DOs and DONOTs if you want to study astrology

People turn to astrology for different reasons – curiosity, boredom, crisis, loss, looking for meaning, sense of belonging, etc. 

The tricky bit is how to proceed to astrological study. The chosen approach could make the journey fulfilling or the student could stumble and give up. 
 
                                                 So, my suggestions based on my personal experience are:
 
 
1. DO COMMIT!
 
 
Studying astrology is hard work. It requires time and effort. 
You need to learn the basics – the language, the methods, the techniques. 
You need some knowledge of mathematics and physics, the ability to analyse and synthesise and to think critically and independently. 
No pain, no gain. So embrace Saturn (Mercury and Jupiter also)  in your natal chart and go for it. 

 

 

2. DO FIND A QUALITY ASTROLOGY SCHOOL!

 
 
In my experience this DO is crucial. 
Your astrology teacher can make or break you or waste your time and money. 
Having a prime astrology teacher or school is 50% of the battle for quality education. 
The good news is that you can choose from many online or in-person options. The bad news is that you need to thoroughly research your options. Some points to remember during your searching:
a) being a professional astrologer does not guarantee a teacher of high standard.
 
b) do not waste time and money on paid seminars and webinars. They are usually a source of income for the astrologers.
 
c) however, do attend the promotional (especially online) seminars and webinars. They are free of charge and give you a chance not only to learn something on an interesting topic but to assess (to some extent) the quality of teaching.
 
 
 
 
3. DO JOIN THE ASTROLOGICAL COMMUNITY!
 
 
That is the best part of studying astrology. 
The astrological community is global and vibrant. You can connect with local or international astrological groups on all social media platforms. 
If you want to go further (you do not need to) you can attend Summer schools, astrological conferences or astrological retreats. 
The experience is memorable and you learn as much from your astrological peers as from your teachers.
 

 

 

4. DO STAY CURIOUS!

 
 
 
One of the paradoxes of studying astrology is that you do not conform completely to the chosen schools of thought.
 Explore the other genres of astrology, different styles, different points of view. 
That will keep you engaged for the rest of your life. 
 
5. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DAY JOB!

 

At least not in the beginning. 
Actually, it is your choice – you could strike out and risk becoming a full time astrologer or you could take it slowly. 
Astrology is a great hobby. 
It helps you with self-discovery and self-development and it is also an excellent tool for social connection and  entertainment. 
 
 
 
 
I’m not saying studying astrology is very difficult, but it requires a bit more than popular study methods: open book, open laptop, open Netflix.

“The image that resists all explanation” – Part 1

Only 2 hours journey by Eurostar and Adrian and I are able to pay a visit to the city of Brussles and its Musee Margitte Museum. 

The legacy of the famous surrealist Rene Margitte is explicitly presented in the life of the Belgian capital. A few building around the Grand Palace have his well-known objects painted on their walls. Many shops sell gifts and art items with Margitte’s signature images. The museum of his works is very well attended by an international crowd.
 
 
It opened on 2nd June 2009. Its creation was result of the enthusiasm, efforts and  professionalism of the Belgian state and Belgian economical, art and civil community. 
This devotion to treasure the national art heritage and made it available for the public its not specifically Belgian or European. 
The same cultural ambitions I have experienced in Chicago. The Modern Wing of the Art Institute designed by Renzo Piano and also opened in 2009 contains at least 11 Margate’s canvases and drawings including the famous “Time transfixed”1938.
 
 
However, the Museum in Brussels has the biggest world-leading collection of works by Margitte . It is situated in the renovated Hotel Altenloh on The Place Royale. 
The Museum has an unusual structure. The exhibition is spread on three floors and the tour starts from the top floor. 
 


The paintings are accompanied by lifeline explanations and photographs.The visitors can read  Margate’s own words in French and see many drawings, posters, book illustrations, photographs and even movies. 
It is a very well thought-out and organised museum. The gift shop sells pleasant items. Despite the overwhelming visiting crowd the museum still excludes  a sense of space. 
The only big disadvantage is that there is no cafe on the premises. I hope this issue will be soon attended to. 
 
 
That leaves us with only one thing – to enjoy the unexplainable world of Rene Margitte. 
I often hear that everything in art has already been created. 
This argument does have a point yet I do not think it applies to really talented artists. 
Their artistic style is unmistakably unique and visionary, art to be followed. 
 
 
Let’s look at some of the painting of Rene Margitte and their contemporary resonance:
 
 
In 1927 Margate painted “The female Tief” and the “Man from the Sea” – two canvases from his “black period” when he constructed his “ enigmatic visual world”. 
 
Nearly 100 years later see what appears:
 
 
 
The canvas “The Secret Player” was created in 1927. 
 
Again, 96 years later,  in 2020 we had the global Covid pandemic.
 
Could you recognise the crises – a woman wearing a mask, a frightening flying black turtle in the sky, skittles turning into trees, and a losing team?
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Great expectations”1940. 
 
The grounded, stable, even reassuringly round trees could present ambitions rooted in “community and creativity, with goals like feeling connected whole and healthy”.
 
And the highly ambitious, skinny and unstable tree with a few leaves but reaching for the sky.
To be continued….

Bravissimo Maestro Donizetti!

I struggled this week to decide about attending the opera, The Elixir of Love (L’elisir d’Amore), by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. 
In order to come to a decision I weighed up the pros and cons. 
Cons were a few. 
The local theatre. The Regent Centre, was broadcasting the Royal Opera House production in the middle of the working week. 
The show starts at 19.15 and lasts around 3 hours with an interval. 
Additionally, I had to travel back and forth to my house numerous times.
 
 
Pros included the light-hearted libretto with a happy ending, the world-class production and cast. 
Above everything else was the splendid music of the genius Donizetti who wrote the music for the opera in just 6 weeks.
 
So, I moved in favour of the live broadcasting and thank God, I did. 
It completely lifted me, physically and psychologically for the rest of the week. My tiredness disappeared, I felt inspired. I happily sang phrases of the well-known aria “ Una Furtiva Lagrima” at home and work.
 
The synopsis of the opera is simple. The plot develops around the deep love of a poor, naive village boy Nemorino for a rich and attractive girl Adina. 
To complicate the situation a rival, the military sergeant Belcore appears on the scene. 
Nemorino feels he needs a miracle to win over Adina.
 
Fortunately for him, a con artist called Dr. Dulcamara arrives in the village. 
 
In a moment of pure brilliance Dr Dulcamara produces the desperately needed love elixir (a half bottle of a cheap Bordeaux wine). 
 
At the end, Adina realises that she has always been in love with Nemorino who is now conveniently rich and very popular among the village girls following the death of his uncle. 
 
The love rival Belcore marches away to conquer other women’s hearts. 
Dr Dulcamara’s business flourishes after the success of the love juice. 
 
 
 
 
The culmination of the opera, in my humble opinion, is the performance of the extraordinary aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima”(“A secret tear”) in the second scene.
 
Everyone knows this aria. Two tenors – “The Matchless Singer” Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti made it famous worldwide. 
 
The aria, its words and transcendent music speak to the human soul. It creates tranquility – that exquisite moment when our hearts know that the person we love loves in return. The flash of discovery that we are loved. A heartbeat of relief, ecstasy and faith.
 
Music says it all. Magic!
 
 
The cast is outstanding. The star of the show is the American soprano Nadine Sierra as Adina. She has the complete package – brilliant voice, beautiful face and figure (especially legs) and is an excellent actress. 
The decor compliments the story but disappointment washes over me when I discover that the same decor was used for the production of the opera some years ago. We live in an era of recycling and economic crises.
 
 
 
 
The next morning my husband Adrian brings me my usual cup of black coffee in bed. 
The elixir of love works for us without fail. 
No secret tear though – big men don’t cry. 
 

Guten Abend, Herr Wagner!

The new opera season in Great Britain commenced with a Big Bang – the Royal Opera House  presented the first chapter of the Wagner’s epic cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen” – Das Rheingold.

Before last Sunday I had never seen a Wagner opera. The “What’s on” rubric on the Royal Opera House’s website informed me last week that The Rheingold’s production would be broadcast in 1,341 local cinemas in 20 countries around the world. The local theatre ticket costed £18. You can check – the entrance fee for the Royal Opera House is between £193 and £325. 
 
 
 
I can assure you my attendance was only 10% linked to the incredible ticket price and the short duration of the Wagner opera.
The other 90% I allocate evenly to the ravishing music of Wagner, the dramatic story and the creative troupe. 

I had already admired the brilliant conducting of the musical director Antonio Pappano in Puccini’s Turandot last season and was looking forward to seeing the work of the controversial Australian- born but Berlin-based director Barrie Kosky. 

 
 The performance began with a shock – an old woman with long white-grey hair and beautiful delicate face totters across the monochrome scene. She is completely naked. Naked and vulnerable – she is the Mother Earth Erda (splendid acting by the 82-year old Rose Knox-Peebles).
 
Her presence on the stage is a marvellous innovation of Barry Komsky which is a clear parallel to the current state of the planet and holds the four scenes of the opera together.
 
If Richard Wagner, the 19th century German composer with emblematic beret, was living nowadays I am pretty sure he would be a big hit at the box offices of Netflix or Amazon Prime.  
The spectators know the synopsis of The Rheingold, they know how the story ends. And yet, they are totally absorbed by the imaginative reality of Wagner and his powerful music. 
It feels like we follow a chilling thriller on Netflix or watch a Grand Slam tennis match. 
Emotions run high in a short space of time, intense ups and downs with a power struggle, betrayal, greed, love, curse, exploitation, murder and humiliation.
 
 
Moreover, the singing actors wear modern 21st century clothing.
The Rheingold maidens appear in  black lace slip dresses, the dwarf Alberich is in a grey suit or jogging outfit, the gods parade in polo britches and high boots and the giants are tattooed and wear sunglasses. 
By the way, the entrance of the giants in scene 2 is outstanding – a real scene from The Godfather, simple and brutal.
 
 
 
 
Antonio Pappano performs Das Rheingold in his last season as a musical director of the Royal Opera House but he will come back as a conductor for the next three chapters of the cycle. 
The second instalment of the Ring and an opera in its own right is Die Walkure. Its duration is five hours with two intervals.
 
 
The prominent Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini visited the performance of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin which lasts 4 hours and 35 minutes. 
Afterwards he famously concluded “ One cannot judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend to hear it a second time”. 
Scusa Maestro Rossini!

 

The delightful performance of Das Rheingold and the chance to hear the world’s most popular Wagner’s motive “The Ride of the Valkyries” in Act 3 of Die Walkure motivate me to raise my game.

Bis zum nächsten Jahr, Herr Wagner!

Creative eccentricity

This story happens on two continents, actually on a continent and an island of another continent. 
The main characters are a gifted artist with turned up and waxed moustache, a ballet buddy and an art lover (not so famous as Adrian).
At the beginning was an invitation. It came from my ballet buddy Catherine who has a very simpatico ability to organise wonderful cultural trips. 

The London adventure this time aimed for the immersive experience exhibition of the most popular surrealist in the world – Salvador Dali (the gifted artist).
 
The London visit took place on Monday and believe or not,  I (the obscure art lover) already had tickets for the ongoing exhibition of the Spanish painter in The Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday the same week.
 
 Splendid coincidence!
 
 
The showcase in London is digital. In a big hall of a former boiler building the art of Dali comes to life. His bizarre figures, unrecognisable forms, exotic animals and peculiar environments move around the walls, spread on the floor, emerge from the sky (ceiling), disappear and come back. 
 
The digital projections make the audience a part of this fantastical world which whispers its secrets and desires. Background electronic music adds additional flavour to the whole experience.
 
An epiphany moment (at least for me) reveals Dali’s passion for science and technology. He not only befriended some of the most distinguished scientists of 20th century as Freud and Einstein but he enthusiastically celebrated fundamental scientific achievements as discovery of the DNA and cybernetic. Dali was one of the first artists to work with computers.

 

The little shop at the exhibition end offers some souvenirs and Catherine buys a lovely print for her artist brother.
Chicago’s Dali exhibition is a traditional one. 
The queue in front of the room 289 (exhibition room)  is so long that it nearly reaches the nearby cafe. Inside the room a new very-slowly-moving queue is formed by visitors who want to read the curator’s notes about Dali’s life and artistic endeavours. 
Still, the moment you move away from the line even rescuing not to see the first few paintings, the mysterious land of surreal dreams and thoughts drags you as a magnet. 
The exploration of Dali’s “hand-painted dream photographs” demands intellectual efforts and at the same it is so alluring. 
 
 
Honestly, if someone ask me to choose between the two exhibitions I would not know what to say. What is evident to me is that the dreamy planet of the emblematic artist exists happily in any forms of presentation. 

The lighthearted London showcase exhibits a confident awareness that the visitors would gain unexpected insights into this familiar or not so familiar art.

Chicago exhibition raises the bar much higher, the audience know that the artist is brilliant and they are there to see, enjoy and memorise his brilliance with their own eyes. 
 
 
Excellent result for the genius of the self-promotion!

Racing out of a fireplace

There are many reasons to visit Chicago, Illinois. 
In my case one of the top attractions was the opportunity to spend time in the Modern Wing of The Art Institute of Chicago. 
The Modern Wing was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. If you have not heard of him I will mention only two of the buildings in his impressive professional portfolio – the George Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Shard in London. That will explain some of my excitement. 
The Wing was opened in 2009 and hosts extensive exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. 
The notorious art lover Adrian and I hastened to the second floor of the gallery, where there is a permanent exhibition of the paintings of my favourite modern artist, the Belgian surrealist  Rene Magritte. 
Here the dream comes true – I am in front of his painting “La duree poignarde”. The story goes that Rene Magritte did not like the literal English translation of the title, “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger”, so it is known as “Time Transfixed”.
 Strange title and strange painting. 
In the centre of the canvas is a white-grey fireplace. It is build in a room with a wooden floor, a greenish-yellow wall and yellow-brown wooden wall panelling. The fireplace is solid and well structured. On the mantelpiece are a black clock and two candle sticks. A mirror with a golden frame hangs above. The viewer can see the back of the clock and one of the sticks in the mirror. 
 
Everything appears stable, customary, boring. Well, nearly everything. From the fireplace a locomotive, at full steam, forges ahead. It appears to be coming out of a tunnel and moving at top speed through the air. Nothing will stop it.
 
What is this? Of course, it is not possible that a locomotive can come out of a fireplace. Some awkwardness and confusion creeps in because it is difficult to comprehend. What does the painter want to tell us? If he wanted to shock or surprise us he has  definitely succeeded.
 
The only way to grasp some understanding is to try to get behind the confusion. 
Where could a locomotive accelerate from a fireplace? A possible answer is – this happens in our mind, consciously and/or subconsciously. That is how we formulate innovations, ideas, thoughts, dreams. 
On the other hand, a possible interpretation is that the solid structures we build in our lives are never able to stop the march of time and change, even if we try. 
Or, maybe so called ordinary lives as depicted by the familiar room and fireplace are full of magic and mystery, we just need to open our eyes to them. 
As the cliche says, take what resonates with you. Wrapped in my thoughts I move to the next room. There is a group of small children, having a workshop guided by two art teachers. One of the teachers finishes his explanation and asks for questions. A little boy raises his hand and asks seriously, “Sir, was this artist on drugs when he painted this picture?”
Every perception counts.

Pourquoi pas La Boheme!?

Christchurch local theatre, The Regent Centre, scored really high this week. 
After the recent broadcasting of the exquisite performance of Puccini’s opera Turandot by the Royal House of Opera, on Tuesday the theatre showcased the most loved Puccini opera La Boheme.
What a joy for all opera lovers in the area! 
The theatre was packed despite the dreadful weather. The wonderful staff were doing a fantastic job as usual. They were especially good at politely leading the late comers to their seats when the show already started.
 
The event was organised by the Hurn Court Opera charity. 
This charity gives the opportunity to young, promising singers to express their talents and to have much needed experience on stage.
Although La Boheme is an opera from the19th century, the story still resonates deeply with the endeavours and desires of any generation.
The dominant theme is tragic love –  at the end,  the flower-girl Mimi dies in the arms of her lover the poet Rudolfo.
 
Yet, the opera has many another layers. In its centre are four penniless young artists, – the poet Rudolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline. They live in the Latin Quarter of Paris and grapple to buy food and heat their rooms in the cold winter. 
But the four friends share everything in the most selfless, generous way. 
Rudolfo burns his manuscript to warm the room for his friends. 
Schaundard earns some money from an eccentric English gentlemen and he buys food for his friends and takes them to the cafe Momus to celebrate Christmas. 
When Mimi is dying, Mussetta, the lover of Marccelo, sells her earrings to ensure Mimi has medication and a muff. 
Colline sells his warm winter coat to raise the money needed for Mimi’s care. 
The opera audience does not know whether the four artists are talented or not. 
What the audience gets to know is that all of them are fully dedicated to their creative pursuits and nothing, even very dramatic circumstances, could make them earn money in more mundane jobs. Is that suffering in the name of art or stupidity? 
 
On the other hand, when the four friends do have money the party goes on. They love beautiful women and they give them treasured presents. They accept that their lovers live with rich sugar daddies  and at the same time suffer jealousy. They support the love affairs of their landlord but are deeply morally offended by the fact that he is married. 
Who says human beings are rational?
The artists of the Hurn Court Opera told the story passionately. 
Their performance was a breath of fresh air. The singers are very gifted with beautiful and powerful voices.
 I will not be surprised if I see some of them one day on the stage of world-class opera theatres. 
The director of the set design Michael Hurt deserves some special applause for the clever way the stage decor was transformed between the acts. 
Interestingly, the Metropolitan Opera New York will host the performance of Le Boheme from Friday, 21st April until 9th June 2023. If you are interested here is the link bit.ly/3mQCRRx

Find out who you are!

If you are happy reading popular horoscopes or you have a certain opinion about the scientific roots of astrology, you probably need to quit reading this post. Before saying “Good Bye” to you I would like to point out that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were two of many distinguished scientists who were interested and practised the ancient art of astrology. 


Pop-astrology is primary based on the Sun signs. Sun signs depend on the birth month. Everyone could find their Sun sign and read their astrological forecast for the next day, week, month  or year. Sometimes predictions are fun and could resonate with something we have experienced or hope, most of the time they are vague and boring. 

My guess is that this brutal simplification of the ancient art of astrology happened for marketing reasons. Attracting readers is easy and efficient – everyone knows their day and month of birth.

Let’s think about it! There are 8 billion people on planet Earth and it appears there could be 670 million people with the same personality and destiny (assuming that every Sun sign has an equal amount of births) if we follow this logic. Furthermore, the Sun’s entrance to the signs is not fixed, it happens on different days during the years, therefore the birth year is important and you need to check your Sun sign – it could be different from the one you have always believed. Even further, in case you were born on the Sun sign-changing days which sign identity do you possess – one of the moving out sign or one of the entering into sign, or both?

It is obvious that other parameters are needed to specify the data. One of these parameters is the Moon sign. The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth. It takes it around 28 days to go through the zodiac, so, the Moon spends approximately 2.5 days in each sign. Locating the Moon sign narrows the alleged 670 million people with the same Sun sign to the much lesser group of people who have the same Sun and Moon signs. 

More data is needed for pinning down the Moon sign . This time that is the actual time of birth. Uncovering this data could be complicated. Some countries register the time of birth on the birth certificates (some states of the USA), some countries (UK) do not. Some parents and grandparents know the birth time of their children and grandchildren, some do not. Every known fact in this direction is helpful – maybe you know that you were born in the morning or afternoon or during the night, etc. In any case, an experienced astrologer will help you find out your time of birth through questionnaires for the major events in your life.

The actual time of birth is crucial because it defines the structure of your birth chart. The birth chart shows the exact positions of the planets in the sky when you were born. The first sign from which your birth chart starts developing is called the ascendant. Very importantly, the ascendant is changing every two hours in 24 hour period!

Now, your first, not complete but more reliable astrological picture appears as a result of identifying your Sun sign, your Moon sign and your ascendant. You are not an anonymous member of the 670 million people group and the authentic you starts taking shape.

Much more about astrology and what all these signs mean in the coming articles.

Cold exposure is hot!

Cold exposure provides a wide range of health benefits and practice takes many forms. People who were born or live in countries  such as Norway carry out cold therapy for at least a half of year. 
Those who live near the sea or river can connect with local groups for swimming in cold water. 
The wellness industry provides the latest hit – the Finnish cryo cabin which is great for recovering after challenging physical activities. Its computer is very close to what I imagine as artificial intelligence. 
Or, you may practise the Wim Hof (The Ice man) method. 
His method combines gradual exposure to cold combined with breathing techniques and exercises. 
If you are interested in his method you have a few options: 
Firstly, sign up for his boot camp in Poland where you may be lucky to be guided by the one and only Wim Hof. 
Secondly, join a day dedicated to the Wim Hof method in the local luxury hotel. The guide will be a certificated instructor of the Wim Hof method. 
Thirdly, follow my example and upload the WimHof app on your phone. I just paid my subscription for the third year running. 
 
I hope you realise that these methods of cold display demand time and money – the two things we are always short of. 
Therefore I offer you a simple, ingenious solution – take a 2 minute daily dose of cold shower and reap the benefits of cold exposure without investing time or money (even saving them!).
I took this idea from the Wim Hof app and gradually tailored it to my needs and lifestyle. 
I began modestly by having a cold shower each morning for 1 minute and when I felt ready I increased the time to 1.5 minutes and then to 2 minutes. I tried staying longer under the cold water to discover that a cold shower for 2 minutes works best for me. It is long enough to deliver the benefits and short enough to keep me doing it every day.
I start with a hot shower and then turn it cold. The timer alarm on my phone helps me to ensure the exact time.
As a result I have taken my daily dose of cold exposure for the last 2 years and I am still going strong. The benefits are tremendous. 
However, one thing is worth mentioning – every time you go under the cold water you encounter stress and shock regardless of how long have you been practising. 
The way you deal with the stress depends on your personality and the context. Some people just jump into the cold water and feel the shock.
I approach the challenge differently by firstly exposing my arms, then my feet, followed by my face. Then I endure the stronger shock of exposing the front of my body and finally the crescendo – the cold water is pouring over my shoulders, back and head. And after that, bliss – I stay under the freezing cold water and enjoy it. 
Every day is different. 
Sometimes I pray for the phone alarm to ring for the end of the session, sometimes I want to stay in the shower much longer
Some days I am so eager to have the shower and to experience the bliss, another days I do not want to do it and it takes all of my willpower. There are days when the shower stays hot. 
The reasons for these deviations vary but nowadays I know that the body and mind will request the cold shower again without fail.
Because very pleasant things happen outside the cold shower programme apart from some  excellent blood test results. 
I become calmer, more creative and more adaptable. Even if you have a calm temperament I assure you that you will experience a degree of improvement. Life feels good. 
If life brings upheavals which you usually avoid or procrastinate about you will begin to face them head on with full self awareness that despite the stress or pain you undergo you will endure and solve. 
And not only that – the solution which you have found is simple, practical, cost and time effective as it is the 2 minute daily dose of a cold shower.