Joan Quigley and the Reagans’ Use of Astrology

Joan Quigley and the Reagans' Use of Astrology

Episode 68 features a discussion with Nick Dagan Best about the famous astrologer Joan Quigley and her work for Ronald and Nancy Reagan while they were in the White House.

Nancy Reagan died recently, on Sunday, March 6, 2016, and her use of astrology to help her husband while he was President was mentioned in her obituary. This became a major story in May of 1988 after an expose was published that detailed Nancy’s consulting with an astrologer in order to elect auspicious dates for her husband’s political activities.

Some of the details surrounding this story are still murky though, so the purpose of this episode is to put together all of the known facts and discuss what we know versus what we don’t know about the Reagans’ use of astrology.

I’m going to include a more extensive set of notes below than I usually do, followed by links to download or stream the recording at the bottom of the page. I’m doing this mainly for search purposes, and people should listen to the full discussion before commenting on the episode, as we used the notes mainly as a starting off point for the discussion.

Extended Show Notes

Extensive outline of the points that we touched on during the course of the episode:

Introduction

  • Genesis of this show is that Nancy Reagan died recently, on Sunday, March 6, 2016.
  • The New York Times ran an interesting and touching obituary that mentioned her use of astrology.
  • I was surprised that they made it seems like she only turned to astrology after the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.
    • This was part of the damage control narrative after the story broke in 1988.
    • The problem with the narrative is that the Reagans had consulted with astrologers prior to 1981.
  • Purpose of this episode is to give an overview of what happened, and discuss some lingering questions and issues that are still points of debate.

The Sequence of the Controversy

  • In early May of 1988 the media started talking about a new book that was coming about by Reagan’s former White House Chief of Staff, Donald Regan.
  • The press had a field day with the story, and it became a media sensation.
  • White House was forced to release a statement on whether it was true.
  • The press quickly identifies the mystery astrologer Nancy was consulting with: Joan Quigley.
  • The following year, 1989, Nancy releases a book titled My Turn.
    • Dedicates a chapter to the astrology controversy.
    • Tries to frame the use of astrology as a reaction to the assassination attempt
    • Calls it an emotional crutch that became a habit.
    • Acknowledges prior interactions with Quigley before 1981, but downplays.
    • Says that husband was only made aware of it later, but doesn’t specify when.
  • A year later, in 1990, Quigley published her own book.
    • Titled “What Does Joan Say?” My Seven Years as White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
    • Attempted to set the record straight on what she did or didn’t do for them.
    • Gives a detailed account of her relationship and work with the Reagans.

How Long Had Quigley Been Working for the Reagans?

  • They first met on the Merv Griffin Show in 1973.
  • Quigley says Nancy was a client from 1973-1976. Met Nancy in person in 76.
  • Quigley and Nancy both acknowledge some work was done during 1980 campaign
    • Quigley says she selected the time for the debate with Carter.
    • Says she tried to pick a chart that would be problematic for Carter.
  • Both seem to acknowledge that work together ramped up after assassination attempt.
  • Last time they talked was in April of 1988 before the media story broke.

Had the Reagans Used Astrology in the Past?

  • When Reagan became governor of California in 1967 they may have used an election for his inauguration.
  • The inauguration was delayed and held at a weird time, 12:10 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1967. Nick says 12:14 a.m..
  • The NYT says that news reports at the time speculated this was due to astrology.
  • His executive secretary at the time tried to dismiss the rumors, saying “He does not believe in astrology. He is not guided by the stars.”

Other Astrologers Before Quigley

  • Reagans were friends with the astrologer Carroll Righter.
    • He was a popular Sun-sign columnist, with lots of celebrity clients in Hollywood.
    • Initial connection with the Reagans as actors.
    • Ronald Reagan called Righter a “good friend” in his 1965 autobiography “Where’s the Rest of Me?”
      • Reagan confirmed they read his column, saying: “every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs.”
    • Righter is thought to be who they were consulting with for much of the 60s and 70s, and People magazine in 88 suggested that he was behind the midnight 67 inauguration chart.
    • Oddly he died April 30, 1988, which is right when the astrology story broke.
  • In 1966 the psychic/astrologer/whatever Jean Dixon predicted on Mike Douglas Show that Reagan would be President.
    • In his book Don Regan said that the Reagans used to consult with her starting around the time he was governor, but then she lost favor with them at some point.

Did Ronald Reagan Believe in Astrology?

  • This is still a point of dispute.
  • It seems like part of the damage control in the late 1980s was for Nancy to take the fall for it.
  • In My Turn Nancy says that Ronald was unaware, and then when she eventually told him he said ok but be careful since people would be upset if it got out.
  • In his diary for when the story broke he writes as if its all false and they don’t know any astrologer.
  • Later books on Reagan like God and Ronald Reagan largely paint it as if it was entirely on Nancy, and Reagan wasn’t into astrology, but just indulging his wife.
  • Quigley tries to address this point but virtually all of her interactions were with Nancy.
  • Quigley says that there were a few points Reagan specifically inquired about through Nancy, like what should be done in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster.
  • The extent to which astrology was being used in the White House makes it seem unlikely that Ronald Reagan would be unaware.
    • Something would have to be seriously wrong for him to be that oblivious, especially when it involved changing times for signing important treaties, or firing his chief of staff because he disagreed with Nancy about the astrology.
    • Maybe if the Alzheimer’s had set in already, but even then, it seems unlikely.
  • Some associates later said him believing in astrology would seem out of character, while others said that it would seem in keeping with what they knew about him.
    • Three associates cited in God and Reagan said they never heard Reagan talk about astrology and it seemed like it would be out of character.
    • Colin Powell said it seemed in character given Reagan’s other quasi-mystical beliefs.
  • Ultimately it seems hard to say.
  • Reagan’s team may have seen it as doing damage to his reputation in 1988, and may have decided to keep his personal beliefs about it under wraps. Unfortunately we may never know for sure.

How Did Quigley Use Astrology for the Reagans?

  • Largely gave dates for press conferences, speeches, trips, & other public appearances. Too many to mention. Some of the more notable ones are listed below:
  • 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter.
  • Elected the chart for launch of Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.
  • Electing the times for the debates between Reagan and Mondale during the 1984
  • She selected the electional chart for Reagan’s second inauguration.
  • Quigley elected the chart for Nancy’s mastectomy surgery in 1987.
  • Elected time for the announcement of Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court nomination.
  • Elected times for important negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev, for example such as the important Reykjavik Summit.
  • Elected the chart for the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the US and the Soviet Union in 1987.
  • Advised Reagan to keep quiet for extended period during Iran–Contra scandal.

Transcript

A full transcript of this episode is available here: Episode 68 transcript

Listen to This Episode

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Comments

  1. Patricia Flannagan says:

    Fantastic show. I remember reading Quigley’s book but your way of putting it into a larger context was absolutely fantastic, Chris and Nick. Great job on this one.
    Patricia of Eustis

  2. Patricia Flannagan says:

    Correcting typos.
    Fantastic show. I remember reading Quigley’s book but your way of putting it into a larger context was absolutely fantastic,
    Chris and Nick. Great job on this one. Thanks.
    How about addressing them as George Bush the Elder and George Bush the Younger?
    So Hellenistic that way, and absolutely clear who you mean.
    Patricia of Eustis

  3. Sébastien says:

    I’m halfway through the podcast and so far it’s great ! Thanks guys !

    This midnight ceremony feels very Saturnian like to me, and in a way it makes sense, as Ronald Reagan was Aquarius (and then ruled by Saturn).

    Also, French president Frédéric Mitterrand was publicly known to consult an astrologer (Elizabeth Teissier). In 1989, he inaugurated the “Arche de la Défense” in Paris, a cubic building on top of which we can see the Zodiac (it’s only visible from the sky). Check that on Google Maps : 48° 53′ 35″ N 2° 14′ 11″ E.

  4. Sébastien says:

    (There is a bug : some letters disappeared.)

  5. I would imagine that Quigley felt betrayed and that is why she wanted to set the record straight. She helped the Reagans with very personal and important matters and then is publicly defamed by them. It is naive on the part of the Reagans and Quigley that the public would in any way accept astrology influencing the office of the President of the United States in any way. They were incredibly unwise to let this kind of counseling be known to the public. Many resented Nancy Reagan for her constant influence over her husband aside from astrology, so add that to changing schedules (which was not her job) then it is not hard to see how frustrated Donald Regan would be. I think it was widely known that Ronald Reagan adored his wife and depended on her. He was a great communicator but that does not mean he was highly capable at governing. I was not a Reaganite, and remember how annoying Nancy seemed to be in her influence. It could be very possible that Reagan would intentionally write a personal entry in his diary knowing that it would some day be read. It could even be they did not want anyone to know they had a leg up using it !!!

  6. Excellent show! Thank you Chris & Nick.

  7. Really great podcast, Guys! It’s funny, Chris, how you were continually baffled by the possibility that RR was oblivious to everything that was going on around him. During those years, that is exactly how a lot of folks perceived him (and it’s partly how he earned the “teflon” tag)! It really annoyed a lot of folks because it seemed so obvious that Nancy ran the show. The uncovering of Quigley just reinforced that idea. But I don’t think the discovery damaged the teflon couple or RR’s legacy at all. The Reagans remain a well-loved presidential couple. Thank you for a wonderful discussion and the chance to revisit those days from a different perspective (and a much less annoying distance)!

    • Chris Brennan says:

      I guess since I was so young during that period I’m just missing a bit of perspective in terms of how the public perceived him. Part of what didn’t make sense to me about that narrative though is that it wouldn’t just be restricted to the 80s, but you would have to extend it back 20 years to the midnight inauguration when he became governor in 1967. It seems even more implausible to me to think that he was just being oblivious way back then and wasn’t on board with astrology, with it just being Nancy pulling the strings, especially given that he expressed interest in reading his horoscope and was referring to specific astrologers as his friends at that point in time. If the oblivious narrative doesn’t hold up or make sense in the 1960s, then I don’t think that it makes sense in the 1980s either, at least not as the entire story.

    • Reagans well loved by whom? Just as many despised them. Current issue of The New Yorker (03 12 16) has a good article on their record on both the AIDS epidemic and stem cell research. Both suffered greatly in the Reagan years. You would think, being from Hollywood they would have supported their gay friends with AIDS, but no, and not until her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s did Nancy show any support for stem cell research. Her interest was completely self-serving.

  8. More political astrology please

  9. Nana Kullman says:

    This actually answered my problem, thank you!

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