Dear Friend and Reader:
Horoscopes are a writing form that’s close to my heart for two reasons. One is that reading the Patric Walker column in The New York Post in the early 1990s was the first demonstration to me of how relevant astrology could be. I knew astrology existed, and I knew astrologers, but I did not see the point of doing it. Patric’s daily column, nested in with Jumble on the Post’s comic page, was not merely accurate; he offered some of the most sage insights I’ve ever heard from an astrologer, to the present day.
One day in 1994 I could no longer stand the mystery of how he did it, so I ventured to figure it out. Using an ephemeris (to look up the positions of the planets) and a deck of Crowley tarot cards (to illustrate the energies), I camped out in my then-girlfriend Hilary’s bed and cracked the codes not just of writing astrology columns, but also into the top level of an industry where very few people ever get — writing horoscopes for the London tabloids.
Horoscope writing in England is another world compared to the United States. Instead of syndicated columns, every major newspaper has its own horoscope writer, who becomes one of the voices of that publication.
Jonathan Cainer is one of the best-known horoscope writers in England, and many years ago he adopted me as his vacation stand-in. For four years I got a taste of the big time, even writing in some of the same newspapers where Patric Walker had appeared. It was quite a trip having millions of readers of newspapers in Australia, England and Europe, and worldwide on the Internet. It was clearly Jonathan who put me on the larger map; he has always had a thing for making sure people discovered younger astrology talent. I met Jonathan with the help of my old friend William Lilly (1602-1681), but that is another story.
Many ‘proper’ astrologers look down on newspaper horoscopes for a variety of reasons, and some go so far as to say that they are destroying the image of what is otherwise a legitimate profession. My take is that with astrology, interpretation is where the tires meet the highway, especially when it’s raining. The horoscope column is an example of just that — an interpretation designed to be relevant to a person, right then, right when they seek it out. People need astrology to offer them an idea, a strategy or some reassurance. If astrology cannot do that, what good is it?
Horoscopes are also my literary love because when I started writing them, I was looking for a way to do journalism that was more relevant than what I was doing at the time, which was investigative reporting on fraud cases involving toxins and very large corporations.
No matter how accurate or damning my investigative articles were, they did not seem to be making contact with the people who needed the information the most. It occurred to me that a well-written horoscope could be a way to make contact with the softer side of humanity, and a place to move information you might not see anywhere else, certainly not in a newspaper.
It was Patric, a venerated British astrologer, whose writing taught me the rudiments of astrology and set up the model I use to translate from the chart to the message I offer you. And it was from Patric that I learned that a horoscope must be written to an individual, not to a group. You don’t write to all the Geminis who are reading — you write that horoscope to the one who is reading.
That takes confidence, and an experienced writing voice, and it also builds the confidence of the reader. The horoscope is part of an ongoing relationship between a reader and an astrologer. It’s a meeting place and a space to share ideas. I intend for mine to be relevant even if a person reading does not believe in astrology. All writing, I believe, must stand on its own merits.
This week’s edition comes with Planet Waves Weekly #1000. The number on top of each Friday horoscope is a sequence number, so that we can tell the columns apart (we also identify them by the first few words of Aries). When I hired Jessica Keet to serve as my horoscope coordinator and proofreader in 2004, I made an estimate and started the sequence at #531. Arriving at 1000 is not an absolute count, but it’s close and probably an underestimate.
Since I started my column in 1995 — as The Navigator, first appearing in Free Time magazine in Poughkeepsie, New York — I’ve written in daily, weekly, twice-monthly, monthly, quarterly and numerous different annual formats. I’ve written my column in many regions of the United States, as well as in Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Sicily and Spain (and on many trains and airplanes on the way to those places).
Shortly before I started writing horoscopes, someone named Laurie Burnett (who I met through a classified ad in The Mountain Astrologer) suggested that I look into something called Chiron, a newly discovered planet. She also suggested that I spend some time with a book called Esoteric Astrology. One day she mailed me her tattered copy, minus its cover, and slowly I started to dip into its at-first strange concepts. While I was living in Germany in 1998, I got my own copy and studied it cover to cover in preparation for writing this article, about the 1999 grand cross and total solar eclipse.
As for Chiron. When I started to go deeper into my study of astrology, using a diversity of classic texts by people like Isabel Hickey, Rob Hand and the writing team of Louis Acker and Frances Sakoian, I knew that astrology was not making sense presented in textbook format. Memorizing (for example) the different values of placements like Venus through the signs was not giving me any sense of the whole.
Then I started reading about Chiron and halfway through my first book, all of astrology made sense in a new way — an integrated way. This went beyond the conceptual right to a direct connection with astrology as it works. Astrology, as anyone who has studied it knows, can be an intellectual morass. The concepts need to be sorted out and understood, but ultimately interpreting the aspects is an intuitive art, like composing music.
As I studied Chiron, I knew I was in the domain of new planet research, on the cusp of a new era. I devised a way to work with my clients — by asking them about their past Chiron transits, rather than immediately telling them what their chart supposedly meant. This revealed how transits work in the context of a person’s life, and how a person’s chart unfolds and reveals its layers through experience, over time. Then I would read the chart.
When I was living in Germany in 1998, I learned that there were a diversity of other newly discovered planets, including Pholus, Nessus and 1992 QB1, and I began looking into those. That process put me in touch with Chiron pioneer Melanie Reinhart, who I adopted as a mentor. I also met and studied with Robert von Heeren, co-author of the only book on Pholus.
From early on, I was curious about the asteroids, so I started reading books by Martha Lang-Wescott. I contacted her and adopted her as a mentor. I have a lot of Chiron in my chart, and mentorship is one of its key themes. As I identified competent astrologers, I would make contact with them and found them to be generous with their knowledge, among them Rob Hand, David Arner, David Solte, David Roell (a lot of Davids), Dale O’Brien and others. I never took a formal course of study; I just made a habit of finding people I thought had something going on and engaged them in a dialog, often lasting years.
The Planet Waves horoscope became a fusion of horoscope writing in the classical British style, as well as a forum to bring in what I was learning about the minor planets and from my experiences working with clients. I have incorporated everything I learned from my therapist Joseph Trusso.
Part of what makes my column distinctive is that I apply many details of what I have learned from observing my clients’ transits, as well as what I learned in therapy and in spiritual practice and training.
That most horoscopes aren’t so helpful is not the fault of the horoscope format itself. Those who write them need to have trust in what they’re doing, plus a vision and a sense of mission — otherwise the whole thing falls flat. But when it works, it works brilliantly, and I think the potential of the horoscope column is vastly underdeveloped. As I have said and will keep saying, the astrological profession needs to take this seriously, horoscope writing needs to be taught at conferences, and the very best horoscope writers need to be put forward into the most visible positions — because they are the ambassadors of astrology to the widest public available.
The Internet has made it much easier for people to start a horoscope column; all you need is a blog. If this field is brimming with talent, I have not encountered it yet and would be grateful to be introduced to those who my readers consider the better writers.
Yet thanks to the Internet, we have more space to work. The format of the Planet Waves horoscope I offer you here is not constrained by an absolute word count. A printed horoscope column of 1,200 words or 100 words per sign is considered long. In this format I take up to 180 words per sign if necessary, longer for the monthly. This gives me the space to develop more complex themes.
A Personal Form of Journalism
When I say that I consider my horoscope a form of journalism I really mean it. For one thing, it started in newspapers, so it’s journalism by default. I started in newspapers as well. I came to the work with many years of experience writing about issues that are extremely difficult to explain and even more difficult to show as relevant.
The horoscope is a space where I can apply anything I’ve learned and synthesize it with the unique, immediately occurring positions of the planets, and get the news out fast. It’s a mode of journalism that is actually relevant to the people who are reading it.
That’s a cool invention — a way to deliver up-to-the-day psychological and spiritual information, packaged as a form of inner news. I have often joked that the horoscope is the most accurate part of a newspaper. What I did was start from the horoscope and reinvent the whole concept of news.
One quality of the Planet Waves horoscope is that wherever I can arrange it, it appears with a news and astrology commentary column — that’s the bit you’re reading now. Not everyplace can accommodate this, but I negotiate it where I can. I consider the accompanying article to be an essential complement to the horoscope because it grants wider context and the ability to take subjects in-depth. It also reveals something that many people don’t know about — how astrology can be used as a way to observe, analyze and reflect on world events, on the movement of history and how we as individuals are involved in things much larger than ourselves.
The point of view of the horoscope column is distinctly personal. It must be written in a way that bypasses political prejudices and spiritual beliefs. It must address people who are having an awesome day and be sensitive enough to reach those who are having a horrible day. This is a fine line to walk, and it obviously precludes being either overly optimistic or in any way pessimistic in my horoscopes. Yet they still must convey a feeling of advocacy and demonstrate a measure of understanding. I recognize this not an easy form of writing to teach, though I believe it can be done.
The article that accompanies the horoscope is designed to take a wider scope, and to venture into controversial territory when necessary. Yet when I write about the news in this format, that too is kept to a scale where it’s personally relevant. The great failing of the news as we know it is that for the most part, it’s irrelevant. It may have impact; some events are too vast or tragic not to feel. Yet it almost always lacks actual meaning in an individual person’s life.
So with the Planet Waves column, I turn the news inside out and strive to show the connection. Astrology happens fast and news happens fast, and it’s possible to combine them in a way that’s both exciting and that teaches us all something about the world, about ourselves and about how the planets describe human affairs.
I work with the common ground that people share with major events and newsmakers — we all have the same planets in our charts. We are all in some way synchronized with the cosmos, even if that experience is rough at times. I believe that using astrology can help smooth the way, and at least can provide some meaning where it might have been lacking before.
A few years ago, an old book fell into my lap. It’s a first edition copy of The Astrology of Personalityby Dane Rudhyar, published in 1936. Rudhyar, by the way, is considered the inventor of the 12-sign horoscope column. Alice A. Bailey, who would later write Esoteric Astrology, suggested that Rudhyar write the book, and for that reason he dedicated it to her. By some miracle, I was given the presentation copy that he signed to her, dedicating it to her a second time, this time in his own handwriting on the title page.
Bailey made the book her own with a large pencil signature on the front inside cover, and by affixing the Lucis Trust Lending Library plate on the front endpaper. Reading the book, I have to remind myself that the impeccably neat pencil underscores may be those of Bailey herself. The very first one, on page 7, highlights this quote:
“What the ordinary astrologer offers to our present generation is not only far from coming up to the mental level of the intelligent thinker; it is moreover, often decidedly nefarious and psychologically disintegrating. The living astrology of all times can, however, be said to have a basic keynote: integration. And we claim that any astrology which does not bring a man a message of integration is an adulteration and a perversion of true astrology.”
Well now…way to sum up the intention I put into my life’s work. The chapter on the history of astrology closes with this passage, which I will share with you in full.
“Astrology must be reborn to perform again for our modern world, made chaotic by an unbridled and false individualism and by the sudden opening of psychological dams, the task of practical integration which has always been its own. Wherever the correlated motions of Sun, Moon, planets and stars are used to bring order into the confusion of our everyday world — there is astrology.
“The type and range of the phenomena of nature which astrology correlates, interprets and makes significant in terms of a cosmic principle of Order, change age after age. At first they were physiological and elemental. Now they are to be essentially psychological and mental. But the fundamental work of astrology remains the same. It is to reveal the ‘Harmony of the Spheres’ at whatever level man’s consciousness is centered. It is to carry the symbol of Order wherever man finds chaos. In modern terminology, it is the algebra of life.”
It’s funny, I have always thought of writing the horoscopes as calculus, solving the equation of the aspects in some life-affirming form. I look at the planetary pattern, align my chart for the reader of a particular sign, and work out the psychological mathematics in a way that I think is useful and motivating. It’s a lot of fun — and every time I write, I get to look at the world equally from 12 different points of view, the perfect game for a Pisces.
In that spirit, here’s to the next 1,000 horoscopes.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, May 30, 2014, #1000 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — Look carefully at what demands your relationships seem to make on you. For example, consider what you’re expected to sacrifice, or what you think you have to give up, especially if it involves an element of your identity. Consider the ways in which your affiliation with another person demands that you compromise your sense of right and wrong. Recent, subtle shifts in your astrology indicate that what is normally difficult to see is now easier to perceive. What has evolved is that you can feel your own values more clearly; you know what you hold dear, whether it’s an idea, a way of life or an approach to love. Once you have that context, it’s much easier to see the ways that what others say and do violates your sensibilities. Clinging to your values in the face of adversity is one thing; living them boldly is another — and now is the time to make, and act on, that distinction.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Venus has returned to your birth sign, another way of saying that you’re getting a boost of confidence in understanding a matter of commitment that may have been testing your endurance. Commitment is not a competition, though it’s often presented that way. Controlling another person is not a precondition of being committed to them, though that’s a narrative that we are often conned into believing. In the life of every conscious person there comes that moment when they discover they must adopt different relationship values from the ones they got from their parents, and for you this time seems to have arrived. Fortunately, you know more than your parents did, you have more options, and you’re very likely to be more self-aware. What has not changed is the ongoing influence of peer pressure to make stupid decisions. Don’t fall for it.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — The recent New Moon in your birth sign has demonstrated how good it feels to act in unison with yourself — mind and body, heart and soul. Your solar charts describe mighty goals, and state that you have a vision for yourself that’s becoming clearer every day. It will take strength and focus to meet those goals, and that begins and ends with being in harmony with yourself. Most of us are taught to fight ourselves. Simone de Beauvoir in her masterpiece The Second Sex described how women are raised to spend so much time in conflict with themselves that they have little time to rise to the challenges of the world. Wilhelm Reich described the plight of the “little man,” the man who is conditioned to feel small, worthless and powerless, and is therefore weak and miserable. So it seems that everyone is in the same boat. To rise up and meet the challenges of creativity and career, you must be aligned with yourself, and get over any delusion of littleness. You would do well to have these things be your first goal, every day of the week, for every decision you make.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — If you have something to say, particularly to an intimate partner, family member or therapist, this is the time to say it. Humanity in its current state has plenty that it bottles up, and after a while, these secrets come to define us; they shape who and what a person is. For the next couple of weeks, you may have a rare perspective on how this process works for you, and you can actually do something about it. That something begins with tapping your body-knowledge, then translating that into words — no matter how imprecisely they may seem to describe your situation. You must start somewhere, and that means opening up to yourself. As you do, information will come through from your dreams, which will serve as a healing modality on its own and help you put matters into context. Then at a certain point, sooner rather than later, you will have the option to initiate conversations with one or two people with whom it’s absolutely necessary. That will open up other possibilities; one step at a time.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You need to get out more — and not just for social purposes, but also for business purposes. You can walk the line between them just fine and have fun in any event, though it’s clear that you need a wider conversation than you normally get to have. This will serve two purposes — one is that you’ll be able to consider more diverse points of view, which I suggest you instigate by engaging people in conversation. Second is that you will get to overcome certain insecurities that have become more noticeable in the past year or so. What seems to be happening is that your viewpoint is being confined to a smaller place, thus, it cannot stretch out like it might otherwise. When you do get out and among others, make sure you converse with people about anything and everything, no matter how weird, questionably appropriate or taboo. Listen to what others say about their existence and you will learn a lot about yours.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — If you have to solve the same problem repeatedly, you’re not really solving it. If you figure something out and come up with the same solution again and again, you’re probably not taking action. This week’s New Moon in your 10th house of achievement is an invitation to do things differently. That means setting new goals, and approaching them with different strategies. The upcoming Mercury retrograde is calling on you to take a more intuitive approach to what you do, rather than a logical one. I don’t mean an emotional approach, though at this point there is no denying what you’re feeling; there is no denying what you want or what you need. Intuition is gentler, quieter and contains more specific information than most other forms of inner contact. It may contain a caution but rarely contains actual fear. So if you’re feeling fear, I suggest you look into what that’s about. Your solar chart suggests you ask yourself about the fear of going deep. Since you want to go deep, you’ll have to confront that issue.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You have all kinds of plans, you’ve been unusually decisive and yet you may be wondering how much progress you’ve made the past month or so. The real marker of progress is your direction of movement, not how far you’ve come. Look for evidence that you’re more committed to what you’re doing. Look at what you’ve let go of that was not working for you. Consider the extent to which you express the value you hold for the important people and situations in your life. Notice whether you show up someplace significant, and how you feel when you do. Do you feel more confident than you have in the past? Your astrology describes you as internalizing or dialing-in personality features that are not typical to what you’ve done in the past. So this may be a tentative kind of confidence, like what you might feel when you’re in an unfamiliar place yet still know you have the experience and maturity to handle anything that might turn up.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — What happens when you get what you want is always an interesting reality check. Not everyone is happy about it. Not everyone is comfortable. Some people are thrilled and others are resentful. Some feel entitled and some feel guilty. Some want more, and some are eager to share. So, I would put the question to you — how do you feel when you get what you ask for? Next level or layer, how do you feel honestly wanting who or what you want? How do you feel when you notice or see whomever or whatever that is? Some people feel control, some feel greed, some feel desire, some feel appreciation, some feel a focusing of their intent. Your astrology calls for careful reflection on your responses to who or whatever you may desire, inquiring deeper than you might ordinarily go, noticing things subtler than you might usually observe. Pay particular attention to fear that may arise, in any of its many forms.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — For a little while, consider everything a potential message from the gods. You’re philosophical, curious and adventurous enough to do this. Listen carefully to what people say, and imagine for a moment that it’s a direct revelation of truth. Observe the visual world around you for symbols that have personal or universal meaning. This isn’t because everything you see is indeed a divine message (though the case could be made that it is, from a metaphysical standpoint). Rather, I suggest you do everything you can to keep your mind open to the cosmos. If you do, you’ll notice things that you might not have noticed had you considered everything simply to be average, ordinary stuff as most people will perceive it to be. Notice, in particular, the quest, desire or struggle for the people to orient on healing. Listen to what they say and notice the choices they make, no matter how small or meager they may seem. Notice that value taking hold anywhere around you — anywhere at all.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — If you are trying to sort out the difference between self-esteem and narcissism, I have a clue for you. I know that these two ideas are often confused or conflated, and that’s a problem. It’s necessary to center one’s life on oneself, but there are many ways to do that. One way to distinguish them is to notice whether you’re interested in other people for their sake rather than for your own. The problem with narcissism is that it really does not care — either what happens to others, or how others actually feel about them. There is a kind of chilly emotional detachment to narcissism, and that is what makes it such a problem. If you care, show that you do. Don’t play it cool; be real. Say it in words and demonstrate it in deeds. Allow yourself to be part of someone else’s existence in a real way. This calls for vulnerability, the real thing. Now, if you happen to discover that you don’t really care so much? You can start by inquiring as to how that came to be. Once again it comes back to vulnerability.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — There’s a direct relationship between insecurity that has its root in a sense of being injured, and the potential to be an equal partner to others. The two ideas mirror one another. If you have some sense of yourself as injured, then the idea that you could be someone’s equal will seem to lack any credibility. It might even be too frightening to consider. The sensation may be, if I am actually met on level ground, then this person may see through me. They may see what I’m struggling with. They may figure out how hurt I feel. Now, all of this is an idea. There is not the perfect, independent person, and anyway if you ever meet one, they would know the path that it took to get there. Part of being an equal partner involves having a healthy relationship to the plight and the quest of being human, which these days is pretty challenging. That is the level ground — it’s not about perfect people getting together to be perfect, or injured people getting together to be injured. And this level ground — well, it starts inside of you.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — When I sat down at my desk in April 1995 to write the first Planet Waves horoscope, I don’t think I could have imagined writing my 1,000th column. Yet here we are, nearly 20 years later, and I am grateful for that. Being a horoscope writer is mysterious enough perceived from the outside. From the inside, it’s the experience of getting to write to you — and that means ongoing introspection. The beauty of writing horoscopes is that to do so, I must carefully consider every aspect pattern I write about from 12 distinct points of view, and write both to and from that perspective. I would not want to be a horoscope writer were I not a Pisces, because Pisces is the ultimate sign of ‘shape shift and see things from 12 points of view’. That kind of holistic viewpoint is one essence of Pisces, and of Chiron in Pisces, and if you step fully into that perspective you will see the world in a way that few people can see. I believe that is a gift, given for a purpose, and in Pisces fashion, intended to serve the greatest good for all concerned.