“If there’s been a crisis somewhere, I don’t know anything about it.”
Natal astrology, also known as genethliacal astrology, is a practice based on the tedious idea that you need to calculate the positions of the stars at the time of a person’s birth in order to understand their personality and future path in life, instead of the usual way of doing this, which is just watching the person and seeing what happens. Natal astrology is one of the four main branches of horoscopic astrology, along with mundane astrology, also known as political astrology; electional astrology, also known as event astrology; and horary astrology, which doesn’t have another name, because how are you gonna compete with horary.
The first thing that you need, if you’re planning to commit natal astrology, is to determine the exact time, date and location of your victim’s birth. People don’t usually know the exact time of their birth, because the birth process takes hours, so it’s hard to nail it down to the minute. They usually say it was around four in the afternoon. This is helpful, because it allows you to click your tongue and say, oh dear, that makes things a little more difficult, and then you can jack up the price.
Once that’s done, the astrologer builds a birth chart, showing the exact position of the sun, the moon, the planets, the ascendant, the descendant, the midheaven, the lower midheaven, the conjunction, the sextile, the semi-sextile, the square, the trine, the opposition and the contraparallel declination. Then things get a little complicated.
The next step is chart weighting, which involves classifying the predominant signs as masculine (fire and air signs) or feminine (earth and water signs), as well as their quality (cardinal, fixed or mutable). Then you create the chart signature, based on which element and quality has the most signs, and combining them to calculate the signature. If there isn’t a clear signature, then the position of the ruling planet of the sun can cast a deciding vote. This is perfectly normal, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Once you’ve done that, you move on to chart shaping, which involves examining the placement of the planets, and determining the aspect patterns between them. The main aspect patterns are the Stellium, the Grand Trine, the Grand Cross, the T-Square and the Yod, which is two quincunxes joined by a sextile, which indicates restlessness and irritability, especially if you’ve been talking to an astrologer for a while.
You have to make up a lot of words when you do astrology, because it encourages people to stop asking questions and hand you money. The best way to keep people from inquiring any further is to use the word genethliacal, which I looked up in a dictionary and it doesn’t mean anything.
We join Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, wealthy matron and patroness of the arts, as she leafs through page after page of nonsense scribbles. Her cousin Barnabas recently traveled twenty-five years into the future, and came back convinced that the whole house was destined to go kablooey sometime between now and the end of the year. Spooked, Elizabeth decided to double up on soothsayers, and hired a professional astrologer named Sebastian to divine what Barnabas was already telling her for free. Financial irresponsibility like that is exactly the kind of thing that makes houses fall down.
“I still don’t know who’s right about the future,” Liz confides, “Barnabas or Sebastian.”
Her daughter Carolyn chuckles. “I thought you were convinced that Sebastian was.”
“He has been up to now; the horoscope has been amazingly accurate.”
“What does he say about today?”
“That it will pass without incident,” says Liz, so this is obviously hot stuff, because how could Sebastian have predicted something like that?
But then, out of nowhere: an incident develops. Carolyn wants her future told too, and she’s hoping Sebastian will be a part of it. By some twist of fate, Sebastian looks exactly like Carolyn’s late husband Jeb, except he’s alive and he’s not a psychotic tentacle monster who killed her dad. On the other hand, he’s an astrologer, so it’s kind of a lateral move.
So Carolyn’s all excited, figuring that obviously the man that she loved and lost has been magically resurrected for reasons unknown and turned into a star hustler, and she needs to look further into this phenomenon.
Liz looks askance. “In the first place, you heard him tell you that he wasn’t Jeb. In the second place, if he is Jeb, why wouldn’t he admit it to you?”
“Because he may not know that himself,” Carolyn insists.
Liz says, “What on earth does that mean?” but honestly, it’s not that wild of an idea. This has happened to at least two people that Carolyn knows personally, and it’ll probably keep happening for as long as the show that she’s on continues to kill all the secondary characters every three to four months. You can’t keep recasting people and expect the characters to keep up with which resemblances they’re supposed to notice, and which ones they’re not.
But Liz shuts down the discussion, and tells Carolyn to forget about Jeb’s return. She’s the one who’s allowed to indulge in irrational magical thinking, thank you very much.
But history repeats, and so does Dark Shadows these days, with alarming regularity. We cut away from Liz and Carolyn to another three scenes of David and Hallie having the same argument in the playroom, the playroom and David’s room, in that order, and then it’s back downstairs for another news bulletin from T-Square and the Yod on the KLNS morning show.
It’s the start of a new day, and Liz is still studying the horoscope like she’s got a major exam coming up.
“What’s in store for us today?” Carolyn asks.
Her mother replies, “According to Sebastian, it’s going to be uneventful,” so that must be one humdinger of a horoscope. Apparently, the forecast every day is that nothing much is going to happen, which is astoundingly accurate. You will spend all day shuffling through pages of your horoscope, it says. You cannot escape.
So, I don’t know. Is anyone else worried about a soap opera that keeps telling everyone to relax, because nothing is happening?
But Carolyn’s determined to make some headway on the lookalike angle, so she drops by Sebastian’s place for another handful of astrologer talk.
Sebastian: Mind if I ask you, why do you want to get your horoscope done?
Carolyn: Must one have a specific reason?
Sebastian: Well, people are usually motivated by more than just a whim.
Carolyn: Oh, this is not just a whim. Like everyone else at Collinwood, I’m interested in the future.
Sebastian: I wonder if you really know the exact nature of my work?
Carolyn: What do you mean?
Sebastian: I’m not a prophet. I’m just a simple astrologer. I cannot shape the future as you would want it to be.
Carolyn: I’m not asking you to do that.
Yeah, obviously. What are you talking about? Do you always lecture people who try to give you money? I swear, every time Sebastian explains what he does for a living, I know less about it.
But Carolyn isn’t really sweating the specifics on this; she has other priorities. She asks where Sebastian’s from, and he says New York City, which is plausible enough. But when she asks why he came to Collinsport, he says, “No special reason. It borders the sea. I’ve always loved the sea.”
Carolyn says, “So have I,” although the one thing we know about Jeb and the sea is that he fell off a cliff and drowned in it, so I’m not sure that’s much of a clue.
But I have to admit that it’s cute, seeing Carolyn and a Chris Pennock character being flirty, and it’s frustrating that she has to start all over again, and that the guy he’s playing is such a stiff. As we’ve discussed before, Carolyn is one of the show’s great underutilized resources, and if this was any other daytime soap opera, her love life would be A-story material. So tossing away Jeb immediately after her honeymoon was a waste, just a shorthand way to say that the Leviathan threat was over, without giving her character any future storyline possibilities.
So I will agree, against all of my usual principles, to ship Carolyn and this ridiculous card sharp. If the show wants to give her a love-transcending-death romance, then I’m in, let’s do it. But we’re going to need Liz’s horoscope to up its game, and stop telling people that nothing is going on. It can’t all happen on our end; they need to participate too.
Monday: Born to Rock.
All of the astrology words that I used at the beginning of this post are real, and there’s dozens more: angular, succedent and cadent houses, sidereal and tropical astrology, the twelve sector division of the ecliptic, axial precession, the quadruplicities, dignity and detriment, exaltation and fall, decanates, accidental debility, antiscia, dodecatemoria, draconic months, mutual reception, and the tzolkinex (an eclipse cycle equal to a period of two saros minus one inex). I made none of those up.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Liz has an odd pause in the middle of saying, “Your reasons for wanting to see — Sebastian are quite different.”
On the phone, Carolyn says, “I’d like to speak with Sebastian Shaw, please.” Who’s answering Sebastian’s phone?
Sebastian tells Carolyn, “If we’re going to do some work, I suggest we — I ask you a few questions.”
Monday: Born to Rock.
— Danny Horn