I’ve always been fascinated by astrology, and even more so the science surrounding it, so needless to say I was very excited to have the opportunity to interview Chani Nicholas; astrology queen, passionate advocate and overall rad human. Not your run-of-the-mill-crumpled-up-in-the-Sunday-morning-paper astrologer, Chani is bringing the ancient celestial art to the forefront of the modern age, utilising her various online platforms to speak out on important issues from political events to human rights abuses to intersectional feminism. We hung out with Chani in the lead up to her appearance at Mothership Festival to discuss climate change affecting modern witches, the role of affirmations in the process of healing and astrology’s impact on the queer community.
What does being a witch in this modern day and age mean to you?
To me, there’s no difference between the modern interpretation of a witch and one that has always been. Witches are people that rely on nature and the cycles of nature, and the ways in which nature appears to be communicating with us. One of the challenges to being a witch in the modern age might be that we have a little less contact with nature, and we have a little less knowledge of nature’s cycles. Also, we’re in a time where nature is changing, due to climate change, and so we’re asked to be in a relationship with and respond to something that’s also in a crisis. And we are in crisis with it, so as modern witches we have to find ways to hold our personal and collective anxiety about that and also imagine, discover and innovate ways of living in the present, and possibly the future.
What are your thoughts on star sign compatibility and how have they translated into your own life?
Astrology is a system within which we take into consideration the entire sky. So when I’m asked about signs what I’m being asked to do is boil down the entire sky to a tiny fragment of it, and to make more meaning than is possible out of that one thing. So while I understand the need to make things easily digestible and understandable, and the potency of that, I also want to stay away from simplistic understandings of human beings, who are incredibly complex. In my experience, and in most astrologers’ experiences, you’re looking at the compatibility of two entire charts, so there is some sign-to-sign compatibility truth but, for instance, me and my wife and not standard sign-to-sign compatible, but our charts are compatible and our entire beings are compatible. It’s really wonderful to work with couples and families, because you get to look at people’s charts and how they go together, and the potential works and the potential gifts in each relationship. It’s an incredibly affirming practice to engage in.
Are there any significant astrological moments coming up that you can share with us?
One of the more important astrological moments coming up is that Jupiter, the planet of abundance and prosperity and faith and religion and law is moving signs into Sagittarius from Scorpio. Jupiter does really well in Sagittarius, so it’s a very strong signification for us. Jupiter has spent the last 11 months in Scorpio; Scorpio is the sign that deals with the secrets, the hidden truths and the power dynamics in general. When Jupiter entered Scorpio the Harvey Weinstein case broke right before that (remember Jupiter magnifies and expands things, and Scorpio is about secrets and power, and possibly the abuse of power, and how to use power). Jupiter had just moved into Scorpio when Alyssa Milano retweeted #metoo and reignited in a way that hadn’t happened before Tarana Burke’s hashtag, and the continuation of her work took off. Of course, the #metoo movement is about the revealing of all the abuses of power that happened, specifically with regards to sexual assault. So, that’s what happened when Jupiter was in Scorpio, and we’ve been through an entire year of many different expose’s and conversations about power and privilege and dynamics within the workplace, and society in general. So with Jupiter moving into Sagittarius, something similar could happen in regards to religion and spirituality and education, those are domains we might look to see what is happening. On a personal note, it will be really great for us in general in our personal lives; it will be really great for Sagittarius rising, for Sagittarius suns, for any placements in Sagittarius because Jupiter has such an incredible power in that sign. It’s not obviously all good and all free, but it is a big shift that’s coming up in November.
Tell us about your involvement in Mothership. How does it feel to be a part of a celebration of such strong female forces?
I think community in person is really important. I like many other people spend a lot of time in community online, and to be in the same space with other humans and to be in person with them I think is really essential for our mental health in a lot of ways, and for the lived experience of being together. I think if done well and the space is curated with a lot of thought then it can be a place of incredible exploration and learning and healing possibly, so I ‘m really excited to see how the event comes together and what transpires there.
How important are affirmations to you and asking what you want from the universe?
I don’t ask for what I want from the universe, I use affirmations and I write affirmation from a place of having needed to repair myself. I write and speak affirmations out of a place of needing to take care of myself. So they are a self-care practice, I don’t ask for things I want, I ask for the strength and courage to do the work I’m supposed to do. Also, the faith that is given to me is exactly what I need at that moment and I also ask for the release of thinking that I need to control any aspect of my life or thinking that I need anything outside of myself. Because my belief is that it’s all in me and that it’s all here, and the minute I think I need something, I think I need the “Universe” to give me something, then it’s like a spiritual shopping trip. That’s not what I’m here for, I’m not trying to use my spirituality for that, I think it’s great to ask for a raise or to ask for an agreement or a certain collaboration or partnership, but my spiritual work is to be in line with what life is asking me to do, and to have the personal fortitude to do so. And I don’t think the universe is Santa Claus *laughs*
I feel like if you put thoughts out to the universe then that is generally what you’re going to get back. Not necessarily as though you’re asking for something though.
Yeah, if I’m wanting to bring something into my life, or invite something into my life then what I’ll do is I’ll take it to therapy and I’ll talk about what the feelings are around not having that. So it’s really important for me to unpack feelings of lack or shame, or feelings of not being worthy of something, because I think that’s generally what stops me from being able to experience the things that I want to experience. So I use my energy to see where it is that I’m blocking those things, and to see if I have any agency in unpacking some of that, and healing some of that. And then, usually the rest starts to come, so I’m always wondering, am I coming from a place of lack, am I coming from a place of needing something and looking at where’s that from, what’s that about, who’s needing that. Is there anything I can do to help myself out in a moment like that, instead of feeling like something has to come to me at that moment. Of course, I’ve obviously prayed for work and for help; I’ve prayed for all those things in moments of great destitution and despair.
Have you always been so self-aware?
*Laughs* I’m just a fucked-up asshole like everybody else, I’ve done a lot of therapy in my life and I started doing Reiki; my stepmother is a Reiki master and she initiated me when I was 14. So I was a really weird teenager where I did a lot of healing workshops and we would read tarot cards at family dinners.
That sounds awesome, sounds like a great childhood!
Well, it wasn’t a great childhood, which is what drove me to need that so much. So I felt like if I don’t try to find some way to cope with my pain and despair, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. So I was really committed from a young age, and I’m really grateful that that part of me exists. It’s not a conscious thing, that’s a spiritual thing I think in me that exists. There’s something in me that’s always wanted to get out and survive, and I thank the heavens for that because that’s carried me through a lot and so that part was always like “I know this could be better, I think I could figure out a way to heal this. I think there’s another way to live. Where is it? How can I find it? Who knows something?” And then I just kind of latched on to people that knew stuff; I was probably really annoying and really needy, like a real pain in the ass *laughs* but I was just like “Please teach me things, and tell me what is this and why am I so fucked up and in so much pain?” I was just sort of like “Help me.”
It’s amazing that you say that, as you are guidance for so many people. Who, whether in the past or currently, would you name as being a guidance or inspiration for you?
I feel like there are so many people that I follow on different social media feeds, there are so many of my friends, my wife is incredible. There are so many people that are working with what they have in an interesting and innovative way, and thinking about the problems of our society, and thinking of new and innovative strategies to tackle them that I’m just in awe so much of the time of how people think. There are so many activists, there are so many artists; Alok I love, my friend Ericka Hart is an incredible activist, thinker, Ericka’s partner Ebony is also incredible, my friend Yoko Akili who runs Beam (Black Emotional and Mental Health), my wife Sonya Passi who runs FreeFrom; that’s just a handful of people that if I need a little bit of a lift or inspiration in my life I would just go to them or have a conversation with them. I just feel like I have a lot of people like that in my community and I think we all have access to. Black, brown and Indigenous and especially queer folks who are putting out content are so vital. Especially black women and black femmes in my life and POC; social media has created such an incredible wealth of perspectives that are so readily accessible and I think it’s really important to remember that those voices had to get published before, they had to find an outlet that would publish them, and nobody fucking would. So all of a sudden we’re talking to each other in such a fast-paced way, we can reach anybody now, and that’s just something that never would happen. TV stations used to have all the power, print magazines and book publishers held the power. Okay, there was Toni Morrison, there was Alice Walker and there was Audre Lorde, there was Maya Angelou; there were these people that got through all of these gatekeepers, but how many didn’t? How many voices, how many incredible artists, how many incredible poets? And now, we just have this signals between the two of us, we just get to talk to each other all the time, so I feel that it’s incredible, I feel so privileged, I just feel grateful for everybody’s work. I think anyone who writes a thoughtful post about their experience of the world with some context and some depth of understanding of systemic oppression is such a gift to receive.
You’re a big advocate for the queer community; do you have any thoughts on how astrology can be used as a positive tool for the increased support and awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community?
*Laughs* I think we have to say how are the queers using astrology? Are they just throwing shade at each other all the time, possibly? Everybody needs to put down your crush’s charts for a second and just learn how to get to know somebody. I think that astrology speaks to the meaning of an individual moment, as specific unto itself. I think one of the reasons why it resonates so much with the queer community and always has is, I think as queers, possibly, we might have a deeper understanding of how unique each person is, each one of us is. We all have our own relationship to gender, we all have our own relationship to sexuality, we all have our own relationship to our body, we all have our own relationship to how we move through the world and it’s nothing to do with what society has put on us or told us. So because we may have had to fight harder and have to push back against violence, discrimination, and also just denial of our existence, astrology is something that says, “No no, you exist.” There was a moment in the universe when you were born, and you’re marked with this imprint, this cosmic imprint that details why your life is special, why it matters and why it’s essential in this moment, and how to work with it. I think that as a community that is very diverse, and it’s almost impossible to say the queer community, but if we’re going to generalize like that, let’s. But as a community that is incredibly diverse there might be a shared understanding of what it is like to be wiped out, or wiped from history or disregarded completely. And again, astrology is something that says, “No, no. You exist, you’re important, and this is the meaning of your life. Exactly as you are, you are perfect.” I think that historically queers aren’t really told that.
Interview by Sahar Nicolette.
Images by Lloyd Galbraith.