Aries (March 21-April 19): Science News reports that contracting certain childhood diseases may ultimately be good for you. For instance, early respiratory infections might stimulate a kid's production of natural antibodies, preventing her from developing allergies and asthma later. With this in mind, Aries, let's imagine there might be psychological parallels. What if, for instance, some of the emotional pain you suffered at a tender age actually built up your skill at avoiding pain as an adult? What if the very events that made you sad and blue back then could help make you clear and bright now? Meditate on these astounding possibilities as you slip into your second childhood in the next few weeks.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): "We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror," Marshall McLuhan used to say. And frankly, that aspect of the human animal normally depresses me. But in your case, Taurus -- at least for the next few weeks -- it's a highly recommended approach. There's no way you'll be able to reach the best possible tomorrow unless you do some serious focusing on and tinkering with your past.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): I won't come right out and say that you shouldn't try to get any serious work done this week. There will be a few windows of opportunity during which you can accomplish a wad of work in a wisp of time. But mostly I suggest you give yourself over with great earnestness to the pursuit of frivolity. Suggested activities: Go skinny-dipping after midnight, engage in SuperSoaker fights, chug-a-lug a quart of lime Jell-O before it's gelled, spray-paint or barbecue Barbie dolls, stage beer-spitting contests, try medieval jousting, attend cow insemination demonstrations, or snack on chocolate-covered ants.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): During the course of my career, I've experimented extensively to discover which phase of my astrological cycle is the very best time to ask for a raise from the newspapers I write for. The evidence is clear: late July and the first half of August. At this time, publishers seem most receptive to my demands -- I mean my requests -- and are more likely to acknowledge that my column is among their readers' favorites. Being a Cancerian like you, I can't help but believe the prime time for my financial success is yours too.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): I hate to say it, Leo, but last week you were sort of like a stale pretzel log with one nibble taken out of it and dropped on the floor in a hard-to-reach spot. I might even go so far as to say that a little mold had begun to grow on you in the place where you were in contact with a puddle of dirty old dishwater. In recent days, though, you seem to have been undergoing a radical metamorphosis. This week I predict you'll be more like a Cool Ranch tortilla chip dipped in spicy guacamole and sitting on a designer ceramic plate at a choice social event. You'll be crunchy, fresh, extra tasty, and very available.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): The ancient Greeks had a legend about a tricky species of demon called the Kallikantzaroi. They weren't evil monsters so much as they were practical jokesters. Among the pranks they were accused of were braiding horses' tails, sticking balls of butter to the ceilings, and dousing the hearth fire by urinating in it. I bring this up, Virgo, because for all intents and purposes you'll be receiving a few visits from characters like the Kallikantzaroi in the week ahead. I suppose you could try what the Greeks did to repel the tricksters: burn old shoes and hang a pig's jawbone by the door. But I'd also like to suggest that at least some of the mischief coming toward you is life's way of loosening and lightening you up. Maybe you should even go out and solicit it.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): As you cruise into the heart of the Party Hardy Season, I'll offer you two approaches to squeezing the most benefits out of the mad social whirl. First, here's Dennis Rodman's perspective: "The key to partying is in the mental preparation .... It's visualization -- you've got to visualize what's going to happen, how you're going to drink, how you're going to feel, if you're going to throw up." For an alternative view, here's the Sufi ecstatic poet Rumi: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the threshold where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep."

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): In the alchemical tradition, the ultimate spiritual goal has many different names: elixir, gold, stone, Grail, lapis, medicine. I like this profusion of symbols. It emphasizes the fact that there's no use trying to be literal about describing the highest prize. The alchemical texts are less fuzzy, however, about where the stone might be found: in the darkest forest, the deepest abyss, the emptiest desert, the tallest mountain. In other words, the kind of places where you Scorpios thrive -- especially now, as you dive into an astrological phase when your power to stalk the Grail will be at a peak.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): The 3-year-old in you wants to waddle over to that big old spiderlike thing up ahead and stomp on it. The scientist in you would like to capture it, perform experiments on it, and study it to find out more about its nature and intentions. The poet in you might prefer to observe it as it goes about its business, allowing it to play upon your imagination and give you ideas for how you could benefit from becoming more like it. Which of these three aspects of your psyche, I wonder, will win out?

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Forget about how romance has been portrayed in every movie you've seen. Exorcise your unconscious belief that the nature of love was pretty thoroughly revealed in your parents' relationship. Free your mind of all obviously pornographic images, as well as the bizarre ideas about eros that pass for normal in fashion magazines and religious dogma. Finally, Capricorn, wash your brain clean of all other degraded, cynical, stupid, and lazy notions about the nature of intimacy. In the place of all you've flushed, plant this thought from Rainer Maria Rilke: "For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation."

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): An intensive analysis of your astrological aspects reveals that you desperately need to work on your kissing skills. I'm not saying they've deteriorated, but neither have they been steadily improving. And that's unacceptable -- especially now, when the Smooching Season is about to kick into high gear. What can you do? REHEARSE! STUDY! Practice and explore new techniques by Frenching the back of your hand, or watching romantic movie scenes, or puckering up to pictures of beautiful people in magazines (no need to invest in a blowup doll). And to catch up on the latest trends in tongue licking and other state-of-the-art developments, I highly recommend the book The Art of Kissing by William Cane.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): So begins the dangling time of the year for you, Pisces. Reminds me of that old Camper Van Beethoven song in which the singer croons over and over, "Everything seems to be up in the air at this time." Hopefully you'll be crafty enough to at least maneuver yourself into a comfortable position: not suspended upside down over a precipice, for instance, but upright, well-balanced, and not too far off the ground.

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