Definitely Not Mainstream My Life as an Astrologer


“I never thought you would become someone who’d sell spiders and charms.” That was my dad’s reaction when I said I was going to be an astrologer.

He’s not the only person I’ve had a negative reaction from. Years later my unflappable and always-confident therapist told me, “I wish you’d have come to me sooner. I could have saved you from astrology.” When I meet new people and they ask what I do, they sometimes seem surprised when I tell them. I don’t look like what they think an astrologer should look like. No wild tattoos. No eye makeup. My Cher look: missing.

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I was the typical middle child, striving to be recognized and find solid ground in the insistent chaos of a family dominated by an alcoholic dad, a workaholic mother, and feuding siblings. Lucky for me, when I was seven we moved two doors away from a Russian immigrant family, and we befriended each other.

Naida, the mother, became my best friend. She was the first person who loved me. I would wait for her to get home from the hospital kitchen where she worked and then spend my evening at her house. She’d coax stories out of me. We’d eat together and later, lie on her worn, plush sofa and watch John Wayne movies together.

One day, while watching her trim African violets, I noticed a tall, cylindrical container at the back of a pile of newspapers next to the overstuffed chair I was sitting in. It was tall and made of wood with a tin lid and painted with a dragon. Exotic. When I shook it, the contents rattled.

“Go ahead dear,” Naida said, “you can take the lid off.” I yanked off the snug lid and found inside a set of thin bamboo sticks, like flattened chopsticks. Each had a number and a Chinese character written on it.

Is this a game? I asked. “No, dear,” Naida said. “It’s a type of book, but not like other books. Each stick is like a page in a book. When you shake them, the sticks rearrange. They become your personal book.”

I shook the sticks lightly and allowed some to fall out of the container. “Life can be complicated,” she said. “When you’re confused, that’s a time to use these sticks.” She reached inside the box and pulled out an old, thin paper pamphlet that listed each of the numbers on the sticks. Each number had words to explain their prediction or meaning. I dumped out all the sticks just to look at them. Naida suggested I put them all back in the box and choose just one, which I did. We opened the pamphlet and found the fortune that went with the stick I chose.

Naida wasn’t an astrologer or a mystic, and I don’t remember her telling me how she came to own what I later knew to be Chinese Fortune-Telling Sticks. But being with her was transformative. She took the time to make me feel like goodness and magic were available in life even if it didn’t seem possible with my family. I never forgot this introduction into the world of metaphysics. Of magic. This one encounter with the sticks hadn’t made sense of my chaotic life, but it opened a door of possibility.

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The next year we moved again and I was left alone with the weight and unhappiness of my family. I looked for a way out and found an Evangelical Church within walking distance of our house. I loved it! The singing, the community, all those rules. You were either working for the Devil or working for the Lord. I made my choice. I joined the choir, sang gospel, and at the ripe age of 12 I became a Sunday School teacher. (I even thought I might eventually become a missionary.) When I became a teenager I starting dancing, which was against the rules of the church. When my pastor found out, he asked me to leave and not to come back until I was ready to be a true Christian. We parted ways. I knew I could dance and still love the Lord.

My junior year at the University of Washington I volunteered at the Child Psychiatric ward of the University Hospital. I was fascinated with the children and the work, and I felt needed and appreciated. The next year, I volunteered at the Campus Crisis Hotline. It was the late 1960s and drugs were epidemic. People were tuning in, dropping out, and freaking out. I helped start a suicide hot line in Ellensburg, WA, and talked with callers. I felt comfortable working with callers get the help they needed. Influenced by my work assisting people in transition and in crisis, I assumed, vaguely, that I would become a social worker.

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Astrology and I found each other by chance right after I graduated. A friend gave me a horoscope reading as a gift and, while sitting with the astrologer, I had an epiphany. I saw a fork in the road: one way led to graduate school and social work. The other seemed impossible but the complexity and perspectives it offered fascinated me from the very beginning. Before the reading I had no language for the weight I felt at considering what to do with my life. After the reading I suddenly had a life direction. It felt like a benign lightning bolt. I enrolled in classes at the Astrology Center of the Northwest in Seattle.

I didn’t approach my study of astrology with skepticism.  I wasn’t trying to prove whether it was “true” or not. I saw quite early that the power of the art resided with the practitioner. The basic tools are available for any kind of interpretation. Astrology was a door; behind it lay a way of perceiving personal potential and human tendencies in ways I had never imagined. People go to an astrologer to receive information unlike any they’ll hear elsewhere. My most perceptive clients don’t come to me expecting that I’ll be a cheerleader for choices they may have in mind. I may encourage them more than they expect—or perhaps suggest that they put the brakes on.

The study of astrology is an art. It is a study in relativity. It is not an exact science. Everything in the universe is moving. Our life is never static, nor should it be. Rather, we are continually stimulated by planetary influences that present opportunities or challenges, and only for the time they are influencing our horoscope. Each of the planets is connected with a specific kind of energy. As an astrologer I decode these energies and suggest ways they mights manifest with the personal horoscope. No exact science here. No fortune telling device.

As a young astrologer I often quoted my teachers, lacking the confidence to express my own views. Now, 40 years later, I approach my work very differently. I trust that clients come to me wanting to know what I think. For real. They choose me because they want the benefit of my years of practice, and that’s what I give them. It’s an honor to be asked to read someone’s horoscope. I’ve read and studied thousands of horoscopes, and I’ve counseled as many people during their biggest life crises.

Like the Hippocratic Oath used in medicine, I try to first do no harm. That begins with listening.

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At my recent 50th high school reunion, I noticed that most of my former classmates were already retired, or wanting soon to be retired. I was one of only three people out of nearly one hundred who was still happy working in their chosen profession; the three of us saw ourselves as entering the gravy years. As I age, I know I have even more to offer my clients. Time is on my side. The experience I’ve gained only works in my favor.

Not all astrologers practice with integrity and honesty; far from it. As an elder astrologer who has devoted my life to working with these tools, I have become more critical of astrologers who are not doing good work. There are far more astrologers who I don’t respect than the other way around.

My lifelong search for meaning has allowed me to connect the dots from my childhood to my adult self. Without my unhappy family life pushing me to look elsewhere for meaning, I might not have become the seeker that I am—really, that I have always been. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone, but for the profession it has led me to, I am thankful.

I know astrology is often misused and interpreted in overly simplistic ways. I know there are people who believe that what I do isn’t legitimate. Despite that, I never care what people think when they discover my profession. I have found my own distinct way in the world, or it has found me. Not the mainstream. My stream.


Lucy is an artist and an astrologer. She lives in Portland, OR.


5 Responses to “Definitely Not Mainstream My Life as an Astrologer”

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