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Oh My Stars

Two news stories have been big in the last couple of days that remind me of one of the basic principles of applied astrology. One of them, not surprisingly, is this week’s close conjunction between Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. The other? Eating meat causes cancer (not the astrological Sign of Cancer, either… the less shy and withdrawn type of cancer).

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This week, Venus Mars and Jupiter will all be close to one another and make for a pleasant sight in the morning sky. I really recommend you get out and see it for yourself if you can: this sort of thing only happens every couple of decades or so. The best view happens early Saturday morning before sunrise, if you are either an early riser or (like me) a chronic night owl. If you go by the stars this is happening in the constellation of Leo, but going by Western Astrology it happens in the middle of Virgo (long story there).

To many astrologers this means there will be tremendous outpouring of love and sweetness (Venus), ambition and daring (Mars), and good luck and good times (Jupiter) that will make the world a brighter and shinier place for all involved. There are some astrologers out there — bless ’em — who are saying just exactly that. As an experienced astrologer, however, I would like to say that although this is good news for some, it’s a load of baloney for others. And speaking of baloney…

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It was announced (to great consternation) this week that a major study has concluded that eating meat is as big a hazard for causing cancer as smoking. Some enthusiastic vegans have pounced on this as proof that being a carnivore is totally bad news. Just like the astrologers who are over-reacting to the Venus Mars Jupiter alignment happening, what the meat-eating study actually says is not nearly as straightforward as a ten-words-or-less headline would have you believe.

What the study actually said, like most things in life, is a lot more complex than the headline. The World Health Organization put together a metastudy — a study that sums up the results of other, smaller studies — and came to the conclusion that eating red meat increases your risk of cancer, and that eating processed or smoked meat (like hot dogs or bacon) can increase your risk of cancer even more, to the point of being as bad for you as smoking. Or at least that’s how the headlines sold it. The truth is a lot more complex.

First of all, the WHO study now classifies processed meats as “a Class One Carcinogen,” which admittedly sounds bad. But what the panic overlooks is that there are a LOT of Class One carcinogens, and exposure to any of them is far from a guarantee that you’ll get cancer from them. Except for, I presume, plutonium. So yes… Johnny, spit that lump of plutonium out RIGHT NOW, but other than that, let’s not panic. A more accurate representation of the WHO results would be “a diet heavy in bacon-wrapped hot dogs could increase your risk of colon cancer from 7 percent to 8.5 percent, because cancer is complex.” And is THAT headline exciting enough to post on your Facebook wall instead of that video of a pug in a baby carriage? I doubt it.

Besides: we all have our personal biases. When I first heard about this study, I immediately started debunking it. But remember about a month ago when a flawed study came out claiming kale was toxic? I was all over that.

I despise kale, even though I’ve been known to eat it.

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Meanwhile, up in the sky, yes: there is a relatively rare conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter going on. And yes, for many of you (particularly those of you with important placements around 15-20 degrees of Taurus, Capricorn, Cancer or Scorpio) this pileup is likely to be more good news than bad. But at the same time, there are some astrologers out there talking like we’re all about to win the Karmic Lottery, and how this will be a benestrophe (which is like a catastrophe, except it’s a sudden onslaught of good news) for the world. Everyone in the world will fall in love and/or get rich and/or have their athlete’s foot cured.

Why is that? Because writing astrology follows most of the same principles as writing anything else for public consumption, and telling people what they want to hear or scaring them is always good for business. It’s not necessarily honest, but it’s good for clicks and shares. So how good would it be for business to have a headline like “Venus-Mars-Jupiter Conjunction is great news for some people, has others tearing their hair out and opening their wrists”? So is THAT headline exciting enough to post on your Facebook wall instead of that video of a pug in a baby carriage?

beliefnet astrology matthew currie venus mars jupiter

Once again, our personal biases come into play. Remember this the next time you find yourself generalizing about how “Geminis are _____” or “An Aries simply can’t _____” or whatever. But being human, we do these things. For example: in theory my birth chart is highly compatible with Cancers and Capricorns. I’ve had major relationships with both, and… um, yeah, sure. That worked out awesome, thanks for asking.

I despise astrological generalities, even though I’ve used them myself.

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So: if in the next week you don’t receive a miracle cure for everything that ails you, don’t feel as if The Universe has abandoned you. Things will get better in time when the right transits happen for your birth chart, so don’t panic. Getting a reading can help pin down when and how that will happen for you.

Until then? Relax. Have a bacon-wrapped hot dog. That always makes me feel better.

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