You might know your zodiac sign and you might have heard the Outkast album Aquemini, but how much do you really know about astrology? For instance: How does one even become an astrologer?
We spoke with six astrologers about how they got their start, their astrology philosophies, misconceptions about their jobs, and advice for reading your horoscopes.
Ophira Edut, The AstroTwins
Ophira Edut and her twin sister Tali became professional astrologers and The AstroTwins 12 years ago. Now, they write horoscopes (daily, weekly and monthly) for their own website as well as Refinery29 and Elle.
What did you think you were going to do before you decided to become an astrologer?
We used to publish our own women’s magazine, a multicultural women’s magazine, and then I [Ophira] went and worked for Gloria Steinem’s Ms. magazine. We worked in feminist publishing and women’s media; I figured I’d be doing women’s empowering stuff. I think I still do that with astrology, we infused all of that into the advice that we give.
What do you see as the relationship between women empowerment and astrology?
Astrology is a great tool for self-awareness. A lot of people read horoscopes, like, “Oh my God, Mercury is going into retrograde, I have to hide for three weeks.” Which is impossible. There’s always some sort of a shit show going on in the cosmos—as well as opportunities. We help people find the right timing and strategies. It’s about helping people working with the natural energies. Astrology is a great companion to free will, they aren’t mutually exclusive. I think of astrology as your factory settings: When you take an iPhone out of the box you can customize it to make it your own. Knowing your chart is like understanding your operating system. Once you understand it, you can do more with it, you actually gain more freedom.
What does your family think about your job?
My daughter is already learning all of the zodiac signs at age 5, she’s a sponge for it. My nephew is here from Holland interning with me. Any family member I can bring into the business, I do. When the moon is in somebody’s 12th house, they’re tired, so when someone is sleepy we always check where the moon is. That seems to be the only thing that my husband can actually remember or believe.
Samuel F. Reynolds
Samuel F. Reynolds went from Baptist preacher to atheist to Muslim—and became an astrologer 25 years ago. He’s previously written horoscopes for Ebony, and currently writes weekly horoscopes for New York Magazine’s The Cut.
How did you transition from Baptist preacher to atheist to Muslim astrologer?
I used to read my mom’s number books and they had breakdowns of the zodiac signs. They were confusing to me—I started disliking astrology at first. I’m born on the quote-unquote cusp—I don’t believe in the cusp, but [I was born] between what starts Scorpio and what ends Sagittarius—I was like, “Oh, this is bullshit.” Then, when I became a minister, it definitively became a sin. My atheism was more about God; I went through what I think many young people go through: You come across what you think are the lies of your parents. I just felt let down, in terms of what I had learned about Christianity in college, and my own research.
My interest [in astrology] really peaked in graduate school. I [met] an astrologer and he did a reading for me, and started talking about very specific things in my life that no one else would know. I thought it was a trick, so I spent 10 years trying to uncover what his trick might have been—only to become an astrologer. Islam always intrigued me, but not so much because it was the truth or the only one religion as much as I liked some of the cultural trappings—the Quran, the script, the direct challenge, the political history and also its history in astrology. There wouldn’t be a Western astrology as we know it if it wasn’t for Muslim scholars in the medieval period, transcribing astrology from Greeks and Egyptians. [Astrology] is not condoned by most Muslims; the average Muslim would say that astrology is haram, forbidden. I had to make my own peace on my profession and my practice.
Why don’t you believe in the cusp?
Technically, you’re all 12 signs, you just have them in different proportions. The problem with the cusp is, if you know what time you were born, your sun sign is in one sign or another, and that’s what most people are talking about—they have this misguided notion that “because my sign is close to the other one” they might have the influence of the previous zone or the next zone… That’s not really how it works.
What non-traditional element do you bring to your practice?
My background as a black man who’s grown up mainly in urban areas. For instance, I don’t think you’re going to hear another astrologer that describes Saturn [as the planet of] “sit yo’ ass down.” Also, I’m not about attempting to mystify astrology—because of my background with atheism and skepticism. There’s a lot of “woo-woo” people getting into conversations like, “You know in your past life…” I don’t know any of that shit. All I can talk about are what the charts might signify.
What’s the hardest part about being an astrologer?
Being in a field [that] people is kooky; you’re not taken seriously or respected. Often the problem with talking with skeptics about astrology is that they really haven’t done any research on it. If I ever went back to the dark side as a skeptic of astrology—without sounding too egotistical about it—I do think I would be dangerous to an astrologer, because I can ask very specific questions about what they do, rather than “how come people who were born just at one particular time be alike.” If you knew about astrology [you’d know] that’s not what we really say.
Annabel Gat started professionally practicing astrology seven years ago, and specializes horary astrology (which she explains below). She currently writes the daily and monthly horoscopes for Vice’s women’s vertical, Broadly.
When did you start studying astrology?
Like most young pre-teens going through magazines, [I] just loved those self-discovery quizzes, like which color best suits me? I was like, “Whoa, there’s a whole system of when you were born that’s going to tell you even more about who you are”—that was really fascinating. The other side is, people think things like astrology and witchcraft are really weird—and if it’s weird, I want to know more about it. That it’s mysterious, that skeptical people don’t believe in it, makes it very exciting and inspiring, on an emotional level. Later, in high school, I was actually very skeptical—I kind of moved away from it. But then on a whim, my friends and I got really into ghost-hunting… One thing lead to another, I found an astrology group, and I fell in love with it again.
What do you bring to astrology?
With readings, I don’t involve my intuition. It’s more about where the planets were when you were born—it’s such a beautiful thing that humans have been doing throughout history in different cultures. My speciality is a branch of astrology called horary, where you look at the charts of the moment, and you’re able to give a very well-outlined answer. If someone comes in and asks “Where is my cat?” or “Did this person lie to me?” you can look at this chart and say yes, no, or here’s the gray area.
How long does it take you to write monthly horoscopes?
I work on them all month, for a few hours a day throughout the entire month. If I write a report for someone based on their birth chart, that takes me about three hours.
What advice would you give for people reading their horoscopes?
Pull out a calendar and write down the dates that the astrologers are saying are going to be important for you. Always give a buffer zone—a day or two—to allow things to come into play. Don’t just read it and then forget about it, that’s such a waste of time. What I want people to know is that astrology is not an intuitive, psychic thing; we’re writing horoscopes based on where [the planets] actually are. If you’re able to use a calendar and follow it yourself, you’re going to learn so much.
Chani Nicholas has been practicing astrology with an emphasis on promoting love, peace, and justice for about 20 years. She has written for Rookie, and currently writes horoscopes for Teen Vogue and her own site.
How did you get introduced to astrology?
I’ve been studying astrology since I was 12. I was gifted a reading from an astrologer who also read my father, stepmother, stepbrother and sister. I was fascinated by how the astrologer could pick up on the nuances and the differences between us. She had written a book, so that was my first astrology book, and I devoured it. Before I became a [professional] astrologer, I was a community worker in Toronto for a long time, working with children in various capacities. I also was a waitress and a bartender and I pursued acting; I did social justice work with yoga and reiki… Astrology was the only thing that really stuck with me, and it took me a long time to think that it was a valid way of working in the world. I really believe in activism and being apart of social change, and I had a hard time seeing how astrology could be used a vehicle for something lofty like justice, and speaking to things I thought were problematic.
How did you find the connection between social justice and astrology?
I think what’s most important is that we’re authentic. So, I finally got to a point where I wrote for myself. I didn’t think anyone else would be interested and I didn’t think anyone else would ever care, but I couldn’t not write and I couldn’t not write from my own point of view. When people started to like it, I was shocked, because I didn’t think there would be many people at the intersection of social justice and astrology. I think that’s for any profession and any part of life: If we come with authenticity then we find that also there is great meaning.
What influences your astrology practice?
The many, many feminist queer and people of color educators, activists and artists that I’ve read, that I’ve studied with, that I’m in the community with and partner with, that I have been so privileged to know their ideas, they’ve all influenced my outlook on life greatly. So, if I bring something unique to the astrological conversation I would say it’s that, but it’s not of my own accord. I’m writing for my community, I’m writing for myself, I’m writing for my friends, I’m writing for my co-workers. I’m always trying to think about how can I say something that will speak to the issues that folks in my community are facing. I really don’t want to participate in the annihilation of people’s experience by being quote-unquote spiritual. What I find a lot in spiritual communities and on spiritual blogs is that [there’s no] addressing the reality of what systemic oppression and violence inflicts on our psyches and our bodies and our communities. Being queer, being somebody who’s in that community, I see the impact of violence on state levels, on global levels, on interpersonal levels, on all sorts of levels that impact our way of being human and our spirit. So I want to speak to that. That’s the most important thing to me to make sure that I’m including people of color and queers, because if I’m not talking to them then who am I talking to? If I’m not speaking to my community then I don’t really feel like I’m doing a service to myself or to my life.
Melissa Broder calls astrology her “side bitch,” as she is a writer first. The So Sad Today author has been practicing astrology since she was 19. Currently, she writes the monthly horoscopes for Lenny Letter.
When did you start studying astrology?
When I was 19 and had just gone through a breakup. I was smoking weed all day, eating baked products and candy and I felt like I needed to find some sort of control in my life, mostly in terms of love. I got really deep into crafting and hot glue gunning beads onto Snapple bottles and also studying astrology. I think [people] see psychics and astrologers for romance and finance; it was romance that really drew me into it. I have a big purple book called The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, and then I also have a book of relationships. I started getting to know the signs as potential love interests.
What are your thoughts now on astrology and control?
If you read my horoscopes, I’m not like, “You will find love on the 15th.” I’m more into turning your will over to the universe, surrendering, and trying to align yourself with the flow of the universe. My natural instinct is to want to control everything, so what I seek spiritually is the exact opposite. For horoscopes, I try to provide people with tools in terms of letting go, being able to accept what life gives you—taking action but letting go of the results. Whether or not you find love on the 15th, you have more space in your mind to process the events of your life. My horoscopes are really about coping, how to handle being alive. Our brains are very reductive, they want to make sense of the world. If you can’t make sense of the world, maybe you can learn instead how to better move through the world and navigate.
What advice would you give for people reading horoscopes?
If you’re googling how to make Aquarius fall in love with you and you’re finding that you have manipulate the situation that much, that person is probably not the right person for you.
Mecca Woods has been professionally practicing for four years, with an emphasis on finding sexual fulfillment through astrology. She is currently writes a sex, love and astrology column for Bustle.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about astrology?
People think that it’s fortune telling, and it’s not. I think a lot of people are afraid, especially people who grew up with a very religious and conservative backgrounds. Astrology is the study of cycles and patterns of the cosmos and of the planets. The planets have cycles that coincide with cycles here on earth. Astrology helps us to figure out what’s the best possible timing to go for something or to unlock an opportunity. It also helps us to how to figure out how to better relate or how to get along. But it’s definitely not fortune-telling—nothing is set in stone. We do have freewill, we have to make our own decisions and build our own future. Astrology can help pinpoint when the best time to do something—get married, find love, relocate, or find a job.
What’s it like being a black woman in this field?
There are not a lot of black astrologers, and there are also not a lot of black female astrologers. I would say that 80% of my clientele are women of color, specifically black women. I find that they gravitate towards me because they feel that I understand them. I think that we need alternatives outside of the religious doctrine, and I’m happy to be able to provide some of that alternative.
What’s your speciality in astrology?
Compatibility. In astrology we call it synastry. I love doing charts for people in love or wanting to know how they can get along better with someone, around sexual relationships. Also, this idea of the divine feminine: The idea that earth and human lives and the human experience have been in a place of imbalance for a long time with all of this masculine energy. The divine feminine means that God or the universe or spirituality can be experienced through the feminine, bringing some balance to healing, getting more in touch with your emotions and being okay with being vulnerable—all of these things that we are taught not to experience are now taking place. It’s an awakening for those of us who have been doing this kinds of work. So, in addition to sex and relationships, I’ve been doing work around Venus, which is a feminine representation through astrology. I was inspired to do that by Jessica Sheppard, another astrologer who’s doing so much work. I do specific Venus readings mostly for women, to help them tap into their Venus power to live a more fulfilled life. In astrology, Venus represents the feminine—but she’s also in charge of love and money.