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Sometimes Astrology Is The Best Therapy Of All

On my shelf — nestled, fittingly yet absurdly, next to Don DeLillo's Libra — is a book titled Destiny Times Six: An Astrologer's Casebook by Katherine de Jersey. De Jersey was an astrologist, and for more than 30 years she received an impressive roster of clients. Everyone from Grace Kelly to Sonny and Cher went to her to learn the nuances of their natal charts.

The discreet Ms. de Jersey doesn't name names in Destiny Times Six, but the case histories she presents are so deliciously melodramatic that it doesn't matter. I stayed awake reading because I just had to know: What would become of Edward, the sensitive Pisces locked in an asylum for the murder of his psychiatrist? And the client calling herself "Jane Austen," a pragmatic Aries in love with her older — and married — Scorpio boss?

I discovered the book when I began studying astrology, an interest that is itself a guilty pleasure. Confessing to any level of belief in astrology invites a sort of half-scorn, half-pity; your status as a rational human being is now immediately and forever suspect.

So I kept my mouth shut and took in de Jersey's sage lessons. She teaches that the old axioms about sun-sign characteristics — that Cancers are moody and Virgos are perfectionists — are incomplete at best, misleading at worst. No fewer than 1,750 planetary aspects factor into a personality, each of them connecting or separating in such intricate patterns that natal charts are as unique as fingerprints.

I couldn't help but apply the author's techniques within my own relationships, and found sly ways to learn someone's date, place and time of birth. I reveled in learning why I had weirdly intense chemistry with a passing acquaintance (my Venus atop his Mars), why a certain relative is so cheap (Saturn in Taurus), and how my husband's mild jealous streak is tempered by a proud Aries sun (although my own sun, in Aquarius, would never tolerate blatant jealousy, anyway).

After reading the chapter about a promiscuous gentleman with Sagittarius rising, I turned a critical eye to my own chart. Every new interpretation yielded a surprising, if not always pleasant, revelation. The planet Uranus conjuncts my ascendant (an aspect I happen to share with Monica Lewinsky and Conan O'Brien). This implies obstinacy and impulsiveness. And I'll likely spend the rest of my life grappling with my Saturn opposition Mars — the aspect I can thank for my relentless and brutal self-criticism.

In between the soapy antics of de Jersey's cases, I discovered that astrology was my ideal form of therapy. It's comforting to find reasons — even reasons I'm still embarrassed to discuss — why we connect with certain people naturally, and with others not at all. I keep my friends' and family's birthdays on my calendar, not only to remember to send them cards, but also to study their charts and celebrate all the ways we intersect.

My Guilty Pleasure is edited and produced by Ellen Silva.

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Karen Abbott