What I Talk About When I Talk About Astrology

"The Astrologer," Hans Holbein the Younger (1538)

I don't read horoscopes.

(I can only name one horoscope column that I find consistently helpful...and it's because the astrologer throws the typical horoscope rules out the window.)

I don't believe that a person's sun sign tells you everything you need to know about their personality.

(For years, I thought astrology was totally bunk because I'm a Taurus, and I'm anything but lazy, slow, conservative, and set in my ways.)

I don't believe that people born with Saturn in their House of Marriage are doomed to have failed relationships.

(I've bet my marriage on it. My husband has Saturn in the House of Marriage. We've been married for ten years, and he's an incredible spouse.)

I don't believe Libras are flakey or Virgos are uptight or Leos are narcissistic or that Cancers have to be bribed to leave the house. I don't believe that your computer will crash when Mercury goes retrograde or that your life will fall apart during your Saturn return.

In fact, I don't believe in fate at all, and if I did believe in fate, the stars would be the last place I would look to figure out how to deal with mine.

So, why does a person like me have anything to do with astrology?

The snappy answer is that I don't. At least, I don't have anything to do with the popular stereotypes. The truth is a bit more complicated than that.

I'm interested in is a particular school of astrology called Evolutionary Astrology.

One of the first astrologers to coin the name, Steven Forrest, says that Evolutionary Astrology combines humanistic psychology with ancient metaphysics. If you're familiar the work of Carl Jung, you are already familiar with some of the principles of Evolutionary Astrology: archetypes, shadow, ego, inner conflicts. 

Instead of assuming that your fate lies in the stars, Evolutionary Astrology leaves aside the question of fate entirely and assumes that you came into this life with the need to learn lessons. Some people need to learn courage. Some people need to learn how to listen. Some people need to learn how to build satisfying relationships. Some people need to learn how to calm down. The birth chart is a map of those intentions and a guide for telling stories to help you understand your own personality and why you might have those goals.

It was the storytelling potential of Evolutionary Astrology that first drew me.

Several years ago, I was doing intense work on character development in fiction. I wanted to know what personality theory could teach me about the way people think and behave, and I believed that working with typology could help me build more believable characters with rich inner lives. I spent a lot of time then figuring out their MBTI scores and their Enneagram numbers, and when I stumbled on astrology, I quickly discovered that figuring out a few basic pieces of my characters' astrological profile helped me find connections between who my characters were and what their natural inner conflicts might be.

My interest in Evolutionary Astrology as anything other than a character building tool happened slowly as I realized that astrology wasn't just helping me understand theoretical characters but real people. It gave me a language for talking about my own internal struggles and personal cycles. I felt simultaneously more at peace with myself and confident in my ability to grow and evolve. 

I believe you are the lead character in your own story.

I believe that the most interesting stories are about people.

All of the suspense and plotting in the world is just a frame for getting to know what other people are like. No one is ordinary. If someone seems ordinary and boring to you, it's because you don't know them well enough.

I believe that astrology at its core is simply a tool to help us tell stories about ourselves and each other and, through stories, build understanding.

And that is the astrology I'm interested in.

Image: The Astrologer by Hans Holbein the Younger (1538)