I’m working my way through Christopher Warnock’s course on astrology at — there’s no polite way to put this — a snail’s pace.  Maybe glacially would be a better choice of adverb, actually.  Nonetheless, every time I take a crack at the material, I feel like a door into its deeper mysteries opens another half-inch or so, and I feel like Howard Carter on November 29, 1922. I don’t know that I believe in astrology, in the same way one believes in God or in angels or in the meaning of the number 7.  But I’m starting to get how it allegedly works.  And it feels… not right, exactly. But like plucking on a string, and feeling the whole instrument flutter a little.

Today was like that. There were a lot of awful things that happened today and yesterday and the day before.  My art show launched, which was good.  But a lot of smaller things went very poorly indeed.  The climax of awfulness happened about 6:00pm this evening, when I finished sweeping up the design lab after a particularly terrible classroom experience, and found a hand-drill under one of the work-benches.

Not one of the piece-of-%#(@ egg-beater drills, no.  Not one of the terrible, plastic-handled drills with poor action and awkward rotation and poorly matched gears with unforgivably bad bearings.  No. This was my sixty-odd year-old drill with a wooden handle, the right balance, a beautiful mechanism, and an elegant design.  And the whole chuck was missing.  With some difficulty, I was able to locate the head of the drill, and the base of the chuck.  But the wedges and springs from inside the chuck are gone.  The whole drill is likely ruined without them.  Someone broke the drill, and was so ashamed, they didn’t tell me.  They stuffed the broken tool under a workbench, and walked away.

I don’t know which disappoints me more, really: the broken tool, or the broken trust.

But I promised in the title to talk about magic, and so let me turn from how bad the day was, back to astrology.  As I said, I don’t know that I believe in astrology. But this evening, listening to people in the coffee house and trying to gauge reactions to my paintings, I heard a number of other people talking about how terrible their day was, and the awful things that went awry.  Enough that my latent “I’m supposed to be studying astrology” senses went tingling.  And I pulled out my phone, and pulled up the astrological chart.

Sure enough, the conjunction of Jupiter, Mars, and Venus is right on the Imum Coeli.  Now, again, not only am I not sure that I believe in astrology, I also don’t know all the fancy terminology.  But the Imum Coeli, for you non-Latinists, is “the bottom of the sky”, and the beginning of the realm of Hades.  Three planets were having a party today in the realm of the dead, and not giving anyone else an easy time of it.  As I wrote to someone else, “It appears that your powers of right-rulership, of leadership, of conflict-resolution, and even love, are all in the toilet today. One might even say in hell.”

And once I saw that, my whole experience of the day eased.  I was able to let go of my frustrations, and attribute them to higher (or in this case, lower) forces at work.  I was able to dissociate a bit from the difficulties of the day, and acknowledge that sometimes life is like this — a whole series of outside factors conspire to ruin or at least make difficult a terrible day.

Once I was able to acknowledge that the day’s difficulties weren’t entirely the fault of either me, or the other people in my day, and attribute them to planetary forces, it was much easier to step in and do something about it.

Because this is something important about magic and the planets, or at least I think it’s important:  If you’re going to do something odd in the modern world like ‘believe’ in astrology, then you can’t simply leave your destiny up to the planets.  You have to note that the astrological weather is terrible, and then remember to leave the house with an umbrella and a raincoat.  You have to read the signs of the day, and say, “Huh.  The power of authority, and conflict-resolution, and the feelings of love, are all compromised today…  I’m going to have to make up the difference.” (Actually, they’re compromised a lot, but that’s for another day).

And I didn’t do that today. Or at least, I didn’t do that enough.

But lots of people seem to assume that believing in astrology absolves them of responsibility: “the stars say that this thing shall happen, and who am I to try to prevent it?”  Well, sure. You can believe that, if you want.  But there’s also tremendous value, and opportunity, in saying something more along the lines of, “The stars say it’s going to be terrible out today.  I had better do what I can to shelter and shield those I care about from these negative effects as best I can.”

In other words it seems to me, that if you know anything about astrology, there’s a resulting and corresponding duty to act on the information you know and can disseminate.  The knowing invites both the daring and the doing (and probably the keeping silent part, too, but as a blogger it’s sometimes hard to hold on to that).

And so it proved.  When I stepped into responsibilities today: to act with some authority, to mediate conflict, to solve problems, to be honest about love and emotion — curiously enough, the day went smoother. The drill didn’t get repaired, the problems of the day weren’t solved.  But the astrology said that the normal powers were on vacation.  And so it fell to someone to see to it that normal functions carried on, even when the normal powers couldn’t or wouldn’t.

And I think that’s possibly the most important magical lesson this blog will ever teach, really: real magic arises not from chance or happenstance, but from choosing to care and to act when no one else can or will.