October 01st, 2013

Reviving the Question: What’s Your Sign?


Human beings give undo importance to the the question: What do you do? Americans, especially, seem fixated on the question. As a Cancer-ruled nation (the zodiac sign, not the disease), how we make money, consume and survive fascinates everyone. Nothing wrong with fascination, except for how mechanical the question eventually becomes.

The inquisitiveness with ‘what you do?’ is amplified in a bustling gathering like a party, where there might be lots of unfamiliar folks milling about the watering hole. The animal in us wants to feel secure, so an answer to the vocation question telegraphs relief, helps us orient and relax. “I’m a clerk. Oh, and you’re a nurse. Cool.” Our cards are on the table. As if our job comprises the entirety of what we’re about as a person. In the early 70s, counterculture party peeps, still high on the dawning Aquarian Age, devised a much more interesting question: “What sign are you?” I miss that question, and I’m all for restoring the quirkiness of that social strategy.

I attended a party last night where the notion of small talk wasn’t appealing — I mean, if I’d a choice between banal dialogue and watching The Real Househusbands of Hoboken, I’d probably have stayed home and downloaded the torrent. What can I say? I’ve a Moon in Scorpio with Pluto on the ascendant, sometimes my intensity and aversion to the low-grade shrill of chitchat gets the best of me. During a party I can usually toggle over to Venus and let her Gemini-informed esprit take over, but last night Pluto’s Darkman archetype set the conversational tone. Too, a couple of gin and tonics had lubricated things up enough that I became daring and announced to everyone I met, right out of the gate, that I was an astrologer. Usually I don’t.

Revealing that I’m an astrologer violates each factor of my grandmother’s firmest axiom: “With strangers it’s best not to discuss sex, religion or politics.” I’m sure a lot of you grew up with a similar rule.

There’s a mysterious, occult association with astrology which mirrors, in some ways, the powerful buzz of sexuality. Too, there’s a New Age assumption about stargazers. It’s similar to announcing to someone that I’m, say, a Presbyterian, or (worse) that I collect quartz crystals and Enya CDs. And then finally, a political moment is evoked too, because immediately the person I am talking to must analyze the situation and take a quick vote on how she is going to react and spend the next five or ten minutes. Similar to when someone tells you she’s a Born Again Christian — you figure if you stay put past that disclosure you’re doomed. Some people don’t ‘believe’ in astrology’ and find the subject doltish. But, to be honest, they’re the exception.

Here’s the thing — the big thing — for people and the subject of astrology: Astrology and astrologers evoke the primordial image of the Oracle. Astrologers are connected, through lineage, to an eons-old experience that touches the heart and soul of each of us. That’s what archetypes are: Universal experiences that form the bedrock of our psyche, our human being-ness. You have a mother. I have a mother. We both partake of the Mother imago. You wonder about existence, how your life is situated and where it is heading. I wonder about my life in the same way. That wonder, that curiosity about one’s essence and the future, can easily conjure the archetype of the Seer or Oracle. So imagine you’re at a gathering, eating shrimp cocktail and suddenly an oracle is standing next to you, holding a gin and tonic. It can liven things up.

Even the staunchest rationalist is impacted by the Oracle aura and will usually override their skepticism with a suspended, self-negotiated curiosity. I had a Taurus once challenge me by doing the hackneyed “OK, what sign am I?” schtick. Because Taureans are the only people left on the planet still doing this at parties, I naturally guessed correctly. He acted as though he didn’t register my answer and immediately pointed to two women that were standing beside us. “What’s their sign?” he asked. Both ladies were stylishly dressed and made a striking sort of ‘bookends’ impression on me. “They’re both Libras,” I replied. And they were. (I’d even amazed myself at that point).

Then the Taurus was all dogged, focused attention, ready for some earnest astro-dialogue. Experience has taught me that Taurus folks generally have a very childlike desire to believe in the irrational, and this usually shows up as a fascination with ghosts, Ouija boards and similar spook show stuff. It’s the oddest thing. But it’s very Taurus. It’s the closest they’ll let themselves come to the oracular. And so what? It’s a start.

Of course the water signs — Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces — jump right into the pool with me — they seem relieved to have someone they can talk to about their relationship to relationships. And because they have spent most of their lives trying to figure other people out, the typology of astrology appeals to them. The water signs are most aligned with the mystical impulse as well. Their imagination is keenly developed, they leap easily into the concept that heaven and earth are connected. They like the romance, the poetry of that notion.

Fire signs appreciate the romance of astrology too. But not from the relational angle. They’re interested in astrology because it imparts insights and revelations about their favorite subject: Themselves. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius already view life through a mythic lens. They are interested in forward motion and what can be conquered in their quest to evolve and create. It’s no coincidence that the solar system’s most dynamic celestial bodies ‘rule’ the fire signs. Jupiter (the largest planet governs Sagittarius), Mars (the most energized, rules Aries) and the Sun, an actual star governs Leo. All of that is just fine with fire. Of course they’d be associated with the big players — they’re fire signs MOFO!

Earth signs find this sort of talk frustrating — what does it have to do with the nuts and bolts of living? As I noted about the Taurus peeps, Virgo and Capricorn have an innate skepticism in place. This has to do with control. As in not losing it. Astrology translates as a force that is beyond one’s ability to guide or diddle — a maddening predicament for the earth folk. Though Virgos, because they like categorizing things and people, will take to astrology as a way to file something/someone away in that giant library within their head.

Gemini, Libra and Aquarius act like they’re interested, but secretly talk to other people about you as though you’re a homeless person who managed to crash the party. Their rational mindset gets the best of them. If they do engage me on the topic of astrology they will often argue or challenge me because, well, that’s just how air signs do things. They figure out where they stand on issues by first opposing them and then weighing what they observe through the oppostion and then they decide (MAYBE) how they really feel — maybe. But oddly enough when an air sign ‘converts’ their interest in the subject becomes unquenchable. They become excellent astrologers; their objectivity allows them to bring the astrological concepts to life, communicating with clear language and a balanced perspective.

Oracles, the great and minor ones, through the story of time, are always connected with the mythological. The same as astrology and its hidden origins. A horoscope, as astrologer Wendy Ashley notes, is the “map of a myth,” and the astrologer’s job is to uncover which myth is most fitting their client’s chart. “The word ‘myth’ is related to the word ‘mouth’ and mirrors myth as a ‘story.'”

It’s been said that God created humankind because She enjoys stories. I’d agree. The author Robert McKee responds when he says: “Stories are equipment for living.” And then I’d add that God created the art of astrology for men and women to make sense of their world, inner and outer, by studying the syntax of the universe — God’s grandest story yet.

I always think of the ‘O’ in the word “oracle” as an open mouth. In the beginning was the word. The word being that oracular link between heaven and earth.

“What do you do for a living?” This question might be better put as: “Where are you going?” And fair enough. We’re all doing our best to manage the mystery of existence down here. And if heaven can help a little bit, inform my conversation with a bit of oracular stardust, well, I can’t imagine having a better job for myself.

“The end.”


14 Responses to 'Reviving the Question: What’s Your Sign?'
Filed Under: Astrology
  1. Dave the H. remarks:

    I knew there was a reason I liked your blog, intelligent snark and movements toward consciousness.

    Me, too, Moon in Scorpio and Venus in Gemini.

    Can I take parties? Depends what energies are to the fore.

    Dave, who has three parties this weekend and says “aaargh”

    December 11th, 2009 at 1:22 pm
  2. M.T. remarks:


    Why don’t you write more. And what happened to the new and full moon reports you were doing?
    And just so you know, I’m a Capricorn and I’m probably one of the best astrologers 😉 you’ll ever meet. Too bad I won’t see you at any parties this christmas, as we could have some really great indepth conversations.

    Anyway. Merry New Year to you, and thanks again for your excellent site. I visit all the time.


    December 12th, 2009 at 11:13 am
  3. Jared remarks:

    Great post! I like what you’ve said about the oracle being invoked in a situation like that. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I was just at a party a few weeks ago where this situation came up. It came out that I was an astrologer and suddenly there was a whole lot of conversation swirling about me. The only thing that bothers me is that whole instant analysis thing. Like you, I have some very non-superficial qualities (aka, a ton of Scorpio), so discussing it with cocktail in hand is bothersome. Although, all the cocktails made my tongue loose to begin with so that’s how it all started.

    I also hate that “What do you do” question, because you’re right, that is the social cue for deciding who you are as a person. My job has so little to do with who I am, I always hate answering the question because I know for what reason people are asking it. I really love your alternative “Where are you going” question, because that’s so much more of what life is about! I want to know about where you are in your journey and what has happened along the way, not what you do to earn a buck.

    I think what also is troublesome about instant astrological analysis is that, even in the best of situations, I still feel like I haven’t communicated properly. I have found that my experiences relate to what James has written about in Varieties of Religious Experience. I have a hard time bridging that gap between the archetypal realm and this one, and whenever I work astrologically, that’s what I feel I’m doing: bridge building. I feel this is one of my Uranian problems, that I have that grasping of something vast and cosmic, but pulling it down to earth in a communicative session somehow just doesn’t “get it right”. Ah well, I suppose we just have to keep trying, even at cocktail parties.

    December 12th, 2009 at 12:46 pm
  4. NR remarks:

    What a brilliant, brilliant post, Frederick! Loved it!

    December 12th, 2009 at 1:37 pm
  5. Tony Vowles remarks:

    hehe – the Oracle with a Gin and Tonic – like that and your post Frederick

    December 12th, 2009 at 2:07 pm
  6. Michelle remarks:

    Interested in learning about myself? Oh, please ;p

    Aries Sun, Mercury, Venus; Moon in Leo and Neptune in Sag.

    December 12th, 2009 at 5:00 pm
  7. Surta remarks:


    Our friend Bart turned me on to this. Very well-written. Sassy, pertinent, smart and just downright fun to read. Glad to see you’re keeping your astro muscles well-oiled!

    Here’s a holiday haiku for you:

    uncage your heart and
    force that bird of misery
    to find another roost


    December 12th, 2009 at 9:07 pm
  8. Beth Turnage remarks:

    Please pass the Gin. My progressed moon in the eighth is keeping my oracles to myself these days. How do you Scorpionic types deal with this every-single-day? Geesh!

    December 13th, 2009 at 3:50 am
  9. Ruth remarks:

    I have had this exact same experience with Taureans. For me, they are always the easiest to pick out of a crowd, especially if astrology comes up!

    December 27th, 2009 at 1:08 pm
  10. Lori remarks:

    I did the same exact thing and guessed a Taurean once, and a Scorpio (well, that time we were in an astrology class). Love the flow of your writing! So nice to read.

    A Cappy

    August 3rd, 2012 at 8:04 am
  11. Ann remarks:

    I say make up a profession when asked…what the hey. I’m a Hospice nurse, and that’s a REAL conversation squelcher at a party. I’m always longing for that curious person to ask me to tell some hospice stories. Not the sad ones, but the interesting ones.
    Actually astrology helps me a lot in working with people, more than you’d think, despite being an Aries, ahem!

    May 3rd, 2013 at 8:25 pm
  12. Natalia in Philly remarks:

    This article made me super duper laugh out loud!!! I LOVE IT!! Thank you, thank you, for your beautiful inner work that translates into your writing! So gorgeous!!!

    May 10th, 2013 at 9:37 am
  13. Ann remarks:

    My Astrology teacher in Sweden says that America is Gemini Sunsign 🙂

    May 13th, 2013 at 11:22 am
  14. Ann remarks:

    Gemini I am – an excellent astrologer 😀

    May 13th, 2013 at 11:23 am

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