I was honoured to be asked to review this groundbreaking multi-disciplinary book, Fertility Astrology by Nicola Smuts-Allsop. Nicola is a passionate advocate of astrology; in particular medieval astrology which she claims has the keys to understanding and having the potential to successfully solve the often vexed issue of infertility. Nicola draws on a wide range of knowledge involving both her own personal experience and years of research and practical application in delving deeply into the charts of infertile women and those of their partners. Having undergone fertility treatment herself and as a mother of two adult children, Nicola’s empathy and understanding for her clients’ pain and desperation in trying to conceive is powerfully evident.
The approach that Nicola adopts in her book is multi faceted. She acknowledges the influence of many prominent astrologers and authors both past and present, including Aristotle, Dorotheus of Sidon, Hermes Trismegistus, Omar of Tiberius, Bernadette Brady, Nicholas Campion, Reinhold Ebertin, Robert Hand, Robert Zoller, Eileen Naumann, Rita Charon, Jane Ridder-Patrick, Deborah Houlding and Liz Greene to name but a few. Her book is enriched by her sharing of myths, psychological insights and different counselling techniques. Nicola includes a glossary of both astrological and medical terminology. She advocates the approach of Dr Rita Charon, author of Narrative Medicine who pioneered a new branch of medicine focussed on the power of narratives in the practice of modern medicine rather than the orthodox medical model of taking notes and not being really present.
Nicola stresses the importance of the astrologer being present for the client, of showing empathy through listening, repeating what the client says and eye to eye contact, thus allowing the client to tell their story. One myth to which Nicola alludes as being an ‘originary fertility myth’ is the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna. I can really relate to the myth of Inanna as when I undertook a two year mythology series run by Craig San Roque from the C.G, Jung Society of Sydney in the 1980s, one of the first myths to which we were introduced was that of Inanna. Nicola explains that she interprets this myth on three levels. Firstly she sees it functioning as a template for therapists and healers that illuminates the nature of the human crisis and how the healing process occurs. Secondly as to how it relates to the astrologer’s interpretation of Venus in the chart and finally its relevance in the world of fertility.
To briefly recap the myth, Inanna descends into the underworld to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, who is mourning the death of her husband, Gugulanna (Bull of Heaven) and to attend the funeral rites. Fearing for her safety, Inanna appeals to her maidservant, Ninshibur, to send for help in the event she does not return. Once Inanna descends disrobing as she passes through each of the seven gates symbolising the surrender of her worldly wealth and regal power the scene is set for a confrontation between Inanna and her angry, grieving sister, Ereshikigal. Inanna represents everything that Ereshkigal doesn’t have. Ereshkigal who is seen as Inanna’s shadow is jealous of Inanna who lives in the light and who as queen of agriculture, wife and mother is a symbol of fecundity and fertility. Ereshkigal, on the other hand is a grieving widow who is barren and in constant pain. In a fit of rage Ereshkigal fixes Inanna with the stare of death and Inanna’s corpse is hung on a hook to rot.
When Inanna does not return Ninshibur seeks the help of Enki, the God of Waters, who sends two small creatures, Galatur and Kurgarra, into the underworld. By taking on the role of empathising with Ereshkigal’s pain these creatures help heal Ereshkigal who grants them the gift of Inanna’s corpse which they sprinkle with the food of life. By mirroring her pain back to her, Ereshkigal feels acknowledged. Nicola draws analogies between the interaction of Inanna and Ereshkigal and the healing process that takes place in the astrologer’s consulting room. Nicola sees her role as that of midwife emulating the function of the Kurgarra and Galatur, not aligned to either sex, impartial but compassionate, and yet on a mission to acknowledge the grief and to retrieve life in the situation.
In Chapters 3 – 6 Nicola expounds on her astrological and counselling techniques giving detailed case studies of both women trying to conceive and of couples in consultation. In Chapter 7, Methods in Review, Nicola not only outlines the techniques and theories she employs but also the important preliminaries which include assessing the client’s physical and psychological health as well as their general lifestyle. For instance she does a thorough check with the client on their gynaecological condition i.e. the state of their ovaries, dysfunctional eggs, faulty fallopian tubes and in the case of the male partner sperm dysfunction etc. She also checks to see if the client has had any issues to do with her endocrine system such as thyroid problems or diabetes. As far as psychological issues are concerned Nicola asks about the client’s own childhood, attitudes to child rearing, breastfeeding, sexual and relationship issues and even other secondary family relationships and their dynamics.
Teasing out these issues Nicola maintains are important preliminaries in bringing to light any blocks to falling pregnant.
In her checklist of astrological considerations she includes Almuten of Pregnancy, Triplicity Ruler of Ascendant and Luminary, Profected Year, Solar Arcs, Solar Return, Transits, Midpoints, Fixed Stars and Firdaria. She goes on to explain the importance of these astrological considerations. I found her use of the fixed stars in clients’ charts particularly illuminating. Nicola categorises the fixed stars in her consultations according to their different roles in predicting fertility outcomes.
She includes the ‘Midwife’ stars, the Fertile stars, General Supporting stars and Difficult or tricky stars. For instance in the category of Fertile stars she includes Sadalmelek, Sadalsuud, Sirius, Spica. Alkes, Acubens, Alphecca and Capella. She relates the myths associated with these fixed stars to demonstrate their link with fertility. She points to Sirius, the Dog Star, with its long association with Isis the Egyptian Goddess of fertility and mother of Horus. She cites the part of the myth where after the wicked Seth dismembers Osiris scattering the parts all over the world. Isis and her sister, Nephthys, find all parts of Osiris except for the phallus so Isis fashions a phallus to impregnate herself. Nicola states that this act of Isis can be seen through the lens of modern assisted fertility.
In Chapter 8 she outlines the signatures of fertility gleaned from her own personal experience and her extensive research and astrological counselling. As someone who was given her first book on Greek myths at age seven and who did a two year mythology series with the C.G. Jung Society, I can really relate to Nicola’s approach to her work and In particular Chapter 9, the final chapter, in which Nicola shares A Concluding Parable. To quote an excerpt from Nicola on the importance of myth in our lives: “As practising astrologers, we can recognise the myths that appear to be active in the client’s lived experience, and by retelling the story of the myth through the language of astrology, we guide the client to understanding. As I hope to have shown, astrology also functions through narrative healing and through language and the hermeneutics of symbolism. There are many meanings and many layers, yet only one opportunity to resonate with the client. In the emotionally-charged field of fertility astrology, we have an enormous responsibility: our clients not only look to us for practical guidance, but also rely on us to help them navigate the arduous but extraordinary journey towards their own healing.”
In conclusion, Nicola Smuts-Allsop’s most insightful and comprehensive book, Fertility Astrology, elevates the status of astrology by weaving so many different disciplines together into a coherent whole. Nicola’s book comprises much more than just her theories and techniques. The human element of the case studies she shares is nothing short of inspiring. Nicola’s book is an invaluable resource for all astrologers wishing to venture into this vital field of fertility astrology. For me Nicola’s book has taken me on a fascinating journey, in which I have learned so much on so many different levels about the complex and fascinating topic of fertility astrology.
Reviewed by Anne Robertson for the December 2018 Journal of the Federation of Australian Astrologers
Before Nicola Smuts-Allsop describes the advanced and detailed astrological techniques that she uses with her clients, she tells us the considerations that she employs to set the tone when beginning to work with a client, in the chapter entitled “Narrative Medicine and Fertility Myths.” The author is steeped in the importance of listening and being receptive to the client. “This receptivity is what shifts the encounter and, I suggest, moves it closer to becoming a situation of genuine healing.” Her intricate retelling of the story of Inanna as a fertility myth is fresh and evocative. This chapter might be seen as capturing the heart of her approach, and her point of view weaves through the client stories that follow.
Smuts-Allsop, the mother of two grown children, mentions her personal experience with infertility, which must inform her sensitive handling of infertility issues with clients. She has researched the astrology of infertility for 20 years and has had unusual access to fertility clinics, sometimes working directly with doctors. (In one startling example, she presents charts belonging to two different women who underwent IVF treatments on the same day and in the same location by the same doctor!) She writes knowledgeably and with considerable detail about specific medical issues that impact fertility, and she is conversant with the most sophisticated advances in modern medicine. Her astrological approach is strongly reliant on medieval techniques: She works with the Almuten of Pregnancy, based on a formula described by Omar of Tiberias in his Book of Nativities. She assesses the Triplicity ruler of the Ascendant for the phase of life and for the Almuten of Pregnancy. She also considers the heliacal rise star, the fixed stars, and their parans, in a process to help determine location, e.g., where conception and successful delivery will most likely take place. She looks at the parans to the Almuten of Pregnancy and those of Mercury. (A quick nod here to her creativity: “Mercury is the signifier for the doctor, the fallopian tubes, and the astrologer.”) Her techniques are varied; she sometimes also looks at the profected year, solar arc directions, solar returns, transits, midpoints, and firdaria. The author’s methods are revealed in three extensive case studies and three shorter studies. She then (helpfully) reviews the techniques and suggests common Signatures of Fertility, in a chapter that also discusses the Fourfold Hermeneutic of medieval thinkers. (If this is an unfamiliar concept to you, it is essentially a four-level framework for interpreting symbolism.) The chapter addresses the experience of practicing astrologers wherein “sometimes the symbolism is literal, sometimes it has a deeper resonance.”
Besides appreciating the author’s expertise with the complex issues surrounding fertility, I completely enjoyed her eclectic astrology. She integrates advanced medieval techniques with contemporary psychological insight (e.g., the physical and emotional issues that men deal with around fertility) and an undercurrent of myth, such as the recognition of the mythic heroic dimension in the lives of clients. There is a Glossary and Bibliography in this remarkable book that recounts Nicola Smuts-Allsop’s efforts, which have produced “results that are frequently positive where there has been no hope before.”
— reviewed by Mary Plumb The Mountain Astrologer Dec/Jan 2018
This very well written, very well researched book is well worth studying (this is not something that you just read) for the advanced student or astrology professional. Definitely not for beginners – they will be lost.
This book is not just about fertility astrology. It is as much about the medieval systems as it is about fertility. In spiritual matters the medieval thinkers and philosophers are definitely ahead of us moderns. Those were different times. Everyone was pious in those days. Life centered around the church, synagogue, temple or ashram. There was a greater focus on theology than there is today. And, it seems to me they went deeper.
In Astrology though, the medievalists area mixed bag. They have some wonderful insights that are well worth incorporating into our thinking and practice. On the other hand, they didn’t use Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (which were not known in those days). Any practicing astrologer will attest to the power of these planets. They tended to be very fatalistic. Your fate is your fate and there is nothing you can do about it. (Not all the medievalists thought this way as the author shows, but most of them did.) Some of their terminology is also a bit objectionable. The use of the terms “malefic” and “benefic” are misleading. They imply a judgement of “good” or “bad”. Since each of the planets embodies – incarnates – a spiritual principle – each is essentially good – essentially Divine – a bringer of good. But some bring good though a “tough love” approach (Saturn, for example) and others bring good in a more pleasing kind of way. But they are all good. Terms such as pleasant or unpleasant, or easy and challenging are probably better.
The concept of the Almuten – a medieval concept – is most interesting and she explains it very well. It seems philosophically correct to me. In any area of life there is one planet that exerts the most force in that area – one planet which basically controls it – this is the Almuten. I also like the distinctions they make between a day chart and a night chart. This too seems philosophically correct. The use of the fixed stars and parans also ring true (but how much influence they have requires more study). By following the Almuten by transit and progression the astrologer can get a good handle on how the events of that area will go.
Her discussion involves many case histories and the charts are supplied. The reader should cast the charts and follow the discussion.
Her take on the healing virtues of the Horoscope was also very interesting – and true. The Horoscope will show the “personal myths” of the native. Unlike a medical diagnosis, it will show the meaning of the events that the native is facing. This in itself is a healing. This I have personally experienced many times. When the native understands the reasons for their difficulty they immediately get better (at least on the mental and emotional level).
I didn’t cast all the charts in her case histories – only a few. If I had more time I would have cast all of them. (It would have been nice to know where the natives were on the birthday prior to conception so that we can look at the Solar Return). It seems to me that we can see these things by modern methods (and philosophically correct methods). Why is it necessary to use profections, solar arcs, fidurias – which are of questionable philosophical underpinnings – when these same things can be seen in philosophically correct ways?
I also question the logic of the Dorothean Triplicity rulerships. Saturn as the ruler of Sagittarius, a fire sign? Mars as the ruler of Capricorn an earth sign? Probably there is some good reason for this, but I didn’t get it.
Having said all this, this is a very worthwhile book. The serious reader can apply her techniques not only to fertility astrology, but to many other areas of Astrology too – finance, love, health etc. It belongs in the book case of every practising Astrologer.
Joe Polansky Diamond Fire Magazine
Fertility Astrology, by Nicola Smuts-Allsop, The Wessex Astrologer, www.wessexastrologer.com. 2018. Paper — 170 pp. — 15.99 British Sterling.
For some clients, fertility is an issue they’ll bring to you in consultation. What do you do with that issue? How much do we, as astologers, know about fertility anyway? Not a lot has been written about it in recent years, and some of the older books don’t quite hit the mark, it seems. Enter Nicola Smuts-Allsop. She has made fertility a specialty and has looked at literally hundreds of charts. Using a combination of traditional and modern techniques, she has come up with what she calls “A Modern Medieval Textbook” on the subject.
Smuts-Allsop displays her teaching in the form of case studies for the most part, but there are also chapters on “Methods in Review” and “Signatures of Fertility” so you won’t lose track of the information. And for a fairly slim book, the information here is copious. I would also consider this an advanced textbook. The techniques here extend far beyond planets, signs, houses, and transits. Expect to learn something whether you were planning to or not.
For me, the big learning was about the Almuten of Pregnancy. I am not a medieval astrologer, and my knowledge of what an almuten was turned out to be sketchy at best. Working with the Almuten of Pregnancy clarified both my understanding of Almutens in general and the things to be considered in terms of pregnancy
And if you don’t know what an almuten is there is a good glossary to put you in the right track. This also contains some medical terminology that you may need to be aware of if you’re going to study fertility issues.
A short bibliography rounds out the book covering everything from astrological topics to mythology to books that discuss things that can hinder infertility and assisted reproduction.
If you’re interested in this topic or have a lot of clients who are, I would recommend this volume highly. It is clear, concise, and highly readable.
— reviewed by Donna Van Toen November 2018
Book Review Horoscope Guide
by Ronnie Dreyer
Fertility Astrology: A Modern Medieval Textbook, by Nicola Smuts-Allsop, The Wessex Astrologer, PO Box 9307 Swanage BH19 9BF, England, wessexastrologer.com. Paper. 170 pages, $22.00.
Many years ago, when I began my study of astrology, my first teacher advised me never to forecast if and when a woman would be able to conceive a child. He felt that practicing any form of birth control, including abstinence, alters the natural cycles and rhythms upon which astrology is based. As I established my consulting practice, I always remembered those words of wisdom, and yet I had to find a way to address the issue of fertility cycles. After all, conceiving a child is a primary concern of many female clients who will either get pregnant naturally, adopt a child, or undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments to conceive.
These are some of the issues that Nicola Smuts-Allsop addresses in her well-written, well-researched, and innovative book Fertility Astrology: A Modern Medieval Textbook. It fills an obvious gap in the existing astrological literature by providing interpretive and predictive techniques as well as practical advice for determining the timing of fertility cycles. These apply to women who wish to become pregnant as well as those confronting infertility caused or compounded by physical problems (including endometriosis and Fallopian-tube blockages), psychological issues, or because they are older and cannot conceive naturally.
The author uses case studies “…that demonstrate by example how to read charts for fertility questions…And while the departure point for all the delineations is based in the medieval tradition of astrology, the modern techniques you are more familiar with can come to play a role as the delineation proceeds.” She feels that medieval astrology “provides a unique suite of tools not available to modern practitioners” as well as “a proper knowledge of timing,” and that by utilizing these techniques “fear and stress are reduced, and the chances of success increase dramatically.”
In the first chapter the author discourages using the fertility method propounded by the late Dr. Eugen Jonas, who asserted that you are most fertile on the day when the Sun-Moon angle replicates your natal one, and that the sign the Moon occupies at conception could determine the child’s sex. While she introduces astrological techniques that she has discovered to work, Smuts-Allsop also encourages doing your own research to discover astrological signatures and timing methods that determine fertility, and to develop your own personal approach with your clients. She encourages first listening to what the client is trying to say and not just sticking to the technicalities of the chart.
Smuts-Allsop makes it clear that there should be “some sort of disclaimer at the beginning of the session so that your clients are clear about the limits of astrology and your limitations as a practitioner.” Finally, she stresses to never prescribe medications, herbs, or treatments without first consulting a medical practitioner.
In the following chapters, she describes fascinating, in-depth case studies of clients ranging from a 42-year old woman who after unsuccessfully attempting to conceive was ready to adopt, but eventually became pregnant naturally. Another case involves two different women who underwent IVF treatment at the same clinic, while yet another is about a woman who failed to become pregnant even when the astrological factors seemed to be in her favor. Rather than initially reviewing each technique, the author prefers to teach through example and dives into the astrology chart, delineating planetary strengths and weaknesses using medieval techniques, which, though they may be unfamiliar, come alive to a modern audience due to the author’s ability as an astrologer and writer.
While I might have preferred reading an explanation of these terms prior to presenting the case studies, I completely understand her perspective that sometimes it is better to see these techniques in action and explain them as you go along. There will also be a sigh of relief for modern astrologers as the author describes several tried and true techniques including recognizing that Jupiter transits to the natal Ascendant, Sun, or Moon can often indicate the most reliable timing for conception.
After taking us through the lives of these clients, the author concludes with two chapters. The first of these, “Methods in Review,” explains many of the techniques and the methodology used in the previous case studies. Some will be familiar, including solar arcs, solar returns, transits, midpoints, and fixed stars. While other medieval techniques like almuten, hyleg, triplicity rulers, firdaria, and profections may be new to many readers, when understood and utilized they will add useful tools to every astrological toolbox. In the last chapter, “Signatures of Fertility,” she discusses the Moon in the signs (each of which is classified as fertile or barren), its aspects to the outer planets, and finally the sign position of Mercury, which the author uses to represent the Fallopian tubes.
In writing Fertility Astrology, and showing us through actual case studies how she works with clients, Nicola Smuts-Allsop has given us an intelligent, sensitive, and compassionate introduction to this sometimes difficult area of astrology. Anyone interested in learning more about this topic as well as astrologers who want to perfect their insights and skills, should purchase a copy of this book.