By Eric Francis
Astrology has been explained using many different astrological metaphors. The usual one is “Uranian,” after the planet Uranus, since astrology tends toward the inventive and scientific and surely qualifies as a bit rebellious these days. Another common metaphor refers to Sagittarius, the 9th house, or Jupiter, since astrology deals in bodies of knowledge, philosophy, international subject matter, and religion and spirituality. (It can also be expansive, expensive, and blustery — all Jupiterian enough.)
These metaphors tell us something, but I would propose that considering astrology from the Pisces–Virgo experience gives us a practical model that we can pass along to less-experienced students, to help them grasp two of the basic aspects of the work we do as astrologers. That is, we work with both intuition and reason in a way that is mutually beneficial and strives for integration.
Maybe you’ve run into the frustration of knowing all the rules and cookbook meanings of an aspect, but you’re unable to interpret that aspect in a given situation. Or, you may have a feeling for what certain astrological significators represent, but you lack either the language to express the feeling or the confidence to do so because of a technical point you want to check before verbalizing your interpretation. In the first example, a dose of Piscean creativity would help to bridge the gap. In the second, a little research that could give you the language you’re seeking would likely do the trick and support your intuition.
That creativity may pose something of an ego risk; the research may require you to pause a session and check a few commentaries from astrologers who have come before us — something many astrologers might not want to do, because it would (in theory) reveal that they don’t know their stuff. But guesses often work, and they’re okay if you remind the client that this is your take on the matter.
And I’ve found that my clients enjoy it when I read to them from sources I consider to be reputable or authoritative. Doing this enhances trust and rapport rather than undercutting it.
Virgo and Pisces, working together, offer an opportunity for finding balance in the equal-parts mental and spiritual discipline of astrology.
Patric Walker, the great horoscope columnist (who had a Pisces Moon), once wrote that if you scratch a Pisces, you’ll find a Virgo under the skin. What these two signs have in common is the capacity to be selfless and to offer oneself in compassionate service. They are both mutable signs, given to flexibility in learning and adapting. Both signs are quite comfortable working in the realm of ideas but, moreover, in the practical application of ideas to the human realm. These are good attributes for an astrologer to have.
Where these signs diverge, however, is in concrete knowledge as a separate function from intuition. To work well as astrologers, we would most certainly want to have access to both, and we need to comprehend the difference.
Exploring the Virgo–Pisces metaphor by itself adds something to our grasp of astrology. By understanding these uniquely similar yet contrasting signs, we can see a common way that opposite signs work together among all six pairs of signs. Polarity is one of the most functional and necessary conceptual tools of astrology. We find it everywhere in astrological analysis — for example, juxtaposing the energy of a planet with that of a sign, exploring the relationship between two planets, or even examining a sign and the house cusp that may fall in its domain. Contrasts are useful teaching devices. But few contrasts in astrology are more instructive than opposite signs and the exploration of how they contain, support, and reinforce one another.
The Craft of Virgo
Astrology has a scientific and mathematical foundation that finds a home in the ephemeris and other technical tools of our trade. That a chart exists is not debatable, no matter what the Skeptical Enquirer says. If we can agree on the time and place (and zodiac), there’s no intellectual wiggle room on such basic matters as where the planets are. The Virgo facet of astrology gets us into this basic framework, to begin with. It is the ground on which we all stand. This is the fully trainable dimension of astrology.
Another example of the Virgo facet is the system of rulerships. When a client asks a direct question, such as: “What do you think about the possibility of my moving?” an astrologer can run a basic check of significators that is not especially artful but will certainly be instructive. You can look at the 4th-house cusp and its ruler; you can note transits to the Moon; you can find the house where Cancer is placed. A 30-second check will likely give you some worthwhile insights to offer the client.
At the foundation level, there are necessary skills; one of these is the ability to organize one’s thoughts in an astrological thinking pattern. This is the bedrock of astrology, and I propose that such techniques and methods are rightly associated with Virgo.
The issue of documentation has a lot to do with Virgo. At its very roots, the ability to do astrology usually comes down to documenting one basic set of data: a date, a time, and a place. Then it develops from there, following a pattern. Virgo says: Ground yourself in fact — or at least in an idea. Think it through. Apply reason to the situation. Study, practice, and eventually you’ll learn.
Ancient astrologers spelled out a vast, seemingly endless number of scholarly rules for this kind of work. Yet, in the course of study, it’s possible to encounter contradictions that defy prevailing logic. For example, in reading most textbooks, even going back to when people wore togas, we learn that Cancer is ruled by the Moon. The two symbols have much in common, e.g., an orientation toward the emotions, the need for security, and a distinct cyclical nature.
As we proceed dutifully with our studies, however, we may encounter other viewpoints. For example, in the book Esoteric Astrology (1951), Alice A. Bailey provides another system of rulerships that offers Neptune as an alternate ruler of Cancer. In support of this, she states that “Neptune is the god of waters,” and Cancer is a water sign. This is documented in a book, just like most other astrological assertions of its kind. But it presents a problem: Because that rulership is not widely accepted, it’s not supported by the vast majority of astrological teachings, and people may look at you funny if you bring it up at an astrology conference.
Now you have an issue on your hands. Does the information check out against your intuition? Should you accept it on faith? Bailey suggests that you give her various proposals three years of working experience and decide for yourself. That sounds to me like a good blend of Virgo and Pisces: Trust a theory long enough to test it. That could almost be scientific.
The Art of Pisces
We know that the technical area of astrology gets us only so far. An interpretation is more than the sum of the chart’s parts. Computer-printed reports are a classic example of this limitation. They may contain a vast amount of data, such as the listings of specific aspects, schedules of transits, and so on. But there is no person to take the Piscean leap and offer an idea of what it all might mean or to come up with an apt metaphor that bridges a tense or provocative set of aspects. A computer printout cannot be specifically poetic. And it cannot make the subtle distinctions between charts that are ten minutes apart.
Virgo deals, in part, with facts and their substantiation, whereas Pisces deals with the vision, with intuition and hunches. When someone is well-studied but cannot make an interpretation, this usually means that the Pisces side of the astrological equation needs some support. What kind of support? Perhaps a tumbler full of bourbon and a steamy, romantic film. Or, more to the point, the ability to go beyond one’s mind and take a guess, or to feel what an aspect means. Pisces takes us out of mind and out of time. Its dreamy realm of awareness seems to have little basis in objective reality, but since Virgo is right there in the equation (at the very least, a chart we can trust), we maintain our grounding.
A computer database may take a birth date and provide certain specific interpretations about what an aspect might signify — say, Venus in Scorpio square the Moon in Aquarius. But no computer can take this aspect, place it in the 3rd and 6th houses, factor in the Moon ruling the 11th house and the argument that the client just had with his best friend, and come up with something that rings a bell. Here, the interpretation must add up to much more than the sum of the parts.
This function of synthesis and imagination does not derive from hard data or pure reasoning. The reasoning process gets us so far; we memorized all the rulerships, and we know the basic nature of a square. But to feel the aspect, to sense its meaning, is where the miracle of astrology leaps into existence. This is assisted and necessitated by the fact that astrology does not translate directly into words. The meaning of a chart is available only through metaphor. To make those metaphors, we must play a game of charades, using “looks like” and “sounds like” and “feels like” analogies that captivate the client’s attention. We must listen to that inner voice that offers us the right thing to say, and we learn to trust this voice through practice.
Astrology is not merely the dutiful work of detailed analysis. Moments of pure channeling add a playful, creative dimension that uplifts the interpretive process and makes astrology so much fun. You might see Jupiter transiting the 9th house of a client’s chart and suggest that this is a great time for a faraway vacation. Once, during a session with a client whose chart had those general indications, I specifically suggested a trip to Hawaii, off the top of my head. My client said, “That’s exactly where I was planning to go. I was thinking about it right before I called you.” It’s not as though the asteroid Honolulu was involved in the picture; the data led to an idea, and out of the nowhere of Pisces came some fun verification of something that only the client could confirm. To do this, you must not be afraid to be wrong! You have to either say exactly what comes into your mind or be willing to venture the occasional wild guess that takes you beyond substantiation or rationality. If you get hung up on proving your point, you won’t get very far.
Like the fundamentals of swimming, the basics of astrology can be taught. But when it comes to putting together each of the individual elements — to float, kick, crawl, breathe, navigate from the dock to the buoy, and not be scared, all at the same time — that’s something you just have to jump in and do. The various techniques have to be left behind, and you must simply swim — or sink, as the case may be.
Another example is dancing. You can learn the moves, but when it’s time to dance, you have to stand up and face the music. Let’s look at the chart of one astrologer who did.
A Successful Virgo–Pisces Balancing Act
When I was pondering what chart examples to use for this article, I came up with two possibilities: Evangeline Adams and Patric Walker. Adams is rightfully called the Mother of 20th-Century Astrology. She worked with the rich and the poor and everyone in between; she reached the masses through newspaper columns; and she brought great wisdom and distinction to astrology, even successfully defending herself against prosecution.
I researched her chart and came up with the usual contentious data for the morning of February 8, 1868. This chart (not shown) has Pisces rising, plus Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus in Pisces. But, alas, Lois Rodden — and just about everyone else who has addressed the question of Adams’s birth with a rational mind — rated it as Dirty Data, since Adams never seemed to tell the truth about her age. Plus, the chart has way too much Pisces to prove my point that you need a good bit of Virgo to be a competent astrologer. (Adams said she would calculate the chart in the first five minutes of a 30-minute session!) But the chart that we have for her handsomely proves the point that too much Pisces makes things sloppy and impossible to document. (Still, in true Pisces style, I found a way to work a discussion of the chart into this article.)
Adams did not limit her professional activity to astrology; she was also an avid hand reader and collected the handprint of just about every client she ever worked with. Pisces rules the hands and feet, and hand reading is an extraordinarily intuitive art.
Patric Walker is another story. This astrologer and newspaper writer, who died in 1995, captivated worldwide audiences with his often shockingly accurate forecasts in that unlikeliest of places: a daily horoscope column. I have a lot of Patric Walker stories, but my favorite is this one.
In another phase of my journalism career, I covered government scandals. One week, I wrote a stinging exposé in my newsletter about how a student government blew half a million dollars on limos, lavish conferences, cell phones, a trip to Africa, and crony salaries in the middle of a fiscal crisis at the university. The report exploded into a page-one story in the New York City daily papers and TV news. It was a true media feeding frenzy. Coverage ran through the entire week, and it was one of the most tumultuous times of my life. The New York Daily News even claimed an “exclusive” on an article that referenced my report, which we had faxed to them the day before. Meanwhile, my newfound fame sent my entire life — personal and professional — into a spin. To set the record straight and to give me and my young associates credit for our work, a competing paper, the New York Post, ran a lead editorial the following Saturday explaining the story and the circumstances, as well as who wrote it.
I saved the entire paper, which is how I happen to have a copy of the Patric Walker horoscope from Saturday, September 28, 1991. At the time, I was not the least bit interested in astrology, and I discovered this newspaper only last summer when it occurred to me to look for it. In Saturday’s column, Walker described my (Pisces) life as a “dressmaker specializing in alterations” and mentioned “clashes over finances,” but in Sunday’s column he was more specific: “What came to light recently has made you aware that it is no use doing things in your usual gentle manner and that the only way to bring others to their senses is by forcing a showdown. Problems of an intensely personal nature, as well as joint financial, business, legal, or property matters, are certain to come to a head this week.”
The natal chart of the man who worked this kind of everyday miracle (and with Walker, this kind of thing did in fact go on every day) contains an exceptionally balanced Virgo and Pisces (see Chart). To begin with, he has Mercury in Virgo opposed by his Pisces Moon. The two seemed to work together perfectly. Walker offered detailed interpretations that played out literally and metaphorically; he also used an unusual amount of technical astrology in his column, describing transits and aspects and grounding his work in detail for all to see.
Speaking of a Virgo Mercury combined with a Pisces Moon, we would have to stretch to come up with a more apt set of astrological significators for “a sharp mind, plus powerful intuition” in the same chart. In Walker’s horoscope, these planets are placed in the 3rd and 9th houses, the axis in the chart where we look for information about thought, writing, publishing, and ideas.
The Virgo–Pisces signature continues: Walker has Neptune in Virgo in a wide and slushy but apparently quite functional opposition to his Moon. This gives him a psychic (“he’s reading my mail”) aura, but it comes across in the style of Virgo: documented. In tune with the Pisces signature, Jupiter in Leo in the 9th house gives Walker a flair for the dramatic presentation of spiritual wisdom, a gift for homing in on his “higher self” with ease, and the inclination to offer the world his gifts with true generosity.
If you study your own chart, you’ll see where you can work with your strengths and weaknesses around the many Virgo–Pisces themes. Check all the ruling planets carefully. Check the house cusps. Look up all your aspects involving these points. Then, don’t think — make up a story about how you can be a better astrologer.
Originally printed in the Aug./Sept. 2004 issue of The Mountain Astrologer.
Chart Data and Sources
Evangeline Adams, February 8, 1868; 8:30 a.m. LMT; Jersey City, NJ (40°N43’, 74°W04’); DD: conflicting data; some sources suggest differing times and even years of birth.
Patric Walker, September 25, 1931; 12:15 p.m. EDT; Hackensack, NJ (40°N53’, 74°W03’); AA: birth certificate in hand from Lois M. Rodden. (Author’s note: Like Adams, Walker had a tendency to give out different birth data, particularly his birth time. The chart used here is based on his newly unearthed certificate of birth.)
© 2004 Eric Francis – all rights reserved
Eric Francis is a horoscope columnist, investigative reporter, and founder of the Web site, Planet Waves (www.PlanetWaves.net). You can find his work at the site. His writing has appeared recently in the London Daily Mirror and Flaunt magazine. Eric can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Koch houses, True Node
This is a wonderful, useful piece, & of great benefit to me both as one who uses astrology on a daily basis & as an astrologer. I’ll be reviewing it a few times. The in-depth exploration of Virgo-Pisces is enormously helpful, as my chart has them on IC & MH respectively, but with no planets in either sign. Yet they have much to teach me. Thank-you, Eric.
I enjoyed reading this Eric and am glad you shared it with your PW readers. So often the affiliation of Uranus or Neptune, or both, with the practice of astrology seems so detached from the actual practice done by real people doing the real work. This balance of Virgo and Pisces brings the art – and craft – of astrology into the real world. I especially enjoyed your discussion of the charts of Patric Walker and Evangeline Adams and why they chose the career of astrology.
I have to believe that astrology was meant to become mainstream during this era we are living now. The computer and the Internet have delivered the nuts and bolts of this field as well as a variety of interpretive styles to choose from so (if it doesn’t overwhelm you) you can get started, continue learning and find your niche in this immense and fascinating subject.
One of the things I appreciate most about being alive at this time is that we learn how astrology can apply to so many things such as a deadly hurricane for example, the astrological explanation of which has appeal to – and can reach a world-wide audience. What was once the privilege of kings can serve almost anyone in the world who is interested. Another thing is it doesn’t have to be an isolated practice. Through the gifts you describe of Virgo and Pisces, each individual student of astrology can perceive something unique from their perspective that others can incorporate into their understanding. Or not. It is a study that has discipline yet it is also a kind of wild west territory, what with new “planets” being discovered and lots of astrologers sharing their unique take and experience on events and such.
As the world gets smaller this gift (art/craft) of astrology is becoming a bridge between people who have been isolated from each other for eons. I do believe Chiron is in part responsible for this leg of the journey; utilizing the language of astrology and its world-wide symbolism to heal breaches which language, belief systems and fear of the unknown have created. Whatever mistakes were made by Man in the story of the Tower of Babel can surely be overcome in part thanks to the ancient but modernized language and craft of astrology.