Free Will Astrology

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Aries painter Vincent van Gogh sliced off the lobe of his ear in the name of love. Aflame with romantic madness, the unappreciated genius hoped to impress his favorite whore at a nearby brothel with a unique gift. Unfortunately, the bloody snip of flesh did not serve its intended purpose. The woman fainted at the sight of it. Let this be a cautionary tale for you, Aries. I can assure you that love is capable of inspiring explosive creativity in you these days. Just make sure that the way you express it is not only a testament to your passionate brilliance but also something that's actually desired by the object of your affections.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): The monsters under your bed have been quite docile lately. The goblins in your closet also seem to have mellowed. Let's see if we can trick them — I mean coax them — into continuing to be on their best behavior. What do you want to bet we might even train them to lick rather than bite, to croon rather than growl? Here's an idea. Speak to them as if you were a hypnotist on a New Age self-help cassette, gently repeating affirmations such as "You are a talented singer of lullabyes and love to make people feel at home in the world." Another suggestion: Leave cookies and milk under the bed and in the closet at every new moon and full moon.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): I've always wanted to read Canterbury Tales, the masterpiece of 14th-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Widely acknowledged to be a seminal text in the development of English poetry, it would no doubt make me a better and more interesting person. Alas, the damn thing is more than 600 pages long and written in indecipherable Middle English. With my all-consuming duties to my readers, I simply don't have time to wrestle with it. My solution: read the 78-page Cliff's Notes version in Modern English. I highly recommend you seek analogous shortcuts this week, Gemini. In fact, let this epigram be your guide: If it's quite impossible to do the totally right thing, find a way to do the half-right thing.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): The hydrangea bush outside my door is flourishing. Most of its exuberant purple-pink blooms jut jauntily sunward. But one flower — the biggest one — is weighed down by its prodigious vitality. So heavy is its gorgeous paroxysm of petals that it has become too ponderous for its stem to hold it up. It's now slumped on the concrete next to the soil from which it grows. I hate to say it, my fellow Cancerian, but this sad spectacle reminds me of one of our tribe's typical flaws. We are sometimes prone to overprotective clinging to the extravagant beauty we feel building up inside us. It's like we're 12 months pregnant but still not ready to deliver. As a result, our gifts remain hidden within us, weighing us down and causing emotional congestion. Please avoid this fate in the coming weeks. Give liberally of your bounty.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Welcome to your vocabulary lesson, class. We'll be studying two related terms. The first is epiphany. Webster's defines it thusly: "a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through a simple and striking event." What the dictionary doesn't say is that this aha! experience typically inspires a sweet, dreamy state of oneness with the universe. Our second word today is smart-ass epiphany. In addition to the benefits of a mere epiphany, a smart-ass epiphany packs a fiery, aggressive punch. It often moves you to cackle or unleash a wicked joke. In the wake of it, you feel a spectacular decisiveness about what concrete actions must be taken to infuse righteous order into the sloppy places of your life. (P.S. You're scheduled for a smart-ass epiphany this week.)

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): What explains your freaky forays into altered states of logic, Virgo? A brand new allergy? Possession by spirits that can't decide if they're demonic or angelic? An overload of guilt leading to a collapse of your defense mechanisms, allowing a flood of repressed emotions to wash your brain clean of all certainties? Whatever the cause, I advise you to go with the overflow. As disorienting as it may seem now, it'll lead to a sweet, rich lucidity if you don't resist it.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Traditionally, the seven deadly sins — actions most likely to wound the soul — are pride, lust, gluttony, anger, envy, sloth, and covetousness. But I'd like to propose a different set of soul-harmers for you, Libra. The five foolish flaws are as follows: being analytical to such extremes that you repress your intuition; observing the action from a safe remove rather than leaping into the messy-but-fun fray; sacrificing your pleasure through a compulsive attachment to duty; tolerating excessive stress because you assume it's normal; and denying yourself your well-deserved rewards out of fear of appearing selfish.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Half a millennium ago, the French and Spanish flocked to the New World driven by a greed for financial gain. The first English settlers came, on the other hand, fueled by idealism. They sought the freedom to practice their strict religious principles unhampered by the decadence of Old World cultures. What does this have to do with you, Scorpio? I urge you to imitate both approaches. Your next incursions into the frontier will thrive best if you're motivated by both selfish and noble intentions.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): I'm detecting hairline fractures in some of your oldest pet theories. From the standpoint of your priest or rabbi or guru, this might be a dangerous sign — a mandate to shore up your attachments to tradition and conventional wisdom. But if you ask me, it's a very exciting development. I take it to mean you're becoming increasingly receptive to hot, fresh data that contradict your most rigid dogmas. While the authority figures in your life might counsel you to drop everything and patch up those cracks, I hope you pick up a sledgehammer and swing it with uninhibited glee.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Let's just acknowledge that none of us is likely to find happiness with a soul mate until we master the art of loving ourselves with great ingenuity. That's why I'm a passionate advocate of a new sacrament: getting married to yourself. I believe it should be the initial step in creating a successful relationship with a significant other. Are you game, Capricorn? It's prime time, astrologically speaking, to create your own rite of matrimony. Here's a suggestion for the conclusion: Gaze into a mirror and vow, "I will never forsake you; I will always cherish you; I will do with you what the spring does to the cherry trees."

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Mozart believed that most musicians display their skills more readily when they can play quickly; it's harder to be a slow-moving maestro. As a rock singer for 20 years, I've always found it tempting to rely on my most booming, raucous tones at the expense of my more sensitive proclivities. I hope these two factoids inspire you in reverse this week, Aquarius. All the astrological oracles I've consulted have assured me that you will meet most success in the week ahead if you're gradual and subtle and voluptuously crafty.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Rick Fields, former editor of the magazine Yoga Journal, had impeccable credentials as an intelligent seeker of enlightenment. His book Chop Wood, Carry Water contains practical strategies for adopting spiritual principles to daily life, while his How the Swans Came to the Lake is a well-respected narrative of the history of Buddhism in America. In light of the tranquil grace for which he was renowned, some people were shocked at the chapbook he penned after contracting lung cancer a few years ago. Fuck You, Cancer was the title. The adversary you now face, Pisces, is nowhere near as dire as Fields', but I urge you to draw inspiration from both his Buddhist calm and his fierce warrior's spirit as you carry on your fight. What do you want to be doing exactly 12 years from today? Tell all at

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