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The Feministing Five: Chani Nicholas

Chani Nicholas is the queer feminist astrologer of your dreams.

A student of the stars from a young age, Chani, who is based in Los Angeles, aims to make astrology practical, approachable, and useful. She largely shapes her philosophy around radical LGBTQ12S, POC, and feminist activism and thought, and offers discounted rates on her chart reading sessions for those doing social justice work.

Since the days when she was just emailing horoscopes to her friends, Chani’s horoscopes (updated weekly on her website) have grown wildly popular, earning her thousands of views and a devoted online following. A far cry from the “on Tuesday, romance will find you” horoscopes you might find in the back of a gossip rag, Chani’s horoscopes encourage readers to reject the status quo, find healing through the wisdom we have within ourselves, and think of collective liberation as well as individual progress. On her site, Chani also offers online classes on interpreting one’s astrological chart, which over 12,000 people have taken in the past year or so. Subjects range from exploring the year ahead for your sign to “Goddess Wisdom” to navigating eclipse season.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Chani for this week’s Feministing Five to talk about how she’s using astrology as a tool for social justice, how her various identities inform her practice, self care rituals, and more. Catch Chani on Twitter and sign up for her newsletter to receive weekly love notes in your inbox!

Senti Sojwal: I have a confession to make: I don’t really know very much about astrology. I always thought it was kind of fun, but have never totally taken it seriously. I read my recent horoscope on your site, and I was truly blown away by how closely it illustrated some of my personal questions and struggles of late. What is the process for you of writing horoscopes?

Chani Nicholas: I look at the astrology for the week ahead, and I think about what’s happened previously and what will unfold in the bigger picture. I’m looking at the micro and the macro for each sign, and I write the horoscope. The closest thing I can say it resembles is reading a map for somebody. Every astrologer translates this map with their specific style and voice. I’m just reading a language. Some people resonate with that language and can also read it, and others might say, I appreciate this but I can’t read it for myself, and still others may say, that’s not a language, you’re a liar, this isn’t real.

Senti Sojwal: You’ve spoken about your own journey into astrology, and about the skepticism you had about astrology as a deliberate or serious practice in your younger days. Can you talk about your growth intro astrology, and how your skepticism gave way to your realizing how you could use astrology as a significant way to help others?

Chani Nicholas: That’s a constant struggle of mine. I’m an astrologer and also a writer, and those two things have come together in a really wonderful way for me. I often feel the enclosure of being an astrologer. It is a profession that lives on the outskirts to some degree. Even though astrology is very popular, to be an astrologer doesn’t intersect with a lot of other professions. I often feel in a sense a little isolated from other professions. I can certainly move around my own astrological, magical, and spiritual circles, but astrology isn’t a field that’s very open to other possibilities all the time. I always struggle with the legitimacy of the work itself. I talk a lot about this with my friends and my wife. I think this is a struggle that’s a healthy one to be in with any profession. I think it’s in my nature to be constantly questioning, is this the best use of my time? Is this helpful to people? Is this the best use of my life’s energy, is this where I am most needed and useful? I think that questioning is what pushes me to always find and develop what I’m doing. I’m very grateful for all the kinds of feedback I get for my work. I know that my real job is to just show up and get to work everyday. My mind and my spirit are in need of that questioning and deconstruction. But I have deadlines, I have a schedule, I have horoscopes to write. My schedule keeps me on track — this is advice I give out all the time. Just get to work! You can question and you can criticize, but you get up everyday and do what you can and you see at the end of the day how that felt. I am in constant relationship to my work — no matter how I feel about it that day, I have to show up for the relationship.

Senti Sojwal: How does your identity as a queer feminist inform your astrology practice, and vice versa and how has that changed over time?

Chani Nicholas: My feminism and my queerness inform everything I do. I’m always thinking about what’s not being said or who isn’t being represented. How do you take something so general, like a horoscope, and apply it to people from all walks of life and situations and struggles? That’s my constant question. I remember being really young and reading astrology books and being so angry at the way water and earth signs were represented because they were so often gendered as female. The qualities of those signs were so boring. So lackluster in comparison to fire and air signs, which are gendered often as masculine. I was probably thirteen of fourteen. The folks that were writing about astrology then were mostly white, straight, middle-class people, mostly men. They weren’t being challenged by viewpoints that weren’t their own. So much of what was written is really problematic. Bless all the work and research that they did, but the framing of the information needs to be reworked and updated.

Senti Sojwal: In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, you said, “To apply a social justice lens to this ancient art can allow us the chance to truly see and to be seen. To be accurately seen by another, or by a system such as astrology, can be healing and transformative and that is what I am after.” Can you talk more about how astrology can be used as a tool for social justice, and how your thinking about that has been developing or responding to the many political tensions the queer, feminist, and social justice communities face today?

Chani Nicholas: I think what I’m always after is an honest reflection. My job as a human being and as an astrologer is to be questioning my own way of viewing the world and to wonder how I may not be witnessing something or need to learn more about another person’s point of view. The tool that I’m using can be a positive, reflective tool for people. In a way, astrology is neutral. You’re looking at patterns and possibilities, correlations. I’m looking for a correlation between the movements that interest me, and the patterns in the sky. It’s always important to me that I check my own bias. Right now, there’s a theme of rebellion, change and unpredictability occurring. It’s been around since 2011. A lot of us were thinking, this relates to social justice movements, to the Arab Spring, to Occupy, to Black Lives Matter, to people and collectives that rose up to push back against bigger systems and worked to deconstruct them. All of these have been such powerful testaments to collective movements for liberation. What’s also happening, however, is the radicalization of white supremacists. I wasn’t really thinking about that in 2011. I didn’t foresee that radicalization taking place, but now, looking back, it seems obvious. I’m not alone to say that it wasn’t shocking that 45 won the presidency. I was in shock for months after, but not shocked that it had happened. Him and his administration are borne out of a longstanding history of white supremacy and colonization in America. The way this is all being enacted, however, feels shocking and dramatic. Much like the astrological themes of the year. But the themes are also about accessing our creativity, our ingenuity and staying a step ahead of the clowns in charge. I’m banking on our ability to do the latter. My hope is that astrology can be a supportive tool for folks in all of this, a part of their self-care ritual, a way to check-in and remember to give themselves some love.

Senti Sojwal: Can you tell our readers a little bit about your own rituals for self-care, self-love, and inspiration?

Chani Nicholas: I think staying close to whatever makes me feel human is really important. The people that help me to soften and help me feel like I can exhale, breathe, and laugh, the people that give me love and have my best interests at heart, who are also dedicating their lives to important work in the world — those people are my self-care. It’s so important to me to be around people who are committing themselves to reducing harm, to sitting with their discomfort, to dismantling oppressive systems. That keeps me connected to a network of possibility. When I remember that all these people that I love are doing their little bits in the world it helps me to remember that I need to do what I can everyday and to keep doing so. Also it’s so important to rest a lot, to sleep, to be in nature. My wife is my biggest source of comfort, love and support. She’s really good at being strategic, and getting to work with what she can. She’s an expert at staying engaged but removing herself from the chaos, it’s very calming. We both do work that we are really passionate about, work that’s aligned with who we are individually. We try to create pockets in our life, in our work, and in our home where healing can happen. That’s what keeps me going. That’s my self-care.

NYC

Senti Sojwal is an India born, NYC bred writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer. She graduated with a BA from Hampshire College in Gender Studies & Politics, and has worked with NARAL, The Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program and its sister program PopDev, and has written on feminist issues for Mic, Bustle, and What NOW, the blog of the National Organization for Women's NYC chapter. She currently works at Sakhi for South Asian Women, an advocacy organization that supports immigrant survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence through an array of culturally competent services and programs. Senti loves 90s pop, a bold lip, and is always hunting for the perfectly spicy Bloody Mary. She lives in Brooklyn.

Senti Sojwal is a writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer based in Brooklyn, New York.

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