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LIFE

With the future uncertain, interest in astrology is booming

For Deon Mitchell, an incoming MIT student, astrology offered “a way for me to learn about myself at this really pivotal point."
For Deon Mitchell, an incoming MIT student, astrology offered “a way for me to learn about myself at this really pivotal point."David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The future looks both unsettled and unsettling, to put it mildly. With almost no knowledge of when life might return to some semblance of normality, it’s no surprise that more people are looking to the stars for guidance — or paying a professional astrologer like Laura Campagna to do it for them.

In a phone interview in May from her Jamaica Plain home, Campagna expressed surprise at the increased numbers of people seeking out her astrology readings and energy healing sessions. “Given the uncertain state of the economy, I thought that was pretty remarkable,” Campagna said. By August, little had changed in terms of her business. Except now she was noticing more people interested in studying astrology themselves — something she was excited to see.

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“I always seek to empower people through reading,” she said. “I don’t think that I, as an astrologer, have the answers to anyone’s life. What I can do is describe the divine blueprint for their life, which is like a map of the landscapes they’re traversing.”

The experience of getting a reading can help people feel connected to something larger than themselves, she said. “My goal is for people to uncover the answers within themselves, for the reading to be a reflection of inner wisdom that they already have a sense of, but maybe they just need it confirmed by an objective person who has no agenda on their life.”

In other words, astrology can’t tell you definitively if you’re going to lose your job, or break up with a partner, or get sick with COVID-19. And it couldn’t have predicted the pandemic. That said, it was widely accepted among astrologers that 2020 would be a rocky year. “Any astrologer looking at the multiple retrogrades and the Saturn-Pluto conjunction didn’t think things were going to be easy,” Campagna said.

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Even without the stormy celestial weather, the personal attention astrologers offer can be therapeutic amid the many demands and disruptions of life in the time of COVID. “I think there’s a lot of potential for individual astrologers to really counsel people specifically on what’s going on, because there’s also emotional and social needs that aren’t being met,” said Deon Mitchell, an 18-year-old astrologer who recently moved to the area to start school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Daily newspaper horoscopes barely resemble the services natal astrologers like Campagna and Mitchell provide. One’s zodiac sign is only a tiny piece of the puzzle. Using a client’s precise birth time and place, astrologers construct a unique snapshot of the cosmos. They then use that chart as a jumping off point to discuss what might specifically affect the client, or what areas of life might benefit from extra attention.

Mitchell is newer to astrology, having seriously studied it for slightly over a year. Their interest arose around the time they were beginning to question their gender identity, with astrology initially a helpful distraction from the ways life was changing. “When I study this, I don’t have to think about anything else,” they thought at first. “But it was also a way for me to learn about myself at this really pivotal point for me coming into myself, understanding what it meant to be nonbinary.”

Now, Mitchell sees potential for astrology as a form of self-care, especially for people who have been historically neglected by mainstream physical and mental health systems. “When you’re Black, or disabled, or otherwise marginalized, there’s kind of this push in our society to be as helpful and productive as possible, and we don’t really take enough time and think about what we need,” they said, mentioning astrologer Diana Rose Harper as inspiring their own practice.

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Similarly, Campagna posits astrology as a healing tool, one with power that lies not in its ability to predict the future, but the framework it offers. “I think astrology can provide a context for the events in our lives that otherwise can feel random and in doing so, it imbues challenging events with meaning,” Campagna said. “Humans are meaning-making creatures, and storytelling is an ancient art and an ancient form of medicine.”

Zoë Madonna can be reached at zoe.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.