In 2015, a professional astrologer waited two hours in line at a signing for Hillary Clinton's memoir. He was going to ask her a question that had occupied his mind for 10 years, one that could provide him with significant insight into the geopolitical landscape of America for years to come.
"I said something to the effect of, 'You know, I've always wanted to ask you what time you were born,' and she sat back and sort of looked like she was thinking about it," says the astrologer, who we will call Matt. (He has requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.) "She said something like, 'I think it was 8 o'clock in the evening.'" He pressed her again, he says, and she affirmed once more that yes, she was born at 8 PM. But Matt wasn't certain, and later felt sure she had misspoken or mislead him. Her real birth time, he concluded, was 8 AM.
Knowing someone's birth time is vital for figuring out their rising sign, which is then used to determine their house cusps, a crucial piece of information for making predictions about a person's life path; this is why political astrologers like Matt have spent decades fixated on the exact moment that Clinton's life began. In October of 2016, the annual International Society of Astrological Research conference held a panel that was comprised of six renowned astrologers from around the globe. They concluded, unanimously, that Clinton would win the presidency.
In retrospect, their prognostications were about as accurate as the polls—which is to say not at all—but their methodology had been incredibly rigorous, leaving professional astrologers in the same position as most pundits and political analysts: baffled and wondering what had gone wrong. To the mundane minded among us, there's a simple explanation for this, namely that astrology is not real—which is true, but ignores the fact that nothing is real because we exist in a meaningless and terrifying void where death is the only certainty.
Read more: Your Monthly Horoscope: July, 2017
To the astrological community, however, the reason is far more complicated. Matt concedes that he may have misinterpreted several planetary positions. There's also, of course, the possibility that he was entirely wrong about Clinton's birth time: As anyone interested in political astrology will tell you, most likely with extreme passion, there are several rumored birth times for the former presidential candidate. This has resulted in over two decades of intense speculation and debate.
It's not uncommon for there to be some level of ambiguity over a public figure's exact birth time—on Astro Databank, a website that exhaustively collects astrological data "for astrological research, for astrological publications, and for serious astrological discussion," birth time accuracy is carefully rated using a system called "Rodden rating." Clinton's birth time is listed as DD, or "Dirty Data," meaning there are conflicting accounts. (Trump, conversely, has the best possible rating: AA, or "Accurate Accurate," because he released his birth certificate during his bizarre, racist "birther" crusade against then-President Obama. His birth time is 10:54 AM, which makes him a Leo rising, explaining why he is so attention-seeking and preoccupied with his hair.)
"Astrologers are very resourceful when it comes to finding birth time," says Annabel Gat, Broadly's staff astrologer, "and Hillary's chart is a very notable case where it's just been impossible and such a drama."
Since the 90s, numerous astrologers have claimed that Clinton was born at 8 AM, and some have even argued that she doesn't want the public to know this fact. Their sourcing is thin—as are their justifications for why she would lie about her astrological data despite having no clear interest or aptitude in astrology—but the 8 AM time is still the most commonly used among the disciples of Clinton's birth chart, according to several astrologers I spoke with.
To the 8 AM chart's detractors, its popularity is the result of confirmation bias and wishful thinking. "I think that people were gravitating towards the 8 AM time because Hillary looks really strong, and we all really wanted Hillary to win for a lot of reasons; the astrological community is overwhelmingly Democratic," explains Danny Larkin, the vice president of the Association for Young Astrologers. "To be honest with you, the source for that has never actually turned up."
Indeed, according to both Matt and Larkin, the original reference for the 8 AM time is an unspecified newspaper article in which Clinton's mom said that her daughter was born "just in time for breakfast," in addition to a running rumor that Clinton had once confided to an astrologer she was born at that time—which would make her a Scorpio rising—but "didn't want people to know that because… somebody told her something negative" about the planetary position, as Matt puts it.
However, "this is an apocryphal story," Larkin cautions, and no one has been able "to confirm its veracity." As for the newspaper article, it "has never turned up in any library." Shortly before the election, an astrologer claimed he had found the definitive time—around 2 AM—plunging political astrologers around the globe into a state of temporary chaos. He later recanted, and was described to me variously as a "nut job" and a "crazy, crazy astrologer" who, at one point, "was claiming that he was a secret agent of the Israeli Mossad." A third, conflicting source, also cited by every astrologer with whom I spoke, is a mysterious chiropractor, who allegedly claims that Clinton once told him she was a Leo rising. (This would mean she was born around midnight.)
In this age of moribund political process, where the right and left alike are swallowing improbable conspiracy theories as a palliative aid, there's something obviously appealing in looking for meaning in the stars. Examining Clinton's chart for clues—and subsequently concluding that she is ambitious, likely to rise to a high rank, and about to enter the most eminent period of her life—is comforting to someone who wants to see her succeed (or, at least, to see Trump fail). So was looking at the New York Times live presidential election forecast, which originally had Trump's chance of victory at around 15 percent, until it wasn't anymore.
"[The 8 AM chart] was the only chart out of all of them where I thought [Clinton] would actually have a chance and would win. All of the other birth times, the timing didn't line up," Matt says, sounding slightly crestfallen. I ask whether there's a new time he favors in the aftermath of the election. "No," he responds firmly. "I don't know, in retrospect, and may never know."
I think that people were gravitating towards the 8 AM time because Hillary looks really strong, and we all really wanted Hillary to win.
Larkin, conversely, thinks the 8 PM chart is probably right—but no matter the exact birth time, he adds, Clinton has a "shitty" chart. Her Venus is "in terrible shape," under attack by both Mars and Saturn, and her Sun is under attack by malefic planets as well. "There's something about her where she doesn't light up the room," Larkin explains. "There's something about her sun; it's not able to shine as brightly as it wants to shine."
But even though Clinton's chart may be in relatively poor shape, there's nothing utterly cataclysmic in it. The same, apparently, can't be said for our current president: There are already mystical rumblings that Trump is likely to experience some sort of downfall soon. According to numerous astrologers, the eclipse on August 21 bodes terribly for him because it falls directly on Leo, his rising sign—but then again, it's all up for interpretation.
"All of the astrologers are talking about it… It's this really wild, prominent thing that everybody in the country is going to see in August, and it happens to be very much closely tied into Trump's chart," says Matt. But, then again, we can't be totally sure: "In terms of what that specifically means, and in terms of whether that's something negative for [Trump] or something that's negative for the country as a whole, I don't know," he adds. Guess we'll have to wait and find out.