• The Substance Issue
    The Substance 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.

    August horoscope

    Illustration by Josie Mosser.


    August 2014

    In the famous final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a jubilant, bombastic chorus belts out Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy.” Written at the height of the German Romantic era, the Ninth is an experience of shameless exuberance; a celebration of new worlds unfolding, of complex elements harmonizing into a whole. It champions life, and drowns out naysayers. Schiller was a little hesitant about the merits of his original poem, however. He delayed its initial publication, and admitted to a friend later in life that its value may be “for us two, but not for the world, nor for the art of poetry.” One scholar calls it “unabashedly giddy”, while recognizing it is also blatantly political. Writing a few years before the French Revolution, Schiller envisions a world where friendship can overthrow monarchies, and where the irrational joy we share in one another is a powerful force against cynicism and despair.

    Why this digression on the politics and aesthetics of joy? Because this month, Jupiter, the planet of expansive, joyous growth, has moved into Leo – the sign of passionate expressiveness. Leo’s energy is the symphony exploding in our chests when we first fall in love, and the irrational joy we feel in friendship. Ruled by the Sun, it is as bombastic as an orchestra at full tilt, kettle drums and cymbal and all. Jupiter here signals a chance to turn our collective attention to what all this swelling, heartfelt, passionate, swaggering, embarrassingly sincere and profoundly loyal energy could mean — especially now, in the era of the “selfie” and the precarious entrepreneur, when our individuality is shared as a commodity. One misconception about Leo is that it is all swagger, all surface. At its best, though, Leo undercuts cynical generalizations. With Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and the Sun all moving through Leo this month, we’ll have ample opportunities to dive a little deeper into questions about the self, including: What would we love to do, but are too embarrassed to pursue? Are there places in our hearts and minds that are unconquered by the logic of the marketplace? How do we combat cynicism? Have we lost our sense of originality? Where did we last see it? And, as Lou Reed once asked, “Who loves the sun?”

    Not everyone, it turns out. The other major event of this month is when Mars, now in its home turf of Scorpio, bumps into Saturn on the 24th. The Mars-Saturn conjunction could bring some longstanding tensions to a head, but also gives us a boost for muscling through a long-term project. With these planets cooling their heels in Scorpio, we’re offered a useful counterpoint to the dominant solar energy. Where Leo is bright, Scorpio is dark. Where Leo effuses, Scorpio observes and absorbs. If Leo knows how to begin a friendship, Scorpio knows how to deepen trust — and when to let go. Under the hot brilliance of the summer sun, Scorpio can be a welcome pool to slip into when it all gets too bright.

    As always, these horoscopes are offered as a range of possibilities rather than concrete predictions. Take what speaks to you and repurpose the rest however you see fit. For the best fit, the astro literate should read their rising signs first, followed by the Sun and Moon signs.

    “Occasionally she came to a spot where independent worlds of ephemerons were passing their time in mad carousal, some in the air, some on the hot ground and vegetation, some in the tepid and stringy water of a nearly dried pool ... the maggoty shapes of innumerable obscure creatures could be indistinctly seen, heaving and wallowing with enjoyment. Being a woman not disinclined to philosophize she sometimes sat down under her umbrella to rest and to watch their happiness.”

    Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native


    Do you remember being a teenager? Do you remember how much it mattered — all of it? How your convictions and desires felt so strong that their weight was unbearable, and seemed to almost warp reality? How close you felt to another world that it was up to you to usher in? This month may bring back echoes of the long fugue state that is adolescence. On the plus side, if you’ve been feeling numb, this will open you up to vitality and excitement. On the down side, whenever you stop feeling numb you open up to the possibility of pain and loss.


    Like it or not, your home has become a temporary Mardi Gras. Laughter, lingerie, dissonant brass bands, and inappropriate bonfires clutter the hallways and scandalize the neighbors. Your enthusiasm about this will wax and wane according to how much you’re able to achieve despite the domestic chaos. Look for a confidante who can buffer you from the hoi polloi and help you concentrate. Partnerships of any kind will challenge you to do your best work right now. Above all, share the heavy lifting and you’ll have energy left for dancing (and, let’s be real, mopping up the mess. You know those fools aren’t going to).


    Though words are your weapon of choice, you’re rather susceptible to being wounded by them yourself. Right now the stories that shape you are especially potent. You may want to scatter them broadly, like seeds that will multiply and bloom amongst your friends, but be careful that you aren’t giving away too much. Dreams, hopes, and visions that haven’t yet come together into a coherent story are liable to slip out of reach if you name them too early. Also pay attention to the stories people offer you; even those you love could slip you some Monsanto monstrosities by accident.


    If you swing two pendulums close enough to each other, my hazy understanding of science leads me to believe, they will eventually synchronize their motions. Now called entrainment, I prefer the phenomenon’s original name: “odd sympathy”. This month’s parade of planets through Leo will pull on you indirectly, as it were, entraining your natural rhythms toward a slightly more upbeat tempo, moving from a minor to a major key. You can use this new song and dance in any hustle that relies on your charm, but don’t get lured too far off course. No one wants all major key, all the time.


    Yes, you could spend this month working it for the cameras, even falling asleep with the lights on so some Andy Warhol imitator can film your gorgeous mug for eight uninterrupted hours. But if you squander this eventful August in the pleasures of crafting your image, you’ll miss out on some of its headier magic. The reason we’re all fascinated with you in the first place is your ability to take risks. Each planet that moves through Leo this month is offering you a challenge: what can you make from this unassuming and unappealing mass of memories? How can you redeem this awkward and ill-fitting identity? Remind us how to love the unloveable.


    You may have the sensation that something is trying to get your attention, right in the corner of your vision or on the tip of your tongue, something uncomfortably familiar. Old ghosts often lounge on the disused, dusty furniture of our minds, blending in with their surroundings and only coughing now and then. As they pile up over the years, corners become crowded and surfaces dimmed with film. In these weeks leading up to your birthday, don’t get too overwhelmed by these shadowy figures. Draw some chalk circles around their favorite haunts, write a list of the ones that need to go, and plan for a major exorcism in about a month.


    Have you noticed the only way you’re able to let go of anything is to convince yourself, against all logic, that you will circle back again for it someday? Like the fairytale character running errands for the North Wind, you trust your path will circle back home in the end, with you distributing all you’ve gathered in their rightful places along the way. Accordingly, you have a dozen old addresses still receiving your mail, your childhood effects are scattered across a handful of friend’s attics, and you truly believe when you move back to all one hundred of the cities you’ve once loved you will take up with the person you began to date there long ago and see where that could have gone. Well, you’re in luck this month. Physicists have theorized that the universe may be contracting rather than expanding, promising that as we move farther away from our origins we are also moving infinitely closer.


    Consider the bowerbird, which has been deemed the most behaviorally complex of all birds. The males of the species build elaborate installation sculptures to attract a mate. Some birds specialize in blue — working in blue flowers, blue bits of stone, blue berries. Others favor white or brown themes, stacking twigs and mushrooms, carefully discarding bits of wood that have begun to rot into the wrong color. One theory for these constructions, which serve no practical purpose, is that they signal robust health to potential mates — another theory, equally plausible in my book, is that birds left to their own devices (with an abundant supply of food and few predators) get freaky because they can. Left to your own devices, what bizarre obsession would you patiently pursue? Now is a good time to get on that.


    You know that scene in every movie that both glamorizes and demonizes drug use: at the height of the party, the anti-hero descends into a cinematic merry-go-round of good times gone bad. Cameras swirl, there are fast jump cuts, hallucinations ooze into what had been a lovely time. And mere moments before, our anti-hero felt invincible! Don’t play out some Hollywood cliché this month: take a moment to ponder the real world consequences before jumping off mountains, jumping on freight trains, or taking bumps of anything. You can still get rowdy, but well-prepared wildness is your watch word.


    There are a few things to do when something ends: you can pretend it isn’t happening and go on with business as usual; you can acknowledge it but pretend not to feel anything about it; or you can mourn. There are many different ways to mourn. I recommend you spend this month gathering up every ending and every loss you haven’t properly mourned and send them out in style: a funeral pyre that could reach Valhalla, a feast that only ends with sunrise.


    Aristotle located the seat of our intelligence in the heart, not the brain — which he supposed was some sort of cooling mechanism for the heart. There is now evidence to suggest that sensory memories are stored in the neural networks around the heart. One study illustrates cases of heart transplant recipients even taking on certain memories and traits of their donors. Dear Aquarius, I’d like you to remember that your intelligence is not merely your facility for ideas but a dark and gristled, rhythmic pulse deep in your body.


    Here’s the lesson all shapeshifters learn in time: you are not actually separate from your environment. There is no essential you that you can shore up against time and tide and fortune. But you do get to choose your surroundings, to some extent, and now is a perfect time to browse through the catalog pages of the world and test out some new terrains. To guide you, look for those places that you can’t name but already love. Look for a horizon where the trees sway in a pattern that seems familiar. Look for the mountain that has always been too shy to show its face, on a clear day when the fog has lifted.

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