How Astrology Became My Religion
Religion – (noun) : the belief in a god or in a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
When I discuss astrology, I’m asked how and why I became so knowledgeable on the subject. The short answer: obsessive study. Douchey, I know, but I didn’t take a class or approach astrology with a lesson plan. I had a long-standing interest in sun signs and horoscopes. I didn’t believe them to be absolute fact, but when I read general descriptions of my sun sign (Libra) and those of my loved ones, I saw similarities. Raised by two Capricorn women, when I read about their high expectations of loved ones, sense of duty, opportunism and struggles with empathy, my childhood made more sense to me. Reading about high energy, witty, cerebral Geminis, I saw those traits in my closest friends and the man who became the love of my life. Good-natured, freedom-loving and fiercely loyal Sagittarian women have been a staple in my life as well. While my loved ones have unique identifiers and are certainly more than their sun signs, I couldn’t help but notice the astrological patterns behind what drew me to or repelled me from them.
In the aftermath of a break-up in 2010, I asked a friend to read my natal chart. I knew from casual research that there was more to astrology than sun signs and was curious about the meaning of it all. From my friend’s reading, I learned about Ascendants (the filter through which we express ourselves) and Moon Signs (our innermost emotions and motivations). Apparently, I was more than just my diplomatic, charming Libra Sun. My personality got a boost from a prideful, expressive Leo Ascendant and an intense, brooding Scorpio Moon. Accepting the Leo Ascendant was easy; I owned my cockiness. The Scorpion Moon traits were just as real–specifically the overwhelming emotions that pulled me into periods of transformative depression–but harder to accept. Until then, I treated my dark periods as external events that interrupted what I believed to be my default optimism. I didn’t know how such contradictions (Leo’s shining light vs. Scorpio’s dark solitary depths) could co-exist without ripping me to shreds.
My interest in astrology went from casual to obsessive early last year when I received my first professional astrology reading; a Venus Report that detailed my approach to love, sex, and relationships as laid out in my natal chart. While I’d followed the astrologer (Nella) online for a few months prior, we didn’t have a relationship. However, when I received her report, I was stunned by how much ME was on its pages, especially the sections that emphasized the primary conflict of my love life:
Venus in Virgo in the 1st House Square Uranus in Sagittarius in the 4th house: Your impulse to create affinity and build relationships is in hard aspect to your impulse to establish an independent identity within society and find freedom. This often leads to a feeling of internal conflict. Though you value routine, order and devotion in a relationship, you also have a great urge to be independent, spontaneous and free from any type of constraints that a love partnership could possibly impose. At times you feel you have to choose between committed, stable relationships that lack the sense of adventure that you so enjoy or singlehood that allows you freedom and autonomy over your own life. You must learn to meld the two urges in order to achieve a sense of balance and fulfillment in the sphere of love.
After poring over the report, highlighting sections, and discussing them with friends, I wanted to learn more; not just where to find instant interpretations of my natal chart and placements online. I wanted to read and interpret on my own. During a dark period last summer, when I had far too many thoughts and too much free time to drown in them, I started my deep dive into astrological study. It served two purposes: a practical application of my restless mental energy and a tool to better understand what made me tick.
One evening, over drinks with my BFF as a I practiced reading her natal chart, she interrupted me with a broad grin (the grin usually precedes her telling me something about myself that I don’t know yet) and said “This is kind of like your religion.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, as astrology doesn’t feel spiritual for me. I like some planets’ meanings more than others (I rock with pleasure-seeking Venus; disciplined Saturn, not so much), but I don’t worship them. I’ve taken on an unconventional set of beliefs, but I’m not woo-woo enough to espouse them as deep, spiritual truths.
Most people hear “astrology” and think horoscopes and sun signs (i.e. “Because, I’m a Libra, I’m indecisive and even moreso when Mercury goes retrograde because that makes everyone crazy”). Sun signs and horoscopes, however, are part of a larger picture. The school of astrology I’m most interested in is natal chart astrology. Spoiler alert: we are more than our sun signs. While sun signs reveal how our egos express themselves, we are born with all twelve astrological signs in our natal charts, each sign governing a different aspect of our lives. Within the natal chart, we learn how we communicate, love, handle adversity, nurture others, and expand ourselves. Natal charts can reveal if you’re an introvert or an extrovert; sensitive and intuitive or pragmatic and analytical.
Then there is predictive astrology (which is where we get horoscopes, Mercury Retrograde, and Saturn Returns). Predictive astrology isn’t based solely on our sun signs, but how transiting planets (planets in their current position) affect our natal charts (how the planets were laid out at the time of our births.) The quick five-sentence summaries found in magazines and newspapers are more for fun than accuracy, as you need specific information (birth time and location) to know how transiting planets affect your natal chart. I don’t live or die by daily horoscopes (not even the detailed ones), but I follow transits to identify major themes to look out for. I’m mindful of the patterns that manifest in my everyday life and can usually connect them to a greater meaning.
Religion isn’t always spiritual. Religion can also be defined as “an interest, belief, or activity that is very important to a person or group.” By that definition, astrology is my religion. Like writing, astrology helps me understand myself and contextualize the events of my life. I’ve made peace with my highs and lows because emotional transformation through darkness helps me find my light and guide others to theirs. I’m unapologetic about my unconventional relationship needs because freedom and autonomy keep me centered. Transparency in my writing is more than just “telling my business,” it’s how I fulfill my larger purpose: self expression, communicating my values, and showing others how to embrace their quirks. All of which I learned via astrology.
If you haven’t dismissed me as a New Age hippy after reading this, I appreciate you. I don’t have a concise answer for how I taught myself, as astrology is a vast topic, but I’ve provided some links to get you started. If you’re serious about learning, take it slowly. Trying to learn everything at once can be overwhelming. Focusing on one concept at a time (I’d start with signs, then planets, then houses) makes it easier.
Websites Chaos Astrology: If you’re looking for a quick, easy-to-read interpretation of your natal chart, start here. It describes all of your placements and houses in (mostly) plain language and best of all, it’s free.
Cafe Astrology: This site has a ton of resources for those new to astrology, including explanations of all the signs, planets, houses, and placements.
Psychodynamic Astrology: This was one of my favorite sites when I first started studying. If you want to know how astrology and psychology link, read the following articles: The Luminaries The Inner Planets Jupiter & Saturn The Outer Planets The Cycle of the Zodiac
Alyssa Sharpe, Astrologer: I pretty much live for all things Alyssa. Her YouTube is full of hilarious, down-to-earth explanations of astrology. Start with her Basic Astrology playlist and work your way around her channel.
Skinny Black Girl is a thirtysomething blogger hailing from the Mighty Midwest. An MFA dropout, writer by calling and wise ass by craft, she posts her tales, interests and observations on her award-winning blog, The Skinny Black Girl.