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Why Can’t I Be You: Susan Miller

Learning secrets from the queen of astrology.

Illustration by Ruby A.

It was hard not to act starstruck when I got to talk to Susan Miller this week. Her website, AstrologyZone; her column in Elle magazine; and her book Planets and Possibilities are essential resources for anyone with even a passing interest in personal astrology. She also does readings for individuals and corporations, and somehow finds time to tweet to her 131,500 followers. Her horoscopes are wise, respectful, compassionate, and highly accessible. They’re also amazingly accurate.

I wanted to find out how Susan became a world-famous astrologer, so I called her up. We chatted over Skype about her life story, her approach to astrological readings, and the one astrological secret she’ll never tell.

DYLAN: When I was a teenager, I studied astrology to find my own way of understanding the world, and myself.

SUSAN MILLER: Actually, I started getting into astrology when I was 14, so young is good!

How did you start?

I had an unusual beginning. My mother was an astrologer, but she never did readings for people—she was more of a scholar. She read every single night; it was a very serious hobby for her. I wanted to learn about it, but she had no interest in passing on her knowledge. I asked her to teach me [when I was in my early teens], and she said, “No, I’m not going to teach you, because it takes 12 years to become proficient in astrology.”

I was born with a rare condition that affected my left leg, where all my mother knew was that every once in a while I’d suddenly be in pass-out pain, and I’d have to lie very still in bed until it passed, which took six weeks. Then I’d be perfectly fine again. I’d get about one attack a year. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t do anything; I was a prisoner. I couldn’t go on trips, because what if I got an attack? I was always different from other kids, and I couldn’t do everything everyone else did. I was like a little black sheep behind a plate-glass window. It’s OK, though, because I think that whatever makes you different is probably a good thing, and you should nurture it! It gives you a perspective. Because of my condition, I never went to high school—I studied in the hospital and went straight to NYU.

When I was 14, I wrote to Horoscope magazine to ask if I’d ever walk again. My mother asked me one day, “Did you write to Horoscope magazine?” I replied that I had, about seven months ago, but they had never answered. She held the magazine up, and I was in the latest issue. She asked why I didn’t ask her instead, and I said that I knew she would never tell me that I’d never walk again! I wanted an honest answer.

I think that’s a big reason that a lot of people get into any faith or spiritual practice, because you’re looking for explanations.

And for something that can give you some clues on how to get there.

So we read the magazine’s answer together: the writer said she thought I’d be able to walk again, and predicted when [that would happen]. I didn’t understand all of the astrological terms she used, so I asked my mom what they meant. That’s when she decided to teach me.

I made a deal that I would study astrology with her for 12 years. I was only allowed to do charts for family members—no friends. I didn’t know anyone, anyway, because I had lived in the hospital for so long.

My mother taught me clear communication. She said that if you say the wrong thing, that’s bad, and if you say the right thing the wrong way, that’s just as bad, because the person will misinterpret it. I think most people study too fast; they try to eat the whole pie in one sitting. Beginners should focus on just the planets at first, not the asteroids—I don’t believe that asteroids have the same influence as planets. The planets are the board of directors of the solar system. It’s so complicated to learn all of it in the beginning—it’s like spinning 10 plates at once on sticks—but eventually you start to have breakthroughs.

My mother said, “You have to learn it all, because I don’t want my daughter to be making any flat statements.” “Flat statements” are what I call “profiling”—like when someone says, “Oh, you know those Virgos!” It’s a bad practice, because everyone is an unusual soup of all the planets. Your chart is unique. There will never be another Dylan. Even twins are different.

That point seems to negate the argument that says, “Well, I don’t believe in parceling all of humanity into 12 categories.” There’s so much more to it!

It is true that people of a given sign share certain attributes, but each sign is divided into thirds, or decans—and so even people who share a sun sign have more or less of a given quality depending on which third of [that sign’s designated dates] you were born during. [Your sun sign is the thing you tell people when they ask you what your sign is; it’s determined by the position of the sun when you were born.]

And you can’t just read the sun sign—you have to read the rising sign, too. Most people don’t know that! There are so many tiny variations in everyone’s chart, because astrology is so mathematical.

What is a day in the life of a professional astrologer like?

When I was nine years old my mother told me that your rising sign predicts your profession. My rising sign is Gemini, and she said that meant I was going to write for a living. And now I write all day long! I go all through the night sometimes. I also have to have lunch meetings with people sometimes, but I never schedule those for the end of the month, because that’s when I’m writing out all the monthly horoscopes. When I travel, I have to set aside certain days for just a block of writing.

Where do you get the information that you base your forecasts on?

NASA publishes where the planets are. I have a program on my computer and an ephemeris—it’s a tool that helps you find the positions of [astronomical objects] in the sky. And then I do a lot of geometry—so besides writing all day, I’m also doing math all day.

I have to do 24 charts a month—a new-moon and a full-moon chart for all 12 signs. When I’m reading those charts, it’s like having a Polaroid of the sky.

I also have a calendar that lists every aspect [an angle a planet makes in relation to other astronomical objects], even the ones are that aren’t important, and I make notes on that calendar. Then I publish a calendar for normal people and I write down in English what all of that means. Also, I’m writing for a world audience, so I have to worry about time zones, too!

I’m sure you have to field questions from a lot of skeptics who doubt that there’s any truth or science to any of this…

Intuitively, it sounds impossible. But there are many things we don’t understand in the universe. We don’t know why astrology works…but we do know it does! I suggest reading my summary at the end of my monthly forecasts. See if I’ve picked up on the trends that you saw in your life this month.

Astrology’s so elastic and yet has such a firm structure, so it’s perfect for creative brainstorming. And for finding talent! That’s my favorite thing to look for in a chart—pure, raw talent that you can develop…if you want to!

Let me ask you for some astrological insight about Rookie. We have a different theme every month. Last month’s theme was Faith; this month’s is Mythology. Were those good themes for December and January?

Yes, because Capricorn [December 22–January 20] rules things of the past of value, and mythology comes from ancient history!

I know that you’re Catholic, and I’m fascinated with the relationship between that faith and your faith in astrology.

What most religious people worry most about [when it comes to astrology] is predestination—they misunderstand astrology as telling you what will happen, and that your fate is unchangeable. But it’s not like that. Trends will come up which will predict things, but you use that information to plan events in your own life. I can tell you that it’s a good time to do this or that, but you have to do something to show the universe your intent. You have to supply the energy.

I don’t see any dichotomy between religion and astrology. I always want to be the one you come to when you need a little thinking and a little inspiration. I hear people’s prayers, and I take that with great respect. It’s a privilege to be able to do that.

Finally: what’s your sign, Susan Miller?

I don’t even tell people my sun sign, because people would think I favored one sign over another…I don’t! I would never! I love all the signs! ♦

Susan Miller’s AstrologyZone daily horoscope is available for free on the internet and for the iPhone; the deluxe iPhone version and the Android version cost $4 apiece. A personal horoscope by Susan costs $50; you can order that here if you wish.

23 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax January 25th, 2013 3:07 PM

    I’m studying Astronomy in college, which is crazy boring to me. Astrology is like a creative way to view all the scientific facts, so I would much rather study that! Thanks for this article, super rad.

    http://rosieandthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Mary the freak January 25th, 2013 3:43 PM

    Astrology is so amazing! I loved this article. She’s a hero. (:
    I tried some tarot reading with my friend today, and it was just incredible (is that astrology-relevant?)

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • myy January 25th, 2013 4:20 PM

    what a great article! i’ve been fascinated by astrology since the age of 10 or 11 and Susan is so inspiring! thanks!

    http://splitendsshop.blogspot.com/

  • Suzy X. January 25th, 2013 4:41 PM

    UGH, SHE IS *THE* QUEEN

  • AmyL January 25th, 2013 5:04 PM

    I’ve been debating whether or not I want to sign up for an astrology class at school, and this totally makes me want to enroll ASAP.

    intergalactic-dragons.blogspot.com

    • Dylan January 25th, 2013 6:30 PM

      WHAT MAGICAL SCHOOL DO YOU GO TO?!

  • marleighsea January 25th, 2013 5:49 PM

    Ahhh I love Susan! I have her app and always look forward to the monthly horoscopes. Thank you!

  • noquierodecir January 25th, 2013 6:08 PM

    Argh I’ve deliberated about posting this comment because I really love Rookie and will continue to love it, but to be honest, the interest on/belief in astrology/numerology/etc. is kinda surprising to me.

    I consider myself a “spiritual person,” so to speak, but astrology really strikes me as B.S.

    I’m afraid that sounds totally disrespectful, and I don’t mean it to.

    • Anaheed January 25th, 2013 6:24 PM

      Doesn’t sound disrespectful at all! All of us staffers, much like you readers, have different beliefs — I, for one, don’t believe in astrology or numerology or God or anything — but I don’t see anything wrong with someone else believing in those things.

      • Dylan January 25th, 2013 6:34 PM

        Totes, not disrespectful in the least! I love how both our staff and reader spectrum goes all over the place in personal beliefs. We get talk about really cool stuff that way! I, for one, am a total goober for astrology and have been a fan (and student) of Susan Miller for years, so this article comes from that POV. This is our mythology month, which is such a fun space to explore beliefs and studies like astrology and numerology…hopefully my geek-out astrology interview feels that way, at least!

  • dearmia January 25th, 2013 6:43 PM

    I love Susan so much! I read her monthly horoscopes every single month. She was spot on this month, too! Astrology has really helped me find balance in my life.

    This interview is amazing! I’m so glad you got to talk to her!

  • giov January 26th, 2013 12:31 AM

    Uhm, Susan Miller is a Pisces (or so says Wikipedia).

  • asylum January 26th, 2013 11:11 AM

    WOW

    http://this-asylum.blogspot.in

  • Ella W January 26th, 2013 11:25 AM

    This is very interesting. I’m afraid that I don’t really believe in horoscopes and the rest of it, but still, I loved this article!

    http://gorillalegs.blogspot.co.uk/

  • rabbit January 26th, 2013 8:45 PM

    this seems really interesting and making me think about changing my science elective to astrology!

  • Alice In Wonderland January 27th, 2013 3:29 PM

    this is so great ! whenever i talk about astrology, most people just tell me its rubbish and theres no way to predict the future. this is proof there is a method behind it !!! thanks so much

  • Kristin January 27th, 2013 6:20 PM

    Susan Miller is the best. I never believed in astrology until I found her website. Now, I tend to still not believe in it, but as long as she continues to be right, I continue to read her monthly passages and defend her. Thanks for posting the interview!

  • Kikikiks January 28th, 2013 3:30 AM

    Ok, I feel I am generally pretty open to these things and have been reading my horoscope for years now (esp freewillastrology.com) HOWEVER, I have some issues with Susan Miller from reading her month in review.

    Basically my question is: IF astrology applies to ALL people, where was all the “luxury and foreign travel” for Libras, for instance, in the third world this month?

    http://www.astrologyzone.com/forecasts/monthly/libra_full.php

    Susan Miller is writing her horoscopes seemingly only for a small number of humans in the western world. I mean, I guess moving to a refugee camp is foreign travel…Finding a plastic tarp for your roof adds “appreciation to your property,” I suppose…

    It feels like when Santa flies around the world handing out gifts, but only some kids get really good presents, and the poorer kids get less presents (they must have been bad this year) and some get none at all and don’t even have food to eat that morning.

    I still have faith that there is something to astrology, but I am wary of venerating Ms Susan,wary of our own sheltered perspective, and I think analyses that focus on personality and moods are less immediately dismissive of the existence vast majority of the world. Does Susan believe astrological influence doesn’t affect you if you can’t afford to use this alignment to redecorate? If not,why the heck is she even mentioning this stuff?

    It all seems very trivial and potentially negates any belief in truth or relevance of astrology when you think about all of our star sign brothers/sisters to whom this information has little meaning.

  • Lucy23 January 28th, 2013 11:32 AM

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE ASTROLOGY OMG

    http://safeanarchy.blogspot.com

  • Qrtz8 January 29th, 2013 2:34 AM

    Kikikiks- you make a very good point. General predictions for “Aries” or “Gemini” don’t make a lot of sense. Some astrologers are caught in the trap of practicing sun-sign astrology (general predictions by sign for a month or week ahead- aka newspaper astrology).

    Many serious practitioners of astrology will admit sun sign astrology has limited (or no) validity, but it tends to be what pays the bills, gets your name in magazines, etc.
    Actual horoscope construction is more complicated, (and in my experience- potentially very accurate) and has almost no relationship to magazine predictions. I’ll share a link below about the origins of sun-sign astrology, it’s quite interesting

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._H._Naylor

  • giov January 29th, 2013 6:11 AM

    hey, this is a very interesting point you make. I also believe that personality and moods are more what astrology should be about, rather than actual plans and possessions (like, the whole “do not buy technologic stuff until December” thing).

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica June 2nd, 2013 4:10 PM

    Astrology is so interesting :)

    • Cutesycreator aka Monica June 2nd, 2013 4:10 PM

      (I hope that doesn’t sound sarcastic – it wasn’t!)