Dear Phantom Reader,
Luckily, Covid-19 has (so far) not affected my husband and I financially and no one we know has gotten seriously ill. My heart goes out to those where this is not the case! Still, all this at-home time did inspire me to take up an old interest again: astrology. I’ve been taking an online class with the astrologer Austin Coppock and learning techniques I never learned before. All very interesting, and learning in an online group is the the perfect way to combat the loneliness of social isolation.
But how did you get into astrology, Rebeccah? Why, your Phantomness, I thought you’d never ask! Lucky for you, I wrote an essay about this very topic a while back. Enjoy!
Astrology, a Love Story
I didn’t get into astrology until my mid-20s, although it could have happened earlier. I grew up in a Christian household, but the hodgepodge of Bay Area New Age spirituality still rubbed off on me. By fifteen, I could already do three different Tarot card spreads, and I had learned the healing properties of a least a half a dozen gemstones without meaning to. I once accidentally participated in a Wiccan ceremony shortly after graduating from high school and yes, I helped closed the circle. After all, I didn’t want to be rude.
But I wasn’t interested in astrology. When I was in my early 20s, like most people, I still thought astrology was little more than a silly superstition.
Until I met Abi.
A fellow music major at Mills, Abi was the resident assistant at her dorm and knew just about everyone on campus. Whenever we walked together from the music building past Mills Hall, dozens of people rushed up to her. “Hey Abi, what’s up?” The way I remember it, every other person gave her a high five, but probably I’m making that up.
No one ever gave me a high five in passing. I was one of those morbidly shy girls, with stooped shoulders, the bangs of my too-long hair half covering my eyes, every inch of me doubting my own self-worth. When people talked to me, it was usually only to ask, “Why are you so quiet?” But I was too quiet to say much back other than the truth, which was “I don’t know.” I felt uncomfortable and exposed all the time and the whole world knew it. Not like Abi, who oozed self-confidence. I was proud to call someone like her my friend.
Abi was a Sag with Aries moon and Aquarius rising and I know this because she talked about astrology constantly. If anyone else I knew had talked about astrology, I would have rolled my eyes and said whatever the way only a true California native can. But Abi was my alter ego, my girl crush who could do no wrong. So, I listened.
According to Abi, fire signs people, like her, were the best: impulsive, forceful, outspoken, extroverted. Smarty pants, communicative air signs were a close second (kudos to me for being an Aquarius!). Water signs were a bit of a drag, but she did throw them a bone for their passionate, creative and emotional nature. But earth signs? Boring, boring, boring. “The best you can say about earth signs is that they’re “reliable” and “organized,” Abi told me, spitting out the words as though they were curses. The astrology books she showed me seemed to agree with her.
One night, Abi invited me over to her dorm room to do my birth chart. She lit purple candles–a Sag color, she told me–and we sat together on the crushed velvet pillows she had scattered across the floor. “I bet you have a tons of Pisces planets. You’re so sensitive and creative,” Abi said, as she flashed me a toothy Sagittarian grin.
To do your birth chart now, all you have to do is go to one of the many astrology websites, enter the date, time and place of your birth, press a button a voila: instant natal chart. But back in mid-90s, Abi still had to do the math to get the work done. The candles flickered while she did the equations. With each one, her eyes got wider. “Oh my god. No, how is this possible?”
Besides my Aquarius sun and Pisces mercury, my personal planets and ascendant are all in earth signs. “Your moon has to be in Sag.” She redid the equation three times, but the results were always the same: Moon in Capricorn.
Abi cooled off our friendship after she did my chart. Six months later, she broke it off all together. One of the reasons she gave was, “I don’t think I can be close to someone with Capricorn moon.”
I could have just told myself Abi wasn’t a very nice person in the end. I could have gone back to thinking astrology is a stupid superstition like I did before we met. But I didn’t. Instead, I read every book on astrology I could get my hands on, both the good and the bad. “I’m not a boring person, even if astrology says I am,” I told myself. Through studying astrology, I sought to prove it wrong.
But the more I read, the more fascinated I became.
If popular sun sign astrology is a few bars of happy birthday on an out of tune piano, and Abi’s knowledge an uninspired three-chord pop song, real astrology is the most complex of complex counterpoint: 12 signs, 12 houses, 4 elements, 3 qualities, providing infinite combinations, shadings, relationships and variations. Some aspects are complicated and dissonant, others flowing and harmonic. In a chart, minutes make a difference; an hour can change so much; a day might mean a whole new world.
Learning more about astrology helped me to accept myself. No, I would never be a flashy, charismatic fire sign like I used to wish I could be, but my earthiness certainly did not mean I was a boring person. By studying my chart, I learned to recognize my strengths alongside my all-too-apparent limitations. I couldn’t get enough of it.
In 2004, five years after I had moved to Berlin and around seven years after Abi did my chart, I had a Uranus-in-the-third house moment. I was checking my e-mail in an internet cafe, not thinking about much of anything, when suddenly I realized I wanted to take an astrology course. I had studied astrology so long on my own. Now it was time to study it with other people. I googled “astrology Berlin course” and there it was: an intensive astrology course meeting one long weekend a month for two years. I contacted the school right away and signed up for the course.
Little did I know this course would be where I met my husband.
Before we met, my husband was rather unlucky in love. Sure, he had girlfriends and he’d been in love, but things always fizzled out after a year or two. His girlfriends always also ran to type: flute playing, well-educated, professor’s daughters. After a break up shortly before we met my husband had accepted the fact that he would probably never settle down. Not everybody does.
Like me, my husband needed someone else to introduce him to astrology, in this case, his brother.
The plaid sheep in an upper middle class family of banker, lawyers, and Prussian generals, my husband’s brother is a painter who got hooked on the works of the German astrologer Thomas Ring in his 20s and never looked back. When he became a professional astrologer/artist, my husband thought he’d lost his mind.
But family is family.
When his brother started teaching at the astrology school in Berlin, the same one where we later met, he was still living in another city in Germany. “Come crash at my place,” my husband said, and so his brother did whenever he was in town to teach a course.
My husband’s roommate, formerly the ultimate sceptic, got the astrology bug first. He signed up for the course and sat with my husband’s brother in the living room whenever he was in town and talked about astrology for hours.
It took longer for my husband to come around. But, like me, the more my he learned about astrology, the more fascinated he became. He grown tired of a world only filled with law committee and the polite dinner time conversation of the upper middle class. A few years in, he finally signed up for the course–the same one I took.
If this were three-chord pop song astrology, my husband and I would have instantly fallen in love. We would have taken a look at each other’s charts and realized, “There it is, our destiny mapped out in the stars.” But it wasn’t like that. In our case, love came slowly, but once it did, things moved fast.
What has astrology given me other than a life-long fascination for the planets and how we are somehow connected to them far more than we realize, as above so below?
That which matters most: a family. My husband and I come from such different social circles and if it weren’t for astrology, I doubt very seriously we would have ever met, let alone fallen in love.
So, Abi, hey girl, here’s a cosmic high five. Hats off to you and a million thanks to what are indeed my lucky stars.