Victor Olliver is an award winning journalist and a long time ago, trained as a lawyer. But around the age of 40, as he says, ‘my chart started to call to me’, and he is now one of the UK’s leading astrologers and editor of the Astrological Journal. Victor also has an abiding passion for studying the mysticism of symbolism and how astrology can help us to find meaning and purpose in our life.
You can contact Victor through his website: www.victorolliver.co.uk.
You can also listen to Victor Olliver on my Embracing Your Morality podcast on Friday, 16th April 2021
Sue: I know about your life-long curiosity of symbolism, but have you always been interested in Astrology?
Victor: No! Up until the age of 40 I thought astrology was a load of rubbish. I couldn’t see how it worked. Then gradually I started to look at it differently, which led me to join the Mayo School of Astrology, at quite a late age I have to say. The funny thing is that I sailed through it. I got the certificate and then the diploma. Wendy Stacey, who runs the Mayo School and is the chair of the Astrological Association invited me to edit the Astrological Journal but I said no to start with. Later she asked again, and I said, ‘Okay I’ll do it.’
Sue: It sounds almost as if when you found astrology, you found home!
Victor: Yes, it really did feel like that. I was giving a lecture last night about past lives. I’m not sure about past lives, but somebody was saying that they have actual memories of being a scientist in the previous life. I don’t have such memories, but in my brain when a thing goes very easily, it does have this feeling like I’m coming home.
I mean I studied law and that never felt easy with me. I also became a journalist because I like writing and editing, but I realise I get on better with people who keep their minds open on those inexplicable areas of life. Symbolism is a language which is multifaceted, and you can get the hang of it when you suspend your rational mind for a little while. It’s amazing what you learn when you do that.
Sue: What I am amazed by is how the history of astrology goes way back into ancient civilizations. So, we humans have always been looking at the stars for guidance in some form.
Victor: Absolutely. We know that astrology goes back at least 4000 years to ancient Mesopotamia. In the news lately cave art has been discovered in Spain and France which shows rudimentary interest in the movements of celestial objects and a basic understanding of the cyclic nature of planetary movements. But back to ancient Mesopotamia, that’s when you can actually see codified understanding of the stars. At that time, they actually started to link certain events in the sky with happenings on Earth, such as around the time of the solar eclipses. Apparently, they started to associate the solar eclipse with rather dark events, so a sort of diary was built up.
Sue: As you know, I am really interested in consciousness and what consciousness is, so I’m wondering how astrology could help us to understand it more.
Victor: I think one of the great mysteries of astrology is how does it work in the first place. Once you go down this route it takes you into the mythology and symbolism, and this is where we have a problem – or the rational mind has a problem. So, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who are okay with this, we know there are many experiences even in our mundane life which cannot really be explained. I mean, how do you measure or weigh love for instance? We can link it to endorphins and maybe other hormones that scientists try to shoehorn into the equation, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a mystery – and so are many things. All divination tools enter a world of symbolism, which helps you to expand your awareness if you allow it. Once I got into astrology, I had a greater understanding of my planetary themes and also of how the horoscope itself is a symbol of you.
Each person’s horoscope is literally unique, like a fingerprint. Once you understand that it is not arbitrary and there are meanings attached to the planets and to their placement in the chart itself, you begin to see yourself like in a mirror on the wall. In my case I suddenly realised why I was a raving sociopath! This is because my Venus is exactly opposite Saturn, so that sets a challenge for me to come to terms with certain realities about other people. It’s a lifelong challenge too.
Sue: Yes, I really see how astrology can help us to understand the challenges that we face individually, but how can astrology help us to find the meaning and purpose in our life?
Victor: Well, obviously you need to consult an astrologer. It’s possible to look at an ordinary birth chart and get a general sense of what the life direction is largely about. It doesn’t necessarily tell you what job you’re going to do, but the lunar nodes, which are linked to the movements of the Moon, give a good indication. I’ve become a specialist in what’s known as Draconic Astrology or Dragon Astrology, which is a supplementary rather than an alternative astrological method. In ancient times the South [Moon] Node and the North [Moon] Node were related to dragons, because it was thought that eclipses were caused by dragons moving over the Sun and the Moon. We know better now.
You can certainly analyse the energies that are existing in someone’s chart and get a general sense of what that person’s life challenges are, which, for instance, quite often are nothing to do with the career they have chosen. This can be really helpful when people are struggling to understand why they can’t hold down a job or they keep getting divorced or they crave to work abroad. Astrocartography can also show where certain areas in the world may be better for your work, health and love life than others.
Sue: So, once you understand that, you can give yourself a break, step out of any conditioning, and start finding out who you really are.
Victor: Yes! I make a big thing about free will. It’s not my job to take responsibility for you but it is my job to tell you the truth that I see in your chart. There’s so many different levels to this, but this is how you can give the person a sense of their signature – a sense of what they are about. The moment you delve into astrology, you start to go on your independent pathway. This doesn’t mean you cut off people you love, or you suddenly become a brutal transforming revisionist of your life, it’s just another factor to bring into your understanding and you are given the tools to make your own decisions. I would add that most of the readings I give are completely blind. So, I write reports for people who I don’t know.
Sue: This is just based on being supplied with the time of birth, place of birth and day of birth?
Victor: Yeah! This gives the positions of the stars at the moment the person was born. So, it’s their map of life really.
Sue: Do you think astrology takes away the fact that we have choice?
Victor: I actually think it opens up your choices. I mean, you’re never going to say to a natural born lawyer who’s worked as a plumber all his life that you’ve missed your chance.
In fact, there’s nothing in a chart that points directly at anything. What it does point to is a spectrum of meaning. For example, the ninth house is about higher knowledge and expansion. But it’s also about the court system as well as publishing, and some people relate it to long-distance travel. So, if your Sun is in the ninth house, you can’t say, well, you should become a judge or be a world traveller like Michael Palin and get your show on the BBC.
But what it does indicate is someone who is constantly going to be one of life’s students. You’re never going to be satisfied, because there’s always another boundary to cross.
It’s funny though, how many people, although really receptive to astrology, don’t want things to be too specific, because they don’t want their independence to be compromised.
Sue: I’m curious about the cycles of life. I’ve always understood that we move in seven and nine year cycles. I’ve certainly experienced this in my own life. I just wondered if these cycles are influenced by the passage of the planets?
Victor: Everything goes round in circles. To give you an example, the Moon goes around the horoscope in approximately 29 days. The Sun takes about a year. In other words, everything is about movement. Nothing is static. Therefore, life is a never-ending cycle so it’s eternal in that sense. This doesn’t mean you’re going over old ground once a year or once a month. It means that the energies are renewed, so eternity is not a never-ending journey into space but a never-ending journey on a cycle.
Sue: How can astrology help us make sense of the enormous changes that we’re all undergoing worldwide at the moment?
Victor: To bring this down to earth, if you think about the coronavirus, which started around the time of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction in 2020, and you look at the history of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction – it’s related to wars and pestilences. But what does that mean in terms of our awareness and consciousness? Well, the symbolism of these two planets coming together usually means something has gone terribly wrong. Saturn is the law. Pluto is power, death and transformation. So, if you think about nature and how we have abused it, something has gone terribly wrong and the manifestation of Coronavirus can be seen to symbolise this.
Sue: Is it possible to use astrology to predict death?
Victor: This has to be treated with respect and care. Questions around death may take the person in the direction of spiritual inquiry, or it may take them into an area of morbidity where they view death as a sinister feeling, which is sad.
Sue: As you know, much of my work is helping people to talk about death and dying in a much more honest and open way. I’m just wondering how astrology could be used to help this. After all, the story of our life is going to close at some point.
Victor: It’s interesting. People react to reading a novel in different ways. It depends on their maturity and aesthetic expectations, which, obviously, are different. It’s the same with their perception of life and death. Some people understand themselves as a bag of energy, if I can put that rather crudely. Actually, it helps to visualise yourself as a vehicle for the ego. This ego wants you to live forever. Let’s face it, we don’t like the idea of extinction. On the other hand, astrology actually demonstrates eternity as a cyclic action – it’s not just something that happens in our chart, it happens in the cosmos. So, astrology doesn’t so much offer people hope that you can live on forever, but how a greater understanding of the cyclic nature of life opens up the possibility that we are part of these cycles of life.
Sue: It’s awesome when you look at it like that.
Victor: Yes, it is. It does pose the question, are we born just because of some happenstance of chemicals? Scientists say it is all accidental. But to my mind, for that idea to hold, there has to be a countless number of multiverses in order to have a universe like ours, where life is possible on some little dot in some insignificant little galaxy. I don’t think that explains why we are here. We possess intelligence so the cosmos possesses intelligence or how else did it manifest?
Sue: When I feel caught up in the drama of my own life, I take a look at that incredible photograph from Voyager 1 when NASA turned the camera around to photograph our galaxy as it was just about to pass out of it. They managed to identify the Earth as this minute blue speck of dust. It blows my mind. Here we are believing we are so important, when in reality we are living on a speck of dust somewhere in the universe, yet having this incredible experience called life.
Victor: I totally agree. I have the same experience with this photograph. And, you know, I believe that astrology brings to life the idea that we’re not random. If you think about it, we’ve come from nature. Yet we live such sophisticated lives that we forget this. Instead, we talk of nature as something outside the window. In fact, we are nature itself. We are the embodiment of nature, which has an intelligence of its own. The entire cosmos has an intelligence because how else could we exist?
If you follow the symbolism in astrology, and how it has been assigned to each planet and their movements, it follows there has to be an intelligence at work just as a caterpillar becomes a pupa is the work of intelligence. Astrology is one reminder of how we are derived from an intelligent cosmos.
Sue: For me this is all about Great Mystery. However, for the past 2000 years we have been conditioned to believe that being humans are more important than any other expression of physical life. We need to find a way to break out of this to understand that we are just part of the expression called life.
Victor: Yes, I agree with you. I’m not a particularly religious person, but when I went to Church on Ash Wednesday, I did get for a moment a sense of being connected to something that is ineffable and timeless. You can get the same sense by going for a walk or staring at a mountain. Personally, I’m a great cloud watcher. I am mystified by the beauty of nature. Now, this doesn’t in itself demonstrate anything other than you have some kind of essential inner instinct to be part of something bigger. You can find this is in great art too. In the latest issue of the Astrological Journal, we’ve got an essay which looks at the history of art in astrology. It’s so interesting how artists like Titian or da Vinci focused their mind on astrology as a means of cosmic expression and understanding – coming back to the idea that we are part of a nebulous intelligence. We could not have been born of nature if nature wasn’t capable of great intelligence.
Sue: Yet we live in a time when everything has to be scientifically proved for it to actually exist. What we are talking about is beyond this because it is about Great Mystery. I see us all acting as conduits between the heavens and the Earth – we walk between these two elements, but we’ve forgotten the sacred in this. We’ve forgotten that our physical existence allows us to be present on this Earth plane as human beings. Personally, I feel that astrology brings us back into that awareness. I wondered what your take on this might be.
Victor: It’s interesting because Brian Cox went on television to say that astrology is rubbish. I actually have had quite a lively Twitter exchange with him about it because I feel he is trying to box everything away by weighing, measuring and calibrating it. Other scientists like him, are doing the same thing. But for me, this puts us back into the Dark Ages. They believe they are coming out of the cave into the Light, but, in my mind, I see them walking back into the cave because they are closing off avenues of further understanding. I’m not decrying science here. I’m still alive thanks to science, but the moment scientists take on the role of guru and preacher, I believe this becomes a problem because they are trying to shoehorn their understanding into your understanding.
Sue: Yes, I can see that.
Victor: I want to take this into a more positive direction which is about cosmic mind expansion. In the end it’s about trying to understand ourselves better.
Sue: The only way I personally can make sense of life is knowing that there is something greater than me knocking about. It’s a power greater than me, which, of course, the ancient tribes and cultures have celebrated since man and woman first walked out of a cave in Africa. I find it really sad that these cosmic treasures are being put in a box and then the lid is closed. So, how can astrology help to open the lid?
Victor: Most scientists don’t fully appreciate that what we call the Zodiac which was originally created as a circle of mythological animals; it is actually a human symbolic construct. It’s not meant to be a literal map of the sky. Therefore, I believe we need to keep our minds open because there’s so much in life and about the cosmos that cannot be explained. Using astrological symbology helps an astrologer to find the essence or theme of what’s going on in someone’s life. For example, when I was doing Donald Trump’s draconic solar return chart for the November 2020 election, I saw how Aries was very present in his 10th and 11th houses. You might think that’s got the energy of the Ram, which is about war and fighting. But it was also telling me that he wasn’t going to be re-elected because if you want more of the same, which is re-election, you don’t go for Aries. Aries is all about fresh fields, and new starts. That’s what it symbolises.
The Perseverance Rover is just about to land on Mars (which is the ruling planet of Aries). That’s a fantastic achievement, but to many of us, Mars represents dynamism or one’s mojo. The reason for this is that once upon a time, the ancients looked up and saw a little red smudge and they thought it was an ‘angry planet’ because of its colour. That’s where the symbolism comes from.
Sue: I don’t want to sound cynical, but the thought comes to me that we’ll just go and trash Mars just like we are trashing our own planet.
Victor: Well, it is certainly going to be digging holes in Mars. We are brilliant you know. And we will be shortly creating copies of ourselves through Artificial Intelligence. Suddenly we won’t be lonely anymore because we will have downloaded our loved ones into AI robots. Eternity by remoteness! This poses huge philosophical challenges ahead.
Sue: Yet without it, we couldn’t speak like this. Thanks to Zoom and its founder Eric Yong! Just to conclude, one of my interests is how we can live more consciously for a better world. How can astrology can help us to do this.
Victor: Well, I think it takes in most of the themes that we’ve covered. You don’t have to go to an astrologer to achieve the kind of awareness that we’ve been talking about. You can get it through other spiritual immersions. But this does take some humility, which means giving the intellect a bit of a rest. I admire how Lee Lehman, one of the leading astrologers in the US, who has a PhD in botany, has found a way of understanding astrology without compromising her knowledge of the natural world. It’s about understanding that there are inevitably vast areas of our existence that cannot be rationally explained, starting with the question, Why are we here?’ The Big Bang is just another theory, and we don’t know what predates the Big Bang.
Once your mind expands to those territories and then focuses on this strange symbol we call the horoscope, which is like a multi-faceted diamond because it contains so many levels of awareness, you begin to realise it’s almost like a microcosm of the macrocosm. To someone who’s got a PhD in physics, this is going to sound like a load of old rubbish. But you have to suspend the power of the ego and allow a different perception to wash over you to see what happens. It’s a process, not a step 1,2,3. It’s just about a mind-expanding experience, and then allowing yourself to understand the symbolism of how it works in your life. That’s my understanding of astrology.