Under lockdown, I look to the stars – and online horoscopes – for escapism

Before I go to sleep, I visit a bright and shiny place where a proverbial hand is always on one’s shoulder, advice is given freely, and the best possible day is always just around the corner.

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Every evening, as the days under lockdown coalesce like a temporal blancmange, I find myself desperate for escapism. The furthest I have managed to get away is to the stars. Before I go to sleep, instead of scrolling through macabre statistics and news of economic collapse, I visit a bright and shiny place. In this online hideaway a proverbial hand is always placed just so on one’s shoulder, advice is given as freely as a daily coronavirus press briefing, and the best possible month, week, day, or year is always just around the corner.

I refer, of course, to horoscopes. I read them at the best of times, I’ll admit, but in the worst of times they are the ultimate salve. As I balance working from home with childcare and coming to terms with continuing lockdown, I have thoroughly enjoyed these soothing (and, many would argue, inaccurate) predictors of life. Whereas every inch of the internet feels like it is occupied with doom and gloom, astrologers are still showing up to put a silver lining on the cloud of our dystopian reality.

The AstroTwins, actual twins with more than 60,000 Twitter followers and a regular gig at Elle magazine, write like they get out of the right side of bed every morning. In one daily prediction, they advised me (a Pisces, since you ask): “Feeling confused about the next logical step to take? You may be lacking clear direction about how to actualise your dreams, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on them. Today’s trine between the moon and your cosmic co-ruler Neptune will put wind in your creative sails.”

I do lack clear direction, in general, and not just because the entire world is collapsing in chaos around me. The AstroTwins are positive and reassuring, like a best friend from an American romcom — “You’ve tapped into something great here, so no second-guessing yourself.” But on their tastefully designed website, with touches of salmon pink and black, they also balance their glass-half-full outlook with one finger placed on the beating pulse of the wrist of reality. “Under quarantine?” they asked in my long-awaited April horoscope. “While your nomadic sign might be feeling a bit TOO stable from being sequestered, this three-week period puts you in touch with your values and priorities. What truly matters to you, Pisces? Focus on that and forget the rest.”

What does truly matter to me? Between the global crisis and the childcare it’s hard to tell, but I appreciate the reminder.

Another place I regularly visit is Cainer.com, where Oscar Cainer, nephew of the late Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer, continues in his uncle’s footsteps. The weekly “overview” and “love” horoscopes, published over the weekend, are a welcome marker that the week has indeed ended. In two succinct paragraphs, Cainer illuminates with comforting over-generalisations and off-key imagery. “Some people love overcomplicating things,” he said on 4 April. Tell me about it. “This week's powerful cosmic climate is offering you a chance to cut through someone's carefully constructed psychological barriers. With a pair of metaphorical scissors, you can clear the way towards your very promising future.” Who knew scissors could be metaphorical?

Like the AstroTwins, Cainer is reaching out a hand to help readers understand this difficult time, too.  His “Astrologers Guide to Self-Isolation” reassures me that “since no one can limit the Piscean ability to create interesting inner worlds; you can deal with self-isolation because you have a passport that frees you to travel anywhere in your mind”. Reading it, I was flattered into enjoying being home 24/7 just that little bit more. “How do you confine someone who lives in the world of dreams?” A global pandemic might just do the trick.

The Balvenie in my astrological liquor cabinet, however, is Susan Miller. “Possibly the most famous astrologer in the world”, her 425,000 Twitter followers hang on her every word. Where Cainer tends to bizarre metaphor, Miller is earnest, empathetic and emotional. On Astrologyzone.com, her monthly horoscopes read like a letter from a caring relative. “Saturn moved into your twelfth house last month for several weeks,” Miller told Pisceans as April began. “You will use the time shuttered within at home extremely well with Saturn there… You may miss being with friends this year, but just remember — this too shall pass.”

Miller, like Cainer, has also turned her predictive skills to the virus itself. In “The 2020 Coronavirus Outlook,” she writes, “I looked back at the Spanish Influenza of 1918, which was severe, infecting more than one fourth of the world’s population. I almost fell of my chair to see that in that year, 1918, Pluto and Jupiter were also orbiting tightly together, just as they are now, in 2020.”

And according to Miller, “This is a very virulent virus that will take time to leave.” Plenty of opportunity, then, to sit back, get out your phone and start reading horoscopes. Lockdown might be here for a while, and you might just need some escapism.

Alona Ferber is Special Projects Editor at the New Statesman.

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