Chani Nicholas is an astrologer, writer, and workshop facilitator. We spoke with Nicholas about queer identity, the commodification of astrology, and intentionally creating inclusive spaces on social media.
Astrology can be especially useful in understanding our identities. How has astrology helped you shape and understand your own identity as a queer woman?
The first time I encountered astrology was the first time I felt seen. For many of us in the LGBTQ community, we have to wrestle with who we are in a society that prioritizes heteronormative policies, standards, and ideals. Astrology helped me come into my own. Through it, I was able to carve out space for myself in the world as I wanted to be—queer, femme, feminist, loud, learning, and loving.
Astrology is foundational to many LGBTQ communities. Why do you think queer people are drawn to astrology?
Since the dawn of colonial white-supremacist patriarchy, queer people have been vilified—in part through [the] enforcing [of] the gender binary. The violence of this philosophy has been proliferated by religious institutions, like Christianity and Judaism, that have allowed homophobic and transphobic violence to fester inside of their communities. For hundreds of years, queers have felt unwelcome in many traditional religious and spiritual settings. However, the search for meaning and ritual is ever-present for most humans.
Practices like astrology were really appealing to the queer community, in part because of its more inclusive and holistic look at human life. That isn’t to say homophobia and transphobia aren’t prevalent in astrological communities, but the practice [of astrology] itself is fairly accepting of us. [While] astrology isn’t a religion, it connects us with something larger than ourselves without the politics that come with institutionalized religion. It always comes down to being validated. We need accurate reflections of ourselves in order to heal and grow. When you grow up and out of a society that tells you that you are wrong, astrology becomes a system that affirms your essential nature.
What can queer people, in particular, learn from astrology?
Astrology is a system that helps contextualize who we are and why we are here. It is a tradition that judges the quality of our life but doesn’t judge us from a moralistic standpoint [about who we’re attracted to]. Astrology radically pronounces who we were born to be and offers infinite options for articulating our needs and accessing our gifts. It is a source of validation for many of us, a sanctuary that tells us that we are perfect as is without looking away from the aspects of self we need to grow, develop, or heal.
You’ve created a safe space on Instagram for people who are often marginalized by society. What steps have you taken to foster intentionally inclusive and intersectional online spaces?
I do my best to be thoughtful [about] how I communicate and am always considering how my privilege impacts how I frame things, but making mistakes and taking public accountability is an important part of creating spaces that are less harmful. I think learning—and in the process making a mess—in public is really important. Cancel culture can make [social-justice work] challenging because it often inhibits honesty, but learning how to do better is essential for building community trust. I am a really flawed human who has grown up and lives in white-supremacist, cishet, colonial patriarchy that I mostly benefit from. If I’m not always considering that fact, I’m most likely making big mistakes.
Astrology seems to be experiencing a resurgence within pop culture. Why do you think that is?
Astrology’s current moment isn’t the first (or last) that we’ll see. [This] moment is similar to the 1970s when the Boomers had their astrological “what’s your sign” heyday. In history, we often find that folks look to the planets when things feel overwhelming and hard to explain. The ’70s were similarly politically tumultuous. The political, economic, and environmental climate we’re in today is causing many of us stress, anxiety, and terror. The uncertainty of the moment, combined with the virality of social media, has been the storm that’s washed astrology back ashore.
How can astrology be used to reckon with and heal from our current political climate?
In order to heal the wounds created by our current political leaders, we must find ways toward long-term, sustainable justice. [Unfortunately], that is a tall order for folks that feel drained, lost, or unsure of their life’s purpose. Astrology’s popularity is proof that folks want diverse ways to connect to their inner wisdom. Understanding what we are called to do, what we were born for—through the lens of our birth chart—allows us to focus our efforts on where we can do the greatest good. Astrology can provide context for the cycles that we are personally and collectively in. It is a way to understand time, and this moment deserves our study, contemplation, and consideration.
Like most things, astrology has frequently been commodified and warped by capitalism. Do you think that affects the general public’s understanding of astrology?
Although I’m excited that more people are being introduced to astrology, I don’t love the reduction of [a complex practice] into a sales tactic. You can’t fake depth, and astrology, as a tool, demands it. [When people cashing in on astrology] move on to the next fad, astrologers will still be here working, studying, and sharing what we have learned with those that need it.
What is one misconception about astrology that you would like to clear up?
That sun signs are the be all and end all of astrology. Your sun sign is just one crumb of astrology’s cake. Astrology is the study of planets; the way they appeared in the sky when we took our first breath tells us so much about the quality and nature of the time we will spend on this earth. Time is fleeting, and [understanding our birth chart] helps us make the most of it. That’s what I’m exploring in my book coming out in 2020—how folks can learn to read their own birth chart to benefit from its healing powers.