A Present-Day Lunar Goddess
Wendy Stacey in conversation with Rose Elliot, astrologer, consultant, computer reports pioneer and author and the UK's biggest selling vegetarian cookbook writer.
First published in the AA Journal May 2010. Rose Elliott's natal chart is at the end of the article.
I was privileged to first meet Rose at a conference in 2009 when I attended her lecture and was astonished to hear that her vegetarian cooking days started when she was cooking for the Astrological Lodge that her grandmother founded - The White Eagle Lodge!
WS: It is interesting that you come from a large family of astrologers, and that you grandmother founded the White Eagle Lodge. Astrology must have been a bit part of your life from a very early age?
RE: Yes, astrology was just part of my life as I was growing up because my mother was quite a well known astrologer called Joan Hodgson. She wrote the astrology courses for the White Eagle Lodge, in fact, I helped her with one of them. My grandmother was called Grace Cooke, and she was a very well known medium who helped a lot of people between the two wars, particularly those who had lost relatives. As a medium she channelled messages from their loved ones from the 'other side'. She also had a spirit guide called White Eagle and he channelled to her his philosophy of life, which is the teaching that the White Eagle Lodge is based on. It's like a mixture in a way between Christianity and Buddhism. There are a lot of the Eastern religions in there and reincarnation is a very important part of the teaching and karma, which is straight from Buddhism really. Anyway, when I was born, they were starting a country centre in Newlands in Hampshire. They'd very bravely bought a big house and they were struggling to pay the mortgage and do it up and everything. They were holding retreats down there for people who wanted to know more about spiritual matters, particularly meditation.
WS: What year would have that been?
RE: That would have been in 1945, the same year I was born. Newlands [the retreat centre in Hampshire] was opened and so I grew up against a background of people coming to this place. We all lived together, my grandmother, my aunt, my parents, each with their own houses on the same estate as this big house, Newlands.
WS: What was it like growing up there?
RE: It was idyllic actually, really idyllic. It is placed in the heart of the country with beautiful gardens and grounds. It was just wonderful growing up in such a spiritual atmosphere. We would all talk about angels, we would talk to angels and nature's spirits and this was just part of being completely normal. I still am that way inclined. I see angels, talk to angels and still meditate. It was a wonderful, wonderful start in life. Part of this was also the astrology because my mother had learnt astrology when she was in her teens. She had a passion for astrology and was always giving people counselling with astrology and doing written birth charts for people. So, I was aware of all this going on in the background. Astrology talk was just normal in our house, so and so has got Sagittarius rising or Mars in this part of their horoscope and so on - it was just normal conversation. I became really interested in learning more about astrology at a very early age and I begged my mother to teach me. She said, "I will teach you when you're 13". So, when I turned 13, I did her written beginners course which was the first correspondence course in astrology. I was so interested you couldn't stop me; I was just fascinated by astrology. I still feel the thrill of practicing astrology today.
Anyway, I basically thought that my life's work was with the White Eagle Lodge in some capacity. There was the whole belief that I was going to stay at the White Eagle as it was going to be my life's work, and it was for a long time. It was expected that I was going to take over from my grandmother and I of course, I always wanted to do this.
I also met my husband at Newlands when I was 16½. He was 12 years older than me but he came into my life and we fell in love - it was amazing. He was actually a Lodge [Astrological Lodge of London] member and his parents were very friendly with my grandmother. Robert comes from a family of astrologers [Robert is Roger Elliot and Dione Smith's brother - both renowned UK astrologers], we married when I was 18 and started a family.
WS: You continued with your astrology studies after this as well?
RE: Yes, I did, because I wanted to have a professional qualification and my mother's course wasn't recognised then. So at the age of 18 I did the Faculty Certificate and then I did the Faculty Diploma course at 19 when I was eight months pregnant with my first daughter.
WS: You had a busy practise too?
RE: Yes, I used to do a lot of written horoscopes for people when I was at the White Eagle Lodge, which was really in the days before a lot of counselling came in. The reports were very popular and around the age of 30, I had a waiting list of two years.
WS: How wonderful!
RE: It was! Robert, my husband said, "this is ridiculous, you can't possibly expect people to wait two years for a horoscope, let's get computerised", and so we spent two years working on the project together and in 1978 launched the computerised reports called Rose Elliot Horoscopes which were character analysis for people.
WS: What a brave and pioneering thing to do. Computers were a relatively new thing in 1978?
RE: Yes, actually, we had a computer and, well, it was obviously in the early days of computers really. I was the first author at Harper Collins to turn in my work done on a word processor. They didn't have one and were not organised for it at all.
WS: You have authored two books in Astrology?
RE: Yes, I have written Life Cycles and the Zodiac Cookbook.
WS: You had also embarked on your cooking career by this stage too. How did you get started in this career?
RE: Well it was interesting, the chef at the retreat centre suddenly left and we needed a vegetarian cook. It was difficult to get a vegetarian cook in those days, it was really impossible. I loved cooking; even then, I'd done it at home and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I asked if I could leave school and be the cook. I promised that I would do my A Levels with a tutor. So they said, "Yes". I've often thought since then they must have been really desperate because what parents really would do that? Anyway, I did that and I took over and I loved it from the very beginning. I loved it as much as the astrology; the cooking was another passion.
WS: So you cooked for all the people attending the retreats?
RE: That's right, and some retreats had up to 20-25 people for a week and I would have to cook vegetarian meals three times a day. I would have to find interesting dishes to create because in those days, we're talking about the mid sixties now, people didn't know what vegetarian food could be like and many thought it was weird. It was very rare. So I invented all sorts of things and people liked the recipes and started asking for the recipes, so I started writing them down and created a collection. At that time I was cooking, doing astrology and then Robert and I had our first baby girl when I was 20 and while we were living at Newlands. Then one day my father had the brilliant idea that I should put my recipes together in a book, so I did, and my first book came out in autumn of 1967 and was called Simply Delicious.
The White Eagle Lodge had a small publishing company attached to it called 'The White Eagle Publishing Trust' and we thought that it would be a nice way of getting some money for the White Eagle Lodge because they were always short of money. I sent out four copies for review, one to The Times, one to Woman's Hour, one to the local paper and one to Ideal Home magazine. What happened was, Woman's Hour and The Times both gave it a wonderful review. Bookshops all over the country were ringing up wanting to get a hold of the book. There was no centralised distribution in those days, no Waterstone's, it was just independent bookshops. We sold hundreds and they had to start another print run; this is when I was launched as a cookery writer. I didn't really think of it like that at the time but that really is where it all began.
And then I went on cooking for the retreat and developing recipes and having lots of ideas and in 1972 I brought out another book called Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, after that I wrote The Bean Book and have just kept on writing ever since really.
WS: How old were you when you left Newlands?
RE: Around the time I brought out The Bean Book, and the same time as my Saturn return, I started to think about my life a lot differently. I felt like I needed to discover more about myself and needed change. Everyone had believed I would take over from my grandmother, as did I, but I had reached a point in my life where I felt I needed to explore more about me and to do that I needed to leave Newlands. It was heartbreaking as everyone, particularly my parents, were devastated. I knew I had to do it and knew that it was absolutely the worst thing for my family. It was so very difficult. I don't know whether I'd have been able to get away if I hadn't had Robert so strongly supporting me. It was very hard as I had never left my childhood place but I really did need to break free. Robert was also working for the White Eagle at the time and had helped build the temple; I had my first two daughters in 1965 and 1966 so we left soon after. Of course, Robert and I had another wonderful surprise baby Claire in July 1978. My three girls are very special to me.
WS: Your Moon in your chart is very strong isn't it?
RE: There's a little bit of Sag influence there although I am very Scorpio too. And then my planets in Cancer, and I do feel the Moon illuminates my whole chart actually, being up on the mid heaven.
WS: I have a theory that when it comes to vegetarianism there is often quite a bit of Virgo or Aquarius, particularly Virgo Moon from a digestive and health point of view and then there is the Aquarian [Moon] perspective which is more political and an intellectual decision. You have Aquarius rising and a strong 6th house (ruled by your Moon).
RE: It's true yes. It is just a natural thing for me. I just think it was honestly part of my life's work to do this and to get vegetarianism out there as much as I can because I believe it's healthy and I believe it's better for the animals and for the environment. It is also the Cancer planets in my chart. I feel very deeply and care for animals.
WS: And you went on to write several more vegetarian cook books?
RE: Yes, over 60.
WS: What an achievement! Do you have a favourite one?
RE: It's always the one I'm working on really. It's very difficult to have favourites Wendy, its like children. You love them all. The one I've just been working on I love, particularly because it's got 1,000 recipes in it and it was a big bumper book which Harper Collins brought out with pretty much all the recipes I'd done up to 1985. Amongst favourites is the Life Cycles, my astrology book. The Zodiac Cookbook was lovely to do. That was the signs of the zodiac, drawing heavily on the rulerships of various foods and linking them to the signs. I really enjoyed that.
WS: Is that like garlic for Aries, things like that?
RE: Absolutely yes, and thyme is Venus and peaches are Venus and so on. So it's interesting, I also talked about the character of the people and each sign, whether they like cooking or not and their approach to food and that was quite successful. It is out of print now, but it was a nice book to write.
WS: So you did not return to the White Eagle Lodge, Newlands?
RE: No, I didn't. My grandmother passed away in 1979 when she was in her eighties. She made the White Eagle Lodge into a trust and a charity, and trustees were appointed. My parents went on and they ran it, my father died in 1990 and my mother in 1995. Elana Hayward, my mother's sister, then managed it and she is still there at age 93 and she stepped down for my sister, Jenny Dent to take over.
WS: You also continued with your astrology practice?
RE: Yes, I did. The computerised reports remained successful and I also completed the QHP [Qualified Horary Practitioner] in 1993.
WS: Wonderful, was that with Olivia Barclay?
RE: I actually did it with Barbara Dunn but I had some contact with Olivia. It was a wonderful course. I just felt the urge to know about horary. So often I practise Horary and use the Regiomantanus house system, using only the traditional planets, and of course judge it in a completely different way to natal astrology, although I use both. I feel so much in contact with the planets using horary. It's really exciting because it's so helpful to be asked a question about something and look for the answer. One doesn't always like the answer but it's really useful. So I use it for myself if I've got decisions to make, for other people if they've got important questions and for my children sometimes, but always alongside the natal astrology.
WS: Do your children do astrology?
RE: My children, yes they do actually, they're all into it and some have studied it a lot.
WS: You must have wonderful family dinners? The astrological language and the food...?
RE: We do actually. It's very rare and it is wonderful.
WS: It very much speaks your Cancer planets and the Moon in your chart?
RE: Yes, absolutely, I really love it. I so enjoy having big family gatherings here. I feel so blessed to have them all, and having a big house that they can all come to. I now have six grandchildren so it is lovely when they are all here.
WS: Do you do most of the cooking at home?
RE: I do all of my experimenting and inventing here and I do cook. If I'm working on a book, then Robert will be trying all sorts of things. He is wonderfully supportive and has had to try so many things. But when I've just done a book we eat really simply. But I do like trying new things and often do. I made a really nice dish the other evening. I made aubergine schnitzels which were just aubergines steamed and then coated in lovely crispy crumbs and served with a lemon, caper and mustard sauce; it was just lovely.
WS: Tell me Rose, what inspires you?
RE: Goodness, people often ask me that. Ingredients inspire me a lot, colour inspires me a lot. I can almost see the colour and the shape of something I want to make before I actually start working on it. I always tend to see the end product before I start it. I even get the end flavour in my mind and then I set out to create it. I also love spices and herbs and flavour - flavour certainly inspires me.
WS: Which maybe also describes your Venus and Mars in Taurus?
RE: Yeah, that's very Taurean.
WS: Do you have any particular favourite food? With your Moon conjunct your Sag MC, do you have any particular cuisine that you really like such as Chinese, Thai, Italian?
RE: Favourite food? I haven't got a favourite food really. Perhaps salad - I love salad. I love fresh things and yes, I love ethnic food, especially Indian food actually. I also like Middle Eastern food, Japanese food, sushi and things, of course, vegetarian sushi. I don't usually say I'm vegan because I do occasionally eat butter and things but I should say I'm 99% vegan now. It is something that just grows on you. It was challenging with vegetarian cookery when I first got started because there weren't too many ingredients about but now I find it very stimulating to cook lovely things which have got no animal products in it, at all. It's a challenge for me and brings out the best in me.
WS: You have achieved so much in your life Rose and your work is incredibly impressive.
RE: I think it is all about how you feel Wendy, how you behave and if you're lucky enough to be healthy and full of energy and I feel very blessed.