PSM-5: Storytelling Techniques to Illustrate Readings

Prerequisite: This course is open to the general public. IAA Diploma Program students must have completed the courses in the Natal Studies Module, PSM 1 and PSM 2.

Are you just starting to offer readings to clients, or would you like to add another tool to your readings toolbox? Perhaps you’ve heard the term “therapeutic metaphor,” which is often associated with the work of the psychologist Milton Erickson. Storytelling is an art that could be 500,000 years old, if it began with the Neanderthals, or perhaps 80,000 – 100,000 years old if it began with H. sapiens. Mythology, folklore, and fairy tales, some of our oldest forms of storytelling, contain nuggets of psychological wisdom from the collective unconscious and probably number among the oldest forms of therapeutic metaphor. Those ancient tales share some structural features with the work of modern master storytellers such as Stephen King, Úrsula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, and your favorite novelists.

Learn how basic storytelling and fiction-writing techniques, combined with the archetypal symbols of astrology, can help you create powerful illustrations for aspects in natal charts and natal readings, and for “current events” aspects to the chart in dynamic events readings.

Suggested reading:

  • Bruno Bettelheim. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. 3rd printing. Knopf: New York, 1976.
  • Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves. Reissue. Ballantine: New York, 1996. (Almost anything she’s written is excellent and accessible, but Women Who Run with the Wolves is a good place to start.)
  • LeGuin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. Berkley: New York, 1982. (Steering the Craft is also excellent, but start with The Language of the Night.)
  • Marie-Louise Von Franz and Kendra Crossen. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Revised edition. Shambhala: Boulder, 1996.

Classes are held weekly.

Class Meeting 1:The Value of Stories

  • What works of fiction have affected you so powerfully that they’ve changed you, or what works have you learned something from that has stayed with you to this day? 
  • Why illustrate natal and dynamic events readings with stories? * Therapeutic metaphors. 
  • Anatomy of a story. Anatomy of a story adapted for illustrating readings. 
  • Why the main character needs to grow or change. 
  • The importance of presenting the alternative: what could happen if the main character does NOT grow or change. 
  • Three types of stories. Kurt Vonnegut’s  definition of a story. 
  • Let’s have fun finding some basic story structures in popular or classic literature, films or television.

Class Meeting 2:The Elements of a Story

  • Brief fiction-writing exercise done in class. They won’t be collected or graded, but students will be asked to read them out loud. (Don’t worry about this: it’s just practice, and it can be a lot of fun.) 
  • The elements of a story. *
    Three long handouts to download for your use in and out of class: the archetypal fields of the signs, planets and houses.
  • Possible story settings that are adaptable to different charts, chart themes, or aspects. 
  • Using aspects to help you invent either conflicts or assistance from other characters. 
  • In-class examples and practice.

Class Meeting 3: Practice, practice, practice!

  • Chart handout: a famous person whose identity isn’t given.
  • In-class discussion: What planets, signs and houses might be usable in what types of story?
  • If you’re stuck.
  • In class, analyze and amplify one of the handout chart’s natal hard aspects.
  • More practice with aspects in this chart.
  • Homework for next class (graded) – Submit the homework by the Sunday night before class. Write your own story for a different hard natal aspect in that chart, one we didn’t cover in class. Your stories don’t have to be Litt-ra-chure (literature)! Imagine you’re writing something simple, like a children’s story, or telling a friend about a movie. I want to see character, plot / wants / conflict, and setting, all derived from that hard natal aspect, and also how the character could feel if he/she doesn’t learn anything. Tell me how the details of your story relate to the details of the planet, sign, house or aspect.
  • Extra credit: Optional, add a supportive character, shown by a flowing aspect to one or more planets in the hard natal aspect.

Class Meeting 4:More About Stories

  • Why the Moon’s nodal structure lends itself so well to storytelling.
  • Please download the “Mad Libs” story template I’ve adapted for building a nodal story.  In-class practice with south node “characters.” 
  • Homework, Class 4, graded: Turn it in by midnight on the Sunday night before our next class. 
  • Download the as-yet unidentified famous person’s chart that you’ll see when you click on the Class 4 homework link in blue, on our course page in Moodle. 
  • Describe the energies around the person’s SN by sign, by any conjunctions to the SN, by the SN’s house, and by its planetary ruler (sign and house and any conjunctions to the ruler). 
  • This is a character description, there is no plot. Tell me who the SN “character” is, what it wants, its attitudes and assumptions about the world, where it lives, what it spends a lot of time doing, etc. Remember that, while the SN’s ruler’s condition is added to nodal stories for extra detail about the SN “character,” the main influence is the SN itself. This is a character description, there is no plot. Tell me who the SN “character” is, what it wants, its attitudes and assumptions about the world, where it lives, what it spends a lot of time doing, etc. Remember that, while the SN’s ruler’s condition is added to nodal stories for extra detail about the SN “character,” the main influence is the SN itself. 

Class Meeting 5: More About Stories, II.

  • Major download week: Please go to our Moodle course page, scroll down for the Class 5 block, and download all the handouts you see there. 
  • Guidelines for stories with moving aspects
  • Extra guidelines for stories involving solar arcs
  • Example story about a downloaded chart
  •  In-class practice with famous people’s charts you’ve downloaded
  • HW, class 5, graded, due the Sunday night before our next class

Invent a story for the secondary progressed Mars moving into the 6th house, in the chart of the famous man we looked at in class 5. I’ve also uploaded it here as a biwheel with the inner wheel as the natal chart, and the outer wheel as the secondary progressions.

Include how the man might feel if he works well with it, versus how he might feel if he tries to ignore it or otherwise works less than well with it. 

I’m not looking for high art! I want to see you using archetypal-field images for the symbols (planet, sign, house, and/or aspect) involved in the moving aspect, and also for the natal configuration that the moving aspect affects.

If you want to borrow from what you now know about the famous person, you may do so. In the astrological consulting office, sometimes you’ll have occasion to use something that the client has told you about herself when you invent a story for her reading. 

1. Consult your Guidelines for Moving Aspects, in this class block, and your archetypal field handouts for personification ideas.
2. A secondary progressed planet is the evolving, growing, function symbolized by that planet, and therefore what that planet needs to learn or do now in its journey.
3. A secondary progressed planet can be personified.
4. A planet moving into the next house is like a new teacher who’s come to help the person work with the affairs of the next house.
5. *How* a planet teaches depends on the “personality” (sign) of the planet. *Where* it teaches has changed when it moves into another house.

Class Meeting 6: Review for the final exam.

  • In-class review based on your questions
  • Additional Q and A
  • Description of the two-part final:
  • Final exam:

I. Part One will be visible after the end of class; please download it and begin work on it. No collaboration, and closed books, please. (Honor system.) It’s on the theories and didactic material in the course, and it will be multiple choice, matching and short answers. You’ll have one full week to complete it. 

II. Part Two:you’ll write two stories:

1.  one illustrating a natal hard aspect of your choice, using what you learned in the course, 

2. and one illustrating a dynamic aspect of your choice, using what you learned in the course. You’ll have one full week to complete and turn in Part Two. Please note the parameters in A and B below before you start on Part Two! Thank you.

A. If you’re using the transits biwheel, don’t use the luminaries or the inner planets for the dynamic aspect you’ll analyze. 

B. Also, the dynamic aspect should not involve the natal configuration that you analyzed for this final.) 

April 2024
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