My beloved dead

I kicked off this year with a journey to the underworld to truly confront my ancestors and ancestry for the first time ever. It took me longer than it probably should have to connect that with a Mercury-ruled 4th House profection year. And that’s what this year is about for me—finally diving into working with my beloved dead.

It’s not so much family history. That’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time. For me, the dead and ancestor worship have always been topics that have made me uncomfortable. I’m not sure why, other than it’s likely some misunderstood holdover from childhood Christian teachings. Christianity sure has more than its fair share of venerated dead, so I clearly missed something in those early teachings. Or perhaps I just got the overly sanitised version. I mean, just look at all the bits of dead saints that are around the place.

Which is another interesting side effect of ancestral work for me. For the first time ever, I actually ‘get’ saints. Before this year I had absolutely no connection to saints whatsoever, despite a full on Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t until I saw them framed as venerated dead, as ancestors, that they clicked for me.

Turns out that the saint our family has looked to the most in the past is Saint Christopher. I inherited two small medallions of Saint Christopher a million years ago and both of them surfaced again this year after being lost in the bottom of drawers and boxes.

Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers, is sometimes depicted with the head of a dog. This connects him to Hermanubis and, all of a sudden, here we are back with Mercury. Hermes Chthonios is leading me back to my ancestors. (Incidentally, Saint Christopher’s feast day is 25 July.)

So after years of basically ignoring my ancestors, I created a dedicated altar for them. And, after years of feeling weird about putting up photos and making offerings of food, I finally gave that a go too. My goodness, were they just waiting for that. The immediacy and intimacy of connecting with your ancestors is something I did not expect. It’s beautiful.

Not everything is sunshine and roses, though. As a white person with mostly English ancestry, there’s a lot of terrible stuff that needs to be acknowledged and accepted. Working with my ancestors has brought that into sharper focus for me. I am much more aware than ever of my privilege.

On a spiritual level, there is a lot of trauma associated with the absence of ancestor veneration in my family. I’ve been working pretty consistently with my family lines for a few months now but there is still a sense of more people waiting desperately just outside the candlelight for the help of the living. But the dead, my dead anyway, are patient and they’re overjoyed to have finally gotten someone to the point where I am now.

And then on a personal level, there is my ancestor who, in life, was not a nice person at all. So far I’m leaving him well off to the side. I hope eventually there may be healing, because if he had not done the terrible things he did to those closest to him, I would not be here and nor would my family be as prosperous as it is now. But that’s a lot to try and reconcile. So, for now, I’m growing and regrowing my relationships with others of my family and they are some of the most beautiful and loving souls I have ever encountered.

For additional praxis, because I really want to go deep with this death-work, I strung a custom set of prayer beads to use to pray for my ancestors and the dead more generally.

The beads are obsidian and turquoise, with 99 in the main loop and 21 in each of the 7 tassel strings. Nine, seven and three are significant numbers for me. Each tassel string ends with a different charm that represents an energy or concept:

  • a feather for peace
  • a rose quartz heart for love
  • a piece of turquoise for healing
  • a cross for faith
  • an owl for wisdom
  • a labyrinth for the way (in the sense of the opposite of being lost)
  • and a tree of life for family.

I use these as focuses for prayer, either sending them to my ancestors or the dead who may need one or more, or to request my ancestors share them with me and my living family. I discovered that they can also have a divinatory use. Depending on who I’m praying for, one of the charms may activate or jump out to show the specific area of need.

After I first made the prayer beads, I took them to the local cemetery and spent an hour or so just praying for all the dead who were there. I found the experience to be incredibly calming. I had an unexpected and overwhelming feeling of rightness and almost a sense of coming home.

And then, just as I finished, an angel appeared.

Dreams of beauty in the sky

Tonight is the conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Neptune in Pisces. I didn’t think I’d be able to see it with all the cloud around but as the sun set, the clouds dissolved and this beautiful moment shone out.

I like to take photos a lot. There’s something about capturing the perfect moment of light, shadow, shape and colour that is magical to me. I suspect some of the influence comes from my natal Neptune, which sextiles a lot of my chart. It’s interesting that this conjunction happened the day after my birthday when dad loaned me a new camera to try with a new lens I had bought as a present for myself. Pisces is my rising sign and my natal Neptune is in my 10th House. The connections just keep lining up.

Part of this may also have been my recent realisation about a talisman. I was lucky enough to get one of the Moon-Neptune in Pisces talismans from Sphere and Sundry, made by the talented Tony Mack. (Side note: Sphere and Sundry is AMAZING.)

This was the first astrological talisman I’ve ever owned. I still don’t know exactly why I had to have it so badly but I think it’s partly for deeper journey work and partly for photography. It’s as though the shadowy Neptune side is the deep diving guide of the unconscious and imaginal, and the bright shimmering Moon side is the inspiration for capturing the perfect light.

The talisman as a whole has a lovely dreamlike feel. Holding it I plunge into a warm blue and shining ocean, dissolving comfortably away. It has a truly magical energy. I just have to find out how to direct it and decide what to direct it at. Photography seems a good choice. Talismans and photographs capture and hold a moment in time. Both hold energy and power. I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as talismanic photography. Tonight’s photograph of the beautiful conjunction in a dreamlike sky isn’t a bad start.

When Venus meets Pluto and why learning CPR is important

A few months ago, transiting Venus in Libra conjoined my natal Libra Pluto and formed a square with transiting Pluto in Capricorn as it conjoined my natal Capricorn Venus. This was a fairly significant astrological moment and I’m sorry to say that I completely missed it. I wasn’t expecting anything at all.

Once you attune yourself to the planetary energies, however, they can get a bit shouty if you don’t pay attention.

It started with hearing birds and their alarm calls outside my apartment door. I noted it as something mildly odd, didn’t think more of it and continued to get ready for work.

Stepping out of my apartment door to head to the train, I was confronted with a man, slumped in a corner of the stairwell (which, while decoratively hidden from the street is actually open to the world) being bombarded by the local birds.

I jumped and made a very manly sound of surprise, called out to him and dithered for a second wondering what to do. I vaguely remembered my CPR training, did the checks you’re supposed to do in these situations and called the emergency services. He wasn’t breathing so I started CPR.

Fortunately, the paramedics appeared within a couple of minutes and were able to bring him around. When they finally got him to open his clenched fist, it turned out he was clutching an engagement ring and a gold, heart-shaped padlock charm.

Symbolism much?

Within a couple of hours of the perfection of a major Venus/Pluto aspect (that doubled its energy for me personally) a man holding precious tokens of love collapsed outside my apartment and nearly died. In fact, if I hadn’t gone to work that day, he wouldn’t have been found for hours and would have died. I’m the only one who uses that part of the stairwell in the mornings and where he slumped in the corner, he was completely hidden from anyone else.

I didn’t think of the astrology at the time. I put it down to an unusual event and something to tell my friends about.

Then, a couple of weeks later when the Moon activated that aspect again, I heard the birds.

This time, I immediately stuck my head out the door in my pyjamas to see what was happening. A few steps below where the man had been was a dead kingfisher, its body being picked at by the raucous local birds.

Not knowing what else to do and never having seen a kingfisher in my area before, I grabbed a towel, shooed the birds away and gently picked up the body. Luckily I was holding it very daintily (being not at all squeamish) because as I carried it into my apartment, it suddenly jumped up zoomed off.

Guess I won’t become a veterinarian anytime soon.

This was enough to get my attention so I googled around to see what I could find about the mythology of kingfishers. Turns out there’s a Greek legend about Alcyone and Ceyx, a very loving couple, who died/were killed and the gods turned into kingfishers. Alcyone is also the name of the brightest star in the Pleiades, although the mythology is unrelated.

Guess which constellation was rising at the moment I found the kingfisher?

That was enough to send me scrambling for my ephemeris (read: astrology app) to see what else matched up and that’s when the whole thing with the man and the ring and the death and the bird and Pluto and Venus all crashed into me.

Obviously the stars were going to extreme lengths to get my attention.

The message? Don’t die alone in someone else’s stairwell. It is very definitely and urgently time to let go of the walls and barriers keeping other people out. Or you’ll die. Alone. Emphasis on the dying part. Dead.

Message received.