If the vision that comes to mind when you picture a contemporary mystic is Harry Potter’s batty medium Sybill Trelawney, change your perspective. As the world gets more difficult to fathom every day, astrologers, tarot readers, witches, and seers who view their work as a healing balm are becoming indispensable for all-too-earthbound souls. For the next few weeks, Bitch Media will be highlighting some of these extraordinary feminist mystics—women who don’t want to read your palms and send you on your way, but who see the value—and, yes, the magic—in approaching the unknown with compassion, humanity, and political consciousness.
First up: Chani Nicholas, a Canada-born, California-based astrologer who brings wit, warmth, and a crackling sense of social justice to work that includes private readings and online classes and workshops. The first line of Nicholas’s official bio is instructive: “Far too often healing is geared towards elevating attributes that are deemed valuable by the status quo.” Her aim is to bring practical astrology into everyday life—including political life. We checked in to get her take on the current astrological climate.
What motivates you to do the work that you do and how is our current political situation impacting your work?
As an artist, activist, writer, and astrologer, I’m motivated to connect with folks by connecting to my own creativity. As someone who has done a lot of healing work both on myself and with others, I’m motivated to communicate about healing through the vehicles of writing, imagery, and astrology.
The current political situation impacts every aspect of my life. The situation we find ourselves in is nothing new, however. This presidency didn’t just arise out of thin air. It is the punctuation of all the ills that have plagued our society for a very long time. I’ve always woven my political views into my work, in very explicit ways. However, recently people feel the need to tell me that I should “stick to astrology” and that I have no right to infuse my work with my opinion. They want me to be a nonpartisan voice. A clean slate with no opinion. A “nice astrologer lady.” Someone who’s going to tell them that on Thursday they should buy a lottery ticket. But that isn’t my work. My work is to struggle with my community. To be in conversation. To listen. To respond authentically and thoughtfully in hopes that what I have to offer is at the very least not adding to the problems and, at the most, helpful and useful.
Throughout history, women who act in opposition to patriarchy have been accused of practicing witchcraft, being possessed by demons, or otherwise having supernatural powers. 1980s televangelist Jim Bakker was one of the D-list celebrities who attended Trump’s inauguration, and he commented that seeing the Women’s March caused him to feel “the most evil spirit I’ve ever felt.” How do you respond to that?
Part of me thinks, “They’e so basic they can’t even come up with new ways to be misogynistic.” The other part of me thinks, Of course they say that we’re evil. We are everything that they reject within themselves, everything that they want to control but cannot. We are every fantasy they have that they shame themselves for having. We are what they are split from. We are what doesn’t need them. And they know that we have survived in the face of their overt violence. They know we are that resilient. We are the granddaughters of the witches that they couldn’t burn.
What is it about feminine power and the supernatural that gets people so freaked out?
That’s the question, isn’t it? The obsession with gender [is patriarchy’s] very outdated means of control. All it does is revise ways to enforce rigid gender constructs so that anyone and anything that is aligned or has allied itself with the feminine is deemed weak. Anyone who deviates from the feminine/masculine binary is [considered] an aberration, is evil and untrustworthy and should be destroyed. They call a connection with the natural world unnatural. They turn everything inside out and upside down. The “supernatural” is natural. What’s unnatural is being disconnected from the rest of the living world, which is what being a witch or an astrologer or a healer or a human, for that matter, is.
One of the things I love about your horoscopes is how steeped they are in radical, intersectional social justice politics. How do mystery and spirituality support intersectionality and activism?
I think that when you’re an activist, it’s essential to believe in mystery: If we are only focused on what’s in front of us, there is often little to feel hopeful about. If we know that life is a mysterious journey, one that may not have answers, may not have solutions, may not make sense to us in the moment, we might be able to develop a trust in the process of life’s unfolding. If our spirituality focuses on kindness, then it can teach us that what’s more important than being right or getting to a certain goal is being kind in the process. And that includes being kind to ourselves. To me, that’s what spirituality is about.
How does feminism inform your astrology and vice versa?
If it isn’t intersectional, I am not interested in it, I don’t care what it is. My feminism informs everything I do.
Astrology is an ancient practice that has historical roots in many different cultures. As a contemporary practitioner who is based in the western world, how do you handle issues of cultural appropriation?
I focus on what I can do. I create work that I want in the world. I am very dedicated to creating art and content without stealing from other cultures, creating while giving credit where credit is due, and creating while being very conscious of who is influencing me and how I am working with that influence. It’s a neverending learning process. We live in a world that was built on colonization, which tells us that white folks are allowed to take whatever they want from whomever they want and make however much money from it that they can without any thought as to the impact. I am always trying to check myself in those ways. Also, the astrology that I practice was influenced and worked on by many different cultures, one of which I am from, so I feel connected to it ancestrally.
What pop culture are you currently consuming?
The last year has been filled with so much important pop culture. I worship at the temple of Beyoncé and Solange regularly. They have helped me write many a horoscope.
What advice do you have for our readers as we settle in for a long resistance against this administration?
Fill yourself with the images, the sounds, the ideas, and the creative genius of your fellows. This is a movement that requires the contributions of each of us. Part of our contribution is to resist through our actions, and part of our contribution is to celebrate the efforts, the work, the art, and the resistance of one another. We’re the ones who need to hold us through this. We need to know that we are not alone in it. Show up. Break the silence. Give what you’ve got. Learn about what you don’t. Receive what is being offered. Take really good care of yourself. Laugh. Eat. Sleep. Love. Repeat.
Chani’s upcoming workshop is “Breaking Ground: The New Moon in Aries and the Astrology of Lunar Cycle,” which runs from March 26 through April 25.