Off the charts 

Interpreting the universe at First Annual Astrology Conference

On May 2, 2004, the Montana Big Sky Chapter of the National Council of Geocosmic Research (NCGR) was born. Astrologer Lisa Allen, Hamilton resident and chapter president, chose this day “by elimination of retrogrades of Saturn, Mercury and Venus for obvious reasons, and even Uranus and Neptune,” she writes in the chapter’s first newsletter. “Then, I narrowed the appropriate window and used my pendulum (I am a dowser too) to choose the date and time for the birth of the NCGR Chapter and it swung only to the May 2, 2004 date.”

Thus the Montana chapter, with 14 members to date, entered the world—or, no, the universe. Or maybe it’s the cosmos. Astrologers speak in a complex tongue, and it isn’t easy for us laymen to follow. That’s part of the reason the local NCGR chapter is holding its First Annual Astrology Conference in Missoula this weekend: to let people see what they do.

“People who are just checking it out will see the legitimacy of the field,” says Allen, who has coordinated the weekend’s speaking events. “And I think that people that study astrology will come away with new tools to use.” She admits that “if a person only knows their sun sign from the newspaper column, they’re probably going to have a hard time keeping up” with the speakers, but that shouldn’t discourage astrological neophytes from attending. People who’ve studied their natal charts (the chart at the moment of birth), Allen says, will get a lot out of the weekend.

But for those lost three paragraphs into this piece, a quick primer:

Astrology is the study of the cycles of the planets’ motion around the sun, says Missoula astrologer and founder of Cat Over the Moon Astrology Melissa “MoonCat!” Mason, who will be the conference’s opening speaker on Friday.

“It’s a real science,” says Lisa Allen. “But it’s also an art. It’s a spiritual cycle, I guess.” By studying astrology, Allen says, “you can empower yourself to make better choices for yourself so that you can have a better life, if you will.”

“The premise of astrology,” elaborates Texas-based NCGR Director of Chapter Affairs and featured speaker Leigh Westin, “is that we’re born at a particular time in history, in a particular place, to a particular set of parents, and that information works like a loose glove around you, and you have to work within that context. DNA, genetic structure, and the environment all have effects on people’s lives. The cosmos itself is relative to all of this. It is part of the environment, and that’s the premise of astrology. It is very universal. When you really get into it, you get a very tiny, tiny, tiny glimpse of the creator’s mind.” There are few astrologers who don’t recognize some sort of creator, says Westin, because “the web of life” and the “fabric of the universe” just fit together too well.

There also aren’t many astrologers who like to call astrology “astrology.”

“When we talk about astrology,” says Westin, “I even hate to use the word, because the public connotation of that is of black cats and pointed hats, and a lot of superstition-type meaning that has nothing to do with what I prefer to call geocosmic studies.”

And within astrology, or geocosmic studies, are many branches. There’s astrology to determine “mundane political events” like a plane crash or presidential election, says Westin. There’s natal astrology for individuals to learn about themselves, and individual-election astrology for electing a time to do something, like open a business. Horary astrology, says Westin, is for answering questions such as, “Where is that expensive piece of jewelry I lost?” There are financial astrologers out there, too, says Allen, who charge “top dollar” to study cycles for investing in the stock market.

So, to boil it down, the value of geocosmic studies is this: “When you start wondering what control you have on your life,” says Westin, you can think about that loose-fitting glove as the parameters of your life “and you have a lot of choices and methods to proceed in life. The value of astrology is helping people sort those things out.” Now that we’ve got that straight, the conference:

This Friday at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Resource Center, MoonCat! Mason will open the conference with a 7 p.m. talk about the relationship between client and astrologer, explaining “why a client has found you, the specific reader that they’ve come to at that moment.

“A client could have gone to hundreds of astrologers,” MoonCat! explains, “but somehow the fate of that moment brought them to you.” By blending a client’s chart with a reader’s chart, MoonCat! will create a composite chart that answers how the two people came together.

On Saturday morning, counseling astrologer Anita Doyle will speak about how the nodes of the moon in the birth chart contain information about, as the agenda puts it, “each individual’s optimal evolutionary trajectory.”

“Nodes are such,” Allen explains, “that the south node is the energy that you come from if you believe in past lives. And the energy that you’re working toward accessing in this lifetime is the north node.” Allen says Doyle (who was out of town at press time), will likely use examples of famous people to demonstrate “how people who are self-actualized have fulfilled their destiny through their node pattern in their charts.”

Westin will follow Doyle with an early afternoon lecture to present her original research on declinations, which she says may be the most important measurement astrologers have. While some astronomers are critical of astrologers for using the “wrong” zodiac (astrologers generally use the “tropical zodiac,” based on the seasons as we experience them on Earth, as opposed to the “sidereal zodiac,” based on where the planets fall in the constellations as we see them today), Westin says that declinations are significant measurements because they cross the boundaries of both types of zodiacs. The two different zodiacs, says Westin, come together only once every 26,000 years.

Addressing more recent history, astrologer Albert Stephens will give what Allen anticipates will be the most accessible—and colorful—presentation of the conference by setting forth an astrological perspective on the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the Missoula Public Library on Sunday. At 1:30 p.m. Stephens, who has been a professional astrologer since 1979, will, according to Allen’s conference agenda, “give some amazing insight on this monumental event” by presenting “reliable charts for Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the baby of Sacajawea!”

“You can find out a lot about Sacajawea by taking the child’s chart and turning the chart to the mother influence,” she says, “so that you put the house of the mother on the rising. That’s called ‘turning the charts.’”

Come again?

“He’s going to be doing a lot of chart-turning to demonstrate that technique,” Allen says of Stephens’ presentation, “and then looking at the aspects of the energies of how they relate in the houses at that point. He will also be able, with the Lewis and Clark charts, to turn them over to get the actual viewpoint of the other people, i.e. the Indian tribes.”

Stephens’ talk will be free, while entry to other conference events ranges from $40–45 at the door. An informal brunch at The Shack on Sunday, August 22, from 11:00-12:30PM might be a good time to pose your astrological questions, learn more about joining this Montana chapter, or put the house of your mother where the nodes don’t rise.

OK, I made that last part up.

The Montana Big Sky NCGR Chapter’s First Annual Astrology Conference will take place Friday, August 20, through Sunday, August 22. Go to (choose the Big Sky Chapter), or call Lisa Allen at 1-877-311-5468.

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