Recently, I read a story about Catholicism wherein the remains of St. Maria Goretti were being paraded around the United States, so that people could come pray over the wax-encased bones. I learned that St. Maria was a young girl who was brutally attacked, eventually succumbing to her stab wounds. Before she died, she forgave her attacker and rapist. In the story I read, a mother in the Ozarks was feeling a deep emotional resonance with St. Maria. Her son killed her husband. Now she is devoting her life to the increased criminalization of mentally ill people. I found this story very depressing.
Forgiveness can be foundational to justice. Compassionate forgiveness can be transformative, renewing one’s spirit from bitterness and interrupting cycles of violence and retribution. But what does the story of this saint mean in this world? This is a world where Catholics deny medical care and bodily autonomy to rape survivors as young as 10 (and women in general, of course). This is a world where Catholics like Bobby Jindal choose xenophobia over compassion to foment hate and fear against refugees. Of course, most religious myths have an element of horror or brutality lurking beneath—if not brazenly throughout. And no myth is perfect, and many lessons can be gleaned from a story. I disdainfully interpreted the lesson in the story of St. Maria Goretti as being about the posthumous glory awaiting those who forgive their abusers. A woman in the Ozarks interpreted the story as being a sign that, despite all data to the contrary, jail is the best place for people suffering from mental illness.
In the words of The Damned, “I’ve got nothing against church… So many people are weak and then have to seek answers from the peddlers of hope.” I just wonder what kind of hope we can find when we have such questionable source material. Let’s throw it all away and instead find hope in the resilience and kindness of people who are alive right now. The lessons we draw will inevitably reveal more specific information about our world, more specific guidance on how to act: unwavering presence to current events as divination. Unwavering presence without fear is a noble goal, but life is terrifying so I think of it less as a rule and more as a process of moving toward fearless presence. Either way, two things are clearer this month than ever: nothing can definitively inoculate you from future suffering, and you’re still on the hook for the things you do while you’re afraid.
The Moon is renewed in Sagittarius on December 11th. On that day, don’t try to use your mind to solve problems that are actually being held within your body. Instead, use your body itself. Conduct an internal investigation. Let this New Moon be a time for rest and reflection. In a way, there’s no such thing as a fresh start, though it can be helpful to set aside stale thoughts and take new approaches to things. The Moon is full in Cancer on December 25th, inflating our present circumstances, making them seem even grander or more awful than they actually are. Just lean into it, don’t fight it, go wild with your generous heart if that’s what you’re feeling; cry in public if that’s what’s going on for you. Do both if you’re complex.
The illustrations for this month’s column are from an 18th century book of maps of the magical properties of the stars. You know why there’s old-ass illustrations about astrology? Because astrology is fuckin primitive. If you want to read tracts that shed light on the dimensions and mysteries of modern life, try some Frantz Fanon.
As 2015 comes to a close, you notice that in a healthy environment you feel fine about yourself and your choices. When no one external is challenging you, you don’t expend energy rationalizing or defending your decisions. Instead, that energy is directed inward. You might even feel a sort of glow. You say it out loud to others when you’re describing yourself, but try just saying it privately sometimes too: your greatest aim is to fulfill your own potential.
As 2015 wraps up, your imagination is in control. It embellishes your present, with the potential to make you feel cozier or more isolated, depending on how you feel about your year. When you begin making plans for the future this month, you might feel more liberated from the tyranny of your own habits and history than ever before. Though your desires for the next year relate to all that preceded, you are experiencing a sort of personal rebirth.
As 2015 rattles down the last stretch of road, your practice eyes spy both wreckage and treasure. Most of what we inherit is the composite creation of our ancestors. They are mostly strangers, and the world can feel strange. The world we inherit isn’t ours in a way that can be reduced to concepts like birthright or homeland, not in a way that withstands any scrutiny or reason, anyway. Our world is a vast merging of other people’s worlds. But if you start to spiral into a sense of not belonging, remember that you’re a part of this as much as anyone else.
As 2015 fizzles to a close, you’re seeking a well that won’t run dry. You’re resourceful, and can draw upon many supplies of energy and inspiration, but this past year you tapped out a few of them. No matter how embittered you’ve felt at times, somewhere inside you know that ultimately, humanity is the source. Even if you’re still hitting a dry spell as the calendar turns, avoid the self-imposed abyss. Remember the ways that you are connected to everybody else. Do some automatic writing. Read some Jung and vibe out on the collective unconscious.
As 2015 blows by, it might feel like you were just celebrating the New Year a moment ago. Time can do weird things and fold in on itself when you’re a busy, ambitious, wild-minded Leo. When tied up in compelling projects, occasionally, we can forget our part in kinship. Staying in touch with people you love requires the attention of a gardener. You have to maintain a mental bridge between yourself and the ones you care about. There’s often not enough time to do that, but if you try you can think of little ways. Small expressions of appreciation will have greatly fulfilling returns.
2015 is ending, and your life is burgeoning with promise. Though at times you’re swamped with work—and it feels like humanity is flowing past your door involved in communion you’re too busy to appreciate—you’re growing in leaps. Whereas it used to have the power to paralyze you, no matter the source, criticism no longer wounds. Connect to that world you feel you can’t fully access by sharing your new superpower. Share the words of Virgo poet Leonard Cohen, and express to people that if you’ve been unkind, you hope they can let it go by… and return the favor.
As 2015 completes its gestation and a new year is born, you might be wondering how your baby thoughts get made. For Librans, observation becomes knowledge, and you’re keen observers. You’re driven by an almost perfectly neutral inspiration that the noncurious can’t comprehend. Because you’re so fascinated by people, sometimes all problems can appear personal, and you lack a wider analysis of outside factors. If any newborn thoughts are driving you to distraction or concern this month, try a broader view.
As 2015 is extinguished and a new year kindled, examine the mental traps that keep you from being comfortable with the way you’re living and working. Scorpios are intense people, and we rarely like to examine or challenge our core belief that work is all that keeps death at bay. So I won’t ask you to do that just yet. But if you begin to fear that you’ve run out of good ideas, or perhaps the ones you’ve had all along have never been good, it might be a great time to take a break.
As 2015 takes its last long breath, you sense much unresolved business in your own life and in the world at large. But don’t get bogged down in thoughts of having been wronged, unless you can find a way to make it right. As a fictional Arthurian knight advised a touched young warrior in Kazuo Ishiguro’s perplexing foray into fantasy, The Buried Giant, “when the hour is late for justice, it’s still early for revenge.” If your history won’t stay buried, follow it to the root and correct your personal scales.
As 2015 makes its last lap, you may wonder if your contentment is but a herald of impending misfortune. Sometimes when all seems well, it really is. If you can be enough of a magnanimous person to leave well enough alone, perhaps strife will not arise. In Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, he writes “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” Soothe your anxiety by knowing yourself, and before you set to studying your enemy, question whether they deserve that designation at all.
As 2015 rallies for the home stretch, you may experience some bitter visitations, whether they manifest in the physical form of visiting family members, or the less tangible form of bad news. Bad news and bad visits can present an interesting opportunity, once the stink of the offensive event has cleared. The air can smell a little sweeter, and feel spacious enough to let you grow in some previously unknown way. How can you expand, be less small, make alive the parts of your life that don’t have enough feeling? Pay attention to the empty space for guidance.
As 2015 implodes like a dying star, your normally generative state is altered. Should you give in to lethargy, though it is strange and uncharacteristic? Unstructured chill time is the lifeblood of creativity. Many Pisceans know this, but some never have to because they are so constantly in the flow of their life and labor. Eat something that’s bad for you, lay around and think about magazines and celebrities, try to massage your own feet by walking on a tennis ball. When ideas come your way don’t drop everything and chase them. Just keep crunching on those Funyuns.