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So you’ve looked up your birth chart, read your horoscopes faithfully, and are thinking about getting a reading with a professional astrologer. But how exactly do you do that, what can you expect, and what should you do to prepare for your appointment?
Understand what astrology is and isn't
People tend to conflate forms of divination, not realizing that they are separate practices that require specific experience and focus. Astrology is divination by stars and planets, while tarot is divination with cards, palmistry is divination by palm, and mediumship is divination by contacting spirits. Unless you’re looking for an astrologer who specializes in another technique, your astrology reading is just an astrology reading, meaning your astrologer will look to your birth chart for forecasting. Your consulting astrologer should be in dialogue with you, and though they may use their intuition to piece information together, you shouldn’t expect them to mystically know everything.
Find the right astrologer
There are an infinite number of astrology accounts across social media platforms, and it can be difficult to tell whether someone actually knows what they’re talking about or they’re just good at memes. I recommend seeking out certified or professional astrologers who come recommended by friends or people you trust. Before you book an appointment with an astrologer, you should take some time to research their online presence. Most astrologers will have a blog, vlog, podcast, or social media account where they share their thoughts and perspectives, which of course vary widely. Engage with that content and understand that astrologer’s perspective! If you don’t connect with an astrologer’s content and voice, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to pay to spend time with them for a reading.
Know what you want out of your reading
Similar to seeing a hairdresser, asking an astrologer to just “do whatever seems good” risks the chance that you’ll walk away unhappy. But if you know why you’re there—perhaps to better understand your past or strategize about your future—they will be better equipped to help you. I recommend bringing a list of questions you want answered about your life to your reading. These questions can run a range of subjects, like: Is it the right time to ask for a promotion? Is the person I’m seeing right for me? What part of my life should I look back on to help me with a specific problem today? Set your mind free and ask whatever you like—your astrologer will address your questions and concerns.
Most astrologers, and certainly ones who are certified, follow a code of ethics and will not make predictions that are likely to lead to unreasonable fears in their clients, so maybe don’t expect them to tell you when you’re going to die. The cosmic weather may help us anticipate challenging periods of our lives, but it doesn’t exactly tell us when specific events are going to take place.
Astrologers are meant to help you help yourself, and make informed choices, even if it sometimes feels like life is something that just happens to you. “I am not a fortune teller (no shade on fortune tellers intended!),” says astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo, author of Astrology for Real Relationships, and host of Ghost of a Podcast. “So I will often help my clients to refine their questions in a way that highlights their agency.”
Bring your birth data
There is something that you absolutely should take with you to your session, and that’s your birth data. You will be expected to provide your birth date and time, so the astrologer can calculate your birth chart. Your birth time is necessary to calculate a number of things, especially your rising sign, which determines the 12 houses in your birth chart and helps astrologers understand how the archetypes of the zodiac play out in your life.
If you don’t know your birth time, try checking your long-form birth certificate. You may also interview your family or others who might remember details and clues as to when you were born. And in cases where it’s impossible to access your birth data, you can find an astrologer who specializes in something called “chart rectification,” using important dates in your life to hypothesize your birth time.
By far, the most important thing to remember during your astrology reading is that information you learn should be used as insight to help you work on yourself—and that you should have fun during it! Astrology will not solve your problems, but it can arm you with self-knowledge to help you take on whatever comes your way. It’s amazing to get a lot out of an astrology reading, but remember that you’re the one who’ll have to do the work after the consultation is over!
This article originally appeared on VICE US.