Generally speaking, I read my horoscope eeeevery now and again. I’ve never sought them out, but if I come across one in the back of a magazine that I happen to pick up at a salon or checkout line, I’ll take a look. It seems as though I fit the commonly accepted criteria for my sign, Aquarius, and I’ve been in two major productions of the musical “Hair,” in which I enjoyed singing the song of the same name.
And that, until recently, was the sum total of my interaction with the world of astrology. I’ve always regarded it with respectful indifference, which, now that I think about it, doesn’t actually jive with my desire to connect and feel connected to the world and others in whatever ways are available to us. I guess I felt like there was a world (or worlds) of study involved with astrology, and that it was best left to people who feel pulled in that direction.
Also, my brain houses a remarkable amount of skepticism for someone who also has religious faith and prays with strangers on the subway. Astrology, clairvoyant activity, and psychic mediums have felt the heaviest wrath of my skepticism, and my fascination with reading people’s behavior and microexpressions only fuels my distrust.
I don’t feel a need to go around de-bunking these people or anything, but I know how very vague questions can yield subconscious responses that can then be used to glean information, and then questions can get more specific until declarations are made that have roots in fact, and suddenly you’re sobbing on John Edward’s shoulder on national TV. Coincidentally, I was the one person who enjoyed “The Mentalist.”
Despite my suspicions, and the many documented cases of alleged psychics taking money from gullible people, I don’t think every person who claims to be clairvoyant is faking it. Some people who say they have those gifts have to actually have them, right?
When I met one such person, introduced via mutual friends in a social setting, I was intrigued, to say the least. Janelle Belgrave is an astrologer, acupuncturist, and clairvoyant intuitive, and she’s also a great salsa dancer but that’s not important right now.
Cliché alert: Janelle has really great energy. She really does exude an aura of otherworldly connectedness, but not at all in goofy, Phoebe Buffay way. When I went to her home for my appointment, there was that same energy, a sort of lightness. And then she completely blew my mind.
Talking with Janelle before my birth chart reading officially commenced, I was curious about so much: how she got started, does she think astrology is at odds with organized religion, and what does being clairvoyant mean for her own life? I got all the answers I asked for, and some I didn’t know I needed.
Janelle says she got “hooked” on astrology around middle school, having always been curious and then seeking out all the info she could, “going to that little occult section of the library and reading as much as I could, just devouring that information.”
I was always taught that astrology is at odds with the major religions, (it’s labeled “occult,” hello and as much as I rebelled against certain narrowly religious teachings of my youth and explored Buddhism and eventually came back to religion on my own as an adult, that feeling lingered. Until Janelle wiped it away:
“I think a lot of astrology and occult stuff is looked down upon in modern religion because there’s some agenda to keeping people hooked, to being the one saying ‘I have all the answers.’” Certainly, much of the pull of organized religion is that people are looking for something; for answers, comfort, order, or a sense of belonging. When you’re grasping for something to believe, you’ll believe what you’re presented with. Janelle continues, “And I think it’s great that people can find that in religious texts, if that’s what they need, but I don’t think it’s the only way. I’m of the belief that the universe, God, angels, the heavens, whatever is out there beyond our five senses, are constantly looking for ways to connect with us when we need it most, or even just in general, to stay in connection.”
When it’s put like that, I welcome that additional sense of connection. Janelle herself was raised in Catholicism and she says, “I remember there were times when I was deep in Catholicism that I felt conflicted about it, but thankfully there was a larger part of myself that was like ‘Fuck that—I enjoy it too much.’ It got to a point where they were like, ‘Astrology is a sin!’ and I was like ‘…no it’s not;’ why is it a sin to know more about yourself or the world?”
She adds that “you do see astrology in religious texts—there are examples in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The wise men followed the stars, y’know?”
Janelle started studying to be a clairvoyant when she was in grad school, studying under a friend who had established a very successful practice of combining acupuncture with clairvoyance, although she believes that “everyone is psychic, on some level, especially children and pets. And then we lose it as we get older. We’re told very often when we’re little, ‘Oh it’s just your imagination, what you’re seeing is not real’ and I think that’s the worst thing you can ever tell children, because you never know what babies are seeing. They’re fresh out of whatever ether they came from, and they’re still bonded to it, and they’re adjusting to this physical realm.”
“We are open channels, and you can hone psychic energy to make it stronger.” What Janelle added to her studies in astrology and acupuncture was “clairvoyant meditation, skills and techniques and tools to use to meditate to ground yourself, to keep yourself clean and clear, and also to put up psychic boundaries, because we’re exposed to psychic energy all day long.”
So it IS hard to be a psychic! I knew it! I’m a highly sensitive person, often taking on the energy of others, which is part of what makes living in New York City increasingly difficult for me, being bombarded with it all the time. I can only imagine what it must be like with a heightened, otherworldly sensibility, and I also wondered about it possibly being a hindrance: in her personal life, would she be thinking about her own connectedness to the extent that she’d feel like she couldn’t be as impulsive (i.e. human), because she “should know better,” or maybe within her, does know better?
Well, it’s not quite that simple. Just as I buy Eglantine Price’s admittedly flimsy explanation in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” that being a witch doesn’t mean she can make stacks of money out of thin air, I didn’t expect Janelle to literally predict the future, nor would I expect her life to be perfect.
She references Garnet on Steven Universe, and her future vision: “It’s about these different rivers that each lead to possible outcomes, but it’s all dependent on the activities that you’re doing right now. So I might see you getting married in three months, but if you decide to break up with [so-and-so] tomorrow, that shifts. That trajectory might be extended, or it might be cancelled, you might take a different path altogether. So it’s all about looking at what’s present in the moment and what are the possibilities here.”
“The other thing to look out for is that some people get very attached to outcomes, and that can be difficult, because sometimes, in your desire to have things look a certain way, you miss your miracles. So I also tell clients: be flexible, be open. I know you want this person, but this person may not be for you. If it’s not working out, stay open to things rearranging themselves for your best benefit; whatever that might look like. And at first, it might not look great. It might mean losing a job. It might mean a breakup. There’s a litany of things that might feel like chaos and destruction, but chaos and destruction contribute to creation energy.”
“In order for things to be created, you may need to destroy a couple of things. You need to make space in your life. You need to let go. For so many of us, we’re so interested in retaining everything we ever amass in our lives, yet we wonder why we get stuck at certain points.”
“Everything’s connected; you are a reflection of the heavens, you are connected to the Earth, and what’s evolving around you is not coincidence, it’s the natural progression of the universe.”
She says that when doing readings for clients, “frequently, it’s telling me something similar about my own life, and it can be very humbling.” And yes, she does feel a weight of added responsibility in her own life: she says when she messes up, sometimes she does say to herself ‘I should have seen that coming,’ but it doesn’t prevent her from having experiences--“It keeps me humble. The tricky thing is to not be too hard on yourself. Life is supposed to be an adventure, and it’s about perspective.”
So much about my birth chart reading was spot-on, and although I didn’t think Janelle was out to con me, I was still mindful of giving brief responses and minding my microexpressions, and Janelle even asks that first-timers not volunteer too much information at first, which makes her accuracy all the more impressive. Deciphering the actual chart and explaining as she went along, she correctly pointed out a few ages at which I had had formative or traumatic experiences, and she read something about what my father was doing at the time of my birth that was true and completely unknown outside my family.
For the clairvoyant portion, which is separate, Janelle said she would have her eyes closed the entire time but asked me to keep mine open. She began by silently meditating, and what followed was her describing the images that came to her, and the feelings they invoked. It was fascinating, resonant, moving, and inspirational.
I was so drawn in that I became afraid that my mother might make an appearance, but thankfully she didn’t, although Janelle says she does “tend to pull in a lot of people who’ve crossed over. I try to be as respectful as possible because the dead are really funny, I’ve decided. They have really great senses of humor.”
No one from my life who’s passed away popped in to crack wise, but I do have some more details now about why I’m such an Aquarius, and I still love singing the song.