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.”


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