REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): I want to express my admiration for the adventures you've risked in 1995. You've had a sixth sense about when it's best to ignore all the "No Trespassing" signs. And yet you've also had a seventh sense about how to avoid nasty surprises inside the off-limits areas. Your assignment for 1996, should you choose to accept it: Stop exploring all those once-forbidden zones and start settling down in the one you enjoy most. Move in your belongings, throw a housewarming party, and get to work building your future power spot.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Nineteen ninety-six will be a year for capitalizing on the success of people you've supported, encouraged, or helped. I'm reminded of a passage in Anne Lamott's book on creative writing, Bird by Bird, in which she metaphorically describes the process by which she mines her best work: "I'm the person whose job it is to hold the lantern while the kid does the digging. ... The holder of the lantern doesn't even know what the kid is digging for half the time -- but she knows gold when she sees it."

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Nineteen ninety-six will bring some clamorous clashes -- and ultimately some manic mergers -- of the sacred and profane. It'll have certain resemblances to that CD of cats meow-singing Handel's Messiah; it'll be like that scatological comic book based on William Blake's visionary poetry; it'll be like the Wal-Mart stores scheduled to be built on Native American holy land. Think you can handle that much juxtaposition and paradox? I do. I predict that your already-brilliant talent for going both ways at the same time will reach new heights, especially when it comes to finding divine revelations in funky settings.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): As a holiday gift, I have embedded millions of subliminal affirmations in your horoscope. By the time you've finished reading this sentence, you will have already unconsciously absorbed so many signals convincing you that you're smart and beautiful that you will actually be 10 percent smarter and more beautiful. And if you dare to keep reading to the end of this sentence, you will, within 72 hours, hatch a brainstorm that'll transform your romantic relationships in 1996. Bonus guarantee: The more often you pore over this message, the more breakthroughs your love life will enjoy.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Ready for some fresh hot metaphors for the new year? I predict that your life in 1996 will be like learning to play the cello while giving your first concert; like falling back in love with a fantasy you'd fallen out of love with; like living out an epic movie version of the self-help book What You Can Change and What You Can't. But the best metaphor of all for your year ahead is this: being discovered by a big talent scout while you're cleaning out the lion cages.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I wish you the sweetest revenge in 1996 ... the only revenge that matters ... the revenge that comes from pulling off a smashing victory in a game everyone predicted you would lose. My thoughts turn to the life of one of my favorite authors, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. In 1970, she was a dirt-poor single welfare mother, favorite scapegoat of all the rich, privileged greedbuckets. Today she's an award-winning Jungian therapist whose book, Women Who Run With Wolves, lit up the New York Times best-seller list for almost two years. A vindication like the one Estes achieved is the gift I'd most like to promise you this winter solstice.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): As I peer into my designer crystal ball in search of your future, I see heavy rains, rising waters, and maybe even a flood. Knowing how my visions usually work, I should urge you not to take this one literally. Most likely it means you'll be swept up in events that'll make you feel more feelings than you have in a long time. Not necessarily bad feelings; just deep feelings, and a lot of them. To prepare, I suggest you build the metaphorical equivalent of an ark. It should be neither an inviolable fortress nor a refuge conceived in fear, but an adaptable sanctuary where you can retreat to find the objectivity you'll need in the wake of tidal waves of passion.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Nineteen ninety-six will be a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't kind of year for you, Scorpio; a don't-blink-or-you-might-miss-something-important kind of year. Your clues about what to do will be ephemeral, but they will come in abundance. If you refuse to let the mystery drive you crazy, it will massage your psychic G-spot like a sexually adept guardian angel.

I guess I should add that 1996 will be a take-nothing-for-granted, don't-go-to-sleep-on-the-job, keep-a-close-tab-on-your-supposedly-sure-things-at-all-times kind of year. You should extend yourself far more than it's cool to do. Err always on the side of doing way too much rather than too little.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Did you hear about the mother in Northern California who set a series of conflagrations in order to stimulate her son's firefighting career? It's important to keep her in mind in 1996, because she is a perfect role model for the behavior you must religiously avoid. It would be a bad idea for you to keep whipping up a certain kind of trouble simply because it's trouble you're good at solving.

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