In This Episode
No one could have predicted the chaos that is 2020… or could they? Phil speaks to astrologer Chani Nicholas about how the present day has parallels with years past, and her predictions for the upcoming months, including the election.
Phillip Picardi: From Crooked Media, this is Unholier than Thou. I’m your host, Phillip Picardi. If you’re anything like me, and by that I mean a jaded, agnostic/atheist, queer millennial, the closest you’ve gotten to spirituality in a while is probably through your horoscope. So maybe it occurred to you too: nowhere in the rude as hell push alerts from Co-Star were we ever properly warned about the chaos that’s ensued in 2020. “You are finally ready to graduate from hell” one notification read. Are we, though?
[news clip] Sixteen Jacksonville bar goers enjoying a night on the town and all contracting COVID-19.
[news clip] President Donald Trump has revealed sweeping plans for police reform as the country enters its third week of protests.
[news clip] Dubbed the Murder Hornet for its powerful sting iand the way it decapitates its prey, this is the first time the world’s largest hornet has been seen in the U.S.
[news clip] A literal plague of locusts, devouring crops and threatening the food supply of millions.
Phillip Picardi: A global pandemic, mass civil unrest, even murderous insects! Surely some of this should have been spelled out in the stars. Well, it turns out it was. Astrology, I’ve learned, is neither a perfect science nor a crystal ball. This year was always going to be a doozy and fair warning, it’s about to get even worse. But don’t worry, it’s not all bad. Though, you don’t need to take it from me. Take it from an actual astrologer, and one of my very best friends, Chani Nicholas.
I am so excited to be joined here today by my friend Chani Nicholas, who is the closest I’ve gotten to a religion really in the past five years. You probably have seen Chani’s best selling book, “You were born for this”, an incredible manifesto and also guide to discovering astrology. I always say, if you want to go to Chani for a chart reading, please prepare to be read, because she will read you for filth. Chani, I’ve sort of given you an introduction, but I’m wondering if you could give us the Tinder bio of who Chani Nicholas is. What would you say?
Chani Nicholas: Oh, my god. I am an astrologer and I really like to write a lot. And I’ve put those two things together and, and here we are.
Phillip Picardi: I want to open with a memory that I have of you. It is the story of when you met my partner, Darien, and we enjoyed a brief little drink outside in a restaurant in New York City. And you two engaged in a slight confrontation. And I was wondering if you could explain what that conversation was about.
Chani Nicholas: Oh, my goodness. I don’t remember it as a, as a confrontation at all because he is—
Phillip Picardi: I do, it was very dramatic.
Chani Nicholas: Said the [tribo?] fire sign. He is like the nicest person in the world. And we had just a really good conversation on the, on the history of medical astrology and what happened on the island of Kos a very long time ago. So there was a kind of a bridge pathway that started to be traversed between Alexandria, where everything was kind of like flourishing, they were having a powerful confluence of all different types of traditions from Babylonia, of course, Egypt and kind of all around the part of the world we call the Middle East and southern Europe, and that was the birthplace of what we know of as astrology. Of course, there was thousands of years of history before that, and a lot of how astrology was used at that time was to understand the condition of the human body and the human life. And of course, Kos is also the place where Hippocrates was teaching medicine. A lot of what Hippocrates was saying and the ways in which he was talking about illness in the body, it’s the same way as, as medical astrology speaks about it. It’s all about imbalances in the system. And so astrologers were putting together a way of seeing the body that was about balance and imbalances and health and well-being and, and illness. There’s not a very, very deep understanding of the history and the roots of astrology. As we’ve understood science and as we’ve understood medicine and as we’ve understood religion and technology even like, astrology was part of a lot of that because we could see the results in our body and in our relationships and in our world. And so it’s, it’s embedded in so many of the histories of all of the things we kind of take for granted at this point.
Phillip Picardi: And also, aside from all of that science bullshit, astrology is also really fucking fun, you know what I mean? Like I love being—
Chani Nicholas: Yeah. [laughs] I think it was fun back then. But yeah.
Phillip Picardi: OK, well, I think it’s fun now.
Chani Nicholas: Like, it was used for really, really basic stuff to say, like, should I invest in this human life? Should I, is this is this relationship going to turn out? Like is this financially going to turn out well for me? Is like, am I going to get through or get very far in life?
Phillip Picardi: And now we use it to figure out who we should and should not be fucking.
Chani Nicholas: You know what I’m saying?
Phillip Picardi: I do know what you’re saying. Those things are all equally important. OK? Depending on whose values you have/ those things matter to me. But I have to say, as queer folks, we tend to really grip on tight to astrology. And I am always asked this question as though I’m some astrologer or even in astrology buff, of which I am neither, why do you think astrology matters so much to queer people?
Chani Nicholas: I think that we have needed to see ourselves in a positive light, in an honest light. I think that our astrology chart reflects us honestly. It reads us for filth and it also like upholds the most beautiful part of us. And it doesn’t condemn us from the get-go for being queer or what have you, any kind of marginalized identity. It just speaks to the quality of life. And so we can go to astrology and we can reclaim ourselves and we can be in relationship with something that we feel is bigger than us and not have all of the homophobic, trans phobic, cis normative kind of dogma surrounding all of it, although it can be there depending on the astrologers that you go to. But the system itself is . . .
Phillip Picardi: Is not that.
Chani Nicholas: Yeah.
Phillip Picardi: Interesting. You know, one of the things that I think has been on a lot of people’s minds is, you know, people read their horoscopes and a lot of people, especially our people, queer people, tend to hold these horoscopes as very dear to them. You send out a weekly horoscope. I read, I read my star sign and my rising sign, just like you tell me to every time I get your newsletter—highly recommend people subscribe to your newsletter. But listen, I’m going to be honest, I do not know if I saw the hell scape of this year reflected in any of my horoscopes. And I’m wondering, I’m just wondering, Chani: what the fuck?
Chani Nicholas: [laughs] I do not know of an astrologer in the world that is alive right now that looked at this year’s astrology and went, oh, great, this will be awesome. Like, it is a astrological kind of, I won’t say hellscape, but I will say obstacle course of challenges that were overwhelming to think about, not let alone try to write about, let alone try to kind of counsel people on. Because you don’t want to freak people out. You don’t want to deter people from taking action. You don’t want to make people feel like they’re doomed. But you do want to be like, hey, y’all, this looks like it’s going to be an incredibly defining year, so it’s going to call on us to bring everything we’ve got to it. And I do believe you and I had a conversation that was very much like that in 2019.
Phillip Picardi: Yes. And it is true. I put you in the “Out 100” last year and you literally called me on the phone and were like, um, so do you, like what kind of note do you want to end on? Because like you were closing the magazine, you were the very last page of the magazine. You were number 100 and it was all about looking forward. And you were like, girl, I don’t know. You told me, yeah, it’s not looking good. And so what did you see?
Chani Nicholas: So we at the top of the year, we see something, a configuration that’s really important and only happens about every 36 years or so. It’s called Saturn and Pluto conjunction. It’s when the two planets come together. The last time it came together was in the early ’80s and the early ’80s of course, was when the AIDS epidemic was becoming known and not necessarily understood, but it was very much in public awareness and consciousness, and then it was—
Phillip Picardi: It was devastating people. People were dying en mass.
Chani Nicholas: Devastating. So what happens when Saturn and Pluto come together is that Pluto is this like underworld, it’s a deity of the underworld. And so it pulls up and unearths the things that we’re most afraid of usually. And Saturn is a planet of restriction and conservatism and a pulling inward. And so we know that that kind of thing gets magnified. And what becomes really common at those times is that humanity at large goes through a really challenging passage. And the last time they came together, we had not only, of course, the, the AIDS crisis and then, of course, Reagan. And what, and what did he bring in? What kind of conservatism did he bring in and what did his policies put in place for a fallout that we’re still living through? So not only with AIDS, but it’s the war on drugs, right?
Phillip Picardi: Oh, yes. And really the rise of the religious right. Right? Like that was the whole beginning of that movement, of the movement coming to power in the way that they have now, politically.
Chani Nicholas: Right, right. And so we see the, another iteration of the criminalization of Black communities. The prison industrial complex is gaining strength because of the conservativism that’s happening around that time. We see homophobia run rampant. We see Black and brown folks get left out of the conversation around AIDS. That’s the climate of the early ’80s.
Phillip Picardi: Oh, you’re talking about then? I was like, yes, you’re talking about now. OK, you were talking about then? Got it.
Chani Nicholas: The astrology that happened then, is happening now. And so we look and see all of the parallels that are going on between that time and now. It’s not going to be exactly the same but it just so happens that that was the last time we had this major configuration. And the configuration always talks about something that’s really challenging for people to deal with. It brings up our fears. It brings up the issues that we have around authority and authoritarianism.
Phillip Picardi: Oh sweet Lord.
Chani Nicholas: Also at that time, an astrologer that I can pull up the name of, that my teacher put out, my teacher, Demetra George put up this note about this asteroid named Wuhan.
Phillip Picardi: No!
Chani Nicholas: That was conjunct Saturn and Pluto at the beginning of the year. So when these two planets were coming together—
Phillip Picardi: Which it caused, which is the thing that happened in the ’80s.
Chani Nicholas: Yes.
Phillip Picardi: So when they came together, there was an asteroid named Wuhan.
Chani Nicholas: That was at the same place in the sky.
Phillip Picardi: You are kidding me.
Chani Nicholas: But then what we have now, we have a Venus retrograde. And so the Venus retrogrades are often tied to in American history, the Civil Rights movement.
Phillip Picardi: OK, that’s a good thing.
Chani Nicholas: It’s a great thing! See, this isn’t like all bad. It’s just that the passages that we have to go through to get to social change are narrow and challenging and, and they ask everything from us, don’t they?
Phillip Picardi: Yes. I would definitely agree that everything is being asked of everyone in this moment to not be an asshole.
Chani Nicholas: Right. Then we have September, October, November . . .
Phillip Picardi: Oh, November is an election month, Chani, and I don’t need any of the stars playing with this election. Is that what’s happening?
Chani Nicholas: Mars, the planet of disagreements, war, strife, action, activism, but heat. It’s a planet of intense heat and inflammation is going to be retrograde through those months.
Phillip Picardi: What does that mean? He’s, he’s going away?
Chani Nicholas: No, that means that we are reviewing and having to work through challenges associated to division and things that demand our action, but that also inflame the systems. You can look at the physical system. You can look at the systems of government. You can look at the systems of our society. If you just read it, it looks like a time where the kind of authoritarianism really cracks down on the individual fight.
Phillip Picardi: OK, so it looks like suppression.
Chani Nicholas: But the suppression is something, it’s when you suppress, when you put, when you try to close a lid on a boiling pot. And if you were trying to strong arm it down, the pressure’s building.
Phillip Picardi: So we’re going to win.
Chani Nicholas: That can be channeled for good. But one of the other problems, though, is—
Phillip Picardi: Oh, God! You are just a series of bad news today. Every time we seem to be turning the corner.
Chani Nicholas: Ask an astrologer. Mercury will be retrograde, until November 3rd.
Phillip Picardi: OK, but that’s Election Day.
Chani Nicholas: Yeah, so if you want things to go smoothly and communications to go well, in astrology, you don’t try to do things under a mercury retrograde. No one wants to be that weird about it, but if I was going to hold an election, I would not do so through a Mercury AND Mars retrograde.
Phillip Picardi: But you just said Mercury’s direct on the 3rd, correct?
Chani Nicholas: It stations direct on the 3rd.
Phillip Picardi: Oh, my gosh.
Chani Nicholas: Leading up to it, it’s retrograde.
Phillip Picardi: I’m very anxious.
Chani Nicholas: I’m not looking forward to that corner of the year. Although that’s probably the wrong way to look at it, because maybe it’ll be the pressure that we need to redefine the systems that we want to live within.
Phillip Picardi: Have you read Joe Biden’s chart yet?
Chani Nicholas: My God. You know what? No, I haven’t.
Phillip Picardi: OK, we’re going to have to do that.
Chani Nicholas: I’m so in denial that—
Phillip Picardi: Same. So mercury stations direct on November 3rd. What does astrology say about November 3rd until December 31st?
Chani Nicholas: So November 16th, mars stations direct. So—
Phillip Picardi: OK, so?
Chani Nicholas: So that’s good. Better, but, who knows what world will be living at that time. What is happening at the end of the year does signal a kind of positive change.
Phillip Picardi: OK! Is there a ‘but’ here? Because I will lose my mind.
Chani Nicholas: If we can get that there. [laughs]
Phillip Picardi: If we literally survive. The positive change might be humans being wiped off the face of the earth. Right?
Chani Nicholas: Listen. You know what I’m saying? Like, it’s all how you interpret it. So at the end of the year, we have two planets making a conjunction, Saturn and Jupiter, and they’re making a conjunction in a, in a new element. So for a couple of hundred years, they’ll make conjunctions in one element. For the last couple hundred years, they’ve been making conjunctions in the element of earth sign. Now they’re changing to air sign. So this is a big deal. We’ve been watching this cycle for like more definitely more than a thousand years. People have been watching this cycle to kind of talk about the demarcations of time. So we’re ending one cycle that had to do with Earth. So we can think of Earth in terms of commodity. We can think of Earth in terms of capitalism. We can think of Earth in terms of how we have been working economically. And so you can look back on the past couple hundred years and look at that massive, you know, uptake in taking from the Earth and the kind of corporate global culture we’re living in is definitely a kind of mark of having gone through this big earth cycle. Now we’re moving into an air cycle. And so we have a chance to reset the stage, as it were, a conjunction that’s happening in Aquarius. Aquarius is a sign of humanitarianism and ideas and logic and science and facts—although people that hate astrology will be like, why is this woman talking about science of facts, because obviously, she knows none of it. But it is a time where it looks like it will be much more about the rational. And Jupiter and Saturn coming together does feel like a time to mark a new beginning. So it feels like a new age, but none of that is possible without individual, communal, collective, statewide, countrywide, global work. So it’s not, I don’t think it’s going to happen by magic, but I think that there is that kind of thing to look forward to in terms of like there feels like a lot of challenges on the way to it. It’s not that then there’s just clear skies, but it is that there, that this year is talking about tremendous challenges to get through and then at the end, a type of restart.
Phillip Picardi: OK, that is something that I feel I can get behind, and it feels like a lot of people are already doing a lot of that internalized work, like even this idea that this current social moment that we’re living through and this kind of awakening—and when I say awakening, I mean for white people—is crucial, right? And if we are going to enter a new age, we have to do so by acknowledging privilege and acknowledging systems of oppression and acknowledging how these institutions that we built and we benefited from have trampled other people. And so maybe that consciousness is going to finally seep into our institutions. Maybe we are going to abolish the police and the military. Did I take it too far?
Chani Nicholas: No! Let’s go. Let’s defund systems of harm and reinvest in each other and in our relationships, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our school systems, and in health and well-being for everybody. We can do that. It’s not impossible. We didn’t always have the police. We didn’t always have systems of incarceration like this. There has been other cultures, there’s been other ways of living. This is actually all really relatively new.
Phillip Picardi: Mmm. So in the grand scheme of things, Chani, do you think that you are doing astrology for the apocalypse, or do you feel like we are living in the end of A world but not THE world?
Chani Nicholas: We are living in the end of A world, for sure. And I do believe there’s more. And I do believe we can do something with what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come. And I do believe we can do better. I do believe we can recreate the places that we want to live in.
Phillip Picardi: Chani, thank you!
Chani Nicholas: Thank you, guys.
Phillip Picardi: To learn even more about astrology, you can pick up Chani’s book, “You were born for this” wherever books are sold. And for weekly readings delivered straight to your inbox, head to her website at Chaninicholas.com. And by the way, you heard the woman! The stars are spelling chaos come Election Day. Get ahead of the retrograde by encouraging voter turnout and helping flip the states we need to make real progress. To get involved now, head to votesaveamerica.com.
Unholier than Thou is a product of Crooked Media. Our producer is Lyra Smith, with production support from Camille Peterson and Alison Falzetta. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa and our executive producer is Sarah Geismer. Thanks for listening.