A few brief notes on the way things (might) go down sometimes.
I feel awkward and slightly embarrassed to talk about astrology. No, I know, it doesn’t really make sense. I call myself a wizard, openly engage in regular divinatory practices, embrace all manner of ritual madness, extol the virtues of every shape and color of mysticism – why then should I feel a sense of shame in discussing astrology? How can there be a stigma for such a public flake as me, in admitting but a mild curiosity about the ancient study of the stars and planets and their supposed influence on our lives? I find the inconsistency just as ridiculous (and hilarious) as you do. How is it any weirder than any of the other things I do?
I can laugh at myself, but I can’t entirely shake it off, either. I’m wary about even making this very post. I mean, what the hell, I’m obviously not gonna let a little “wariness” get in my way, and I don’t actually think there’s gonna be fallout. You all already know I’m a weirdo. I just can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
I mean, astrology has never been my thing. It’s certainly mildly interesting, and far be it from me to dismiss the possibility that invisible cosmic shit plays some role in things that happen. Even scientists claim this to be true – they just point at different invisible cosmic shit. (Take it easy, NDT, I’m not saying they’re equivalent, I’m just saying they’re the same claim.) People have even been known to label me The Quintessential Pisces. At least half the time, they mean it as a slur, but I don’t argue about it. Seems true enough from everything I know about what a Pisces is “supposed” to be.
Speaking anecdotally, of course, I’m not sure my position is all that uncommon. There are other freak mystics like me who dabble in this and that and the other but decline to engage seriously with star charts. I’d be interested to see hard data, but I almost wonder how little overlap there actually is between the astrologers and the wizards. Hard to say. Regardless, it doesn’t get us much closer to understanding why I hesitate so irrationally to publicly go near astrology.
Unless, that is, all my colleagues are afflicted by the same subtle stigma. After all, astrology is probably the most commonly ridiculed form of non-religious superstition by the Science Materialists. Astrology has also been dirtied, perhaps unfairly, by the daily newspaper/online variety (which serious astrologers ridicule as much as the next Dawkins). It lacks the partial justification bestowed by Jungian archetypal association found in tarot cards or the semi-justifiable cosmos classification system contained in the I Ching, and it seems to be too far out there (literally, in space) to enjoy the material-natural explanation found with season-based rituals, no matter how pagan. I don’t think any of this reasoning is particularly fair, mind you, I’m just throwing out guesses as to why it’s the Most Ridiculed Woo. Maybe even freak mystics have lines we don’t want to cross in terms of being made fun of. Maybe distancing ourselves from astrology is a attempt at conferring legitimacy on our preferred Woo. Deflect! Look at that guy! At least I’m not into that!
Sad and misguided, if that’s what we’re doing – Harris McHitchens is gonna castigate us no matter what, and nobody loves that prick, anyway.
But anyway, here we are, banging out hundreds of words of unnecessary prologue about being scared to talk about astrology in order to delay doing what I obviously came here to do, which is talk about astrology.
The blame (credit?) for this rests on a single stellar (sorry) astrologer named Austin Coppock. (His website is here; I highly encourage you to click over there, because it’s cool as shit.) I only know of this guy through the Rune Soup podcast, which is perhaps my favorite, depending on the week. If you aren’t familiar, fix that. The show’s charming host is the inimitable Gordon White, from whose discussions and books I’ve learned more than I can properly recount. This brilliant jerk is no older than I am, no less. Being a journeyman wizard, I gotta admit that if you wanna skip over my nonsense and get the shit straight from an actual master, White’s your dude.
Over the last couple years listening to Rune Soup, I’ve encountered Coppock a few times. He’s sort of the House Astrologer and comes on every few months to provide everybody big cosmic forecasts for the year or six months ahead. I liked him as a guest before I had the chance to like him as an astrologer – he’s an interesting guy and a good talker. But then, in the months that followed, what I ended up experiencing, both personally and in terms of the world at large, seemed remarkably consistent with the bold strokes the astrologer had confidently laid out. Upon his next appearance, they did a little recap of his prior forecast and the sum total results. Call it confirmation bias if you want, but it matched up with what I’d observed, and well beyond. It was as accurate as anything I’ve encountered. By the time of his most recent appearance, last December at solstice-time, to forecast The Year 2018, I had come to simply accept this was a man Worth Listening To.
Unfortunately, what he had to say for us this year wasn’t exactly heartwarming. Check the cover photo on that episode link – it’s the fucking Night King and the White Walkers, if that tells you anything. One of the big things they kept talking about in this grim forecast was Mercury Retrograde – surely you’ve heard of it. You don’t have to be into astrology. You have at least one friend who’s into crystals who brings it up from time to time in order to blame it for shit. It’s supposed to be a bad time, or something, when it happens. You can look it up, as a thing it really isn’t too complicated. A few times a year, the Earth’s orbit is in a position with respect to Mercury’s orbit that it appears that Mercury is moving backwards. Of course it isn’t, but the illusions lasts for roughly three weeks at a whack, and people say to steer as clear of those little blips as is possible.
Truth be told, I’d never noticed any such thing before, but I still figured I’d better pay attention. This was Coppock talking. And here’s the thing, the reason they were discussed so prominently on the show is because the first two of these this year (if I remember correctly; it’s possible it might be all three) were, according to Coppock, extra insane, because they happen “in Saturn.” I don’t pretend to know exactly what that means, but the gist was pretty simple and clear. The heavy, ponderous, kinda shadowy nature of Saturn was going to drastically amplify the heavy, ponderous, kinda shadowy mischief/misfortune of Mercury Retrograde and shit was really gonna get heavy and ponderous and shadowy in an epic way. You know, bad epic.
Fast forward a few months. Perhaps unwisely, I’ve been less inclined to keep this year’s ominous outlook as fresh on my mind as I might were it a more promising one, so I half forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago. That’s when I happened to see somewhere offhand (I don’t even remember what it was) that we were in the middle of Mercury Retrograde. The Rune Soup forecast came flooding back, and suddenly – if still intangibly – all kinds of shit made sense. The Retrograde had been going on a couple weeks at that point, and they hadn’t been ordinary in the slightest. They’d been awful. This wasn’t just slightly “off”, filled with little mishaps and inconveniences or even more frustrating obstacles. People were dying (not metaphorically), everyone was getting bad news, seemingly insurmountable discord reigned supreme in every direction. Agreements had become impossible to arrive at, projects impossible to complete, satisfaction a wholly foreign condition already after so short a time in danger of being forgotten altogether. Come on and tell me you didn’t experience any of this – it was March 23 up until April 15, just a few days ago, and I feel like it kicked into gear maybe a few days early. So thorough was the heaviness and ponderousness and utterly blocking, denying condition that fell like a weighted pro-anxiety blanket upon the world that it seemed there was no escape – indeed, that there was no alternative to this present darkness.
Austin Coppock strikes again. Now I would have to maybe write something about astrology (here we are). But the story doesn’t end there.
On the one hand, the realization that this “Mercury Retrograde in Saturn” thing was somehow definitely real and mildly terrifying and more than just a tiny bit dangerous was a bit of a slap in the face – but on the other, there was now a light at the end of the tunnel, an expiration date. I had only to make it to April 15.
Interestingly, my brother was to be married in Arkansas on the 14th, and we would be traveling down there with all three children, and while the prospect of multiple flights with three children wasn’t exactly a warm one, I figured there was something significant about the fact that the wedding ceremony would effectively mark the end of the Retrograde. Either this was a really good sign or a really big mistake, but for my brother’s sake I was erring on the side of the positive. We would bust out of this weird hell-funk with a sacred unity party for the ages.
That much, we certainly did. Much more can and should and likely will be said about the wedding itself, but that’s a separate (more uplifting) story for a different day. In this story, the Retrograde had one last trick to play on me: my older sons arrived before the journey with a vicious, merciless stomach bug. By the grace of Baal we made it from Peterborough to Boston to New York to Arkansas without issue, but then spent the night before the wedding utterly sleepless as the twins took shifts getting sick in every possible manner in various locations in the hotel room we all shared. If I felt a slight quease myself on the morning of the wedding, I buried it down deep and covered it up tight – I had to officiate the god damn wedding, after all! And yet again, by Baal’s good graces, we survived the wedding and the party and deep into the night without any episodes of sickness. But later that night, just around midnight – just as the 14th became the 15th and the Mercury Retrograde began its last partial-day – my youngest son sat bolt upright in our bed, tried to warn me in words I failed to understand (my first thought was actually to assume he was possessed by demons) before vomiting everywhere.
This went on into the wee hours of the morning, until finally it was my turn. I was not immune. It cost me a full day of action (the 15th) on my short visit to my brother’s and left me weakened and less than fresh the entire next day. I didn’t fully recover until sometime on the 17th, after we’d arrived back home. During that bout of parasitic invasion – you can trust me on this – absolutely everything possible had been expelled from my body in an ugly, filthy, unpleasant process I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Nobody I like, anyway. I’m still trying to return to normal levels of hydration, even as I write this. But when I got back home and finally came out of it, I remembered with much joy that Mercury Retrograde was blissfully over and now that my sickness was over, it actually started to feel like I can go about my life and things might be somehow more or less “back to normal.” (And trust me, I never would have used the word “normal” to describe my ordinary state of affairs before enduring those three weeks of Edgar Allan Poe.)
But a final thought occurred to me as the Celtics were crushing Milwaukee in Game 2 that night – what if the illness wasn’t, or at least wasn’t entirely a trick of this bizarre cosmic arrest. What if the things that happened with my body – the purgation – was not merely an affliction and an inconvenience, but an outward manifestation of a spiritual or cosmic process? What if this shithole Retrograde with a Side of Saturn was so thick and diabolical that I actually needed to be purged, wholly and violently, before I could truly leave it behind? I normally wouldn’t be inclined to portray a vile stomach bug as a necessary spiritual ordeal, but what I had been experiencing since late March has frankly added a lot of unusual possibilities to the table.
Whether there’s actually a cosmic or spiritual narrative here or it’s all a bunch of unconnected, coincidental, explainable phenomena, I’m now free to move on – free from that weird Retrograde and free from all I shed from myself on the way out.
Weird-ass circumstances to cry “Free at last!”, perhaps, but up til now, I’d been wearing inexplicable chains.
Make of this what you will, but even if you think this whole yarn is a bunch of bullshit, remember this: on July 26, the next one starts. For my part, I may not be able to escape it, but I’m sure as hell gonna be prepared ahead of time – bare minimum, to finish everything possible well in advance before hunkering down with no expectation of success or ease or completion or satisfaction until that storm passes. Expectation-setting, after all, is a good chunk of the game. And maybe next time I won’t have to puke to get past it.
Blow it off at your own peril! But if you do, at least pay attention to the dates – you never know what you may find to be real. I promise not to laugh at you. Not much, anyway.