|By Charlotte Benson|
Interview on September 14, 2009
Charlotte Benson: I know how busy you are, Juliana, so thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
Juliana Swanson: I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Charlotte: Here’s my usual conversation starter: how did you discover astrology? Were you born with an ephemeris in your hand?
|Juliana: (laughter) My parents were sort of Bohemian. They shared many of their eclectic interests with my siblings and me, and always encouraged intellectual curiosity and self-exploration. They were really interested in philosophy, mysticism, comparative religion, and alternative health. And so, my parents were my earliest inspirations in the search for truth.|
Then, we used to vacation in Virginia Beach – and I had an early exposure to the largest metaphysical library in North America, almost 60,000 volumes, at The Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). I was able to study astrology there from a very young age – just reading, on my own. My mother also dabbled in astrology, and had my chart professionally done, when I was a young teenager. And there was so much information that resonated, that I knew I had to keep learning.
Charlotte: So, then, like many of your contemporaries, your first exposure was to Western Astrology.
Juliana: Yes. Then very early on, I discovered Sidereal Astrology through the works of Cyril Fagan, Donald Bradley, and Rupert Gleadow.
Charlotte: Oh yes! I loved those guys in my early days, too.
Juliana: Yeah. And even Edgar Cayce, though he didn’t call it the Sidereal Zodiac –said that the zodiac that was being used by many Western astrologers was off by about 25 degrees. He channeled that. I remember having long conversations with my parents about the two zodiacs and the issue of precession of the equinoxes; and I just grew up feeling that the Tropical Zodiac was a big mistake, based on the work of these amazing, early Siderealists.
Charlotte: Well – that really cracks me up – in a good way.
Juliana: (laughter) I’ve always resonated with the Sidereal Zodiac, and tried to make corrections for it, in my work with astrology, since the beginning. And then, my interest in astrology kind of ran parallel to my interest in all kinds of metaphysical subjects. I’ve been a searcher since I was very young - I was a star-watcher from the time I was little. I would go outside in the middle of the night, and lie on the ground, and look up at the sky, and try to fathom how the universe could go on forever.
Charlotte: So – what is it in your chart that would prompt you to do something like that?
Juliana: Probably most important is that I have the Sun and Moon in a Dharma-karma Adhipati Yoga in Aquarius, in Shatabishak, which is sometimes called “The Star Watcher”, “The Healer”, but it’s also “The Seeker of Secrets.” My Sun is conjunct Fomalhaut, the Star of Alchemy, the Royal Star of the South, which represents the quest for wisdom and immortality. I think that that’s it – because the Sun and Moon are the most important parts of the chart – they have to reflect the interest. My natal chart also has Mercury stationary in Shravana, the nakshatra that many astrologers associate with Saraswati, Goddess of Learning, and I began earnestly studying Jyotish at the beginning of Mercury mahadasa. I also have a yoga that’s spoken of more in Jaimini Astrology, called the Parampara yoga. Parampara just means “lineage” – it means that I have the ability to receive knowledge through a Guru-Shishya lineage, the Guru/disciple lineage, as in Jyotish. The way I have it in my chart, is that Jupiter conjoins Ketu, in the 8th house of astrology. And Jupiter is Vargottama and in Gemini, which reveals my diverse interests. Jupiter also conjoins the Atmakaraka in the Navamsa in Mercury's sign. So – I was running my Jupiter mahadasa when I really started to find my first spiritual lineage. I found my way to Paramhansa Yogananda and his Kriya Yoga lineage when I was 14.The way this happened is that my parents had signed our whole family up for a Silva Mind Control (Method). The instructor handed me a copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” – I think I was in the 8th grade. I just read it, and I said to myself, “Well, now I know my path.” My first introduction to Vedic Astrology was through Sri Yukteswar in this book.
Charlotte: That’s an impressive heritage, Juliana. I think you started with very high level teachers.
Juliana: Well – I think we all have that potential, to tap in, and receive guidance from the inner planes. I do believe that when we do our spiritual work, that we can open up other channels. With astrology – I read and dabbled for years, here and there. And then, in the 1980’s, I discovered Alan Leo.
Juliana: Yes. He profoundly influenced me. He went to India, and had important things to say about Indian Astrology. He was a Theosophist, which is rooted in the wisdom of India, as well. So – I was always studying, every day, alone or with various teachers. But I could never break through to become a professional astrologer – for various reasons, and I was doing so many other things. But also, Western Astrology was so unfathomable for me. I would dive in, but I couldn’t find a place to think, or to root, myself. Because it was too broad and diverse; and also, I don’t see it as a concise or comprehensive system, like Vedic Astrology. So, I finally had a reading, in the mid-1990’s with James Braha. And he asked me, point blank: “Why aren’t you a professional astrologer?” I told him that I could only go so far, and then I just throw up my hands – and I can’t find my way. He told me that he could never have become a professional astrologer if he hadn’t found Jyotish. I started seriously studying it after that reading, and I soon found many incredible teachers in ACVA who guided my journey.
Charlotte: You’ve certainly forged a firm foundation for yourself, Juliana. What is your practice like now? I know that you teach for ACVA online, and that you give natal readings and elect Muhurtas for clients. What else gives you joy?
Juliana: I do a lot of Muhurtas, and I enjoy that, because it’s actually very empowering to clients to help them exercise their free will through elective astrology. And I use Natal Astrology as a tool. One of my earliest Western Astrology mentors, that I read, was Sybil Leek, the English astrologer. She said that we all have magic in us. The secret is to learn how to use that magic. I might choose another word for “magic,” which would be “spiritual power.” And just as Sybil Leek said that astrology is a vital tool for just that purpose, I also use it as a tool to help people find their swadharma.
Charlotte: Which is such an important issue for people during these chaotic, uncertain times.
Juliana: Which reminds me – why I’m a healer – that’s my main path in life. I studied polarity therapy in the late ‘80’s – I’m a registered polarity therapist; I’m a nurse, I work in mental health; and, I’m a Rebirther. And so, my work as a healer relies on astrology as one tool to help me understand where a client’s imbalances may lie, and how I can help bring resolution to those imbalances, and help them create more wholeness.
Charlotte: Do you prescribe remedies?
Juliana: I love working with clients with remedies. However, I don’t rely only on traditional Vedic remedies. I’m very eclectic in my approach and often use modern remedies. I enjoy my astrology practice with clients – but, my greatest love is teaching. I tutor private students, I work as an instructor for ACVA’s online program, and I’ve also just become affiliated with the International Academy of Astrology. I’m going to be teaching an introduction to Vedic Astrology for them, online.
Charlotte: That’s wonderful. I think that it’s so important - for Western astrologers to have a proper introduction to Jyotish. Thank Heavens for good teachers! What’s your next online presentation?
Juliana: It’s on the Bhava chart – I think it’s one of the most confusing elements of Vedic Astrology, which is why I want to teach about it – to dissipate some of the confusion around it. I have passion for finding the secret in a technique, and then illuminating that, to make it accessible to everybody. The Bhava chart can really be used to fine-tune analysis – when the Rasi chart doesn’t explain what’s happening in the life, you can often go to the Bhava chart to find that.
Charlotte: I’m looking forward to learning about the Bhava chart from you. I know what a great teacher you are – I just loved the way you taught a module to our class online. Any special advice that you would like to give to our readers and students?
Juliana: Yes. Approach Jyotish as sadhana, and have reverence for its deep traditions. I also feel – and this is something I noticed that Bill Levacy said in his wonderful interview with you – that we also need to do our inner work – to become a pure vessel for the Jyotirvidya. So – find your own sadhana; meditate, do your spiritual practice – whatever it is; and do seva in order to purify your own karma. Because if you can purify your own karma, you can become a better vessel for this sacred knowledge. And – also – always empower your clients when you give readings. If giving information about something that you perceive as difficult – choose words very carefully and wisely, and always give a remedy. Don’t be dogmatic about remedies - use modern ones as well as traditional ones. But most important, in my opinion, is to tailor remedies according to each individual’s personal tastes, desires, and predilections. This can only come from an interactive dialogue with the client. Rather than imposing our own beliefs and theories onto somebody, find out what works for them.
Charlotte: That’s sensible advice.
Juliana: The other thing I would say is that, the Science of Light is a living body of knowledge that we can access in present time. And our spiritual practice is the key to accessing that within ourselves – tapping into that Universal Creative Intelligence that transcends time and space. This is where we can get the wisdom of the Jyotirvidya coming through us. I do a lot of work on readings in advance – I have to – that is what works for me. So, I pray, meditate, and worship on my clients’ charts for days in advance. For me, I have to imbibe and grok the chart in this way, in order to give the very best that I can give. I also use glyphs, the archetypal symbols for the grahas and rashis, in the Rasi – they speak to me through the subconscious. I hold the horoscope, which is like a yantra or mandala, and it comes alive. I ask Lord Ganesh, and Saraswati-ma to tell me what I need to know, to share with that particular person, for his or her highest good, at that time. That’s how I work.
Charlotte: That’s beautiful! People are going to hold themselves to a higher standard after reading this!
Juliana Swanson is a professional astrologer and holistic health practitioner located in both Hawaii and Western Massachusetts. In addition to offering private sessions and consultations, Juliana is especially passionate about tutoring private students in astrology and teaching for the ACVA online program. She writes a blog on her website at www.astralharmony.com.
Juliana’s consultation contact information:
web site: http://www.astralharmony.com
Charlotte Benson (Jyoti Devi)
Diplomate: AFA, NCGR, ISAR
Executive Director, American College of Vedic Astrology, Inc.
President, Arizona Society of Astrologers, Inc.
Phoenix, AZ USA.