Vashon Island, Friday, June 8, 2007

Renew, subscribe or upgrade

Daily at
Daily Astrology Blog
Link for Blogging or Sharing | Wot's this?

Today's responses to reader letters by Eric Francis are an archive selection from
the Astrology Secrets Revealed forum, distributed while Eric is on sabbatical.

Sunset in the north of France, facing the English Channel. Photo by Eric Francis.
Sunset in the north of France, facing the English Channel. Photo by Eric Francis.

Anaretic Planets, House Systems, Recommended Reading and More.
Friday 12th August 2005

Stop Smoking?

Dear Eric,

I wish to quit smoking. It is a 30-year habit and one which I have been unsuccessful in the past in putting behind me. My birth date is March 24, 1959 and I was born at 9:15 am in Columbus, Ohio. Is there a better time to begin for success this time?

Sincere thanks!

Dear Sarah,

It's never too late to quit smoking, and now is a great time, so congratulations on stating your desire out loud where several hundred thousand people can send you loving and supportive vibes. People click on this web page every minute who want to quit smoking, a choice I whole-heartedly support, because there is no singe more important thing you can do for your health or quality of life on this planet, none that I can think of anyway. So you have good company.

Addictions are complicated. But many people have managed to quit. You might want to find out how they did it. I suggest you ask some of your friends or colleagues what they learned from quitting smoking. I am sure that you will hear some interesting stories. I thought I would run this past Jonathan, who is a careful observer of himself and of life, and see if he had something to add to the discussion. "No matter how righteous you feel from giving up one vice," he said, "there's always another bad habit left to break."

I will interpret this, a bit, if I may. Improving our lives is a process. Life is a process. Astrology has a lot to say about processes, because it deals with cycles.

It seems that your relationship with cigarettes goes a bit about one full Saturn cycle, which is about 29 years. (If you're into astrology and somebody blurts out, mumbles or sings anything in approximate range of 30 years, your mind should respond: 'Saturn'.) So you are having this discussion just after the Saturn return of having started smoking. That's interesting. The Saturn return is a point of maturity and restructuring. I wonder, in that case, what was going on at the beginning of the cycle. That would be around the age of 15, or perhaps even 12 (around when Saturn crossed your Gemini ascendant for the first time).

Checking additional transits for when you started smoking, it seems you were under quite a bit of pressure. (Pluto was opposing your Sun, for example.) I think there might be a real benefit in going back to the beginning and taking a look at what your life was about; what expectations you had, what needs you had identified; and what you were dealing with at the time. There was certainly a lot of pressure to be self-sufficient; you may have been dealing with a sense of alienation.

Whatever the case, I would view the themes of your life when you started smoking as being perfectly relevant to your desire to stop smoking now. Addictions almost always function as a cover story for something else, and we need to get to what that something else is. This is one reason why they are so difficult to get out of. If we treat the addiction without looking at, and working with, the rest of the story, then 'quitting' is like trying to smooth out the surface of water with a canoe paddle.

If we were working together on a client-basis, I would also (based on certain chart factors) want to hear the most detailed possible account of your mother's pregnancy with you, and of the first six months of your life. I know you don't remember, but I would ask you to collect facts from relatives, make a list of everything you know, no matter how seemingly trivial, and have a good idea of who was around you and how they treated you.

There appears to have been quite a lot of emotional stress. Without getting into too many details, I can tell this because of the position of your Venus and your Moon. I think you are carrying around old grief that comes through your mum and other women in your family. This is likely to be a situation of 'not seeing the forest for the trees'. It is something that's so 'natural' that you barely notice it.

Smoking is a deeply emotional habit. There are all kinds of feelings and hidden feelings associated with it. Generally, people are quite angry at themselves for smoking, and I have never seen the idea proposed that the real addiction is to this self-directed anger. In homeopathy, the remedy tabacum (made from tobacco) is used to treat constriction of the heart. No wonder that cigarette smoke attacks the heart.

Smoking is often a cover for childhood grief. The habit can quite literally be rooted in this grief, and your chart speaks of this strongly. Of course, it's much more acceptable to walk around and say, 'I'm quitting smoking, everyone' than it is to say, 'My mother suffered some terrible loss as a young woman, which leads me to be in all kinds of fear that I don't understand, so I deal with it in these ways that don't work, one of which is smoking'.

In the physical and psychic sense, I view smoking as a holistic issue. It affects every organ and system in the body. It threatens the existence of the body in its current form (alive). And it has many connections on the emotion-spirit level. When dealing with such a situation, I suggest you think of it in terms of a whole system solution. You could look at quitting smoking as something you would do independently of everything else, or you could look at it as something that is part of an overall improvement in how you take care of yourself and a change in perception of how you think of yourself.

It's one thing to say 'I'm going to stop hurting myself'. It's another thing entirely to begin to help yourself in every possible way, and to orient on that as a purpose. Which is of course the real issue anyway.

Quitting smoking is ceasing to do something. If, at the same time, you put your energy into making three positive changes (or concrete improvements) in your life, along with this one subtractive change (quitting), you might find that you have better success. This will keep the focus positive. For example (you may already be onto these things, so they are just examples), you could learn about better nutrition and make improvements to the quality of the food you eat -- including its aesthetic quality. You could decide to have a more sensual experience of life, for example, more touch. You could pay attention to your social needs with greater emphasis, and start building the right companionship, or being around the people you love more.

There is of course the issue of how many of our friends smoke. Since coming to the UK Europe, I hardly know anyone who does not smoke cigarettes, and I find this truly distressing. This might be a good opportunity to seek out some non-smoking friends, as 'people, places and things' can trigger a return to old habits.

I also recommend that people going through significant life changes pay a visit to the homeopath. Homeopathy is a whole-system, non-toxic approach to healing. Homeopathy is deeply concerned with getting to the energetic roots of situations, and reaching these roots can bring on a lot of awareness, personal growth, and attention to health generally. There is someone named Ardianna Holman who works in London. She is young and very bright and has a true calling to the work. Perhaps she can help you as well. You can contact her here.

Anaretic Planets

Dear Eric,

I'm really enjoying your articles and your page on J.C.s site very informative. I wondered if you could give me any pointers to some good reading on anaretic planets? Needless to say I have a personal interest as in my own chart I have Uranus at 29 degrees Gemini sitting on my ascendant from my 12th. house and making some very strong aspects to quite a few other planets. I haven't come across it being mentioned in any of the books I have read, in any detail and I only learned about it when it as briefly mentioned in an astrology class I attended several years ago. Would be really grateful for any leads you could give me.
Many thanks

Dear Sonia
You are referring to planets in the last degree of a sign, about to change signs. Sometimes these are called void-of-course planets as well. The words "late in the game" or "advanced process" come to mind. Yet for some reason, I know that these planets often prove difficult or demanding, like if you don't deal with them, it's like nothing happens.

So look at these things carefully, and search your life for examples of how you deal or don't deal with the situations that the chart is pointing to.

I also suggest you apply some extremely basic principles of chart interpretation to these planets. You can use these to investigate any planet in the chart. One level of reading astrology is to be methodical. Methodical means using a method, and these are about the oldest in the book.

1. What sign is the planet in, and what is its relationship to that sign? Does it rule that sign, or is it doing something else?

2. What house is ruled by that planet? Let's say we're talking about Venus. If you have Libra on the 2nd house cusp, and Venus in Aries, that points Venus back to the 2nd house. What's the connection to the matters of the 2nd house?

3. What do the aspects tell you? What houses and signs are connected by those aspects and how would you merge those themes and receive a message?

4. Look at the progressions. Have these planets changed signs, and when did that happen? What were the events around the time of the sign change?

I can give an example from my own chart. I happen to have Ceres in the very last degree of Sagittarius, in the 6th house. Ceres, among other things, is about food. It is also about the grief of mothers. I can tell you that my mother was struggling intensely when I was an infant and that food has been a lifelong issue for me, as I have a gluten intolerance. So I must always, constantly, be maintaining a food vigil. Because wheat is put into everything from beer to sausage to sauces to fried fish to soup to bread and pasta, I must constantly be checking the ingredients to everything. This involves the 6th house, health issues, and it's in Sagittarius: it feels a bit like part of my religion.

This food issue involves my mother. I have a theory that it's related to pain she suffered before I was born, and that I used illness as an infant to get her attention. Being vigilant about food certainly does plenty, to the present day, to focus attention on the theme of my nourishment. I can read a food package faster than the scanner can read the bar code. And I am reminded every time I see that planet that, though it was a struggle for certain people to take care of me as an infant, I have to do it very well for myself today.

What House System do you Live in?

Dear Eric,

I have noticed you use the Koch house system in your charts. Why do you prefer this system? I have mostly seen Placidus in use.

Thank you
A Reader

Dear Reader
While many of the charts that have appeared in this column use Koch houses, I'm not particularly hung up on the whole issue or topic of house system. I do respect the technical points of astrology and love focusing on the finer points of technique. I'm also aware that there is an at-times hot discussion of 'what is the right house system' that at various eras in the past has preoccupied the astrological community.

My basic feeling is that, at this point in my work, I read the chart that is in front of me. I feel similarly about Tarot cards; I am happy to work with any deck I've got, or with playing cards, or with a D20 or two (20-sided gaming dice) or whatever. Though I use about 80 asteroids and minor planets, most of the time, writing the daily horoscope this week, I dispensed with that entirely and used the most basic charts I have.

Silly as it sounds, the computer from which I export the charts for this column is set to Koch houses. I think the one I'm typing on now is set to Placidus houses. For a while, I would rotate through the house systems and see if I could notice a difference. They all seem to work pretty much the same -- for me. If a client says, "please look at my chart in Regiomontanus houses," of course I will look at it. Basically, as Martha Lang Wescott says, you have to trust your chart.

For a while I used Topocentric houses, part of a new system; these houses are close or identical to the Placidus cusps. What's cool about Topocentric is that when you're casting a chart for Alaska in the winter time (far north, far into the shortest days, important if you live in Seattle for example where tons of people are transplants born in Alaska), no other house system will give you a good chart. So Topocentric has a special application.

Now, when you cast your charts in different house systems, you will notice that some of the planets change houses. But often, the planets that change are near the house they were in, using the prior house system. Other times they are not. The thing to remember is that house cusps, while appearing as lines in the chart, are usually more fuzzy in how they actually work -- most of the time. William Lilly, the first published astrological author in the English language, says that you need to allow five degrees before the new house and begin to count planets in that zone as part of the next house. Usually, you can get a good reading off of the ambiguity; the blending of the houses tells important stories about the nature of our reality.

For example, the 5th is the house of play and the 6th is the house of work. Planets on the cusp between the 5th and 6th will help blend those two facts of life. The 5th is the house of recreation and creativity and the 6th is the house of health. The two themes are associated.

Other times, there will be an exact event when a planet changes houses. I have never done a study of what happens in other house systems when something interesting happens in another system. Basically, unless I have a special reason to make the inquiry, I would not say that one system was more accurate than another than I would say that reading tea leaves is more accurate than reading coffee grounds. I assume that on one important level the whole astrological system is basically a figment of the imagination; it is part of the grand illusion, not an exact science. Astrology is a form of divination -- of asking and receiving information. The house system is like a container for that information. Best not to let it get in the way.

This does not, however, mean that it's not an astrologer's prerogative to choose the right house system for himself or herself. Work with what works for you; if you're curious, study the history of the different systems, see which astrologers are into different systems, and make up your mind based on an informed investigation. Otherwise, just pick a system and work with it.

One potential reason to change houses systems involves the issue of interceptions. An interception is what you call a situation where a sign does not have a house cusp going through it. For example, the 10th house might go through Gemini, and the 11th house through Leo. In that case, Cancer is floating in the middle of the 11th house.

I won't get into that in great detail here -- it's an essay of its own -- but when you change house systems, you can change the interception pattern. In other words, a different sign can be floating in the middle of a house. So -- bookmark that issue, under the general heading of 'interceptions'. It's worth a close look, because they can provide a lot of interesting information from a natal chart.

The house cusps that don't change are called the ANGLES or ANGULAR HOUSES -- the ascendant (1st house cusp), the descendent (7th house cusp), the IC (usually the 4th house cusp) and the MC (usually the 10th house cusp). Some, indeed, many house systems, use the IC and the MC as the 4th and 10th cusps respectively; a few others do not.

All that house systems change is where the cusps of the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 5th/11th and 6th/12th houses are placed. In other words, each quarter of the zodiac is divided by three -- trisected. The different systems use a variety of different methods for doing that division, which I'll get into next week.

Astrobiology Birth Control

Dear Eric,

Have you ever heard of Astrobiology? It's a method of birth control based on astrology that I recently read about, and I was wondering if you had any information on it.

Dear Tara
I have never heard of Astrobiology (but apparently my spellchecker has, since it's not appearing underlined in red), though I would be very reluctant to use astrology as a method of birth control or contraception.

I say this knowing there are no perfect methods of birth control, and many bad ones. By the time you factor chemicals out of the equation, you're left with very little in the way of choices. Yet despite my passion for astrology, I personally would not risk an unwanted pregnancy any more than I absolutely have to.

This is of course a personal choice, but speaking as an astrologer who deals with parents who have had unwanted kids, with many kids who were born "at the wrong time" in their parents lives (note the quotation marks please), and with the pain of what happens as a result of adoption, I would be very careful about risking pregnancy. Unless of course you don't mind getting pregnant, and have a partner with whom you would like to raise a child -- in which case I would say it's a fine idea to work with Astrobiology.

Studying Astrology Tip of the Week

Get yourself an astrology dictionary. It is essential to know the meanings of words if you want to work within a specialized field, such as astrology. Words are POWER. If you don't know what someone is talking or writing about, the best way to find out is to figure out what their words mean. That's a good start, anyway.

My favorite ones are the Arkana Dictionary of Astrology, published by Penguin/Arkana; and an old astrology dictionary written by Alan Leo. The Arkana Dictionary is much more new and modern yet has excellent references to classical terms. What Alan Leo's has going for it is that it's old and has a lot of obsolete concepts, strange definitions and formulas that can really come in handy these days (i.e., an eclipse in such and such a sign will come with locusts). It's always good to contrast two definitions of any term when you can. But if you're going to get just one, I strongly suggest the Arkana Dictinoary. There are several others out there; there are many esoteric dictionaries; I love them.

There is also something called the Astrology Encyclopedia by James R. Lewis. There is an old edition and a new one; you may be able to pick up the old one fairly cheap used, I checked Amazon and it's under five bucks in the U.S. I really like this book. The definitions are long, the articles are interesting, it has a lot about asteroids and profiles of astrologers, plus tons of classical stuff; and before I could afford books I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of Esoterica Books in New Paltz reading the copy I now own.

As for these dictionaries, I suggest that people in the US and Canada get their books from Dave the Astrology Center of America. (Dave just wrote me and says that both dictionaries are out of print in the U.S., but I suggest you call for suggestions and also do a used book search.) And I suggest that people in the United Kingdom get their books from Barry at The Astrology Shop in Covent Garden. Please say I sent you. Both sell books online and have great selections -- they are specialists, they special order, and will be happy to make recommendations and encourage your astrological habits.

Those links are: and

After Death and Recommended Reading

Dear Eric

If you would be so very kind, I am in search of some quality reading material to learn to understand what I am reading about horoscope and how the astrological calendar affects my life, etc. I find it fascinating. I am also very much interested in the subject of psychic phenomena and after death communication, as I have had some incredible experiences since losing my 19 year old daughter in a car accident last March. She was a very kind and gifted child born under the astrological sign of Aries. She worked with severely impaired children and adults, and was a straight A student at Central Michigan University. I know how busy you must be, and do not expect anything, but would be so very grateful to know if there may be something that would be beneficial reading. Thanks for your time.


Dear Annie
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beautiful daughter. I am sure that many readers are sending you love and compassion for this unthinkable loss.

As for books. I am aware of a highly regarded book that I have not read, which may interest you. It is Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves.

I can also offer a short list of my top favorite books on astrology and metaphysics, and related subjects that I feel are essential to understanding these things. Apologies for lack of Amazon references; you will find them there, and elsewhere. The thing to remember is that both metaphysical and astrology books often go out of print long before their time, so if you want something, you have to be good at searching, it helps to have a friend in a bookshop who has a knack for finding the difficult-to-find stuff, and it helps to have a little luck.

This is a list of the books that have touched me the most deeply, the wisdom of which I live with and work with every day. They are all non-fiction, except where noted. They range widely in subject matter, from metaphysics to astrology to sexuality to fiction. Each contains a fabulous clue to the nature of reality.

1. Gifts of Unknown Things by Lyall Watson (nonfiction metaphysics)
2. The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot (science-metaphysics)
3. The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas (consciousness)
4. Astrology: A Cosmic Science by Isabel Hickey (basic astrology text)
5. Chiron and the Healing Journey by Melanie Reinhart (astrology)
6. Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs by Melanie Reinhart (astrology)
6. An Astrological Mandala by Dane Rudhyar (astrology, cycles and symbolism)
7. Celestially Auspicious Occasions by Donna Henes (natural cycles and seasons)
8. Tarot: Mirror of Your Relationships by Gerd Zeigler (excellent Tarot book)
9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (personal history, philosophy, healing mental illness)
10. Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh (a conversation)
11. Planet Waves by Eric Francis (stories from astrology, revealing how to do it)
12. A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis and others (how therapy works, and why we feel the way we do)
13. The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley (advanced Tarot book)
14. Our Dumb Century by The Onion (fiction; humor)
15. Acid Dreams by Martin Lee and Bruce Schlain (history of the 60s for all 60s babies)
16. Sex for One by Betty Dodson (basic introduction to women's sexuality)
17. The Hite Report by Shere Hite (North American survey of women)
18. I Am My Lover edited by Joani Blank (women's sexuality)
19. Any collection of poems and/or essays by Adrienne Rich (one of the great scholars and poets of our times)
20. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (fiction)
21. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (fiction)
22. Toward An American Revolution by Jerry Fresia (history and politics)
23. Stiffed by Susan Faludi (history of men in the 20th century)

I could keep going. I'll leave it at 23 for now. Wait, I'll add one more: an advanced astrology book, really in my opinion, the best ever written, called The Moment of Astrology by Geoffrey Cornelius. To all these authors, I say thank you: may you and your works live long and prosper. For specific, advanced astrology books, please send in a question about that exact topic and I'll see what I can find for you.

Oh, I must mention a spoken word CD set, a big one: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Find it used, get it new, or search MP3s online; this book, in its most effective form -- oral tradition, spoken word -- is all the history, ancient history and background of The Lord of the Rings, the history of our planet, and of the elves, and contains some of the most moving stories of humanity I've ever encountered.

CREDITS: Managing Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet.

Subscribe Login Feedback Contact Home Mission
Cover Blogs Archives Weekly Magazine Horoscopes Photos The Spiral Door