When my daughter was small, I looked for part-time work from home. I did loads of jobs, anything really, but the one that lasted the longest was doing astrological charts over the phone. I was taught astrology by my mother.
I did charts for Mystic Meg, Shelley Von Strunckel, Jonathan Cainer and others. You know those numbers at the bottom of their pages in the newspaper that you ring to get a personal reading? It’s people like me that do the readings.
First of all it was hard. People had terrible problems. They don’t ask for readings when things are going well. The work was exhausting, mentally, for you have to keep them talking while you do the calculations (can’t have dead space on the phone, they’ll hang up) plus analyse their birth chart in a few seconds. It was also emotionally draining. I sought advice from the other astrologers who advised me to ‘smudge’ the area I was working from, to light candles and incense.
It was a very pressurised job. Like selling psychic double glazing.
After a while I managed to erect a mental protective barrier. There came a point when, while I was compassionate towards their problems, it didn’t get to me anymore, I didn’t take their problems home with me. I no longer lay awake at night, wondering if I had given good advice, what was happening to them, whether their boyfriend was beating them up, whether a mother’s son would get out of prison, whether this 50 year old man would ever get a job again. You can’t take it on.
I got really fast at doing charts, just like the title of this piece. I could look at the circle, the wheel, and sum it up in a few sentences. I’m not a technical astrologer. I see the map in it’s entirety, and it speaks to me. It’s a visual thing, I don’t know how to explain it. I’m what my mum would call a ‘pub astrologer’. I don’t like to get into long discussions about the science of it. I don’t want to spend energy justifying it to sceptics. But it’s a system that works. That is my experience: astrology, miraculously, just seems to work.
Generally people come to astrologers when they are experiencing Saturn transits. Saturn stays in a sign for about two and a half years. The effects are concrete, depressing, restrictive, limiting. I love Saturn transits. You always learn something from them. You always come out, having achieved something. The only thing to do during a Saturn transit is get your head down and work. Even if the ‘limitation’ is not working, being unemployed (very Saturnian), you will work on yourself, dig deep, stay still and learn your lesson.
Saturn transits have physical effects: your back hurts, your bones ache, you may need dental work, you age, you feel tired, you feel cold.
It’s easy to help people with Saturn transits. Mostly it’s a question of time. ‘In two and a half years time, or less, this bad patch will be over’ you can say.
The other reason people call up are Uranus or Pluto transits. Uranus is the divorce transit. When it hits your sun, moon or 7th house cusp, you can be fairly certain that you will be having problems with your partner. We all have something called a Uranus opposition when we are around 40. That’s often when people get divorced or quit their job.
This time the physical effect is exhilarating, speedy, a rush, like you just got electrocuted. You can’t sleep (whereas with Saturn all you want to do is sleep), you are wired. Uranus lasts a shorter time, but it’s effects are far more destructive. If you have been resisting change or staying in denial about a crap relationship, Uranus is your wake up call. There’s not much you can do. You just have to roll with it. Sometimes it’ll be your partner that has the life changing event; maybe he/she is having an affair/admitting they are gay/having an accident/throwing in the towel and saying I can’t stick the same old routine anymore. They may be happy with that. But your life is turned upside down. In this case you have to take your courage with both hands and see this as a refreshing breath of air and change yourself too. But it’s hard.
Pluto transits are slower, all pervading, transformational, psychological. It reveals death, power and sex issues. There’s nothing you can do about Pluto transits other than accept what is happening. It’s a good time to get therapy.
Mostly people ring up because of this stuff. You hone in on the issue, try to energize them with a few sentences. The fundamental service you perform as an astrologer for your client is to say ‘yes this IS happening. You are not crazy. Yes it is awful. But this too shall pass’.
That’s why I like astrology rather than any other ‘occult’ practice. It’s all in the timing. You can predict when it will start and when it will finish. I like that.
Many of the people that call don’t even know what astrology is: sometimes they say can you read my palm? Er, no not over the telephone (and I’m not a palmist). Or they ask if you can talk to their dear departed dad. No I’m not a medium either.
Being a single mum, I mostly did the phones the hours of 9 till 11pm; when my daughter had gone to bed. And of course, the callers were single mums too. The worst time for single parents is that dead zone, when the kids are asleep. It’s at that hushed time you become fully aware of being alone, the only adult in the house, the clock ticking and your umpteenth night in a row, home by yourself, just you and the fridge. Sometimes the loneliness is so frustrating and I’m not really talking sexually. You chomp at the bit when you hear people coming out of the pub or club, carousers in the street, having a good time in company. Times like this, motherhood feels like jail.
Many of my callers could not afford to call. When I was working it was £1.50p a minute and it would take at least 5 minutes to get the chart up on your computer. As the astrologer you only got 40p of this money but sometimes the customers would get angry with you. You’d take the flack for their anxiety about the cost, and their unhappiness and desperation about the situation that they were in.
When I knew it was a single mum calling from a council estate, I’d do my best to do the chart as quickly as possible. Sometimes I’d say
‘you can’t afford this. In fact I predict that if you continue to call me or others like me, you will end up broke’.
We weren’t allowed to do charts of people under 18. The funniest call was from a woman who gave me the birth data of an 8 year old.
‘I’m sorry but under the rules I cannot do this chart‘ I said.
There was a small silence.
‘Actually it’s my dog.‘ Then, pleading, ‘please do his chart, I really want to know his future’
I figured the rules didn’t apply to canines but I’d never done an animals chart before. Tentatively I started to read the chart, just as if he were human.
‘Strong Jupiter: very optimistic cheerful nature’ I said.
‘YESS!’ said his owner ‘always wagging his tail’
I managed to keep a straight face as I read the rest of the chart. The owner was very happy and said that I was “spot on” about everything.
At times you’d get the smart arses: you’d ask:
‘Date, time and place of birth?’
‘Don’t you know?‘ sneered the voice ‘call yourself a psychic?’‘No I don’t actually, I’m an astrologer. If you don’t give me this information then we might as well terminate this call‘ I’d snap back.
In the end I did this job for about 18 months. I must have done thousands of charts.
Before computers, an astrologer would take say a week to do a chart, just the calculations. This meant they’d do a few hundred charts over a lifetime. Now I could see a person’s birth wheel in seconds.
I got burnt out. I gave up and never did astrology for money again. It felt wrong for me. I don’t criticize other astrologers who need and deserve to earn a living for a subject for which they have spent thousands of pounds (books, software, courses) to become adept. But it felt wrong for me.
Sarah, Maison Cupcake
Found this fascinating. Especially the fact that it's all been sped up by computers and the impact of that. Never knew all this would be behind it, and that you end up acting as a counsellor. Really tragic to think of people with no money spending so much on premium rate phonecalls. I had a brief phase doing feng shui consultations and that was quite similar. I gave it up for two reasons: did a consultation on a flat I adored but it broke all the so-called rules and I didn't want her to change a thing and secondly people kept coming to me with ghosts!!!
Ghosts? Tell me more…
That was very insightful and interesting. I've never heard and Astrologer's Tale before (A good title for your autobiography perhaps!). I've never wondered what it was like to be someone who does readings etc on the phone. That was very poignant, ML. I should have guessed they'd be effected by emotional content of the work. I saw Helen Sewell live at a conference a few months ago and should have realized.
Does Mystic Meg not do her own charts?… no of course she doesn't! I would think of you whenever I read The Sun from now on… except I don't read the Sun!
Really like your work (commentary). I keep tinkering with the idea of "monetizing" my work, but I know that can cause problems. Never knew the "cut" on the phone lines was SO LOW! That is a powerful dis-incentive all by itself. –GT
Grand trines: Are you going to do your blog again? it was great.
Yes it's not an earner really. But it was a useful stop gap when I couldn't go 'out' to work.
I once went to see a psychic who said I had a Spirit guide called Mary who couldn't wait to see me on the 'Other side'!!! I'm 59, I can wait.
She was supposed to have been with me since birth, a rarity she (psychic) says.
Absolutely fascinating. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I learnt to cast horoscopes with the idea that I'd get laid more often ;¬) But gradually I became interested in the art for its own sake. I stopped after I cast the horoscope of a friend of my mother's with a Uranian transit. The conclusion was that her dearly loved husband would not stay with her. I couldn't say it and I didn't want to know such things – and very sadly it came true. Shit happens, but I really don't want to know about it in advance!