Today my interview series with African American Astrologers continues with the brilliant Samuel Reynolds! Samuel is the founder of the Astrology Career Institute and the author of the horoscopes for Ebony.Com. He is also a brilliant soul and individual. He has quite a few interesting things to share about his journey and the astrological destiny of black people. Enjoy!!
Your spirituality has taken you within many religious traditions. You were once a Baptist minister and now you are a Muslim. Do you see astrology as apart of these religious traditions? How have they impacted your astrological outlook?
I went into the Christian ministry at 12 years old. I found one of my sermons that I gave when I was 14-15 years old where I talk about a particular Bible verse that has every letter in the Bible except J. I used that as a springboard to talk about how we can have everything in our lives except J from Jesus. Of course, for Z, I talked about Zodiac and how evil they were. When people would ask me, “What sign are you?,” I would answer, “The sign of the cross.”
(Really I just didn’t want to fess up to the fact that I didn’t know what sign I was as I was born on Nov. 22, between Scorpio and Sagittarius. At times I felt I was both and neither. It was easier to lean on the cross, so to speak.)
As I moved through my Christian minister phase into more the realm of Black cultural nationalism and atheism in my early 20s, my deep antagonism toward astrology remained, however. It was odd because I was far more open to tarot and numerology as those seemed to make sense to me and stimulated my intuition.
But astrology? I would disparage it as complete nonsense. However, I also knew better. As I made my journey out of being a minister, I researched a lot about Christianity and its origins. I knew about the astrological origins of Christmas, Easter and other holidays. Yet I was still bitter about feeling “duped” by Christianity and perhaps I had some residual hard feelings toward astrology. It didn’t help that I still didn’t know what sign I was. That all changed when I went to see my first astrologer.
What happened when you met your first astrologer?
Besides discovering that I was, in fact, a Scorpio and why, I had a jarring time. He was able to discover some amazing things in my chart (that I think was a moment of genuine inspiration that didn’t come to him even that often) that I had no idea how he could know without knowing me.
I was confused, intrigued and angry about this man’s ability to scry my deepest secrets looking at squiggly lines in a wheel. I was indeed a Scorpio, so I naturally had to discover his “trick” for myself.
I spent 10 years seeking to unlock his trick, including doing charts, before I decided to actually “believe” in astrology. It was the first moment toward genuine faith in anything in my adult life. But it wasn’t so much about embracing faith wholesale as much as my inability to let something go that I just knew couldn’t make sense. As time went on and my study of astrology was complemented with my work as a Kabbalist, I came to a renewed appreciation for the Divine other than how I had known it as a young man.
Throughout my spiritual transformations as an adult has been my fascination with Islam. I can definitely say that my “kinship” to Islam was fueled by my studies of some of the Medieval and Arabic thinkers who wrote on astrology and other esoteric topics. I am also a lover of Sufi thought and poetry. I was drawn to the esoteric traditions of Islam and Kabbalah because they provide a philosophical and spiritual framework for how to use astrology, beyond modern psychology or sociology. There are, of course, some devout Muslims who frown on astrology as much as I did as a Christian; however, I understand that the beauty of astrology is to teach that “the sky will bow to your beauty if you do,” as Sufi poet Rumi writes. I remember this wisdom as I bow down in prayer, aligning myself in time with the Sun’s motions throughout the day, knowing that that I am also bowing down to my beauty in the name of Allah.
When I first became an astrologer, I was astounded at how some of my life’s difficulties were clearly illustrated in my chart by the planets, transits etc. I also have been able to understand the opportunities for growth and transformation that those challenges have given me. Do you see your early life challenges in your own chart? And what aspects/planets are they? How do you see those challenges operating in the context of helping you fulfill your soul purpose?
I could spend a lot of time on this question, so I’ll focus on one aspect instead of the plentitude that my chart has. I was born with the Sun conjoined Neptune in my chart. This takes extra significance if you accept that Neptune rules my Ascendant sign, Pisces. (But I no longer accept the outer planets as rulers of signs, but I did for a long time.) With Neptune as the planet of illusion, reclusivity, imagination, empathy, spirituality, and delusion conjoined the planet symbolizing my identity, ego and sense of Self (the Sun), I feel that this aspect taps into some of the best and worst dimensions of my life.
It is even more powerful that my Sun and Neptune are in the 9th house of philosophy, long distance travel and, ahem, religion. You only have to look at my answer to your first question to see that this aspect resonates powerfully in explaining my life. I have wrestled with the temptation to get too caught in a reclusive spiritual life as well losing perspective on my identity or to get lost in imaginary worlds.
For instance, I used to pretend that I had a time machine like Dr. Who as a teenager (yeah, a little too old for that, but I did it) with my 7-9 year old nephew. It was fun, because I did a lot of research on a particular time period to make it as imaginatively detailed for our adventure together. (I think I still have a good grasp of history from all of that.) I have never lost my penchant toward fantasy, but I stay alert to losing myself in fantasy or just anything that puts me out of this world. In fact, I sometimes veer too hard to a lack of appreciation for the softer focus of spirituality at times because I become too vigilant against losing sight of the “real” world. I think this partly fuels my natural penchant toward skepticism, actually.
Your workshop “The Astrological Destiny of Black People in America” sounds fascinating. What would you say in short, is the destiny of black people in America, and what energies (culturally) do you think most appropriately symbolize/represent us?
In short, among many other things, our destiny is to become beacons of encouragement, moral rectitude and soul expression for the downtrodden, disenfranchised and violated.
This particular insight I derive from the chart for the first indentured Africans to arrive in the New world at Jamestown, VA on Aug. 30, 1619 at a rectified time of 10 am. (The rectification I had done years ago based on the actual date and then confirmed by the research of an astrologer named Marc Penfield in an anthology of astrological essays, Astrology Looks at History, edited by Noel Tyl. ) I particularly look at the T-square between Mars in Scorpio (in a Scorpio rising chart) with Moon conjoined to Pluto, both in Taurus in the 7th house with Venus in Leo in the 10th house. This configuration definitely testifies to the abduction and pillaging of African people over the long term. But these planets also have incredible strength and resilience, especially Mars and the Moon. Their relationship to Venus in Leo at the highest point of the chart bear witness that we shall overcome, providing encouragement, creative expression and justice for those seeking redress. We came as servants, but we shall rise as savants.
How do you see Race intersecting with astrology? Do you think that a person raised in black culture will express , say a Capricorn sun sign differently than a white person raised in suburban white culture? Do you think culture and race impact energy?
I think all astrology is a cultural astronomy, or a way for a culture to comment on itself and its individuals using celestial events. So the dictates of a culture will correlate to the dictates of the astrology that it has.
For example, Indian astrology focuses on different significators in a chart than the West does. It focuses on the moon and the moon’s zodiac, so it can be said to focus less on one’s ego (the Sun), but more so on one’s heritage, soul and connections (as associated with the moon.)
In the case of African people in America, we’re dealing with several different legacies of astrology. We’re dealing with the question of astrology from the African continuum, from ancient Egypt to the Dogon of West Africa to Benjamin Banneker to you, me and other contemporary Black astrologers. We’re also looking more at the relevance of astrology as markers of transformation and initiation, which was something that has been very important in many traditional African cultures.
This is one of the reasons why I focus so much on breaking down particular planetary cycles, like the Jupiter and Saturn returns. They provide critical clues on avenues and times for transformation, especially young Black men and women who don’t have traditional guidance structures in place by disruptions to their families.
For instance, I got interested in Jupiter returns when I realized that both Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo were murdered at 23 years old, at their Jupiter returns. It prompted me to start looking at what happens at that time that had an astrologer been present in their lives could have saved their lives. Perhaps nothing could have, but maybe it can help someone else.
On the level of whether a particular sun sign will be different by culture or location is true, but an extremely limited truth. I think a rural Black person born while the sun in Capricorn may be very different from a Black person born in an urban center at the same time. The same questions arise when we start talking about class and gender too.
Given the current challenges of “relating” in African American communities, do you believe that astrology can help? How so?
I think our community does tend to shy away from deep personal reflection like psychotherapy, astrology and other ways of “knowing Self.” We, all too often, think that “Know Thyself” means knowing our cultural history and narratives. I’ve come to believe that’s an important piece, but nothing trumps getting to know your own personal narrative and story.
It doesn’t mean much to know that you come from “a whole race of Kings and Queens” and not know why you’re not living up to your own potential. So I know it would be immensely helpful! If you don’t know yourself, then any other “self” you know will only be half true.
What nourishes you? what brings you joy?
I love studying intellectual history, specifically the development of ideas, and I love debating those ideas with strangers and friends, especially with those who can explore those ideas in discussion with detachment. (That’s rare.) I enjoy helping people solve problems. For simple delights, I enjoy swimming, tweeting, watching my favorite TV show House and interesting drama, sci-fi, or fantasy films.
You have already founded the Astrology Career Institute. What other legacies/contribution do you want to make to astrology?
I want to inspire a whole new generation of astrologers of color, like Ayesha Grice did for us when writing Essence horoscopes in the 90s. I’m pretty tired of going to astro events and being one of two or three people of color in the room. And 9/10 if he or she is a person of color, he’s a man. I know many Black women who practice astrology, but I see too few at these events. So my big goal is to reach as many people of color who want to learn and use real astrology as possible. So I plan on teaching classes, online and off, workshops and writing books. Writing for ebony.com is just another beginning.