Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 29, 2011

Your Interview Questions for Donna: Part 2

©7-29-11 by Donna Cunningham and Skywriter Readers

 This is the first post I’ve done with my new voice recognition software, Dragon’s NaturallySpeaking.  (I dictate, it types what I say.) I ordered it because, after 40 years of whacking away at the keyboard, I’ve developed painful arthritis in my hands. The potentials of this tool are exciting, but the learning curve is plenty frustrating. 

It’s rather like trying to train a high-spirited young colt– it’s bright and interested in connecting, but skittish. You never know how it will respond to what you say. I’m trying to teach it to speak astrologese, though it hasn’t a clue what words like quincunx and sesquiquadrate mean. It tries valiantly to cooperate, but the results are often humorous.

The funniest thing was how it rendered the word Uranus the first time—it wrote, your rawness. Come to think of it, that’s one of the ways you could describe Uranus. I laughed and laughed, as it scrambled to transcribe that sound: “the the the the the!”

At any rate, I promised that the first post I would do with the software was to return to the questions Skywriter’s readers posed to me earlier this month for the interview. I already wrote one that you can see here: 10 Quick Questions You Asked Donna.

The remaining questions can be divided in two parts—the first, answering more personal questions about my life is today’s post. The second, consisting of professional questions about being an astrologer, therapist, and a writer, will be coming soon.

MEL810: Donna, What originally convinced you of the validity of astrology? How did you come to it in the first place? Anita: What were the transits in your chart that sparked your love for astrology? What sparked your interest? Did it come by reading your daily horoscope or something else? 

A: I became interested in 1968, especially during that era when Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs was a best seller. I lived in New York City’s East Village just after I finished social work school. There was a store run by Henry Weingarten and Barbara Somerfield a couple of blocks away that sold astrology books and taught classes. I wandered in and became deeply involved in the studies in a matter of weeks. I wound up taking classes of one sort or another three nights a week. 

The major transits at that time were transiting Uranus and Pluto in Virgo crossing over my natal Neptune. As I continued deeper into studies of astrology and metaphysical subjects, the same theme was repeated by transiting Neptune opposing natal Uranus. 

Vonderful!  The first time you saw your chart, what were your initial thoughts and gut reactions?  

A: My earliest impressions of my chart were probably the same as any astrology lover would get looking at my chart–that stellium of four planets in Gemini in the 11th house is hard to miss. I didn’t know what it meant, but everybody that looked at it said that I MUST write because I was sure to be a success as a writer. If they hadn’t all insisted that I was gifted, I probably wouldn’t have tried because up to then I’d only written poetry, and lousy poetry at that. 

The next thing that stood out was Pluto conjunct my ascendant. In those days, there were no books about Pluto and nobody knew much of anything about it. (That was the late 1960s to early 1970s.) The only real help I had in understanding it was from my idol, Isabel Hickey. I made it my business to observe everything I could about Pluto, especially people who had Pluto strong in their chart. That’s how I became the Pluto maven and wrote my book Healing Pluto Problems. 

Vonderful!  What do you love about being a Cancer. What do you hate about being a Cancer? 

A: I have a tight square between my reclusive 12th house Cancer Sun and my adventuresome Aries Moon on the Midheaven. My Aries Moon doesn’t like my Cancer Sun very much, too whiny and timid, whereas my Cancer Sun is often overwhelmed and intimidated by with the rash actions and impetuous demands of my Aries Moon.  

I’ve worked for over 40 years to overcome the negative qualities of Cancer, such as being hypersensitive, hung up in the past, and all that angst about family. It seems like I’m perennially immature, and I really dislike that in myself. Not to mention being too attached to food. Just for today, I’m not in love with anything about being a Cancer. I am NOT motherly.   

Vonderful!  We obviously all love our chart as it is (most of the time!)- it being who we are. But, that said, hypothetically, what would you change about yours if you had the chance? 

A: I’d like a bit more Earth – – or at least a more useful sort of earth than my lonesome Neptune in Virgo. I have an astrology friend for 40 years who was born a week before I was and the same year. She has all the same conjunctions I do, only closer, but rather than in Gemini, her Venus is in Taurus. I envy that. On the other hand, she hasn’t written anything, and still considers herself a student of astrology after 40 years.  

Or maybe I could trade my Aries Moon in on a Taurus Moon—I’d love that! But then I’d stick with the tried and true, rather than forever breaking new ground in our field.  Nope, that wouldn’t work either.  So maybe it’s just as well I stick with my own chart! 

Chasmatazz : When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who are your heroes?

A:  My serial career choices were teacher, preacher, and shrink, all of which are reflected in my chart—and all of which, combined, is sort of what I do. See the whole story in: Research Question—What did You Want to Be when You Grew Up?

As for heroes, I’d say I most admire people who relieve suffering in major ways. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross for her work with the dying, and the Dalai Lama for his spiritual leadership. In astrology, Isabel Hickey for her spiritual perspective and common sense, Lois Rodden, for her dedicated collection of birth data and pioneering in standard setting, and Rob Hand for his brilliant mind.

Bonnie: How has astrology helped you in your own life? How has knowing what was is in your chart helped you through your worst moments?

A:  It’s true that I turn to astrology in desperation sometimes when I simply don’t understand what’s going on or what to do about it. That’s very helpful and often helps me decide I’m not going crazy after all. It’s also a reminder to avoid the worst expressions of a planet and shift into its higher expressions.

The most important role that astrology plays for me is to prevent me from making bad mistakes in the first place. For example, in my 20s, I wanted to lose weight and considered taking up smoking. Then I looked at my Gemini stellium and my Neptune in the 3rd all suggesting trouble with the lung, and decided that wasn’t very smart after all.

Looking ahead at transits also helps me anticipate situations that could be dicey or have the worst possible consequences. Let’s say Saturn will be going through my second house, suggesting that finances may be difficult for a year. I can begin tightening my belt and saving money now to ease the difficulty.

Eunice: Was there a time that astrology just didn’t seem to reflect what you, or someone close, were going through?

A: yes, I was teaching astrology as a volunteer at an alcohol treatment center. Uranus was in Scorpio in those days, and one of my students was a double Scorpio (Sun and Ascendant) and had several Scorpio planets in the first house.

Well, I thought I would impress him and the class by predicting all sorts of dramatic changes for him. We watched closely for year while Uranus crossed several of those placements, and not one single thing happened! 

Naturally, with all that Scorpio, you’d suspect he kept any dramatic happenings secret, but in the two years I was associated with that center, nothing at all came to light. Maybe he lied about his birth information?

Karen:  Have you used Astro*Carto*Graphy to pick where you live? 

A: I’m a certified Astro*Carto*Graphy practitioner and worked for Jim Lewis for several years doing written interpretations for his company. I would never move anywhere if my chart was bad there, nor at this point, would I travel somewhere to do lectures if the relocated chart was bad.  

My happiest and most successful lecture tours were to places where my map is good. For instance, in Brazil, my Venus-Uranus-Saturn conjunction in Gemini was on the Midheaven in all the major cities on my speaking tours. I was treated like a rock star, with television interviews, newspaper headlines, and standing ovations. For many years, I also traveled to a good location for my solar return if the birthday chart for where I was living was bad. I guess I would qualify as a believer! 

Karen: I know that books are like your babies, but which is Your favorite among the books you’ve written? Why? 

A: The two books that have done the most for my career are An Astrological Guide to Self Awareness and Healing Pluto Problems. They’ve had multiple foreign translations and stayed in print for more than 20 years each, but they’re not my favorites.  

The book I’m proudest of is Counseling Principles For Astrologers because it synthesizes my social work background and my astrological practice. I intend it as training for astrologers who are just starting out. And the one I have the most affection for is Astrological Analysis, a collection of essays that have appeared in The Mountain Astrologerand other magazines. I call it, “a nice little
book,” because it doesn’t have all that heavy duty Pluto/Neptune stuff. These books are available at

Chasmatazz: Is There Any Dream You Haven’t yet Accomplished? 

A: My heart’s dream would be to earn a decent living as a mystery novelist. It’s not going to happen, as my style is rather old-fashioned now. Today’s successful mystery books are all about diabolical serial killers who do terrible, torturous things and who are caught through forensic science. I wouldn’t enjoy writing that sort of novel, even if I could. 

Karen:  your proudest achievement? 

A: The greatest honor was winning the Regulus Award For Theory And Understanding at the 1998 United Astrology Conference. You Know That Song, “I Did It My Way?” I could almost hear it playing as I stood on stage holding that trophy, because so many people thought I was making a wrong career choice by becoming an astrologer. 

But perhaps my proudest moment in life happened after my first book, An Astrological Guide to Self Awareness was published. I arrived at a conference on esoteric astrology in New York City, and as I entered the lobby, I spied my idol, Isabel Hickey. I rushed up to her all a twitter, and gushed, “Oh, Mrs. Hickey, I’m Donna Cunningham, and I recommend your book to all my students!” 

She smiled and said, “I recommend YOUR book to all my students. Between us, we ‘ve managed to bring a bit of light into our world.”

Coming soon:  Your questions for Donna about being a professional astrologer. 

More of Donna’s Life Story:


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