Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Has a Lot to Answer For


March 3, 2006 (with chart)


Dear Friends Around the World:


Considering what to ask Jonathan Cainer in a 15-minute interview about his 20th anniversary as a horoscope columnist, which is March 4, all I could think of was, "Did you know what you were getting yourself into?"


"Yeah, I think I did," Jonathan said, taking time to speak to me between the 50 phone calls he said he had to return (probably a slight exaggeration, but not by much). "I made a fairly conscious decision to adopt astrology. I wanted to do my best with astrology."


Six thousand, four hundred and twenty columns later, he certainly seems to have done just that.


When he went to California in the early 1980s to manage his brother Daniel's band, he was already a writer. His vegetarian junk food cookbook was at least published and in bookshops, if not a bestseller. Looking over that book, one thing is clear: it's by the same writer whose daily horoscopes you read. And it's by a writer with something to say.


"Whole foods are things like brown rice and adzuki beans," he wrote in the introduction. "They taste terrible but they're terribly good for you. Most vegetarians eat a lot of whole foods. Deep down inside, they worry about not eating enough meat. What if they're depriving themselves? To assuage this guilt, they indulge in an orgy of masochism, munching mountains of muesli, millet and mung beans. It's the sackcloth and ashes syndrome. Junk food vegetarians don't play that game."


Jonathan knew that to get anybody interested in anything, it pretty much has to be fun.


As for his trip to the Left Coast? "I had no idea I was going to come home an astrologer. LA has a lot to answer for."


There, he read his first astrology book, got his first reading, gave his first reading, and never missed an edition of the LA Weekly. He picked up the paper each week "for Rob Brezsny and a nobody named Matt Groening," whose brutally honest "Life in Hell" cartoons featured Little Bongo, the one-eared rabbit who later morphed into Bart Simpson.


Before going to the States, Jonathan knew about the work of Patric Walker, which he described as intelligent and well spoken, and "clearly the product of a serious astrologer." But Brezsny was a greater influence. "It is certainly true that reading his work, I noticed you could say something intelligent, irreverent and thought provoking. I read Rob and thought, oh, you can have fun with this!"


I wrote to Brezsny this week and asked him for a comment on this revelation. He wrote back Wednesday night and said: "I'm honored that Jonathan derived inspiration from my work. There are only a few people out there who are both good astrologers and good writers, and you and he are among them. His influence on the world is beneficent, and I'm pleased if I played a role in him finding his calling."


It was a long way from his initial observation to his first column. Jonathan returned home, and attended the prestigious Faculty of Astrological Studies in London, where he has the distinction of not receiving a diploma. He completed the course work, but he and three other students turned in their final papers on a Monday morning instead of Friday afternoon, having heard the instructor say that if they submitted the work after the weekend by 7 am, they would get full credit. They had their papers done and in the teacher's mailbox at 6:50 am Monday.


"We came in at the last second, but were on time. Then he denied ever saying that, even though four of us heard him." All four students were flunked and refused diplomas. But by the time he had the opportunity to retake the class, he was already a successful astrologer.


He wrote his first daily column for the now defunct Today newspaper. They told him to write long, so he did extended predictions for each sign, which were then "sub-edited to bits." [In the UK, the sub-editor is the equivalent of a desk editor in the United States, who rewrites a journalist's copy, often using a pocket chainsaw.]


His columns are still longer than most daily horoscopes, coming in at about 1,400 words. They are written close to deadline, unlike many columns that can have a one-month or more lag time, or the time between writing and publication. The 'Thought of the Day', a Cainer innovation which can cover astrology, astronomical discoveries, personal issues or social justice themes, is filed with the newspapers the day before it's published; working this close to deadline, as well as speaking in a natural voice, gives his horoscope an unusually journalistic feeling.


He once told me it takes him about four hours to write a column, and that he can't get it any shorter: "one hour to warm up, two hours to write it, and one hour to cool down." He writes directly into the computer (always a Macintosh), and like many astrologers in the UK, he uses Raphael's Ephemeris.


He commands a respect among both readers and publishers that's outstanding by British standards, and is today considered the most financially successful writer on Fleet Street.


Astrology Secrets Revealed would not be worthy of its name if we didn't look at the chart for that first day's column. Here is the chart for sunrise, Tuesday, March 4, 1986, set in London.

Jonathan is a Sagittarius by birth, with a Scorpio Moon. Both Sagg and Scorpio show up powerfully in this horoscope (note Pluto in Scorpio on the South Node -- a powerful sense of mission, probably brought in from many prior incarnations). Gemini and Pisces are coming on at full strength. We have three of the mutable signs covered: Gemini, Sagittarius and Pisces, and Ceres is holding her own in Virgo.


And -- as regular readers of this column will appreciate -- we get a shocking appearance of the Aries Point, with Mercury, the planet of communications, sitting exactly on that degree.


There is no way to choose the right time for a chart like this, unless we could somehow know when the first copy of Today was read by a reader early one foggy London morning -- pretty much impossible. But since the astrological day begins at sunrise, and that would have been a logical chart to use for a daily horoscope, we can use a sunrise chart. Let's see what it says.


To me, the first thing that comes blazing out about this chart is how much Sagittarius there is: Saturn, Juno, Mars, Uranus and the Moon. Jonathan's column feels Sagittarian if nothing else: written on the fly, based on spiritually grounded philosophies and ideas rather than 'strict' interpretations, and most of all, something that became BIG. All of these planets are clustered around the ultimate Sagittarius point, the Great Attractor, a cosmic magnet drawing a million galaxies toward it.


Even the fast-moving Moon appears in Sagittarius for what was in truth a massive generational wave of that sign's energy. The Moon is conjunct Uranus, the planet of innovation, invention and revolution, close to the Galactic Core. Indeed, the morning this column appeared in newspapers, the Moon was exactly conjunct the Galactic Core.


Then we get a placement that pretty much confirms the validity of sunrise charts: Chiron and the Part of Fortune appear in the 3rd house. The 3rd house is the house of writing, and is closely related to Gemini. We get a double blast of Gemini energy coming through that Chiron.


Chiron has an obsessive and innovative quality, dedicated to healing and most of all, to being a maverick. The Pars Fortuna right there says "success through writing." Also, think of the Part of Fortune as another ascendant (its original purpose) relating specifically to the topic at hand. In the "fortune" chart for Jonathan's column, the main archetype is Chiron in Gemini.


Chiron is opposite Saturn, as it is these days -- a rare enough event to be noteworthy in any chart. The opposition of Chiron in Gemini to Saturn in Sagittarius can be looked at as a meeting of innovation and an iconoclastic view of writing, matched by a rock-solid foundation in tradition (Saturn in Sagittarius). Given Jonathan's writing style, few would guess that he was classically trained. Yet many of his interpretations challenge the traditions of astrology while in a sense remaining true to them.


Pisces appears powerfully, in the form of the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus -- more than a footnote, for sure. The column is itself a Pisces: naturally mystical with a touch of self-sacrificing energy, taking a wide perspective, and presented in a way that relates to people on the level of their feelings. He seems to know empathically how people feel and how they relate to their problems. But the Sagittarian energy dominates, as the prevailing message of Jonathan's writing is, to me, "Don't get caught in your problems. You may not be all-powerful, but you do have influence in your life, so you might as well make the very most of it."


But to me, the most entertaining appearance of all in this chart is Mercury glowing on the Aries Point, which is neither widely accepted nor understood by astrology. We have discussed this point numerous times in Astrology Secrets Revealed, and have come to think of it here as a spot in the chart that says, "The personal is political." It is the intersection of personal responsibility and collective movement; of individuality and of influencing many people.


Jonathan's writing is an excellent example of an Aries Point influence and, combining it with Mercury, pretty much reveals how that point works at all. Mercury is exactly conjunct the asteroid Kassandra -- from Greek mythology, a prophet who was accurate, but whose predictions were not believed. As usual, he seems to be bringing out the other side of what conventional astrology would suggest.


"I wish I could find an archive of that first column," he said. "I'm sure it's around somewhere."


We don't have it today, but if I were writing the Sagittarius daily horoscope for Tuesday, March 4, 1986, this is what I would have said:


"SAGITTARIUS - Many people dream of being a smashing success in a highly unusual way, but today you have the ability to make that dream real. It's as if you're being named ambassador to the world for a viewpoint that most people overlook because it's too complicated, or rarely presented in an appealing way. But your own excitement about the subject will spread like waves of energy, and the more you speak in a natural voice and put forth the person who is uniquely YOU, the more you will go past all your limits, if you thought you had any."


On behalf of many astrologers who have been introduced to the wide world by Jonathan, and millions of readers who show up every day looking for a little peace of mind and usually finding it, thanks for all the great ideas, encouragement and indeed for doing your very best with astrology.


Our first question this week happens to touch on the subject of Sun sign horoscopes.