I’ve never been able to find the big dipper. I would stare up at the milky constellations and squint my eyes until they watered. Growing up in New York City, I became accustomed to a naked night. Street lights and groaning cranes adorned the blank horizon. Orion’s belt was veiled by a tapestry of light pollution and glass. The stars were celestial beasts that hid in a thick forest and I was intent on hunting them down. I would tame Cassiopeia. The monarch of the sky, tucked in between Cancer and Virgo, reared its fearsome head. The Nemean lion reigns in the sky and refuses to be killed by Hercules. According to some, these configurations of superheated plasma dictate my entire life. I don’t necessarily agree. I am simply attracted to the notion that all my actions and entire personality are composed by bodies millions of miles away.
My interest in astrology was born from the parallels between myself and the stereotypical Leo traits. I am fiercely extroverted and abhor time alone. My voice knows no limits and I am repeatedly reminded that I lack what others call an “indoor voice.” Perhaps most akin to the Leo, I have an inflated ego that refuses to be grounded and I look down upon other terrestrial bodies. If I fit so perfectly into astrology’s puzzle, why wouldn’t everyone else? Astrology soon began to permeate many facets of my life. My phone was inundated by the Cosmopolitan horoscope and my social circle found itself in the depths of astral interpretation. I thought to myself that I needed some sort of pedagogy to follow. I didn’t identify with my Jewish heritage and had forgone yarmulkes for tussled hair in my childhood. I refuse to pray because my two previous invocations occurred before early college acceptances and the election. The hidden lion decided that I would be an intense narcissist and imbued me with a lackadaisical attitude toward religion. At the same time, I felt unready to commit to atheism.
Could I really believe that astrology would compel my life and serve as a blueprint for my future dilemmas? Today, October 28, I am told by my horoscope to focus on my family and, “the resolution of issues and the release of tension.” You know, I have been feeling stressed and distant from my family. Maybe I should give them a call, I thought. That very call proved to be immensely therapeutic as a rupture in my small family was filled by my mother’s never-ending questions.
Jane had been practicing tarot cards since her childhood, and more than a decade later she had mastered the ability. We sat in the Firestone reading room whispering about my fate. I was honestly nervous, my stomach churned, and I felt my breath slip more rapidly. What if the death card was picked? Would it represent my social death or maybe my imminent academic failure? Perhaps it would be a sign of life’s frailty? Questions struck like lightning as my eyes fixed upon the taupe deck of cards. I blocked my eyes as she drew the first card—it was the Emperor. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was a king ruling over my domain. I had no idea what it meant but I assumed that I was successful. The Emperor was followed by the King of Wands, Temperance, and the Queen of Pentacles. I had practically been given the royal family and I was placed upon my rightful throne. I looked at Jane and was taken aback. She gasped. “What?” I emphatically asked. Her eyes widened and she began to explain that the outcome of my reading was extraordinary. Almost all of the cards I had pulled were fire signs which matched my Leo star sign. The cards told me that I was juggling a lot of tasks and that there was great difficulty in this burden. There was! I had three midterms and an article to write. I was stressed and my body was reflecting the anxiety. Thankfully, the Emperor told me that soon I would be dominating life. I would come out on top of the 2000 words that I had to write. The Queen of Pentacles demonstrated my paternal affection and my desire to care for those around me. I was a beacon of support; I fed and supported my friends. The tarot cards also expressed the difficulty of maintaining relationships outside the walls of Princeton. They encapsulated my psyche and—to be honest—fanned my ego.
Tonight as I sit in Murray Dodge I am fully aware that it is Scorpio season. I see my friends’ dispositions change slightly as tension permeates our conversations. Our first fight broke out at 2 a.m. in Terrace. The plush couch and nebulous air was disrupted by the shouts that emanated throughout the room. Should we Uber or walk home? It seemed like the two camps of this conundrum would never make peace. The scorpion was taking its poisonous hold on our conversation and toxic words were hurled from corner to corner. The hook lodged onto my tongue as I vomited deprecatory words at a close friend. “Mercury must be in retrograde.” It was not!
Though I may sound absurd, there is value in paying attention to how the stars align. Midterm week is assuaged by my attention to the horoscope. Don’t stress too much, I tell myself as I wonder who else on this campus finds comfort in their daily horoscope. I found my answer in rehearsal one day as I interrupted and bluntly asked, “Who believes in astrology?” Miranda smugly smiled and nodded. I was ecstatic but my joy was cut short by the melodies of Eva Peron. I knew that I had to talk to Miranda and see how other people conceived of the stars. Sadly, break rolled around and we were taken to the Northeast and South Texas.
I sat on the Amtrak; the manicured mansions of the Rhode Island cape became ocher silk through the rain-stained window. My motion sickness weighed on my eyes and I tried to focus on the patterned carpet rather than stare out of the speeding train. The burning leaves of fall threw orange and red into view and blurred into the ubiquitous American flags. I felt constrained by the small train corridor; I wanted to stare up at the vast sky and match the constellations. Confined to my phone, I texted Miranda.
“Do you believe in astrology?” I immediately regretted the simplicity of my question but she enthusiastically replied, “I do, but I almost have to let myself believe in it. The logical part of my brain knows how frivolous it seems and how intentionally vague horoscopes can be, but I still choose to believe in it. Maybe it’s just nice to have something to believe in and feel connected to something bigger than me or something cosmic, but I’m fascinated by it and when I’m reading my horoscope, I can’t help but feel like it’s speaking to me specifically. My interest in it definitely started as a joke, but it’s evolved since then—it’s still pretty lighthearted, but I do almost take it seriously now.” I was astounded. I could not have possibly resonated more with what she has said. It sometimes felt that I had to force my belief given the frequently superficial nature of horoscopes. I fully understood the desire to believe in something and how that desire constantly clashed with our previous “joking” interest in astrology. She had expressed her willful ignorance of the commodification and commercial nature of horoscopes. How can you believe when everyone tells you different things that feel applicable to everyone? Like Miranda, you just have to ignore a lot of what is out there on astrology and find what feels right for you. Don’t let belief wane; rather, search out a horoscope that can provide a little structure or insight about your life.
Miranda also identified with her sign, perhaps reluctantly. She said, “I’m a Capricorn and while I don’t want to identify it, I think I’m a lot more like the Cap stereotype than I’d ever admit. I also like to tell myself I’m not really a Capricorn because my birth chart is Aquarius dominant/I’m only a Capricorn in my sun sign.” Our sun signs can detail minutiae about our personalities and display flaws that we attempt to ignore. I paid increasing attention to my egoism after noticing that it was typical of my sun sign.
The most important question that I had to ask Miranda was if she ever felt judged for her interest in astrology. She promptly responded, “Not so much, but I’m not super vocal about it either. Most of my close friends actually are pretty into it too, so there’s no judgment there. I’ve had a couple of people give me a weird look or try to make fun of it, but I think the big misconception is that people who discount it or judge it think people who like astrology aren’t aware of the lack of science behind it or how generalized it is to appeal to large groups of people, but most of the people I know who are into it are very much aware of that and don’t take it completely seriously—they just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it so the judgment doesn’t really matter.” Just yesterday I had seen a video of Bill Nye debunking astrology, something about how earth is on a tilt and thus the stars aren’t in the same place in the sky as they were thousands of years ago. I recognized this and so did Miranda and her friends. We all understood that we couldn’t justify our interest with scientific backing. Nevertheless, our interest persisted. The notion of “enjoying it for the sake of enjoying it,” particularly struck me. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t rationalize astrology, I could find pleasure in it and that was what mattered.