| Astro Features
Why A Gemini Should Live With A Sagittarian. And Other Ways Astrology Should Influence Your Housemate Decision by Nell Frizzell for The Debrief - interview with Fiona
The closest I have ever come to domestic bliss was living with a Scorpio woman in a two-up-two-down red brick house in Leeds, where the only music we owned was a triple CD called The Love Collection and our most prized ornament was a novelty donkey cigarette dispenser from Tenerife that shat out fags.
I have no idea if we cohabited so well because she was a Scorpio, or because she was a promiscuous Catholic caffeine-addict who used to sneak into my room and fold my clothes while I was making dinner.
But, with 643,000 of us living in what Shelter defines as overcrowded conditions, the rates of shared living, in spaces designed to house dustpans, is on the inexorable increase. Which means we're all having to think a little more tactically about who we live with. Who knows, maybe, like Jeremy Paxman on University Challen ge, astrology has the answers? After all, there are more things in heaven, earth and the whirling celestial fury than are dreamed of in my philosophy. Perhaps the secret to a fridge full of milk, clean sheets, happy evenings and a lack of bin juice is all down to matching the right fire sign with the right section of the zodiac.
‘The astrological principles for assessing compatibility in friendships, sexual relationships, work relationships and housemates are pretty similar,' says the astrologer Fiona Graham. ‘There is a technique in western astrology called synastry, which takes the birth charts of individuals to see how they intersect. In doing that, you're looking at all sorts of factors. The layman just thinks of astrology in terms of sun signs – the particular month in which you're born - but the reality is that even someone who is an Aries, for instance, might have a lot of emphasis on other signs that might be more relevant to their compatibility to someone else.'
But, let's make like Van Gogh and lay down some broad brushstrokes. All 12 signs are divided across the four elements. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are fire signs; Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are earth signs; Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are air signs; Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are water signs.
‘A fire person – so not just a fire sun sign, but a person with a strong emphasis on fire in their chart – you would expect to be impulsive, spontaneous, optimistic,' says Fiona. ‘On the downside you might expect them to be reckless.' Cue afterparties, unpaid council tax bills and six art deco chairs in a one-bedroom flat because they are orange and were going cheap at a car-boot sale.
‘An earth person (ie someone with a strong emphasis of planets in earth signs) would be pragmatic, reliable, pleasure-loving, sensual, but possibly pedantic, because of that practicality,' says Fiona. Last time I lived with a Virgo, she spent three days comparing internet service providers and would only eat fruit standing over the sink.
‘With water, you're looking at someone who's emotional, empathetic, sensitive but also potentially changeable and moody,' adds Fiona. My mother, a classic semi-hysterical Pisces, once tried to have a screaming row with me about my childhood while wearing a huge handlebar moustache of Jolene hair bleach, before bursting into tears over Desert Island Discs .'
Finally, those air signs: ‘With an emphasis on the element of air, you're looking at someone who is communicative, cerebral, entertaining and verbal,' explains Fiona. ‘But they are also potentially fickle and living in their head. My old Aquarius housemate once genuinely forgot to go outside for three days because she was so busy reading about gendered language and the autobiography of Gertrude Stein. If we hadn't run out of Hobnobs she'd probably be there still.
So, how do you combine these elemental swathes? Who, as a fire sign should I avoid? Who will douse my flames of amateur furniture-making and who will burst into tears if I accidentally dye their bedding grey in the wash? ‘Traditionally, one would say put people with a similar elemental balance together,‘ says Fiona. ‘If you've got a house full of fiery people being impulsive and optimistic, it will become a party house. But then you might want to make different combinations as too much in one area can lead to conflict.'
I'll say. My parents – two of the most fluidly emotional water signs you could ever hope to splash – would regularly have the sort of cup-smashing, wall-punching, flesh-tearing arguments that would mean coming down to an empty crockery cupboard and a garden full of potential mosaics.
‘In an earth and fire combination, you might need the earth element to think of the practicalities, the basics, while the fire person is lightening them up, helping them be more spontaneous,' says Fiona. ‘If you put air and water together they can help each other get in touch with the attributes they may be out of touch with – it can help overcome airy cynicism or watery sensitivity. Earth and water are often seen as very compatible, as two introverted elements, while air and fire might have more of a day-to-day extrovert understanding.'
So, let's nail some detail to this skeleton. According to Fiona, an archetypal Taurean man is ruled by the planet Venus, which is all sensuality, femininity, pleasure, good food, perfume, sex and touch. So a conventional Taurean man may well enjoy living surrounded by women. The archetypal combative person is Aries, because they're ruled by Mars. The Leo story is about creativity – being at the centre of the universe, like the sun. It's a fixed sign so it's also pretty stubborn, like Taurus. So they may enjoy being centre-stage, being appreciated and being celebrated. The fixed signs – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius – are all about staying power, hanging in there.
Now, like a second-hand pair of forceps, it's been a while since I attracted much interest on Gumtree. But, just say I, a Sagittarius, was looking to move on to pastures new, who would be my ideal fieldmates? ‘If you're looking for challenge, excitement and the magnetic attraction of opposites then analytical Gemini,' says Fiona. ‘If you're looking for a similar energetic approach to life then either Aries or Leo. If you want to be brought down to earth a bit and have stability around you, then go for the earth signs, especially Virgo.'
The good news is that's a solid third of the zodiac at my disposal. The bad news (for you guys) is that I am already living with the sort of dream woman who accidentally orders 24 rolls of toilet paper from Ocado on her first day back from the Edinburgh Festival. In other words, I'm taken.
But, hey, next time I'm staring down the barrel of an unpayable electricity bill, maybe I'll give old synastry a try. After all, it can't be any worse than Craigslist.
Ask An Adult: Are Horoscopes Really A Load Of Old B***cks? by Clare Thorp for The Debrief - interview with Fiona
The world is loosely divided into two groups of people. Those who say things like ‘You're a Scorpio, right? I knew it' and then those who hear this and tell them to f*ck off.
Horoscopes are divisive things – read devoutly by some, ridiculed by others. Even if we don't buy into them, most of us sneak a peak once in a while.
But as fun as it is to have Mystic Meg or whoever tell you that yes you will definitely meet a tall, dark stranger - outside a green door with the number 12 on it next Thursday, in fact - how much, if any, science is behind it all?
Astrology works on the idea that the sun, moon, planets and constellations have influence over events on earth. Astrologers use a set of rules about the positions and movements of the planets to make predictions.
So it's not just someone sat at a desk making some stuff up then? Absolutely not, says astrologer Fiona Graham .
'Astrology has been developed over thousands of years and up until about the late 1600 it was taken very seriously,' she explains. 'The top scientists, thinkers and philosophers all studied it. Sir Isaac Newton took astrology very seriously. It's only post enlightenment and the age of reason that it fell into a state of decline.
'A lot of people just dismiss it as a load of old crap,' she adds. 'But I spent years studying it. It's only if you study it you realise just how detailed it is. I had to learn all about astronomy – because it's all based on what the planets are doing. I had to learn the whole theory of it and the history of it.'
But how can say, all people born under the sign of Leo, expect to experience the same thing? 'You're right to say, how can 1 in 12 people be the same,' says Fiona, explaining that the horoscopes we read in newspapers and magazines are based on a very basic form of astrology.
'If I'm working with an individual I will be looking at a very detailed chart for a specific moment in time, and I will be looking at all the positions of planets, and the moon, their relationships with each other.
'When it comes to doing daily or weekly horoscopes things do become very much more generalised. It's still based in the astrological science, but it's a very simplified version of it, using as tiny amount of the tools available.'
So we might not meet the love of our life outside a green door with the number 10 on after all? 'When it gets that specific – I'm not saying it's a lie, or its made up – but it's a very imaginative interpretation of what's there,' says Fiona. 'So don't rule your life by it.'
Psychologist Dr Max Blumberg thinks we should take all horoscopes with a hefty pinch of salt.
'Research wise there's no evidence that horoscopes tell you either what is going to happen to you in the future,' he says. 'Nor does it predict any kind of personality characteristics.'
He thinks horoscopes make it easy for us to find meaning in them. 'There's something called The Barnum Effect. Barnum was a guy who used to run a circus in America and he used to have psychics there. His psychic would say something like: ‘you're quite extroverted on the outside and introverted on the inside.'
'Horoscopes are all written with that Barnum effect. Everything has got a double meaning so that they can't be wrong. You can always find something there that applies to you. It's more about clever writing that hooks people in.'
And boy does it hook people in. American astrologer Suzanne Miller – the Beyonce of the horoscope world – gets 6.5m people a month reading her online predictions. So what's the appeal?
'We want answers about what's going to happen in our lives and what is going to happen next and people turn to amazing sources to find that kind of information,' says Max. 'They'll turn to psychics, they'll turn to astrology.
'People who are not particularly empowered, people with low self-esteem, are more likely to grasp at what we would call non-evidence based information, like horoscopes or psychics, than people who feel like they've got quite a good handle on the world.'
It's not just daily horoscopes people buy into, either. Ever noticed how, about three times a year, people start muttering about Mercury in Retrograde and blaming it for everything that goes wrong? But what the hell does it actually mean?
'All of the planets have the impact and each represent a particular archetype of energy,' explains Fiona. 'For example Venus is about art and love, Mars is about drive and will, Mercury is about lines of communication and travel.
'Mercury shifts through the zodiac faster than any other planet. When it is in retrograde it slows down and gives the illusion moving backwards through the solar system. During this time there tends to be more delays, as well as the possibility of miscommunication and misunderstanding.'