Free Will Astrology 

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In many non-Western cultures down through the ages, shamans have believed they possessed the power to actually become eagles or tigers or hippopotamuses or other creatures. Typically, even ordinary folks in these societies have aspired to learn all they could from the beasts. Most modern urbanites and suburbanites, whose contact with the animal kingdom comes solely through pets and packaged food, can't imagine there'd be value in taking on the perspectives of the wild things. But I hope you're ready to expand your mind about this in the coming weeks, Aries. The planets would love you to pick out an animal that fascinates you, then learn from it with all your heart. (P.S. The hippopotamus wouldn't be a bad choice.)

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): At the carnival today, there was a game booth in which contestants tried to climb across a 15-foot rope ladder to ring a bell on the other side. There's not enough room here to describe it in detail, but suffice it to say that it required the balancing skills of an Olympic gymnast. Indeed, the game operator confided that not a single person had succeeded in the two days since the carnival started. That didn't stop my 9-year-old daughter Zoe. Even after 10 falls onto the inflated rubber floor below, her eagerness to conquer it was undiminished. Finally, though, having already invested a small fortune, I told her we had to seek entertainment elsewhere. As we left, she remarked brightly, "That was impossible — but fun!" Which is exactly the mantra and mood I suggest that you cop this week, Taurus.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): The Christian writer and philosopher C.S. Lewis once said something to this effect: I thank God that He hasn't given me all the things I've prayed for, because as I look back now I realize it would have been disastrous to have received some of them. This thought should have special meaning for you right now, Gemini. I suggest you reflect on how lucky you are not to have been granted a few of your past wishes. Use those insights to figure out how to become smarter and more precise in formulating your desires in the future.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Tantra has in recent years become synonymous with exotic lovemaking techniques imported from India. (Read this week's Aquarius horoscope for a lowdown.) But in fact, it is an ancient and well-rounded spiritual philosophy, of which sexuality is only small part. As proof of its versatility, I'll suggest that you apply its techniques to your consumer practices. In other words, my fellow Crabs, perform the art of tantric shopping. Linger lovingly in your favorite stores, caressing and gazing at all the most gorgeous objects — without buying a single thing. The point of the exercise is to awaken your deepest longings and arouse your wildest imaginations but not satisfy them with a quick fix. By postponing immediate gratification, your urges may ferment and expand into even more sublime fantasies.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): In the 1999 film The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin Powers is surprised to find that beneath his new bride's human-looking visage is her real face — that of a robot. In a 1999 episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Buffy discovers that her roommate is a demon after she rips off her face. And now here in late July of 2000, millions of Leos will strip away their ill-fitting masks to reveal the true identity that has been hidden far too long. Unlike the first two examples, this exposé will be a beautiful and welcome surprise.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Bear with me now, Virgo, as I counsel you on the merits of imitating a (gulp) fungus. (My Virgo girlfriend Suzanne warned me this'll be a hard sell, but I've got to report what the planets want me to report.) As you may know, the members of the fungus family, such as molds and mildews and mushrooms, lack chlorophyll and so must gain their energy by feeding off plants. What you might not realize, though, is that the fungi are primarily responsible for keeping the world fresh. Without them to eat away dead leaves and trees, larger and larger piles of compost would keep accumulating forever. I'm asking you to let the heroic fungi inspire you in the coming weeks, my dear. Devote yourself to expediting the decay of the defunct parts of your life.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): "I have opposable thumbs," boasted Eric Baer, a crafty participant in a Brag Therapy session I hosted in Milwaukee. "I can read. I breathe all the way through the night even though I'm asleep. I have access to emporiums where I can choose from 75 different brands of toilet paper. I know how to turn food into energy. I live where knuckleheads run everything and yet nothing ever blows up." More than anyone I've met during my Beauty and Truth Tour, Eric has perfected the art of spiritual braggadocio. Having learned to identify his hidden blessings, he has set himself up to become a powerful magnet for ever-greater abundance. I recommend you make him your role model this week, Libra.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Congratulations on thriving out there on the frontiers, Scorpio. The make-it-up-as-you-go-along craziness could easily have torn you into a thousand blithering fragments. Kudos, too, for your victories over fascinating sickness and savage love. I've been impressed by your ability to beat the goblins at their own game without becoming just like them. Now go ahead and relax for an hour or two. The next showdown will feature players who aren't likely to rouse your trusty adrenaline.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Here are a few of the complicated urges you may be animated by during the coming weeks, Sagittarius: 1) a notion to search for a paradise you first dreamed about when you were little; 2) a tendency to get sexually aroused by skydiving and bungee-jumping; 3) an inclination to preach your own fresh brand of crazy wisdom while sticking your head inside a lion's mouth or while riding a wild bull; 4) a desire to wear invisible underwear; 5) a determination to refute the saying, "The interesting idiosyncracies that initially attract you to a person will ultimately drive you batty."

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Given the labyrinthine games that await you in the coming weeks, Capricorn, you might consider enrolling in the "Covert Ops Weekend" offered by Incredible Adventures (941-346-2603 or www.incredible-adventures.com/covert1.html). This training program, run by ex-Green Berets, will teach you such useful skills as espionage, countersurveillance and booby trap avoidance. It's true that the hard-core, James Bond-style techniques you'd learn there might be overkill for the more intimate and metaphorical challenges you'll face in your daily life; but it's far better to be over-prepared than nonchalantly overconfident.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): One of the secrets of tantric sex is that you make love for a long time without obsessing on the big bang of orgasm. If there's a man involved, he refrains from ejaculating so as to become available for the deeper, fuller — and potentially more spiritually arousing — pleasure that comes from extended erotic play. Likewise, during tantric exploration a woman is less concerned with heading toward her usual experience of release and instead opens herself to the possibility that there are frontiers of ecstasy beyond her imagining. The planets and I invite you to entertain these themes in the coming weeks, Aquarius. For further inspiration, read Sexual Energy Ecstasy by David Ramsdale or The Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margo Anand. (P.S. Why not try tantra even if you're solo?)

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): "Each of us is free to stoke the crematory fires of Buchenwald," French writer Albert Camus mused, "or nurse lepers in an African hospital." Conversely, I would add, each of us has the right to become an androgynous bisexual nymphomaniac endlessly involved in a welter of messy relationships — or else a discriminating hedonist whose commitment to scrupulous integrity and maximum pleasure in all our intimate relationships steadily builds our intelligence. This is the perfect astrological moment, Pisces, to meditate on these two themes.

Describe what you've done to infuse beauty and truth into situations permeated with knee-jerk cynicism or ugly morality. Write to:

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