Ask astrologer Nick Dagan Best what school of astrology he practices and he will answer: “Astrology.”
His pointed, slightly sardonic response is echoed in his list of must-read books for beginning astrologers. When I requested recommendations for our interview, he offered, right at the number 1 spot: “The ephemeris — any version.” Because, as he explained: “It is the combined biography of billions of souls.”
And Nick oughta know. He has a reputation within the astro community for being a ‘human ephemeris’. Though, as he told me when we met for some libations and philosophizing recently, “I still don’t have Mercury and the Moon entirely down pat yet.” (“Jesus, I’m still trying to recall what sign Mars is transiting right now,” I thought to myself.)
Name an event from history and Best will tell you where Saturn and Jupiter were positioned and if Venus or Mars were retrograde or not on that date. This happened throughout the evening as we discussed the birth charts and defining moments (and the retrogrades that accompanied them) of Miles Davis, Alfred Hitchcock and J. Edgar Hoover. Dotted throughout with tidbits about the history of the United States and the planet Uranus (the subject of his new book) and the revelation that Joni Mitchell always referred to her favorite white Mercedes as her “baby” and, of course, where the planets were the night her “baby” was stolen.
As our conversation continued — always with ready examples on hand from his nearby laptop — I’d a sense that I was sitting within a holographic force field of astrology’s awe-inspiring chronologic annals. Complimenting Best’s unique grasp of Big Time is his database of over 30,000 event horoscopes — all of which cross-reference historical moments and history makers.
I asked Best how his acute sense of time informs his counseling skills. He explained that he always considers the client’s entire lifespan when studying his or her horoscope. Not that he trades in death predictions, but foremost in his mind is that we’re only on earth for a limited duration of time, and that means we’re each unpacking our lives within a particular arc. A span that informs his analysis of short- and long-term transits and progressions (which he always considers together), regardless a client’s focus on current quandaries.
Best published his first book last year, a graphic novel title URANU.S.A.:Astrology Looks at the First Planet and Nation of the New World. I attempted several times during the evening, like a three-year-old, to properly pronounce the title but then gave up and just referred to it “as your book about Uranus and the history of the United States.”
UranU.S.A.’s presentation, from its comic book-like front and back covers, to what’s contained within, is a literal representation of Best’s own horoscope. A Leo with lots of Leo and Virgo. Translated: A one-of-a-kind book that’s filled with fascinating data, presented in a whimsical way that makes learning fun.
If you’ve an academic’s approach to understanding how astrology and history intertwine (especially with a wildcard planet like Uranus as the central character), this is your book. My only complaint? My ancient eyes balk at white type printed on black backgrounds — true, it gives a dramatic impact to the colorful presentation of data, but my Jupiter in Virgo has to have something to bitch about.
Mary Plumb‘s recent review in The Mountain Astrologer describes the book’s allure well:
“The author is a creative astrologer. He is keen on investigating repeating cycles, and he notices overlapping patterns and planetary events that are ‘co-present’ with each other.” She notes that the book is, “well laid-out — there is a two-page spread for each event, with the historical record on the left side and the horoscope and astrological data on the right. This is a quite effective way to transmit information.”
And I will echo that last sentiment. In the age of Web 2.0, where Instagram rules (pictures, pictures, images, images), Best’s book is a frontrunner for what I’m certain is to be a new style of presenting research. Too, when he notes: “Uranus by transit tends to pervert the values associated with a given sign,” you’re going to want to follow him further down the rabbit hole to see how his analysis supports that claim.
Our interview took place over email and like my meeting with Nick, I found it beguiling and incredibly informative. Enjoy. Read more
“Real seriousness in regard to writing is one of two absolute necessities.
The other, unfortunately, is talent.” –Ernest Hemingway
The internet has fostered the madcap idea that — given the collapse of print publishing and the world of editors and agents — everyone should be writing. Something.
Or recording music.
Or painting. Drawing. Doodling.
But — uh oh — so many can’t.
Years ago the author Toni Morrison exclaimed to whomever (whoever?) was listening that everyone in the world had a book inside of him (or her) that was just waiting to be written. Uhm, checkmate! Another author, the gadfly Fran Liebowitz, interrupted Ms. Morrison and said: “This may be true, but please don’t write it.”
I agree. There is nothing more heartbreaking than when an amateur following what she thinks is her muse discovers that it’s simply the ominous groan of a foghorn declaring: “Danger! Treacherous rocks ahead. Think of your mortgage.”
One of the most egregious areas of online self-publishing are astrology blogs and YouTube videos. Holy Shit! Here we discover why the masses consider astrology disposable and relegated to the back pages of Cosmopolitan magazine.
I’m amazed when I consider my career and what was required to first learn astrology and then become a good astrologer. Where did my stamina to attempt writing come from? It was a surprise. The one skill doesn’t necessarily confirm the other. One might read a chart but can’t write about it worth a damn.
So, over time I discovered that I had a knack for writing about astrology too. The keyword is knack — and, well, unfortunately knack-ness is not something that can be taught. Grammar and speling (forget about it) and The Elements of Style can be mastered, but not the inherent nature of a knack. Slippery as a glowing fish.
Mega-million bestseller Stephen King puts it like this — which includes the “good news” and the “bad news”:
“…while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
The catch with the above statement is that the self-broadcasting ease of the internet has all but destroyed the necessities of hard work, dedication, and timely help. In fact the internet fosters the very conditions that hatch bad writers. Roger H. Garrison, author of How a Writer Works, describes those wayward wannabes as folks who fall victim to the “tides of phony, posturing, pretentious, tired, imprecise slovenly language, which both suffocate and corrupt the mind.”
Coupled with what I call knack (and others might call inherent talent) — and this is crucial — one must have the interest of the reader uppermost. To care about the reader and the investment of her time, this is golden. When I care about my reader I’m forced to be a better writer.
So the knack, and this sort of ‘reader empathy’ can not be taught. I’m sorry. As my mom would often say, just before pissing off my father: “There, I said it.”
If you fancy yourself an astrologer and a writer please learn how to write economically and always consider what you are conjuring in the reader’s mind that deflates or inspires his interest in astrology. Think how quickly, easily your writer’s thread can unravel into the warning signs of pre-dementia due to the nature of your subject — an occupational hazard for sure.
“Is not every civilization bound to decay as it begins to penetrate the masses?” –Michael Rostovtzeff
Did you ever stop to think about where fortune cookies are created?
Picture a fortune cookie factory. Naturally, there’s the cookie-making division and then, too, there’s a crew that writes the fortunes.
Now, imagine a fortune cookie factory calamity.
Let’s say that the fortune scribes become confused and all of the cookie scripture gets blended together, willy nilly, into streams of nonsense that form an infinitely long strip of paper that stretches from here to Pluto.
That endless ticker tape of gibberish is the equivalent of the massive amount of babble that passes for writing (or talking) on a majority of blogs and websites dedicated to astrology. Gigs of bandwidth are gobbled — eyeballs scan and scrape — but very little of import or relevance is ever composed, ever consumed.
Consider Google Trends, a service of the search engine where you can choose a topic, enter it into their data mine and see for yourself how interest in astrology has declined over the past fifteen years. (And is projected to continue its glide towards the bottom in the years ahead.)
This is not because astrology has become less interesting as a subject. No, as any professional astrologer will tell you, there has never been a better time to be an astrologer or become interested in the craft, especially as the research and published discoveries of the traditional school dovetail into the psychological and spiritual ethos of modern astrology.
No, the problem, as related to the internet, is threefold: Read more
The principle purpose of this post isn’t going to be about what you think it’s going to be about.
You read the word imagination in the title, but actually I’m going to talk about the word in a different way.
And so this little exchange will be a good example of how the mind works when Mercury is retrograde. Or rather what we see about the nature of our habitual mind and the way it works. Which is usually predictable and reactive — thinking but not really understanding.
Mercury retrogrades are a fortuitous time to foster understanding, because the power of the mind is more potent, more engaged and present. In fact, compared to its normal rhythm, the mind is liable to feel overloaded with Mercurial quicksilver.
So what I’m talking about here is this:
You read a word, it triggers an association but it’s the wrong association. The impulse travels along an old, worn groove in your brain, but it’s not the right groove. You end up where you didn’t expect to end up.
And this is why when clients talk to me about how to best align with Mercury retrograde I advise: “Pay attention, things won’t be what you think they are going to be.” Meaning, your old way of seeing everything in the same familiar way is unplugged right now. Read more