By Lizzy Shramko
There’s not much in an astrological session that I tell people that they don’t already know. But there is something really phenomenal that occurs when a stranger tells you something that is so deeply personal about yourself.
The Story in Astrology
I became interested in astrology in my late 20s. More specifically, a friend of mine encouraged me to order a birth chart book right before my 29th birthday. It was a cold January in Minnesota and I was single for the first time in eight years. I wanted make sense of the path my life was taking, a path that many people in my life reflected back to me as wrong, as somehow out of sequence.
People seek out celestial meaning for many reasons. When I turned to astrology, I was looking for a story.
As a writer, a reader, and a human living on this planet, I am surrounded by story. My Facebook feed presents a pixelated narrative to me, updating me on acquaintances’ daily habits, big and small. If film is my preferred medium, I can find a catalog of cinematic stories on Netflix designed to cater to my interest in “independent action movies with a strong female lead.” And if I’m feeling old-fashioned, I can always find story in books. But the thing about the stories that fill my life is that so many of them are like unsolicited advice from an older family member: prescriptive, out of date, and intended to make me feel like shit.
Facebook, for example, pushes certain life events. The other day, the social media site helpfully asked me if I experienced any of the following life events recently: marriage proposal, marriage itself, the birth of children, the purchase of a house. Those are the moments that make meaning on Facebook. It takes an effort to find a movie on Netflix with a strong female lead that does not eventually kowtow to the every need of her love interest (invariably a man). Even if you look for respite from these narratives in nature documentaries, the disembodied narrator often finds a way to replicate these heteronormative tropes in the lives of animals and plants. Seriously, plants.
The stories in my life consistently tell me that you are not fully human unless you are in love, in a relationship or somewhere on the pathway to marriage.
But I digress.
In my search for story, I stumbled upon the magnificent astrological world of horoscopes. I was certainly not the first, and definitely won’t be the last, to find their way to this magical place. Horoscopes offer story every week. Both expansive and specific, the horoscopes I read allowed me to fit myself into their lines. When I moved into my apartment alone, one of the more significant events of my life, it did not qualify as a Facebook life event. It didn’t inspire the same congratulatory appraisal of family members when I moved significantly shittier apartment with my partner years back. Building a home for myself, completely alone, is one of the most difficult and satisfying things I have done. The process of pacing the days, cooking for one, acquiring objects, and assembling and reassembling them in a space that was mine alone was exhilarating and exhausting. It was incredibly lonely. More importantly, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was enormously empowering. That week, the first week of January, my horoscope told me to nurture myself, to focus inward, to take leaps into the unknown. And as much as it might sound like New Age pseudo philosophy, impersonal and empty, that horoscope carried more meaning than most of the other stories in my life. I could see myself reflected back, whole and happy.
The neat paragraphs that most of us know as horoscopes are one astrologer’s interpretation of future/past events based on an astrological chart. Trust me, these charts are complicated AF. When I received my birth chart book (basically a short novel that describes the astrological leanings of my life based on what the sky looked like at the exact moment when I emerged from my mom’s vagina), I realized how sophisticated this astrology business really was. For a beginner, the sign you are probably familiar with is your sun sign.
I was born on February 28th, so I know that I am a Pisces.
But from there is gets much, much more complicated. I do not have the expertise to really go into all of it, but in addition to my sun sign, I learned my rising sign (how others see you) and my moon sign (reflective of your emotions). There are houses and angles. There is ascendant and descendant. Basically, you could spend your whole life learning about this stuff. In fact, some people do.
I’ve read wretchedly shaming horoscopes intended to scold the reader, horoscopes that follow the tired tropes of “success” that are regurgitated across media. In these narratives, marriage, children, and financial stability often equal inner peace, or something along those lines. But there are some astrologists that craft stories that heal, nurture, and help build up the world around them. They leave space in their forecasts for the multiplicity of meanings that exist in our complicated, messy lives. These astrologers’ ultimate version of “love” does not translate to romantic love alone, but to larger notions of social justice, critical healing, to nurturing a holistic love of oneself. If you need suggestions, Chani Nicholas is most definitely one of these astrologers. Nicholas practices what she calls “queer astrology.”
“Queer astrology to me is not assuming that I know anything about the people who are coming to me. That I don’t assume their gender, I don’t assume who they date. I don’t make assumptions about how they grew up, I don’t make assumptions about what their preferences are. And that I’m using a queer/feminist lens to counsel people.”
As a gender studies major, I have used critical theory as a methodology for dissecting the world around me to unpack and unfold the crevices of power that are so intricately and expertly enveloping my life. And yet. There is something magical, for lack of a better word, in embracing ways of knowing that are less rooted in a science I know. There is something empowering about believing in something beyond me.
I check Chani on the weekly.
Her horoscopes come out on Mondays, a day I have come to look forward to. Her forecasts for the week are uplifting and focused on self love and self acceptance. As a single woman on the cusp of my 30s, Chani is one of the only sources of acceptance that I can easily find. When I am tired and uncertain, when I have a shitty week at work where I feel unappreciated, or when I’m working on a piece of writing that is particularly challenging, more than just offering advice that is useful, Chani offers advice that is affirming.
Her words make me feel seen.
Illustration by Meher Khan.