Animism and Astrology: My Beginner Breakthrough

Two Women With the Signs of Libra and Scorpio by Marcantonio Raimondi (1517-1520)

My interest in astrology started pretty early on in my life, alongside my interest in witchcraft and anything else that might be remotely occult or spooky. I was an avid reader of various horoscopes as a kid but often wondered why sometimes the horoscope or sun sign breakdowns in teen magazines, newspapers, and websites were spot on and sometimes they were nothing like the people I knew under those sides (myself included). When I asked people around me they would give me a patronizing smile and say, “It’s all just made up.” This didn’t sit right with me. If it was all just made up why was it so popular? Why did these articles mention that astrology was an ancient practice? Why was it sometimes so spot on that it gave me chills?

Over the years, I made several attempts to dive deeper into the practice. I read articles and what books I could find at my local libraries. I talked to various members of local pagan organizations who could only refer me to more articles and the like. My own circle of witches and occult practitioners did not include astrologers until much later on.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make a lot of headway in those early days. I had hoped that astrology would be like tarot or herbalism — coming as easy to me as learning to read had as a child. Instead, I was stumped. It was like learning a different language (something I am not very good at). More often than not, I felt like I was hammering my head against a wall that would not budge.

I struggled for years. I tried to memorize terms, interactions between planet and house and sign and each other. It was exhausting and I gave up a lot. Still, I always came back to it. Something drew me in whether it was symbols on a Thoth tarot card or mention of a planet in an herbal monograph. 

Eventually, I found great teachers like Carolyn Elliott, Rachel of Aeolian Heart, and Sajah Popham of Evolutionary Herbalism who encouraged me to keep trying and to look at things from different angles (including through other allies I’d developed like those of plants).

To prevent overwhelm, I practiced a form of journaling I learned from Carolyn Elliott that she calls alchemical journaling. Part of this method is to note the astrological chart of the day every morning — at the very least, the location and phase of the moon. Keeping track of this and journaling my dreams, how I was feeling, tarot card pulls, and events or omens in the day began to help me piece together a bit of the puzzle.

Then, one day when I was making myself flashcards, I decided to try out binaural beats to help trigger the brain wave activity I needed to retain what I was reading. Listening to the synth sounds that make my brain feel like it’s being wiggled must have jarred a memory loose.

I recalled a class I took years ago on divination protocol. I mentioned in it that tarot came to me naturally but runes stumped me. The class instructor, Galina Krasskova, said that I was approaching the runes wrong. To come to them as spirits, not symbols to be memorized. Give them offerings and ask them to show me their meanings. I did and that is how I finally learned to read runes.

Setting down my headphones, I put away my books and notecards, grabbed my meditation journal, and began to experiment.

Over the years, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a witch is to ask, “What if?”

What if I treated the planets and signs as entities? What if they are entities? What if they can hear me and bothered to pay attention? What if we could have a conversation?

It wouldn’t be much different than my work with plant spirits in herbalism, rune spirits in divination, or approaching ancestors or even the Divine in some ways. Approach with proper humility and respect. Give an offering. Make a request. Listen for a response.

I did and the results were stronger than I could have imagined. Honestly, I felt a little ridiculous that I hadn’t thought of this before. It’d been years since that divination protocol class and one would think the connection of animistic approach to other forms of divination and practice would have been an easy one to make. Ah well. At least it occurred to me at last.

I try not to go into this sort of thing with any sort of expectation. Sometimes it works and sometimes, for various reasons, it doesn’t. That’s the fun part of What If? You don’t really know for sure what you’re going to experience from it.

Through meditation I’ve been able to connect with a handful of signs and a couple of planets. The meditations and visions I received have helped me understand that sign/planet on a much deeper level than any amount of flash card memorization could.

Sure I could memorize that Taurs is the fixed, fertile earth of the zodiac. Instead, I received a vision of a horned, stout man attempting to dig up a beautiful sapling tree only to find that its roots are curved around an underground boulder — then still digging, the tree and the man both stubbornly striving towards their own goal. This showed me Taurus’ fixity, stubbornness, and ability to not just grow in difficult soil but to thrive with unexpected brightness and greenery.

I could memorize all the properties listed for Jupiter and forced them into my brain like data into a computer. Or, I could feel into my body and those organs and tissues Jupiter rules and deepen that experience by taking a spagyric or tincture or tea with one of the plant allies that has an affinity for said planet. This has yielded some amazing experiences, helping me to learn with all of my body and not just sight reading and cold memorization.

I’m not saying that the books and courses and articles aren’t helpful. They are. Especially when figuring out the kind of astrology I want to learn (for me it’s Hellenistic, whole signs, tropical). However, I am learning that if I approach the signs and planets animistically and intuitively first, then look at the texts, things click for me much better than before.

This isn’t something I find discussed in astrology circles (or haven’t yet. I would love to be part of those circles that do). In fact, there have been times when astrologers have shunned my attempts at discussing entities and deities in relation to astrology from a polytheist, animist perspective. I believe their hope is to lend astrology credibility by distancing itself from its polytheistic and occult roots. I find this unfortunate as it not only doesn’t work (skeptics of astrology won’t magically welcome it with open arms if the astrologers themselves wear business attire and frown at the woo woo artists of the world) but it also gatekeeps the practice from intuitive spirit workers. There’s room in the practice for all types and I certainly look forward to seeing more weird, strange, and unusual activity in the field the further I dig.

Astrology Resources

Aeolian Heart — their Patreon is $8 a month and includes courses, weekly astrological insights, and more. Rachel’s ebook Heartbeat and course Discovery are amazing introductions to Astrology. I also love their newsletters which bring together astrology, pop culture, and a deep poetic understanding of the transitions in the skies and within ourselves.

The School of Evolutionary Herbalism — while the focus of this site and the courses are of course on herbs, Sajah also shares deep astrological insight. I highly recommend if you are interested in herbalism, medical astrology, and/or alchemy as well as astrology.

Theresa Reed — while known as the Tarot Lady, I know Theresa as the Astro Lady. She not only shares forecasts, free star school, and an astro-biz offering, her two books on astrology are well written and fun to read. I am a particular fan of Twist Your Fate for planning your year ahead with astrology.

AstroDeinst — is the best place to get charts made and check daily transitions. Every astrologer I know uses this site for their readings because its (mostly) free and easy to use. I check it daily for my journaling as well as to cross reference birth charts and charts of various events. Highly recommend.

[December Fields-Bryant (she/they) is a polytheist, Appalachian witch, certified herbalist, writer, and paranormal enthusiast, and the voice behind Haint and Holler podcast.]

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