REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): If this were a thousand years ago and you were suffering from the same kind of temporary insanity you are right now, I might have recommended that you immerse yourself in a tub of live eels, or use the blood of a chicken to scrawl the word “penitent” on your belly, or mold a statue of a laughing raven out of clay. But since, as the second millennium ends, we have a whole new set of superstitions about what improves mental hygiene, I'm duty-bound to say, instead, find a scapegoat, access your inner child, and follow your bliss. (Just for fun, though, try these tricks, too: Immerse yourself in a tub of M&M's, scrawl the words “gorgeous genius” on your belly with a felt-tip marker, and mold a statue of a South Park character out of Day-Glo Play-Doh.)

Taurus (April 20-May 20): In her column in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this summer, Leah Garchik reported that one of her informants had spied a wooden sign in a nascent garden. “Grow, damn it,” it read, as if the little blooming things could be bullied into becoming themselves. As you slip into the heart of your personal growing season, Taurus, I trust you know that's exactly the wrong approach to take. “Grow at your own chosen pace, beautiful,” you should tell yourself, “as leisurely and idiosyncratically as you please.”

Gemini (May 21-June 20): I don't normally engage in channeling entities from the other side. But I had to make an exception this week. It was the only way to get the spirit of your great-grandma off my back. She's been pestering me to deliver some messages to you. I can't vouch for their wisdom, but here they are: 1) The old flame you still can't forget was definitely not your soulmate, so move on already, OK? 2) Memories from your last lifetime are more accessible now than ever before. 3) You can uncover a moist secret in a moldy box in an attic or basement. 4) Say a prayer for the souls of your ancestors now and then, will you please? 5) You need to eat more pork chops and applesauce.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): It may not be the most important phone call you'll ever be party to, Cancerian, but it'll be in the top 10. And it's going to happen this week. At least I hope it does. I'm praying that you won't stall so long that you put off the big presto-chango till later. If you do procrastinate, it'll end up being nothing more than one of the top 500 phone calls of your life. Epic transmutation or mediocre legerdemain: The choice is yours.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Right about now, a typical astrology column might suggest that you make a fast buck by leasing your soul to the highest bidder. Or it might direct you to cut your budget deficit by resigning yourself to endless days of boring sacrifices. Luckily for you, this is not a typical astrology column. I'm as concerned with your spiritual health as your material wealth. In place of the half-truths above, I offer this full truth: Money can't buy happiness, but it may be able to rent happiness while you're figuring out how to get happiness for free.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Some years from now, when you're celebrating your 80th birthday, maybe you'll reminisce about how back in September 1998 you wore a killer silk and leather outfit into the lair of the people who thought they had you all figured out. Or perhaps you'll be telling your grandchildren that this was the moment you took up the trapeze, or made your body more magical, or purposely got lost in the woods as a way to awaken your primitive wisdom.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): You wouldn't try to cure your hiccups by hurling yourself out a second-story window, right? And you wouldn't have your friend guillotined for carelessly spreading gossip about you. So why then are you about to throw yourself at the mercy of forces beyond your control just because of an awkward but (in the long run) minor tweak of fate? Please keep in mind the following two rules this week, sweetheart. 1) Avoid “cures” that are worse than the disease. 2) Don't punish yourself or allow yourself to be punished for other people's sins.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): I prophesy that you will find yourself drawn to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, where you will meet a man with a tattoo of Monica Lewinsky's face on his forearm. He will lead you down an alley to a blond bag lady whom you saw years ago in a shampoo commercial, and she'll hand you a dogeared copy of Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People. While reading it, you will find a shred of a napkin bearing the phone number of a mover and shaker who can dramatically boost your access to inside dope. And in the unlikely event none of this actually happens, Scorpios, I still predict you'll hook up with an electrifying networker or two and figure out how to jack up your popularity to record levels.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): When a pickpocket spies a saint, all he sees is the holy one's pockets. When a cynic witnesses a miracle, he's disgusted by the gullibility of the people whose lives have been forever transformed for the better. And what about when a Sagittarius brushes up against a hot opportunity to forge a master plan that will guide her with grace for the next five years? Is she so addicted to relentless spontaneity that she can't even perceive the majestic opening, and instead scans frantically for an escape route? Or might she be able, for once, to reach for the self-disciplined power she's been afraid to own?

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): I thought of you instantly when I read David Foster Wallace's description of Franz Kafka's story “Poseidon” in Harper's. “Kafka,” Wallace wrote, “imagines a sea-god so overwhelmed with administrative paperwork that he never gets to sail or swim.” This version of Poseidon should be your anti-role model in the coming weeks, Capricorn. Under no circumstances should you allow your teeming lust for adventure to be hobbled by trivial duties. (Though it's OK to let it be infused with grandeur by noble responsibilities.)

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): “Our ancestors,” rhapsodizes Thomas Moore in The Soul of Sex, “built temples to eros in realization of our absolute and unforgiving need for enchantment.” I'm asking you, Aquarius, to be inspired by that neglected tradition. Bedeck yourself like a holy prostitute. Erect a shrine in your bedroom dedicated to furthering your education in the arts of sacramental pleasure. Murmur smoldering prayers in your lover's mouth as you kiss, all the while visualizing him or her as your golden conduit to God.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): If you're an average Piscean, you sometimes worry that your phone is tapped by government spooks, or that extraterrestrials have stolen socks from your dirty laundry, or that newspaper astrology columnists have hired private detectives to spy on every move you make. And frankly, my friend, I'm hoping that you do indulge in such cartoony fantasies in the coming week. Why? Because that would be a relatively harmless way to drain off the paranoia you're susceptible to these days. And then you wouldn't be tempted to let your imagination go berserk about really important things — which means, hallelujah, you won't hallucinate that a loved one is purposely trying to sabotage your success.

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