• The Prisoner Issue

    September 2016 Horoscopes

    The Prisoner Issue
    Horoscopes 3

    Everything you need to know about the Earth opening up and swallowing your planets or the other way around.


    Corina Dross is an artist, astrologer, and rabble-rouser best known for her illustrated card deck, Portable Fortitude. Based out of Philadelphia for the last ten years, she’s currently splitting her time between the East Coast and the Northwest.

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    Art by G.W. Duncanson


    September 2016

    As Mercury stations in retrograde, Virgo season is all about asking the harder questions. But are you ready?

    Twice a year, we get to wake up. The linear narrative of our lives, monotonous yet comforting, dissolves. We sense our amorphous flux of experience as a “a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end,” in the words of Virginia Woolf. Welcome to eclipse season, a time of shifting perspective and gaping in awe and reverberating with currents we usually ignore. This is a six-week period that happens twice a year, when we are open to all kinds of reversals. It’s been known as a dangerous time for kings and emperors. Two Chinese astrologers were reportedly put to death for failing to predict an eclipse--the oldest eclipse on record, in 2134 BCE. Eclipses are break with the common order, when we cannot grasp and hold and control; when the forces of change are stronger than the forces of consolidation.

    The first eclipse, on September 1, is in Virgo, the sign of devotion to the task of perfecting the world. Virgo is how we know what needs to change, and the energy we use to mend what we can. Virgo is sewing needles, red pencils, strong hand muscles. The second eclipse is on the 16th in Pisces, a sign synonymous with abnegation of the self. Pisces receives impressions, lets the body float like an aria, feels the emotional pull of the past and the future. In the midst of these two eclipses, we are caught between the world in all its imperfection and impossible beauty that’s not of this world. Meanwhile, this month also brings us the last face-off between Saturn (structure, form, control, discipline) and Neptune (the oceanic, the ineffable, the transcendent). We’re ready to ask harder questions about what is real, what will last, and how our longing creates something real (even if what it creates isn’t the answer to our desires). Oh, and Mercury will be retrograde till the 22nd, in case we need another reminder to make decisions slowly right now, and question any easy answers.

    In honor of the eclipses, I’m offering you horoscopes as heteronyms. Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa invented heteronyms as distinct personalities, each with a complete biography, ideology, and writing style. Recognizing that we contain multitudes, and that eclipse season allows us to uncover new modes of being, adopt and adapt these heteronyms however you see fit. Think of them as alter egos you can call on in crisis, or to explore worlds you can’t visit as yourself. There’s enough happening this month to fill a lifetime; this month you get an extra life to harmonize with your own.

    As always, the astro-literate are encouraged to read their rising sign first, followed by the Sun and Moon, and those curious about how the eclipses are affecting them personally can book a reading with me for support and strategizing.

    “Each moment I feel as if I’ve just been born
    Into an endlessly new world.”

    Alberto Caeiro (heteronym of Fernando Pessoa)


    This month, you’re invited to live as Andrew Mayday. Your laughter is infectious, and you’ve traveled farther on your charming smile than you ever have on the few dollars you own. You have a peculiar quality of easing anxiety because you seem equally amused by success and failure. Your favorite rhythm is a racing heart. Every night you dream of your own death. Though it arrives in different ways each time, it always feels fine, like slipping off a wet raincoat. You wake up refreshed, ready to begin again.


    This month you step into the worn but carefully polished shoes of Vladimir Antipode, classicist and novelist. You dress carefully for dinner everyday, even when you eat alone, and keep a rigorous schedule that allows time for recording your dreams, doing an hour of Greek translation on weekday mornings, and keeping up your endless correspondence with comrades exiled to different countries and languishing in prison cells. Forbidden to discuss politics with them, you express what you can by sharing etymologies, like eleutheria – a word for freedom that means arriving (eleu) where one loves (eran). Your antiquated habits raise eyebrows amongst your younger friends, who suspect you of nostalgia for an old social order. What they don’t see is how deeply you can grieve for a past you never approved of, and can love what you helped overthrow.


    This month you’re welcome to live as street performer Senza Genere. As a young runaway you painted tigers and owls on the faces of children at county fairs, noticing how protectively their mothers stood by. Tired of hay underfoot and the interminable sunshine of the plains, you reinvented yourself in the most cosmopolitan city you could find. As a living statue, you pose still and silver in the shadows of the marble walls of the central bank, and swoosh your petticoats gracefully for tips. You’re good at being invisible while being seen all day, every day. You’ve learned through stillness how to stretch each muscle so slowly you barely seem to be moving. On slow days, you imagine yourself as an undiscovered planet, waiting for an astronomer to notice your magnetic pull, but enjoying being hidden in plain sight.


    Your heteronym this month is Emma Lith, and you are scared of nothing except your own strength. You learned quite young that you could outwit your mother and overpower your father, and these days you wear weights on your wrists and ankles to modulate how quickly you run and how gently you reach for a jug of water or the hand of a friend. There is a loneliness to your healthy, vigorous nature that you rarely show, as all your loved ones look as delicate to you as the veins in a dragonfly’s wing. There is a bear who visits your backyard garden in the late summer that you have often longed to meet. You think this might be the year you offer her an uprooted blueberry bush and a brace of salmon. You’re counting the days.


    Born in a country that no longer exists, thanks to several wars, your heteronym this month is Chen Fiala. Your childhood home is now a checkpoint where tourists who got cheap flights show their passports on their way to more glamorous ports. You’ve become famous in your new neighborhood, half the world away, as a chess whiz, playing strangers in the park for money, sometimes five games at once. When you tried six, you lost one game, and you’re comfortable knowing your limits. You’re in love with one of the backgammon hustlers who sometimes sets up next to you and rarely finds a taker. You admire their persistence. You wonder sometimes if they sit near you because they like you or because they hope to draw one of your customers. You fantasize at times about throwing your games and losing all your money for the day. Would you and the backgammon hustler then be able to share your misery together? Or would they leave to set up shop near a more successful player? The risk makes you queasy, but you must find out.


    You go by Bramble, but your legal name is Vesta Mittelschmerz. No one calls you that except your mother, who had high hopes that you would follow in her footsteps as a obstetrician. You would never breathe this aloud, especially not to the doctors and herbalists who tried to teach you, but you don’t feel it’s your place to intervene. Why pick this herb and process it rather than leave it alive in the ground? Why find a remedy for this cough instead of letting it shake your body like the wind shakes leaves in autumn? One day, you might rub up against some poison oak. Another, you may be kissed by your lover. Both are sensations. Both remind you that you’re alive, and susceptible to everything flesh can experience. Can’t both be equally valuable? Isn’t there a special beauty in turning away from the business of sorting out life as a series of problems to solve?


    This month, you try on the prescription lenses of Elder Bergkvist, a naturalist and occultist with a special interest in beavers and property destruction. While you’re taking photos of a beaver-flooded interstate in northern Canada, a small animal runs across your feet. Encumbered by the camera and tripod, you turn to see a dark shape against the snow. Through the condensation on your glasses it remains merely a blur – but a chthonic blur. There may be horns. There’s a whiff of bracken water, of sulfur. It seems to answer a long buried hope. Taking off your glasses, you see a trace of a shape in the air, like heat waves. Only you’re not seeing it, exactly, as much as feeling it. This moment is a turning point in your career, as you begin to doubt the value of visual documentation. Your next book returns to the medieval style of bestiaries, making no distinctions between the animals we see and those we believe in because we need them to make sense of our lives.


    This month, you may become Guy de Vierge. An itinerant theorist and part-time geographer, your primary passion is a book-length poem you’re writing about the connection between unicorns and virgins. You know it’s not destined for any best-seller lists, but you’re pleased by the way you’ve managed to trace the pagan to the patriarchal currents in the unicorn myth and set it all to iambic pentameter. As you scribble away happily about Zones of the Sacred and Zones of the Profane, you’re only dimly aware that the foundation of your happiness is in your disregard for whether what you create will have any value. You love it as a parent would love a child, merely for being. You are nearing middle age and haven’t had the most brilliant career. Your looks are fading, and you’ve been divorced three times. The magazines, your colleagues, and especially your critics may feel you have no right to be as pleased with yourself as you are. What they don’t see is that your genius lies not in what you have to prove intellectually, but in your ability to feel delight and forgive imperfections.


    Your heteronym this month is Nettie Snow; you live a quiet life on what’s left of your father’s estate. The world may be going to shit, but you’ve still got thick reams of writing paper and no man left to tell you what’s proper. After breakfast and a rambling walk, you sit down to write and keep at it till you’ve burned through two candles. Profligate waste, your mother would say. Shameless. After a lifetime of obedience, the excitement of these empty days still hasn’t abated. What you write is shocking, even to you, but you don’t burn any of it. There is a fever that you must burn through, and it requires releasing all the monstrous fancies of your mind. This freedom. This privacy. This hectic inspiration. When you die, you will send the grotesque, obscene manuscript to a publisher under your father’s name and they can do with it what they will.


    You may call yourself Miss Terry this month. Part mermaid, part cougar, you’re never entirely at home in the ocean or on land. When you’re swimming, you long for the crisp air and the pressure of hard rock under your paws. When you’re prowling around the mountains, you want only to be immersed in something silky and buoyant. This split is so familiar that double homesickness has worked its way into all your songs, confusing sailors who’ve only just left their families but are suddenly struck with the melancholy of having been absent for years. Luckily, you’ve reached that certain age when nothing needs to make sense anymore, and longing is itself a form of pleasure.


    This month, you’re invited to live and think as Malmot Rahim, ex-pirate and current PhD candidate in astronomy. Sometimes you miss the weight of a gun on your belt. Your colleagues love to discuss how Lagrange points would affect trajectories in interplanetary travel, calculating fuel costs between here and Mars as though we’ll be headed there soon. You remember nights on the boat, the waves slapping wood inches from your head. Being buffeted, being pulled, but most days not even feeling the drift of the boat as much as the chaos of direction happening beneath the surface. You learned those nights that there is no such thing as a body at rest, as a permanently stable position. You love the studying the movement of the planets, but your hope isn’t for a better life on Mars. It’s for a future you can barely imagine, when the nature of reality cannot be measured in costs, when fuel is never valued higher than human lives.


    This month you may dance in the shoes of Marguerite Bloch, founder of a mystical sect that makes no distinction between men or women, sinners or saved, and certainly doesn’t hold with private property. The priests call you a heretic and an adulterer, and spread rumors about your immoral ways. They’re always going on about something inconsequential. You have no fear of martyrdom, having already experienced the pure ecstasy of union with the divine beloved. But in time you notice your old foes backing down, and some even joining your free-spirited brethren and sistren. Worse, they’ve brought their outdated fussiness and inhibitions. They have no feeling for music or dancing, and they’re beginning to insist on certain practical compromises in the festival calendar. We must get in the harvest, they say, before winter. We cannot live by bread alone, but we must have bread. Even worse, what they say makes sense. You see the hollow hunger in the eyes of your loved ones. What compromises can you make with necessity, with practicality, without betraying your deep faith in another world?

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