My main interest in writing is to find synchronicities – mere coincidences that have no causal relationships, per say, but which we grant extra-sensory meaning to. I’m always on the lookout for other, often more mystical and surreal explanations for particular circumstances, events, data, etc. I’ve used Chinese numerology to find synchronistic overlaps in the personal libraries of anonymous tech workers, woke myself up at 3am for 30 days to write extemporaneously, kept extensive dream journals, played many variations on exquisite corpses, employed tarot card readings, engaged in somatic rituals, set my cell phone alarm to go off at random times in order to spontaneously compose poems using the language found around me, among other various occult means and chance-based operations to create order from the chaos of the universe we are in the process of embodying.
Prompt: An Astrological Self-portrait
This exercise engages two things that I really love – a pseudo-scientific system of meaning and found archetypal language. The resulting poem will have a non-typical connection to you and some pretty bold imagery. Think of it as a self-portrait of you as your own reflection of the deity (or lack of) you view as the origin of meaning in your life.
First, you’ll need your birth chart. If you’ve never done this before, you can do it for free online. I recommend AstroDienst (http://www.astro.com/), because you have so many options for the type of charts you can create. You’ll need your birthday, birth time, and location for the most detailed chart, but you can get enough from just your birthdate. Once you’ve filled out your information, you’ll be shown a chart that looks something like this:
This is a standard natal chart in Western astrology. The major symbols along the outer ring are the 12 signs of the zodiac. Each sign is designated 30 degrees on the circle. In the inner ring are symbols for the planets and luminaries (sun and moon) in our solar system. The interpretation of the birth chart is based on where the planets and luminaries were in the sky at the moment you were born. This should give us some data that is specific to you to work with. Now, notice that along the lower left hand side are a list of the planets and luminaries. Next to those you will see a designated zodiac sign and a degree. Take note of those signs and degrees. This will give us data points for finding language to use in your poem.
Now, it should be noted that astronomy and astrology have common roots. For earlier civilizations, the sky was seen as a macro-cosmic reflection of life here on Earth. The planets and stars were designated as deities whose energies directed our lives. The meticulous mapping of the sky was originally a religious devotion. Each planet and each degree of the zodiac was assigned a symbolic meaning. These meanings were assigned via divinatory practices – reading tea leaves, drawing tarot cards, casting sticks, channeling spirits. The symbols vary from culture to culture, and they have shifted over time. In the 20th century, the most widely-used set of degree symbols have been what we call Sabian Symbols which were produced in 1925 by clairvoyant Elsie Wheeler (You can find them listed along with brief interpretations here). Another popular set of degree symbols were divined by Elias Lonsdale in 1993 and compiled in his book Inside Degrees published in 1997 by North Atlantic Books (a free hyper-text version is available here).
Next, take the sign/degree data from your birth chart, and look up your specific set of symbols and their meanings (use either or both of the above lists, or if you have another that you’d like to use, use those). Try to compose a poem using (predominantly) the language of the symbols and their meaning. If you want a real challenge, try to use every symbol associated with your birth chart with as few syntax changes as possible.
Matt Trease is an artist, IT Administrator, and astrology junkie living in Seattle, WA. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Cordite Poetry Review, filling Station, Otoliths, VLAK, small po(r)tions, Juked, The Account, The White Stag Review, Apricity, Hotel Amerika and Fact Simile. He is the author of the chapbook Later Heaven: Production Cycles (busylittle1way designs, 2013).