating was that at the time of the dream, Jupiter was just moving into her 3rd House heading towards a conjunction by transit to natal Neptune. In her natal chart, Neptune is quincunx bucket handle Jupiter. So already the theme of dreams and the horse are highlighted. Jupiter and Neptune rule Pisces and both are connected to dreams. Neptune in myth created the horse and of course Jupiter has a special relationship with the horse through his rulership of Sagitarrius. Just looking at the interplay between the planets it felt as though Jupiter had called out to the client through the image of the horse.
By running a figure of 8 the horse in the dream was showing the dreamer ‘as above, so below’ whilst at the same time showing the feeling of ‘running round in circles’ Like myths, dreams can often convey complex layers of messages from the mundane to emotional to spiritual.
The client often expressed a feeling of not being able to change their life, of feeling hemmed in and worn down with obligations (6th house Saturn) and feeling burnt out (6th House Mars). Jupiter high up in the 10th house of her chart suggested that to ‘get a handle’ on life, she needed to find faith in herself. Rather than feeling like life was running away with her, she needed to take up the reins and direct it. But faith was the key. Jupiter shows us where we can be optimistic and where we can let ourselves enjoy life. When discussing the dream, the client mentioned the idea that she would like to feel free to be herself and it made me think of ‘giving a horse its head’. She had reined in her ambition to such a degree it felt like a constant struggle. The client expressed some Jupiter energy in that she is an extremely caring and compassionate lady but would tend to put more faith in the opinions of others than her own. Intensely private (Pluto conjunct Asc), some parts of her life remained secret from family even though she longed to be closer to them.
Ultimately the dream showed her that in order to change her experience she needed to embrace the energy of Jupiter. She needed to expand her world view by starting to believe in herself. By increasing her self-confidence, she began to tap into the energy of her Sagittarian Moon and experience the natural optimism of this placement. The dream triggered a process of re-discovery that lead her to make significant changes in her life. Finding more faith in herself she felt more comfortable in revealing herself to others and allow people to see her quirky and fun nature. She found a picture of a horse to remind her to tune into her Jupiter energy and ultimately found her balance at the centre of the Grand Cross and learned to channel it’s powerful energy.
Both dreams and astrology speak to us in an eloquent symbolic language. By studying the two hand in hand, your understanding of each grows. The more you learn to understand your dream life, the easier it becomes to see the chart as a living mandala and synthesize the information it contains. It’s rather like going to stay in another country to learn a foreign language. Initially everything is garbled but slowly over time you begin to learn words and phrases and eventually you can understand conversations. As I have said many times, life is constantly in communication with us – we see it in synchronity and in dreams. Symbolism is our first language; our true mother tongue. It just takes a little practice to start understanding it again.
In the next post I will take a look at some practical ways you can combine dreamwork with astrology.