On Angels and the Stations of the Moon
part II of my interview with Shuly Rose
This week’s Friday newsletter is a continuation of my conversation with Shuly Rose about astrology, magic and the moon. We had so much to talk about I couldn’t bear to cut any of the juice so instead present the second half of our interview today. While the last newsletter highlighted Shuly’s focus on the nocturnal sect as well as her approach to magic more generally, this conversation dives into Shuly’s exciting and, frankly, ground breaking work on the Holy Guardian Angel and the Lunar Stations. Both are key to her astrological and magical practices and, thanks to her influence, the same is true for me.
I really can’t emphasize how happy I am to be able to share these facets of astrology with you. If you want to go more deeply with these topics, Shuly is currently offering sessions specifically focused on building your relationship to your Holy Guardian Angel so please please please book a consult with them if this is for you! Unsure? Read on and get stoked.
I just opened up my books for October! I offer natal, year ahead, fixed star and creative praxis readings, which you can find out about in this thread. If you have any questions about any of my readings, feel free to let me know in the comments or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Without further ado, may you enjoy this vital exchange.
I want to talk about your holy guardian angel work because obviously that is a big spirit that you work with. Can you just explain what that is to you and how that relates to astrology in the way you're doing it?
First off, I'm going to fluidly move between lots of different descriptors for the spirit because I think they're all grasping at the same thing. Some people call it the holy guardian angel, the holy daimon or also spirit guide. It's essentially the spiritual figure that exists on a plane that is very above where we're at. I don't have to know exactly where, but up there is someone who has guided your soul through each of the steps of its incarnation, through the rest of the process of your incarnation, which is your life.
Why should people care about their holy guardian angel?
I think it's because this is the Spirit who is going to be the closest to you in a lot of ways. The more that I learn about this, and the more that I work with it with folks, the more that I am coming to realize that it doesn't actually matter whether you want to work with your holy guardian or not. If your life is going any direction at all and you're taking any part in guiding the direction of your life, that's what working with your spirit guide materially looks like, even for people who don't have this kind of spiritual attitude towards it.
I think you see a lot of folks who are driven in a career, who feel like they just have that little voice inside of them guiding them forward. That's really what I want to do with my work, figure out ways to draw your attention to the part of you that can hear that voice and increase your ability to connect to that voice more frequently and more easily. Some of the greatest work I've done so far has been for younger folks who are fresh on that journey, who don't even know what their life path looks like. And so it's a shortcut, right? Just connect with the hand that's guiding your hand.
So it sounds like, in many instances, people are interacting with it, whether they realize it or not, as the voice inside that's pushing you towards your thing, is that correct?
Totally. One of the other things that I think about the guardian angel that can be really helpful is that, unlike all other spirits, this is a spirit who is intently trying to contact you at all times. You are already surrounded by this spirit, it’s guiding your life and leaving little breadcrumbs. If you follow those breadcrumbs to your path and don't even notice the spirit along the way, the spirit still has still succeeded. This work is just is a sort of shortcut through the whole process because it's done by you in communion with that spirit.
And that's so interesting contrasting that with maybe more straight up planetary devotion, which feels like you're putting in the effort to get the planets to pay attention to you. I love this idea of the holy guardian angel being so accessible because there's a desire on both ends.
I think ancestors can often be sort of in a similar capacity. They are usually cheering you on, they're very easily accessible if you learn how to ask for them. I'm not convinced that the Holy Guardian Angel isn't part of your ancestral line. I'm still working out some of the details on that. But I have found some really, really fascinating symbols of the collaboration of the ancestors and the holy guardian angel, for example, even in my own life.
Can you give a little example of that?
My mother's mother was very close to me. She raised me for most of my life. Having that Capricorn moon, I was always raised by old people. And so one of the downfalls of that, of course, is that they die when you're pretty young. I was really sad when she passed away. She was the person who got me into astrology. She was one of the people who got me looking at the moon for the first time. And so imagine my surprise when I started getting into astrology and I learned how to cast her chart and got her birth information and saw that our birth charts were incredibly similar! And then now that I've started on this kind of holy guardian angel work, one of the things that I do in a technical sense is use astrology to determine two planets that characterize the nature of your relationship to your angel. Imagine my surprise when her two planets were the exact same as mine! So not only was it Mars and Jupiter for both of us, but specifically Mars in Capricorn and Jupiter in Scorpio. It's not lost on me that, you know, she introduced me to the value of this homey, grounded sort of spirituality and then also astrology, I mean, those seeds were all planted by her in me as a child. And now, as an adult, they're maturing through my personal relationship with my holy guardian angel.
Yeah, it makes me think of like the idea of like skillful means or expedient means. The HGA will use whatever avenues available they have to reach you, whether that be like other people in your life or right to you. It’s two birds with one stone because obviously, the HGA was also looking out for your grandma.
How long have you been working so explicitly with your HGA? And what does that look like for you over that time?
So explicitly, I would say that this work started in the fall of 2019. So that would have been the time when I got to the point where I had made contact with this spirit and determined their name, and begun really building a devotional practice to them. The way that it started for me was by finding a primary symbol. That's what we do in my reading. If you don't have any background with this work at all, and you're coming to it fresh, what we want to do is help you figure out how to find a symbol, just one symbol to begin with. That symbol has looked a lot of different ways for a lot of different people, but for me it was a very everyday object that showed up in my dreams a lot and that also figured heavily into some childhood memories. I started an altar just around that symbol and built from there, listened to what came and went with the flow, that kind of thing. It's been very dream-focused for me. I don't think that's true for everyone necessarily, but for me dreams have been an absolutely key part of this whole process.
How would you describe their presence or your interactions?
One of the things that's been super cool to see as I've done this work with more people is seeing the way that different people's daimones present to them. For me, being a nocturnal chart, my daimon is governed by my malefic of sect and my out of sect benefic. One of the ways that manifests for me is that that they can have really high expectations. One of the things that I can feel from my relationship to the spirit is this acknowledgement of how much can be accomplished in a lifespan but also in the grand scheme of things how small a life can be. And so that's where the root of their high expectations comes from. It feels like he's got a lot on the itinerary, my life is very short and so we’ve gotta get along with it!
We've been talking a lot about your two planets involved in it. Maybe speak to a bit of what role those plays in the HGA as well as how you figure that out?
The first one is really easy to calculate. You calculate your lot of spirit, which is a calculated point derived from the relationship between your sun and moon projected from your ascendant, put it at that. The ruler, the planetary domicile ruler of your lot of spirit, is going to be one of the planets that we work with. The second planet is a little bit stickier to calculate, and is also one of those wonderful traditional astrology things that is just mired in terminology hell.
What most people who are familiar with this point would call it is the almuten, which is short for Latin phrase almuten figuris. But it comes from the Arabic word mubtazz, which means could mean something like Victor, that's a translation you often see. What we're looking at there is a planet with the most prominence in the chart with the capacity to act, that's my quick definition. The way we calculate it is that we go through the five life-giving points in the chart, which are the Sun, the Moon, the Ascendant, the Part of Fortune, and then the Prenatal Syzygy. We’ll look at the combined rulership of all of those points, and then we'll come up with a few options, then we determine which of the options we're going to go with by examining their prominence in your life. Often about half of that portion of the reading ends up being spent on trying to determine which of the planets is your almuten.
Yesterday I was trying to figure out the almuten for my client. And it was such a cool experience. I asked them if they had any ailments and they had a nerve/brain disorder. Because I was choosing between Saturn and the Sun I was like, oh, your almuten is the Sun! But then it worked out so well, because their ruler of spirit was Saturn. It was so cool because it just hit so immediately with them and I was telling them these are the two planets that you are most like and they just lit up. It was just so affirming for them. Have you had that experience elucidating this with your clients?
Yeah, absolutely. And I'll say it here, I don't think that there's any mathematical reason this should be true but maybe a third of the time, of the top two contenders for the almuten, one of them is the Lord of spirit. Like, it’s a shockingly common occurrence. Something I always like to make clear to clients is that I love the calculative sort of mathematical part of astrology, especially medieval astrology. But it's really important to me that amidst all of those calculations that the points that we arrive on at the end reflect your life. And if it doesn’t reflect your life, then that means that there's something wrong with my approach to the calculation, not that you're not living your life in an authentic way! I've had a couple clients who have actually had readings with other folks who are interested in medieval astrology and got to that point where their almuten was calculated in a very technical sense, but then they didn't really feel like they identified with it, or that it resonated in their life. And I've also heard from other astrologers, some of whom offer the almuten calculation and consultations and some of them don't, that they would follow the steps of calculating the almuten following a specific text but then not really know what to do with it that information when they figured it out. We have this schema for calculating the almuten figuris that has been passed on throughout the tradition, but it varies a little here and there. I think that’s because each astrologer is trying to tailor their approach to get the best result. For me, if this is truly the ruler of your chart, the ruler of your incarnation, you should feel a sense of completion or of clarity on learning about this, you know what I mean? This is one of the things that guides my technical approach—for me, the client not feeling a sense of resonance with their almuten would be a red flag that I needed to revise or reevaluate the way I was orienting towards the calculations.
How did you even settle on your current like system, which I know brings in temperament, body parts and the client’s life?
That's completely guided by my work with my daimon. A lot of my approach and attitude towards it has been listening to the guidance that I've been receiving, that kind of thing. I'll tell you the temperament thing came from a dream, just being honest. In the dream I was doing the consultation with a client and their aura was visually a different color in comparison to other clients’ auras and, in my dream, I was using that as a part of my judgment in the reading. I woke up and realized, oh, yeah, their sort of like a soft blue aura represented their phlegmatic temperament! Then went with it from there. I found using physical temperament and the astrology of the body as part of my evaluation to be fantastically successful.
So we both have a relationship with Hecate, specifically with the lunar mansions, but before we get into that why are we so into her?
It really points to that Moon-Saturn duality that we were talking about. The Moon and Saturn's shared duality, rulership over time, I think is a big part of it. Hecate as a lunar-saturnian figure is something that I think was first brought to my attention by Hawk @hawkstrology and it really hits. I think that my experience with Hecate has definitely had a lot to do with my experience of my gender. Sometimes it feels like nobody gets you but the dark goddess.
So you've done a lot, obviously, with the lunar mansions, right, which is a very complicated, and it's still in the process of being revived fully, especially in the Western, non-Vedic tradition. How would you describe the lunar mansions? What are they about?
I want to say everything! The lunar mansions are my favorite thing in the sky, to be honest. So I guess the first and most important thing for me is that I think it's important for us to move away from the word “mansion”. I think that it really obscures and complicates this concept. I found myself leaning on the Arabic word, which is manzil and also looking for what I feel like are better translations of the Arabic word as well. One of the words that I've been working with lately as my English go-to is the “lunar stations”, which you'll see used in academic work somewhat frequently. I also like waystation, just to give it a little more pizzazz.
The way that I conceptualize them is through the metaphor of the 28 inns in the circle of the ecliptic, the clusters of stars that the moon travels between and settles among each night. The most important takeaway from that framing is that these inns are created and staffed by their inkeepers, which are specifically their indicator stars. The stations represent her lodgings for the night, and the innkeepers are the ones who're making her dinner and giving her a safe place to sleep.
Along with that, I really love the way that the nakshatras are talked about in Jyotish. I'm just so in love with the fact that the moon is male in Indian astrology and he has 27 wives which are represented by the nakshatras. I just like love this syncretic image of the moon being gay with her 28 wives all running these little inns and that she goes from inn to inn each night. It’s maybe a little unconventional but that’s another symbol I really like.
I love your quibbling with the word mansion, because, of course, the moon doesn't want to stay in a mansion. How do you utilize them? Or how are they utilized throughout the history tradition?
So one of the coolest things about the lunar mansions is how lunar they are. They've been used for a lot of different things, many of which are really contradictory. And I think that adds richness to the tradition. One of the biggest sticking points right now, for anyone who's interested in the stations of the moon, is this question of tropical versus sidereal. That was a question I really struggled with for a long time, because there's honestly strong arguments for either direction. I don't think in astrology you can ever rest on your laurels just because the ancient texts support your opinion, or whatever, but when it comes to almost any question regarding the lunar stations, there's absolutely no resting on your laurels. We really have to look beyond the appeal to authority, and one of the ways we can do that is by direct relation with them. What I have been led to in my direct relation with them is to focus on the sidereal lunar stations, and to treat the stars of the ecliptic as the foundation of the station.
There's clearly some overlap between multiple different perspectives, one of which is a tropical system that was used by pre-Islamic Arab farmers for doing things like timing rains and planting crops. That tropical system was based on the heliacal rise and set of the indicator stars of the stations themselves. Of course, one of the most irritating things about astrology is that the sidereal and tropical systems drift from each other over time. With a seasonal based system those would be definitely have tropical. But then there's also some whispers of older star lore that has been traced to the Babylonians and that has peculiarly cropped up in this later medieval lore on the mansions written in Arabic. Because I don't really use them for planting or for timing weather, what I’ve chosen to do is to ground myself in the indicator stars that are associated with each of the mansions, those stars who I've kind of conceptualized as the innkeepers of the 28 inns. You're actually the one who brought this really fascinating point up to me about the ways that the stars of the ecliptic are in some ways more terrestrial, more grounded. Like, sure, we can say “the moon is conjunct Vega” when the Moon is conjunct Vega’s projected ecliptic degree, but when you go outside and look at the sky, the moon's way over here and Vega’s way over on the other side of the sky! Conjunction is kind of a strong statement with certain stars like that—and many of the brightest stars in the sky that we work with are very far from the ecliptic.
One of the coolest things to me about the indicator stars in the lunar mansions is that they are just literally the stars that are on the ecliptic. So you can say that you know if your moon is in the mansion associated with Zosma then she's by Zosma when you look her! And, I mean, I do feel like I should also give a good asterisk here that not every station using the equal-size sidereal system I’m describing has the indicator star exactly in the mansion, there are several where the star is nearby but not quite in the station because of what happens when we make the stations all of equal size. There's a little bit of wiggle here for sure, but I like that the equal-sized stations are easier work with than the irregular-sized ones, and that with the sidereal coordinates most of the indicator stars are inside their station.
I think you're the one that alerted me that sidereal is what the sky really is in real life. The fact alone that sidereal lunar mansions or lunar stations are the ones that reflect where the moon actually is in the sky and what stars it's by is important. That's what's so cool about the lunar stations is they’re supposed to be terrestrial like that. And they were originally used as an indicator of where the moon is right now.
I've found that interacting with the lunar mansions is actually quite easy because they do have HGA energy where they do want to talk. What sort of sort of person or what sort of practice would working with the Lunar Stations be best integrated into?
I definitely think they're great for magic. That's something that comes through really clear in our tradition—and by “our tradition,” I'm especially talking about the late Medieval Latin Europe part of the tradition that represents the bulk of the ancient texts that we've had access to up until very, very, very recently. They only used them for magic, the use of the mansions for almost anything else didn't even make it into that part of the tradition. I've seen myself that an enormous number of people who start of as magicians are initiated into the pattern of astrology through their work with the lunar stations (and I include myself in that number). They only require you to track one planet and, from a technical standpoint, they're relatively easy to calculate. At the current time, I use the tropical zodiac and the sidereal stations together, which is a little bit complex but I also think that adds a lot of richness.
So that would be on type of person. On the one hand, there's the kind of simplicity of the stations that I think would be attractive to people who are newer to astrology, and especially those who are interested in that magical lens of astrology.
And then for those of us who are really drawn to the stars, I also think that the lunar mansions can be a really important entry-point into how to integrate the stars, like the actual real stars, into our astrology. I think, especially those of us who are practicing tropical astrology coming out of the European tradition, we just don't want to look at the fucking sky! The lunar stations give us an opportunity to root our ecliptic-based astrology in the stars in the actual sky.
Yeah, it's less about being able to calculate it and more just going out and looking. And then asking myself, what vibe am I feeling tonight knowing that the moon is in this station or this star is present, at least that's yielded a lot for me.
The visual element of the moon’s presence with the actual asterisms is so so important to me, it trumps any of this tropical vs sidereal discussion in my opinion. Many of the European texts that we that discuss the stations have are very vernacular, especially the ones that specifically discuss the unequal stations. For example, one of the one of the first astrological texts we have written in a vernacular language (German) in Europe is called Planeten Buch. This book represents an era of vernacular astrology manuals written for fortune tellers, very much for people who probably didn't keep case notes. Obviously, their clients were not the kings, their clients were among the common people, and they probably practiced for a very small amount of money in comparison to the royal astrologers. And so I just think it's super, super striking to see the presence of the unequal mansions there!
One of the things that that potentially suggests to me is that, you know, we don't have a great record of what the common people were doing previous to a certain point. The stars are really visual so a question I’ve always had is whether people have been looking at the sky, seeing where the moon was, and performing some rudimentary astrological fortune-telling based off of that. I’ve always wondered, could farmers or folk herbalists have just been going out at night to identify the moon’s presence among the stars of the ecliptic visually to use them for planting, harvesting, making medicine, that kind of thing? I mean, I don't think there's enough textual support to make any kind of definitive statement about that. Nonetheless there are some really interesting suggestions of this vernacular relation to the stars through the lunar mansions that I cannot put down.
And, on the other hand, one of the things that appeals to me about making the stations equal sized is that they're easier to work with in charts and from a technical standpoint, so I’m really of two minds. In the end, the moon is fluid and fills your container. What my direct relation has taught me is that this quibbling over tropical versus sidereal, equal vs unequal, all of this is not really necessary. They're very friendly spirits, there's a lot of ways you can call them. The spirits will come when you call if you know how to call them.
If anything, it's just the mere fact of interest and effort that goes a long way with interfacing with the the more than human.
What outside of maybe the astrology sphere is bringing you joy right now?
I currently live in Central New Mexico, right at the foothills of the Sandía Mountains and one of the most miraculous things that I’ve ever experienced in my life is the coming of the North American Monsoon. In late summer the monsoon rolls into our bioregion and settles into this beautiful rhythmic pattern of bright clear skies in the morning, clouds in the afternoon, and then the winds and rains (sometimes torrential rains) right at sunset in the evening. Falling into this pattern has just been a really beautiful experience. I am absolutely in love with the monsoon season in this bioregion in southwestern North America.
Mansions of the Moon from Planeten Buch, via Peter Stockinger: https://starsandstones.wordpress.com/mansions-of-the-moon/mansions-of-the-moon-planeten-buch-straubing-1596/
Hawk https://twitter.com/hawkstrology will be speaking on the topic of the gods in the birth chart at Astromagia 2022 https://astromagia.org/
You can find Shuly’s work and book a Holy Guardian Angel reading with her here.
Have any questions or comments about the Lunar Stations or the Holy Guardian Angel? Let me know in the comments below 👼
Until next week,