This morning, in preparation for teaching a course, I pulled out all of my astrological books and looked at them. I set them all out on a table, and arranged them in piles according to topic, reminiscing and noting the gaps.
I had never done that before.
To begin with, I should say that I’m an autodidact. I taught myself astrology. Of course I had other teachers, too, and remarkable ones; but the bulk of the work I did myself, poring feverishly over these books for hours, trying to grasp concepts that were just beyond my ken. I read everything I could find about astrology—read indiscriminately, and then sifted. I found some stinkers—some specious in their claims; some impenetrable; some merely vulgar, capitalizing on the faddish, “pop-psych” approach of the late ‘60s. And the writing—varies. Some astrologers are also born writers: their prose sings, and their knowledge shines through the song; others are turgid plodders, suffused with the glow of the Grail and incapable of articulating their vision. Styles of astrologia very much reflect the era in which each was written; and a lot of what I did—and do—consisted in straining to extract real nuggets from literary dross.
Where did I find these books? Everywhere. Bookstores of every description—arcane ones generally have a better selection, but I have found treasures in cardboard boxes in the backrooms of used booksellers. Libraries. On-line mail-order used catalogues. Yard sales. The Salvation Army basement. Friends. Friends of friends. Word-of-mouth. The Mountain Astrologer. One of my all-time favourite tomes came in a package from my Great-Aunt Emily, who vaguely felt I should have it--Destiny Times Six: An Astrologer’s Casebook, by Katharine de Jersey. That book changed my life and set my course. (I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. de Jersey, a popular and well-respected astrologer practicing in Chicago from the ‘40s through the ‘70s, before she died—a generous and beautiful soul.)
What I read, I tested. With friends; with colleagues; and eventually, with clients. I also used my own map as litmus, since I knew that chart better than any other. And each of these books—even the awful ones—is like an old friend, since we’ve been through the wars together; and some reflect that, because they’re falling apart. Many are out of print. Some are missing—books I’d blithely lent, certain that the borrowers would return them: the churls betrayed my trust. I’m so happy that I took the time this morning to renew our acquaintance, and I know that my students will be a thousand times richer for it.
Hey, whoever has my copy of The Case For Astrology, by John Anthony West and Jan Gerhard Toonder, would you please give it back?
Ariel Harper Nave
“I believe that there is NOTHING sent us that we cannot handle if we know ourselves well enough and that’s why I do what I do.”