Shelley von Strunckel: You Ask The Questions

Will Gordon Brown get into No 10? What are a Virgo's chances of being lucky in love? And is astrology just a load of old cobblers? Shelley von Strunckel answers all your new year questions
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The astrologer Shelley von Strunckel, 58, was born in Hollywood, California. After working as a fashion buyer, she became a professional astrologer in 1975. Her columns appear in publications as diverse as Vogue and The Times of India. She lives in London with her British husband.

What does 2005 hold for George Bush?
Peter Gregory, Haywards Heath

According to Bush's birth chart, his star begins to wane seriously after July of 2005; even the American hawks will have good reason to question his intentions.

Have you ever discounted a potential lover or friend on the basis of his or her star sign?
Gabrielle Elliot, Montreal, Canada

There are some lovers I could have done without. When it comes to romance, at least in my experience, astrologers can analyse the horoscope of their beloved and be as blind as anybody else. However, I do use astrology to understand why others acted as they did. The opportunity for insights into the perspective of others is one of the things that drew me to astrology.

How do you become an astrologer? Do you need inherent gifts? Or do you just need to read the right books?
Paul Oswald, London

Astrology is rather like medicine, in that the study is fundamentally academic, and there are facts that must be learnt. I studied with two teachers in California. However, being a good astrologer also requires a knack for communication and, most importantly - if you are dealing with the public - a genuine interest in people.

What should I retort when my husband tells me that horoscopes are a load of old cobblers?
Sara Braithwaite, Monmouth

There is a simple question to answer those who insist that astrology is rubbish: what is their experience of it? Have they ever had their chart done or read a book on the subject? If not, then referring to the field dismissively is probably more a matter of collective - and ill-informed - prejudice than anything else. There are many areas in life about which otherwise well-informed people are happy to pass judgement without really knowing anything.

I'm a single Virgo woman who would like to meet someone. What should I be doing and what are my chances of success this year?
Catherine Baker, Bristol

You are hoping for a magical formula that will remove all of life's problems with a whoosh. True, there are times that are difficult and those that offer astonishing opportunity. And there's tremendous advantage to knowing when to navigate around the former and how to take advantage of the latter. However, whatever the insights astrology can offer, and they can be profound, the responsibility still lies with the individual to pick up the ball and run with it. Alas, astrologers are short of magic wands.

Do you have the easiest job in the world?
Julia Kirby, by e-mail

What's easy about my job is that I adore doing it. Being able to work in a field that I love is a pleasure. However, the actual writing is seriously hard work; and I haven't had a holiday from writing in 13 years. So no, I don't have the easiest job in the world.

Our politicians seem to be planning to fight the next general election with scare tactics about terrorism. Can you save us from this tedium by telling us if we actually are in danger? And, if so, whether we would be safer under a Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem government?
Holly Ostler, Neasden

Long before there were star-sign columns (which began only in 1930), astrology was used as a tool by politicians, both to predict the downfall of adversaries and where their own advantage lay. With today's climate of uncertainty, there's a tendency to blame the politicians for the dilemmas we're facing. It isn't their fault. The era that's now ending (the Piscean Age) was structured around an unchanging hierarchy, in government, religion, society, business and family. The new era (the Aquarian Age) is about freedom, personal responsibility and equality. But it only began in about the year 2000, and so we're still struggling with the chaos that accompanies any change. Ultimately, we will be better off, but many of us still long for the old arrangement, in which those in charge (in the case of the question, the political parties) are responsible for everybody's welfare. In the new model, if you're worried about what the political parties are doing, then the answer is to join them and do what you can to make a change.

Do you do your own horoscope? Have you ever found out something you wish you hadn't?
Katy Pearson, St Albans

I don't look at my own chart regularly. But because I'm constantly writing about the planetary aspects over the weeks and months to come, I'll sometimes give a few moments' thought to what they might mean for me. I do plan the big stuff, career and house moves and the like, astrologically. Or I try to, but sometimes practical events intervene. For example, when I was planning my wedding day, I obviously wanted a good chart, but unfortunately my brother couldn't come on the ideal date astrologically. My brother won and I settled for a less auspicious date. He's the only brother I've got.

I'm a Los Angeles native who moved to London years ago. Now I am being followed by a host of American celebrities such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Christian Slater. Is there something in the stars that is making them all up sticks?
Patricia Smith, Yarmouth

I may be an astrologer and a Californian by birth, but I'd never suggest that I could fathom the thinking of a movie star. I can make a couple of guesses why those you mention are happier here. First, the public actually has a greater respect for the privacy of those who are well known. Second, friendships in the UK may take longer to form but they're less influenced by business, and more lasting. LA has gorgeous weather and a luxurious lifestyle, but it's a new city - only just over 200 years old - so when it comes to depth, London wins hands down.

Did you have a Pauline conversion to astrology or did you always believe? And how did you make it pay?
Beth Hill, Birmingham

Astrology isn't a religion, so I wasn't converted to it. Even as a child I was interested in ideas, various philosophies and religion, as well as alternative approaches such as astrology. But I never imagined I'd be doing it for a living. How I make it pay is quite another matter; in that sense I'm a journalist like anybody else who writes for newspapers and magazines. I have columns, and get paid for writing them. Initially I worked solely with private clients, as a consultant. I had a business background and many of my first clients were business people. But eventually I got exasperated with the poor image of the field of astrology. Instead of complaining about it, I moved more into the public arena in the hope of doing something about it.

Will Gordon Brown ever become prime minister?
Jon Taylor, London

His chances of succeeding Tony Blair are increasingly less with every passing day of Blair's regime. But it's not easy to predict what will happen with the Blair-Brown feud. I'm not a clairvoyant. I would need to study the charts of everyone involved, and even then, you cannot be certain.

Was Nostradamus on to something?
Ursula Brown, Norwich

Nostradamus, the 16th-century doctor, scholar and astrologer was on to a lot. When he was alive, he was renowned as the best plague doctor in Europe; at that time all doctors were also astrologers. He was also skilled at "skrying", looking in a pool of water and interpreting the images he saw. His predictions were based on a combination of the two. A third to a half of his predictions have turned out to be correct. For example, that the Shah of Persia, as he called him, would fall from an excess of faith and that the person responsible would come from France. Of course, that is where the Ayatollah was living before the Iranian revolution. But Nostradamus' predictions only make sense after the event and so it's difficult to know which ones we should be concerned about.

Are you religious? Or is astrology a religion in itself?
Graham Turner, Tunbridge Wells

To me it would be impossible to be an astrologer and not have a reverence for the rhythm of nature. However, astrology isn't a religion, it's a tool. Anybody can try it and decide whether it works for them. That has nothing to do with faith. Personally, I attend St Mary's Bourne Street, a church known for its wonderful music and splendid choir.

Do you consider your method to be in any way scientific?
Ian Rutter, by e-mail

If you define science as a study devoted to producing repeatable, physical proof that certain postulates are correct, then astrology isn't scientific. Humans, with their free will, make prediction very difficult. However, the process of calculating charts or horoscopes, which we use as a basis for those predictions, is very scientific; they can be, and usually are, calculated by computers and are exact to the minute and degree of latitude and longitude.

Shelley's columns can be viewed on her website, www.shelleyvonstrunckel.com

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