How An Astrologer Writes Horoscopes—And Other Burning Questions About Star Signs

Our astrology columnist Jessica Lanyadoo explains how she found her calling, why horoscopes are so popular with millennial women and why she doesn’t do astrology readings for herself.

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How An Astrologer Writes Horoscopes — astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo in glasses and earrings
Photo, Courtesy Jessica Lanyadoo

Jessica Lanyadoo grew up in Montreal and in the mid-’90s relocated to California, where she works as a professional astrologist and psychic medium. She started writing horoscopes for Chatelaine in 2016. Here, she answers all our questions about a life in the stars.

When did you decide you wanted to write horoscopes for a living?

What Do The Stars Have In Store? Read Our Weekly And Monthly HoroscopesWhat Do The Stars Have In Store? Read Our Weekly And Monthly Horoscopes

I went to a CEGEP in Montreal called Dawson College. There was an alternative branch called the New School where they offered astrology. I took a beginners class in 1991 and I was hooked. The next semester I took a medium class—as in, communicating with spirits. After that I figured I’d better move to California—at the time it was the only place in the world where I could imagine making a living doing what I wanted to do.

I’m surprised there was an astrology program at a publicly funded school.

Well, it was an alternative school, so it was extremely progressive. It was literally in an attic. We had facilitators instead of teachers, and we sat in circles.

Chatelaine readers love your horoscopes. Can you take us behind the curtain a little bit in terms of how they come together?

When I’m sitting down to write the weekly horoscope, my main resource is a book called The American Ephemeris for the 21st  Century, which has pages and pages of symbols and numbers. I look at where all the planets are in the particular time frame. Each planet is charted by degree, so I’m looking at the mathematical relationships between planets and then interpreting that information for each sign.

Are you looking for information about relationships? Money?

I don’t go in asking, say, “Will Capricorn find love?” Instead I’m looking for the salient theme. Astrology is not a belief system—it’s a tool for understanding. It’s kind of like sailing—you want to let the sail catch the wind, and that takes a combination of synchronicity, luck and intuition. For horoscopes, my primary goal is to help people have whole lives and to be happier. Sometimes talking about love is useful, but sometimes it’s not relevant. I’m looking for themes that can be applied to various aspects of life. Right now I’m working on Sagittarius for this coming week and the theme there is about stepping into ownership of the changes already made. That can apply to your love life, your career, your family…

I noticed your Instagram profile has a crystal ball emoji. Do you use one?

I don’t use crystal balls but I love crystals—I have a really nice collection. But in the way some people tell fortunes with crystal balls, I don’t think they’re something that really works.

Okay, so you can’t see the future in a ball, but can you see the future? Are you clairvoyant?

One of the challenges with my industry is that people don’t necessarily have a great understanding of terminology. I don’t identify as clairvoyant, which is French for “gift of sight.” I do consider myself psychic, but the problem is that people think that means you can read minds and know all things.

So, just to clarify—you can’t tell me what day to buy a lottery ticket?

Right. I have intuitive ability. People’s lives are way more complicated then having a beginning, middle and end. So with questions like “Am I going to move to Florida,” “Am I ever going to fall in love?,” that’s not how it works. I used to get the lottery question a lot. Less now.

Astrology is especially popular with millennial women. Why do you think that is?

A lot of younger women feel failed by religion. They were also raised with the expectation that they deserved more. People are always going to be spiritual and I think astrology can provide this individual connection with the divine. It validates you as an individual rather than just a gender or sexuality or a race.

Is astrology something you are born being good at?

Astrology is 100 percent a learned skill. Nobody is born knowing it and it takes years to study the symbols, the math—like any math or science. In terms of psychic or intuitive ability, I can definitely look back on my childhood and see that it was always there.

What did that look like?

It’s not as glamorous as you might think. I was sick for my entire childhood and I’ve come to learn that a big way that I get information about other people is through my body. As I’ve come to understand that, my health has improved. Now, if my knee hurts I can turn to my friend during dinner and say, what’s going on with your knee?

The best way I can put it is, I am like black velvet and other people’s pain is like cat fur—it just sticks to me. As my awareness of my permeability developed I also developed healthy boundaries. A lot of times, when I’m experiencing emotional or physical distress, it’s actually not me, I’m picking up on somebody else’s feelings. When I can make sense of that information I can release it.

Do you ever act as your own psychic?

I don’t read for myself or my loved ones. I don’t for the same reason that surgeons don’t operate on their partners. When you can’t have a meaningful level of professional objectivity, it’s not appropriate to read for someone. I’ve been with my partner for seven and a half years now, and I don’t think I even looked at his birth chart for the first couple of years we were dating.

You weren’t even tempted?

I think the key to healthy relationships is taking responsibility for yourself. In that sense astrology can be a distraction.

But what about all of this stuff around Scorpios can’t date Libras and so on?

Obsessing on a crush’s sign isn’t going to help you be happy.

Jessica Lanyadoo is hosting “A Night With Jessica Lanyadoo: Astrology to Heal Self and Society,” on April 27, 2019, in Montreal and via livestream. More information at www.lovelanyadoo.com/events