WHEN THE FIRST plane struck the World Trade Center
at 8:48 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, President Bush
was in Florida, lecturing a classroom of
second-graders about the importance of reading skills.
What was meant to be a run-of-the-mill photo op
produced one of the more telling photographs of that
awful day. In it, White House chief of staff Andrew
Card is bending down to deliver the news that a second
plane had thundered into the second tower. You can see
the shock, the dread, on Bushís face. And who can
blame him? America had just been wrenched from a sunny
weekday morning into a cataclysmic war, and it seemed
no one was prepared for such an event ó not the CIA,
not the FBI, not the State Department, and certainly
not the president himself.
"Iím trying to absorb that knowledge,"
Bush said, recalling the moment in a recent Newsweek
interview. "Iím the commander in chief, and the
country has just come under attack."
Not everybody, however, was as flabbergasted by the
news as the president. In fact, there were a few
Americans who responded to the terrorist attacks with
a resounding "Told you so."
In June 2000, Lynne Palmer, a 69-year-old Las Vegas
resident, published her Astrological Almanac for
2001 (Star Bright Publishers). On page 95 of the
book, buried among advice on the best days to go to
the movies and worst days to lend people money, Palmer
had written, in an odd combination of the obvious and
the prophetic: "Avoid terrorist attacks on
September 11, 2001."
PALMER WASNíT the only astrologer to see trouble
brewing in the fall of 2001. Apparently, the sky has
been heaving with a confluence of terrible portents
lately ó a Perfect Storm of clashing, menacing
astrological signs. But no one had divined upcoming
events with the acuity of the Dolly PartonĖhaired
author of Is Your Name Lucky for You? (Star
Bright Publishers, 1999) and Astro-Guide to
Nutrition and Vitamins (American Federation of
Astrologers, 1993). "Only one person predicted
the date of the attacks, and that was Lynne
Palmer," says veteran astrologer Robert Hand, a
relatively highbrow practitioner of the art. "I
donít know how she did it. Things looked chaotic,
but I could not have foreseen September 11. I looked
and looked and I donít know how anyone could have
predicted it to the day."
Palmer, meanwhile, remains unfazed by her
astrological coup. "There are certain planets
that rule certain things," she says, "and
those planets were in alignment." In fact, Palmer
didnít even know the attacks had occurred until a
friend told her. "I donít look at the news
much," she says. "My friend called me. I
looked in my  almanac and I had it. I make all
sorts of predictions and I forget about them. But I
had ĎWatch for danger falling from above,í
ĎAvoid fire.í It was eerie."
Eerie, yes, but not unique. Following September 11,
stargazers all over the country pored through their
prior predictions to see if they, too, had foreseen
Americaís so-called New War. Hand was one of the
astrologers who came up trumps. In an article posted
in the August edition of the Mountain Astrologer online
magazine, Hand wrote a long, lyrical essay foretelling
"restrictions on our freedom of movement,"
the "ruthless energy of change," and
"unrest in the Middle East."
Though Handís dates were not as specific as
Palmerís ó he saw strife occurring between August
5, 2001, and May 26, 2002 ó his predictions were
nonetheless chillingly prescient: "Things pass
away and then something new comes into being. We have
times when things seem to reach a period of stability
and permanence; then there is a period of decay, when
they begin to break down and go wrong.... It is as
though we were driving down a well-defined road with a
clear objective, and either something we did not
anticipate is forcing us onto another road or the
road itself is being transformed."
In April 2001, on the same site, astrologer Jim
Shawvan wrote of "something sudden" about to
occur, "a surprise attack, a terrorist
bombing." He continued, "Civil wars and
conflicts in the Third World often build up slowly,
with many warning signs; however, when the only
remaining superpower is attacked, the preferred
approach seems to be terrorist action with no
warning." Shawvan also wrote that "[Bush]
may judge it necessary to threaten or even use force
in Afghanistan or Pakistan or both."
In the simplest terms, Shawvan reached his
conclusions by observing the overwhelming presence of
Mars ó the planet of conflict and strife ó in
astrological charts he had drawn up for Bush. There
was also, he says, a Mars line going through a map of
Afghanistan. With this knowledge in hand, he deduced
that thereíd be the potential for America to go to
war with Afghanistan. In an earlier interview with the
Phoenix (see "Calling the Shots,"
This Just In, October 11), Shawvan called his
predictions "purely an intellectual
exercise." He added, "You use your knowledge
of the facts and then put things together."
Such a commonsensical approach to astrology is
surprisingly common. Indeed, many astrologers view
themselves as more aligned with sociologists and
historians than with psychics and mediums. "This
is not closing your eyes and seeing things," says
Hand, who also named Afghanistan as a potential point
of international conflict. "I specifically named
Afghanistan based on historical probability. You have
to know something about the world."
Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the
astrological publisher Llewellyn Booksellers published
Civilization Attacked: September 11, 2001 &
Beyond, in which a selection of Americaís
top-shelf astrologers weighed in on such topics as
"The psychology of terrorism" and "The
long-range effects of September 11, 2001." One of
the more remarkable aspects of the book is an
accompanying blurb from its publisher, Carl Llewellyn
Weschcke, who wrote that astrology is "the one
science that can analyze time to bring understanding
about the antecedents of the event, about the people
involved in carrying it out, and the forecasts helpful
to decisions that must be made."
The "science" claim notwithstanding, most
astrologers will readily admit that making predictions
based on planetary movements is essentially an
intuitive pursuit. "Astrology is not a
science," says Hand. "Itís a craft. It has
no solid foundation. We donít have a theoretical
structure from which we make our predictions. We
really donít know what causes these influences. We
donít know that at all."
INDEED, DESPITE the intellectual veneer afforded
the practice by the likes of Shawvan and Hand,
astrology relies to a great extent on the kind of
symbolism that used to get medieval Gnostics hot under
their burlap collars. "Hereís a little bit of
weirdness," says Hand, his voice rising in pitch.
"The World Trade Center was opened when Saturn
was in Gemini. It collapsed when Saturn was in Gemini.
And what does the World Trade Center look like? What
did it look like? A gigantic Gemini glyph! That fits
into the category of one of those ooh-ooh-ooh
The most significant ooh-ooh-ooh moment for
many astrologers in the months preceding September 11
came when they noticed a relatively rare opposing
alignment of two fundamentally opposed planets: Pluto
and Saturn ó the planet of wrenching change and the
planet of adamantine continuity. As Hand points out,
the last time such an opposition occurred, the Soviets
were embroiled in a bloody conflict in Afghanistan.
"They stand like two opponents facing off against
each other," he wrote in his Mountain
Astrologer essay. "The medieval astrologers
referred to the opposition as the aspect of
perfect or complete hostility. They regarded it as the
worst possible aspect between two bodies."
In the introduction to Civilization Attacked,
astrologer Stephanie Clement wrote, "Throughout
this book, the authors make frequent mention of Saturn
and Pluto and their relation in the sky right now.
They are in opposite parts of the heavens, very close
to 180 degrees apart.... Together, Saturn and Pluto
reflect qualities of cruelty, a tendency towards
violence, and fanatical adherence to oneís
principles. This is not a fun combination."
Quite. Yet itís easy to say such things with the
benefit of hindsight. The fact is, any practitioner of
mundane astrology ó which entails the study of
societal forces ó worth his or her salt should have
spotted the danger before the events of
September 11 took place. Yet only a handful actually
did this ó at least publicly. One astrologer who did
was Doug Riemer, a practitioner of Indian, or Vedic,
astrology. In a newsletter he sent out at the end of
August, Riemer wrote, "There may be some
religious fanaticism.... Mideast stuff? I see
9/10Ė9/14 as being really bizarre.... Although
everyone should use care in their activities during
the entire month, this 4 day period is exceptional. To
avoid problems, stay alert to your environment and
avoid risky situations."
Like Shawvan, Riemer based his predictions largely
on the looming presence of Mars. "In the latter
part of August, Mars ó the planet of war, desire,
anger, sex, all these worldly things ó moved into
the sign of Sagittarius," he explains. "Mars
went into the sign of Sagittarius in Jupiter. Jupiter
is religion and philosophy. At the same time, Mars
crossed one of the eclipse points of the moon. Eclipse
points are very frightening. When you have all this
come together, it leads to a righteous, seething
anger. It can create craziness and fanaticism. I
remember looking at this and thinking, ĎWait a
minute. Something terrible is going to happen.í "
Despite the accuracy of his predictions, Riemer
admits to being disappointed that he didnít call the
exact date of the attacks. "My mistake was saying
the 10th to the 14th," he says. "Because
each planet has its own day of the week, and Marsís
day is Tuesday. I missed that, otherwise Iíd
have said Tuesday morning."
MAKING ACCURATE predictions is all well and good,
but beyond reading their horoscopes in the newspapers
every now and then, do Americans actually take any
notice of this stuff? "Well, I have one client
who called me a week before the catastrophe,"
says Riemer. "She told me she was flying from Washington,
DC, to New Orleans and I said, ĎOkay, but get home
before the 10th.í She called me that Tuesday morning
and said, ĎThank God I didnít stay until the
11th!í She thought Iíd saved her life. Certainly,
sheíd have been stuck in Washington having a
horrible time. Astrology is not just knowing about
life, itís planning the life, taking advantage of
opportunity, and overcoming challenge."
He adds, "It would have been helpful if
someone in government had taken notice of some of
Fat chance. Not since the astrology-loving Nancy
Reagan inhabited the White House have astrologers had
the luxury of having a president who took them
seriously. "We deal with individual people who
study our stuff," says Hand. "We can give
those people ways of making things work better in
their lives. But when we make predictions for public
events, we have no impact. We canít say, ĎThis is
going to happen, so we should do this now.í No one
pays any attention. People donít give a damn. So we
can only say, ĎOkay, here comes the shit about to
hit the wall.í More importantly, not only do people
not listen, when we get it right they explain it away
afterwards. Well, this current opposition [of Saturn
and Pluto] will be hard to explain away."
Such frustration is commonplace among astrologists.
"Iíve had clients ignore my advice for 44
years; you get used to it," says Palmer.
"People are afraid to look at this stuff. Itís scary.
But fear attracts fear. We have to raise our
consciousness and see what we can do to rise above
these bad aspects. But people arenít looking.
Theyíre in denial."
Nonetheless, says Riemer, widespread dismissal of
the astrologerís work does not make that work any
less important. "For an astrologer to say,
ĎDonít bother telling because no oneís going to
listení ó thatís self-defeating," he says.
"I think we have a duty and a responsibility to
publish our predictions. We should keep information
available. Because, and Iím serious about this,
there is a huge train wreck coming. The train is about
to come off the tracks."
Well, of course we donít want to hear predictions
like that. Itís unsettling enough to think
that there may be a cosmic equivalent of the TV
Guide ("Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., Chris Wright goes
out and gets drunk [repeat]"), let alone that
thereís a train wreck a-coming. "Americans hate
fate," says Riemer. "Well, there is fate in
genetics ó you were fated to have a certain height,
certain skills. And you were fated to have free will.
Astrology indicates free will, it unveils hidden
Fair enough, but who really wants to discover that
his or her hidden karma involves a date with an errant
747? After all, itís one thing to fret about an
impending catastrophe, but itís another thing
entirely to be told that the catastrophe is bearing
down upon us, preordained and inescapable. This
objection, astrologers insist, reflects a fundamental
misreading of the relationship between astrology and
"What people who donít study astrology
donít understand," says Hand, "is that
there is a bivalence involved. There are two
possibilities ó one good, one bad. Astrology helps
us understand what must be done now to face the
future. A lot of people believe that astrology can
show that everything is preordained, and I donít
believe that. There is indeterminacy everywhere, in
physics, everywhere. Will is indeterminate. That there
will be a certain crisis on a certain date might be
determined, but how we handle it is not. If change was
not possible, then astrology would be pointless."
INDETERMINACY COULD very well be the only bright
spot at the end of our collective tunnel, because if
our astrologers have got it right, weíre in for a
very grim few years indeed.
"In late April, early May ," says
Doug Riemer, "the sign of Taurus (material
things), Saturn (restriction), Mars (war), and Rahu
(fanaticism) all come together. Itís a terrible
combination, and I think there is going to be
incredible violence unless we resolve things now. We
have a choice, we fix things now or we have a major
war in the spring and itís going to be horrible. All
astrologers are worried about this. Enlightened beings
are very concerned about the next five or six years.
This is a very sensitive period."
Lynne Palmerís predictions are equally dismal.
"The New York chart has some rough aspects coming
up, scary ones," she says. "New York City
has to be very careful of more air crashes and
sleeping terrorists. And charts for the US have very
bad, very deep problems, very bad. The aspect of
Saturn and Pluto are coming back next year, even worse
than now. The really rough period is going to be from
February 2003 going into 2005. Pluto is ascending.
Pluto rules missiles. We could have a nuclear attack
or germ warfare."
Until that happens, though, thereís the business
of everyday life to take care of. Palmer, for
instance, recommends that Americans use caution when
having pedicures next year. Early 2002 seems to be a
particularly bad patch. "Do not,"
Palmer writes in her almanac for the year, "cut
ingrown toenails on the following dates: January 1, 2,
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 ..."
Chris Wright can be reached at [email protected]