Stargazing through a pandemic

When the world was thrust into the new normal, my mother had someone read my birth chart. It was the most perfect gift, though at the time I was not sure how to accept it.

Astrology has always fallen into that swampy part of me that prays it is all written in the stars. There were the horoscopes at the back of the Seventeen magazines that I used to pore over as a pre-teen, delighting in the big sister advice. 

Those horoscopes were like a parting gift, bestowed to readers for making it through the glossy pages without spiralling. But they were never to be taken seriously.

If those horoscopes were anything to go by, 2020 would have been a bumper year for all Capricorns. Though it wasn’t all bad — the bread-making was nice — last year was punctuated by losses that have spilled over into the new year and will be mourned for many more to come.

Some more serious astrologers knew what was coming; a plague is what popular psychic medium Jessica Lanyadoo called it.

The fact is astrology is not a not a science but, somehow, I am not deterred by this.

I wasn’t raised to wholly doubt the esoteric, or to believe that knowledge and healing would always come from the most rational source. 

I distinctly remember waiting while my parents tried acupuncture in someone’s back garden to stop smoking and, on a separate occasion, consulting a beat poet in Yeoville, Johannesburg, who had butterflies pinned to his wall.

Although my parents never gave me a religion, a fact that in my younger years sometimes left me feeling different and alone, I still prayed most nights and always kept an eye out for a shooting star. Granted what I would wish for the most were longer legs and straight hair.

Now I hesitantly turn to the stars when little else makes sense, which these days is often.

During my most recent personal devastation, I phoned my best friend sobbing at 10pm. Understanding that what I really craved were answers, she sent me a link about zodiac signs and their love matches. 

And with tears stinging my eyes, I absorbed every word on that web page like gospel — hopelessly thankful that a stranger on the internet took the time to lay it all out for me. Suddenly there was a logic to my pain.

And when I am truly low, sometimes the only thing that can make me smile is a Capricorn meme unearthed from the depths of Instagram and the “amens” from my fellow goat sisters in my DMs. The memes don’t all fit. But when they do, it is like being acknowledged by some cosmic force.

In 2018, The Atlantic published an article headlined “The New Age of Astrology”. The general premise of the article is that the woo-woo stigma attached to astrology has receded in recent years as it has gained a foothold in online culture. Millennials, like myself, have embraced this, the article poses.

“Astrology offers those in crisis the comfort of imagining a better future, a tangible reminder of that clichéd truism that is nonetheless hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it: This too shall pass.”

“This too shall pass.” My high school headmistress would say that during the last assembly before exam season. To this day, I get a deep sense of comfort from those words, which I whisper to myself when I feel myself staring into the abyss.

For now, while we wait for it to pass, there is little that is off limits. The Instagram-era horoscopes, the online tarot card readings best done during long Zoom meetings, the personality tests seemingly contrived to steal all your personal information and the desperate 5am attempts to tap into the divine feminine.

All these contortions I put myself through to survive reality are also little acts of defiance against a rational world turned upside down.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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