From Baptist Minister, To Atheist, To Muslim & Astrologer; An Interview with the Brilliant Samuel Reynolds

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.

 

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“Letters To NASA”: An Interview with Artist & Astrologer Debra Renee Jeter

Today my “Astrology & African Americans” series continues with an interview with Debra Renee Jeter, a good friend of mine. Debra is an amazing artist and astrologer based in Atlanta who has written letters to NASA demanding they seriously consider astrology in their space program! She also has much to share on how astrology can impact relationships, mothering and much more! Enjoy!

When did you first feel yourself drawn to in astrology? What happened?

I was living in Detroit, early 80’s. I was 22 or 23. I was creating graphic art for this man, who was an imam. I was sitting in his office when he was on the phone. He was talking to Khadaffi in Libya. When he got off of the phone he asked me if I wanted to go to Libya! He explained that it was an invitation by Khadaffi to bring a group of 30 African Americans to visit his country and see for ourselves what his country was about and not fall victim to press propaganda. Well, I went. It was free and it was for 3 weeks. It was phenomenal and came as a gift after I had experienced some loss and confusion.  I met a man on this journey who was a numerologist and Astrologer. He sat me down and told me so much. His name was Marvel Denson, a Sagittarius. He changed my life and put me on the lifelong path of personal study and learning.

Wow. What was it like to first learn about numerology and astrology? Were you afraid? Skeptical?

Oh, no not afraid… curious and open, and recognizing the magic of the universe. It felt good to understand the rhythm of the heavens and to realize that there is an order and tide to the experience we call life.

Has astrology and knowing your own specific chart helped you in your own life?

Yes, constantly. I see the seasons of my life with patience and understanding, knowing that some things are unavoidable. I recognize my talents and gifts. I see how I am drawn to certain people, events and places.

I also realize how I must experience certain things and it gives me strength to know that this is the life my soul has chosen. I can foresee a path or future and prepare for it. It gives me a wisdom to be my authentic self…

As an African American woman did you experience backlash for your interest in astrology from your family or your friends?

Well, I think I am blessed because my family is pretty cool. My friends are also. They are tolerant and curious. They love me and know that I will do my own thing.   They often call me for advice, insight and readings, which I readily share with them. Californians are more open to astrology than Georgians, for sure. But for me its not so important. The same tolerance that my family gave to me, I try to give to others.

You said that Californian’s are more tolerant than Georgians. Have you experienced prejudice when you mention you are an astrologer in Georgia?

Well, I don’t tell everyone that I study the metaphysical arts. My friends know, my family and their friends but that’s it. The Georgians are just more judgemental and church minded. They generally seem to see it as a circus act, but more and more are becoming interested and ask good questions. Georgians are changing.

Have you ever read a romantic interest’s chart, and been able to use that to help you in a relationship? How about with your kids in terms of determining their needs?

Yes! Hell yeah, man!!! That’s the stuff when you wanna figure out a new person or a person so close to you as your own child. And this is where I find it to be the most invaluable. It is the perfect tool to see compatibility and how to get along with anyone. I always check the chart and the numbers (numerology) always. Perhaps not right away, but I always check to see what I’m dealing with and how we could compliment each other.

For instance, my son has a strong chart. {His} Pluto, Sun, and rising  sign are all in Scorpio.  I nurtured him constantly, knowing how to talk to him, how to lead him, how to encourage him. I must say though… a major part of that was more natural

I did not think of his chart, I felt his heart and how he spoke to me and I responded to that. We have a natural bond that I wanted to rely on more than stars. But that’s in our charts as well.

“Roots” By Jeter

I believe their is a legacy of African American astrologers that is poorly documented. What do you think of this? Have you heard of historical black figures being astrologers?

I wonder about the astro-lovers of the past but it doesn’t bother me that there is not a lot of information. I wish I knew more, but I think for me my vision is set in the present and in the future. I cannot impact the past, but I can impact the present and tomorrow. I look forward to a day when society pays more respect to the potential of understanding the stars.  I’ve even written NASA several times telling them how foolish they are to study the stars and not take the lessons of the first stargazers into account.

You wrote NASA? What did you say to them exactly? And do you feel space research should at least understand astrology?

Yes! it was after the challenger accident. It occurred on a very bad day, squares and crosses, mercury retrograde. I had to tell them how understanding the stars as their forebearers did would expand and benefit their wisdom, and help them to make better decisions.   The Astrology of the day clearly told them it was going to be a very bad day. I told them that they would benefit from having astrologers visit and share insights. They sent a form letter back. I’ve sent other letters, saying the same thing. I believe in the space program. I love it. But their leadership is still stuck in 20th century paradigm.

Did you have elders in your community that were people of color who practiced astrology?

Not really, no. Most folks I knew only read their horoscope, if that.  Very few have actually taken the time to study and observe the stars.  I always appreciate meeting other astrologers, but for whatever reason, they did not become part of my close friend set. But I have a couple of friends who know a lot and we talk about the zodiac,  and I enjoy that.

A large part of my interest is looking into how race, gender and ability impact the expression of one’s zodiac energy. For instance, the different ways a heterosexual scorpio male may express himself versus a heterosexual  scorpio woman. Have you experienced any differences in the zodiac expression based on culture, gender, race, etc?

Of course… some signs more than others. and some cultures more than others. There are some signs that are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’  and it’s interesting to watch people play out their lives when a man is born under a ‘fem’ sign or a woman born with ‘male’ energy. As a teacher, I watch my students and can tell which boys are gay… but so many of them run from it. They sag their pants and grab their package’s in front of each other. And then they dog out the gay boys who are aware of their nature.  Funny, the gay boys rarely sag their pants, they know what it means!

 

How do you feel that astrology can help people who are suffering in their lives? What are ways in which you have been able to help other people as an astrologer?

At one time I did a lot of readings and I helped many. I think of my sister, Michelle. She’s a Leo with Venus in Virgo. I helped her understand her demanding, critical nature toward her relationship and gave her some insight in how to handle it without driving her husband and herself crazy. I often remind her of her destiny when she occasionally worries about money. I wouldn’t stay with this enigmatic art if it did not provide some balm, some insight.

What contributions do you want to make to the field of astrology?

I just enjoy sharing with my family and friends. And as a teacher, I teach my students! I give them basic info about the signs, encourage them to study for themselves. I show them how to look up their charts, and how to figure out their family and friends. They appreciate it and ask a lot of questions. In this way I am helping to enlighten the dark…

What would you say is the summary of the bigger lesson you have learned from studying astrology?

One of my bigger lessons has been very personal,  being a good mother. I do feel that being a stargazer has separated me from many in the way that I see the world.  To a degree, I see the world through a lens that others do not use. I enjoy my time with my family and friends, but sometimes I  feel a bit of separation.  (Laughs) But then I do have Cancer rising!

Do you think it would help black people in particular, to seriously study astrology or seek astrological consult? How exactly do you think it could help us as a people see our circumstance?

Yes, I think knowledge of astrology can be helpful to anyone, particularly African Americans. Not only to understand the messages of forecasts but somehow having an understanding of the lessons of the moon’s cycles, the retrograde of venus and mercury and how they provide a clearing and testing of the metal… just knowing about that is like being able to look inside the great clock and see how it’s made. It’s like peeking into the “mind of god” and life is never the same…

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