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Misconceptions About Mundane Astrology in the Media

Misconceptions About Mundane Astrology in the Media

In episode 254 astrologers Chris Brennan and Leisa Schaim discuss a recent article in the New York Times that claimed that astrologers did not predict the recent worldwide crisis, and some of the related issues with coverage of astrology in the media, as well as the practice of mundane astrology.

The starting point for this discussion was an article that was published in the New York Times on May 9, 2020 titled Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?

The author primarily focuses on the Sun-sign astrologer Susan Miller, and the central argument is evidently that astrologers not only did not predict the Covid-19 pandemic, but they did not predict that it would be a difficult year for the world in general in their forecasts for 2020.

During the course of the episode we discuss the article and its claims, question the validity of some of its conclusions, and then discuss some broader issues about the practice and perception of astrology.

This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.

Mundane Astrologers Discussed in This Episode

In this episode we discuss the works of two mundane astrologers, André Barbault and Richard Tarnas.

André Barbault was a French astrologer who died in October of 2019. In 2012 he published an article titled “Survey of Pandemics” (Aperçu sur les Pandémies) in which he studied the outer planet alignments that coincided with major pandemics in the past century, and then used that information to make a prediction that the next such alignment around 2020-21 could coincide with a major pandemic:

“Going back to the pandemics and going back to the past century, the four crises of 1918, 1954, 1968 and 1982 are obvious, the two considerable being the first, the famous “Spanish flu” which is said to have claimed 25 million lives, and the last one in which AIDS, which is even more devastating and continues to be deadly. Since then, there has also been a small influenza surge in 2009, against the last lowest cyclical index (2010). We may well be in serious danger of a new pandemic at the 2020-2021 mark, at the lowest peak of the cyclical index of the 21st century, with the quintet of outer planets gathered over a hundred degrees, a conjunction Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto can more specifically, and even specifically, lend itself to the “tissue” of this imbalance. Nevertheless, this configuration can also transfer its core of dissonances to the terrain of geophysical disasters, without ultimately sparing the international affairs scene, Nature and Society being indiscriminately affected.”

This prediction was published in The Astrologer journal (L’Astrologue), issue number 177, in the first quarter of 2012. The full text of the original article is available on André Barbault’s website, the translation of the paragraph above was made by astrologer Mark Cullen in a Skyscript forum thread, and I’m working on a full translation of the article into English that will be released soon.

Update: You can read a full translation of the article or download a scan of the French original here:

In this episode we also discuss the study of mundane astrology that was published by Richard Tarnas in his 2006 book Cosmos and Psyche, which also had some interesting studies of how certain pandemics have coincided with conjunctions of Saturn and Pluto, which is a conjunction that many astrologers noted was occurring again just this year in January:

“Another such defining [Saturn-Pluto] conjunction was that of 1348-51 that coincided with the eruption and spread of the Black Death, which similarly devastated Europe and set in motion cultural and economic shifts that permanently transformed European life in the late medieval period. The Black Death, or bubonic plague, began in China in 1333 in coincidence with the preceding Saturn-Pluto opposition and reached a climax in Europe in the 1348-51 period during the conjunction. A comparable pattern can be discerned in the AIDS epidemic, which first widely emerged and was identified during the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1981-84, and which reached pandemic proportions worldwide, especially in Africa, during the following Saturn-Pluto opposition of 2000-04.” (Cosmos and Psyche, p. 217)

During the course of the show we discuss whether studies like this demonstrate the opposite of the claim made by the New York Times article, why hit pieces like this are so common, and whether there is anything astrologers can do about them.


Here are some timestamps for topics covered at different points in the episode:

00:00:00 Introduction
00:02:53 Coverage of astrology in the media
00:07:00 NYT hit piece on astrology
00:11:06 Who the media interviews
00:15:35 Mundane vs individual astrology
00:29:10 Complexities of mundane astrology
00:32:10 Experts in mundane astrology
00:36:08 Richard Tarnas’ work on Saturn-Pluto cycle
00:52:40 André Barbault’s prediction about 2020
01:02:29 Conspiracy theories
01:07:10 NYT’s treatment of astrology
01:16:42 Public prediction misconceptions
01:31:30 2020 astrology weather review
01:43:30 Were there enough warnings?
01:59:40 Learning mundane astrology
02:11:40 Respectability of astrology
02:14:20 Covid
02:17:17 Saturn return of the internet
02:26:45 Closing remarks

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A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 254 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

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  • Do we choose to enter and honor the complexity of the astrological mystery, or do we choose astrological reductionism, “for entertainment purposes only”.

  • You can solve your dilemma about freaking people out by such phrases as “meat grinder” by understanding you aren’t the authority of anyone else’s life but your own. Once anyone runs with that, it’s on them, not you. It isn’t appropriate to assume that they don’t have capacity and therefore you must do it for them. First of all, it’s a form of hubris on your part to think that you can and second, thinking that subconsciously encourages others into not taking appropriate responsibility for their own existence.

    Astrologers should make this clear at the beginning of their consultations.

    The main problem most people have is in not taking enough personal responsibility and handing that responsibility to the state (or other professionals). It has created a population of dependents who cannot adequately take care of themselves and gods in government and other places who cannot adequately service their demands.

    Voluntaryist principles are what is needed now to restore balance in the world. Use of force will only lead to further injustice. I recommend Larken Rose’s “The Most Dangerous Superstition” to further illuminate your thought process in regard to this matter.

  • Hi Chris,
    Your knowledge about astrology and its history if very impressive. I, for one, do not think negative trends in the personalized horoscope trends should be eliminated, from discussions. Life is both pleasant and challenging. And predictions are often not as bad as one hears or as good as one hears.

    Thanks for your all of your podcasts.
    Thank you, too, LIeisha Schaim


  • Have to comment, about 1:20 minutes in when Chris mentioned the person who complained about negative forecasting that bummed her out. Want to say loud and clear: Everyone has a CHOICE! That person needs to take responsibility for herself and her psychological state. If she didn’t like the forecast, or it bummed her out, she is free to ignore it, cancel it in her mind, or go somewhere else for her ideas. Lame of her to be a victim, and “blame” you “the messenger” for her response to the forecast.

  • Hey,

    this morning i read an article on the Atlantic about conspiracy theories and its impact on US politics and now i was finishing listening to this episode of the podcast.

    First, i’d like to thank you for stating a position concerning conspiracy theories in general. That’s relevant. Also, i was reflecting around my own issues, as an astrology enthusiast with a deep respect for science. Currents times seem to be asking for dichotomic positions, pro or against, and i’m very much pro astrology and pro science. A lot of people seem to take sides easily: if they’re science based, they reject astrology, as well as any complementary or traditional medicine; if they’re into astrology, they start prioritizing anything alternative and rejecting anything conventional, such as medicine. I use them both. Maybe i’m gonna start introducing myself with “Hello, i’m Sara, i’m pro vaccines and pro astrology”.

    I can see this science/tech vs alternative approaches becoming a big aquarian issue in the near future. The vaccines one especially, with the need for a COVID vaccine and the rising movement against vaccines growing in the West – individual vs collective choices. I hope we don’t get to the point that Chris mentions in the podcast, of pro science and the need to protect the public health leading to the erasure astrology from public forums, as just another form of misinformation. It would be a difficult Peter moment for me, which Jesus should i deny. I’d probably sacrifice astrology and live unhappily ever after.

    While reading that Atlantic article i was thinking how well it reflects the current astrology (the fear and suspicion around institutions that bonds the conspiracy groups) but also the astrology to come, the aquarian focus, with Saturn in Aquarius, the Jupiter Saturn conjunction, but especially Pluto in Aquarius. The right wing libertarian movement has an Aquarian vibe to it (individual freedoms, trust in oneself, go research) so it needs to be counteracted with an aquarian antidote, such as community building. Strengthening community among diverse individuals, while respecting individuality but also collective principles is probably one of the possible antidotes against other expressions of aquarian individualism. It’s interesting that during the lockdown some people started to express this as a counter medicine to the isolation and the fear induced by the pandemic. Probably in the next years it will be necessary to express that sentiment more thoroughly and strive for a balance of aquarian qualities in different arenas, while building new structures and new forms of relating to others.

    It would be important that the astrological community debated often where does astrology stands in regard to the present political realities. Otherwise, astrology might just be judged from the outside and pushed aside (for now, just as harmless dumbness). The NY Times says that “It used to be that horoscopes were more or less apolitical”. There aren’t apolitical stances, we do what we do based on our values and even silences are open for interpretation, and often do support the status quo. So, i’m hoping that the astrology community debates more often its different political positions, the kind of world it strives for, even if the main reason for doing so it’s assuring its own survival. Always with tones of astrological insight and technical knowledge, of course.