There’s definitely a picture that comes to mind when I think of horoscope followers. That picture generally includes bare feet with a splash of tie-dye, and definitely an at least slightly alternative lifestyle. That’s why I was recently surprised to find out that nearly a third of the participants in a recent Harris Poll, people from all walks of life, admitted to staking some belief in astrology. And they’re not the only ones—it turns out that quite a few high-profile individuals over the years have actively solicited help from professional astrologers.
Following an assassination attempt on then-president Ronald in 1981, First Lady Nancy increased her already frequent consultations with an astrologer, Joan Quigley, whom she’d been seeing for guidance regarding scheduling and planning events. Allegedly, Ronald and Nancy began checking with her prior to just about every social event, speech, and journey they took abroad. That’s right, the head honcho, the commander in chief of the United States, used the course of Neptune, Jupiter, and the like to plan his schedule. The couple also used astrology to weigh Reagan’s chances in the 1976 presidential election and his ultimate choice of George Bush as his vice president. Now, if only they could’ve foreseen the assassination attempt in the first place.
After the Blairs participated openly in a Mayan rebirthing ritual in Mexico—which included bowing to the four sides of a pyramid and chanting—most of us were aware that the former British prime minister Tony Blair and his attorney wife, Cherie, had a real affinity for alternative spirituality and practices, one that started long ago, while Tony was still in office. According to tabloid reports (though they were never proven), Mrs. Blair reportedly spent government funds on her own personal astrologer and was often seen wearing a special pendant allegedly filled with crystals to absorb cell-phone radiation. She now openly studies with a New Age guru, Lilias Curtin.
If you can’t beat ’em, start measuring your own star-and-planet cycles, too—at least, that’s what political leader Churchill’s logic seemed to be during World War II. Although Churchill didn’t personally believe in astrology, British intelligence suspected that Hitler consulted an astrologer for assistance in crafting Germany’s war plans, so they hired an astrologer to predict Hitler’s next moves and beat him at his own game. According to declassified documents released by the National Archives, the British spies enlisted the aid of a Hungarian astrologer named Ludwig von Wohl, who detailed his predictions on paper under the letterhead “Psychological Research Bureau.” Churchill eventually even sent him to the United States to persuade the American government that the Nazis would lose in a few months if the United States entered the war. Unfortunately for Mr. von Wohl, few of his predictions materialized.
In the preface to his famed Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin wrote about astrology’s important place throughout world history. He lamented how the “noble art” had been “dwindled into contempt” in his time, and referred to it as “divine.” While many have interpreted this text as Franklin’s copping to a personal belief in astrology, others say it’s no different than the Washington Post’s publishing an astrology section—it doesn’t mean the editor believes it. Guess we’ll be left to wonder whether our first postmaster general and signer of the Declaration of Independence was a true believer or just trying to appeal intelligently to the masses.
Catherine de Medici
Celebrities’ consulting astrologers for guidance is hardly a modern trend. Long before Britney Spears admitted to meeting regularly with one, Catherine de Medici, an Italian princess in the French court, summoned French astrologer Nostradamus to draw up her children’s horoscopes in 1556. Nostradamus became famous after publishing “Centuries,” a series of prophecies that related to a huge array of events—the English and French Revolutions and even World War II. Though he eventually fell out of favor with the court (it actually accused him of witchcraft), Catherine remained loyal and consulted him until he died in 1566.
Apparently, even the most well informed among us can’t resist the idea that our fates are written in the stars. Whether that idea seems comforting or scary to you, at least we can all know we’re not alone in looking for a higher power to guide us, be it a celestial body, rebirth, or motivation for a pleasant afterlife. To each her own, right?