When I was early in my astrological studies, I looked forward to the day when this work would be easier, when I wouldn’t feel the need to write fifteen pages to get at even half of the length of a reading I sensed was possible, when I would be one of those so-called masters and wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed, conflicted, uncertain or unequal to the task of interpreting a natal chart. I’m still waiting for that day. I’ve not solved the problem, I’ve only gotten used to its company. My job continues to be hard, and I’m starting to think the problem is less about skill level and more about art.
I forget that no matter my level of skill, reading a chart is a creative process. I am reinventing the wheel every time. One has skill because one knows how to manipulate the materials–to hold a paintbrush, organize paragraphs, or read music, but these are the tools used to facilitate the birth–not the star stuff, the essence itself. In a creative act, we are all challenged to free the sculpture from the marble, to make real what we only sense or see with our mind’s eye. It is subjective, changeable, and daunting.
I perform these acts of creation largely solo these days. Using the symbols of the chart and anything the intended recipient has told me about themselves, I stir the contents in a cold cauldron until I can find a spark to light a fire under it, hoping to perform some alchemical magic. I’m never sure I’m doing it right. All I can really know is whether it feels good, and that is usually influenced by my level of engagement and reverence for the chart. There is no right, no perfect, but I know I must strive for it to bring out my best work. I have to reach for the best in myself and give it the reading. The fall from a state of a perfect potential meanings and interpretation of a chart to the actuality of what I am able to end up communicating with my limited vision, experience, and beliefs is a long drop, sometimes longer than others. Interpreting a chart is just like telling a story, but it’s got to be the most special and profound story I can tell, because I’m presuming to tell the story of someone’s soul. Pressure much?
I’m great at the startup. Give me an empty page and I can write a great outline. I’m still just playing; I’m not yet invested. The stakes are still low. It can all still be changed around, reorganized and reworked. I haven’t really said anything definitive yet, nothing I can’t take back. I’m just laying down color; you know, a dash of Aries, a rub of Pluto. Rough draft astrology. But to refine, to clarify, to tighten, to polish, that’s when the demons get their loudest. That’s when I’m not entirely sure that what I’m doing is not bullshit, a waste of time, a thoughtful but pathetic attempt, and completely wrong. And what’s worse is that seeing it through to the end may only offer relief, not necessarily peace or triumph. Not every work is a masterpiece. Those last miles of the marathon seem to triple with these weights on the shoulders.
But writers gotta write the words. Painters gotta paint the lines. Astrologers gotta interpret the patterns. And hopefully the painstakingly-completed project can be a masterpiece, or at least, good enough for this double Virgo. I am trying to give up being right and simply to strive for being true. Did I inspire? Provide insight? Help someone feel seen? Did I provide a catalyst? Validation? Challenge? I want to be helpful and practical but most of all, I want to offer a personal myth written for that soul. Not instructions or definitions, but poetry and myth to inspire and contextualize a hero’s journey, or at least a kickass theme song to accompany it.
So when I sit down to do a reading, all I want to do is run away, still, after 20 years, at least at first. Just as a writer must face the blank page or a painter an empty canvas, I try to have patience to see through to the other side of that initial panic all the while continuing to wonder if maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe this is the wrong career. Maybe it shouldn’t be this uncomfortable, for this long. Maybe I’m ignoring some deep down message that I’m on the wrong path. Maybe I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing. And I suspect that I’ll continue to ride this thought merry-go-round for the next 20 years.
For years now I’ve been losing my religion, as they say, struggling to adjust to inner, unseen changes and dig out the truth of my astrological beliefs among the rubble left behind by perpetual midlife earthquakes. I’m finally starting to feel like I might have something to say again, and I’m hoping this is all part of my astrological renaissance. What a fine story it will make. Later. As long as I don’t have to write it. Well, maybe just the outline.