REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): If you'll ever in this life get your picture in the newspaper, it'll probably be because of the heroic (or at least notorious) feats you pull off in 1997. On a darker note, if you ever in this life end up howling with vindication as you drive your adversary's face into the mud with your boot, it'll also be in 1997. In conclusion, Aries, it's likely to be a year in which you score so many strident, unusual successes that by January 1998 you may have to get to know yourself all over again.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): I saw a gift in the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog that would be perfect for you. It's an exquisite rendition of Excalibur: a sterling silver sword embedded in a slab of handcrafted lead crystal. Unfortunately, it's overpriced at $3,100, so you may have to rig up a makeshift substitute. In either case, having a symbolic Excalibur sitting around the house would serve as a bracing reminder of the strange and unexpected and sudden opportunities that await you in 1997. Like the boy named Arthur who became king by extracting the sword from the stone when no one else could, you'll receive at least one fateful chance to pull off a transformative feat you didn't even know you were capable of.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): "Dear Santa: For Christmas, I wish to hell you would bring me a telescope, because I am pretty damn tired of peering through this stupid old microscope all the time. Sorry about the cursing; it's just that this endless, obsessive attention to details is making me cranky. Guess it goes without saying that I'd also like to trade in my tunnel vision for some sweeping vistas of the far horizon, and other cool stuff like that. Please, Santa, I'm begging you. -- Nearsighted Gemini"

Cancer (June 21-July 22): A power animal is a spirit guide that takes the form of a wild creature. While other signs of the zodiac get glamorous versions of this special ally, like lions and eagles, we Cancerians are stuck with the crab. For the last year or so, the turtle has also been a power animal for many of us. "Comforting, maternal, and soothing" is how shaman Nicki Scully describes the turtle. "Her greatest gift is her service to the future. ... She's eternally youthful, without being childlike ... slow, deliberate, and exacting." In 1997, Cancer, I foresee you adding a third power animal to aid you in your brave quests: the owl. With her keen night vision and hunting skills, she's a guide into the unknown, as well as a teacher of alchemy, helping you turn lead into gold.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): In Mongolia, there are certain macho fools who show off their ability to withstand pain by stripping off their clothes and playing chicken with howling sandstorms. My astrological investigations tell me that at various times in 1996, many of you Leo folks have pulled off the equivalent of this loony feat. But I think that's enough, now. OK? You've proved your point. You've demonstrated your courage. It's time to move on to more constructive confrontations with elemental forces. I suggest that in 1997 you take after a new role model. How about the Icelanders who heighten their capacity for intense pleasure by making love in hot springs surrounded by snow?

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): You may possess two BMWs and a private jet, yet still be poor. You can own a luxury home in a gated community but feel absolutely homeless. You might even be surrounded by adoring admirers and yet crave love like a Calcutta orphan. But enough of this mawkish scolding. I have reason to believe, Virgo, that in recent weeks you've learned so much about loving yourself and building your inner wealth and making yourself feel at home that you'll never again need to hear platitudes like those I just muttered.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): If anyone would have asked me what to give you for Christmas 12 months ago, I might have said a nice new blender, vacuum cleaner, or electric toothbrush. This year I'd be inclined to go with silk pajamas, a manual on the tantric arts, and plane tickets for two to the South of France. Have your needs really evolved that dramatically? Let's put it this way. When I close my eyes and try to get a psychic picture symbolizing your life next summer, I see you and a friend playing naked in a fountain.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Since I hope that you will be liberally feathering your nest in 1997, I'd like to suggest you buy yourself a king-size, four-poster brass bed for Christmas. With snakes twining around the poles, of course, to give it that Scorpionic touch. A Jacuzzi might be nice, too, along with a killer stereo system and lots of riveting new music, plus a pulsating, computer-controlled, full-body massage chair, and everything else that'll propitiate your mastery of stay-at-home sensuality.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I predict that you'll be making lots of sharp turns, sudden stops, and rapid accelerations in 1997. Not that you'll be burning up the road like a drunken maniac. On the contrary. You'll be more like a professional driver skillfully negotiating labyrinthine routes with the speed and mobility of a bike messenger. (And in fact your assignments will have a certain metaphorical resemblance to the work of a bike messenger.) That's why I suggest you give yourself a Spillbuster for Christmas. It's a high-tech gyro mechanism that holds your coffee or espresso or Jolt cola steady on the dashboard as you twist and turn your way from pit stop to pit stop.

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