The way Astrology Zone's Susan Miller reads astrology charts isn't going to fit in your average weekly paper. Her online column, which Miller opened 14 years ago and which appeared on sites owned by Time Warner and Disney before she struck out on her own, is bigger—her columns run upwards of 24,000, or even 32,000, words!—and it's for everyone, all ages and genders. And people of all ages and genders take her up on it. Speaking with Miller, it's clear she's not just a medium for some astrological destiny; she channels solar and lunar hints through tireless references to pop culture, her mom, her editors, and her daughters. She's a strong proponent of making your own destiny. And it's that fine balance between cognition and agency that has inspired five books, including Planets and Possibilities (Warner Books, which was translated into Spanish and recently into Hungarian.) It goes without saying that Miller's got a certain fighting spirit—which may not have been predestined but certainly makes her a cosmic force: In her spare time, she's written regular monthly columns in six national magazines. But if the columns are many, and long, they're also unforgettable, addictive, and dead on. She's talked about you for years in her columns and in appointments—here she tells us about herself, including the astrological signals that set her own life into motion.
ALEX GARTENFELD: This is my first reading. How do we begin?
SUSAN MILLER: First I need to say that astrology can reveal your talents and opportunities and it can also show you areas where you may face obstacles, but in the end the outcome will be up to you. It is important to know that astrology is not fortunetelling: Never underestimate the power of your personality and your determination.
AG: What I do know is that I'm a Sagittarius.
SM: Yes, Alex, and Sagittarius is known to enjoy dealing in the world of ideas and concepts. Your sign is associated with publishing and broadcasting, so you are ideally suited to be working at Interview.
Signs opposite one another on the wheel are connected. Your opposite sign is six months away from Sagittarius, and that is Gemini. Like Sagittarius, Gemini loves to collect news and information, and like Sagittarius, is very concerned with ascertaining accuracy. Actually, Gemini loves information so much that Gemini will often give others information as if it were a gift. If you have a Gemini friend you already know this—they call and say, "Guess what I just heard?" It falls to Sagittarius to take that information collected by Gemini and try to make sense of it, from a philosophical point of view. Sagittarius is said to hold the keys to the world's libraries.
AG: How did you become start publishing your forecasts? Was it part of your chart?
SM: For years I worked as a successful agent for commercial photographers. I was working on an important Cheerios campaign with Scot Carouge, a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi. To thank him for the business, I gave Scot a horoscope reading. He suggested I meet his wife, Jackie Meyer, at Warner Books. As things turned out, Jackie and I forged quite a strong friendship. We are still friends to this day, and she designs the calendars I write and sell on my website. Jackie thought I should write for Time Warner in some capacity. Six years later she offered me the chance to write a small book that was published in 1994 by Warner Books.
AG: So how did you make the move to the web?
SM: In 1995, prior to AOL days, Time Warner's website was called Pathfinder. Jackie heard that management was open to having a horoscope on the site. I still recall the date of that meeting, July 15, 1995. In mid-1995, there was a small band of people in covered wagons heading on to the Internet... At that meeting they wanted "a little column." I was disappointed. I had mapped out a very big astrology portal to appear on their site, and that plan was to be the birth of Astrology Zone. At the first they resisted my plan. I responded passionately: "We are Time Warner! We must think big!"
They said, "We don't have money for a big portal." I leaned forward and answered, "Let not that stop us! Who cares? It's not always about the money!" They loved my enthusiasm and they asked if I would write every day. I told them no, I would write a large column once a month. I anticipated I'd write 17,000 words a month and they thought I would never be able to keep up. (Today, nearly 14 years later, I turn out 24,000–30,000 words a month.) They asked if the column would be directed to women, but I said no, it would be for men and women. They said that a long column flew in the face of all web wisdom—on the web, articles must be short. But I knew it would be popular for good reason—you won't be able to get what I planned to write, not in any media, anywhere in the world.
AG: Was there something in your chart that indicated to you that this was what you should be doing?
SM: When I was ten years old I had asked my mother what I would be when I grew up. She said, "You have Gemini rising, so at first you will write." At the time, essay writing was not my favorite activity. She went on to say, "Susie, you have Aquarius in mid-heaven. This indicates that a newly invented form of communication—so new we don't now know the name of it yet—will be the channel in which you make your ultimate contribution to the world." I was ten!
AG: Did you think it would be TV, or radio?
SM: My mother thought I would appear on TV (and I do—I have my own on-demand show on Comcast nationwide). But I was a shy child. She still felt there was something else. Of course, it was the Internet! My mother was right: When Time Warner came calling in 1995, I knew this was what my mother had predicted. That is why I fought their idea of a small column. I would never change the world in 1,000 words a month!
When the three men met with me at the table, they asked why I would consider writing such a long column for such a small fee, I leaned forward to tell them what my mother had predicted for me. Then I exclaimed, "Don't you understand? This is my destiny!" They were dumbstruck. They finally said, "OK, well then, we'll let you anything you want to do"—so long as the editor, a woman named Anne, agreed. She let my destiny move forward.
AG: So then how did your mother get involved with astrology to begin with?
SM: My mother was leaving her small hometown of Ellenville, New York, for New York City. Her sister, my aunt Harriet, asked my mother to do a project with her to feel connected despite the distance. My aunt suggested my mother study astrology with her. At first my mother was surprised. My aunt, who was older, said, "There's a lot to this subject. You should learn about it." My mother took up the subject to please my aunt, but was not a believer. In fact, my mom, who is still alive, tells me that she initially wanted to show my aunt that astrology didn't work. Here's an important point: No one goes into astrology as a believer. I certainly didn't.
AG: So your mother wanted to pass it on to you?
SM: Not at all. But I was born with a terrible birth defect in the left leg. The problem only asserted itself in sudden bouts that would last six to eight weeks at a time. My condition is so rare that no doctor could make a diagnosis. Doctors would never come to my house to see me during an attack, so by time I got to them, I was well again and could see nothing. They accused me of making the whole thing up. My mother believed me, of course.
AG: So you used astrology to figure out the problem?
SM: Astrology showed my mother that when I reached 14 the condition would be solved. When I was 13 and 11 months old when I experienced the biggest attack of my life. I had an exploratory operation that was harrowing—my doctor found a hamartoma (not a more common hematoma) that caused massive, life-threatening internal bleeding.
AG: What happened when you were 14 and had the operation?
SM: I couldn't go to high school because I had to begin a long physical therapy process. During the main surgery, the doctors had to compress the lower part of my left leg and it left me paralyzed from the knee down, with a drop foot. My doctor, who is genius, knew he could restore the leg. To do this, I would have to be home schooled because I would have to come to the hospital's physical therapy department every day, from Monday to Friday for six hours a day, for three years. It all worked out—the therapy worked and yes, I wear high heels.
AG: So it was the experience of your illness that brought you to astrology?
SM: My mother kept saying no she would not teach me astrology because she felt, "A little knowledge is dangerous." 12 years is the minimum before reading anyone's chart, even that of a close friend. She feared I would not stay the course for such a long time—I was only 15 by then. But being that I lived home, there was no danger of me reading anyone's chart. I said would study with her 12 years—and I did. My mother was careful not only to teach me astrology, but also philosophy, theology and religion. She is a Gemini, the sign that values communication, so she also included a lot of tutoring on the importance of communicating clearly.
AG: You have so many charts with you. What do they signify?
SM: The top chart is your natal chart. That's the most important one, and it will never change. It is set up to the day, month, year, time of your birth and city of birth. All charts are converted to Greenwich Mean Time so that GMT becomes the common denominator for every horoscope chart. It is as if everyone who has their chart done is born on the same earthly location. Astrologers correct for time zones and geography so that the distance between the place of birth and the planets above is the same.
The second one is your "progressed" chart. Astrologers move each planet in your natal chart ahead at a number of degrees, depending on the precise orbit of the planet and the years you have been alive. For example, we progress the sun one degree for every year you've been alive, so if you are 29, we move it head 29 degrees. The moon moves faster, so it would be progressed approximately 1.5 degrees per month. Some person's moons are fast moving and others are slow moving.
AG: So what is my progressed sign?
SM: In your case, your ascendant (also called "the rising sign" and it's as important as the sun sign) has progressed from your natal Taurus to Gemini. This shows a strong emphasis on writing, editing, and publishing at this phase in your life. This will remain in place until 2030, when your new professed rising sign of Cancer will present a very different trend.
AG: But what about other people—or romance?
You currently have progressed Uranus conjunct the Sun in your natal seventh house of partners and serious relationships, covering both personal and professional alliances. That indicates that you align with highly creative and even idiosyncratic types now and in coming years. Uranus can sometimes have a very disruptive influence in your progressed seventh house of partnership—it is a planet known for its unpredictable nature. Fortunately, you also have Saturn in the same area of your progressed chart, lending structure and stability. Your progressed chart is remarkable in that the Sun, Uranus, Saturn and Mercury are grouped together closely, on the head of a pin, so to speak, in this partnership house. You want the people around you to be creative, but you also will want them to be responsible and reliable too.
Elsewhere in your chart, Mars is conjunct Jupiter in Pisces, giving your chart a breezy, upbeat influence from friends as well. You obviously move in very artistic circles, as you are drawn to others who are highly imaginative in every respect. In that sense your chart is very clear and singularly directed.
AG: What's the difference between a progressed chart and a regular natal chart reading?
SM: The natal chart shows the precise pattern the planets formed in the sky as you were born. It is your blueprint for life and reveals all your talents and proclivities; it also gives me a way to give you the proper timing of future events and initiations.
AG: But do I have the same horoscope as other people?
SM: No one had your same chart in the age of Cleopatra, nor will in the year 3050! With 8 planets, the Sun and moon moving at different speeds, no one will ever have a copy of your chart. Even twins don't have the same chart.
AG: Are the charts important for different reasons?
SM: Nothing will ever take the place of a natal chart. I love spending a lot of time on the natal chart, because it reveals so much information. It takes me several readings to see every tiny detail in a natal chart.
The progressed chart is valuable for checking to see where the emphasis will lie in the coming months. I always check to see where the progressed moon happens to be, for the moon moves very quickly but gives a great deal of information about where you will get emotional satisfaction, among other things. Your progressed moon is in Taurus, the same sign as your rising sign, so this tells me that you are about to start a new 28-year lunar cycle of enormous importance. You will soon open a new path, and it will be one precisely right for you. I always have to check to see if any progressed planets have started to retrograde or turn direct, if the house cups have moved into new signs, or if any planet, sun or moon as recently moved into a new sign. It's hard to describe in a nutshell.
AG: I still don't really understand.
SM: Pretend you are standing on the top floor of a six-story building and all the floors are made of glass. You look down and each floor is your horoscope. This is what I have to do: first, I integrate your natal chart on the first floor with the current transits of the 8 planets, Sun and Moon on the second floor. Then I overlay that with the progressed chart on the third floor and factor in the solar chart on the fourth floor. On the fifth floor I add the coming influence of the year's eclipses, and then on the sixth floor, calculate the angles of the transiting planets not only to your natal planets but also to each in the sky in any given time. You can imagine how complicated the math becomes, and no computer can do this as well as the human brain. It is important not to take on too much in the beginning. You don't get to progressed charts or solar return charts for years!
AG: What is a solar return?
SM: On the anniversary of your birth date we do a chart just for one day—your birthday of the current year. That is a solar return, or "a return of the Sun to the day you were born. " In effect,it's a snapshot of the year ahead. The three charts work together, but in the end, the natal chart is king.
One thing that is very important: always read for your rising sign as well as for your sun sign. They are of equal importance. If you only read for one, you will only have half the information. So, for example, when you go to Astrology Zone, or one of my columns in magazines, you must read for Sagittarius and Taurus. Do not read for your moon sign—that's your emotional state, and you know your emotional state.
AG: What do all the rest of the pages of charts mean?
SM: These are print out charts for next year. All of the pages in your chart show you will work hard, but I don't see many problems for you, Alex! Little obstacles keep things interesting. This year, you should have a major career success to celebrate near August 5, when a friendly career eclipse will come by! You are going to be fine!