An open appeal to African Americans about astrology


If you didn’t know better, you’d think African Americans just weren’t into astrology.

That would mean that you wouldn’t know that 47% of African Americans believe in astrology. This is compared to 29% of their White counterparts or 33% of Latinos, according to a 2003 Harris Poll on the religious and other beliefs of Americans.

It means that you wouldn’t know better that the ancient Egyptians, an African civilization, created astrology, as many proud African Americans believe.

Alternatively, it would mean that you grew up in a household that didn’t have a breakdown of all 12 signs of the Zodiac in the number/dream books strewn around the house, especially if your folks played “the Numbers.” (If you were born before the advent of state-sanctioned lotteries and lived in a predominantly Black urban center, you most likely know what I’m talking about.)

African Americans and astrology

Behold the only thing greater than yourself!

However, I know better. I’m a Black astrologer, and I know the truth.

Setting the record straight

Although the Babylonians and Greeks are largely credited most with the creation of modern astrology, the truth is that astrology is a 6000-year global effort that has created many astrologies in many different places.  Since there are few cultures that have been able to survive without forming a calendar (a symbolic understanding of time for practical purposes), we can say that most cultures have created their own astrology.

Even with what we call Western horoscopic astrology, such as the one with the 12 signs of the Zodiac like Leo or Scorpio, it was a cultural exchange project between Greek, Roman, Islamic, Babylonian, Egyptian, and European cultures over thousands of years. So, there’s no one group of people who can lay claim to creating astrology. It’s still a work very much in process.

However, there’s no doubt that not all peoples are involved in this process at the same degree. We, Blacks, whether in Europe, Africa, South America, or North America, are largely underrepresented as creators or participants in the field of astrology.

You can count the number of Black astrology authors on nearly one hand, even the ones that have written exclusively for a Black audience like Thelma Balfour’s Black Sun Signs or Soul Signs by Gilda Matthews and George Davis. (Incidentally, both books are nearly 20 years old with no books of its kind since.) To date and my knowledge, only Black astrologer Basil Fearrington has written a popular, mass market how-to book on astrology.

Similarly, when you attend astrology conferences, there are hardly any Black people there, and a significant dearth of Black women (though the number of Black women who see me as clients is 9 to 1). In fact, I’m the only Black person (and the only other person of color) presenting at either of the two conferences at which I’ll be speaking this fall.

Until recently, Ebony.com was the ONLY large-scale website dedicated to Black news and issues that had horoscopes, and I wrote them. Now that I don’t publish there anymore, there’s no other major Black website with high traffic volume that does this—not even Essence.com, though, to my knowledge, Thelma Balfour writes horoscopes for their print edition.

Why is that, and does it matter?

Well, the reasons why there are so few Blacks prominent in astrology is not because, in the main, we’re not into it. Again, according to near recent stats, 47% of us do. However, I think are a few key reasons why we’re not fully involved that we could boil down to religion, lack of financial incentive and value, and plain ignorance on the topic. The reason why all of this matters I’ll address toward the end of this article.

Religion

Religion is perhaps the #1 aversion why many Blacks don’t embrace astrology. In fact, when I was a Baptist minister, I used to preach against astrology myself. However, the Magi were astrologers (as there was no astronomy as such in Jesus’ day) who found the promised Messiah using a star. Likewise, the Qur’an says, “For you (God) subjected all that is in the heavens and on the earth, all from Him. Behold! In that are signs for people who reflect.” It also doesn’t seem to matter to Christians and Muslims that they both use the moon to observe holidays, like Easter or Ramadan. Astrology is still viewed as sinful or the Devil’s work by the religious. It wouldn’t matter if I gave 20 more examples from either Islam or Christianity that said otherwise.

I get it, and there’s even a part of the religious aversion that I share.

If people become more fearful of planets than God, then I think astrology is doing an immense disservice to them. However, think about the word “consider.” Most people don’t know that the word is from the Latin word considerare. It means to “reflect on, observe or study one’s stars.” It’s composed of the Latin conjugates “con” (with) and sidus (star). Notice how it doesn’t say “obey” your stars, but observe them, pretty much as Surah 45:13 from the Qur’an says above. We’re to consider the signs, but obey God. There’s no straightforward conflict between astrology and religion there.

Can’t appreciate the value

However, people are also challenged to appreciate astrology where it also counts: in the wallet or pocketbook. This cuts a couple of ways.

First, many people have not come to value astrology, so they’re not necessarily prepared to pay much for it. Second, fewer feel called to become astrologers because it doesn’t appear to be that lucrative. It’s hard enough for many Blacks to find employment in traditional fields, so it seems inane and possibly insane to look for stability in a non-traditional field.

There is a difference between paying $125-$200 to have an hour with an astrologer and have that same hour with Mrs. Harrison, your around the way psychic, astrologer or medium, for $60. The question is NOT always quality, to be honest. Mrs. Harrison could be as spot on (or more so) as some high falutin’ astrologer. However, she also might not be, and there could be host of reasons why and those reasons could cost you more than a $100 difference.

Unlike most other fields that have state certifications, board examinations and licensing, astrology requires none of that to practice in the field. You literally could jump up and call yourself an astrologer tomorrow after reading one book—and face no censure except from other astrologers. However, that censure from other astrologers is vital. There are organizations and schools that, in fact, certify astrologers. This is often not true for psychics or tarot readers.

That’s the key difference between your around the way psychic or astrologer. Your average parlor psychic doesn’t have a paper trail, but your local astrologer could. Regardless, of whether someone can be or is certified in his or her field, you should still ask about their training. Be an informed consumer rather than winging it. Generally, you get what you pay for. A $65 astrology reading may cost more than a $10 reading, but you could be talking to someone with a lot more dedication to his or her craft…and you.

Can’t make money

The other financial concern is about making money, and that’s tricky too. Most people work as astrologers part-time, usually with a full-time job or a retirement pension. There are some astrologers who have the good fortune of making living as practitioners, authors/writers, speakers or some combination of all the above. I’m one of them. However, it’s not easy, and I didn’t wake up like this.

I don’t think I’ve met one kid who’s expressed to me that he or she was dying to be an astrologer when he or she grows up. I can’t think of too many adults, much less Black ones. However, the 47% of African Americans who believe in astrology could sure use more Black astrologers, and my experience is that if you’re serious about charging what you feel you’re worth, there are people willing to pay that. Likewise, not all my clients are Black. I had to make that shift consciously.

When I first started out as a practicing astrologer, I would say that 70-80% of my clientele was White. Of course, my clientele was not as large as it is now, but having most of my clients be White troubled me. After all, I had two college degrees in African American studies and had spent the better half of my adult life doing work to have a more racially equal society. So I made a conscious decision to enter Black communities, in person and online, to make my services known. I did more than sell my services, though.  I focused on educating people about astrology and how it can work in people’s lives. I made it personal, because astrology, despite its vast cosmic focus, can help with deeply personal problems. Now I’m happy to see that 85% of my clientele are people of color. So I know two things: you can make a living as an astrologer and you can do it while serving people of color.

I’m not the only one, of course. I have quite a few Black colleagues who are out there talking to Black folks about astrology, but I often wonder if we allow a conversation to take place. I know folks are listening, because 47% of Blacks are somehow reading someone or something about astrology. However perhaps there are too many stigmas from the intellectual and religious community about astrology for our people to take it seriously and openly.

The cost of stigmas

I don’t believe we can afford to honor these stigmas, though. JP Morgan is reported to have said, “Millionaires don’t use astrology, billionaires do.” I can’t find independent verification that he actually said that, but that doesn’t mean what he reportedly said isn’t true.

It’s a well-established fact that President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy used astrologer Joan Quigley’s services. England’s Queen Elizabeth I rose to power with the advice of her astrologer John Dee using her chart and her Virgo Sun sign to create an image of her as a saintly Virgin Mary figure, appealing to the religious sensibilities of warring Protestants and Catholics in England. Her actions, informed by his advice and timing for important affairs of state for her, bridged a peace that created an empire. Astrology works, people.

I’ve also done work for many people who’ve been in law, business, city government, entertainment, and other halls of power and influence. Some of these people have been Black, but many have not. That pains me. It’s galling to think that so many people have been able to use astrology to time important events in their lives, much like how you could catch a plane that’s perfectly timed to take you to your destiny, while so many don’t. Why wouldn’t you want to use every possible advantage to get to your destiny?

In many circles, it’s common to use the ancient saying, “Know thyself.” Some have used that as an impetus to learn one’s racial history, family’s geneaology, or one’s psychological make-up. However, astrology offers an opportunity for a person to learn all of that. Our ancestors did help in the creation of the astrology we commonly use in the West. You can learn more about your family and your relationship to them from astrology as well. Of course, the biggest draw is learning more about what makes YOU tick. A heavenly perspective on your terrestrial life is vital and illuminating on your character. In fact, philosopher Heraclitus says, “Character is destiny.”

So it’s beyond baffling that the people I love most and with whom I most identify, African Americans, don’t openly embrace astrology more, at all levels. After all, our individual and collective destinies are at stake. This is an appeal for change.