Reflections on the United Astrology Conference – UAC 2008
The conference was held right in the heart of Denver, on the 16th street mall at what used to be the Adam’s Mark Hotel. The location was great because it was right in the middle of the city, and there were plenty of great restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc., right within walking distance of the hotel. This was sort of a departure from previous conferences, like the one that ISAR held in 2005, which was at a great hotel, but it was in the middle of nowhere, so all of the attendees were pretty much confined to the hotel for the duration of the conference if they didn’t have a car.
A local restaurant called the Mercury Cafe, owned by a local astrologer named Marilyn, turned out to be one of the dining hot spots during the conference. A local group that I started earlier this year called the Denver Astrology Group actually meets there each month, so if you are ever in Denver you should stop by and attend one of our meetings. The Starbucks across the street from the hotel got plenty of traffic in between lectures as well, to the point that it seemed like they had to double their staff during the course of the week.
The conference opened up officially on May 15th at 8:45 PM with a pretty spectacular opening ceremony involving glow stick wielding dancers and a high budget cgi enhanced video introducing all of the speakers.
With the ruler of the ascendant in the 2nd house of the electional chart that was chosen for the start of the conference it was clear that the purpose of UAC was to rake in cash for the sponsoring organizations, and things seem to have gone rather well in general, so they must have done something right with the electional chart. Take a look at it. Sag rising with Jupiter in Capricorn, with an applying trine to Jupiter from Venus, and the Moon’s next aspect being a trine with Mercury from the 11th to the 7th. There were better elections earlier in the month of May from an astrological perspective, but this one seems to have worked out pretty well.
The Presidential Election
There was a bit of media coverage of the conference off and on throughout the course of the week since it was such a large event with something like 1,500 astrologers in attendance, although most of the coverage seemed to be focused on trying to extract predictions from various astrologers about the upcoming presidential election. At one point during the opening ceremony an Indian astrologer from Texas named Joni Patry got up on stage and made a much anticipated announcement that she had been able to obtain Barack Obama’s birth time from his campaign somehow. The 7:11 pm birth time that she announced with Aquarius rising was radically different from the previously established 1:06 pm birth time with Scorpio rising, apparently obtained by the late Frances McEvoy, that everyone has been using for the past couple of years now. Here is a clip of Joni Patry announcing Obama’s birth time:
If the birth time is correct then it basically means that anyone that issued predictions prior to this announcement without rectifying the chart and coming up with Aquarius rising was basically working with faulty data, and thus their predictions may be subject to revision. This was precisely the reason why I was telling astrologers to proceed with caution with respect to predictions about the election a few months ago in my article on birth data issues in the 2008 election. I’ve been hearing reports for a while now that a number of Indian astrologers were saying that it had to be an evening chart, and I have to give props to my friend Dr. H over at Regulus Astrology who published a book on rectification last year in which he rectified Obama’s chart and argued for Aquarius as the correct rising sign.
It is interesting to note that a couple of months after UAC Barack Obama’s birth certificate was released to the public, and while the time on the birth certificate still gives him Aquarius rising, it is actually several minutes later than than the birth time given by Patry at UAC. The birth certificate actually says 7:24 PM. So, either her sources were a bit off, or the birth certificate that was released to the public is.
Early during the week of the conference I started getting reports that some of the major news networks were running stories saying that the astrologers were predicting that McCain would win the election, and apparently what happened is that after revealing Obama’s birth time during the opening ceremony Joni Patry gave a lecture early in the week in which she predicted McCain as the winner. Of course, the presidential panel itself wasn’t until the very last day of the conference, and apparently the panelists unanimously predicted that Obama would win, and then this story subsequently got picked up by the associated press.
The Core of the Conference
The conference got started in earnest on the 16th, with 15 tracks for different types and traditions of astrology running concurrently. Despite the hundreds of lectures being presented that week I could probably count the number that
I actually ended up attending on one hand. The day before the conference started I got a call that Robert Schmidt wasn’t going to be able to make it to the conference, and so I ended up covering his position as a core presenter on the history/traditional astrology track. So, I spent much of the first couple of days of the conference across the street from the hotel at a Starbucks preparing for both of my lectures. In the end it paid off, and I had a packed room for both lectures, and apparently got outstanding reviews on the feedback sheets that were turned in at the end of the conference. After two years of being really frustrated because I was turned down for any sort of speaking position at UAC due to my age, it was a rather dramatic and gratifying turn of events to suddenly become one of the core presenters at the conference.
The conference itself was definitely a huge milestone for the Association for Young Astrologers (AYA). We rented out three rooms for AYA people to sleep in, thus allowing people to pay a significantly reduced hotel room fee for the conference, and it went really well. We had about 18 people in between the three rooms throughout the course of the week, and it turned out to be a very tight knit group. We bought a bunch of air mattresses for people who were sleeping on the floor, and we also spent about $200 on groceries on the first day so that people would have something to eat if they couldn’t go out all the time. We also had a booth at the conference and we gained a lot of new members, sold a bunch of T shirts, and gave out hundreds of AYA buttons for promotional purposes.
On the fourth night of the conference AYA hosted the movie premiere of Kelly Lee Phipps’ documentary Return of the Magi, and we also threw a pre-movie party in the NCGR suite since our suite was littered with air mattresses and such.
The pre-movie party went really well and we had a great turnout, but unfortunately the movie premiere pretty much bombed. The movie got started kind of late due to the high volume of last minute ticket sales as well as some technical problems, but eventually Kirk Kahn, Meredith Garstin and I got up on stage, talked a little bit about AYA and thanked the UAC organizers for letting us host the event, and then we introduced Kelly.
The movie started out well, and the vibe in the room towards the beginning was definitely very positive, but gradually things sort of deteriorated. The general consensus was that all of the interviews were great aside from some minor lighting and sound issues, but there was an overwhelming sense that the movie was way too long, and the storyline needed to be removed from the movie entirely for numerous reasons. Ultimately AYA’s goal was simply to help support one of our own in what was certainly a very admirable and ambitious project, although in retrospect I felt like the movie would have benefited by some sort of outside input, and I couldn’t help feel my own personal sense of embarrassment when the movie premiere that we had sponsored did not live up to expectations. Unfortunately we didn’t have any hand in the filming of the movie or the editorial process, and we saw it for the first time that night when everyone else did.
During the Regulus Awards Rob Hand won the lifetime achievement award. Here is a clip:
I also participated in a really great panel on technology in the 21st century that was hosted by Rick Levine, and I was really surprised and pleased with the way that it worked out. The panel members did a really awesome job of exchanging and conveying their ideas to the audience, and the audience itself was really involved in the process in a way that made it really enjoyable and enlightening. At one point Richard Tarnas came out of the audience and joined the panel, and it was really great to see to see him and my friend Nick Dagan Best connect because I have thought for years that the two of them were working along parallel or complimentary lines of research. Rick Levine did an awesome job of moderating the technology panel, as well as the ‘From Ancient to Post Modern Astrology Panel’ because he has some sort of knack for not only playing the role of the mediator, but of finding a way to tie things together and keep the discussion interesting and lively.
In the end some really interesting stuff developed as a result of the conference for me personally. I got to meet and talk to a lot of astrologers that I had been wanting to interact with for a while – Geoffrey Cornelius, Deb Houlding, Kim Farnell, Claire Chandler, Alois Treindl & the astro.com team, David Frawley, Chakrapani Ullal, Richard Tarnas, Meira Epstein, tons of friends and students from online, etc. Kim Farnell and Claire Chandler invited me to speak at the history of astrology conference in London in October, and I finalized some arrangements for a Hellenistic astrology retreat that I’m doing with the Austin NCGR chapter early next year. I spoke with the executive director of the AFA about publishing my book on Hellenistic astrology with them at some point in the near future. Alois Treindl from astro.com attended both of my lectures, and after the first one he told me that I had convinced them to finally incorporate whole sign houses into astro.com as one of the house division options, which I’ve been wanting them to do for years. Just having the guys from astro.com attend both of my lectures was a huge honor for me personally, because without their website I never would have gotten as far with my studies as I did in such a relatively brief span of time. I’m actually such a nerd that meeting them was my equivalent of meeting some of my favorite rocks stars or something. Later on in the conference Nick Campion gave me a copy of his new book The Dawn of Astrology, and I was really pleased to see my name in the acknowledgments section due to some feedback I gave him last year on the chapter dealing with the Hellenistic tradition. I hope to have a review of it up soon. Plus I met a lot of new friends, and caught up with a bunch of old ones.
I could go on and on here, but suffice it to say that overall the conference was a great experience on many difference levels. I think that everyone who attended, from the seasoned conference junkies to the conference newbies, felt this overwhelming sense of belonging and community, like all of the different tribes had come together from around the world in order to share and acknowledge this thing that we are all so passionate about. It is this sort of indescribable feeling that is really addicting, and when the conference ends it leaves you with this weird sense of longing to experience it again. I guess that is why many of us already have our sights set on a number of other conferences coming up in the near future, such as the Blast in September. To get our next fix.
I hope to see you there.
Pictures from the conference:
- Pictures from the Astrodienst team at www.astro.com
- UAC pictures from Sarah Litwin
- UAC pics from Janie Brynolf