Category Archives: reviews

Casenotes of a Medical Astrologer

Published in 1980 by Samuel Weiser, Casenotes was written by Margaret Millard, M.D., an obstetrician and general practitioner who somehow also found the time to raise six children. Uranus rising made her an independent thinker, and she was also an accomplished medical astrologer who later practiced acupuncture and holistic health.

As a medical professional, Millard also had access to hospital records, where she often obtained the birth times of many of the patients she treated. Readers are the beneficiaries of the corresponding birth charts, along with her insights and expertise. As a local doctor in Maine, Millard often personally knew the people she writes about and sometimes their families as well. There are many difficult and sad cases that she could not resolve and she shares the heartbreak of doing your best while dealing with the inevitable.

I’ve had an interest in medical astrology for years, but it’s a complex topic. This is not a cookbook or textbook, but if you already know the language of astrology, you’ll follow the discussion. I was also initially drawn toward Millard’s consistent use of declination in her interpretations, and with declinations we see chart themes both echoed and highlighted. The book is aptly titled “Casenotes” since each case considered is no more than 7-8 pages long. But Margaret Millard packs a tremendous amount of information into the horoscopes she analyzes and it’s the chart interpretations that take this book to the top tier of astrological works.

The case studies follow a brief introduction to the topic, and no matter what your experience, you’ll learn something new. Dr. Millard refers to harmonics, parans, Primary Directions, the Prenatal Epoch and the work of Ebertin. She favors the Topocentric house system. Yet the book is never theoretical but always focuses on specific charts and their meaning. The chapter on rectifying charts with family members using Oblique Ascension is rigorous, especially considering that the writer did all of her calculations by hand.

Casenotes of a Medical Astrologer is a throwback to earlier times: to the days when all medical practitioners were astrologers, but also to an earlier generation of astrologers who wrote sophisticated works and had strong opinions about their judgments. I don’t agree with everything Margaret Millard says, but her conclusions are always thoughtful. Andt’s unusual to find such a focused and thoughtful work, representing a lifetime of study.

181 Pages; copies are available second-hand.
Buy at Amazon.com: Casenotes of a Medical Astrologer

Creative Use of Emotion

Creative Use of Emotion describes the philosophy of yoga as very different from western ideals. The two authors – one originally from India and the other from the U.S. – combine their expertise in yoga and psychology to advise on ways to consider and handle challenging emotions.

The west places a greater emphasis on external freedoms, while the east embraces inner freedom. In the west, we tend to identify with our thoughts, while the eastern perspective suggests that consciousness exists apart from our thoughts and external attachments. If we take the drama of life less seriously and disengage from our expectations, we will be less anxious and better able to fulfill our paths in life. Yoga also emphasizes living in harmony with the natural order, which leads to peace, happiness and comfort with our responsibilities in life.

This book was published by the Himalayan Institute, who brings us Yoga International magazine. It was written over forty years ago but its ideas are timeless. I’ve studied and practiced yoga for many years and found the concepts illuminating, clearly presented and uplifting. The mental discipline of yoga isn’t natural to western culture, and it would take years of dedicated practice to develop the mind as described. But I feel that beginning to try to do so would be helpful. Reading Creative Use of Emotion is a first step in the process. Priced at under $10 including shipping, it’s a great investment!

Buy at Amazon.com: Creative Use of Emotion

Stellar Review

Donna Van Toen gave my astrological mystery, The Precious Pachyderm, a nice review in the December ISAR International Atrologer.

“This is an astrological mystery. The pachyderm is not a cute little baby elephant, but rather a carved jewel of great value. And it goes missing. The sleuth who finds out what happened to it is none other than Evangeline Adams. Now Adams was, in her way, a detective, but not in the way envisioned here. This is, of course, fiction, but it’s a very good fit.

The setting is in keeping with Adams’ era in Manhattan, circa 1926. And the story opens with a wealthy businessman, whose wife is Evangeline’s client, being found dead. And meanwhile, there’s the issue of the missing elephant, which Adams herself is accused of stealing. Lots of twists, turns and tangles, and lots of characters, many of whom are, well, characters. Among these are the rather unpleasant Mrs. Fiske, whose husband is murdered, Evangeline’s assistants Mary and Clara, a group of Hindu monks, a prince (the owner of the elephant) and more. All of this, plus plenty of astrology is woven together in a fast-paced and often funny mystery, written by one of the foremost chroniclers of Evangeline Adams’ life.

Christino is probably the foremost living expert on Evangeline Adams. While this work is definitely fiction, it’s credible fiction. For the most part you could see this happening. No need to suspend belief. The cast of characters, clients, staff and hangers-on, are fun. I’m sure you will smile with recognition at some of the client antics, though I never had a client show up with a dog, and of course nowadays we don’t need transcriptionists. And yes, you will relate to the astrology, too, I’m sure.

If you like mysteries and want a good read, I recommend this. I enjoyed it thoroughly!”

More on the book here.

The December issue of the ISAR International Astrologer has excellent articles by Victoria Naumann Smoot on Martin Luther, Nick Kollestrum on the Gauquelin Data, Smijana Gavrancic on North Korea and the U.S., a wonderful essay by Sandra Leigh Serio on the August eclipse and many more. Only available to members!

Also see Donna Van Toen’s website.

The Astronomer and the Witch

Ulinka Rublack looks back at the life of Johannes Kepler and the year he spent defending his mother against charges of witchcraft in their hometown of Leonberg, Germany in the early 17th century in her engrossing book, The Astronomer and the Witch.

Kepler’s work fits neatly into a time when there was great excitement in studying the natural world, which was seen as part of God’s great plan. There was enthusiasm for mechanical developments such as clocks, as well as natural remedies. While women were generally not educated, they nevertheless had access to medicinal plants and herbs, and Katherina Kepler used these for herself, family and friends.

Kepler was around 50 in 1720, when his mother was arrested and imprisoned. He had previously been associated with Tycho Brahe and Emperor Rudolph II and had already published many of his most important works, but experienced career ups and downs in a time of great instability between Catholics and Lutherans. We learn something about his personal life and relationships with colleagues, family and friends.

Leonberg and its neighboring towns regularly prosecuted witches, who were often older women, hanging or burning those convicted. Katharina’s initial accuser gained support, and rumors turned to testimony against her. Her tough, confrontational manner hurt her case, with a biased and corrupt local official complicating things. Over 70 at the time of the arrest, she’d been a widow who’d raised a family on her own and successfully supported herself for over 30 years. She was jailed for over a year while chained to the floor.

At the same time Kepler published his Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, court records show how he was able to use his experience in the political world and as a critical thinker to craft his mother’s defense. He used rigorous logic and research to dissect the testimony against Katharina, and rhetorical persuasion to argue her case.

The author does an excellent job of portraying Kepler as a multi-faceted individual and admits that he had a large collection of horoscopes and did chart interpretations and forecasts for his various patrons. But she unfortunately does not appear to have researched astrology, which could only have strengthened her work. Rublack provides an excellent historical context for Kepler’s “negative sketches,” but to an astrologer, these are obviously cook-book-like delineations of planetary combinations. She similarly states that “What we call ‘gender’ played no role at all in the explanatory framework of astrology,” which is simply incorrect. Interestingly, she shares some of Kepler’s unanswered questions about his own birth chart, which might be answered by using the outer planets today.

Rublack stresses Kepler’s skepticism, stating, “his view that astrology was of little value.” She is probably more correct in her later discussion, where she concludes that Kepler’s mature belief was non-deterministic, allowing for the influence of the human soul, culture, education, choice and habits to modify the horoscope: “good astrology was very much like medicine in its character, an inductive art, which required observation, experience and analysis.” Kepler’s beliefs were based upon his experience as well as his optimistic Christian world view; he also stressed the need for accurate birth data. Astrologically, he was an innovator, as he was in astronomy.

Despite my quibbles, this is an excellent book for anyone interested in the history of ideas, and particularly for astrologers who wish to learn more about one of their most successful forebears.

Buy on Amazon.com: The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler’s Fight for his Mother

Kepler’s Astrology, Ken Negus’ translation of some of Kepler’s astrological writings is available in print.

Culture & Cosmos’ edition on Kepler is unfortunately no longer available. See the Table of Contents here.

The Waking Dream

Ray Grasse’s book, The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of our Lives, explains symbolist thinking:  holistic and right-brained correspondences, metaphor, analogy and qualitative views, rather than facts or figures.  The book is refreshing and wonderful on so many levels, simply because, as the author so eloquently explains, this worldview supports the spiritual rather the material – the opposite of today’s emphasis on science.  It is ancient and cross-cultural, though it unfortunately began to wane with 17th century rationalism. 

Grasse is an astrologer who is extremely well-versed in many other symbolist studies, and draws on a large array of books and esoteric subjects, sharing gems from prominent thinkers through the centuries and around the world, from the classics to popular culture.  His wide-ranging analysis looks at the meanings of external events, nature, dreams, ritual, astrology, psychology, cycles, fractal geometry and much more.  (No previous experience in any of these topics is needed.

This thoroughly researched work is deep, clear and uplifting, reminding us that, despite all of the linear, reductionist thinking in the contemporary world, there are no accidents, and that the Universe is still brimming with meaning.  And for the first time, I really understood how astrology works.  Well done!

Buy on Amazon.com: The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives

Book Blog Tour

Check out the Blog Tour for my astrological mystery novel, The Precious Pachyderm. Set in 1920s New York City, astrologer Evangeline Adams and her two assistants discover who stole a priceless elephant figurine and killed one of their high-class clients.

Join me for some excerpts from the book and a review or two. I’ll also reply to comments and answer your questions. Plus: sign up to win a $15 Amazon gift card!

October 23: T’s Stuff
October 24: Books, Dreams,Life
October 25: This and That Book Blog
October 26: Fabulous and Brunette
October 27: Book Lover Promo
October 30: BooksChatter
October 31: Straight From the Library
November 1: fuonlyknew
November 2: Jane Reads – review
November 3: The Avid Reader

A Portable Cosmos

Rescued from a Greek shipwreck in 1901, the Antikythera Mechanism is not an astrolabe or armillary sphere. Was it a teaching tool? A demo for a World’s Fair? Is it the planetarium of Archimedes that Cicero wrote about? Alexander Jones’ fascinating book helps us learn more.

This extraordinary astronomical clock has baffled scholars as it’s unlike anything ever seen before. Some even thought it had fallen off a different boat many years later to combine with the earlier wreckage. Jones does an excellent job of researching the history of the Mechanism and evaluates the conclusions reached by various scholars. It wasn’t until 1971 that the piece had an X-ray analysis, and a CT scan in the 80s provided more information.

The author concludes that the Mechanism may have been made in Rhodes in the first half of the 1st century BCE. Made of bronze and pewter-like alloys, it was about the size of a shoebox with various dials and instructions on the front and back. It included Egyptian and zodiac calendar rings, rising and setting stars, Olympic years, an eclipse predictor, a revolving Moon phase ball and pointers for the Sun and visible planets’ positions. Composed of about 30 gears, it operated with a single turn of the handle.

The Mechanism was probably not accurate enough for an astrological reading, but Jones states that is was a good representation of the Greeks’ understanding at the time and would be relatively accurate for several centuries (it corrected for planetary epicycles). It probably required two people to complete – a designer knowledgeable of astronomy and math along with a craftsman with the mechanical skill to create the interlocking gear actions.

Alexander Jones does a thorough and painstaking job of presenting numerous related topics and filling in the background. He’s a professor at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and the book is academic-style, exactingly annotated, with a bibliography. I was completely captivated by Jones’ discussion of the gear functions which includes many illustrations. I’ve studied the history of astronomy and astrology, calendrics and the mechanics of eclipses, but many sections were simply too detailed for my taste. It was also difficult to imagine the Mechanism parts at times. Perhaps the book is meant to be a classroom textbook and leaves the reader without the professor at hand.

Some of my basic questions were unanswered. How much would the piece weigh? How difficult was it to turn? Could you lose your place?

The study and analysis of the Antikythera Mechanism has filled in gaps in scholars’ understanding of the Greeks and their technology. And the incredible complexity of the device should remind us that we’re no smarter than those over two millennia ago – we just have different tools. As astrologers we’re extraordinarily lucky to have salvaged our practices; the Mechanism reminds us how easily the past can be forgotten.

Buy at Amazon.com: A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World

In the Shadow of the Moon

At the time of the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in the early 90s, I was thrilled to read some of Professor Anthony Aveni’s books. Conversing with the Planets looked at people’s relationships with the cosmos through history and across cultures, and Empires of Time covered how people consider time, which derives from the cycles of the Sun and Moon. These books both touched on astrology, as the author is both an astronomer and anthropologist. Aveni became one of the first prominent voices on what would now be called cultural astronomy or, at the time, archaeo-astronomy.

Anthony Aveni’s work is refreshing since he accepts people’s beliefs (including astrology) as part of what makes them interesting. His latest book, In the Shadow of the Moon, covers solar eclipse viewing and arrives in time for total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. on 8/21/17.

In the Shadow of the Moon looks at not only eclipses but also the people who study them. The author eloquently shares his own eclipse viewing experiences and presents others who’ve captured the spectacle in words. We learn about predicting eclipses through the centuries, from Stonehenge to Babylon, the ancient Greeks, Chinese and Maya, with detailed accounts of eclipse expeditions in the U.S. and abroad in more recent times.

Full of insight and wit, Anthony Aveni’s eclipse book is part science history, part human interest, and captures the challenges of navigating capricious weather as well as the joys of encountering this rare natural phenomenon.

While this book doesn’t address the astrology of eclipses, it provides an excellent background to studying them and communicates why they’re so compelling, regardless of time and space.

Buy from Amazon.com:  In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses
Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures
Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos (Kodansha Globe) by Aveni, Anthony published by Kodansha Globe Paperback

About Wholism

Whole by T. Colin Campbell, PhD explains the difference between a holistic paradigm and the view favored by science and medicine. The linear reductionist view is generally accepted as the “truth” by government agencies and in the media. Campbell addresses nutrition and health and the extreme and debilitating effects resulting from the American population’s acceptance of government guidelines and medical professionals’ second-hand opinions. Those of us who are astrologers face similar challenges with our holistic perspective, which is often at odds with the norm.

Dr. Campbell was an insider for over 50 years, teaching standard courses on nutrition at Cornell University, and receiving numerous research grants throughout his career.  He explains that funding is only available to those willing to tailor their research to a strictly linear, cause-and-effect model. While I was already aware of the many ways our society diminishes a holistic view of life, this book was still an eye-opener. It’s disturbing to see how medicine and the media are deeply enmeshed with corporate America.

Growing up on a farm, Campbell began with and advocated for a standard American diet. Yet over his years of research and study, he came to support whole foods and plant-based nutrition. Studies for such a diet are difficult to find as they are not linear and are not supported by industry. Apparently there are nevertheless many such studies, which show the positive effects of the diet, though they often cannot gain the attention of publications or the media (both of which are also often funded by industry, especially pharmaceuticals and other special interests).

This is an important book, however as with many of its kind, its value and limitations are both due to the author’s strong point of view. He comes just short of saying that vegetarianism can cure cancer, for example. It’s hard for us to know if he’s right or wrong. But given the predominant influence of the pharmaceutical and food industries on medicine and lifestyle in this country, more alternative voices need to be heard.

Arcturus/Psyche

I recently wrote about Edgar Cayce’s psychic readings on the Fixed Star Arcturus, and heard that astrologer Michael Munkasey had done independent research on this star. His work appears in Exploring Consciousness in the Horoscope (Llewellyn, 1993).

Munkasey tested Arcturus (now at approximately 24½ Libra) in stock market forecasting and studied its major aspects with planets in newspaper headlines and natal charts. His 2+ years of study included inspiration, dogged research, group feedback and surprising coincidences. Munkasey found meaningful correlations with the myths of the Greek goddess Psyche, so much so that he rechristened Arcturus as “the planet Psyche” (not to be confused with the asteroid). Psyche

Edgar Cayce’s readings related Arcturus to enlightenment, transcendence and spiritual development. Michael similarly found Psyche/Arcturus to align with the evolution of consciousness and self-realization. Its path may include issues of cooperation and fairness, addressing differing viewpoints, the need to ask for help, innocence, beauty, loss in love and female conflicts. On some level it appears to epitomize Libra and Venus themes. But Psyche also suggests discipline in relationships (perhaps somehow related to Saturn’s exaltation in Libra).

Munkasey describes cycles of Uranus with Psyche in world events and includes numerous capsule descriptions of Psyche in natal charts. His research is top-notch and he’s boiled the subject down to its essence, making it easily accessible. The 25-page chapter provides a fascinating and comprehensive overview and includes an ephemeris for Psyche.

Michael Munkasey’s excellent article is highly recommended, especially for those interested in the Fixed Stars, relationships, Evolutionary astrology, feminine archetypes, consciousness and divine inspiration. Exploring Consciousness in the Horoscope is out-of-print, but available second-hand online. Edited by Noel Tyl, the book also includes chapters by Ed Steinbrecher, Steven Forrest, Tad Mann and others.  Buy at Amazon.com:  Exploring Consciousness In the Horoscope