REAL ASTROLOGY for an unreal world

Aries (March 21-April 19): Because of your extraordinary talent for pleasure, you've been hand-picked by the Committee on Cross-Cultural Ecstasy to celebrate the pagan holiday of Lammas this week -- even if you're not a pagan. Coming halfway between the summer solstice and fall equinox, Lammas extols the first fruits of the year's harvest, whether these be actual or metaphorical. Its traditional date is Aug.1, but you can carouse the whole damn week if you want. Some old customs you might want to observe: 1) Make love in a cornfield; 2) make love in a pumpkin patch; 3) make love in an apple orchard; 4) make love in the produce department of the supermarket.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Pete Hamill was asked to identify the greatest problem facing America. His answer was swift: "The overwhelming nostalgia for what never was." If my astrological calculations are correct, something like this syndrome is also your heaviest drag, at least temporarily. You're unfairly comparing the lively and imperfect now with an inert and hallucinated then. The past, my hindsighted friend, ain't what it used to be.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): I've got a project for you. Grab pen and paper, and draw three columns. At the top of each respective column, write "Personality No. 1," "Personality No. 2," and "Personality No. 3." These will represent the three main selves that dwell within your multifaceted Gemini frame. Now give each personality a nickname and describe his or her distinguishing qualities. Who and what are the friends, hangouts, and adventures each personality enjoys? What is each one's dreams, strengths, and flaws? Once you've filled the page with data, you'll be ready to launch your assignment for the next month, which is to get these three to come up with a common goal they can all pursue with equal passion.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Skeptics say to me, "How can a smart person like you possibly believe in astrology? You've got to have a screw loose to think that invisible emanations from the planets shape our behavior." If the skeptic is truly open-minded, I take the trouble to offer my hour-long lecture in response. If he's not (the more usual case), I simply say that I use astrology because it works.

Take, for instance, the theory that Cancerians like myself tend to have good financial luck In late July and August every year. Who cares if debunkers like Carl Sagan or Amazing Randi ridicule the idea? I ignore them. I just go ahead and hit up all my editors for raises, and 90 percent of the time I'm successful.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): In honor of your birthday I'm planning to do you some special favors. First, I'm going to pull every string and push every button to make sure your head doesn't rip off your heart for a whole year. Second, I promise to slip into your dreams and throw love bombs at the dragon that stole your treasure, in the hope that the beast'll come after me and leave the treasure unguarded long enough for you to retrieve it. Third, I'll brazenly predict that the next five months will bring you mo' better love than you've had in 12 years.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I have an idea. Why don't you get a few friends to strap you into a leather straitjacket, wrap you up with 50 feet of heavy chain, and cheer you on as you try to wriggle free? I admit it's an extreme measure, but it might take something like that to distract you from the nightmares you're brewing up -- misguided fantasies that could lead you to worry yourself into a state of paralysis. Besides, it might be easier for you to make a Houdini-like escape from the literal straitjacket and chains than from the ghostly "mind-forg'd manacles" you're in danger of creating.

There is another alternative. You could nip your self-persecution tendencies in the bud right now.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Because I have lots of Libra in my chart, I compulsively avoid conflict. Sometimes I even hide what I believe, afraid that the facts will make people dislike me. Now and then, though, I get sick of my genius for seeking harmony at all costs and have to break out in a rash of raw truth-telling. This week, for instance, I wrote a righteously pissed-off letter to a person who's in a position to help my career; I confessed to my pagan friends that I don't hate Christ; I shocked my hard-rock music buddies with the news that I love Tori Amos and Kate Bush; and I decided to tell you that I think you're in danger of becoming the most passive-aggressive person on your block unless you say what you really feel all over the place this week.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Oops. I've written too many long-winded horoscopes this week, so I'm afraid I'll have to scrimp on yours. (Sorry: It's the law. Federal regulations prohibit more than 1,300 words of poetry in publications this size.) I don't think this'll be a problem, though. For once, you Scorpios need less guidance than everyone else. In fact, you should dole out lots of advice yourself. As millions shiver and shake in the wake of this week's cosmic wake-up call, you'll be a flexible pillar of snaky strength.

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