January 2017 Newsletter
by Steven Forrest
Happy 2017, one and all!
For my teaching programs, 2017 brings a “new year” of a different sort too. This month, on January 10, the Apprenticeship Program completes exactly one cycle of the lunar nodes. On that day, the Moon’s north node returns to 5° 35' Virgo – exactly where it was when the whole thing got started.
Reasonable people would give me blank looks and cross the street if I stood on a corner shouting, “A nodal return, a nodal return!” But for anyone who has studied the basic methodology of evolutionary astrology, we understand that the lunar nodes are about as central to the system as your third lumbar vertebra is to your back. We could not do evolutionary astrology without them.
So, for the Apprenticeship Program, this is a very big event. In a nutshell, it is time to affirm our fundamental evolutionary intentions and to renew, review, and update our commitment to them.
The first official meeting of the “AP” happened in the living room of Karen Davis in Leawood, Kansas, on June 3, 1998. There were eight people in attendance. We were scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM. I suspect that, as is usually the case with informal classes, the “first breath” actually occurred a few minutes later, at 5:05 pm.
I want to talk about the symbolism, but first I’d like to say a few words about the Apprenticeship Program itself. When it all began, I was turning fifty. I wanted to take my teaching to a deeper place than was possible with weekend workshops. As an improvement on that format, I envisioned intimate groups that would meet for six very structured four-day intensives over a three-year period.
It actually worked that way in Kansas. That was before the “AP” metastasized into the Godzilla it is today.
I blame that metastasis on California. I was living in North Carolina at the time, but I had been doing some ongoing teaching out west (which gradually morphed into the second AP). When that early program in Laguna Beach came to the end of its sixth session, nobody wanted to stop, myself included. It is still going on today, although we meet near San Diego nowadays.
That “inability to die” set the tone for the rest of the programs. But that’s another story. Just to avoid blabbing, if you are interested in an overview of the various programs around the world, just have a look here.
As of today, there are a few “AP tribe” locations - two in California, one in North Carolina, one in China, one that floats around Italy, and one in Australia. That’s a total of six. The California programs meet twice a year; the others once, for a total of eight of these four-or-five day intensives each year. Attendance ranges from a typical low of about 35 people in Europe to a high that can reach 80 in southern California or China. Most of the programs have waiting lists. Even though no one would call eighty people “an intimate group,” we’ve felt the need to cap it there for practical reasons.
I cannot resist quoting Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
All together, well over twelve hundred people have attended these seminars, making the program as a whole approximately the same size as an ISAR or NCGR, the big international astrology organizations. Many people who have attended have established successful private astrological practices. Several have written books or spoken at conferences. And of course, many attend the program for reasons of personal growth or interest in astrology. We’ve got young folks and old folks, gay folks and straight folks, white people, black people, Asian people… We’ve got Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, shamans, and Muslims. They are all equally welcome.
Now let’s look at the chart, and especially at the nodal axis. This is a classic “event chart.” Just like a human birth, it contains the spiritual DNA of the entity that was born at that time and place.
The south node of the Moon falls in Pisces, suggesting the obvious – that the roots of the evolutionary astrology we are learning lie in the spiritual or metaphysical realm. That reference to the “psychic depths” is echoed in the “psychological” 4th House placement of the south node. (I’ve often defined evolutionary astrology simply as “the marriage of ancient metaphysics and modern psychology.” One could hardly find better astrological shorthand for that synthesis than “Pisces in the 4th House.”)
Correspondingly, the north node lies in Virgo and the 10th house, reflecting the evolutionary intention to “go public,” to bring a craft rooted in metaphysical tradition (Pisces/4) into the wider human community (Virgo/10).
Mystical Neptune – modern ruler of that Pisces south node – lies in the 3rd House. There’s the direct astrological reference to teaching – specifically spiritual teaching. Neptune lies in Aquarius, which supports the astrological content – Aquarius and astrology have an age-old association, mostly because astrology is ultimately about human individuation, the same as Aquarius.
Aquarius also suggests some tradition of being “exiled” or at least of being an outsider. Read on: that is a pivotal piece of the puzzle.
I often find that the modern rulers of the nodes get right to the heart of the matter, but I like to pay attention to classical rulers as well. There we have Jupiter, the traditional ruler of Pisces, strongly placed in Pisces and the 5th House. That is certainly a signature of some playful karma – and that signature is alive and well in most of the AP groups, where the parties tend to be legendary. More deeply, I relate both Jupiter and the 5th House to the life-affirming “Pagan” traditions – and our karma as “pagans” casts further light on the Aquarian themes of alienation or outsider status. For the past few thousand years, pagans have tended to exist in tension with mainstream religions and social structures.
Always with the south node, we have to look for “things we got wrong” in the past or which otherwise damaged us. What is the “unresolved karma” behind the “entity” we call the Apprenticeship Program? With both Pisces and the 4th house involved, this nodal structure suggests a feeling of something that was “hidden” or “buried,” like a flower that did open.
Putting two and two together, let’s add that maybe being “hidden and buried” was a smart move – a survival adaptation to social reality in which we were “aliens” or “outsiders.”
That notion comes through vividly when we consider the plethora of troublesome hard aspects to the south node. For starters, Pluto squares it from Sagittarius and 2nd. Meanwhile, the triple 8th House conjunction of Sun, Mars, and Mercury – all in Gemini – square the node from the other side.
Clearly, as a karmic “tribe,” we needed to hide! We were being persecuted, perhaps very successfully. Or even lethally – the 8th House is the traditional House of Death.
Four bodies squaring the nodes is a lot. With three of them in the 8th House and the other one Pluto itself, we are in the category of nightmares.
There is clearly a karma of tragedy in the ancient group-soul of the AP. Awful things happen in the world. The ties that bind the Apprenticeship groups together are the ties of a clan (remember that 4th House south node) that has been through the fire together.
One of the delights of the Apprenticeship Program is that we rarely look at the charts of famous people. Instead we pull the names of class members out of the “Sorting Hat.” That way, once we have looked at the chart, we can hear the real story from the horse’s mouth and thus learn from each other. In working “at random” that way, statistically, one would expect about an even chance of drawing an “easy” south node as a hard one. That’s because softer planets and aspects are about as common as the more challenging ones. But it is almost never like that in the AP. It seems like almost everyone’s nodal structures reflect some karma of trauma or persecution.
Let’s repeat that the 4th House south node suggests a “family” feeling. That’s why I’ve been using the words “tribe” or “tribes” to describe the various Apprenticeship Programs. They actually feel that way – warm, intimate, and bonded. Reflecting that “family karma,” we have had deaths, births, romances, life-long friendships, and even a few marriages in these groups. And like good family, people take care of each other.
Putting all these existential and astrological clues together is not difficult. The Apprenticeship Program is primarily composed of spiritual (Pisces) soul-families (4th House.) We are people who have often been associated with each other in prior lifetimes and who have carried on metaphysical and spiritual traditions – traditions which ran counter to the culturally dominant ones. And we were therefore persecuted.
History is sadly abundant with possible illustrations. Just think of “witch-burning” for starters. Or the fate of the Cathars or the medieval Brethren of the Free Spirit. Or really, the story of almost any indigenous shamanic tradition as it encountered “big religion” or “progress.” Think of banned books and the punishments people endured for reading them. Think of what secrets are buried in the fabled secret libraries of the Vatican and elsewhere.
Because of those tribulations, as a group we got scared – understandably. So we hid, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
And that is where we encounter the dark, damaged side of our south node. As a soul-group our karmic attachment is that we tend to stay buried. We isolate ourselves. We equate that secrecy with survival.
To reach our north node, we need to overcome that fearful reflex. It is time for us to be out in the world. There’s the meaning of the 10th house north node. It lies in Virgo, suggesting competent service. And Virgo is ruled by Mercury, which hangs in the balance, in Gemini, exactly square the nodal axis. Thus, it is time for this entity to find its public voice.
That has been the case all along, but it is especially important to re-affirm that intention now, with the nodal return. I celebrate all of you who have been part of the program over the past eighteen years – period! But I especially applaud all of you who are now, at this critical juncture in our soul-history, writing your books, teaching your classes, and “quitting your day jobs” to be professional astrological counselors. I appreciate those of you who can relate to the big astrological organizations, making our voice heard there no matter what kind of resistance you encounter. You have chosen the right moment for any of those sacred activities.
Let me celebrate what we have already accomplished. Evolutionary astrology is now a major movement in the wide world of astrology. We are visible. Books, lectures, and websites abound. We have at last begun to claim our voice. It is fitting to toot those horns as the nodes complete their circle. We have come a long way from eight people sitting in a living room in Kansas.
In Evolutionary Astrology, the focus is on the potentials described by the chart - both high and low. You learn what it looks like when the symbols are being actualized to their highest potential, and what it looks like when things have taken a turn in the other direction.
Under Steven's expert practical guidance, you'll take the first steps towards the artful blending of the complex archetypal patterns found in the birth chart into a cohesive story that both you and your clients (or friends) can understand.
No surprise: my own chart mirrors this nodal structure. Natally, I have an exact Saturn-Midheaven conjunction which lies only about one-quarter degree away from the AP’s north node. That is a very striking signature. The AP is “my baby,” for sure. The personal timing of its birth was interesting too – at that first meeting in Kansas, my progressed Sun was almost exactly opposite that Saturn/Midheaven structure. That was intentional; I was turning fifty and it was time to accept an “elder’s” role.
By the way, earlier I mentioned that, for practical reasons, I suspect the class started a few minutes after 5:00 o’clock. That is of course the eternal way of the world. With the chart set for a reasonable guess of 5:05 pm, my own south node is exactly conjunct the ascendant. That rings true too.
As is so often the case, the actual moment of the AP’s “first breath” was not something we could easily elect. Practical concerns dictated that we begin with a “bad” chart – the Moon’s last aspect before leaving Libra being an opposition to Saturn.
Obviously that opposition has not proven fatal – take that, you fortune-tellers! But the Saturnian signature of hard work and isolation, even from the larger astrological community, has been evident all along.
I am not the only one connected to this chart. I have been struck by an uncannily reliable pattern of people involved with the Apprenticeship Program showing close, specific aspects between their natal charts and this 5°35' Virgo/Pisces nodal axis. Sensitivity to these particular degrees is so pronounced in people who are drawn to the AP that I have come to regard it as a tell-tale strand of astrological DNA.
I hope this exercise isn’t tedious for you, patient reader. I am grateful to all of these individuals for their help and support. I want to honor them by name here.
First, there’s nobody like Tony Howard, who runs Seven Paws Press, my website, and Astrology University. His natal Sun at 6°55' Virgo conjuncts that north node. As my life and work have become more complicated over the years, I simply could not cope without Tony’s effective support. He is also emerging as a significant voice in the larger astrological community.
As I’ve mentioned, well over a thousand people have attended APs. Over and over again, I have seen their charts closely connected to this Virgo-Pisces axis, usually by conjunctions or squares. Let me name one of them here – Dan Keusal, with his MC/Pluto conjunction at 8°Virgo. I single out Dan for starters in large part because he manifested his Virgoan mastery by supplying me with the exact date and time of that first AP meeting. Thanks, Dan!
He was there in Kansas, and he now successfully practices a Jungian style of astrology in Seattle.
Karen Davis, in whose living room the first meeting occurred has Saturn at 2° Virgo.
Vinessa Nevala ran the northern California program singlehandedly for many years, in Napa. Her south node is in 2° Gemini, squaring our critical axis. Joyce Van Horn took over from Vinessa, again showing the square pattern. Her Sun is in 8° Sagittarius and her Mercury in 7°.
Ingrid Coffin runs the southern California program. Her Geminian Uranus, which rules her south node, is just one degree away from the square to the AP nodal axis.
My European and Australian programs are both run by the able “Mercurial Connections” team of Lisa Jones (Uranus in 10° Virgo) and Christine Murfitt (Venus in 4°Virgo).
In North Carolina, the program is run by Kathy Hallen, with Mars in 9° Virgo, along with Carol McLaurin, whose ascendant is 5° Sagittarius.
The pattern continues in my Chinese program, administered by the “NoDoor” team of Felicia Jiang and David Railey. Her Neptune is conjunct David’s Moon in the fifth degree of Sagittarius, almost exactly square the AP nodal axis.
Finally, the seeds were planted for the southern California program when David Friedman invited me to offer a weekend class in Laguna Beach. After a series of return visits, that group became the second true AP. David ran it until Ingrid Coffin took over. David’s meridian axis was the same as mine almost exactly, only reversed, with Pisces up top – and thus it lined up with the AP nodal axis almost perfectly. Sadly, David passed away a few years ago. I thank him too, wherever he is.
It is rare to see anything so concrete and “predictive” that works with 100% accuracy in astrology, but here we see it. Virtually everyone who has had a hand in running an AP event has a fourth‑harmonic aspect to this critical 5°35' Virgo/Pisces nodal axis, almost always within an orb of 3.5°, and often much tighter.
But the larger magic is that we have all found each other again across the wild seas of birth and death, to continue this great work together.
- Steven Forrest
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