Ascending to the Light… Well, Ascending, Anyway.

A long winded Virgoan description of my Leonine beginning energy.

I was born in the dark. At nearly 4 o’clock in the morning in Southern Germany, the light wouldn’t reach me for another 2.75 hours and by then it would be in a different sign. It would still be another 47 minutes until astronomical twilight. And yet, I think my parents knew on some subconscious level, because, while my mother chose my middle name to mean “moon,” my father chose my first name to mean “Lion of God,” while the Sun blazed into life a few hours away in Leo, the Lion, shining optimistically over the Sign it rules.

The Ascendant, or Rising Sign, is the point of intersection between the Eastern Horizon and the ecliptic and it is one of most personal parts of any Birth Chart, because the exact degree marks the very beginning of your Chart. It signifies your approach to new situations, the mask you wear, and even parts of your personal appearance. A person born at the exact same time as me would have all the same planets in all the same positions, but their Ascendant would very likely be in a different Sign and, therefore, their similar energies would express themselves in different aspects of life and mix with different signs in those aspects. The Ascendant also places an added emphasis on whatever Planet rules the Rising Sign, called the Chart Ruler. Additionally, some astrologers believe that the closer the degree of the Ascendant is to the beginning of a Sign, the Rising Sign will present more strongly, and if the the Sun was actually overhead at the time, it may present more strongly.

So, the contradictions of me: The beginning of Leo is pretty near the beginning of my 1st House (5° in, which incidentally is the same degree my Sun is in Virgo) and actually covers two Houses, which means it also rules the House in which my Sun is found. But, being born at night, having my Sun in the Sign next door and in the House next door to the House of Self and also conjunct with my Mercury making my Sun a Super-Virgo….. well, I have some pretty strong aspects of both. And since Leo is ruling my 2nd House (house of Security, Values, Possessions), which is traditionally ruled by Taurus (which is an Earth Sign like Virgo, but a Fixed Sign like Leo), and Mercury adding it’s quick little energy to that mess, they both want to have their say.

This post, in particular, has it’s own argument:

Virgo: We should really get into all the ways the aspects reinforce different parts of your thinking and ego expression, because I mean, really, the fact that Leo traditionally rules the 5th House, which in this case is in Scorpio, another Fixed Sign and dual ruled by Mars and Pluto, which are in Sagittarius and Scorpio respectively, but that last one only just and how Mars is the traditional ruler of the 1st House, which is square your Sun and is in your 5th House, but Pluto is sextile your Sun but is in your 4th House, traditionally ruled by Cancer and the Moon, which brings in your 12th House and your 3rd House, which is traditionally ruled by Gemini, but

Natal Basket of Crazy Flowers
I want to say that’s an actual astrological thing, where all your Planets are at the bottom.

accidentally ruled by Virgo and that’s where your Venus is, which rules both Libra and Taurus…. I mean there’s so much to unpack here, so I’m not really sure where to start, especially because it’s all important to you and it’s amazing how many aspects are made just to your Sun (like, really, everything except the Ascendant and Venus) and with your Mercury right there, too, so your chart looks like a frickin’ basket of crazy contradictions and isn’t it amazing how it confirms that you’re exactly as conflicted and crazy as you always thought you were? God, I love systems that confirm I’m right. But, I digress… Let’s see, where to start?

Leo: ….. Dear God, woman, think of your audience! We’ll just start with me.

Virgo: You would say that. It’s lacking in nuance, but, go ahead, you’re in charge.

So, Leo’s in charge for the time being. Nichole Huntsman, the astrologer I mentioned in the first post, likens the Signs to adverbs – they describe how we go about doing something. The connections between the Planet, the Sign, and the House are all roots of the same idea. As the Ascendant isn’t actually a Planet placement and I don’t have any Planets hanging out in the 1st House at all, I’m going to content myself with the concept of Leo and beginnings (which is pleasing my inner Lion’s vanity and my inner Virgin’s sense of purity).

The adverbs describing a Leonine personality are dynamically, boldly, courageously, protectively, dominantly, and charismatically. It’s outgoing, generous, warm, affectionate,  optimistic, passionate, loyal, ego-driven, controlling, and vain. It is the King, the CEO, the Child, the Ego. Physically, there’s a tendency for a wide chest, a strong body with a good constitution, a grace or dignity to movement, and hair that is either big or has gold coloring. It’s fiery nature encompasses vitality, spontaneity, aggressiveness, force of will, and, above all, ACTION. It’s energy is Fixed and Masculine – immovable, dominant, and determined, its force directed outward. The keywords are “I WILL.”

And I kind of have to agree with a lot of that. All that Virgoness above takes place before I enter the new situation and, if a new situation is thrust upon me, this Leonine side is the instinctual face I put on – a preservation and expression of Self, my loved ones, and my reputation. The order depends on the nature of the new. Even when I take into consideration all of the angles, practicality, and need to serve and assist from my Virgo side, I never fail to take into account whether whatever I am embarking upon will further my own interests in some way, usually my intellectual, financial, or creative interests. I may not have wanted to take my Statistics class, but I took it as Philosophy, did well, and actually ended up tutoring it for a bit.

Starting this blog, I have two major fears. The first that this fiery creative newness of starting a blog about my spiritual journey, especially combined with the initiatory fire of a traditionally Aries 1st House warrior Self, will peter out as time goes on and I get past all the Houses with planets in them. Two of my Houses may be Leo, but they are right at the beginning. Two more are in Aquarius and that’s only half way through. I’m worried that I’ll run out of interest and things to talk about, or that I’ll start flaking on posting or being honest in my posts. That the further I get from the concrete things I can definitely define as me and out into the world and the esoteric that I’ll become lost and unsure, fuzzier, less definitive, less comfortable commenting. And Fear Number Two, that this blog and the honesty and exploration contained herein will disappoint the people I love, should they read it (and, for some of them, it will, that’s inevitable), or in some cases, hurt their reputations as well.

To the first, I really can’t guarantee that’s not exactly what will happen. I don’t want it to, I’ve set up a schedule and a relatively exhaustive set of topics I can reference, and I’ve combined it with a passion of mine at a time when I really feel the need to explore these sets of issues. I’ve put in the markers to keep interest and accountability, but there is every chance that, like the multitudes of diaries and Books of Shadows and projects, Hell, even diets and relationships I’ve started, this may lay beautifully and enthusiastically started, sporadically, a tad less enthusiastically continued, and, ultimately, abandoned and, if not, doggedly and dutifully ground into a bitter end. Which doesn’t sound particularly uplifting. That being said, I’ve done what I can do about it, I’m still at the very beginning where I’m best and fresh, and (hopefully) I haven’t alienated everyone reading this yet. No point in getting down before I’ve given myself a chance to actually succeed and do the thing I’m starting this for: transformation.

And, perhaps more to my betterment, I’m planning on doing some kind of activity in real life to coincide with each post. I’m hoping that by linking the concept I’m working on to a real life activity, I’ll keep my interest in it, improve my habits, and have something to talk about beyond abstract concepts of heavenly bodies. It will also involve my Body more in the processes my Mind goes through (aside from the physically ailing bits). And actually, my next post will be specifically on how I relate to my Body since that is an Aries/Mars thing. I will be spending 4 weeks on each House, roughly the length of time it takes for the Sun to transverse it. By the time I get to my birthday, I’ll be just in time to talk about my Sun Sign since it’s placed in the 2nd House (*delighted Virgo squirm*).

Now to address the second. I don’t believe I can truly be self expressive or affect any sort of transformative change within myself (or anywhere else for that matter) without being open and honest about the realities of where I am, the things I do, and how they affect me and those around me. My tendency, especially with my loved ones, is to gild the lily, to present the best and most affirming part of what I think. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I like people to feel comfortable and happy around me – Libra Moon), it does leave a lot unsaid. And some of it is stuff that needs to be said sometime.

As I stated above, I will, inevitably, disappoint and/or hurt some of my loved ones. I’m going to be talking about deep wounds and nasty psychological pus. I’m going to be honest about the things and thoughts I engage in and believe in (both consistent and transitory), some of which go against my upbringing and societal norms. I know I am opening myself up to criticism and possible disdain. And that’s the point of all this. To be truer about myself and heal, air out those wounds, drain the pus (BTW, I am so sorry if you were eating), grow newer and thicker skin. Maybe people will even offer up constructive criticism and helpful tips, or just a similar feeling and acknowledgement that I am seen – for real, this time.

To my family, sorry, this will be posted on social media and I have decided to be open about who I am. Those connections are already in place on Facebook, people know you’re connected to me – it can’t be helped. I will try to keep anything that could be damaging to you out of all of this (as, rightly, I should – that’s not mine to share, see Vault from first post) and I hope that my honestly and openness doesn’t cost you anything. Also, know I love you all very much, even when we don’t agree.

To my work family, I don’t expect to be talking about work too much and, even then, mostly in regards to my relationship to it, but I’m sure specific instances will come to the fore. I’ll abstract wherever necessary while remaining true to the point. But my work connections are already up on Facebook, too, so I’m sure it’s not going to be too difficult to decode. I promise, it is the work that is frustrating, not my co-workers. You guys are lovely. Were the environment less positive, I wouldn’t still be there.

Those are the people I really can’t hide the identity of by much. For everyone else I may mention, I am going to be changing names (if they are needed at all for clarity) and abstracting certain situations so that only those involved should be able to discern who I’m talking about and what instance I’m referring to. That’s the plan. If at any point I reference something that makes you truly uncomfortable as far as it can be decoded by others, please, let me know and I’ll rewrite. If you’re just uncomfortable because you feel like I’m calling you out, please, do these two things: 1) realize that I may, in fact, not actually be talking about you (I get set in patterns, it may display similarities to something we’ve been through by complete accident – an issue of abstraction); and, if you are sure #1 is not in play, 2) talk to me about it personally.

And thus, I believe I have boldly, courageously, protectively, and dominantly begun.

Emerging from the Mist with Marbles

Preparation for the journey.

I have been traveling through a dark mist for a long time.

That’s what it feels like, being in therapy. For me, at least. But then, I am naturally drawn to analysis and drama – Virgo Sun, Leo Rising – a clear indication for those of you who follow astrology that this blog is going to be all about my critical analysis of me. Mostly. But it’s a spiritual journey I’m embarking on, so a) it should be about me and b) this world and my life aren’t barren wastelands – others will be along shortly.

But, back to the point, I’ve been in a therapy mist for the last 18 months (incidentally, shout out to my VA coverage and the lovely men and women there who have to deal with me on the regular). I’ve been in therapy for MST (Military Sexual Trauma for those of you without an advanced training in military acronyms) or, more generally, for PTSD, which is the actual diagnosis. This has not been my favorite year and a half ever.

Why tell you this? Heavens, so many reasons! Right now, though this is to set the stage, briefly describing where I’ve been and why I’ve decided to embark on this soulful transit. So, describing:

PTSD is a way of relating to the world in the absence of healing after trauma – a sort of whole life generalized and extended fight or flight response, if you will. It’s fairly rare, though not as rare as we might like and that number depends on the statistics you pull and whether you believe those numbers to be accurate (I don’t). It can happen after one event or it can accumulate over time. Mine was over time, at the ages of 8, 20, and 22. All three involved very different relationships and types of trust. All three affected my view of myself and my faith in my ability to make sound judgments in regards to other people in one way or another.

And after several years of self-imposed isolation and more than a year of therapy, all three have taught me about myself, about thinking, about trust, about power, about observation, and about healing. It has been rough, it is still ongoing, but it has taken me to a place now where I finally feel capable of connecting with my deep inner truth and connecting with other people in a deeper, more compassionate way – all of which takes trust.

The wise and always candid Brené Brown went over the Anatomy of Trust on Super Soul Sessions with Oprah, which resonated so deeply with me. She equates trust with the concept of a marble jar, trusting those who have put in small acts of trust over time with the really hard stuff. After seeing how trust played out in her data, she looked in the research on trust and betrayal by John Gottman, and the first phrase she read was, “Trust is built in the smallest of moments.” And in these small moments is the opportunity to betray as well by choosing not to connect when the opportunity is there. So she set about studying what it is that makes up trust, what are the marbles we put in our jars. It’s amazing talk that I linked below, however, I have summarized for expediency and clarity:

Trust is a big word, right? …. I found a definition from Charles Feltman… “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else… distrust is what I have shared with you that is important to me is not safe with you.” … Do I know what trust is from the data? And I think I do know what trust is, and I put together an acronym: BRAVING… because when we trust we are braving connection with someone.

B – Boundaries: I trust you if you are clear about your boundaries and you hold them, and you are clear about my boundaries and you respect them. There is no trust without boundaries.

R – Reliability: Reliability is you do what you say you are going to do over and over  and over again. You cannot gain and earn my trust if you are reliable once, because that is not the definition of reliability.

A – Accountability: I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologize for it, and make amends.  I can only trust you if, when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, apologize, and make amends.

V – Vault: What I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me, I will hold in confidence. … The Vault is not just about the fact that you hold my confidences. It’s that, in our relationship, I see that you value confidentiality… a lot of times we share things that are not ours to share as a way to hot wire connection with a friend.

I – Integrity: I cannot trust you… if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage me to do the same… [Integrity is] choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy, and practicing your values, not just professing your values.

N – Non-judgment: I can fall apart, ask for help, and be in struggle without being judged by you and you can fall apart, ask for help, and be in struggle without being judged by me. Which is really hard because we are better at helping than we are at asking for help, … if you can’t ask for help and they cannot reciprocate that, that is not a trusting relationship. … You cannot judge yourself for needing help and not judge others for needing help.

G – Generosity: Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors, and then check in with me.

One of the biggest casualties with heartbreak and disappointment and failure and our struggle is not just the loss of trust with other people, but the loss of self trust. … If braving relationships with other people is BRAVING connection, self trust is BRAVING self love, self respect, the wildest adventure we’ll ever take in our whole lives. … If your own marble jar is not full, if you can’t count on yourself, you can’t ask other people to give you what you don’t have, so we have to start with self trust.

I know that there are some areas of self trust where I am doing well, but there are others where I have an abysmal track record. Specifically, honoring my own boundaries or, indeed, setting them at all, being reliable for myself, non-judgment, and generosity. I have to give myself opportunities to put marbles in my own jar.

So I have turned to my spirituality. I’ve always been the kind of person who is much more in my Mind than anywhere else, so it’s time to take that strength and use it to connect to my Body and my Soul, to temper my reliance on it with a more holistic approach to Self. To give myself chances to set goals and boundaries, so I can reliably work toward repairing the disconnect between Feeling and Thought and the Unknown.

In delving back into all of my more New Age-y interests, I have fallen into the deep well of astrology and I think it is a wonderful opportunity to share what I am learning (as I do believe we learn best through attempting to teach it) and to use it as a method of analyzing the multiple regions of my life and setting goals within them. Most people are aware of the Zodiac in the concept of “What’s your Sign?” Not everyone is aware that the question leaves out 95% of the process, focusing only on the Sun Sign, and that not always accurate if you are on a cusp. So a brief glimpse into the madness:

  • You have a Rising Sign, also known as the Ascendent, which is the exact degree of the sky the Eastern Horizon was at when you drew your first breath. To calculate this, you need your birth time and place of birth.
  • Each Planet, loosely named, has a Sign. They are the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
  • Each Sign has a planetary ruler (some share), an Element (known as a Quadruplicity), a Modality (Fixed, Cardinal, or Mutable), and polarity (Masculine/Feminine).
  • A star chart is broken up into 12 Houses, which are correlated with the constellations in the sky, so set on a 360 degree grid, starting with Aries. Each House represents a different aspect of life, which has a natural Sign and Ruling Planet associated with it.
  • Your Rising Sign sets the beginning of your Birth Chart, or Natal Chart, which means that each House, in addition to having a natural Sign and Ruling Planet, also has what is known as an accidental Sign and the Planetary Ruler of that Sign.
  • Aspects are the angles between Planets on the chart. Certain angles show benefits or communication between Planets, others show blockages or conflicts.

There are other points that can be taken into account for in depth readings, like points where the orbit of the moon passes the ecliptic of the Sun, certain specific stars or comets, and, of course, how your own birth chart interacts with another chart for your birthday each year or how it interacts with another persons chart. Relationships can have their own charts.

Mind-boggling and far more specific that you thought?

Well, I’m certainly not going to go into all of that, though I will bring up what I learn from time to time. If your interest is peaked, check out the resources in the widgets. Instead, I am going to commit to blogging at least once a week, on a topic in relation to the Houses. There is an order to them that is like a metaphor for the journey of life, so it seemed appropriate to use for a spiritual journey. The 1st House is in Aries, represents the Self and Identity, and is ruled by Mars, which represents our Passions and our Body. Also, as I’m starting this we are coming up on the beginning of the sign of Leo, which is my Rising Sign, so it seems an appropriate time for me to be starting this journey, especially in a public, yet self-directed way.

As with the beginning of life, I am choosing a name to use for this journey: Starshadow. It may be corny, but appropriately witchy for me and reinforces the astrology theme with the light side and shadow side of each Sign. The “Saharan” from my blog name come from my middle name, Sahara, which is Arabic for moon, also appropriate for astrology and the name my mother gave me, so represents my roots.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for joining me on this journey, however briefly you may stay.