SOTA  (State of the Art) 2015 Conference. Buffalo, NY . October  22 - 25, 2015.

playing gitarsA conference is a conference is a conference right? So thought I before my arrival at Donna van Toen’s SOTA conference.  As a long-in-tooth NCGR professional I attend conferences as often as I am able to afford them and have loved every one.  Yet perhaps because of the tracks associated with the various levels of instruction, all of which are necessary , one did not have the opportunity to experience anything outside the box . In this regard, SOTA  blew the top off of my head from day one!

It is two days’ drive from Halifax NS to Buffalo, so my level III student Emma Boardman and I decided to arrive early , on Thursday . The first preconference speaker was Gary Caton with independent research on the dance of Mars and  Venus. Did you know they have a 300 year pattern together?  I sure didn’t! How cool is it that he is able to demonstrate how various phases of the cycle correspond to different epochs of human experience! Who knew an inner planet could describe  a generational trend!   So how did Gary get here from ‘standard’ Astrology?  He looked at the sky! Like me he is a back yard astronomer and has let this inform his Astrology—to everyone’s benefit.

The other lecture that really stood out for me was that of  Adam Gainsburg, who lectured on his idea that a conjunction of, say , the Sun and Venus with  Venus in front of the Sun must qualitatively differfrom the conjunction when Venus is be-hind the Sun from the Earth’s perspective.How did he come up with this thesis? Helooked at the sky...I’m seeing a trend herefolks! He has a cohesive system of ssment of the planets using astronomicaldata such as rising and setting times,brightness and such, to offer a delineation.I have been in the game since 1978 andthis was the first exact delineation of my Venus. I would never even have heard of him, had it not been for Donna van Toen and SOTA.

This is not to say that you can’t glean wisdom from more ‘traditional’ lectures: I attended Eileen McCabe’s preconference on transits on the first day and Donna’s brilliant lecture on Uranus on the last and in both cases came away richer  in my understanding. As for fun in education, look no further than Franco Soulbury who delighted us with a detective-style horary lecture and also provided the shenanigans—um I mean entertainment—at the main banquet. I have not   space here to mention all the great speakers or to describe in detail the friendly and supportive atmosphere both during the day and in the hospitality suite offered by  AFAN and Astrology Toronto.

On a completely different tack, I was enriched by top drawer instruction in classical methodology , including a game-changing lecture on profections by Maria Mateus, a primer on Vedic predictive technique (dashas) by Ronnie Gale Dreyer , and a simple and clear set of examples on solar arcs by Janet Markham.

I know there were many great lectures I missed, for example, Michael Barwick's fresh perspective on fixed stars—my student Emma could not tell me   enough about it, so I squeezed out a few more pennies (US dollars are dear you know!) to purchase the recording. Many of us were swapping notes from the various lectures— there was such a rich selection!

On Friday evening we had a lovely banquet with keynote speaker Jacqueline Janes. She surprised us all by speaking to the increasing trend toward gender ‘flexibility’ in the world and how it might inform our practice.

Everyone with whom I spoke found the lectures engaging, the company delightful and the size not too big and not too small...we might have to call this the Goldilocks conference! Anyone interested in attending this gem from November 10-14, 2016, please contact Donna at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit her website at


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