Newspaper horoscopes: Everyone has seen them. Everyone knows how ridiculous they are. You pick up the newspaper and read a short paragraph under your sun sign. You go there for a laugh or maybe you go there secretly hoping for guidance, but the result is the same. You’ve been shafted.
It is the astrologer’s perennial frustration: the impossibility of distilling astrological archetypes into anything specific that will actually mean something to everyone every time. Newspaper horoscopes don’t seem any more prophetic or synchronistic than a fortune cookie. As with a fortune cookie, I read them for entertainment only. Yes, even I, myself an astrologer, do that. Most newspaper forecasts by other astrologers are oblique to me. It is not at all obvious why they are saying what they are saying. Where did the writer get their ideas? I can’t always tell, which makes me suspicious.
Astrologers face a dilemma—to be taken seriously, they have to be noticed. To be noticed, they have to spend some of their valuable time doing “pop” astrology, in an attempt to appeal to the masses. Newspaper astrology forecasts are the ultimate dumbing-down of an otherwise useful medium of human understanding. They are popular but stupid.
Astrology is capable of generating very detailed information about human existence and human experience. Imagine that all of existence, absolutely every aspect of it, could be organized into 12 and only 12 categories. Each category would have to hold a lot of stuff, gathered under a central theme, but each theme would be so general that it would be hard to even put that central theme into words. Visualize each category, or zodiacal archetype, as a vast tree. The trunk of the tree represents a single theme, which is so grand as to be virtually incomprehensible. As the tree branches extend outward from the trunk, bits of experience get individualized and expressible, but as they continue branching out into twigs, it becomes harder to see their connections to the trunk of the tree, or to each other. They seem unrelated and it begins to seem like a stretch to group them together at all. Why would this twig, off this branch emanating from the north side of the tree have any relation to that twig over on the south side? Thus, if today is a Jupiter day, I could end up describing one side of Jupiter’s nature and you could be experiencing a totally different side, which is still Jupiter but which you didn’t know was Jupiter and therefore could not identify as such. So my focus on Jupiter might be relevant for you, but my choice of what to say about it might not.
This leaves astrologers to generalize, hoping to hit something that will be useful for most of the people, most of the time, when what people really respond to is zingers—interpretations that hit on something very specific. When you get zinged by an astrological forecast, you know it. You feel like the page you are reading is speaking to you personally. This is very exciting when it happens, but it happens very rarely.
For every interpretation an astrologer makes there are many others he could have written instead. And yet to be exhaustive would be. . . exhausting, both to write and read. Who knows how to choose which one is the best? There is no way to know. An astrologer has to simply choose. In newspaper horoscopes, the results often look random, as if they were pulled out of a hat.
Here is another thing to consider: there are other cycles we are subject to, besides astrological ones. Women are subject to menstrual cycles which can affect mood, energy level and physical ability to do things. An interpretation suggesting a strong workout that lands on a day a reader is experiencing PMS is not going to seem very pertinent! Another cycle we live by is the cycle of the work-week. An interpretation suggesting that romance is in the air on a Monday morning is not going to be of much use to a reader who has to go in to work with a sharp focus and put their social life on the back-burner for an eight-hour day, whereas such an interpretation falling on a Friday would be easier to make use of. But the planets don’t care what day of the week it is and sometimes they align in ways impossible for humans to take advantage of in real life.
I avoided the problem of forecasts for years, for over two decades of my astrological study. At this point I’ve finally succumbed and am writing a blog forecast page. I do this because people have repeatedly asked for it, but it still fills me with ambivalence. My solution to the dilemma has been to avoid writing forecasts for the sun signs. This evades the problem of arousing expectation in the reader that what I’m saying should apply to her life, personally. Instead I write a short interpretation for each day that has planetary activity, just a brief sentence or two about the astrological weather of the day itself. This enables the reader to notice the days when planetary activity triggers something in his own chart—such interpretations will stand out and feel synchronistic. The reader can then skip over the interpretations that do not call to him. This will usually be most of them.
Ultimately I’ve decided to regard my forecast “blurbs” as fortune cookies and to embrace that fact. When you read one, imagine yourself opening the cookie and reading the fortune inside. That’s how seriously you should take it (i.e. not very seriously at all). Naturally I do my best to get to the heart of the matter in each one, but I acknowledge that the need for brevity means the medium is and forever will be imperfect. Therefore, my disclaimer: each blurb is a brief, light look at the sky at that moment. It may or may not apply to you, out there in your real life. On the rare occasions when it does, I hope it zings you a good one and adds a little synchronicity to your day.