Celestial wisdom meets social justice with astrologer Chani Nicholas
If you pay any attention to astrology, you probably know that Chani Nicholas reaches beyond the typical role of romance-and-finance sibyl in her weekly horoscopes. And if you don’t, her refreshingly thought provoking, big-picture musings might be just the entrée you’ve been waiting for. The LA denizen is part poet, part therapist, and part activist, and her reports from the ethers reveal challenging notions other horoscopes shy away from. Not for the emotionally juvenile, Nicholas penetrates to the core of a sign’s most vulnerable inner struggles, excavates the humanity underlying those conflicts, and zooms out to reveal the relationship they share with our political landscape (as you can imagine, there’s much to say on that front of late). We sat down with Nicholas to chat about the beauty of being called judgmental; how the personal is political and the political is cosmic; and why, at the end of the day, she doesn’t believe in astrology—and doesn’t need to.
When did you first feel a connection with astrology?
I felt a connection really early. I was probably eight years old the first time an astrologer looked at my chart. She looked down at it, looked up at me with a funny look in her eyes, and said, “You’re really judgmental.” I looked at her and said, “Yeah, I am.” [laughs] I didn’t really know what the word meant, but I knew the feeling that was coming from her. I understood that it was a really important part of me, so I felt seen and validated. I grew up with a lot of people who had very little ability to judge what was safe and what wasn’t, and I kind of prided myself on being able to discern between the two. Then, at 12 I had another reading by an astrologer, who had written a book. I got the book, studied it, and that began my education.
Did childhood hardships influence your relationship to astrology?
Absolutely. I grew up without much feedback or reflection from adults, so I didn’t really have anyone helping me understand who I was. Astrology was this gift I was given, a language I immediately recognized and understood. It helped me unpack who I was, why I was, and why I was different from [the rest of my family]. It gave me this feeling of being reflected—not by someone, but by a system—and I had never felt that before in my life.
How did astrology become your professional path?
I started giving readings in my early 20s, but I didn’t want to do it professionally. I’ve had different professional aspirations…but eventually astrology was like, “Look, bitch, this info’s gonna come through you, so you might as well give over to it.” I fought it, though. I didn’t think it was going to be able to open me up to the world in a professional sense. When I was a young adult, it was so outside the norm. Also, the emotional labor of being an astrologer and being that intimate with people—though I always found it satisfying—was at times really overwhelming. I needed to heal and try other things. I worked in community centers, with youth, with people in prisons, in the arts—different sectors of community service and social justice—and also pursued acting. As soon as I gave [astrology] a little bit of room, it was like, “OK, great, this is mine!” [laughs] It took over everything.
Part of what makes your horoscopes unique is the way you weave in political issues. What is the relationship you see between astrology and politics?
It’s correlative. Astrology has always been used to understand the political landscape. Different rulers at different times used astrologers to be like, “Yo, what would be a good time to go to war with these people” Astrology is a way to understand trends and upcoming events, both as individuals and as a collective.
How do you explain astrology to people who don’t understand or believe in it?
Astrology is a deep system of knowledge that dates back a couple of thousand years. It doesn’t have to be the system that you like or relate to, but it’s one of many that has helped people understand, by means of reflection, their place in the universe, in the world, or in their lives. So I don’t believe in astrology; it’s not something that anybody needs to believe in. I don’t know why it works, and I don’t think it’s important that I know why or that I convince anyone. I rely on its validity and performance, and it never lets me down. I sit with strangers over the phone who I can’t see, give them a reading that tells them about their experiences and who they are in very specific ways, and it’s real.
Do you see yourself as a healer of sorts?
What I strive to do is to facilitate spaces where healing can occur, where you’re able to get in touch with your own wisdom and your own way of knowing yourself. If that is healing, then great. But you’re doing that; I’m not doing that for you.
What would you like your readers to take away from your horoscopes that they might not get from others?
I’m not thinking about anybody else’s [horoscopes] when I’m writing mine. I can only think in terms of deeply personal and overtly political; that’s where I live. I think, How does this land on a personal level? And, Where does this fall in the context of being human in the world? I’m a feminist through and through, so I’m always thinking about how the personal is political. I believe in professing our emotional life as a way of being better workers in the world; that we cannot create a place that engenders connectivity andgenerativity if we’re not connecting to ourselves and creating space for that same generativity to occur within ourselves. Healing is an ongoing process, and it’s something the planets stir up. I look for where the healing is trying to come through each week and how it lands in the chart. Sometimes it’s through success, and sometimes it’s through struggling with our deepest sorrow, but to me it’s always an opportunity to heal and know ourselves better. That’s what I’m interested in: how we get to know ourselves and be better friends and allies to ourselves, and once we’ve done that, how we then become better friends and allies to the world.