Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Reluctant Star Sign Columnist: RESULTS

The Spring Equinox has come and gone and it is now time to announce the results of my star sign column experience.
To remind you, here is what I agreed to do three months ago:
  1. I'm going to post a daily horoscope column from today to the Spring Equinox. I will post the next day's column the night before.
  2. I am going to measure how many more people come to my Facebook page/re-tweet, share my blog, visit my website, buy my book, commit to my classes or arrange for consultations because of the daily horoscope column.
  3. I will keep a separate journal of my feelings as I write the column. 
  4. At the end of this experiment, I will post the difference in website traffic/business between now and 20 March 2015 (the spring equinox) as well as whether or not my feelings towards star signs have changed.
  5. Publicly (after this post), I will be positive towards this challenge. If Victor wants to publish the excerpts of my journal and the results as set out above when it's all done, it will be up to him.
  6. I have done a few little things like adding a pop up to my website and will add my own advertisement after every entry. I might change this as I get a little more au faux with such things as we go along.
  7. I will be receptive to any sensible advice I get along the way.
Well, I had to abandon the column about half way through the quarter because I simply got too busy with other commitments. Yes I feel bad I didn't achieve this bit of the challenge (it kind of feels like quitting halfway through a marathon) but other things such as becoming "International Astrologer of the year, 2015" as voted by Krishnamurti Institute of Astrology took precedence. So did my teaching commitments and so did personal things. However, I do feel like I gave it enough of a try to come up with some very interesting results.
To be clever, I'm going to reveal these using movie themes.

The Field of Dreams stage: "If you build it they will come"

Before I started, I suddenly got a little paranoid. My website needed a bit of tidying up and my blog needed a new look. Once these things were taken care of, I felt a little better about having more guests around. And the result of point number two is that traffic to my site QUADRUPLED. A few people shared the links on twitter and Facebook, I got no more consultations than normal and as far as I know, there were no book sales as a result of the column.

The Social Network stage

I realised that not only am I a lazy blogger, I'm also lousy at Twitter. I tried to get posts up simultaneously with Facebook, Twitter and Blogger but that was just a bit too tricky for me--and also I felt it flooded my personal Facebook page (which I do manage very well) with my star sign stuff. I have lots of family and friends abroad who communicate with me via Facebook and I worried they would get tired of my announcements. Now that I have a bit more time, I'm going to give the coordination things another try. I do think some of the reason I got more traffic was because I was more active on social networking sites.

The Night at the Museum stage

This stage was a surprise! Of course I know planets move but focusing on their movement for two hours everyday, made me very aware of them. I often daydreamed about them up there, moving. It was kinda sweet really.

The Love Actually stage

There were many early days when I finished writing the horoscope column and I would just shake my head sadly. Really, my writing (I would hope) is so much better than the column. Some days, it was difficult to hit the 'publish' button. But I always did it. And then I'd shake my head sadly all over again as I watched my blog stats go through the roof.
It very much reminded me of the film "Love Actually".
After several takes for his song "Christmas Is All Around Us" (it's a terrible re-make of "Love Is All around Us"), Billy Mack just puts his hands to his ears. It's such a ridiculous song that you just think to yourself--as the character sings it so badly--"that song really sucks".  At one point Billy says to his manager "It's shit, isn't it?"
The manager chirpily replies: "That's right Billy! Sold gold shit!"
But the irony is that the song makes it to Christmas number one. Somehow.
Yeah, I felt like that writing about star signs. They are shit but everyone loves them.

The Jurassic Park stage

"You asked yourself if you could but you never asked yourself if you should." 

I think star sign columns have poisoned the ground water for astrology because it's what non-astrologers expect astrologers to do. And it's a bit unfair, really. If I were a confectioner, I would give out free samples of my goodies but if an astrologer does this somehow they're selling out. In fact once I started thinking about this I started realising that astrologers are really perceived differently from other professionals on very basic issues. For example, there are many different types of medical doctors: general practitioners, paediatricians and proctologists (just had to get that word in there) so why does the public think there is only one type of astrologer? Don't get me started on why we shouldn't expect to be paid for our services.
Well, that would be because that is what us astrologers put out there when we write star sign columns! To help counterbalance this I am going to be far more careful when writing my biographies. I have a specialism and it's astrology in adolescence. Yes I am also a GP but as the recipient of an American Federation of Astrologers' grant for my research into adolescence and astrology, I have a specialism. And everyone who reads my bio is going to know that.
I have been thinking about the question of whether or not astrologers should have a qualification and as much as I think it is unfair to astrologers who don't have the resources to do a course, I'm leaning towards the notion that astrologers should have a professional affiliation. Why? Because any other profession uses them. I know we (us astrologers)  think of ourselves as being Uranian mavericks we should be vetting ourselves and ensuring our best face is presented. But I really don't want anyone to think I am Madam Mystic (or whoever) and that my only purpose is to cheat the gullible of their cash. And I think we should pay dues to a world wide affiliation with the proceeds going towards astrological education for those who want it. In exchange, we get a logo to use on our websites and wherever else we are presented to the public so people know we are accepted amongst our peers.
And this brings me to another point about peerage. I've been reading some "outrageous" posts on Facebook from non-astrologers about why we can't predict earthquakes, plane crashes and other disasters. I think it's a great question!! Why on earth are newsfeeds flooded with astrological commentary AFTER an event has taken place? I think it comes down to a lack of cohesion: there is so much astrology can do and so many opportunities to do something useful but we're just not coordinated amongst ourselves so we can see who does what in astrology. We can't predict plane crashes because I suspect no one really knows how to do that (it would be an arduous process and a nightmare of data me thinks). But a global affiliation might be able to get people sharing the results of their research--and we wouldn't have to waste precious time re-explaining the same old points (there are 12 signs, not 13) ad nauseum. 

The Twelve Monkeys stage

I've been doing some serious time travel forward and backward and it got my head in a spin. Think about it: today is 31 March but I am already working on a book for 2016, making plans for 2017 and have just completed a monthly column for April. It gets a little confusing. Fun but a little overwhelming. When I was in India, fighting with the internet, I have to give up. I meant to get back to it when I returned but then I was just so involved with my job that I was seriously burning out. Something had to give and that was the unpaid job. A shame because I really did enjoy the challenge of it.

So to summarise, doing a star sign column did increase traffic to my blog but maybe this was because I was doing far more social networking (I didn't measure or isolate one factor from the other). Nor did I get more clients or sell more books because of it. I do think I became a better and more thoughtful astrologer because of all the practice I was getting but I'm not sure if, as astrology is so ill perceived by the public, we need another star sign columnist in the world. Having said this, I did decide to write a monthly column for an online magazine because I am allowed to present myself in a manner that sets me aside from other star sign columnists and I feel an affinity for the website. Would I consider a daily column? Yes if it allowed me to leave a job that sucks so much life out of me I can't focus on astrology. Yes I would.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Brave New World 2015

Picture from Big Sky Astrology
Despite the fact that the common definition of astrology tends to revolve around the ability to predict the future, the actual function of the ancient art is more to do with keeping track of cycles. All the planets have very predictable orbits that are calculated by astronomers and interpreted by astrologers.

This week there are a few significant cycles worth noting.

Firstly, two of the furthest planets from the sun, Uranus and Pluto have just completed a quarter of significant cycle. This cycle started in the early 1960s and has the astrological world abuzz with the importance. Simply put, it means some of the ideas of the 1960s are being challenged and put to the test. Astrologers work in different ways and therefore different opinions will be very common. My personal take on this event is that we, as a society, need to consider how we handle our technology. In particular, in my opinion, is the effect of the internet on our children. Do we need more control or more freedom? These are important questions we should be asking ourselves during this time.

Secondly, no doubt you’ve heard about tomorrow’s total eclipse. Eclipses are not “rare” as they can happen up to seven times per year (but usually only four). But what makes tomorrow’s eclipse special is that it takes place on the final degree of the zodiac. It is kind of the reincarnation point, the moment just before a re-birth. Many of us may be experiencing the need to let go of the old ways of doing things and clearing space for fresh experiences. Even if you don’t “believe” in astrology, you may find it helpful to have a little ceremonial clear out to make way for new, more up to date circumstances.

Just a few hours after the eclipse, the sun crosses the vernal equinox. For us in the western hemisphere, this means warmer weather, longer days and a freshening of the spirit that can only come once winter has been banished. The proximity of the eclipse and the vernal equinox is surely an opportunity to set aside our assumptions and see the world through the eyes of innocence.