‘Nobody saw this coming.’
It’s a phrase we might all have paraphrased in some way recently, discussing the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic with friends and family.
As governments all over the place failed to acknowledge the severity of the crisis and react quickly enough to contain it, health workers were overrun and small businesses went bankrupt, most of us have felt blindsided.
Days before the UK went into nationwide lockdown on March 23, many of us were continuing to book summer holidays, making final adjustments to weddings, organising birthday drinks with friends and booking salon appointments. Little did we know that for nine weeks and counting, the UK would be struck by mounting Covid-19 related deaths, enforced social distancing, border closures and financial disarray. Who could have predicted that insecurity and ambiguity would become omnipresent in 2020?
Well, there are two people who might have had an inkling.
‘Astrologically we saw this was going to be a bad year,’ astrologer Sherene Vismaya Schostak tells ELLE UK. ‘We knew that there would be a dismantling of the old structures and that patriarchal values were going to shift.’
If anyone knows how to forecast the future, it’s Sherene Vismaya Schostak and Stefanie Irin Weiss.
Written in the stars
The duo - who are widely known as ELLE UK’s resident astrologers The Saturn Sisters - hold Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalytic Studies and English Education, respectively, as well as certifications in meditation. Friends for over 10 years, the Sisters have written several self-help books and their horoscopes generate around 3,600 unique users a day for millennials wanting a deeper understanding of their astrological path.
While many us will be able to name the 12 of the zodiac signs and have, on occasion, blamed certain personality traits on the month in which we were born, the Saturn Sisters understand horoscopes on a deeper, mathematical level, by using something called 'the ephemeris.'
‘It’s an astrological guide which is what an astronomer would look at to find out exactly where the planets are at any given moment,’ explains Stefanie. The ephemeris also helps them understand where the sun and the moon (the luminaries) are and how the planets interact depending on their proximity to each other. ‘We look at the dance between the planets and that’s how we make our predictions,’ she continues.
If you asked us, if 2020 were a dance, it’d be the Macarena come 3am on the dancefloor of a Wetherspoons, followed by a few too many Strawberry Woo Woos and a trip to A&E.
In the UK today, with vulnerable people at home, schools closed, businesses shuttered and summer holidays cancelled, you'd be forgiven for thinking that all our horoscopes might read 'pending' until further notice.
While we remain in this state of limbo, however, the Saturn Sisters argue that horoscopes are 'more important than ever,’ says Sherene.
‘People want some sort of anchor and astrology is the biggest cycle we have no control over. With horoscopes, you feel like you can at least find a place to rest even if everything is unpredictable outside.’
Stefanie agrees, noting that they can help you understand how you might be feeling, what you might experience and how you might be able to cope with 'sextil transits', or rather, changes coming your way. ‘Horoscopes remind us that we’re all together in the cosmos, that there is rhyme and reason to all of this. We’re all spinning in our own personal orbits just like the planets are spinning,’ she notes.
So, how did they know that 2020 was going to be such a bad year?
A year of change
The Sisters say that astrologers predicted that 2020 would be transformational because of the Saturn Pluto conjunction, which began at the beginning of January.
‘Saturn and Pluto are the two most powerful powers of all,’ explains Stefanie. ‘Pluto’s energy is death, loss and transformation while Saturn’s is constriction, blocks and boundaries. We knew for years in advance that this would be major.’
In addition, they say that there was an eclipse in December over Saturn and Pluto, which also signalled that change was coming. ‘The December eclipse was quite something and it portended what was going to come in the next six months,' notes Sherene. 'We could feel a crumbling of the whole world happening. What I didn’t expect was it for it to be this dramatic and that overnight we’d be stuck in our houses.’
Knowing that imminent change was afoot isn’t the only thing the Sisters have had to adapt to in recent months.
Since January, San-Francisco based Sherene has been staying in Kerala, India at an ashram, while Stefanie has since left New York to isolate with her parents in Miami, Florida. Managing an almost 10 hours’ time difference via late night and early morning Whatsapp, Facebook email conversations, they continue to write the daily horoscopes in turns, fortnightly.
However, when news of lockdowns across the world came to light, the pair were immediately forced to change their tone to reflect the current crisis.
‘We can’t obviously say “It’s a great day so start planning your next trip” like we used to,’ Sherene explains, adding ‘so we’re focussing our language to reflect the current situation. It's time to be building up a lot of courage, internal strength and fearlessness. We’re having to write horoscopes within the confines of this new reality, for introverts rather than extroverts’.
Stefanie adds: ‘The words "social distancing" and "home" have increasingly come to the forefront and have new meanings now. We’re mindful that it will likely be this way for quite some time even as lockdown continues to ease. The sentiment of horoscopes remain the same even if the language has changed.’
Contrary to the myth that the pandemic is a ‘great leveller’ (as perfectly debunked by Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis in April), the Sisters say that it’s important to acknowledge that some individuals will be suffering intensified psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, and that the crisis will affect people on varying scales. However, it’s equally crucial to emphasise the positive aspects that have come from the crisis.
‘It’s about being uplifting and honest but not misleading, suggesting that everything is going to be a rose garden immediately. I’m not going to lie to people,’ admits Stefanie.
‘Even if there is a difficult transit, like the one we’re all currently experiencing, we want people to understand that meeting the challenge will bring something good. Any painful experience you go through shifts something in you that you can use going forward.’
Do they see hope on the horizon?
Much like their prediction of 2020’s struggles, the Sisters also have an idea of what to expect over the coming months and when the pandemic might end.
According to the ephemeris, another full moon eclipse in Sagittarius will occur on June 5.
‘I don’t know how we’re going to make it sound positive because it’s not a good eclipse – it’s got a lot of volatile aspects,’ warns Sherene. ‘We didn’t see the full effect of December’s eclipse until February so we probably won't see this one's until August. I’m worried about people not being careful as lockdown measures relax.’
Stefanie adds that Sagittarius is also the sign of faiths, politics and belief systems, so she expects there to be a ‘culmination of shifts that have been taken been taking place in the last six months’.
‘I think we’ll be closing out on a lot of the chaos and uncertainty we’ve had over the last six months and have an opportunity to assess it let go to a lot of the fear with a new sense of wisdom and knowledge,’ she says.
As for the pandemic’s end, they warn us not to expect seismic change until December, as Saturn heads back into Aquarius.
‘For better or worse, we'll be in a two steps forward, two steps back situation over the next few months because of Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto and Neptune soon going into retrograde,' she says. 'I envisage a lot of opening and closing of countries to continue for some time. That said, being an astrologer, I feel blessed knowing that the pandemic isn’t interminable.’
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