The SOTA (State of the Art Astrology) conference takes place in the autumn in Buffalo (or the vicinity) each year. It is described as a small, friendly conference. SOTA hosts popular speakers lecturing about hot topics. The wonderful Donna Van Toen is the organiser.
I often say SOTA is the reason I left a full time teaching position! I couldn’t get time off from school so I could lecture at SOTA so I decided to take an extended sabbatical. (It didn’t really last all that long before I was back in the classroom). I’ve never regretted that decision.
SOTA also has a special place in my heart as its venue is near to where I grew up. It’s the only conference my parents have (nearly) seen me in action as an astrologer. SOTA astrologers are the only astrologers who have met my family and a few of my close non-astrology friends.
SOTA is also where I made so many really great friends–many who are now coming to India! Mj Patterson, Frank Piechosky (who has hosted me in Philadelphia not once but twice), Donna, Wade Caves, Richard Smoot and Franco Soulbody (I’m still working on Samuel Reynolds) were persuaded to come to the EAST. I also met the wonderful Demetrius Bagley, Eric Pride, Jason Williams, Jackie Menke and Nadiya Shah (who interviewed me for her show). I’ll never forget Jennifer Castiglione’s generosity when she loaned me her laptop for my lecture even though she didn’t even know me.
All the conferences I have reviewed are friendly and I’ve never had an unpleasant experiences at any of them. But, as SOTA has the advantage of being so close to home, it gets my award for being the friendliest astrology conference.
SOTA takes place in less than a week and don’t think I’m not suffering from FOMO!
I call myself “the bad Cancerian” because I’m not at all home loving and shy like Sun Sign descriptions say I should be. Despite being born in Michigan, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding “home” by living in the UK. Since moving to London, I’ve barely taken an interest in what happened in the US.
But in 2014 I got a speaker’s place at ISAR in Phoenix and then also a speaker’s place at SOTA which took place about 5 weeks later at Niagara Falls. It seemed a little silly to fly all the way over to Phoenix from London for a few days, fly back to London and then fly again to New York. So I decided I’d do a little tour of the US as I had never been east of Kansas City. I still look back on this time as one of the most exciting weeks of my life. I really fell in love with US but probably because I was seeing it through the eyes of a tourist.
Oh and the Giants won the pennant the night I was in San Francisco so I totally caught World Series fever too. (The Giants won that too).
I was so involved with the tour that I accidentally booked the wrong hotel for SOTA. In the wrong country. I didn’t even realise what a nitwit I was until Donna told me SOTA took place in the US, not Canada a week or so before the conference. Fortunately, (aside from looking like an idiot) this turned out to be one of my better mistakes.
It was a short walk between where SOTA was taking place and the hotel I had booked. And what a glorious walk it was! I got to walk across the Rainbow Bridge near Niagara Falls every morning. And customs wasn’t a problem as I’m a card holding band member of the Saugeen Indian Reservation.
So I entered SOTA invigorated by this wonderful walk and then bumped straight into Frank Piechosky. Frank is not only an expert astrologer but an expert on Philadelphia. We eventually made plans for me to visit Philadelphia as I had never been there before either.
By the way, about 3 weeks after this photo was taken, there was a huge blizzard and about 3 feet of snow was dropped in the area.
The evenings were spent enjoying the hospitality of AFAN. Having a drink at a hotel can be quite expensive so it really is nice AFAN hosts such cracking parties.
At some point me, Wade and Frank decided to try our luck at the nearest casino. I’m not one who enjoys gambling. I lose 10 bucks and that’s enough for me. But we used a bit of astrology–and won!
Now we didn’t win enough to quit our day jobs but I could definitely see how some people get hooked on slot machines! We split the win and got out of there!
All astrology conferences have something unique that makes them stand out from the crowd. SOTA incorporates other psychic arts such as tarot and mediumship. There was an event called “Sweet Messages” where we all got to have some time with a medium and ask questions. The medium I spoke to was Jacqueline Janes.
Jacqueline told me something that seemed so far away from reality that I dismissed it and forgot about it. When I saw her again in 2017 (when I was visiting Philadelphia again), she reminded me that she predicted I would be famous.
Now I have a pretty fair grip on this. I know I’m not famous like rock star famous. However, when all the craziness was happening after the conference in India a few months ago, I very much felt like the best Cancerian in the world. I just wanted to get off the stage and turn the light off for awhile.
Franco, Samuel and Frank put together this sketch for the banquet. I got roped in because of my moon in Leo. But again, I have to say that I have never felt left out at SOTA. I mean, I was a newbie to the conference circuit, no one knew me and I was invited to take part at the SOTA banquet on my first visit. That’s pretty cool.
So the sketch was called “Who Killed Venus?” and the idea was that it was a murder mystery. I got to play Mars, one of the suspects. On an agreed signal, I had to jump up and start shouting about how I was always getting blamed for things and then get arrested by Saturn. I hadn’t done much acting before (which probably showed) but if ever there was a moment that I thought “hmmmmm I rather like the stage”, it was this.
Immediately after the banquet, I was interviewed by the gorgeous Nadiya Shah for her show “Synchronicity”. As I was living in the UK, I did not know how popular her show was. Nadiya is an amazing and generous person. She didn’t know me either but she put herself out for me.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m with Frank Clifford who IS famous. Someone said something about Nadiya Shah’s show and Frank said he had not been interviewed by her. So of course (Moon in Leo), I showed him that I had been interviewed by Nadiya!
I got a lot of mileage from this interview. When my UK friend David told me I wasn’t famous until I had been interviewed by Nadiya, of course I had to show him too!
So there you have it: yes, I was interviewed by Nadiya Shah (and she’s also now my very good friend!).
I felt very fortunate to be invited back to SOTA in 2015 to do a workshop on midpoints.
This time the conference was held in Buffalo. I had the great idea that I’d fly into NYC and megabus it to Buffalo rather than flying (there weren’t any direct flights from London to Buffalo). After I got to JFK, I took the subway (with Samuel’s guidance) to where I was supposed to get the bus. I was even early enough to stop in at a bar and watch a bit of the World Series (the Cubs were terrible!).
When I got on the bus, I discovered that the seat I had so carefully booked was occupied. And occupied by a very voluminous girl who I suspected was a fellow Anishinabe. She offered to let me have my seat by the window. All I could think of was that I would be squished up against the window all night. So I took the aisle seat and spent the night half on the seat and half in the aisle.
In other words, I didn’t get much sleep.
So I arrived at the conference pretty brain dead but unable to sleep due to jet lag. I wasn’t sure what to make of a conference so close to a big shopping mall. I was way too jet lagged to let this worry me. (It ended up being very convenient for the beer run).
I worry a little that when I write about food, people might think I’m a fussy eater. Let me put this straight: I eat a lot of school dinners. My palate has made adjustments but something in me kinda dies when the only option for food is at the hotel. At conferences, I want to make my own food choices, dammit. It makes me feel like an adult on holiday, not a child (or prisoner) without alternatives.
So I’m happy to say, I had nothing to worry about at SOTA. The conference was located near a shopping mall so there was plenty of variety and very convenient for some whose stomach was still on UK time.
I also really like to feel the culture of the location I’m in. Not sure I was going to feel it in Buffalo, I was missing that walk across Rainbow Bridge. The very uncomfortable bus ride was still irritating me too.
Fortunately, I met up with Eric Pride and a couple of his friends, found my smile again and we took a road trip to Niagara Falls for some dinner. When someone says “let’s get some dinner” it’s hard to know what to expect. I have to say, this dinner ranks up there as one of the best meals of my life. We had sirloin dusted with coffee (it took a bit of persuading to get me to order it but my great goddess, it was wonderful) washed down with craft wine. If you’re ever in Niagara Falls, get to Weinkeller’s. You’ll thank me for it!
AFAN was again hosting parties in the evenings. Mj and Franco did some singing (so adorable) and again, there was just that friendly atmosphere that I so enjoyed the year before.
I was very busy at SOTA 2015 (I was managing a stall for astrology software) and added into this mix was that I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my parents. But my god, I remember a lot of laughter at the Banquet sketch that year. Samuel and Frank had roped in a few other astrologers to do a game show of some sort. Maybe “The Gong Show” or something. All I can remember is Gary Caton dancing like a lunatic and all of us laughing for a very long time. I also remember that the food for the banquet was very nice. And if I remember hotel food as being something a lot better than school dinners then you know it was something special.
My parents arrived the next day (this is a story in itself). They brought some of their friends that I hadn’t seen in over 25 years. This reinforced my notion that SOTA cultivates making me feel at home.
As always at conferences, things come to an end too soon. I had a flight to Chicago to catch. It was also the start of a five month, five continent tour that was so exciting that it made coming back to London very difficult.
But let me say this about SOTA: if you’ve never been to an astrology conference before, then this is a good starting point. You’ll truly feel that you are among friends.
Wishing you SOTA-ites the best conference experience for 2018!
If you’re curious about astrology conferences, I’ve written a few reviews of my favourites!
United Astrology Conference, various locations in the US, every four years in May
Northwest Astrology Conference, Seattle Washington, every year in June
International Society for Astrological Research, various locations in the US, every other year in the autumn
Institute of Vedic Culture (IVC), Kolkata India, 4-9 February 2020
Kepler Institute, Belgrade Serbia, every year in March
Associação Portuguesa de Astrologia, ASPAS, Maia Portugal, 23 and 24 March 2019
Associazione Cultural Jayavidya, Perugia Italy, every year in June
State of the Art Astrology, Buffalo NY every year in October
Astrology Restored, Cape Town, next one in 2020
My lecture schedule is here