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This article was recorded by Garry Phillipson in 1998.
Garry Phillipson is the author of Astrology in the Year Zero:

More details of the book and Garry's work, including other interviews are available on his website

An Interview with Komilla Sutton by Garry Phillipson

Indian born Komilla Sutton is is an internationally renowned astrological consultant, teacher and lecturer, and is justly regarded as one of the UK's most outstanding and well known Vedic astrologers. She is one of the pioneers in making Vedic astrology more accessible for western readers, being the co-founder and Chair of the British Association for Vedic Astrology, and a board member of the American Council of Vedic Astrology.

Komilla's books include Vedic Love Signs, The Essentials of Vedic Astrology, Indian Astrology, and Lunar Nodes- Crisis and Redemption. Komilla also lectures worldwide on Vedic astrology. Details of her talks and seminars are available on her website at

Q: I know that, in Eastern spiritual traditions, there's a lot of emphasis placed on the relationship between teacher and student; how central is that to jyotish?

Actually, in India the whole concept of jyotish was from teacher to student. Nowadays there are some recognised schools in Delhi and other areas, but traditionally you had a teacher (guru) - somebody who taught you the rudiments, gave you the secrets and nurtured you. They saw what you were able to take; what they could reveal to you, and what not.

It is a long process. I was reading recently that, really to try to learn anything, you need to have a minimum twelve years' effort - and that is the cycle of Jupiter, the planet of knowledge.

Traditionally, jyotish is handed down within the family; you are born into a family that is practising it, so from birth you are picking up knowledge. But, in the twentieth century, more and more people who don't belong to a jyotish family are learning jyotish, so there are quite a few changes taking place. Still, I suppose, the only way to learn jyotish is to learn it through an individual.

Q: How might that twelve-year cycle be spent by someone learning jyotish - would they spend the first six years just studying, for example?

No, the twelve year cycle is just twelve years of sadhana, which is study without really starting to practice! That is the minimum requirement for someone learning as a disciple - really following your teacher and doing what he tells you. So in one way there is nothing to do with practice, but in another way, I suppose one of the things with astrology is that you do start practising almost instantly, so although you are not allowed to do other people, you start looking at charts almost from the beginning.

I have to say that is not prevalent now. People do not do twelve years hard work, because that whole atmosphere is no longer there. People want to learn quickly!

Q: What was your own introduction to astrology?

I was not born into a jyotish family at all. I was born just post-independence in India, so we were - I would say - confused. We were learning about our own Indian roots again, but still had a major western influence. My father was in the army, which had a very powerful western influence. The Indian Tradition was taught to us by our grandparents and at school; and jyotish is part of tradition in India, very different from what it is here. Everybody accepts the astrologer (the jyotishi) as having their own place, almost everybody knows about lots of Jyotish's laws, and all the mythological gods are part of our daily life. So subconsciously, we all get information - which makes it much easier for people from India to understand the myths and the symbolic meaning of Jyotish.

I am not a Hindu, I was born a Sikh. Sikhism is a relatively modern religion (four hundred years old - not that modern!), and in it knowledge is very important rather than deities and gods. So we had that kind of upbringing as well. The birth chart was drawn up by the family astrologer, a child is not necessary taken to an astrologer, my parents were not necessarily interested in it. It was part of the tradition. I went to an astrologer in 1979 and I was just amazed at the information available to the Jyotishi from my birth chart. I was going through a period of change, there were lots of problems - things that I was dealing with in life - and here was this field of knowledge which gave me a way to understand the purpose of my life, how to deal with the energies that were given to me at birth. My first Jyotishi became my first teacher and was a very spiritual person himself; he and was a Sanskrit scholar, and therefore his whole way of looking at jyotish was at a very high intellectual level. I feel that I got some really good knowledge and information from him. But when I was learning from him, it wasn't for the sake of becoming an astrologer - it was just something that was of great interest. I always had another career.

So I studied my family's charts, the new-born additions to my family at that time. Following jyotish to its natural level, I did everything - a lot of remedial measures, like wearing proper stones, doing prayers and mantras - like a late developer, suddenly getting involved I practised everything, so I've done all that - as a client, as well as somebody who is very interested.

Of course, something in my chart suggests that I have lots of change in my life, and I moved to England at that stage. I followed my interest, and had two other teachers here in England. One of them was a very successful Vedic astrologer, he has since died. But most of my work is really self-taught, so I can't say that I had that one specific guru who taught me everything. But when I look back at '79 and the Jupiter cycle - I am ruled by Jupiter myself, and the Jupiter cycles have had major meaning in my life for change. With one of the Jupiter cycles, I started paying more attention to jyotish and less to my other career; and now I am a full-time professional astrologer.

Q: What brought you to England?

It's complicated. My family lived in England - my brother and parents. I used to work in Bombay as an actress. I was quite well-known in India for what I did, and when I needed a change I felt it would be very difficult for me in India to make a change. So that was really the main thing; it wasn't economic, I was doing pretty well - maybe better in India! But I had to go through the struggle of changing country and moving into a different area completely. So it was really a change of life direction that brought me here. Then I was married to an English person, hence I have an English surname.

Q: You mentioned how, in India, the belief system of most people embraces astrology. It's probably fair to say that, in the west, the prevailing view is more materialistic and sceptical - how important is that, as a factor in conveying the chart to an individual?

Well, I think that in order to be born into this life you have to be born into materialism of some sort. But the problem is that people start thinking that that is reality - so that causes a great deal of problems, because you start believing that life itself is the reality - we forget that we are born to experience life and then move on. This creates all sorts of problems through desires, emotions, needs, anger, greed, etc. Now in India people are quite happy to have the combination of great spirituality and great materialism living side by side. Most people have powerful spiritual roots, but are pursuing their materialistic aspects alongside it. Amongst the Vedic deities, you have a god for money, a god for good luck and so on - so the thing to understand is that it is ok to be spiritual and materialistic. I find that most western people find it very difficult, if they are on a spiritual path, to accept their need for the material. Whereas in India it's a lot more comfortable. No matter how wealthy they are, people will go to a temple and pray, or have their own god or their own personal spiritual aspect. But that doesn't stop them from whatever else they are doing.

One thing that was very amusing to me; I have a new book which has just been printed in India by an author in financial astrology, and the first thing he mentions is karma and past lives - and how that is connected to your success as a financial astrologer. This is a very mundane, materialistic, side, but even so, the approach of an Indian astrologer would be to look at what your karma is, what your life is about. So we would normally be looking at both aspects of life, and my personal view is that people in the west have had too much of materialism. So they are now focusing their attention onto the spiritual side of life. You know, the break up of families, single parents, this is very much like a life-lesson. It is understanding, through this search for the ideal partnership, that nothing is ideal - and you have to live in the life that is provided.

So I feel that more and more attention in the west is going towards spiritual issues, karmic issues. By 'spiritual' I don't necessarily mean religious; I mean your acceptance that there is some universal energy above yourself, and each individual has a connection with the subtle energies around him. In fact an individual is the true reflection of the universe. A person is not just the physical form we see of him, there are many layers of an individual - the mental, the subtle, unconscious, sub-conscious which they need to understand, if they are truly to be in harmony with themselves. An individual born to earth is a sum total of many past lives which they have experienced. The experiences we are going to undergo in this life are directly connected to these past lives ( Very similar to what the scientists are now talking about- Genetics). We also have personal choice to make in this life- our free will which creates Karma for the future in this or future lives. People start accepting more of issues that they don't understand. Certainly since I have been here - which is since 1983 - the quantity of people who are turning to the spiritual has increased quite a lot. At least the people I meet!

Q: Well, that is good to hear! Do you find a big difference in readings for people who believe in rebirth and those who don't?

I think part of what the philosophy behind jyotish suggests is that everybody has a right to their opinions, and if somebody has a certain opinion you shouldn't try to change it, because they are not yet aware.

A lot of the time, in the west, astrology is seen to be the domain of people who are not that intellectual - whereas in India, astrology has always been considered a very intellectual pursuit. It is only the intellectuals who understand it. This doesn't have anything to do with whether you are rich or poor, but whether you have the ability, understand the knowledge, and also obviously you have to be intelligent enough to take good knowledge. So I suppose the kind of work I am doing, most of the people who come to see me have already been converted, or are at least already interested in this issue of past and future lives. I do get people, usually at lectures, who may not agree with what I'm saying; but as clients, and in my teaching work, the people who come to see me are usually those who already accept this issue.

Q: Talking about learning the rules of astrology - to what extent is it possible to simply memorise rules, and to what extent is it necessary for the individual astrologer to synthesise their own approach, build something unique to them?

Part of jyotish is understanding the great importance of the astrologer. For someone to be a good and highly evolved astrologer, their own life has to be very powerfully correct. Their mind has to be static (calm); you have to be much more an observer of life, and to be that observer of life is very difficult. You yourself should not have emotional ups and downs, and complicated relationships, complicated issues. You should be aware of the deeper meaning of life and be practising it to your own individual perception.

So to know the rules is, of course, very important - that is how the craft works, that is the technical craft. But like an actor can be a very good technician, but may not be a star, for an astrologer as well, to really reach to the great knowledge, to really understand, you have to be quite committed. And have a regulated life. It's very important for the quality of the astrologer, how much they are going to put in - to be meditating, to do yoga, to have knowledge of the vedas, to be reading the other knowledge as well - it's not just about astrology. To be a good astrologer, you have to be a good person. I feel it is one of the dilemmas, that at every stage that question is put to you. And you have to try to do it, and be aware of your own karma. Because once you become aware that you are responsible for your own negative or positive issues, then every action has to be taken with great kindness and deliberation. Once you actually get involved in that, your mind opens up. You learn to face your difficult Karmic lessons with the same calmness as you face the good ones.

If I'm under great stress, I can't look at a chart. It doesn't feel comfortable if you are going through a difficult time, in whatever way. So that is a really important, yet subtle, aspect of being a good astrologer.

Q: I've read that a Vedic astrologer may say to a client, 'come back tomorrow, my mind is not right today' - which I think a western astrologer would probably feel very guilty about doing.

The thing about astrology that is very different here, in India an astrologer works to his personal rules. If his mind is not right he will not be able to give the best advise. He also pays attentions to the configuration of stars on a particular day. If he feels they are not right or are giving him/ her certain inauspicious signals, he will not see his client or ask them to come another day.

But if you are not in a proper mood, or you are not feeling OK, then it is better to tell the client that you are going to do it another day. Most clients are happy to oblige as they would like to get the best for themselves. I must point out this is not a regular occurrence. It is seldom an astrologer would tell his client to come another day.

Q: Do you think that it's useful to look at the sidereal chart alongside the tropical chart?

Well, my personal field of expertise is Vedic astrology. I also know quite a lot about western astrology - if I was amongst western astrologers, I would look at a western chart and give my opinion on it. But it is not really my field of expertise. So when I look at a chart, I look from a completely Vedic point of view - unless I'm having a discussion with a western astrologer. I follow the tradition, and I think that is the strength of Vedic astrology - we have a tradition that dates back. Whatever age people say - three thousand, five thousand, whatever years - it is an unbroken tradition, where there is that knowledge and there are ways to do it. So I don't find it necessary for myself to look at it in a different way. It doesn't mean that I disagree if someone else wants to work in another way.

Q: Do you think that each astrologer has to choose to work within one tradition or the other - the western or the Vedic - or is it possible for someone working predominantly within the western tradition to enrich their understanding and practise by bringing in elements of jyotish?

One of the problems with bringing the two together is that they are very different principles. But I do feel that if you are a western astrologer, learning something of Jyotish would enhance your knowledge. It can work in the same way for an eastern astrologer. We don't use any of the outer planets, we don't use Chiron; but for myself, I quite like looking at them. So I would look at a western chart for their positions; I can put them into a Vedic chart, but I don't because there is no traditional knowledge regarding them. So I'm personally quite happy to discuss both levels. At times there are certain issues that are more obvious from a western chart. And I think basically there are patterns of planets which can suggest a personality which works on many different levels Vedic and Western are just the two different paths for your personality. For instance, my western chart is strongly fiery - I have five planets in Leo, Aries rising - Moon in Libra to balance it. My Vedic chart of course turns it all into water - but both parts of my personality are true. If I looked at my chart with a Chinese Astrologer, I may find certain undiscovered areas of my life which I may not have understood before. Each type of astrology is looking at an individual life from a different perspective. Therefore I feel that sometimes you can look at the western chart for psychological factors, personality issues and the Vedic chart for the more practical, pragmatic approach and for karmic and spiritual links. Vedic Astrology's strength is in looking at timing and when are we going to experience what is promised in the birth chart. The obstacles, the joys and pleasures, disease, marriage, children etc.

Q:Take someone whose Sun is in (say) Sagittarius in the tropical chart, and they think of themselves that way - then discover that, in the sidereal chart, they are a Scorpio, and everything has moved round. What would you say to them about the two charts?

Sidereal chart represents what is the connection of the stars and the planets so it cannot be ignored. So if you are tropically Sagittarius and sidereally Scorpio, it will be important for the astrologer to be aware of it. The tropical connects the earth with the Sun and is concerned with the cardinal positions of the chart and that maybe indicates how we are going to use the energy given to us by the planets and the stars. I feel that a Tropical Astrologer may be able to put what I am saying about Tropical Astrology in a better form. The Planets and stars- Sidereal astrology deal with the individual with the eternal. So I feel that the sidereal Zodiac shows this connection and the tropical zodiac can indicate how this personality is externalised. Hence the connection. I feel when you look at both the charts, separately then the issues of personality, destiny, spiritual connection, life pattern are revealed in a more rounded way. Vedic and Western Astrology ( Tropical and Sidereal Astrology) are two languages of astrology each which has a lot to contribute to the rich tapestry which is an individual life.

Two things. Firstly, in Vedic astrology we are interested in the ascendant. Because the ascendant is what varies every couple of hours. So if somebody asks me about myself I will say, 'I am Pisces' - which is my ascendant. That is what you are. The Sun sign and the Moon is used as a separate ascendant i.e. the relative position of planets from both these luminaries. The Sun Ascendant represents the soul connection and the Moon sign how the mind will interpret this connection onto earthly life.

Secondly, I would say to people that it is not that simplistic. Just by saying that you are a Leo, that doesn't tell everything about you; it gives a general indication - like 'I'm English', or 'I'm Indian' - and some things may be correct, like I'm Indian so I must be dark with black hair. That's right, but then there are other qualities about me which will differ from other Indians.

When you actually go deeper into a chart, whether you are going to a good western astrologer or a good Vedic astrologer, they both would give you knowledge and direction. So I feel that it is the quality of astrologer that is important, not their tradition - or the person that appeals to your kind of thinking.

One of the things about a Vedic astrologer is that part of the knowledge is connected to the past life, also connected to much more practical issues. So you can do a Vedic astrology chart with the timings, and dates and what is happening, where you are going. Whereas in western astrology - at least when I was getting into it over here - a lot of people don't want to look at prediction, or what the future holds; people are much more afraid of what the future holds - even astrologers - than in India.

Indian astrologers are interested in the focus of your whole life - from the two main events of life, birth and death. The two things we know are going to be true. So whereas a western astrologer is more interested in your psychological makeup, and generally would not be very comfortable making predictions. If you go to an astrologer in India, they will immediately tell you that you are going to die at (say) 64 - 68, because death is part of your life; it's a major event. And it's only a culmination of one aspect.

Not everyone in the west is ready to look at a chart from a Vedic point of view. And probably a lot of people who go to a Vedic astrologer aren't interested in a psychological approach; they want a practical approach.

Q: John Frawley describes psychological astrology as being about telling people things they already know.

Interesting that you should mention John Frawley, I was just thinking about him and horary astrology. A lot of the astrology in India is done like that - people come to ask questions about what is worrying them. So it is done with horary in mind as well.

It's really difficult to describe, but astrology is part of life. So you don't mistrust it. Even if you get a rotten astrologer, you don't mistrust it! Almost all the priests have knowledge of the stars and planets, all the events of life are planned according to the energies.

I used to live in Bombay, and we have what is known as Mahurata- the start of a film. It was always done on the correct day, time etc. This is like elections but the way they are worked out is different. Until I went into astrology I didn't realise that Mahurata is one of the main principle of Vedic Astrology. Choosing the correct day to begin new projects, (marriage, new beginnings etc) means you are using the astrological energies to enhance the quality of your life. All important events in an individual's life from the naming ceremony, education marriage etc are elected in harmony to the natal chart enhancing your energies at every possible opportunity. It takes a lot of time and sometimes people feel that by electing a Mahurata they can overcome any difficulty. The mahurata can only improve what is promised in your chart not override it.

I feel that is where, for western astrology, it's quite helpful to know how the Vedic astrologers look at time, and the importance of not being worried about the future. As well as realising that if there is something negative in the future, there is always a positive issue. Sometimes things have to change; they can't stay static. And to feel this as a negative is an experience you have to go through. A lot of the time people are quite afraid of such experiences. I suppose in some ways, Vedic astrologers (and I'm not talking about those who practise here, but those in India) would benefit by learning a softly-softly approach, rather than just telling everything to everyone!

You see in India, people are concerned with different things to what they are here - people go to the astrologer to ask, 'When am I going to get married?' or, very often, 'When is my son or daughter going to get married?' Or, 'When am I going to have a child?', 'When am I going to get that money?' So when people go to an astrologer, the astrologer's job is to tell them all these things. And if the astrologer can see that, quite obviously, it's not going to happen, to say that as well. I suppose if you are not prepared for it, it's quite difficult to take - 'You know, your chart doesn't suggest that you are going to get married, so it's better for you to focus your energy somewhere else'. And with that approach, you are energising your chart to its best potential, rather than focusing your energy on marriage and being disappointed and having a nasty experience. You focus your energy on something else, which can be just as fulfilling. But it can be difficult, if you are in your 20's, to accept that. Easier if you are in your 40's!

Q: I think there's something in the western psyche which makes us reluctant to countenance the idea that people should be intrinsically unequal to such an extent.

There is. But the whole idea of everybody being equal is wrong - everyone is unique, we are all born at unique times with unique configurations. If you look at how the planets are placed today, it's quite interesting (Vedically, at least). At 7.00 pm there is Virgo rising and Mercury is in Pisces; and all the other planets are placed in the 6th and 8th houses (because we use the whole sign). So Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, south node, and the Moon are in the 6th house in Aquarius, and Mars, Saturn, and the Sun are in the 8th house in Aries. The north node is in Leo. The whole configuration is like a T-square. It's quite special, that chart; obviously, a person born at that moment is going to have some special issues to deal with. So you can't say that that person is going to the same life, or the same issues, as someone with a wonderful 7th house.

This is the whole thing with each one having a unique pattern; we must understand the pattern to get the best out of life. This is part of what Vedic astrology - all astrology - is trying to get at; if you understand this pattern, you can have an extremely good quality of life. It doesn't mean that a pattern is negative, just because it doesn't fit with a traditionally accepted view of life - where you get married at 18, have 2.2 children and then become very rich. That doesn't mean that you will be satisfied.

But differences from this norm mean that you have a special focus - and you have to change your mind, and move towards that. This is where unhappiness happens in many ways - it is not accepting your own focus.

Q: Yes, it's difficult to see that accepting limitation can actually increase one's freedom and happiness.

It does. Many of the people who come to me for consultations come when they are having some major problem. When there is a major problem and you can tell them that there is light at the end of the tunnel, they are usually quite happy about it. Many times also, people come and talk about things they are going to do - and it's already indicated in their chart that that is what they are moving towards. But people don't trust their instincts.

The planets and their energies are actually guiding you towards a different direction; they are going to focus your energy where it is correct anyway, regardless of whether you get it interpreted or not. But the whole idea of understanding a chart is to understand your limitations and capabilities. A limitation is for a specific reason; it wants you to focus on a different direction.

Q: With predicting death - two questions, really. One is: Do you find it possible to do, with a reasonable degree of accuracy? The second is: How do you feel about predicting death?

I don't predict death. When I look at a chart I don't look at death at all - simply because I feel that, even if I knew, I wouldn't say. And I feel that it is something that can worry people; what if I am wrong, and I've got a date wrong? You can say at the age of 20, 'You're going to die at 60' - it seems very far away. But when you reach 60, you aren't necessarily wanting to die then. My grandfather fell ill when he was 92 - and he didn't want to die.

I feel that it's not that important to know, although a lot of the old Indian texts say that you must look - because if there isn't any life, there is no point in looking into that chart at all. I disagree with that, personally.

I suppose I'm now being drawn into looking at it a little. With Diana dying last year - I had looked at her chart many times, but never looked at death for her, because she was so young; and so you don't think of death. When she died and I looked at it, all the indications were there - so I felt that maybe I should look at it, just for myself. Normally, for clients I don't look at it. Many people are interested, and ask questions, so I feel that it's best for me not to look, then I don't have to lie. But when people are well known, I suppose you can look for your own knowledge. What usually they say is that you need to study 100 charts of people who have died, to see how accurate you were. But really, almost no book says that you should tell about death. They say you can check for yourself, but it's not to be told. Because one of the most important things is looking after the emotional state of your client. In India, many people follow a tradition; if their family tradition is that they are going to talk about death, they do so. But as we don't have any such traditions, we have to make up our own. And I wouldn't look at it at all.

One of the main things - the books are very keen to say that you must be humble in your predictions, so don't think that you are God and can predict everything. Everybody can make a mistake.

Q: That reminds me of something Lilly said, which seems to come up in each of these interviews - 'The more holy you are, and the closer to God, the better astrology you will do'.

I suppose everybody has their own concept of God. There are roots which we have lost, and that is why at times we don't know what we are doing. I am not at all religious, personally, but I just have that belief system. So that is what I believe being a religious person, or a spiritual person, is - having a belief system.

Q: I did want to ask how you would define what you believe in, and how astrology fits into that?

I'm Sikh, and we believe in knowledge. Traditionally, we didn't have any gods because it was a book of knowledge which was written through the knowledge of both Islam and Hinduism; so it is an evolution from those religions. My upbringing in Delhi was very liberal - we studied almost all the religions and cultures. Then I lived in Bombay - a city where everybody prays for wealth and fame - to whatever deity is willing to give it! The multi-ethnic place which Britain is now becoming, India has always been - every ten miles there is a different belief system. My own belief system is that I just believe. I don't really go to a church, I don't have a temple, I believe everything is everywhere; everything is sacred. So I believe in sacred space really.

Q: What part do you believe astrology can play in the search for realisation, enlightenment - whatever one calls it?

The real purpose of any soul is to get enlightened, but during the search it has to experience all kinds of issues about life. Every time you experience these issues you get more involved in it. So by understanding what your chart is really projecting - some people are not meant to be enlightened in this lifetime, they are meant to be more involved in practical issues, and therefore if they are looking for enlightenment they are going against their chart - so they may have an inner feeling that everything is not correct. So really to understand the chart is to understand what path you need to take. Those who have difficult charts are really meant to be moving towards the path of enlightenment. Because it doesn't become any easier. The more the soul matures, the greater the problems it chooses for itself. A mature soul wants to experience negative/difficult Karma so that it cleanses itself from having to experience it again. In a way it pays it's debt, clears from it's conscience the wrong acts done from this or previous life. We make the choice of what we are going to face in a life as we want to mature and move onto the next stage of consciousness where we do not have to experience the cycle of births and deaths, happiness and sorrows.

If you look at any of the great sages - if you look at Jesus, or Buddha, or Rama, or any of the physical manifestations - they all had difficult, difficult lives. They didn't come and just live with comfort and fun and lots of money. That's really what happens - when you are moving towards the path of enlightenment, the birth chart actually suggests that. So it has a very important part to play in guiding you on what to do.

Q: So if somebody came to you and said, 'I'm thinking of going into a monastery and working for enlightenment' - might you look at their chart and say, 'I wouldn't do that if I were you'?

Yes, firstly, going into a monastery is opting out. One of the main books of Vedic philosophy is the Bhagavad Gita, and the main idea behind it is that whatever your duty or responsibility in life is, you can't opt out. So if you go and live in a monastery - or in the mountains, whatever it is - the issues that you have to resolve don't go away.

Of course, some charts suggest great spiritual beings, and very powerful energies with issues about marriage, relationships, money. It usually shows a detachment from these factors- difficult personal relationships, no love for money, the need to work for others, the individual ego being immersed into the universal soul. What are the things an average man or woman desires? Desires a good home, money, good husband or wife, emotional satisfaction - if you see problems there in a chart, then you can see that people have to look at life, and maybe need to go to a monastery at a time. But normally I would be saying to people, 'Are you really sure that's what you want to do?' Sometimes they need to do it, but mostly being in a monastery can be an opt-out as well, an easy way out. The thing about the journey of the soul is that there is no easy way out; if you take an easy way out in this lifetime, you still have to face up to issues in another life.

I also like to see 'lifetimes' as different phases of your life - so if you don't face something in this phase, it will come back in some other form later.

Q: This is all very interesting to me, so excuse me harping on this theme. One way of looking at spirituality and astrology is that which says that you can't judge what use is going to be made of the energies in a birth chart. If I understand what you are saying, you have found that you can deduce spiritual levels from the chart?

Yes, there are a lot of guidelines in Vedic Astrology to look at, to see how mature the soul is, and where the soul is going to. Obviously, the choice is ours - this is very important. People feel that Vedic astrology is fatalistic - but really, the choice is ours. We have a given set of circumstances, what are we going to do with it? But we still have - like a law, like the structure of a country - the birthchart, so we have limitations. You can't just do anything if you are living in (for instance) England; you have to live by certain rules and regulations. If you live in India there are different rules and regulations. So that is the description of your birth chart. But you can be confrontational towards your birth chart, and therefore get very little pleasure out of whatever the issues are. But by accepting and understanding the depth of your chart, working within it's guideline, you are in fact able to open your mind to it's immense capabilities.

You can see in people's charts whether they are going to do it or not. Sometimes it's quite difficult to go against the grain of your chart - but once the mind changes, it no longer is a problem. When you are able to work your mind around an issue, there is no problem. And some people have the capacity to do this, and some don't. This is visible in the chart. Very much visible which way someone will go.

Q: For people reading this who want to find out more about Jyotish, what would you recommend them to do?

There are lots of books available now - that is really the main thing. No longer is Jyotish something of which there is no knowledge. You can get books printed in England, in America, in India - there is lots of literature, and we are quite spoiled for choice when it comes to beginner's books. I am at present in the final stages of my book 'Essentials of Vedic Astrology' which should be out by end of this year. We have an association here for Vedic astrology in England - people can come and attend our lectures. I run a Vedic Astrology Beginner's Course in London and Romsey, Hampshire, and as well I have a Correspondence course.

Obviously, getting a consultation done lets you see your life from a different point of view. But if you are on a path of self discovery what I feel is, that the best knowledge is what you gain from reading yourself, and listening to lectures.

Q: What is your experience of people studying jyotish after some involvement with western astrology?

I'm actually doing classes here (at the UT's HQ in Caledonian Road), and I lecture extensively on jyotish to western astrologers. I find that knowledge of western astrology actually helps - it doesn't hinder. Because obviously, you then know astrology - it's just a different set of principles for looking at the same chart. And we're looking, not at the same zodiac, but at the same signs - Aries to Pisces.

So I find that if people are interested, it's no hindrance - it actually makes life a lot easier, though of course I'm happy to teach people who have no prior knowledge.

It's like speaking two languages - I feel that I can speak and understand western astrology, although it's not my first language.

Obviously, there's a lot more to Vedic astrology than just knowing that there is a sidereal zodiac and a tropical zodiac; when you start learning, you realise all the rules and regulations. What I gather from my students is that sometimes these very fixed rules are quite helpful - and in some ways, they also help in understanding certain principles of western astrology. Because we have very fixed rules of everything - and once you understand the rule, you can look at it from different points of view.

Q: You mentioned using gemstones in order to help balance oneself in the light of the chart; I understand that there is a whole area of Vedic astrology that deals with such measures. Could you tell me a little more about this?

We have what is known as 'remedial measures'. So you have a particular chart that you are born with, but then you have to be able to improve it and make differences. Personally, as somebody who has tried all the gemstones and everything, I feel that I'm not so much in favour of them. You can wear them, but you shouldn't do so with the idea, 'Oh, if I wear a stone for Jupiter, it's just going to become perfect'. Most people do that because it's an easy way out - instead of actually looking at the hub of the problem.

Every ascendant has special stones that are enhancing, or detracting, and it is really specific to the chart. A lot of stones are worn for Ayurveda, which is the medical side of Vedic literature, and is very connected to the astrology. So the gemstones are worn if you have problems with (say) Jupiter or Mars - you wear a stone to balance that energy, from that point of view. I think it is an area which can be very much misused, because gems are very expensive. To really take advantage of this, you need to buy good quality gems. Now unless you are a gemologist yourself, and are able to buy with that knowledge, it is very difficult to know what you are buying - what is the quality, what is a fair price, all those things. So personally, unless somebody asks me, I don't recommend gemstones. Also there are secondary gemstones as well, so if you want to have a psychological input you can spend a lot less.

Even in the Vedas, they actually caution against it; unless you know what you are doing, you should not be spending lots of money. I have seen many cases of people spending lots of money on very expensive gems. I am someone who has worn them all - and now I have taken them all off! It's because I feel that each astrologer has his different way. Some enhance the good planets, some enhance the bad planets - so there are lots of complications to it, and basically, if you want to enhance your chart, you need to understand the hub of the matter, and you need to do something about it physically or mentally. That means that you have to change your attitude to things. So if you are storing anger, for instance, and start wearing pearl to calm yourself down, you are not going to get rid of the anger problems! But it can calm you, so maybe in some subtle way it can encourage you to look at anger.

It's very important, if you have an issue, to talk about it, to think about it, to see what you can do. One of the greatest remedial measures is to give something of yourself that really hurts - not money. So, working for the poor, or giving your time, your own energy. And accepting is very important - so if you have a problem with Saturn, you fast for it, you try to do things so that it starts working its energy for you. So I'm not very much in favour of the gems!

Q:It sounds as though, gems aside, there is a science in jyotish of how to use the chart.


Q: It's struck me that some astrologers can be quite brilliant at dissecting the chart and laying bare problems, without having much to say about what you do about it if you happen to have this chart and these problems.

Yes, and there are lots of things you can do, on a day to day basis. So firstly you use the lunar calendar - based on the Sun and Moon, the two main entities and their relative position to each other in a lunar month. We use the lunar calendar, so every day has a very special energy. Also how it relates to your birth Moon shows whether this day would harmonise for you- is it a good or bad day for you. This way you can decide for important days of your life, is this the right day for you. The only problem about doing this is that you do need to have some astrological knowledge to know what sign the Moon is on a particular day.

The whole point of doing a chart is to sort it out. And the gem therapy is an easy way of sorting things out; but to really sort the energy out, you need patience. Sometimes, the time is wrong for what you want to achieve. So even if it means a few days (months, years…) that you are facing a difficult transit, it may be better to wait for that transit to pass, this way you are saving yourself lots of unnecessary hassle. So if you are experiencing the transit of Saturn, it may not be the right time for taking impulsive decisions. The planetary energies are telling you to be cautious, but we are not always willing to listen to our instincts.

Let's say - now, Saturn is in Aries sidereally (it just moved on 17th [April 98]). So anybody with the Moon in Aries is having a very difficult transit of Saturn. Of course, as Vedic astrologers we believe that the moment it goes into the sign, it is a transit. So it's there for two and a half years, you cannot avoid it. Of course, I wouldn't tell a client, 'For two and a half years, you can't avoid it', but I can see that there are going to be problems.

We look at the Moon as the mind - not just the emotional mind, the whole mind. So with this transit, you have to be very patient, and not take sudden decisions which are going to affect you later on. Not opt out, either - because very often people with such a transit will want to opt out - get divorced, get rid of whatever their lifestyle is, at that particular moment. Because we tend to blame whoever is closest to us for all our own ills. We feel that if we divorce our husband it's going to be just perfect.

So it's very important to explain to people that, whatever issue you are dealing with, just by opting out, changing their outer life, the issue is not going to go away. They will still have to deal with whatever is indicated. So patience is really the main thing that you have to cultivate - which you don't have a lot of, in this country! But by understanding the various energies from Moon to Saturn, we are actually able to improve the quality [of life]. However difficult a situation is, if you work it through slowly, you are able to get the best result for yourself. And not every day of life is going to be perfect. This whole idealistic approach causes many difficulties.

So there are lots of ways you can deal with things; perhaps the most basic one is to wear the gems - or wear colour; so today's Tuesday, so it has the colour of Mars, if you want to activate Mars energy wear red. I used to be an actress, and when I was starting to get interested in jyotish, when I went for an audition I would wear the colour for the day! So I was using that. And whether it was helpful or not, my mind used to say, 'Today's Thursday - Jupiter, so put on a yellow outfit (we use yellow for Jupiter) - and I would feel psychologically boosted. But this isn't really solving any issue, it's just giving you a feel-good factor. Colour, herbs, oils - you can work on all these levels, but finally you have to work on your mind. Everything is really based on inner balance.

So that is what I believe being a religious person, or a spiritual person, is - having a belief system.

Q: Do you have an example of a problematic chart, where you introduced some 'remedial measures' into someone's approach to life in order to turn a difficult aspect into a source of strength? (Also, any additional reading you would recommend on this specific topic?)

There is no specific book on this subject I can recommend.

I can give you an example of a chart. DATA: 8th July 1958, 17:35 IST(-5.30) New Delhi India. Name-( changed) Manju. When Manju consulted me in July 1997, she was going through a particularly difficult period of her life. She now lives in the United States. Her ascendant Scorpio, moon in Pisces and Sun in Gemini. Her career was not going anywhere (her company had been taken over and she was not sure whether she would be kept on in her present position), she wanted to move house, her father was not well in India - the general stress factor in her life was very strong. I noticed Saturn was transiting over her Moon and was also going to station exactly over her ascendant ruler Mars at the end of July 1998 and then Saturn would retrograde back to 16 degrees Pisces where it will station in December. Then Saturn will conjunct Mars on the exact degree of her Mars (her ascendant rule) on 2nd April 1998. This movement of Saturn was suggesting major negativity for her. The Moon rules the 9th house - the house we look at for father, also it signifies the Mother. So this transit was indicating worries relating to her parents. Further Mars is her ascendant ruler so suggests herself - this was further indicating problems about herself. Saturn Transiting Natal moon was also aspecting the 10th house(career) from the Moon - therefore it was also indicating worry and unsteadiness connected with work. We also look at the planetary periods of life (the dasha system) and these planetary periods suggest when exactly these issues will actually happen. Manju was going through her Venus Dasha and Saturn sub dasha till 7th February 1998 and from then her sub dasha changed to Mercury. Mercury is the most malefic planet for Scorpio ascendants and it can create problems for Manju. Mercury was placed in the 9th house (father) rules the 8th house ( 12th,the house of loss from the 9th). This showed that she was going to go through further problems connected with her father and herself.

Keeping the above information in mind - I could see that Manju was going to go through a difficult periods over the next year. Firstly I will try to explain to my clients that they are going through a difficult time, so it may not be a good idea to change careers, homes, etc., as it is only adding on extra stress and tension in their life. Knowing that she was going through a difficult time gave Manju strength as she could see that there was a reason for her difficulties. She was able to see her career in a different light. She was not so willing to make changes at a time when she felt that the astrological energies were working against her.

Being Indian, she was very much open to remedial measures which I could prescribe for her. Firstly I asked her to fast for Saturn - Saturn will always create problems and by fasting for Saturn you are giving yourself a difficult task. The day for fasting is Saturday - Saturn's day. It is the most difficult day to fast. The concept of fasting is that it gives you mental strength as you learn to cope with voluntarily giving up food. I only give remedial measures for those who ask for them. I feel it is a personal choice. The fast helped her focus her mind.

She was wearing a very large emerald on her left finger. I pointed out to her that Emerald was the stone for Mercury and Mercury is the most difficult planet for Scorpio ascendants so it would be better for her not to wear an emerald as it is enhancing the negative energies. I suggested a yellow Sapphire, the stone for Jupiter. Jupiter is a good planet for Scorpio ascendants; also it is the planet which can withstand the negative energies of Saturn. To wear these gems, it is important to have them specially set so that the stones touch the skin and then solar rays are absorbed into the body through the gems.

With the fasting as well as wearing the Yellow Sapphire, Manju found that she was getting more strength in facing her problems. When a natal chart presents problems then it is not possible for the problems to go away entirely but you can make your situation such that the problems do not have such an impact on you. For Manju, she was able to deal with her problems - she firstly recognised it was a difficult period so she needs to be cautious with her choices, secondly by using both gems and fasting she felt strengthen when she was dealing with difficult transits.

I would like to stress again here that I only give remedial measures to those who want to do them. Just by adopting these measures it does not mean that the problems will go away, but that it gives you strength to deal with them.

Q: Could I take a note of your birth data?

15 August, 1953, 9pm, Jullundur (just north of Delhi, south of Amritsar).

Q: Are there any particular factors in your chart that you would pick out, which help to explain why you have followed your particular path in astrology?

I have a very strong path as a teacher in my chart; I have Pisces rising - ruled by Jupiter, the teacher (Jupiter's name in Vedic astrology is guru, meaning teacher). We regard the ascendant as being very important; so Jupiter is placed in Taurus, which is ruled by Venus - and there are two teachers in Vedic astrology, one is Venus and one is Jupiter. Jupiter advises the gods, and Venus the demons and humans. So I have that combination. The ability to advise/teach anyone. Also, my ninth house ruler Mars is placed in the 5th house of astrology. Jupiter rules my tenth house (my career) - it's ruled by Sagittarius, Sagittarius is the sign where Lord Krishna told Arjuna the secret of life in Bhagwat Gita, so it's connected with teaching, philosophy and knowledge. So there's this very powerful emphasis on teaching and advising. My Mercury is conjunct Ketu, the south node (to the degree), which I feel gives me this great connection with knowledge from past lives, once I have activated it for others through astrology. Ketu deals with Astrology in Vedic Astrology. This conjunction created blocks in my life so long as I was doing acting or business, it wasn't very helpful. But the moment I started on astrology, I just felt as though whatever knowledge I've ever learned, I just stored it and Ketu opened up my mind and gave me the ability to think deeply on the subject of astrology.

I'm Leo in Tropical Astrology, but in Vedic astrology my Sun, the significator of the soul and my connection with the eternal is in 29 degrees 55 minutes Cancer, which is a very psychic, spiritual point in Vedic astrology. The degrees between Cancer and Leo are one of the areas which create a lot of difficulty on a practical level, but give you power if you are looking for spiritual knowledge. They are degrees where the soul is moving from one level of consciousness to another. (Planets positioned in Sandhi areas- the junction points of the praryaya, this is the exact location where the solar and lunar Zodiac meet ( Pisces- Aries. Cancer- Leo. Scorpio- Sagittarius) are specially powerful in giving Karmic effects. They are known as Gandanta. There are two kinds of Gandanta. The lagna Gandanta and the Nakshatra Gandanta. The Lagna Gandanta is when the ascendant sign falls within 14 minutes of these degrees either side. The Nakshatra Gandanta is when the Moon is situated within 48 minutes either side of these points.

The belief is when life crystallises at a certain point then we journey towards the higher manifestation of the soul and the consciousness. We have to go through a particularly trying time to prepare our minds for the next step in the journey of our soul. The positioning of the Moon in the Nakshatra Gandanta is particularly powerful. This indicates a very special purpose for this birth. There can be many difficulties to be faced, adjustments to be made in life as we move towards one level of spiritual growth into the second level.

If you look at my western chart I have Aries rising, and that's my pioneering spirit! Therefore, I don't feel afraid. I run a Vedic astrology practice in Romsey, which is a little town in Hampshire; but with my pioneering spirit, I feel comfortable doing something unusual.

Q: If a client is coming to see you, how long does it take you to prepare?

It takes less and less time now. Normally I spend about half an hour before I see a client, looking at their chart. Almost the moment I start looking at the chart, I start looking at issues. And I have my own data for what is happening - normally I like to look at the planets' configurations every morning. So I'm aware what is happening in the skies on a day to day basis - which I feel is very important for every astrologer to know.

Q: And does that give you a background context for the sessions with people you see that day?

Yes. I never make a chart for the time of the appointment - a lot of people do, but I don't do that. But when I see the chart, I am aware of the general trend of the day. When I see the chart, I almost immediately see what the issue is. Then when you see the client, you see how much they are aware of the issue. Sometimes people are not willing - my job is not to make people feel that it's going to be all doom and gloom. But also, if they are going through a difficult transit, I point it out to them gently. I would never actually tell somebody that the future is going to be never-endingly difficult - but I would explain that this is a difficult time, so whatever choices they are making, it is important that they think carefully.

Q: This ability to see the issue in the chart - I wonder if it's possible for you to say anything more about that? It's something that all we astrologers are aiming to do - can you rationalise it at all?

It's not intuitive, it's from the planets and where they are placed. I'm not saying that I can see every issue that the person has. One of the problems - for every astrologer - is that they haven't lived everybody else's lives. So there are certain points and issues that you just cannot look at in an appropriate way. This is why I'm quite happy when clients actually talk about what is happening, because then, instantly, you can see which way the chart is working out. I suppose it's just doing a lot of charts; the more you look at charts, the more you are able to see the issues and the problems.

Maybe sometimes I'm looking at issues and problems that people don't want to look at themselves.

Q: What do you think of as being your greatest success with astrology?

I suppose my greatest success as making Vedic astrology quite well-known and acceptable in England. I remember when I lectured the first time, quite a lot of people were not open to it, or were even against it. It's a passion with me - Vedic astrology - and so I was happy to lecture, whenever someone wanted a lecture. Also making it more acceptable - often, people are afraid of Vedic astrology, because they don't know what it's going to tell them. My main aim is for people to study it for themselves. I'm happy to give consultations - really in an ideal world, I want people to study it for themselves, and find their own answers.

Q: In terms of individual charts, is there anything - maybe a prediction - which you have made, which you have thought, 'Wow that was impressive'?

I don't remember any prediction I make. I talk to people, I tell them, and then they call me up and say, 'You said this - and it worked out'. So I don't remember any specific predictions; all the time I'm talking I'm telling them what is happening.

On famous people, where I make predictions - there was a prediction I wrote about Tim Henman, which seems to have come quite true. I was doing a radio programme, and said he was going to do very well - I think he then won the silver medal at the Olympics. But also I thought he was going to lose his ranking. I suppose this is the more popular face of astrology. I've done a lot of radio work, and a bit of television work, where people ask and you look at famous peoples' charts and look at what is going to happen. It's something that interests me in a casual way, but I don't take it so seriously.

Sometimes I hate my predictions coming true - usually they are negative ones; you look in the chart and say, 'Your mother's not going to be well', or some problem, and it happens. It's not always a happy prediction.

Looking at celebrities - when I was looking at Diana's chart, I never really looked at death for her, whereas now I feel that it was there, staring me in the face, and I should have looked at it. When I had just started out, it was a very big thing to me to get predictions about famous people right, but nowadays it's no longer important to me.

Of course, there's a saying that when Jupiter transits three signs in a year, there will be lots of floods - and aren't we having that! When you look at the ancient literature, there are lots of different configurations which will indicate different things. You see, Jupiter sidereally has been in Capricorn, now it's in Aquarius, and will go into Pisces in May - it's considered, whenever this happens, that there will be a lot of issues about water. It doesn't matter what signs it goes through, just that it goes through three signs in a year, which means it will not retrograde in the middle sign.

There are lots of people who just work on predictions. It's not something I generally look at, but if I'm asked to do it I'll study it - and it's quite interesting if it comes true!

Q: I was talking to Maurice McCann about aspects - he was questioning the value of harmonics, partly because there is no precedent for them in tradition, so I suggested that the Vedic tradition does offer such a precedent - with the navamsha chart, for instance, corresponding to the ninth harmonic. He said, "Yes, but is it - really? You see I became very suspicious of astrologers who would make a statement about something, say this was what it was - when, in all probability, it was a misinterpretation. I wonder if we went to a Hindu astrologer, and asked them exactly what it was - maybe we'd get a different interpretation of it, you know?"

He said that to me when I met him, and I've since researched it - and it is. Whichever way you calculate it. The ninth harmonic - in Vedic astrology we call it vargas or divisional charts; we divide a 30 degree sign by 9, and you get 3 degrees 20 minutes. But apparently - I've discussed this with some western astrologers - for the ninth harmonic you multiply it by nine, and divide it. The answer is still the same; the division is 3 degrees 20 minutes. In Vedic astrology you have specific positioning of charts. We have sixteen varga charts - sixteen divisions - and planets placed in specific divisions of a sign have some specific meaning. So if you are looking at twin births then you look at the 60th division (which is giving you a 30 second division)…It is known as Shastiamsha

Q: Dividing the chart by 60?

Dividing a sign by 60; so it makes thirty seconds. Most Vedic astrologers believe that's too much of a difference. There are further divisions - but that knowledge is either lost, or very few people have it. But what we do is up to 30 seconds. This is an argument that non-astrologers always bring out; how do you look at twin births? It's simple in Vedic astrology, because of these divisions. Actually, if you have two planets that are closely conjunct - within a degree of each other - if you look at them in the divisions, you see at what point they separate. The planets are giving different information at different levels. So many Indian astrologers who don't have computers - the moment they look at the chart and the degree, they know what division it is! I don't have that ability myself, because obviously I am brought up with computers so my brains have gone!

Some of the divisions we use are the dwadashamsha - that is the twelfth division (parent, past life); the drekkna - that is the third division (health, Motivation, brothers, siblings, and travel elections), 10 degrees each; Hora which have two divisions of 15 degrees each- male and female energy and wealth.

Now I don't call them harmonics, I call them vargas, or divisions. When we divide the drekknas, the three are the three trine signs - so if you are Aries rising, your three drekknas will be Leo and Sagittarius, the fire signs.

All these are very much part of a chart -no chart is looked at without looking at the navamsha.

Q: That's interesting, because I think it would be fair to say that most western astrologers see harmonics as a bit peripheral.

I do think that western astrology has changed and modified itself, moved into a different direction. One of the pluses of western astrology is that people are happy to take in new ideas, willing to experiment. But that becomes a minus point as well, because sometimes they are looking at very trivial things. I suppose the thing that annoys me most is if they are only looking at Uranus/Neptune/Pluto - and don't look at the personal planets at all. So although we don't use them, I feel that the transits of Neptune, Uranus and Pluto are important; but they are not that important to an individual. But this reflects society, in many ways; we are looking at very far away issues - computers, cyberspace, and so on - and are afraid to really connect within ourselves. I feel that the changing nature of tropical astrology is quite good in some ways. In Vedic astrology there are traditions, and you get bound by them. Sometimes you want to look in a different way. But there is a lot of debate going on in India; people ask questions, everybody has an opinion. Obviously people do look at how it is relevant today - so it isn't completely a dead science, where people aren't willing to accept criticism or argue about it. I suppose that for most people who are studying Vedic astrology here, it is a foreign concept for them.

Q: You said that it's unusual to look at someone's chart without looking at the navamsha - what does the navamsha tell you about a person?

Navamsha deals with the inner quality of your charts. Planets placed in difficult positions/ signs in the Navamsha chart (6th, 8th ,12th houses) get weaker, those well placed are enhanced. It is used to look at the future direction of life. Relationships, children, career, just about everything. Navamsha is like the foundation of a chart, if the foundation chart is weak it can create problems throughout and if it is strong it will create added strengths. Because we look at whole signs in the Rasi or main chart, the Navamsha actually gives it the depth. It is difficult to explain in a few words it's importance. Everything in the chart- all aspects of life are looked in relation to the navamsha chart.

Q: Who do you admire in the world of astrology?

One person is a modern Vedic astrologer in India, whose books appeal to me - he goes into the esoteric, real spiritual roots of Vedic astrology. His name is Bepin Bihari, and he has written quite a few books which interrelate Vedic culture with Vedic astrology, and look at it from a spiritual point of view - which is the way I like to look at it.

I have met a lot of western astrologers, because I attend the conference almost every year. I suppose I admire a lot of good brains that I have heard lecture, but there is no single individual who I would say has influenced me greatly in the western world. I love astrology and I love reading, so I read everything that comes my way. These days, I'm concentrating on Vedic, because the field is so vast - even within Vedic astrology, I feel as if I know about one per cent! There is so much more to know, that I feel it is important for me to be concentrating on this one aspect.

Garry PhillipsonGarry Phillipson has practised astrology since 1976. His other interests include Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. Astrology in the Year Zero published in 2000, resulted from Garry's study of astrology - in particular, from his investigation of the philosophy and assumptions that underpin the subject. His articles and lectures have appeared under the aegis of groups including the Astrological Association of Great Britain, the Astrological Lodge, the Company of Astrologers, the Urania Trust, the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism, The Mountain Astrologer, and Ascella. He is currently working on a PhD about astrology and truth at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David.

Visit Garry's website at

© Garry Phillipson

The Essentials of Vedic Astrology

Vedic Love Signs

More details of Komilla's books and services are available on her website

Bernadette Brady
Darby Costello
Benjamin Dykes
Bernard Eccles
Dennis Elwell
Kim Farnell
John Frawley
Dorian Greenbaum
Darrelyn Gunzburg
Robert Hand
Mike Harding
Deborah Houlding
Warren Kenton
Maurice McCann
Garry Phillipson
Christine Skinner
Shelley von Strunckel
Komilla Sutton
Robert Zoller

Plus ...

An Interview with some American Astrologers

by Deborah Houlding