Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans in late August of 2005, bringing massive flooding and devastation in its wake. Almost nine years later, the skeletal structures of hundreds of condemned buildings still haunt the urban landscape like dead bodies that have rotted where they lay and never been properly put to rest. But there are other, more personal and private, ghosts of Katrina that still linger here, as well. They seek healing and resolution on the inner planes of psycho-spiritual experience, through various means, including, it turns out, Astrological Mediumship: the practice of using death charts to decipher messages from beyond the veil.
Denise Baudier’s experience of Hurricane Katrina is typical of so many Katrina survivors whose lives were forever altered by that cataclysmic event and who are haunted, to one extent or another, to this very day. Her home was flooded to the roof within two hours after the levee protecting her neighborhood failed. Before telling her story, however, some backstory and astrological context is in order.
New Orleans became an American city on December 20, 1803 (85 years after it was first incorporated by the Spanish). It’s birth chart for that day in 1803 shows four planets in the latter degrees of Sagittarius (the constellation associated with ancient wisdom, spiritual teachings and principles) conjunct the Galactic Center (the Great Galactic Mother): Mars (spiritual warriorship and will); Sun (spiritual identity and illumination); Mercury (spiritual messenger and discernment); and Chiron (the Wounded Healer). All four planets are squaring Saturn (karma), but the square between Saturn and Chiron is exact.
What this suggests, in a nutshell, is that New Orleans is an “Old Soul City,” which may have a special, karmic role to play in highlighting issues related to the Wounded Healer archetype, bringing the Divine Feminine forward and facilitating an evolutionary leap for the human species during this time of the Earth’s alignment with the Center of our Galaxy (an auspicious event which happens only once every 26,000 years for a period of approximately 35 years (in this case, from approximately 1985 – 2020).
In his recent book, Bienville’s Dilemma, Tulane University professor Richard Campanella characterizes the role of post-Katrina New Orleans on the world stage as “the ultimate warning, test case, metaphor, prophetic voice and inspiration” for the times in which we live. This describes the parameters of the Wounded Healer archetype to a T. Think of the Tower card in the major arcana of the Tarot. Lightning strikes the tower from all sides and on all levels simultaneously. Old, outdated structures, both inner and outer, are left in ruin. An opportunity for something entirely new and inspired is inherent in the destruction.
Denise’s story is a case in point. She, her partner and autistic stepson had evacuated, with the clothes on their backs and very little else, to her partner’s parents’ home in Mississippi on Saturday, August 27. Meanwhile, most of her extended family had decided to stay in New Orleans and “ride it out,” despite Denise’s begging and pleading, followed by even more desperate “cursing and crying.”
Cell phone communication was completely cut off due to Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita in mid-September, so for almost a month Denise had no way of knowing whether her parents, her siblings, including a brother with Down’s syndrome, and their families were dead or alive. Finally, a text came through. All had managed to get out of the city at the last minute, except her middle brother, who successfully rode out the storm, and a second stepson, who had been in an evacuation camp for a time and was now staying with a local family.
Denise and her partner returned to New Orleans in early October so that Denise could resume her responsibilities as a teacher of developmentally challenged, middle-school students on October 3. They had been required to get shots, which included several vaccinations, in order to be allowed back into the city, since it was now completely disease ridden. Denise had an allergic reaction to the vaccinations. Her throat closed up and she was rushed to the emergency room, where they gave her a second shot to counter the first one.
Denise arrived at school on her first day back wearing what was to become her post-Katrina uniform: a pair of jeans and a t-shirt she had salvaged out of a Red Cross care box. Given the school district’s very limited resources, she now had 23 students who were bussed in from all over the greater New Orleans area. The classroom proved to be her salvation, at least in part, because it gave her the opportunity to focus on the needs of others “who didn’t have anything either.” Numb and on automatic pilot a lot of the time, she somehow managed to help the children understand they were not alone and constantly reassured them that everything would be okay.
For a year, Denise and her partner, and later her autistic stepson, lived in an upstairs room of Denise’s sister’s house, which had partially flooded but was still minimally inhabitable while the downstairs was being renovated. In their spare time, she and her partner began the daunting process of digging through the soggy remains of what was once their home, looking for serial numbers to satisfy the insurance company, plus any family keepsakes that may have miraculously survived the floodwaters. With the insurance money, she was able to pay of all her bills and be debt free for the first time in her adult life, which she described as “a big relief” and “a breath of fresh air.”
In those early years after Katrina, during a very long, dark night of the soul period, Denise was immersed in a watery underworld of what often seemed like unrelenting death, destruction and loss. About a year after Katrina, she noticed that “everybody seemed to be dying.”
From a single page of death notices in the Times Picayune, suddenly there were three to four pages of death notices. Families had been split up during the evacuation process. Many had never been out of New Orleans. They ended up in different states, different places. There were no second line parades. The food was really different. The culture was really different. The people were not so friendly. There was no support system. People who found themselves way up north didn’t know what to do in cold weather. The social fabric that had previously held people together and to life, itself, was gone. The center wasn’t holding. People were dropping like flies.
On a personal note, though everyone in Denise’s family survived the initial Katrina event, she has since experienced the devastating loss of her “Momma” and her brother with Down’s syndrome. In addition, her partner’s father and stepfather have died, plus her stepsons’ grandparents. Also, her autistic stepson had to be institutionalized for an extended period of time and her dog passed away.
Another significant loss that Denise experienced in the aftermath of Katrina had to do with her profound disillusionment concerning what she had previously imagined as the almost God-like powers of the US government to keep its citizens safe, or at the very least, to respond adequately and in a timely manner in the face of natural and/or man-made disasters. She no longer trusts the government to care for its people, which has forced her to dig deep in search of the place where true security resides.
It was relatively easy for Denise to help others in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but very hard to ask for help for herself. Basically, she was in a state of paralysis brought on by complicated, unprocessed grief and emotional exhaustion. Her symptoms were many, and some of them quite bizarre, though entirely understandable given the circumstances. She wore the same pair of jeans and t-shirt for several years (in fact, until 2013, when a new principal required the teachers at her school to adhere to a dress code). Shopping for anything, even groceries and other necessities, brought on a flood of tears. The thought of going into debt again caused her to hyperventilate. When she did eventually buy another house, she refused for almost a year to furnish it with anything other than a couple of lawn chairs and some plastic dishes. When pressed by her well-meaning sister to “get her life back on track,” she would go to the store and take pictures of items she liked, but never purchase them. She found she could handle shopping at Thrift Stores for recycled items but would not allow herself to purchase anything new. To this day, she has only been shopping for new clothes three times in almost nine years. The bottom line, Denise now realizes, is that she didn’t want to feel like she needed anything, or anyone, because she feared the experience of loss.
I knew I was in survival mode. So many people have asked me why I was angry. What’s wrong? I didn’t think I was angry. I thought I was disconnected, trying to protect myself, keeping people at a distance.
The ultimate lesson Denise took away from her Katrina experience was this:
Nothing is more important than family. Other stuff you don’t need. Stuff isn’t important. None of it was worth digging through stinky mud and slime for. You don’t need any thing. You just need people around you who care about you. What are you doing with your love? Don’t let yourself get bogged down with a job you hate and people you can’t stand.
With all this in mind, a couple of weeks ago I decided to take a look at the birth chart for New Orleans, overlaid with Denise’s birth chart and the death chart related to Hurricane Katrina, calculated from the moment Katrina made landfall in New Orleans and the first of over 50 levees failed. I wanted to see what message the ghost of Katrina might have for Denise. The result was something I have almost come to expect when practicing Astrological Mediumship.
The death chart revealed a Finger of Fate, involving the Ascendant (moment of death) and Saturn (karma, soul responsibility), with the Sun (identity, illumination, higher Self) at the activation point, and Uranus (shocking, life-altering events, lightning flashes of intuition, the revolutionary impulse to find true freedom) at the focal point. The birth chart for New Orleans added Pluto (descent into the watery, emotional underworld, a dark night of the soul, followed by rebirth), into the mix, conjunct the Uranus focal point. Finally, Denise’s birth chart underscored the death and resurrection theme with her natal Pluto conjunct the Sun activation point in the Katrina Finger of Fate, exactly opposing the Pluto/Uranus focal point. In addition, her natal Venus (natural rhythms and cycles, personal love, the Divine Feminine, creativity) was conjunct the Ascendant (death moment).
The keynote message of the Pluto/Uranus focal point for the Finger of Fate, at between 6 and 8 degrees in the watery, mystical sign of Pisces (Christ consciousness, martyred savior, wounded healer), was this:
Being put to the ultimate test. Concentration of values amidst the chaos of life. The fullness of life as it manifests in service to the whole. The clear light of high realization.
The message from the ghost of Katrina was clear, as least to my mind. It seems the Katrina event was preordained and set in motion at the time of the founding of New Orleans as a US city. New Orleans is, indeed, one of those Ground Zero/Wounded Healer places on the planet in the evolutionary scheme of things and, furthermore, its natives are the canaries in the mines of broad evolutionary patterns that are occurring worldwide.
For Denise, in particular, with her Pluto conjunct the Finger of Fate Sun activation point and Venus conjunct the Ascendant/death moment, Katrina was the ultimate test, dragging her down into her own watery depths, even as the city, itself, was initially 80% underwater and later “bogged down” in bureaucratic inefficiency, indifference and corruption. The good news with Pluto, however, is that what goes down must eventually rise again to the surface. After a dark night of the soul, glorious rebirth and a fresh flowering of creativity are assured. And with Uranus conjunct Pluto at the focal point in Pisces, Denise’s rebirth most certainly entails a massive, evolutionary leap outside the box of consensus reality and into a place of true spiritual freedom and service.
Not surprisingly, given this particular, very steep and accelerated growth trajectory, Denise and two close friends recently opened the Metaphysical Resource Center in the New Orleans area. In her words:
We opened the center to help people in New Orleans heal from Katrina, to provide a sanctuary. People have survived but are not thriving since Katrina. We felt like people needed to heal and NOLA needed a healing place. Peace and quiet, a place to sit and read a book. Sit and breathe. Whatever you need to do. People need it. That’s why we’re a resource center. We can connect anybody with anybody. It’s not about making money. It’s about what really matters, community and connection.
Clearly, the ghost of Katrina has served its purpose in Denise’s life. Message delivered. Message received. Ideally, the haunting can now cease and Denise will be free to move on to an entirely new chapter of her life, one that is no longer “post-Katrina,” but simply “in the moment,” listening to her guidance and living the life she was meant to live all along. The universe has conspired to bring her to this place. It’s up to her now, as always, to take the next bold step, and the next one after that, into the great unknown.