REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): I guess it would be OK for you and your sweetheart to buy matching monogrammed sweaters, but I can think of more creative ways to feed a growing sense of togetherness. Like for instance, you could both buy a pair of 3-inch stiletto-heeled Manolo Blahnik pumps and traipse majestically around a junkyard rummaging for scrap to use in a joint sculpture in your back yard. Or you could get a head start on Halloween and have one of you dress up as a giant peanut and the other as a rogue elephant, then go at it with zany zeal in the bedroom.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Scientists say that El Nino is heating up the Pacific Ocean so dramatically that the planet may soon see some of the most extreme weather this century. On the other hand, it seems to have been the cause of a very mild hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean this year. Does this trade-off remind you of anyone you know? It should. You've just lived through your own psychological version of El Nino. And now that its most disruptive effects are winding down, you can afford to sit back and give thanks for its unexpected benefits.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Are you familiar with the concept of the controlled burn? Firefighters eliminate buildups of brush near wooded areas by intentionally igniting easily manageable fires, thereby minimizing chances of accidental conflagrations in the future. I recommend you apply this strategy to your own life. A few small, purposeful eruptions could go a long way toward preventing a heart-exploding meltdown in a couple of weeks.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): The doctor is sick. Mommy needs some mothering. The firetruck is on fire and the therapist is crazy. Catch my drift? What I'm trying to say is that you probably won't be able to draw help and support from any of the usual suspects. Are you willing, then, to accept substitutes and surrogates? I hope so. They may turn out to be better than the originals. I bet you'll be shocked by how much nurturing you can siphon from sources you wouldn't have dreamed sidling up to a month ago.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Like the season premiere of the TV show ER, this horoscope is being performed in front of a live studio audience. Even now, to the delight of over a hundred observers, my eyes are rolling to the back of my head in search of psychic visions. What I'm seeing for you Leos is that you should be doing something similar to what I'm doing: putting yourself on the spot in a high-stakes challenge that demands peak alertness, relaxed intensity, and the willingness to reinvent yourself from scratch at every moment.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Though the nation of Bolivia has no coastline, it keeps a navy of 4,000. And while my friend Ron hasn't had a date in five months, he nevertheless keeps 12 condoms in his car's glove compartment just in case. Which brings us to you, Virgo. You're ripe to begin expressing deeper versions of the truth in just about every area of your life; unfortunately, the lines of communication are not exactly wide open and abundant. Can you do something about this? Judging from your astrological aspects, I'd say you have a far better chance at success than Bolivia has of acquiring a seaport.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): There's no better example of the hazards of fortunetelling than the tale of the Spanish conquistador Cortes. For centuries Aztec priests had predicted that their fair-skinned, bearded god Quetzalcoatl would return from exile in the year they called One Reed. When the bushy-faced white man Cortes showed up in 1519 -- the date corresponding to One Reed -- he seemed to fit the prophecy. Trouble was, he hadn't exactly come to bestow gifts and show everyone a good time. Moral of the story No. 1: Just because it walks like a Quetzalcoatl and quacks like a Quetzalcoatl doesn't mean it is a Quetzalcoatl. Moral of the story No. 2: You'll never meet the true Quetzalcoatl if you fall for the false one.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Here's a mystical ritual that will banish those demons and pests that keep harassing you. Stand in a private place at noon, face east, and use a real knife to draw an imaginary five-pointed star in the space in front of you. (To start, place the knife at the lower left-hand "leg" of the star and move up to the top point. From there, descend to the lower right-hand leg. Next, draw a line to the left "arm" of the star, then across to the right arm. Finally, connect to the left leg.) Make three more stars, one each while facing south, west, and north. Return to the east and imagine a flaming blue circle connecting all the stars you've drawn. As you do, visualize an image or a feeling of the highest good you can imagine. Say, "Love protects me. Begone, all negative influences."

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Mars and Venus will soon converge in Sagittarius. What synchronicities should we expect to flow between this cosmic conjunction and your personal life? Here are a few of the possible scenarios. 1) Heated arguments followed by feverish lovemaking. 2) Long-smoldering flirtations bursting into flame. 3) Massive mix-ups about the roles of love and lust -- or else electrifying rapport between the two. 4) Brief affairs that flare up and then die out with soap opera-like melodrama. 5) Surpassingly sweet, sizzling, surprising sex.

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