How can you tell if your professional astrologer really is a professional and not some clown? There is no regulation. There are some recently developed schools and correspondence programs and there are ways to get credentialed as a professional astrologer through organizations I think of as being akin to the Chamber of Commerce for Astrology: which is to say, I think of these programs and credentials as mainstream, and no offense to tradition and convention (that’s you Capricorn). Experience is probably the most relevant factor, though, in my opinion; you’ve got to look at lots of charts over time to see enough patterns to see how astrology works.
I started studying astrology in 1998 in Sonoita, Arizona with professional astrologer Jaiann Machell: I’ve written about her here. For 20 years Jaiann was a great friend and mentor; she died suddenly 2 years ago and I miss her greatly. I was so spoiled to have a local friend who could speak the language of astrology. We never spoke English. Always astrology; it’s a great shorthand, astrology, for summing up complex themes and feelings.
Jaiann was a skeptical of a lot of astrologers, and rightly so. There’s a lot of astrological mediocrity out there, and it’s easy to get taken for a ride; and then there’s still some old fashioned and uninspiring patriarchal astrology. Still, when I was new to the field and full of evangelical zeal for the subject, I had a few chances to study with other astrologers. I really knew Jaiann was right; and still I was curious, and after spending time and money on learning astrology the conventional way I have to say I agree with her. Back then, I wasn’t a full time social worker yet and I had more time to travel and study.
In 2000, I took a correspondence course for certification in astrology through the Canopus Academy of Astrology in Australia. In the end I never finished the course because to graduate I had to manually erect a natal chart without a computer, and I didn’t see the sense in that given that we have computers for that now. Seriously. Doing the actual math of building the chart is very difficult. If we are ever without computers, I won’t miss not being able to manually erect a chart; I’ll probably be too busy trying to survive because if we have no computers, we are seriously SOL because we’ll be in some kind of Mad Max hell-scape. That was my rationale for not complying (Aquarius) with the rules. I was inspired to take the course from Canopus because the school’s founder is Linda Reid, and her book Crossing the Threshold: The Astrology of Dreaming, has greatly influenced my practice and I’ve helped clients decode and decipher powerful dreams using astrology.
In 2002, I took a month long intensive astrology course on the Astrology of the 4 Elements with Debra Silverman at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California. It was a powerful, transformative month exploring the elements underpinning the signs of the zodiac: air, water, fire and earth.
In 2003, I went to NORWAC (The Northwestern Astrology Conference) in Seattle. I took workshops with Lynn Bell, Rick Levine and Maurice Fernandez and the information I got really helped my practice. From Lynn I learned about Mars from her fantastic lecture series (still available on her website) “Between Conflict and Desire: Wrestling with Astrological Mars”. From Rick Levine I developed more sensitivity to harmonics and to be consistent with my orbs; he also really had good insights on the Yod, one of the more complex astrological aspect configurations. From Maurice Fernandez I got some priceless insight into the 12th house. NORWAC is where I bought my very first copy of SolarFire software.
In 2003 I started working full time as a social worker and that put the kibosh on my traveling to learn astrology. I continued my mentor-ship with Jaiann and I continued to read charts for friends and family. I always knew that my work experience in social work would somehow be relevant to my love of astrology! Social workers make great astrologers (think Donna Cunningham). It’s said that being a social worker is like having 1800 browser windows open at once; astrologers work that way, too, as they view multiple snapshots of planetary movement over time and space at the same time.