Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I am fickle about my horoscope.

I am, I admit, a fair-weather horoscope reader. If it's good, promising and may shed light, financial abundance or other more metaphysical windfalls on my life, I take it seriously (as seriously as one takes one's horoscope). If not, I say pshaw and try to quell the niggling feeling that I should pay attention to how "conflict will arise today, Virgo, but take it face on, for conflict is the heart of change," or some such hooteninny.

So here are two I received today. One from Rob Brezny (Free Will Astrology). I love him, and alternately, I am irritated by his whimsical ramblings, his indirect metaphors (as this one):

"To be in maximum alignment with the cosmic trends, go to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and commune with the painting "Peach Tree in Blossom" while sipping peach blossom wine and thinking deep thoughts about the parts of you that are like peach blossoms. Here's another possibility: Travel to a place where actual peach blossoms are blooming and meditate on why the Chinese consider this flower the most auspicious of plants. If you can't manage either of those actions, Virgo, please at least find images of peach blossoms on the Internet and gaze at them as you muse fondly of the delicate young aspects of your life that most need your love and care. "

But then, I get this one from earthlink.Now, I hear you saying, how on earth can you take something ethereal, driven by cosmic bodies and divined by astrological interpreters, from an email software service seriously? But I swear to you, if ever I have received a divine horoscope, it has come from them. Perhaps it is that perfect blend of technology and mysticism:

Even though the problems that arise may not seem like yours to deal with, the fact is that they are sure to have an effect on your psyche, dear Virgo. Your emotions are running at an especially high level, and you may not even realize the source of this intensity. Sit down with yourself and put the pieces together. Maybe you are suddenly feeling an upswell of anger from a comment someone made during last week. Or perhaps someone else's trauma is starting to have adverse effects on your own frame of mind because of your concern for their well-being.

So tell me. Analyze these two horoscopes for me and tell me what they mean!

Then, read this wierd little piece I wrote some years back, called "Zodiac Girl." It sheds light on my childhood in an oblique sort of way.

Zodiac Girl

In elementary school, somewhat of a wilting flower, I was shocked by a brash boy striding my direction one recess. Turns out that only the roll of fruity Lifesavers I'd taken, sticky from my pocket, tantalized him.

"Gimme one," he demanded.

I was an only child, wary of sharing. I hesitated too long.

"If you don't share with me, God will strike you down!"

I trembled. How could I prove that this "God" he threatened me with wasn't a serious thug, an unpredictable and petty deity, not to be trifled with? My parents worshipped at the oracle of planetary influence. My friends attended church or temple services; I had my chart cast. My childhood was steeped in astrological houses and trines, the esoteric geography of planets and their effects on human nature. Before I learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school I learned the lyrical descriptions of Mercury, which governs my sun-sign (she'll be a writer!) and Venus, that harbinger of romances lost and kept, and how a Cancer moon affected my emotions ("moody" as it turned out). It was a language I spoke at home as fluently as my grandparents spoke Hebrew and German.

I was born under the sign of Virgo. Both my grandmothers found this pinning of a sign on a child to be a useless and harmful practice.

"What does it have to do with how she cleans her room?" Grandma Shields would say.

There's always the chance that astrology is a kind of psychic placebo, but after a lifetime of growing up under its ancient eye, I can only vouch for how it shaped me. If I was pining for a boy, like skateboarder Billy Atkinson, the slightest positive word "this week, exciting things could happen for you, Virgo!" could send me into a spiral of ecstasy.

As the law of opposites would have it, I loved going to church with my friends, with all that ritual and pomp, high stained-glass windows and the sad, carved variations of Jesus. I loved standing in line to receive a communion wafer, its rough surface foreign on my tongue. I loved the order, the routine and the clean interiors of those palaces built to God, even though I was wary of the messages that God-fearing folk spouted.

Any good book on astrology will tell you that this is all true to my sign.

In my early-twenties I met and married a man whose formative years were spent in a cultish religion. His father was an overworked, Highway Patrol officer, his mother a smothering stay-at-home housewife of three boys. To escape this painful crucible, he sought philosophies that helped him surge upwards out of dogma and rigid thinking. When I met him, he also thought astrology was a crock.

I was crushed; astrology was my replacement religion after all. I had learned to define myself and others within the twelve neatly-packaged classifications of the Zodiac. My husband also happens to be a Leo, a sign that is often qualified by a tendency toward self-grandiosity, needing to be in the spotlight. I couldn't blame him for not wanting to fit this definition. Indeed, he seemed very anti-Leo, and this bolstered his argument against the study of planetary influence.

"How can the random arrangement of the planets at the moment of your birth determine how your life will go?" he'd demand.

"How can you be so sure it can't?" I would argue back. Astrology had provided me with optimistic forecasts, safe assessments of people and, I pointed out, had been more reliable than some of the science I learned in school. At least, I insisted, it was better than religion.

He saw it coming. "Astrology isn't so different from religion. It requires someone to translate and uncover hidden "truths."

I struggled to find a rebuttal. My husband, a psychologist, was taken with a personality typing system in which you can discover ways to free yourself from personality's ironclad grip without translators.

We had hours of debate, until eventually we would finish, exhausted, where we started: each holding to our theory.

Ironically, the more my husband used his own model to become "more himself" the more he met the positive qualities of a Leo in astrological terms.

More powerfully, the main tenets of his beloved personality typing system has its roots in a philosophy that revolves around planetary influences of a different sort. He couldn't defend that. Though I still waver in my beliefs about God, or a cosmic plan for humanity, this intersection of our beliefs proved that there is an irrefutable design, a big cosmic code waiting to be unlocked.

As for that boy from elementary school…Virgos are thoughtfully cautious; I gave him a lifesaver…just in case.


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