July 27th, 2015

David Roell: Mercury’s Maven and Maverick

Astrologer David Roell R.I.P. (1952-2014)

“When once you grasp that astrology is in the earth and of the earth and covers the entire earth and everything in it, when you take an abstract astrology out of the sky and put it on the earth and in the ground and make it tangible and real, you will be astounded at the sheer scope and scale and power of it. We have hardly uncovered a tenth of it. As vast and complex as astrology is, it amazes me we have learned as much as we have. Astrology is reality itself.” — David Roell, (1952-2014)


“I’m picturing carloads of naked dancing girls, every Monday around 10 a.m.. My reward for getting the newsletter out. My mind, as you can see, races sideways.” David emailed this to me one morning, shortly after meeting his Monday morning deadline.

And I responded: “Yep — the Roell mind running sideways, zig-zag, up, down, and occasionally into the velocity of your leg that’s about to kick a hornet’s nest.”

But forget the naked dancing girls and consider the quote that opens this tribute for my Mercurial-minded friend and fellow astrologer David Roell who died — too young, at 62 — a year ago on July 27 — at his home in Maryland.

I want to highlight his achievements up front, to pique your interest and the desire to explore more of David’s kaleidoscopic command of astrology. George Harrison once remarked: “The Beatles saved the world from boredom.” And David did exactly the same for astrology.

Roell’s earth-based theory of the zodiac, of which he refers in the opening epigram, is the cornerstone of his astrological legacy. His grand idea is carefully articulated in the forward to his reprint of George McCormack’s classic Long Range Weather Forecasting. It’s also available online, in his article The Right Theory of Astrology, featured in his newsletter — the same newsletter that was emailed weekly, to thousands of eager subscribers.

The Earth’s Aura

As students of astrology we’re each taught that the Tropical zodiac is constructed of mathematical divisions of the ecliptic, and thus not really ‘real’. David’s assertion returned the zodiac to terra firma — from which all of the zodiac’s descriptive elements — air, fire, water, and earth are derived — a reattribution that solves many of astrology’s niggling mysteries.

“The theory that emerges is that planets interact with each other,” David wrote, “and that the net result of such interaction upon the Earth are the twelve signs of the zodiac, which do not fall from the sky, but radiate from the Earth itself. The signs of the zodiac represent the vibrations of the Earth.”

Like many of David’s theories, some outlandish or hyper-seminal, the earth-based zodiac impugned tradition. I pointed out once that Alan Leo and Dane Rudyhar proposed a similar concept: Both astrologers saw the zodiac as something akin to the Earth’s aura, in which the Earth floated, like a gyroscope. David was intrigued:

“Yes, that comes close,” he said, “but it’s slightly off and lacking.”

His theory, as you’ll read, was literal. He surmised that all planetary bodies contained hexahedrite at their center, a six-sided crystalline form of iron, which radiated the zodiacal field outwards. He highlights this crystal component in detail in one of his final newsletters.

Child of Mercury

With his chart ruler, Mercury, in the 9th House (conjunct the Sun and sextile Jupiter), David was, as classic markers go, an astrologer’s astrologer. (It is the planet Mercury — not Uranus — that is associated with astrologers). Publishing and broadcasting were David’s mission. And so he wrote astrology books, revived astrology books, published astrology books and touted astrology books. He was also a wily gadfly (appropriate his Gemini ascendant) with the precocious, uncensored candor of a child.

When I once, in jest, wrote to him that Oprah Winfrey had contacted me after reading our interview (published here, a few years back) he took my ‘news’ to heart and mentioned “her interest” to his newsletter audience. Later, post my clarification, he exploded, explaining that he once again needed to berate himself for taking people at their word.

I offered my Venus in Gemini as evidence of my writing style. To which he redressed me again; and the fallout stuck. David explained how too much (or poorly delivered) humor interrupted the receptivity of the reader and made the writer appear either vague or insecure. Instinctively I knew he was correct and adjusted my writing style from that day forward.

The Roell Way

As a writer, David had a clear, congenial voice; but it was never empty of insights that could excite curiosity — or animus, whenever he’d breach politically correct protocol. Often with David, within a single article (or conversation), I’d move from admiration to anger — in a heartbeat. He explained to me once the rationale for his particular style:

“I am stream-of-consciousness, have been since the age of 16 or so. I do not know any other way to be, which means I have no memory unless contextual. I regret that, failing to find peers, I have become more interested in me than I am in anyone or anything, which means the people who appear in my life are by default more interested in me than I am in them.”

He applied this same skill to reading horoscopes:

“Always, always, go with your hunches,” he advised. “If you stop to think about it, your brain will get in the way and kill it. Because that’s what brains do. Kill things.”

He continued:

“Imagine if your hunch was right. What would that mean? In other words, what’s the next hunch? And the one after that? Spin out a story, make up a fantasy, see where it goes. And when you’ve done that, then stand back and take a look at the chart as a whole. Does it make sense? Does it tell you new and surprising things? Could it (gasp!) be right?”

His was the speed reading school of chart interpretation:

“Try to delineate a chart in five minutes. In sixty seconds. Speed will make your mind work. You will be right more often than you think, but even if you’re not, you can always, as they say, sin in haste and repent at leisure”

David’s manner of reading a horoscope was reckless and completely opposite my present approach to astrology. But still, I eagerly awaited his Monday morning newsletters. I delighted in David’s manner of remaking a chart to fit what he considered the truth — versus the consensus perception of a public figure.

An example: When whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s birth time (which produced a Gemini ascendant) had been officially confirmed, David disregarded the Double-A data — declared it doctored — and demonstrated, step-by-step, why a Cancer ascendant was the correct fit for Snowden.

Because David read charts in a traditional manner similar to my teacher — Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson — it must have been some sort of nostalgic reverie that his writing inspired. His application of horoscopic rules — very much horary-based — was like tracking the twists and turns of a mystery narrative.

Roell’s method embodied the same joy I’d felt as a teenager, when I first discovered astrology in the 70s, complete with the belief that absolute facts and secret insights could be directly culled from a horoscope; a condition I no longer consider possible, nor teach from — but still, how fun it was to believe and dream like that back in the day.

Read more

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March 26th, 2014

Kelly Lee Phipps: Now A Bright Star


A dear, dazzling soul took leave of the astrological community last night.

Many of us, today, are celebrating, recounting and mourning the extraordinary life of Kelly Lee Phipps.

Because astrology is a spiritual practice, a practice that offers the potential of awakening to those it touches, I’ve long known that astrologers comprise their own unique group soul upon the planet — a circle of colleagues that serves in the forging of a living connection between the terrestrial and the celestial within the individual soul.

Kelly embodied and embraced this service with all the gusto of a genuine (and wildly enthused) magician.

He inspired many hearts and minds, and initiated many others into the astrological logos as well — and offered the gift of his presence with spirit, imagination, humor and wisdom. A gentle man and a scholar.


“We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other.

We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.”

— Annie Dillard


I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e’er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, ‘To Him we shall return.’

–Jalal ed-Din Rumi

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August 01st, 2012

Gore Vidal: The Best Man

“We need someone like Gore Vidal present in the country all the time. He is a true gay role model, a man of culture and learning and style who represents the best of a worldliness that is conspicuously lacking today. With his courtly manner, Vidal is a patrician throwback. I love his acerbic, waspish style. His fearlessness. The bold attacks.” – Camille Paglia
“For Vidal, the world was both subject and spectacle, and in his inability to reconcile these two perspectives, his point of view was forged.” David L. Ulin

Growing up gay in a dreadful Southern California suburb was made bearable for me after I discovered Gore Vidal in the early 1970s. I was around 14 and would disobey my parents and watch The Dick Cavett Show (or late into the night, Johnny Carson) where Vidal would appear and ignite intelligent, scintillating conversation with the hosts.

I recall seeing Vidal on Carson once where he explained how absurd it was that humans shit in the same water that they eventually drank. He’d come on the show to advocate developing a more sane approach to sewage, I forget the details, but his passionate rationality impressed me like crazy. Not just his rationality but his certainty about his rightness was beguiling. There was a way to be ‘right’ without being an asshole (a style which was opposite that of my father’s), and that made a bigger impression on me.

I don’t think I consciously knew Vidal was gay (or as he would define it: the practitioner of homosexual acts). Vidal wrote: “There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo — or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices.” But as a budding queer I did respond to him as the sort of adult male I wanted to emulate. He was informed, stylish, wry and not possessed by a bitchy, negative anima complex. As soon as I could I began to read Vidal’s writing — understanding perhaps 60% of it at the time. (I just felt smarter knowing that I was making the effort). For me, his finest form was the essay — a clear parade of searing syntax that flowed, like lava, right from the center of his glowing brain. Read more

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June 26th, 2009

Michael Jackson Has Left The Building

“A lot of people think I’m a Michael Jackson impersonator” — Michael Jackson

George Orwell once said that a man has the face that he deserves at age 50.

And while I’d agree with that sentiment as it relates to just about every single post 50-year-old walking the planet today — think Dick Cheney – I’d have to take exception with how that curse applied to Michael Jackson.

Dead at 50 and possessing a face with which no one should ever have to contend. Mike’s adult face was actually a mask. A direct creation of self-hatred, plain and simple. That and the way our own ghoulish fascination with his self-loathing spurred him on. An obsession that was prodded, secretly I think, by that part within each of us that dislikes parts of ourselves: wrinkles, sags, spots, dots; imperfection. Given unlimited wealth and time, Michael could nip, tuck, tweak and freak to his heart’s content. Only he could never get away from the self-loathing.

But enough bummer talk. Michael was a genuine puer aeternus. And no self-respecting puer, worth their essence in gold records, should ever live into his fifties. Michael was just taking leave on cue, true to his mythology. It makes perfect sense to me.

Mike’s key astrological signature reads like this — and is cosmic code for us to understand just about every aspect of his career: Uranus conjunct Venus in Leo. And Pluto conjunct his Virgo Sun. The Uranian aura — the dazzle, electricity and ingenuity to his performance style — mixed with a distinct charm and innocence. And the strange shadow catcher condition represented by his Pluto Sun conjunction. As I mentioned earlier, Michael’s Frankensteinian relationship with his own body and face fostered the perfect condition for the public to project their own obsessions with youth, beauty and perfection — and how those always remain elusive. Read more

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January 03rd, 2009

Rockie Gardiner: A True Stellar Phenomenon

All and everything goes this Halloween, as liberating Uranus and daring Mars perfect their rewarding trine.
The Rockie Horoscope, Oct. 30, 2008

Established astrologers — those that make some sort of living from the subject — are decidedly divided when it comes to the issue of Sun sign columns. To some, Sun sign astrology is a disgrace to the profundity and subtleties of the art/science. While others, myself included, see horoscope columns as good lure. If it weren’t for those tiny Dell Sun Sign booklets that I hoarded as a kid, I’d never have dedicated myself so determinedly to deeper study.

To pugnacious scientists like Richard Dawkins‘ dismay, it’s a dazzling testament to astrology’s archetypal oracular power that nearly every periodical in the world carries a horoscope section. Most of the Sun sign columns read like fortune cookie banalities — and this might be the secret to their appeal (their association with eating dessert). But occasionally, amidst the riffraff and floss, a column appears that is both astrologically erudite and pop-culturally savvy — written in a manner that speaks to the urban poet (and astrology lover) within each of us. Rockie Gardiner‘s Sun sign column for the L.A. Weekly, The Rockie Horoscope was just such a creation. Read more

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