Journal of Sidereal Astrology called “The Constellations”
– November 21, 2007

I have recently obtained a bundle of six of the first eight supposedly quarterly issues (two of them numbered as double-issues, so for example the eighth is in fact numbered as No. 09 & 10) of an obscure astrological journal from the 1970s called ‘The Constellations’. The first issue is dated August 1975; the eighth (i.e. ‘No. 09 & 10’) is dated ‘Summer-Fall 1977’.

Does anyone reading this know how long this journal ran for or what happened to its parent organisation, the ‘Registry of Sidereal Astrologers’? There doesn’t seem to be any documented history of either the organisation or the journal on the Internet. Donna Cunningham’s ‘Astrologer’s Memorial’ site contains a defunct link to a former web-page for the Registry of Sidereal Astrologers which to judge from the ‘Wayback Machine’ at archive.org has been a dead site hosting only an advertising home page since some time in 2001, which tallies with WHOIS records indicating that the domain, siderealzodiac.com, was registered by a major Internet corporation some time in 2001, the previous record of ownership having clearly expired at that point. Prior to this change of hands, the site appears to have been called the ‘Contreras Home Page’.

OCLC suggests that there are no member libraries having any holdings of this journal at all. I presume that it must survive in various American astrological libraries such as the AFA library and the Heart Center and the Kepler College library, however.

The editor of the first issues from 1975 was James A. Eshelman, well known to this day for his books ‘The New Instant Astrologer’ (co-authored with Tom Stanton) and ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’. Then at some point he was replaced in this role by a Gene Lockhart. Under both of them was the same pairing of two assistant editors, Karen Wilkerson and Joan G. Piszek. I cannot find any information about any of them (as astrologers) other than James Eshelman on the Internet currently.

The first issue features a list of over a hundred and fifty then-current members of the Registry of Sidereal Astrologers, including honorary memberships granted to some of the recently departed founders of the western siderealist movement such as Cyril Fagan and Brigadier Firebrace, as well as (somewhat to my surprise, since he had passed away in 1954 and is not especially famed for his contributions to sidereal astrology to the best of my awareness, but perhaps he supported it in his latter years?) Llewellyn George.

Articles and discussions were contributed by some of the most famous astrologers of the day, however, members and non-members of the Registry of Sidereal Astrologers alike. Writers included (to take the example of the double issue No. 9 / 10 I have in front of me) Carl Stahl and Robert Hurtz Granite, and in the first issue George Noonan. There is also for example an interesting though somewhat heated tropical vs sidereal debate between well-known medical astrologer Ingrid Naiman and an intelligent though staunchly siderealist regular contributor to the magazine called Peter Stapleton (who appears to have had the misfortune to become the victim of an absolutely vicious and horrific Internet hate campaign by the anti-astrology quackbusting fraternity doing the rounds of other, less well-kept astrological forums in recent years, to judge by archived posts) in the issue No. 9 / 10.

I personally find the history of the western siderealist movement and its literature to be fascinating to delve into, both on account of its technical ideas and on account of its somewhat arcane publishing history, as well as the creative personalities behind both, even though I do not personally agree with all of its precepts.

Anyhow, if anyone has more information upon what became of ‘The Constellations’ journal or the Registry of Sidereal Astrologers that oversaw it, I’d love to know the history.

It is apparent that James Eshelman went on to serve as technical consultant for another, later journal of sidereal astrology begun in the very late 1970s called ‘The Siderealist’, but whether or not ‘The Constellations’ continued concurrently with it is something I don’t know but would like to find out.

*****

Just to update, I’ve been informed outside the forum by someone who was active in the western siderealist circles in the US in the 1970s that the eighth actual issue of ‘The Constellations’ magazine, numbered 09/10, may in fact have been the last ever, and that the later journal ‘The Siderealist’ (edited by a Norman Bones) ran for only six issues in total (of which I have but three), starting in January 1979, and published sporadically, with the final issue in 1981.

This places both as much shorter-lived journals than Brigadier Firebrace’s ‘SPICA’, which I believe ran under Firebrace’s personal direction for thirteen straight years in quarterly issues that came out like clockwork with no gaps (someone please correct me if I’m mistaken in this presumption, since I have the majority but not all of the issues of this journal), from I think about October 1961 to Volume 14 No. 1 around October 1974, following which Firebrace died.

[SPICA, incidentally, was founded by Firebrace as a break-away journal from the Astrological Journal published by the Astrological Association of Great Britain. Initially Firebrace was centrally involved in the preparation of the A. A. journal, but he fell into a disagreement with the others on the journal’s team over his desire for the contents of the journal to be slanted heavily, if not exclusively, towards sidereal astrology. So it was that he went his own way and did his own thing outside the A. A. for the rest of his days….]

However, SPICA was then briefly continued under new American directorship for at least two more issues (Vol. 14 Nos. 2 and 3), and my informant dates the last of these to January 1976, indicating that publication must have been interrupted by nine months following Firebrace’s death, since otherwise No. 3 of Vol. 14 would have been published in April 1975 and No. 2 in January 1975.

My informant (who wishes to remain anonymous) also tells me that the American directors of these late issues of Spica were none other than Karen Wilkerson and Joan G. Piszek, and that they together with James Eshelman founded the Registry of Sidereal Astrologers. Thus, Wilkerson and Piszek would appear to have been working as editors of two separate journals of sidereal astrology at once in 1975-6, only one of which, ‘The Constellations’, was edited by Eshelman.

All in all, until someone steps forward with testimony to the effect that they ran for longer, the evidence available to me so far indicates that SPICA ran for 53 issues under Firebrace and a further 2 issues under Piszek and Wilkerson; ‘The Constellations’ ran for 8 issues in total, and ‘The Siderealist’ ran for just six issues in total. All the same, collectively these journals of the 1960s and 1970s must form a fairly substantial part of the overall corpus of published literature on western sidereal astrology.

As far as books on the subject are concerned, I have already mentioned James Eshelman’s books ‘The New Instant Astrologer’ (co-authored with Tom Stanton) (1976) and ‘Interpreting Solar Returns’ (1979; reprinted several times in the 1980s). He also previously authored a shorter introduction called ‘The Sidereal Handbook’ (1975).

Cyril Fagan is best known for having written ‘Zodiacs Old and New’ (1950; reprinted 1951, and more recently by Ascella and Ballantrae Reprint), ‘Astrological Origins’ (1971) and the posthumously published compilation of his magazine articles on sidereal astrology ‘The Solunars Handbook’ (1976).

Brigadier Firebrace is notable for his output of numbered booklets published by Firebrace under his ‘Moray Series’ imprint. I have not seen all of these or a full list, but those I’ve managed to collect so far are restricted to the first three: No. 1 ‘An Introduction to the Sidereal Zodiac’ (co-authored with Cyril Fagan; first published probably in the late 1950s, and reprinted 1961); No. 2 ‘Wars in the Sidereal’ (1959); No. 3 ‘New Directions in Astrology’. A No. 5 is also available on the used market, but this is a mere set of tables and I didn’t consider it worth my buying, but this leaves me wondering what No. 4 may have been; and I know a collector who tells me that there were eight booklets in the entire series; if this is true, there must be at least four that are extremly scarce! It seems apparent that the first three are by far the most common and best known.

It appears that at a later stage, at least a decade after Moray Series No. 1 was first published, a very much enlarged book was developed by Firebrace and Fagan based on it, but renamed ‘A Primer of Sidereal Astrology’. Strangely, the appelation ‘Moray Series No. 1’ was retained for this newly enlarged book even though it is several times as long as the original pamphlet. And miraculously, this rehash of the Moray Series No. 1, unlike almost all the rest of the literature on western sidereal astrology by all authors, seems to have survived in print into the new century in which we now find ourselves.

Carl Stahl most notably wrote a trilogy of books on western sidereal astrology, all three of which bear the common name ‘Beginner’s Manual of Sidereal Astrology’, but separate numbers and different contents. All three have fallen out of print, and all have become very scarce second-hand, though the first is more common. I only recently managed to obtain a copy of Volume Two, which is focused on natal interpretation, and have yet to see any sign of the third volume.

[It seems that Firebrace established a peculiar fashion with his ‘Moray Series’ for sidereal astrologers giving all their different books on sidereal astrology exactly the same name followed by only a number and optional subtitle to distinguish them, and then Stahl and others (see below) followed his example. We should perhaps count ourselves fortunate in being spared from yet further potential confusion by the fact that Eshelman and Fagan, who also both authored at least three books on sidereal astrology each, as detailed above, did not follow this pattern.]

There have of course also been various more isolated contributions by other western sidereal astrologers of high repute to the literary corpus on the subject: Donald Bradley wrote a well-respected work on interpreting solar and lunar returns according to the sidereal zodiac, among other books on astrology in general; Rupert Gleadow wrote a number of works on sidereal astrology from an historical perspective; and John Filbey also wrote a later work on solar and lunar returns from a sidereal methodological perspective that, if I recall correctly, was sourced in the earlier work of Bradley and Eshelman on the same subject.

But I think that overall the five authors who have contributed the most in terms of volume and content to the literature of western siderealism would have to be acknowledged as Firebrace, Fagan, Stahl, Marr and Eshelman, all of whom have authored and / or co-authored at least three important books each on the subject.

The fact that of these five astrologers’ collective tally of fifteen important books and booklets on sidereal astrology only two remain in print today might be viewed historically by some as a sign of a decline in interest among western astrologers as a whole in western siderealist thought and the failure of the movement. However, another, simpler interpretation would be along the lines that since Firebrace, Fagan, Stahl and Marr all passed away there have been few activists for the cause still living with their level of enterprise and energy. James Eshelman, who was a prodigious early-twenty-something when he wrote all his books on astrology in the 1970s and is only just over fifty to this day, is the sole survivor; and as far as I can gather his attentions have been turned to involvements in the broader occult fields, off the beaten track from astrology, since the early 1980s.

Intellectual movements tend to keep going for as long as their proponents are alive, free and dedicated to promoting them. When the leading proponents of any school of thought die, the school of thought in question tends to shrink from general view and acclaim until and unless others of similar abilities step into their shoes. If this does not happen, the school of thought may fade into oblivion.

As far as I can gather from Internet searches, western siderealism is still alive as an underground movement, but with so little literature left in print to support it, its adherents must be a lot smaller in number now than at its height thirty to forty years ago. This I feel to be a shame for western astrology as a whole, even though I’m not a siderealist myself and think that historically a lot of siderealists have completely missed the point when it comes to how and why, logically and rationally, the tropical zodiac might be directly relevant. It is surely healthy for students and astrologers to be exposed to different technical ways of thinking and to be able to try them out and compare results rather than accepting the modal practice of the day simply because they lack adequate access to detailed information on the intellectual and technical alternatives.

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3 Comments

  1. My Mom is Karen Wilkerson and my Aunt is Joan Piszek. I have the Master Chart of Karen’s Aspectarian and boxes of books like “The Constellations, ROSA, and more from Karen Wilkerson & Joan Piszek, Stapleton, Eshelman, Fagan, Stahl, Stanton and more. If you need to contact me, please feel free to email me.

  2. My Mom is Karen Wilkerson and my Aunt is Joan Piszek. I have the Master Chart of Karen’s Aspectarian and boxes of books like “The Constellations, ROSA, and more from Karen Wilkerson & Joan Piszek, Stapleton, Eshelman, Fagan, Stahl, Stanton and more. If you need to contact me, please feel free to email me.

  3. Hello, Steven! Thank you for your comments here. I sent you an email reply on September 10th and have also received another enquiry about your book collection from an associate in the sidereal astrology world since then. It would be really nice to hear back from you with more details. Philip (manager of Astrolearn and writer of the above jottings ten years ago)

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