Sunday, 22 September 2013

M.R. = Mercury Retrograde

Mercury Retrograde season will be soon upon us! I can almost hear "oh no, here we go again" from a few, as they recall events and challenges from previous M.R. periods, and feel the flutter of anxiety from others as they prepare to complete as many projects as possible before Mercury stations and begins it's seemingly backward three week dance; And it will be through Scorpio this time, so things could get quite stuck, dense and deep.

I  imagine a number of people are wondering, "what is a Mercury Retrograde?" Three times a year, every year, for three weeks at a time, the planet Mercury appears to be moving backwards from our vantage point on Earth. When the planets appear to move normally we say they are direct, sometimes they appear not to move, and we say they have stationed, and sometimes they appear to be moving backwards and this is when we say they are retrograde. As we move from one side of our orbit of the Sun to the other, the planets appear to be moving faster than they actually are, and in a sense the retrograde period, when the planets appear to be losing ground, is a correction; both of the planet's orbit position by degree and of our perception and experience in terms of the themes/objects that the particular planet, and sign it is retrograding through, rules or represents.

Mercury is the planet of communication. Mercury rules the transmission and reception of information and therefore rules talking, teaching, writing, listening, learning, reading and observing, and so it follows that it also rules phones, mobile phones, car navigation systems, satellites, emails, mail/letters, meetings, the internet and even computers. According to Astrologer Steven Forrest, Planets, when direct, express in an extroverted manner, but retrograde energy flows in the opposite direction, and much of it's expression is directed inwards, deeper into the mind, away from the world, and into the unconscious.

The next Mercury Retrograde period begins on October 20th at 10:30am GMT/UT when Mercury stations then goes retrograde on October 22nd, exactly 48 hours later. Mercury will be retrograde until the 9th November when it stations at 9pm GMT/UT then goes direct exactly 48 hours later on 11th November. Mercury will then be in it's shadow period and not fully "extroverted" until 9:30am GMT/UT on November 27th. From this moment things that have felt like they were on hold or uncertain since October will move forward or become much clearer.

Some Mercury Retrograde periods are pretty much uneventful, but sometimes it feels like everything goes wrong. I have personally experienced, and know of many others who have experienced, a combination of the following during a Mercury Retrograde: phone cables damaged, internet breakdown, lost, frozen, damaged or broken mobile phones, computers and car navigation systems, important meeting day and time mix-ups, major communication misunderstandings, missing emails and mail, electrical problems, and so on. These things can be very very inconvenient at the time and even seem like a disaster but upon reflection there is always something deeper to be understood. For example a friend's phone broke during Mercury Retrograde and they were greatly inconvenienced but later they told me they had been wanting a new phone. I had been wanting a new laptop when my old one broke during the last M.R.

Perhaps our creative/manifesting powers are just stronger during a Mercury Retrograde. We don't really feel like meeting a particular person at the appointed time, or feel ready to finalize a particular matter, or perhaps we just want to retreat for a while but are too responsible to say so. Then along comes Mercury Retrograde and everything goes haywire: the internet won't work, our phone breaks, that meeting is delayed, an important contract goes missing in cyber space and the matter is out of our hands for a while. Yes this can cause a great deal of frustration and inconvenience, even anger, but that is only because we are trying to stay in control and go against the flow. In my experience M.R. teaches us to go with the flow and take responsibility for our thoughts and creations.

I have found that Mercury Retrograde is most easily navigated when we are truly honest with ourselves and are able to simply accept what is. Last Mercury Retrograde I managed to mostly put this into practice. Last M.R. was a challenging one. My laptop and my mobile phone froze, my internet went down, I kept mixing up appointment days and times and every second thing I said came out wrong or was misunderstood in some way. The fact of the matter was that I had wanted a new laptop for ages and I had wanted to have some time to myself to journal and simply be. Mercury Retrograde gave me exactly what I had been wishing for. Once I realized this I was able to get out of the drama, have a laugh at the perfection of it all and go with the flow, mostly. I did have some moments of frustration, but my phone came back to life after a day, I purchased a new laptop, the internet was fixed with one phone call, and I caught up with my meetings and misunderstandings were sorted out once Mercury went direct.

The next Mercury Retrograde is through the sign of Scorpio. Scorpio is fixed water and Mercury rules mutable air and earth. They aren't a particularly comfortable combination but where there is a challenge there is greater potential for growth. While this M.R. period may feel really stuck, intense, uncomfortable and out of control at times for some of us, the potential for personal transformation and deep penetrating insight into the workings and power of our unconscious mind and emotions is huge. Mercury Retrograde is like a vehicle for travelling through old territory in new, insightful and deeper ways because we are able to think and communicate in new ways, or rather, we are challenged to communicate and think, or mentally operate, in new ways. With Mercury retrograding through Scorpio (along with Saturn in Scorpio) it's going to be super deep and we may just be confronted by our deepest darkest fears, but once we resurface we will be transformed, and we may just find new confidence and comfort communicating about important subjects/issues we had previously avoided, maybe even pretended didn't exist.

Go with the flow as much as possible and try not to scurry away from what is revealed to you during this Mercury Retrograde. You probably won't be travelling light through this period, but come end of November you will feel lighter and possibly be a great deal wiser!!!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Astrology and Fertility

The Natal Astrology Chart, and the many Astrological techniques, provide the Astrologer with a seemingly endless amount of information about the individual. A great deal of information can be gleaned about an individual's fertility and challenges to fertility, as well as possible ways to further enhance fertility, to overcome many challenges to fertility on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels, to understand the timing of challenges, and to choose the most auspicious times and avoid inauspicious times for conception.

The Moon is the most important planet, in terms of fertility, in both men and women. The Moon rules the entire reproductive process, but reproduction is such a huge and essential function of every species, that all the planets have some involvement and influence.

I am going to go into more detail about the Moon, her phases and conception later, but first I would like to present a brief overview of Astrology and fertility. An Astrologer is able to see by looking at the individual's chart any fertility challenges, if indeed there are any, whether they be operating on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level, and if the challenges are ongoing or transient in nature.

Different organs and functions of the body are associated with different planets and Astrological signs and houses. For example, Sex is ruled by Pluto and Scorpio; The penis is ruled by the 8th house of transformation as well as Pluto, Mars and Scorpio; The Menstrual cycle is ruled by the 5th house of creativity and children and the 8th house, as well as the Moon; Seminal fluid is ruled by the Moon; Sperm is ruled by Scorpio, Venus, Jupiter and Mars; Lust and sex appeal are ruled by Venus and Mars; The ovaries are ruled by Venus, Libra, Scorpio and Pluto; Creativity and vitality is ruled by the Sun; And the sex hormones are ruled by Mars and Venus. As a rule of thumb any physical and hormonal differences between males and females are ruled by Mars and Venus and the symbols used in Astrology to depict theses planets are the same symbols used for male and female in a wider sense, including by scientists.

Astrology can be key to conception timing. For example, Astrology can be used to pick the best time to implant eggs in IVF, by avoiding particularly difficult aspects to the Moon. When the Sun and any major planets are in opposition, something an Astrologer can easily check, there is an increase in sunspot activity, magnetic storms, shifts in magnetic fields and cosmic radiation. Dr Eugen Jonas, who also discovered the Lunar Peak (which I will discuss later) found these can have subtle and sometimes not so subtle deleterious affects on germs cells as well as newly fertilized eggs. As a mother of a child with a birth defect and now in my 40s this is something I would investigate if I decided to conceive another child.

Sometimes there are transient challenges to fertility and a particular client always comes to mind when I am trying to illustrate this phenomenon. When this particular client came to see me she and her husband had been trying for their second child for over 2 years. They had both been fully checked over for physical fertility issues and nothing was found to be wrong. She wondered if there was an emotional issue. When I looked at her chart I immediately noticed that the asteroid Chiron was transiting through her 5th house of creativity and children. This means that Chiron was not in her 5th house when she was born, but was temporarily passing through and had been for over 2 years. Chiron in the 5th house is linked to fertility challenges and while this can sometimes be overcome in a birth chart, I felt it was unlikely that pregnancy would be possible until Chiron had moved into the 6th house. The problem was that she was past her mid-30s and Chiron would be in her 5th house for nearly another 5 years. I was very vague about the time line because I was an inexperienced Astrologer at the time and didn't want to upset her, plus I didn't want to plant any firm ideas in her mind that pregnancy would not be possible for the next 5 years; You just never know, very unexpected things can happen. As it turned out one month after Chiron left her 5th house she fell pregnant naturally, and after a smooth pregnancy gave birth to a healthy child at nearly age 42. She and her husband had tried everything in the interim but in this case, it all came down to timing.

The words for menstruation are derived from classical roots meaning month and Moon. Many cultures have made a connection through history between the Moon, women and fertility. The length of the average menstrual cycle is 29.5 days which is the same length as a lunar month.

In Medical astrology the Moon rules the breasts, stomach, uterus and digestion as well as bodily fluids, including amniotic fluid, vaginal mucus and semen. The Moon, like the uterus, constantly changes shape. According to Sagan, author of "Planetary Forces, Alchemy and Healing," the uterus's functions are a perfect embodiment of the symbolism of the Moon and that of Cancer, the sign it rules. The uterus provides a "nidus" or nest for reproduction where the foetus can grow and be nurtured in a warm, fluid-filled protected environment.

"Steiner's vision was that in the past, all women had their menstrual cycle perfectly synchronized with the lunar cycle... and the fact that this is no longer the case indicates an emancipation from cosmic cycles." (Sagan)

A commonly held view is that women are most fertile at full Moon and so should ovulate at this time, and menstruate at the new Moon, but clinical observation and research indicates that lunar cycle synchronization is not so simple, though it has been observed that women are often fertile and conceive at full Moon, even when this does not coincide with mid-cycle ovulation.

In the 1950s, Dr Eugen Jonas, a Czech Psychiatrist,

"identified and assessed a biorhythmic cycle as having an effect on fertility...he concluded that a woman is fertile during the same phase of the Moon that was present when she was born, regardless of whether she was at mid-cycle ovulation." (Naish)

However unlikely this may seem, this finding has been extensively tested by many practitioners and researchers and according to Australian based natural fertility specialist Francesca Naish,

"several researchers have established that this bio-rhythm is like a blueprint for the hormonal cycle, and that the more relaxed, and generally reproductively healthy a woman is, the more likely she is to experience her mid-cycle ovulation at the same phase of the moon that was present at her birth."

Further to this it appears that when a woman is mid-cycle during her birth lunar phase, she is more likely to conceive. The synchronization of the lunar and hormonal cycle has been observed to occur more commonly in woman who are aware of their bodies, such as those who are checking their mucus symptoms, or those who are trying to conceive because they are taking care to be more reproductively healthy. You can read more about mucus symptoms in relation to fertility and natural contraception in Naish's books, "The Natural Way To Better Babies" and "Natural Fertility."

If the menstrual cycle is longer or shorter than a lunar cycle, it may not synchronize with this lunar blueprint and the lunar peak may not coincide with ovulation. Dr Jonas found that in these situations, women were still able to conceive at the lunar peak.

How is this possible? In a study published in the journal "Fertility and Sterility," Pierson and his colleagues found that of the 63 women they studied, only 50 had "normal" menstrual cycles. Thirteen of the 63 women ovulated multiple times, in various different ways, and of the other 50 women, 40% experienced up to three waves of the follicles instead of the expected one. Any one of these follicle waves could have resulted in the production of an egg. The women's hormonal levels did not match this activity and so it follows that measuring hormones in the blood is not enough to predict what is happening in a woman's reproductive system.

Out of mid-cycle ovulations are called spontaneous ovulations and other studies have confirmed that ovulation can also occur out of cycle as a response to sexual stimulation. The woman's lunar peak cycle is usually the priority, but if conception attempts according to the women's cycle have been unsuccessful, experimenting with sexually stimulated spontaneous ovulation might prove successful. The optimum time for this would be during the man's lunar peak, when sperm count is at it's highest.

The lunar peak is found by calculating the angle between the Moon and the Sun at the time of birth, then the monthly return for that angle is calculated by an Astrologer or an Astrological/Astronomical computer program. This will produce 12 or 13 times in a calendar year, one every 29.5 days. The woman is fertile at these times whether or not these dates coincide with her mid-cycle ovulation. Women have also conceived at full Moon even when this did not coincide with their lunar peak or their mid-cycle ovulation.

According to Naish, to increase conception success it is preferable for the ovulation and lunar peak to be synchronized. The following is a list of some ways that have been found to predispose women to ovulating at this lunar peak: becoming generally and reproductively healthy through improving diet and exercising adequately, but not too much, reducing stress, avoiding international air travel and shift work (which are known to disrupt cycles) and being aware of lunar phases. Medical Astrology recommends, by Astrological Moon and Sun sign, adding particular foods and activities to help create harmony and balance, which may assist the synchronization of these cycles.

To conclude, Astrology is a useful tool for understanding an individual's fertility and fertility challenges, for increasing fertility and the chances of conception and is able to provide very practical help in the form of fertile times that fall outside of the mid-cycle ovulation period.