Diversity Scholarship Essays

Camille Michelle

I feel insanely privileged to have been able to attend this year’s unprecedented NORWAC. Though I have nothing to compare it to, the connection and community seemed to have transcended the digital format, with tethers of love and joy diminishing the distance between attendees. As an up and coming Astrologer, I felt NORWAC was a personal rite of passage. And as a Black Astrologer, it became clear that my voice was needed, that my talents are legitimate, and that my peers are ready to welcome me with open arms. The content of all the lectures was edifying, with a specific few really speaking to my soul. NORWAC allowed me to clarify the type of Astrology I want to practice, challenged me to incorporate new tools and insights, and inspired me to become intentional about how I will use what I now know to be a gift to my clients and to my community. I believe it was no accident that this conference, and the continuing efforts of the Diversity Scholarship team, have seemed to coincide with some of America’s most difficult days in terms of race relations and injustice. There is a cosmic through-line in all events, above and below, and I feel that right now, the insights of Astrology are needed in order to help this country heal, and to guide this country into growth. I know that this particular NORWAC was an eye-opener to members of the Astrological community as well—where inherent biases lay in their work, where performative solidarity just isn’t enough. It feels refreshing to be walking more surefootedly into this lovely community during a time when these questions are being asked, and when these topics are being considered. NORWAC has connected me to other astrologers, and I feel I’ve been welcomed into the fray after years of operating on the fringes. I feel empowered, I feel excited, and most of all, I feel gratitude. Thank you Samuel, thank you Laura, for seeing something in me, for championing me through this scholarship. I will be paying it forward in the months, years, and decades to come.

Archer Beren

I’m not quite sure where to begin concerning my experience with NORWAC 2020 besides initially stating that it was such a magical and validating experience. I have been interested in astrology my entire life, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began to turn a more discerning eye to the subtleties and nuances of the field. Over the course of several years, my casual interest transformed into a more dedicated, deep practice. I got my hands on every astrology book I could from my local library, watched every YouTube video from my favorite Evolutionary Astrologers, and eventually found myself studying at the Portland School of Astrology this very year.  I have no other way to describe my journey into astrology other than that it has been, in a sense, something of a review or an unfolding of something learned in a past life that was merely waiting for me to find it again in this life.  This experience with NORWAC has been so rewarding beyond words. Having a sense of community has been so incredibly important to me over the course of my life, having been estranged from my family due to their initial misunderstanding and rejection of my sexuality and gender.  To have a community that has such an incredible intersection between, not just the queer community, but also a vast, intergenerational group of individuals impassioned to speak in the same language—of astrology—is truly, just beautiful. This conference has awarded me the feeling of connectedness on a global level that I had been so craving. I have spent nearly 15 years fostering different tribes within my hometown (15 years is long enough to call myself a resident right?) of Portland, Oregon. To be able to extend that reach beyond this place, which admittedly, can feel like a small bubble at times, has created in one weekend, a sense of spiritual abundance I didn’t expect to find. Gaining the opportunity to hear from astrologers for which whom I have read numerous books made the information seem so much more tangible and like these people were not just ideologues spouting out one thesis after another from their ivory towers. These astrologers are mentors, friends, future colleagues of which I can one day call my peers as I finally make my way into a career, careening into the cosmos. And for that, I am infinitely, indebted.


Many moments during the conference I felt myself on the verge of tears, tears of gratitude, connection, validation, and inspiration. Listening to Steven Forrest speak on Neptune, Jessica Lanyadoo’s talks, Diana Harper break down radical self-care, Sam Reynolds and Laura Nalbandian speak about the necessity of the Diversity Scholarship brought me so close to tears. I finally cried during Bear Ryver’s lecture on Intersectionality. I felt so moved to see a fellow Afro-Indigenous, queer, trans person speak of and embody a framework that is absolutely vital for global healing. As I write this I sit in Oakland. I have been participating in the rebellion for the past two days. I am exhausted. My soul hurts. We are sick and tired of being murdered and exploited. My Uranus sits on my IC in a densely packed Capricorn stellium. Since I was a child I have felt a deep otherness that separates me. Although, I am gregarious, kind and have inviting dimples I often feel alone and radically different from the many. When I was at NORWAC I felt connection and hopeful for my future, our future. Truly, it was the most welcomed and visible I felt in a community in a long time.

I learned so many technical and anti-oppressive skills through NORWAC yet I know my foundation of astrology is too weak to utilize them without further understanding. I have known for a couple years now that astrology and healing is my life purpose, however, practical necessities have preoccupied my time. Finally, I can go all in and this excites me. Being at NORWAC, witnessing the collective expertise and humility validated my inner wisdom that I need to study seriously for a few years before I can begin the task of translating this life purpose into service and a possible occupation. I had the opportunity to speak with Portland School of Astrology during NORWAC. I am attending the First Year program in January 2021 and wow, I am overjoyed! PSA’s values of teaching multiple learning styles through the elements, anti-oppression and embodiment practices is right in tune with what I want in instruction. The new eclipse cycle is hitting my Gemini 3rd House and Sagittarius 9th House. This is an exceptional time for my professional life as a teacher to youth and my personal life to deepen my relationship to astrology.

The Gemini/Cancer seasons are devastating for me. Within June and July is my dad’s birthday, his death anniversary and the death anniversaries of my mother and sister. During this time I am in mourning and I often feel incredibly alone in my grief. Witnessing Laura Nalbandian speak to her experiences losing her parents and working with Ceres/grief was cathartic. She spoke to her grief transparently and it meant opening a valve inside her. Her vulnerability/strength was very beautiful. It was stunning to see her use her astrological work to cultivate a spontaneous grief community that I’m sure that was very supportive for other participants of that lecture. Thank you.

Adina Hertzel

For all the heaviness of the astrology of 2020 and the discussions around it amongst professionals and enthusiasts alike, there is something to be said for the resilience of the astrology community and the NORWAC community specifically. My acceptance letter for the diversity scholarship came with tempered excitement. I’d been following the news too closely for my own good and sensed with a decent amount of confidence that this NORWAC would not be the NORWAC I’d dreamed of as I was filling out my application. My situation was unique, considering I had never had a conference experience to mourn the loss of during this difficult year.

There was no template for this. No one to explain what the experience would look like and how one was supposed to act at a virtual conference. Especially for a first-time attendee, there was a temptation to sit back and watch the lectures on my own, taking in the content while quietly wondering what it would be like to meet the people I admired, the friends and acquaintances whose names kept popping up in the zoom calls.

But that was not my experience. Like I said, the NORWAC community is resilient. I am thinking of the discussions over the last few months about debilitated planets and the creativity that emerges from a lack of resources. This was precisely the attitude of this community as we faced a new challenge. From direct messages to the House Party app to the chat boxes in lectures, I managed to feel connected to this community in a way I didn’t believe possible when I began the virtual conference experience.

And for that, I am grateful. I’m grateful to the organizers of NORWAC who find ways to bring in voices who may not otherwise have access to this quality of astrology education. I’m grateful for the lecturers who adapted their material to a digital and provided so much education and insight despite the circumstances. This would be far too long an essay were I to enumerate everything I learned that excited and inspired me. And I’m grateful to the community, to the long-time attendees who did everything in their power to make NORWAC more than a series of online lectures. I’m grateful for all those who were warm and welcoming, who were brave enough to engage and who worked together to make this NORWAC what it is.

I hope to experience many more NORWACs in the future. Someday I will be able to offer proper thanks to those who created this experience, to hug all the people who managed to make me feel welcome in a space that didn’t even exist physically. Next year in Seattle, we can only hope.

Lawrence Sanchez

I feel blessed to have been awarded a 2020 NORWAC diversity scholarship! Thank you Laura, Sam, and the whole NORWAC team for creating access to a truly life affirming experience, and for consciously cultivating inclusivity and diversity within the community.

One of the hardest things will be to reflect on any negative or challenging aspects of my experience, because in all honesty, it was such a truly uplifting, engaging, and overall well-executed (online) conference, especially considering the unprecedented circumstances, and everything that must have gone into this behind-the-scenes – so a big kudos to you all!

For myself as an astrologer, I don’t think this opportunity could have come at a better time. It has inspired me to strive to make more connections within the community (which until now I wasn’t very good about). Although I would have loved the in-person experience, I was able to make a few new friends via the conference, as well as engage with far more experienced astrologers, gleaning from their wisdom and insight. Since the conference, I joined an astrology book club (we’re reading Cosmos and Psyche), as well as became a member of AYA, and I now feel more connected with the community, which was definitely lacking for me.

I really appreciated the diverse and eclectic array of topics offered, varying in skill level, and stemming from different schools/traditions of astrological thought – as well as the overall multiethnic, gender-diverse, and intergenerational representation I saw and felt. I’ve only had one other astro conference experience, ISAR 2016, and I don’t recall it being nearly as diverse and inclusive. It was refreshing how approachable and down-to-earth some of the more well-known and accomplished astrologers were with some of us relative newbies. The experience overall, from the on-point keynote topics, chatroom banter, and virtual lounge hangs, really created a feeling of camaraderie, fellowship, and community – just what I was looking for! Surprisingly, technical issues seemed to be pretty minimal, and it was a huge plus for us to be granted 3 weeks of accessibility to replays of lectures. Considering the gravity of the moment we are transiting through collectively (and astrologically), I believe NORWAC 2020 was likely ‘one for the books’, and will set the precedent for future conference experiences to come, as we prepare for the great mutation into the air element.

The only constructive criticism I will offer is, in anticipation of any future online conferences, to consider ways on how to optimize moderating participant questions during zoom lectures, perhaps taking better advantage of the ‘raise hand’ options to create a queue of questions, and to avoid questions being inadvertently missed.

Lastly, although I realize shifting to this online format was a big challenge in itself, I think it would have been nice for us diversity scholarship recipients to have been able to meet in a private zoom meeting together, to get a chance to meet one another and share impressions (along with Sam and/or Laura perhaps), and build community and connections from there. I would still be interested in something like this if it were still an option!

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for this invaluable experience. And I look forward to my next NORWAC (hopefully in-person 2021)!


Zoe Wolf

Although I was of course initially disappointed that we would not be attending an in person conference, the timing of my life was such that I’m not sure I would have been able to attend the conference had it not been virtual and recorded. The way it was all pulled together for online sessions was brilliant and easy to get to. I’m extremely grateful for the full access to the conference in its entirety, and have taken time to listen to quite a few lectures so far. One of the lectures I really enjoyed was all about the sixth house, which is a house I have many planets in and sometimes struggle to understand. I feel that given the circumstances of the world, I found myself gravitating more towards lectures to help me learn more about myself than other people, as a sort of attempt to distract myself from the troubles of our current surroundings. I wish that I could have gotten to network with more astrologers, specifically Black and Brown astrologers, and that is my one regret. In the future, it would be wonderful to see more astrologers break away from gendered language and white-centered experiences. I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to continue in my practice and study of astrology, and I hope we can connect again one day on a more personal level of understanding. 


Jason Kei

Leading up to NORWAC, the transit I was most preoccupied with was the Venus retrograde in Gemini. It was within a few weeks of the last day of NORWAC 2019 that I looked ahead to next year’s conference, so overjoyed that I had at last found “my people,” and so eager was I to reunite with these eclectic nerds, with big hearts and sharp minds, as in love with symbol, meaning, and magic as I was. This Venus retrograde was supposed to be that reunion with this new family, but I wasn’t giving proper weight to the momentous configurations of Saturn, Jupiter, and the outer planets. This conference was a return visit, but from afar, and thus rather bittersweet. But this also felt like a message from whatever divinity stands behind and between the wandering stars, which is that we are meaningfully hemmed in by the outer context of a very fraught world, and astrology is not a place you can hide away from it.

Up until the 2019 conference, I had spent the previous two years living in very small towns where I knew almost no one, and astrology became a way to fill my off-work time. Studying traditional astrology in particular became somewhat of a hermetic pursuit, this sublimely intricate symbolic system becoming like a cocoon, insulating me from the dullness of rural America, and from the inanity of national politics. But slowly, astrology was no longer an intellectual distraction, but instead a practice of re-enchanting time, a practice of locating oneself in larger cycles, and establishing a rhythm in your own personal life that moves with the current of those cycles, and in anticipation of future ones. But even this can get myopic, if one fails to consider the wider sociopolitical and cultural context we’re all embedded in, and from which we read every chart.

I’ll add to the pool of deep abiding admiration for the talks that Bear Ryver and Diana Rose Harper gave this year that spoke to this wider context very directly and eloquently, and I think they made it clear that there is no such thing as, nor has there ever been, an apolitical astrology. The issues they brought up, the generation, the identities, and the ethos they represent, all make me even more excited for the future of this community. Constantly I am humbled by my peers and mentors, and I have to admit, I sometimes feel embarrassed that I don’t have a distinct offering of my own yet. All I know is that astrology weaves a tighter and tighter web between everything I do, and as I continue to pivot toward the mental health field, it’s not any great leap of imagination to see how I might bring astrology into the process of walking with people into a recognition of their belonging in the world, as well as into a vivid re-dreaming of every story they hold dear. To that end, Jason Holley’s talks this year, in particular, have exceeded my expectations, have stimulated so many avenues of contemplation, and inspired me to commit more deeply to becoming competent at this function of astrology.

My deepest gratitude to the conference organizers and the scholarship team for providing me this opportunity to attend NORWAC again. What I intend to give back, to this community that has so readily embraced me, is something I can’t see yet, but when I can put my hands around it, I will know that it does not belong to me, and it will be my joy to offer it back.

Initially, when I applied for this scholarship, I did not know what to expect from my first

Astrology conference. Winning this diversity scholarship was further confirmation to me that Astrology is indeed a part of my path. Since diving deep into Astrology, I have gone from the back of the magazines, what’s your sun sign type of girl to the woman attending national conferences, and sharing a space with professional Astrologers.


Keyera Griffin

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. The NORWAC conference has helped me in navigating my internal guide to path and purpose. Like an eager child, at the start of NORWAC, I had a crisp new notebook for all my notes all my snacks prepared. I tried to use my intuition to guide me on which lectures to attend. Lectures from Judith Hill, Diana Rose Harper, Jessica Lanyadoo, Nadiya Shah, and others inspired me. I felt moved as I listened to how Astrology could help me with manifestation, self-care, assessing my ancestral line, and, most importantly, my health. My interest in these lectures allowed me to have an epiphany moment. It was then that I realized that despite the years of me questioning my nursing career path, Healing is the common denominator here. One breadcrumb at a time, my path towards purpose is becoming crystal clear.

Moving forward on my path of purpose, I plan on spending a profound amount of time understanding Astrology’s fundamentals, as suggested by Jessica Lanyadoo. Second, I plan to take a course in medical astrology with Judith Hill. Using Astrology as a tool to help others on their journey of life creates a spark in me. Like life itself, Astrology is the ever-unfolding rose that keeps on giving to me, and I am forever grateful. To see what things are possible with Astrology, to share a virtual space with Astrologer Entrepreneurs, and to hear and feel the shared passion from every guest speaker and listen to each speaker decode Astrology’s beautiful language many different interpretations was inspiring. The highest human act is to inspire, and the whole NORWAC community genuinely inspires me. NORWAC is the first of many future Astrology Conferences for me. I want to thank NORWAC, Sam Reynolds, and every person involved in making this conference possible.

DeBorah Bellony

First, I want to thank NORWAC for the opportunity to be a Diversity Scholarship Recipient. As this was my first NORWAC, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how committed NORWAC is to inclusion not only on an attendee level, but also on a speaker level. I was also deeply touched to hear Laura Nalbandian and Samuel Reynolds express their dedication to finding, investing, and elevating a diversified group of future NORWAC speakers. As Laura so eloquently stated, “There are more views and more perspectives to be had in our community and it is more than time for those voices to be heard.”  By putting their time and money where their mouths are, they both are saying diversity is not only welcome, but makes for a better conference. This puts NORWAC at the cutting edge of inclusion compared to other astrological organizations. It also speaks volumes about what they value, because if even a bar or a club can let women in for free before midnight because it knows a women’s worth, what does that say for other organizations purporting to honor diversity? Sam profoundly stated, “When we invest in our community, then our community will transform.” As NORWAC continues to find ways to support diversity of all types (even the hearing impaired), I am thankful and honored to be a scholarship recipient.

Overall NORWAC Experience

What I loved about NORWAC was meeting friendly people talking my same astrological language. I loved being part of history as an attendee of the first NORWAC on-line. I absolutely loved being able to view all of the workshops I wasn’t able to attend “in-person” and I really loved being able to download all the slide presentations so I could focus more on the lectures. I loved taking advantage of the audio discounts and user-friendly website. My greatest take-aways include learning about new presenters and trends in the different fields of astrology like Zodiacal Releasing, Medical Astrology, Business Astrology, Astro Magic and much more. I loved learning from other attendees, for instance about the asteroid Kassandra and how she sits right on my Venus Star Point in my already crowded 12th house.

Hello! My name is Tracey and I was a 2020 recipient of the NORWAC Diversity Scholarship. I was beyond grateful to receive this scholarship, and simultaneously disappointed that this year’s conference could only be a virtual space because of COVID-19.

I truly appreciate that the organizers of the conference were extremely intentional to ensure the NORWAC online experience would be as worthwhile as the in-person experience of previous years. However, I personally felt unmotivated to fully participate even though every effort was made for me to do so.

As a consulting astrologer, I spend quite a bit of my days online meeting with clients, and so didn’t have the bandwidth for more “Zoom” time. What’s more, living on the east coast made it a challenge to be available with the time change.

I did have the pleasure to attend the workshop by Nadiya Shah: Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Astrological Magic. I found it fascinating. I’ve been a fan of Nadiya’s for a while, but never had the opportunity to attend any of her workshops. It was easy to follow along, and the Zoom moderator did a really good job. The content was accessible, and I found myself doing my own research on astrological correspondences after the workshop ended.

Meanwhile, I was excited to learn that the online workshops would be available for viewing after the conference ended, and I appreciated the extension to watch as well. All in all, while I wished the conference could have been done in person (and completely understand that the decision to host it virtually was beyond the control of organizers), it was apparent that a lot of consideration and planning went into what seemed to be a successful event.

Thank you again for the opportunity!