Some people have religion. I have astrology.
As a child, I was raised vaguely Catholic. I say vaguely because my Uncle Jim and my grandmother D-D took it quite seriously whereas it was pretty much a non-issue at home. However, spending summers at either my uncle or grandma’s house meant that for approximately three months out of the year, I was an observant Catholic. We did not break fast before service on Sunday. We prayed before every meal. I was expected to wear itchy white tights and uncomfortable floral dresses to church. During my regular, mostly-not-super-Catholic school year, we would still visit Grandma’s for Easter because the resurrection of Jesus is a Big Deal. I attended two different church camps throughout the duration of my summers away from home. At one, I was a carrot because it was Vegetales themed. At the other, I remember a girl on the bunk above me talking about anal. The joke about God-fearing women considering their asshole to be God’s loophole is based in reality. At eight years old, I was unsure what to make of this revelation.
After leaving Illinois, my Cathotic influences were suddenly missing. My mother was not religious. I tried on new religions like new hair colors – I floated between Wiccan, Baptist, Tibetan Buddhism, and agnosticism until I eventually decided I was an atheist. These days, my religious tendencies are a bit of an eclectic grab bag of all my favorite parts of the religions I tried over the years. I still keep an altar, a relic of my days as a witch, but I also attend church on Sundays. As you well know, I’m more or less subscribed to Theravāda Buddhism these days. This allows me to maintain my disbelief in the existence of God while still observing some more mystical beliefs such as reincarnation.
For all my skepticism about the existence of some sort of omnipotent, benevolent man in the sky, I still have my soft spots when it comes to logical fallacies. The most notable of these is astrology.
Astrology used to be just a fun sort of hobby for me. An easy way to remember people’s birthdays, I memorized the dates without much effort. It helped that I always very strongly related to the dual nature of my Sun sign – Gemini. Depressed one second, bouncy and cheerful the next; emotionally driven yet constantly striving to find a way to logically understand things; incredibly particular about certain things while completely uncaring about other things; the list of seeming opposite behaviors and traits goes on and on. But I couldn’t reconcile the fact that there were plenty of people who didn’t seem to match their Sun sign at all – I couldn’t reduce everyone I met into neat little labels and have them all fit in a uniform fashion. Nicholas, my husband, is a perfect example: Leos are supposedly the life of the party, boisterous and well-liked by everyone. It’s true that Nicholas is extremely easy to get along with and liked by almost everyone he meets, but he is far from boisterous in many situations. I couldn’t defend against the people in my lives that scoffed at this belief system which attributed people’s personality traits to the location of the stars in the sky at the time of their birth. There were too many holes. So I laughed along when we pointed out all the ways that astrology fell short, while internally wishing I could understand why sometimes it seemed so spot on and other times a near miss.
Enter Chani Nicholas.
I’ve spoken about Chani on this blog before. It’s impossible for me not to – for literally years now, this incredible woman has not only given me a lantern to hold through the darkness but changed the way I looked at the world, the way I fit into it, and how I understand it. Alongside her particular brand of socially conscious astrology, I learned more about the complete picture that makes up one’s natal markings. I also learned that there is more to understanding the movement of the heavens than simply what stars hang in the sky at what time. The whole process is really quite involved. And some people want to bank on astrology without bothering to learn any of that. My mind thinks of Cosmopolitan’s horoscopes at the back of the magazine, probably written based on the whims of whatever poor writer was shoved with astrology duty. Then there are legit people out there who can tell you what degree a planet is at, how it relates to the position of the other planets, and what that particular angle is, and when we’ve seen this positioning in the past. For example, the Saturn/Pluto conjunction that is occuring right now was last seen in 1981-84, when the identification of AIDS was made. Coincidence? Maybe. But that brings me to the real reason why I wanted to write about astrology today.
In trying times, we all have our things that we fall back onto. My mother relies on her Christianity, as do many other religious people. I worry about all the alcoholics suddenly quarantined at home with no obligations to keep their drinking in check. Those of particularly sound mental and emotional fortitude are probably the everyday heroes we read about online – getting groceries for their neighbors, fostering animals in need, volunteering where they can. Me? I’ve found solace in astrology.
I’ve buried myself in my natal chart, rereading Chani’s You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance, and rewatching the 2020 Workshop that I bought myself for Christmas. It’s been interesting to see how one of the huge overarching themes of 2020 for my Scorpio Rising sign is writing, communication, and publication. April 4th marked a sort of “beginning” for a large writing project – without realising this, I had decided to use Camp Nano (a month long challenge in April to write a novel), as a jumping off point for my second draft of my novel. When I reviewed my 2020 themes on Sunday, I laughed. Of course. Coincidence? Maybe. But it’s comforting either way to think that the planets are conspiring to help me finish this rewrite.
When it comes to the more spiritual side of things, I have a few rules I follow. I approach everything with skepticism; as much as I love astrology and specifically Chani’s horoscopes, I try not to let them become a self fulfilling prophecy. I’ll read my horoscope for the full moon when it comes out, then pretty promptly forget most of it. I greatly enjoy going back and reviewing what horoscopes were the month before to see if there was any accuracy. The new moon horoscope she put out March 23rd, for example, spoke to restructuring my days and re-establishing my daily routines. This particular piece of insight was quite spot on – I had restarted my daily meditation practice two days before, recognizing how much I needed the stability it provides me. But she also commented on being patient and not too disciplined with it, needing flexibility. We traveled across the country that week, which certainly shook most of my daily routine. Coincidence? Maybe. But her kind advice to focus on helping myself without judgment was welcomed nonetheless.
Aside from my skepticism, accepting that everything could very well just be confirmation bias, I also make sure not to be too dogmatic about my beliefs when sharing them with others. As much as I may believe a Libra Ascendant in someone’s chart perfectly explains why someone is considered so likable and easy-going, I recognize that other people aren’t always going to get on board with this. That’s fine. It doesn’t affect either of us anyway, not in a really tangible or necessary sort of way. In the grand scheme of unprovable beliefs, people can believe whatever they want as long as they don’t shove those things down other people’s throats or literally kill others for not agreeing with their beliefs. That’s a pretty core tenant to my belief system. People should be free to think whatever they want.
Finally, I try to stay open to other explanations for things, too. My mother is constantly sending me resources for Christianity. I drunkenly promised her I would read the New Testament. I really need to get on that. As I get older, my resolute belief that the concept of God is not only completely illogical, but irresponsible, weakens under her endless torrent of Jesus approved content. If nothing else, I’ve accepted that it makes her happy and harms no one else. If I made the same choice, a 2012 Carly would throw up in her mouth but it wouldn’t change who I am at the core. I realize this now.
So let people take comfort in whatever they want, especially when the world is so scary and uncertain. If astrology or religion makes someone feel like there’s A Greater Power impacting what’s happening in our world, or makes someone feel like they have some semblance of control over what’s happening as long as they operate within the boundaries of the belief system they’ve subscribed to, let them enjoy feeling that way. Who cares if it’s illogical. Humanity will never completely adhere to the rules of logic; thank God, too, because it’s often the ridiculous things that we do that makes us so endearing.