Virginia from Virginia Bell Astrology reveals her relationship with the planets and the cosmic universe, and explains how astrology can affect each and every one of us in the different stages of our lives.
How and when did your spiritual journey begin?
In 1974 I read a book entitled Findhorn – A Center of Life, by Paul Hawken. It changed my life. But books have always been catalysts for major transformations and have appeared at the perfect time.
I grew up in a wealthy, Jewish community on the North Shore of Long Island. My parents were poor and Christian. I was miserable at home. The Dell Horoscope Magazine was my bible and I devoured it every month searching for something positive to look forward to. When I was fourteen, I asked the young priest at my church his views on astrology. His answer; “The devil’s work!” That was when I decided to put my faith in the stars and not the saints.
Fast forward a few years. After having lived in Italy and working in films, I moved back to New York City where I opened one of the first natural food restaurants in 1974 in the heart of Greenwich Village. This is when I came across the aforementioned book. I ended up visiting Findhorn in Scotland and discovered I was spiritual after all!
There was a spiritual revolution taking place in the 1970s. In 1971 Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now became the counter culture bible and changed everything. Young people were going to India to live in ashrams. At the same time, yoga and meditation studios were sprouting up everywhere. The Human Potential Movement was spreading and personal growth workshops and seminars were at their peak. I loved it all and I explored it all. It was a time of enormous self-discovery.
Which planet has the most prominent impact on us earthlings, generally speaking?
Most definitely the sun although it is not technically a planet. It is the biggest object in the sky and the most important in our chart. It is our energy, our life force, our identity and how we value ourselves.
How do astrology columns differ from a reading that you perform with clients?
When I do a reading, I enter your birthdate, your time of birth, and your birth place all in the astrology software, and a chart is created for the exact moment you were born. It is frozen in time. It’s your soul contract; it’s what you came here to do. The chart contains your strengths as well as your challenges and how to work with them. A reading also includes what is currently happening in your life and how to deal with it. It’s very personal and hopefully profound.
Horoscope columns in magazines are much more general as the astrologer is only working with the sun. There is some truth in the sun sign columns and they are fun and inspiring to read, but it is not specific or in depth. Yet many people, myself included, first learned about astrology through the horoscope columns.
Would you describe the planets of our solar system as having personalities and idiosyncrasies?
Absolutely. Each planet is unique and has many qualities. For instance, in Roman mythology, Mercury, (the Greek Hermes) was a multitasker who was known as the messenger of the gods. He ruled crossroads, travelers, and transactions, and was said to have created the alphabet. Mercury rules communication, information, writing, and speaking. People with a strong Mercury in their chart tend to be quick witted, agile, and thrive on information, stimulation, and change.
What can you tell us about generational life cycles?
My book Midlife is Not a Crisis: Using Astrology to Thrive in the Second Half of Life, deals with the generational cycles. These are the cycles that we all share at the same age: The Saturn Return at age 29. Midlife which peaks in our early 40’s. The Chiron Return at age 48-51. The Second Saturn Return at 58. The Uranus Square in our early 60’s and the Uranus Return at age 84. Just because we all experience them at the same age doesn’t make them any less relevant.
Just as there are power place in the world, like Glastonbury and Machu Picchu, that are said to vibrate at a higher frequency and encourage transformation, there are also power years. These years are the great turning points in life, major crossroads that mark our progress from one stage to another. Strung together these cycles tell the story of our life.
The Saturn Return: Every year the sun returns to where it was at birth; it’s our birthday or what is called our solar return. Saturn takes 29 years to go all the way around and return to its position at the time of your birth. That is your Saturn birthday. That is the first of the generational cycles.
Saturn has a terrible reputation; it’s associated with reality, responsibility, set-backs and self-discipline. Saturn isn’t bad; it’s hard. It’s like our coach, therapist, or AA sponsor. Tough love! Saturn doesn’t ask us to give up our dream, only to make it real.
Technically, we become an adult at the age of 21, but it’s around age 29, when our Saturn return takes place, that something shifts and we become true adults. At 29 we take the training wheels off and if we’re doing it right, we take on a challenge and grow in the process. We start a family, commit to a career, go back to school, or get sober. Our thirties are our Saturn years; the skills we learn and experiences we have will come to define us.
Midlife is a complex time. It is spread over a decade and involves four planets; Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn! At the end of our thirties, we start questioning our lives; whatever we’ve left on the back burner begins to call us, sometimes quite loudly. We get a divorce or get married, feel the need to have a child, or give up our career and sail around the world. We haven’t done anything wrong; we’ve simply outgrown ourselves. It’s time to examine who we are and what we really want.
Midlife peaks around age 43 when Uranus (the planet of freedom and individuation) makes an opposition to its birth position. An old life is over and a new one often begins. It’s the hero’s journey; we leave the known for the unknown. The good news? It’s probably our greatest opportunity to break out of our old conditioning and liberate our finest potential. Not everyone will make dramatic choices, but even small adjustments can be valuable. It’s not about changing who you are; it’s becoming who you are.
The Chiron Return: In our late forties to early fifties, we experience the Chiron Return. Chiron, a minor planet, was discovered in 1977 around the time the word “healing” became a buzzword. In mythology Chiron was a beloved teacher. He taught the sons of the great men and gods to be the heroes they were meant to be. The Chiron Return teaches us to be the heroes we were meant to be – not who or what we thought we were but who we truly are.
At our Chiron Return, we have the power to change our story, and it’s not unusual for our life to take off in a new direction. Often synchronistic events occur during this time. It is not unusual for a teacher or a mentor to appear. For me personally, somebody handed me a book by Steven Forrest, entitled The Inner Sky. I read that book and it changed my life again. This was the real beginning of my journey with Astrology.
We have a Second Saturn Return at age 58. The first Saturn Return we become an adult. At the Second Saturn Return we become an elder. That doesn’t mean an older! We’re just at the beginning of this great passage. The Second Saturn Return is an invitation to live less from a place of ego and more from a place of soul. Death enters the conversation. It’s time to make a will, an Advanced Directive. Simplify our lives. Let go of the past. These are Saturn subjects, weighty decisions, uncharted territory. Saturn reaches us about maturity and mastery.
Just as we needed a purpose for our first Saturn Return, we need a purpose for this portion of our life – one that expresses who we have become. For many of us, this can be a time when things really fall into place. I know it was for me. Second careers often materialize. Many people write their memoirs, do mentoring, or follow their true passion.
The Uranus square in our early 60’s: In Chinese culture, turning sixty is the single most important birthday. There is a sense of freedom that only comes with the perspective of age. It’s a time of “bucket lists” and new beginnings. The decisions we make in our early sixties will influence what kind of older person we become in our eighties. The wild elder; free to speak, free to keep silent, free to tell the truth.
The Uranus Return: At 84 Uranus returns to its natal (or birth position). At this time, it would have interacted with every single planet, awakening it, stimulation it and hopefully transforming it. We have come full circle. Fully individualized (as Jung would say). Nothing left to prove. It is a culmination of a life and simultaneously a new beginning.
In closing: The most important thing I’ve learned from life and astrology is that we all have our own individual timing, like flowers and seasons. The mistake we make is comparing our insides to other people’s botoxed outsides. Trust your timing. It is never too late to be who you always wanted to be.
What is fate?
For me, ‘Fate’ is something unforeseen, something destined to happen in a particular way; it feels like providence!
Michael Meade puts it so eloquently in his book titled ‘Fate and Destiny’: “Throughout our lives an invisible thread pulls us along. Fate and the soul are the same thing, and Fate and love are the same things, said Plato.”
“Fate refers to our deepest sense of subjectivity where we become subject to mysterious limitations yet open to surprising potentials. Fate shapes the particular plotline through which each soul tries to awaken and enters the great drama of life. Fate may involve the earthly limitations of our lot in life, but destiny, from the Latin destinari, implies that we are also of the stars. Each of us is secretly tied to the stars, born star born and star-bound and a bit of a star in our own way.”