Archives For Astrology

While most media outlets and private citizens are remembering former First Lady Nancy Reagan for her political stances, almost forgotten is one of the most controversial revelations of her stint in the White House – that her consultations with an astrologer heavily influenced President Ronald Reagan.


People Weekly, May 23, 1988

In 1988, Reagan’s former Chief of Staff Donald Regan included a bombshell in his book For the Record that Nancy consulted Astrologer Joan Quigley. He wrote that, “Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.”

Regan noted that those moves included setting the timing for summit meetings, presidential debates, the timing and date of State of the Union addresses, and every takeoff and landing of Air Force One. Nancy kept Quigley on a $3000 a month retainer and consulted her by phone up to 2 or 3 times a day.

After the White House and Mrs. Reagan confirmed that Quigley had been consulted on matters of timing, but not policy, the media had a field day.


[Cartoon by award-winning artist Doug Marlette. Originally published in the Atlanta Constitution 1988]

While most of the negative press was focused on Nancy, some of it bled over on to the President. Evening talk show hosts called him ‘The Dipper’ and ‘Bonzo Rising,’ playing on Reagan’s nicknames. Newspaper editors and columnists questioned the President’s fitness to hold office. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it entirely comforting that the man with one hand on The Button has the other on a crystal ball,” wrote Tom Teepen in the Atlanta Constitution.

Scientists like James Kaler, a professor of astronomy at the University of Illinois, chimed in. He said,“How can you control a science budget of billions of dollars when you believe in nonsense of this magnitude?”

The Religious Right didn’t hold back, either. Vice President of the Moral Majority Cal Thomas wrote, “This is the last straw for a lot of religious people who treated Reagan as their political savior.”

The idea that the First Lady and her husband could take astrology so seriously was seen as an embarrassment and a danger. In an age of scientific advancement, how could this happen?

Yet, at the same time, it was a period of growth for the greater Pagan community, where festivals were being born, metaphysical shops were opening, and yes, information on divination techniques like astrology was exchanged.

Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary remembers the revelations about Nancy Reagan,“The 1980s were a time before the cyber communications of email, blogs, and social media. During that era, the communications I had with other Pagans were mostly face-to-face at festivals and other events. In discussing the media reports about astrological consultations in the Reagan White House, some of us expressed concerns about many of the intense negative reactions that emerged in the country when this became visible. Yet, not all press coverage had derogatory dimensions. In fact, for me and some other Pagans I knew, the news was an indicator that Astrology and some other metaphysical practices were becoming more widespread and commonplace in society.”

Phaedra Bonewits, Witch and general occultist, said that she also remembers the period well, “At that time astrology was hardly hidden or exotic; every newspaper featured a column with daily sun sign advice, and certainly by the eighties, ‘What’s your sign?’ had long shifted from pick-up line to punch line. Her interest in astrology was framed more as a silly, gullible superstition.”

Rev. Fox added that she wasn’t surprised that Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer, “After all, both Ronald and Nancy had roots in Old Hollywood where consulting astrologers, many of whom were friends, was a common practice. I am glad that First Lady Nancy Reagan mentioned her Astrology consultations the following year in her autobiography My Turn. Astrological consultations during the Reagan Presidency became a matter of public record.”

Nancy Reagan is hardly the first White House resident to seek guidance from astrology or other metaphysical methods. President Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd were said to have Spiritualist séances in the White House to contact their dead son Willie. First Lady Florence Harding consulted with the astrologer & seer Madame Marcia during the Harding Presidency. Both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were also interested in astrology.

Former First Lady, and current Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton consulted extensively with Jean Houston during the Clinton presidency. In 1986, reporter Bob Woodward included in his book The Choice the news that Mrs. Clinton spoke with Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi, under the guidance of Ms. Houston. He also noted that there were periods in which Houston stayed at the White House for days at a time, particularly while Mrs. Clinton was writing the book It Takes a Village.

Unlike Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton didn’t confirm anything metaphysical, such as a seance, was taking place in the White House. She stated Houston was helping her get through a difficult time in her life using therapy. She wasn’t talking to the dead; she wasn’t having imaginary conversations with admired historical figures to sort through the pressures of being First Lady.

The press, mostly, followed this narrative.

Although Jean Houston, co-director of the Foundation for Mind Research, was a renowned psychologist, she also studied the psychic experience, and altered and expanded consciousness. She is considered one of the founders of the Human Potential movement, and also believed that talking to the dead through channeling was possible.

There hasn’t been any mention of Hillary Clinton continuing to consult with psychics or mediums since the mid-1990s.

Has public opinion changed on metaphysics in general and White House consultations in particular? Would a revelation, similar to the one about Nancy Reagan, spark a media storm or a yawn? What about other forms of divination like tarot?

“With the current religious climate, tarot cards might be another level of weirdness,” speculated Phaedra Bonewits. She continued to say, “I don’t think a right-wing candidate or First Spouse could get away with it at all; it would be seen as a betrayal of the religious right. For a left or liberal candidate or First Spouse, it would be one more bludgeon that conservatives could use to go after them. Rather than being mocked as Nancy was, I think it would turn very ugly.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK –In astrology, the planet Mercury begins moving retrograde again on January 21, meaning that the planet will appear to be moving in the opposite direction of other heavenly bodies. This optical illusion occurs three times annually, and usually inspires a plethora of social media posts blaming communication and other blunders on the condition. This time around, Mercury’s reversal has caught the attention of writer Kristin Dombek, who in an essay in the New York Times magazine writes:

On Jan. 21, at 10:54 a.m. Eastern Time, Mercury will begin its first pass by Earth of the new year. For about three weeks, it will appear to move backward across our sky and will, according to astrologers, disrupt technology, communication and human concord. Facebook and Twitter will clog with reports of appointments missed, important email sent to the spam folder, wars between nations, cars crashed and iPhones dropped in toilets, all followed by some version of the hashtag “#mercuryretrograde.” Advice from astrology blogs will arrive in unison: Back up your computer, expect miscommunications, don’t make agreements or important decisions and don’t sign contracts — and hide.

Teri Parsley Starnes

Teri Parsley Starnes

“I thought the article was kinda great,” said Teri Parsley Starnes, an astrologer who writes on the topic for PNC’s Minnesota bureau. She braced herself for a slew of misconceptions, saying, “I figured, ‘here we go,’ someone’s going to make fun of us, but I learned some stuff, like the fact that the craters are named after artists. That’s brilliant.”

While Starnes feels that Dombek’s treatment wasn’t as terrible as it could have been, she does think people with only a passing familiarity with astrology may not quite grasp the concept. “Saturn return and Mercury retrograde are the two things most people know,” she said, and as a result, “It’s easy to blame Mercury” for any mishap that occurs during the retrograde period. As a Pagan, though — she’s a member of the Reclaiming tradition — Starnes looks at the skies through a spiritual lens, and considers what is known about the gods associated with the heavenly bodies.

Mercury and Hermes (Starnes used the names interchangeably during the interview) are gods of communication, but they are also tricksters. “I’m very inspired by the trickster aspect,” she said. “Whatever we expect to do, during retrograde the result is often something we didn’t expect. I think of it as a mirror: what’s my intention? Now, we must do it another way.”

She went on to explain that this is a period where being mindful and present is important. “I think his mission during retrograde is to integrate all of our minds, we often use just our ‘left brain’ or our ‘right brain;’ he encourages both.”That kind of integration is the opposite of how many people move through the day. We often space out, we’re not present,” she said. “I don’t caution to not do things, it’s a really good opportunity to enhance our focus be more present.”

One of Starnes’ clients has exploratory surgery scheduled during this retrograde, and asked if rescheduling was the best option. “No, I would take a little extra care talking to the nurses and surgeons,” she counseled the client, and “express confidence to remind them to be thoughtful. We can actually invoke Mercury as an ally, getting deeper in the surgery,” she explained. “I work with Mercury that way.”

Blaming Mercury may be easy, but it misses the mark. Starnes said, “It’s easy to just blame him and not recognize that we are involved. It’s easy to send emails you regret later. Easy to incite arguments, or get in trouble. I don’t blame Mercury, he’s just showing me I need to be more careful. It bothers me when I hear people blaming Mercury.”

Instead, she sees retrograde as a “real chance to enter sacred time,” and looks to the myths about this messenger god for lessons. “[The] myth of the birth of Hermes [tells how] as a day old baby, he hatched plan to become a major god. He invented the first musical instrument, stole Apollo’s cattle, hid their tracks by walking backwards, [and] invented sacrifice,” she said. “It got the attention of Zeus, and he became one of the pantheon. Mercury is eternally crafty, and we’re also trying to get something we want.”

For those who feel they are getting a little more divine attention than they can handle, “You can appease him,” Starnes said. “Sometimes I will do that, leave offerings at the crossroads, tell him he’s a great god, ask him to be gentle with me as he helps to relink the parts of my mind that need to be linked again.”

Perhaps it’s not enough to simply acknowledge that Mercury is in retrograde when one’s plans run afoul. Perhaps a better approach is to ask, “What point is Mercury trying to make?” and take the lesson seriously. If nothing else, Starnes recommends cultivating a sense of humor for the duration.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

  • Angela Sanford, a Wiccan who killed Joel Leyva in what some media described as a ritualistic sacrifice, has had a request for a reduced sentence denied. Sanford has been sentenced to 20 years under a plea agreement, her story was recently dramatized on the show Fatal Encounters.
  • The Pagan community has been in the process of having a debate/discussion over the issue of obesity. It started with a post by Peter Dybing, and has been raging ever since. Notable responses have come from Star Foster,  Iris Firemoon, and  Kitsune Yokai at the Fat Pagan blog, with Margot Adler, Crystal Blanton, and Shauna Aura adding their voices in the comments of Peter’s blog. The most recent commentary on the question of health and obesity comes from T. Thorn Coyle: “There is some real dialogue, some hurt feelings, some anger, and some derision. Bottom line is this: we all have ways in which we do not walk our talk. Bottom line is this: we cannot know what another’s life looks like on the inside, by observing it from the outside.” As this conversation  no doubt continues, I hope we can steer clear of judging bodies, and instead focus on building a more supportive community for everyone.
  • At The Revealer, Alex Thurston writes about syncretism in Islam within the context of Mali and the destruction of Sufi shrines. Quote: “The alternative – and the greatest challenge to Ansar al Din’s program – is not to assert Islamists’ hidden love for the things they say they hate, but to assert the reality, the desirability, and the possibility that there is more than one way to be a real Muslim. Timbuktu in 2012 is not Mecca in 630. African Muslims are Muslims, full stop. And the loss of shrines in Timbuktu is a loss not only for world civilization and for locals, but also for Islam.”
  • PNC-Minnesota recently published two interviews, one with M. Macha NightMare, and one with Lady Yeshe Rabbit, who will be appearing at Sacred Harvest Fest. Quote: “I am bringing an open mind. I am interested in learning and sampling from you all the regional flavors of your community. I am bringing my own classes and rituals that I will be leading. One is a project that has been dear to my consciousness, called American Sabbats. It is looking at the secular, bank holidays of this country and their history, and the amount of energy that is generated within them. How the energy of those holidays, which many of us celebrate in addition to our Pagan holidays,  might be channeled toward the greater good of our country. There are many changes needed in our country in order to be healthy. I am curious to go and sample what the opinions and thoughts are of all of you who have a unique experience of America from your vantage point in the Midwest.”
  •  The US Dept. of Justice is supporting Native American inmates in their quest to have a South Dakota ban on using tobacco in religious ceremonies lifted. You can read the DOJ’s supporting brief, here.
  • Nicholas Campion, author of “Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions,” shares an excerpt of his book at HuffPo’s religion section. Quote: “The ancient zodiac signs survive in the modern West because, uniquely, in an age of aggressive consumerism, media-overload and scientific materialism, they encourage people to reflect on themselves and their inner worlds; their hopes, fears and secret motivations. In mass culture, astrology replaces the remote scientific language of relativity and light-years with stories of love and luck. In an era when we are now aware that we live on an insignificant planet on the edge of a minor galaxy, astrology restores each individual to the center of their own cosmos. According to its practitioners it provides a sense of personal meaning and purpose and, sometimes, a guide to action. Both astrology’s advocates and its critics find rare agreement on this point. This has nothing to do with the truth of astrology’s claims, but it does explain its survival in the 21st century.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Happy World Tarot Day!

Happy World Tarot Day!

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Happy 2012 everyone! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There’s been something of an upheaval among the stars recently when a Minneapolis Star Tribune article quoted astronomer Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, who said astrologers had it all wrong. That everything was off by a month, and that there was even a brand-new (yet ancient) sign added to the mix. The initial story went seriously viral, being reported by everyone from Gawker to NPR.

There’s just one problem, the astronomer wasn’t up on how modern Western astrology is actually done, causing an almost immediate backlash and rebuttal.

“But before astrology fans scrape the ink from their arms because they think they’re now a Virgo instead of a Libra, they should consider this: If they adhered to the tropical zodiac – which, if they’re a Westerner, they probably did – absolutely nothing has changed for them. That’s worth rephrasing: If you considered yourself a Cancer under the tropical zodiac last week, you’re still a Cancer under the same zodiac this week. That’s because the tropical zodiac – which is fixed to seasons, and which Western astrology adheres to – differs from the sidereal zodiac – which is fixed to constellations and is followed more in the East, and is the type of zodiac to which the Star Tribune article ultimately refers.”

It seems this kind of story isn’t anything new, and the whole thing is enough to get superstar astrologers like Rob Brezsny a bit ticked off.

“I understand that scientists like him would prefer not to lower themselves to the task of actually doing research about how astrology works. But if they’re going to question its foundations, they should at least learn it well enough to know what they’re talking about.”

Brezsny was echoed by several other prominent astrologers, many of whom are quite tired of reassuring thousands of people that they don’t have to change their astrological tattoo.

“So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.

As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.”

Soon, the article that sparked this tempest was updated to note the “pushback from those in the astrological world.” Just the latest salvo in the ongoing astronomy/astrology battle. So before you buy that Ophiuchus key-chain, you might want to do a little background reading first. Further, if you were an awesome Cancer, you are not a Gemini, nothing has changed.

Instead of reading more 2009 predictions from a collection of local psychics, let’s turn instead to the SF Gate’s interview with astrologer Rob Brezsny. The “free will” astrologer takes some time to punch holes in the predictions of your neighborhood doom-sayers.

“I believe that some astrologers, not all, are like a lot of New Age prophets and right-wing fundamentalist prophets in that they gravitate toward the visions of the future that stimulate fear, because at this cultural moment fear is more entertaining than the more uplifting news, and it gives them power. It gives them power to scare somebody. I try to have a very tolerant nature towards all people, but I have to admit that it really grates on me when astrologers just fixate on the ugliest possible interpretation of any astrological aspect.”

Then again, he also says the real prophets of our culture are creating a darker world.

“The more dangerous prophets are the storytellers of our culture – the journalists, the filmmakers, the writers of fiction and many musicians who are constantly besieging us with dark visions. I think about Muriel Rukeyser, the poet, who said that the universe is not made of molecules – it’s made out of stories, and if the storytellers of our culture are constantly telling us that the only true thing is an ugly thing, then yes, I do think that’s a problem.”

Being someone who alternately styles himself a journalist and an artist, I take issue with the idea that “dark stories” are creating an “ugly” future. Art isn’t just joyous inspiration, it is also catharsis and reflection. Imagine how darker things would truly be without the “dark visions” providing a safe outlet for all that “ugliness”. So while I admire Brezsny’s commitment to positive thinking, he seems to be stuck in a sort of “pronoic” tunnel vision of his own making on this particular issue.

But let’s not end the first post of 2009 on a critical note, here is a final quote from Brezsny that should warm a few Pagan hearts.

“I subscribe to Krishnamurti’s principle… he said that “we need four billion religions.” Now that number is up to 6.5 billion – a religious tradition for everyone on the planet, 6.5 billion paths to God.”

For more on Brezsny and Free Will Astrology, check out his web site. I’m also fond of his piece “A Prayer For You”. I hope you had a great New Years, and aren’t suffering too much from last night’s celebrations.

Here Comes the Future

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 28, 2008 — 2 Comments

As we move forward into 2009 many of us are looking warily into an uncertain economic future. It seems logical then that those who promise advance knowledge – diviners, psychics, astrologers, and prognosticators – would be enjoying something of a boom time. That’s the premise of a recent CNN spotlight (HT: Klintron) on how some astrologers and psychics are doing well in this pessimistic economic climate*.

Embedded video from CNN Video

“Astrologer Randy Goldberg says he’s gone from seeing two to three clients a day to as many as nine. No longer is love the top query. ‘They’re curious about what’s going to happen to the market, what the economic future of the U.S. is looking like in the next couple of years…they want to know about the job market.'”

But is the common wisdom that psychics (and others who peer into the future) do well during hard times really accurate? After all, despite the New Age community’s recent Oprah-fication, initial signs have been mixed. Trade shows have been canceled, and niche publications are often hanging on by a thread. As for the psychics themselves, they seem split on the economic future. Bay Area psychics seem to think that the “economy will turn around much sooner than economists now predict”, while psychics from Colorado Springs seem a bit more pessimistic.

“The recession will bottom out on Oct. 22, 2009. During February 2010, nearly all of us will believe we are coming out of the recession.”

I wonder if the real answer to the question of psychics and astrologers doing well during recessions is one of style instead of substance. That the prognosticators willing to offer reassurance and comfort will be sought out, while doom-saying Cassandras (or hard-nosed realists) will see some hard times (aside from those who wish confirmation of their own portents of decline). In this these individuals won’t be too different from the entertainment industry, which will no doubt offer a steady diet of uplift, flashy action-heroes, and comedy as times get tougher (few will want to wallow in existential dread when their wallets are empty). It doesn’t take a mind-reader to know that people want escape and hope when times have backed them into a corner.

* The Horoscopic Astrology Blog takes issue with CNN’s conflation of psychics with astrologers, noting that most astrologers don’t claim to be psychic. You might also want to check out his “Top 10 Types of Astrologers To Avoid”.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Both The Times and The Independent review the new book “Stonehenge” by Rosemary Hill, which explores the social history and differing perceptions of this famous ancient monument.

“A great strength of Hill’s method is that she is by no means inclined just to laugh at what seem ludicrous beliefs. She carefully unpicks them, showing what made them attractive in their cultures, and how scholarly their adherents often were, apart from their brief descent into Stonehenge madness.”

You can read an excerpt of the work, here. Hill’s “Stonehenge” looks like a worthy new tome exploring this ever-popular monument (including modern Pagan interactions with Stonehenge). Release date in the UK is June 10th, and in America on November 15th.

Looking for Pagan music but aren’t a fan of folk music, neo-medieval stylings, or darkwave? Then you might want to check out the latest offering from Jazz musician Jordi Rossy. His trio’s new album is entitled “Wicca”, and according to All About Jazz, it’s “mesmerizing”.

“Wicca is a largely ruminative album, Rossy somewhere on the piano spectrum between George Winston and his sometimes employer Mehldau … Whether the piano is in the lead, organ droning behind, or organ leads, in churchy mode, with piano chords underneath, that sound is consistent and, at its best, mesmerizing. A comfort zone is established and observed, only breached noticeably on the title track, the CD’s longest, adding trumpet and tenor sax and combining disparate elements of tempo and form into an intricate yet harmonious texture.”

You can order the album from this web site.

Your Christian scare-mongering link of the week: beware of horoscopes (and palmistry, and Ouija boards).

“Just like the Ouija board, the horoscope can also be dangerous—a dangerous first step into the world of the occult. One woman, Barbara Gardner, writing in Today’s Christian Woman, explained how reading horoscopes sucked her into a dangerous pattern that led to astral projection—also known as “out of body experience”—palm reading, and fortune-telling. She ultimately attributed the breakup of two of her marriages to her obsession with occult activity.”

Back! Back Rob Brezsny! Back into the pits of Hell with you and your ilk! Also, beware of “slutty” mermaids selling you coffee!

Are Pagans considered a part of the “religious left”? Pew Forum Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics John Green seems to hint that we could be, if we wanted to.

“Attention has largely been focused on various kinds of Christians who hold these views, but it is important to remember that these groups extend to non-Christians as well, including believers in the Jewish community and people who are “spiritual but not religious.” There are progressive voices appearing in nearly every religious tradition.”

Of course if Christians like Jim Wallis, who is regularly misrepresented as a liberal, get their way the “big tent” of the “religious left” wouldn’t openly include the Pagans and other non-monotheistic outsiders that could embarrass him or moderate Democrats trying to win over “values voters”.

Press profiling Pagans round-up! The Sault Star talks to author and Pagan Elizabeth Creith about her involvement in “flash fiction” and other artistic projects, Pennsylvania publication Voices talks to Art Shipkowski, a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin, at a Penn. State Pagan gathering, and The Shreveport Times talks to a Pagan husband and wife who run a local tattoo parlor called the Twisted Cauldron.

“The Clementses say opening Twisted Cauldron “is a 10-year dream.” Knowing the previous tenants, Modern Primitives, B.J. said, the opportunity popped up and he jumped on it. “There isn’t really a shop like this in the area, and privacy is a big issue,” B.J. Clements said. “A lot of our success has to do with how we treat our customers,” B.J. Clements said, adding one of the tenets of their Wiccan faith is “May you never hunger, May you never thirst.” “I do commerce with all sorts of religions and denominations; it generally isn’t an issue,” he said of being Wiccan.”

Did you get profiled recently in your local paper? Why not drop me a line! You too could be mentioned in my semi-regular round-up of Pagan press profiles.

In a final note, should you buy a Pan Flute? The answer may surprise you.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!