I began and finished re-reading my 23 year old paperback copy of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time this week. The cover is worn and taped to the book itself, the pages discolored on the edges from so much page turning. In the story, three children, along with three supernatural creatures, travel to several planets in order to fight The Black Thing, to save other worlds, and their own, from it's grip. One of the planets they visit is called Camazotz, a planet that has already given into The Black Thing. The planet's inhabitants have all submitted to something called IT, which causes them all to do everything according to the same protocol and even in the same rhythm, denying basic freedoms and creativity but eradicating disease and the worry caused by bearing the burden of making decisions.
On two different occasions, the children visit a seer called the Happy Medium, who looks into her crystal ball to show them a better look at the Black Thing. One of the children asks if she can see what happens in the following excerpt:
"Can't she see what's going to happen?" Calvin asked.
"Oh, not in this kind of thing." Mrs. Whatsit sounded surprised at his question. "If we knew ahead of time what was going to happen we'd be–we'd be like the people on Camazotz, with no lives of our own, with everything all planned and done for us. How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know. In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet."
"Yes, yes," Calvin said impatiently.
"It is a strict form of poetry, is it not?"
"There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?"
"Yes." Calvin nodded.
"And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?"
"But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?"
"Yes." Calvin nodded again. "You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"
"Yes." Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."
I love me a good metaphor, so this one struck me in particular when I realized how much it speaks to my (and many others') views of astrology and the birth chart. It is a sonnet, a plan, a form; the container that provides us with the structure in which to create the life we want. I enjoy the predictive quality of astrology and my eyes still get wide when I see it's power demonstrated in our personal and shared lives, but to me, the magic of astrology lies in the way it can reveal ourselves to ourselves, without taking away the mystery of it as if skipping to the end of a good book because you just want to know how it turns out.
One of my favorite sayings is "Know Thyself." It has been repeated everywhere for ages and seems to speak to the wisdom of uncovering and utilizing one's self-awareness. If you know yourself, perhaps you are less likely to get into situations that are not productive for you, or make unhealthy decisions (at least, I think that's the theory!) With an 8th house stellium, I'm very motivated to Know Myself as I dig through the depths of my psychological processes, fears, and strengths. But I don't think the wisdom of knowing yourself comes from categorizing your personality traits. I think respecting yourself is vital too, respecting the mystery that you are and the spark of the divine that you are carry. I think to know yourself you must keep becoming and recognize what you don't yet know, but will create tomorrow.
When most people first begin learning astrology, they are not always lucky enough to pick up a really great and thoughtful book. They may attempt to memorize keywords and plug them into each other in an A+B+C=whoknows sort of fashion. We've all got to start somewhere, but the "wrinkle" in that plan comes from carrying that sort of definitive, keyword oriented kind of thinking into trying to make sense of an entire human being's personality, life, and soul. When we look at the birth chart as not what we already are but as what we are becoming, then we can turn astrology around. A very simplistic but effective way to begin transforming the way we use the old stereotypes of astrology into this "new age" is to start by changing our wording, which can begin to change our thought process.
When we say "Aries is brave," for instance, we give a definitive statement, a black and white, right or wrong statement. We imply that if you are an Aries, you must be brave. Therefore, if you are not, you must not really be an Aries, or astrology must be wrong, or perhaps it's one of your other signs "canceling it out." However, when we say something like "the intention of Aries is to learn courage," then we imply action, something that can be worked on, practiced, grown into. This simple change can get us thinking in a direction that is more reflective of an attitude of choice within structure, freedom within the plan, to pick up the pen and write our own sonnets.