Questioning popular astrology (2) : media astrologer Victor Olliver’s robust reply…

Yesterday, I posted Part (1) : Questioning popular astrology, listing my challenges and questions regarding the merits – or otherwise – of popular astrology. True to form, Victor responded thus: “…feels like a bull fight and you’ve just flicked the red cape…”

Read, react, enjoy – and REPLY!

( nb anything offensive will be ruthlessly binned)

Mars being reasonable - must be in Libra....

Mars being reasonable – eh?!!…

Thanks for inviting me to contribute to your wonderful site, Anne. Though I’m the editor of  The Astrological Journal, and The Lady magazine’s resident stargazer, I am still relatively new to professional astrology and only recently have become a lot more aware of the huge psychological gulf between serious and popular astrology. This surprises me because in all worlds there’s a spectrum of expression, from public face to purist core and in between. Why not in astrology, too?

Take the fashion world, for instance. Expensive haute couture and pret-a-porter are showcased at the international collections and these in turn inspire high street looks for ordinary budgets. The cheaply-produced mass market is as much a part of fashion as Anna Wintour’s Vogue. But we don’t say that the clothes in shop windows are not fashion or that these looks are embarrassing. Indeed, without the retail outlets there would be no fashion except for the super-rich.

Likewise, in another sense, in astrology. Many practitioners of serious or scholarly star-gazing disdain the popular expression, namely in media Sun-sign horoscope columns; and some even doubt the validity or credibility of the solar chart. Others are shamed by the apparent crassness and simplicity of these media columns and try to ignore them.

This really is self-defeating in my view.

The actual ‘enemy’ of astrology is prejudice. It comes in a number of forms. Chiefly, the prejudice of many secularists and what I call science cultists can be dismissed quickly. We know who they are. They rubbish astrology yet know nothing about it. They laud science yet respond most unscientifically to something they’ve never studied or researched.  Then there’s prejudice in the world of astrology against popularisation. Serious astrologers fear that the Mystic Megs are letting the side down and making it easier for science debunkers to debunk.

But here’s the truth: debunkers/doubters/science cultists are not interested in whether your astrology has been assayed by the laboratory’s finest geeks or simply dreamt up by fake stargazers. No matter how learned the astrological study and compelling the results, nothing will sway the know-all who’s certificated with a science professorship. They believe astrology is rubbish. So in their case, media Sun-sign horoscopes is a non-issue – it’s just the thin end of the fraudulent wedge. We need not concern ourselves with determined nay-sayers. We waste our time trying to play up to them.

Nonetheless, I fully support those astrologers who bring academic rigour to the subject and seek to find mainstream respectability – not because I think a professional debunker can be turned, but for the sake of a better appreciation of astrology. Science itself will in time gradually move towards a greater understanding of the nature of the cosmos, possibly through quantum mechanics – you’ve written about this yourself – and the time will come when the intellectual climate for astrology will be a lot more receptive than it presently is.

Now, what about Sun-sign astrology. Is it valid? That’s the real question. Let me quote the brilliant late astrologer Dennis Elwell who was known to be highly critical of ‘trivialising’ media horoscopes. This is what he actually wrote in a 1975 essay titled ‘Is There A Solar Chart?’: “I do believe in the basic validity of solar chart transits but that is not to say that they can be relied upon to produce readings every day, week or month, depending on how often a particular journal happens to be published, or that they are always interpreted correctly.”

Elwell was quite idealistic in his expectation of constant ‘reliability’ and perhaps forgot McLuhan’s well-known dictum: “The medium is the message”. In other words, a mass market entertainment magazine is not likely to play host to a discursive, learned, nuanced forecast from the house astrologer. Newspapers and magazines usually seek snappy one-liners that can be digested at a glance. The ‘house style’ is what matters and the astrologer must seek to fill the allotted space as well as she or he can.

A great many media astrologers these days are actually trained astrologers, such as myself. The ‘simplistic’ solar chart, with the relevant Sun-sign cusp placed at the ascendant point, is all about transit ingresses and aspects. To state the obvious:  if we accept that transits-to-birth chart speak to us then transits-to-transits have something to say also – an idea that’s no problem to, say, electional astrologers. The challenge is less the solar astrology and more what is selected for the column and how it is written up.

My approach to the solar chart, interpretively, is more-or-less the same as to a natal chart. My professional media grail is to find a form of words that is both entertaining and true to the spirit of the moment for each sign. It was Elwell who wrote so beautifully (in his book Cosmic Loom) of how an aspect can find concurrent expression in a multiplicity of ways in life and events, from the ridiculous to the sublime. We’d be wise to keep our minds open to this feature of astrology which even now we do not properly comprehend.

Astrology is a flexible thing: it communicates its wisdom no matter the house system, national culture, computer programme, dubious birth detail or oblivious opposition.

Anne, to answer your question: there’s nothing to justify. If one’s mindset is dead against popular expression, then avoid reading the Jonathan Cainers. Avert your gaze. If you fear that Sun-sign astrology is polluted by the Shelley von Strunckels, then here’s a comforting thought: in the minds of science cultists, astrology is already polluted. It’s dead! And if certain persons judge astrology by their cursory reading of Mystic Meg, you can rest confident that they probably skate over a lot of life’s other treasures of the spirit. Perhaps their preference of depth is cricket or crochet.

Contrary to what many scholar-astrologers think, media horoscopes are the main bridge to the public, just as a short chic affordable jacket in Marks & Sparks may resonate with fans of high-end Chanel. We should be grateful for the enduring need for ‘irrational’ advice from our nation’s stargazers. As Nick Campion has averred, the Sun-sign column – for a great many people – offers the only one moment in the day when time is taken to consider the general shape of the life (or Life) or to question the point of doing something. In a materialistic world, this is a form of spiritual awareness, albeit rudimentary in many instances. But don’t knock it.

And, Anne, next time you’re offered a Sun-sign column, take it. And aim to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The experience may prove both humbling (in the challenge to bring high minds down to earth) and rewarding (as in, er, bank balance). 

Victor Olliver

Victor Olliver

Victor Olliver’s Lifesurfing: Your Horoscope Forecast Guide 2015 is available in Kindle or paperback on Amazon:

Victor Olliver is the editor of The Astrological Journal and media officer of the Association of Professional Astrologers International, and has a distinction diploma in natal and mundane astrology from the Mayo School. Before turning to the study of astrology back in 2008, he was an entertainment/lifestyle editor, journalist and writer. He has worked as an editor for, among others, IPC Magazine, Mirror Group and Daily Mail & General Trust. As a freelance writer he has contributed to many publications including The Sunday Times Magazine, Australia Women’s Weekly and Marie Claire. He currently lives on the south coast in West Sussex.
Victor Olliver
Twitter: @VictorOlliver
Facebook: Victor Olliver Astrology
To read Part 3 of this debate, click HERE
Mars being reasonable - must be in Libra....

Mars being reasonable – eh?!

1350 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Victor Olliver  2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

18 responses to “Questioning popular astrology (2) : media astrologer Victor Olliver’s robust reply…

  1. Pingback: Questioning popular astrology (1) : Anne Whitaker challenges media astrologer Victor Olliver | Astrology: Questions and Answers

  2. An excellent reply, just like Astrology’s principle of polarity this does address the issue comprehensively from the popular astrology side and I know Anne will agree with many of your points Victor. I think things may have changed in recent years so that our not only is our subject covered with more integrity in the media but as you point out quantum science is beginning to bridge the gap on science and astrology. I am not so sure of the Mystic Meg approach but a well written and intelligent column can be all the things you say re opening up the uninitiated reader to expanding the mind on life etc. Thank you for such an informative and entertaining response and I look forward to seeing if Anne takes up the challenge 😉


    • Thanks for this, Carole. Well said! I’m sure Victor will be pleased. As you might expect, I am mulling over my reply! I want to wait until any other comments appear. So – call back later and see what’s going on…


  3. Anne and Victor…I agree…there will always be the other side of the fence that frowns upon, dismisses, and openly criticizes the science of astrology and astrologers themselves. It is this side of the fence that appreciates the intelligence behind the science, and both you Anne, and Victor, demonstrate this quality along with a professional approach to the subject. Focus on the positive side and “dismiss” the rest.


  4. I admire Victor’s attitude, and yours, Anne. I have not been as courageous–hesitating to “confess” that I’m an astrologer when in the company of “science cultists”. I may even risk being seen reading a Sun sign column. 😉


  5. Yes, why don’t you! Provoke with the Sun Sign column, then see off the dismissers with intelligence, patience, humour, charm and sweet reason. If that all fails, you can always hit them over the head with Michelsen’s planetary Ephemeris – the one with the red cover! ( I jest, I jest!)


  6. A most interesting dialogue. My humble opinion is that if sun sign astrology were to work it would mean that every single person in the world falls in to one of 12 categories and surely that can’t be the case. We know how the sun occupies such a tiny part of the whole chart and is affected by trines, squares, transits etc etc. and it is this that makes each person’s life experience so different and diverse. I think people read sun sign astrology and if it doesn’t resonate for them for any or all of the above reasons, then they rubbish astrology in general. I say stick with the purists on astrological thinking!!!


    • Hi Sheilagh many thanks for weighing in with this succinctly put statement. Has Victor converted me? What do you think? Well, I shall wait until I think all the comments are in, give it a day or two more, and then let you know. Shall I then give Victor the last word? As an uber-Leo, could I BEAR to do that? I think that’s a ‘wait and see’ also…


  7. Everyone has his or her own opinion on this topic (or to be more modern, her or his opinion on this topic :-), and here is mine.

    Anything deep, complex or complicated (like computers for instance) interfaces with the public in a certain way as the general public struggles to grasp and comprehend it. Astrology has a particularly weak public interface, and it is a real shame in my opinion how our deep, complex and beautiful art of astrology connects with Joe (and Janet) Bloggs. (Or should that be Janet and Joe Bloggs?)

    Even I, a deep, seasoned and passionate astrologer can read my sun sign prediction for the day and then say “what a load of rubbish”.

    In all fairness though, some horoscope columns (horrorscope columns?) are written with more skill that others, and there is some relevance to sun sign astrology. However, sun sign PREDICTIONS are only one small branch of our glorious art of astrology, and trying to convey astrology with this alone is like a big smooth powerful V8 motor running on two cylinders and misfiring in the process. No wonder the general public thinks it’s a load of rubbish.

    But what to do to improve the public interface? Perhaps if someone went to the trouble of writing a condensed CHARACTER ONLY horoscope for every five minutes based on the star positions from say, 1930 to 2000, then a person could read their own one and say “How is this possible?” and then sit up and take a bit of notice and build a bit of respect for astrology.

    It would be a lot of work though!


  8. Hello Wizron,

    good to hear from you again and thanks for Following my blog!

    Your thoughtful and apposite comments are, as always, appreciated. What you say echoes most of my own thinking, despite Victor’s clarity and eloquence. I think I’ll suggest your interesting idea re demonstrations of validity to him – taking that on would keep him out of mischief for at least a decade…mind you, knowing Victor as I am beginning to do, maybe not!!


  9. Thanks Anne. I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments on the matter. And thanks for highlighting an interesting topic once again.


  10. To Wizron and others I would say that in the unmediated lumpen world of tabloidland, where everything from economics to health is simplified into the puree of a ready-meal, the consumer desire is what’s sought. In the case of astrology, that desire is to know of something of the present and future. At a very broad abstract level, it is possible, with artful phrasing and philosophic distancing (and perhaps a little humour), to present something that ‘resonates’ with a large identifiable group (not all but the many within it) in different ways. The more specifically humdrum the horoscope the more likely it will be dismissed as rubbish. Solar astrology can be a complex methodology but the result has to be marketable, a must-read – disposably relevant.That’s where craft and art must somehow work a magic, as someone like the late Patric Walker understood. As with most other things in life, a handful can do it and the rest churn.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. With respect, whether the artist practicing the art is talented or is just a ‘churner’ is not what it is really about. A brilliant musician won’t sound so good on a guitar that only has one string instead of six, and a talented astrologer is not so talented when only writing superficial, disposable newspaper sun sign prediction columns.


  12. Surely where we stand on this issue depends on how we, as practitioners, view Astrology itself? From my perspective, Astrology is Divination so I can’t think of any reason why a Sun Sign prediction will not prove useful to the person who happens to ‘chance’ upon it on that particular day.
    I also agree with Victor that the sceptics are never going to be persuaded; and it remains true that Sun Sign columns remain the only way into Astrology for most people.


  13. Pingback: What is astrology’s place in the contemporary world? | Astrology: Questions and Answers

  14. Thanks for this space Anne. As a very amateur when l studied years ago l found a kind of osmosis or intuitive effect happened between me and a chart. Agreed that the shallowness of paper astrology is pretty useless but so many do not want to go deeper, shame.

    Liked by 1 person

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