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Living the Drama of the Horoscope

  by Jeff Jawer
Originally published in Astrology Now magazine, October 1978.

In its several-thousand-year history, astrology has been practiced in many forms. In our present era, we can take great pride in the advances in our field that have changed astrology from a fatalistic belief system to a humanistic practice. We've gone from the doom and gloom of ancient astrology to the self-deterministic model pioneered by Alan Leo and expanded by Dane Rudhyar and others. We have learned that our relationship with the heavens is ongoing and dynamic rather than
fixed and rigid.

Our relatively new philosophy of astrological practice has enabled us to combine elements of modern psychology with our age-old methodology. A client is now usually directed to the possibilities in the chart. Squares and oppositions are recognized as challenging opportunities for change and growth. Those friendly sextiles and trines are seen as possible avenues of gain that must be activated by human will. However, in spite of these advances, much of modern astrology remains strictly a mental experience. The astrologer talks, the client listens; the client talks, the astrologer listens. We have become Freudians without the couch. Our clients tend to be well-educated individuals who willingly engage in this basic dialogue. The difficulty here is that words alone can not convey the full meaning of the birth chart. Emotions and actions are left to the client. The astrologer is often little more than a translator of astrological symbolism.

New Directions

The origins of astrology are enveloped in the dim light of a distant age. It is thought by some that astrology is as old as time, that it began with the first sunrise and will end with the last sunset. The belief that astrology was common to all ancient peoples is documented by historical records. We find astrology in almost every culture in the world. Without reference to the Sun, Moon and planets no agricultural society could have ever developed. Without astrology there would be no clocks or calendars to measure time's passage. Astrology's function, however, expanded well beyond the simple requirements of agrarian society. Its true function was, and still is, to explain our relationship with the cosmos. The ancient gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome, usually associated with specific planets or parts of the sky, tell much of the story. The "humanization" of the gods can be seen as an attempt to bring cosmic principles down to human levels.

Who among us truly knows Jupiter? Astrologers generally do not sit and meditate under the evening sky to understand its meaning. Instead, we have created, over time, a series of myths or stories to describe planetary influences. But, the new planets our modern astrology have changed our understanding of the original planets. The function of Saturn as Gatekeeper or Lord of the Dead has been largely superseded with the discovery of Pluto. Perhaps this is because our current technology allows death to take place on a massive scale unbounded by wealth or social class. Saturnian fences can no longer protect us from environmental excesses. How have the relatively new planets Uranus and Neptune changed astrology? Is Jupiter no longer nurtured by Piscean compassion? Has Saturn lost control over our Aquarian impulses? These questions cannot be answered by ancient theory; they can only begin to be answered by experience. Dane Rudhyar has said that every culture has its own astrology and that to know astrology you must know the culture in which it is being practiced. We can only understand what astrology has become today by examining the historical currents of our times.

The twentieth century has seen an explosion of ideas, techniques and radical political and social change. It began with the rise of Freud and his psychoanalytic theories and has continued to the present when all beliefs, all practices and methods, are being changed and challenged daily. Why then have astrologers remained glued to their charts? Why must a natal T-square be only a diagram on a chart form? Isn't a T-square a pattern that describes human behavior and feelings? A typical reading takes place between two individuals seated together looking over the chart form. The astrologer describes, the client either responds or doesn't. We offer sage advice, give warning and encouragement to those who come to us. Our methods, however, are little different from those of our predecessors. We practitioners of this so-called uranian science often hesitate to exceed the boundaries prescribed by our teachers. This is no longer the world of Alan Leo or Evangeline Adams. While we have been patting ourselves on the back for rejecting the deterministic model of the ancients, we too often fail to move astrology from the head to the heart, from the mind to the muscles.

Astrological Psychodrama

Astro-Drama is the theatrical presentation of astrological principles. Although its roots stretch back to the festivals of the ancient world, its message has been lost among the books, papers and articles that overwhelm us.

In the distant past, people related to the planets as living things. Jupiter did not represent bounty; Jupiter was bounty. Saturn was not a symbol of privation; it was privation. The ancients recognized the essential energies of the Sun, Moon and planets as real, not symbolic. Periodic celebrations of the planets enabled our ancestors to keep in touch with their energies. Specific planetary dances were another way of remembering the planets. The modern student of astrology often begins learning from this ancient base with a sense of excitement. But the student can easily become lost; technique can replace touch; method can replace feeling. Wisdom is lost.

I began thinking about Astro-Drama in early 1977 when taking an intensive program in astrological study. I was reminded that, while psychology has been bursting with new methods in counseling, astro- logy in delineation has remained a straitlaced, sit-down affair. In the 1920's, Dr. J. L. Moreno began his pioneering work in group psycho- therapy and psychodrama. His methods enabled individuals to break from a conservative therapist-patient relationship into something less structured and more natural. The techniques of role-playing which make up a large part of psychodrama and gestalt therapy can be applied to astrology as well. For example, a client mayhave natal Venus in Scorpio square natal Uranus in Leo. This aspect can be described by the astrologer as a spasmodic attitude toward love and relationships. We may find that the client is unable to maintain long-term relationships, that he feels his self-worth demands erratic or unpredictable behavior. The essence is simply that the Venus principle of love and value must be continually stimulated by new occurrences or unexpected responses. We could tell the client this and might be able to find its cause. Perhaps the family situation did not provide a stable foundation of love and appreciation and, in defense, unusual behavior was required to gain attention. In psychological terms, we might say that the client has an aversion tostable relationships, that these do not nurture or support the aims of this person. Of course? there are few among us who desire such unreliable relationships, but this is what this person must work through.

The Square: Venus vs. Uranus or Mars or . . .

In an Astro-Drama workshop in Baltimore, I worked with the natal charts of several individuals from the audience. I worked with specific aspects within natal charts. Instead of talking about them, we played them out. A young man with Venus in the 6th house square Uranus in the 3rd was the first to play. I told him that we would play a scene in which I would be Uranus and he would be Venus. We were lovers, I said, and I (as Uranus) was coming to tell him that I was going to leave, to break off our relationship. Of course, as Uranus I gave him little warning; my urge was to be free, not to accommodate. He, as Venus, was surprised and hurt by this. When I told him I had come of age and was now ready to leave, he resisted. His Venus is Scorpio would not allow me such freedom of action. I reminded him that he had taught me to get the most out of myself, that his emotional support enabled me to be as free as Uranus in Leo truly is. His response was, "But I made you everything you are. You can't leave me."

This unrehearsed skit clearly demonstrated Venus in Scorpio's need for control in relationships. The young man was saying what he felt, not what he thought he should say. We left the problem unresolved for the moment and switched roles. Now I was Venus left in the lurch and he was free-wheeling Uranus. He expressed his need to be himself and to be free from me. I held on as only Venus in Scorpio can. The result was that, simply by role-playing this aspect, the young man began to have a greater sense of its meaning. We were not professional actors, but we played our characters true. Here were Venus and Uranus talking about their conflicts not in the abstract, but in a lifelike situation. I can't promise that the young man is no longer chal- lenged by this aspect. The nature of this square will be with him always, but now it is something alive and tangible to him. He knows how it feels to be suddenly cut adrift; he knows how much he needs to free himself from possessiveness and jealousy. The exchange was not calm, easy and intellectual. It was lively and real. Astrology came to life.

The use of Astro-Drama in counseling is modeled after Moreno's work in psychodrama. The idea is not to judge, but to present possibilities, so that choices made in the real world will have the benefit of astrological insight. The process of getting up and "being" the planet reduces intellectual defenses and promotes real feelings. Perhaps the key to successful Astro- Drama is a basic understanding of the "characters" involved— the planets. If I asked you to be venusian, I'm sure you could do a reasonably accurate portrayal of that gracious beauty. Those playing Mars are encouraged to display the passions that this planet emits.

Venus-Mars aspects within and between charts are often reliable indicators of the needs to love and to act. For example, we could take an individual with Mars in Libra in the 1st house square Venus in Capricorn in the 4th. This person may act with awareness of the need to balance self-assertion with social propriety. Mars in Libra in the 1st is saying, "I want to do my own thing, but I want someone to do it with." The Mars urge in Libra describes the need for cooperation and compromise. Venus in Capricorn in the 4th, however, is saying that love comes through self-respect, that the individual feels valued through his ability to maintain inner control and discipline. This Mars wants to open up to others while Venus wants some distance. We might role-play this by having the individual begin expressing Mars. He might be seeking partners or validation in others. We could ask Mars to get others involved in his activities. Another person might play Venus in Capricorn. "It's no fun unless I make the rules" or "I don't need to get involved in your silly games." Venus would be aloof in Capricorn. Its character naturally stands apart from one so desperate as Mars in Libra. Mars entreats, Venus retreats. The client playing Mars will have a chance to see how much he tries to draw others into his world. The conflict with his own Venus may bring home the conflict within himself.

The Astro-Drama does not theorize, but creates situations where these energies can be faced. Role reversal is then used for the client to center on his Venus side. Others may play that politely pushy Mars so that he may see how he comes across. In the end, the client should have a clear picture of these two needs. The goal is not to eliminate this conflict; it is an important ingredient in his growth. Awareness, however, might allow him to better recognize his needs and meet them accordingly.

There is no compromise within squares. The astrologer's job is not to turn squares into trines, but to show the client the range of possibilities available to him. We might discover that Venus' needs in Capricorn require the dynamism of Mars in Libra. One must cooperate in order to gain authority. It is simply the balancing-out of these energies that is needed. Knowing one can be pushy is only a sin if one fails to learn how to push judiciously. Social significance is failure only when it destroys cooperation with others.

The astro-dramatic model for aspects is particularly valuable in couple counseling, when the conflicting energies comes from two different individuals and are more clearly defined. The person with Mars in Libra in the first may need the companionship of his partner when her Venus in Capricorn in the 4th feels resistant to new experiences. Mars will be taking Venus into areas that are unfamiliar to her. This could upset her need for that which is tried and true. A scene between these two would go a long way to clarifying and validating feelings. You don't have to be like the other person, but you need to understand and respect your differences.

Other Role-playing Possibilities

The use of Astro-Drama can be extended into several areas. We can use the influence of aspects to describe the differences between an individual with Mercury square Saturn and one with Mercury square Neptune. We could create a scene in which the participants are asked to observe and comment on an emotional scene between two other people. The Mercury-Saturn person will be asked for specific observations and advice on how to deal with the situation. He can be directed to be firm and sure in his comments. The Mercury-Neptune might be asked about his feelings. His comments needn't be so specific but should deal with the emotional aspects of the issue. We might expect Mercury-Saturn to try to delimit the problem, to reduce it to workable terms. The Mercury-Neptune person may be less directly helpful, but could provide a buffer of understanding between the disputants. In this case we are asking each individual to play out his own chart. What we will have demonstrated is that people look at things differently; that individual perspective is not a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of personal expression. To increase understanding, we might again have the two change roles. Mercury-Saturn will now be called upon to be neptunian. We will solicit his feelings and impressions but not ask for conclusions. Mercury-Neptune will now be asked for some concrete advice. We will have found that the first run-through was easier and more natural. The second, however, may do more to broaden the participants' abilities to express themselves with greater perspective than before.

The Drama of Teaching . . . and Learning

Much of my original work with Astro-Drama has been with actors and dancers. We were producing a play based on the meanings of the planets. It was therefore necessary to teach astrology to the performers. We began initially with a brief discussion of astrology-its origins its purpose and its methods.

The modal principles of cardinal, fixed and mutable motion were our first objective. Every activity can be measured by its beginning (cardinal), center (fixed) and end ( mutable). Breathing was used to demonstrate this tripartite perspective of motion. First, take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, let it go. (This exercise is from Bil Tierney's excellent book Basic Astrology for a New Age.) Through this technique we are able to recognize that action must indeed have its beginnings (intake of air), center (holding), and end (releasing). The performers were able to develop the concept of modality through their own breathing.

Next we used walking to demonstrate the same principles. As they walked around the room the participants were reminded to be aware of the moment their feet left the floor, the slight hesitation before stepping down again and then replacing the foot on the floor. Here again action is used to demonstrate modality. Beginning, middle and end (cardinal, fixed and mutable) become concepts of action and being. The lesson was easily learned.

The next problem was the presentation of the elements. I briefly described the qualities of fire, earth, air and water. The group was then led through a movement improvisation based on the elements. With my direction, they were able to experience the energy of fire. They were asked to feel the heat, to move like flames, to be fire. In our first improvisation, one of the dancers decided to do Leo, fixed fire. He curved his arms and bowed his legs as if he were a pot-bellied stove. The fire that he expressed was not active like the others, but he kept moving his arms slowly to simulate the radiation of heat from a central source. The others flickered like flames, jumped to their capacity. and produced a room full of wonderfully fiery energies.

To understand the earth signs, the performers were directed to move through space with an awareness of shape and texture. I reminded them to pay attention to the "feel" of the ground as they moved. They moved more slowly now, with all efforts directed toward feeling their bones and muscles. Some were relatively still, in pose; others explored the shape of the rooms, the texture of the floors and walls. For air, the performers were directed to feel the breeze in the room. The heavy movements of earth were changed to light and gentle steps. I asked them to rely on their minds, to experience the gentle currents of their thoughts. In the water segment, the performers were directed to their innards. Gut feelings, security needs, and emotions were called forth and allowed to waver through the water dance. Individuals flowed, glided and melted in the room.

These exercises were designed to create "pure" environments, to enable the participants to actualize the elemental energies rather than simply discuss them. Afterward, we talked about our feelings regarding the different exercises and found that some people felt more at ease doing some elements and less able to do others. One woman found that fire was very difficult for her to conjure up. Others had difficulty with other elements. We found that the lack of emphasis on an element in the natal chart often coincided with these responses.

The next step was to direct the performers through the signs of the Zodiac. At this time we used improvisational music to back up the commands I gave. We began with Aries. All the participants were seated on the floor. At my command (punctuated with a loud drum crash) they jumped up to begin life. I asked them to be newborns, to thrash and push against the world around them. As the group crashed about, I kept reminding them to be, to act; not to think. The room was full of wild energies as the performers began to exhaust themselves through this simulated process of birth or beginning. Taurus provided a natural contrast to the Arien activity. Slowly, softly and gently they were led to a state of comfort and ease. "You have earned your place here in Aries; you have battled for life and now you may rest and enjoy." The Taurus movements were slow and easy. The group was invited to enjoy the feel of their newfound bodies. They gently pushed against one another and enjoyed the touch of flesh. This peaceful moment was then changed to the flickering moods of Gemini. "Look up," I said. "Everything is interesting to you. Talk, communicate, discover. Don't dawdle; there's another interesting sight around the corner." The room was filled with buzzing, as whispers, jokes and bits of nonsense filled the air. Movement in one direction was quickly changed to another direction. "Attention must scatter. To the winds!" I cried.

These first three signs demonstrate a very primitive aspect of being. Pure action (Aries), physicality (Taurus) and mentality (Gemini) were unattached to personal feelings. In Cancer the performers were reminded of their inner selves. Clutching stomachs, they looked inward to remember who they really were and where they came from. Every motion was filled with feeling; nothing could be excluded. The group became a mass of almost sobbing individuals, home at last. Leo then offered the opportunity to take that self and express it openly. Grand gestures and displays were encouraged while other played children's games. Each vied for attention, but alas, not all could be monarch. We ended Leo with a reminder that even the greatest of kings required help in his endeavors. In Virgo, the troupe moved carefully and lightly. Attention was drawn to the most minor details. As this coincided with the end of the day's session, we used the time efficiently by cleaning up the room as part of the exercise!

This experience of the first six signs enabled the performers to "remember" their astrological meaning when it came time to play their roles on stage. Eventually, over thirty performances of our original play MoonMyth were given. An interesting sidelight was some information given me by the man (a Pisces, of course) who played Neptune. He knew that his character was highly suggestible and should respond subtly to the forces around him. As he moved on stage, his actions were changed according to the planets with which he came in contact. He would move with the tides of the Moon, but would become fixed water when he was with Pluto. When close to Mars, he saw himself as water crashing on the shore and varied his character accordingly.     


Living the Drama of the Horoscope, Part 2

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