Sick of the nonstop political chatter on ABC, Fox News and CNN? Fed up with meaningless polls that show George W Bush winning soccer moms in South Dakota today and John Kerry taking Jewish trout fishermen tomorrow? Perhaps it's time you turned to the stars.
In a ritual that occurs every four years, astrologers across America are doing their best to predict the outcome of the upcoming presidential election, offering colorful charts and exhaustive, if sometimes incomprehensible, explanations to back up their choices. In their world, the paths of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can influence the electorate more than the economy or the war in Iraq. Even astrologers in India and other countries are getting in on the action, yet another sign of how closely the international community follows American politics.
The only thing is, the public may not like what it hears. Astrologers are completely divided over who will win on November 2.
"Progressions, transits, return charts, eclipses, and of course, Bush's Saturn return -- when you put all these components together, and say 'Who's the winner?' it's not that clear-cut," said astrologer Shelley Ackerman, who polled a number of her peers for the Web site Beliefnet. "In the same way that it wasn't so clear-cut in 2000. It was very similar, in terms of what the stars reflect of the candidates, similar to what's happening in the country. It's very divided."
Many astrologers have held back on issuing predictions, expecting everything to be decided only in the final days of campaigning.
And that's the good news. "Some astrologers are saying the election will be cancelled altogether," said Ackerman, who also runs karmicrelief.com.
But wait, it gets worse. Vedic astrologer Howard Beckman, who also goes by the name 'Hamsavatar', maintains that America is set to experience untold horrors in the year ahead. "I've never seen such a bad chart for the next [astrological] new years for America," he said, referring to a period that falls between late March and early April, when, as he puts it rather ominously, the Lord of the Rising Sun will be in the 8th House of Death. "It means a lot of people are going to die next year. I speculate lots of natural disasters and attacks from the insane terrorist contingent."
Beckman, a resident of New Mexico with 37 years' experience as an astrologer, is fairly certain Bush is going to win, much to his frustration. "I would like to see Bush not win again," he said. "I'm in India a third of the year and I know what's going on internationally, unlike most Americans. Therefore I'm saying something that is against what I would like. It actually looks like Bush may win it. Would either win or take the election. But ''m voting for Kerry anyway."
Famed Los Angeles astrologer Chakrapani Ullal concurred with Beckman's prediction. In June, he posted an analysis of the election online, an in-depth reading of the candidates' horoscopes and competing planetary motions that at times plays out like an astrological thriller.
"These two charts show that the race will be neck and neck," he concluded. "Therefore, even though it is difficult to determine who will win, my best judgment says that George Bush may have an edge over John Kerry."
Leaning toward Kerry -- or at least toward his horoscope -- was astrologer Kuntal Rawal of Colorado. "Both the candidates have strong chart and favorable dashas" -- the period during which planets exert a strong influence -- "running at the time of the election," said Rawal. "However, Senator Kerry has a slight edge and is going to tip the balance favorably for himself as the elections approach. His ratings may show improvements as the election date approaches."
Joining Rawal was Florida astrologer Tom Hopke, also known as Nalini, who changed his decision from Bush to Kerry in June. In 2000, he had predicted Bush to win. Hopke also predicted improvements in America's relations with the world, but also suggested Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would be assassinated.
And then there's the Bangalore-based service astromandir.com, which took note of recent polls indicating Bush's lead among likely voters.
"Even though the current opinion polls suggest that he has the lead he will not be able to maintain it," stated the analysis, under the president's personal astrological chart. "[as] Saturn will not give the potent positive results to him as have been given earlier".
The analysis, by astromandir consultant Srii Arnav, continued, "The current planetary positions and transits do not augur well for President Bush. He is likely to relinquish the post of president and the White House may eventually see a surprise candidate as the new President. Whatever is given eventually comes back and that is the divine law."
It's unclear whether that last part is a partisan swipe at the president. Regardless, New York Vedic astrologer Ronnie Dreyer said it's important to note that astrologers are not equipped to make absolute predictions about the future. The author of Vedic Astrology, she feels more comfortable suggesting what the candidates should do in order to win or lose.
"The one who wins the election will be the person who has the strongest Mars, planet of aggression and war, and who will give the American public the reassurance that they will fight to the finish," she said.
She noted that Kerry has some things going for him on Election Day, but not enough to coast to victory by any means.
"This means that for Kerry to win, he will have to accelerate his drive and his personality to its highest level. This is possible, but it will mean effort on his part, and a slip-up on the part of Bush."
Whoever wins, said Ackerman, their horoscopes suggest he won't be celebrating for long.
"No matter what happens the country is going to be polarized for quite some time," she said. "And even if there's a change in the administration, it's not going to be smooth sailing. If Bush remains in place we'll see a repeat of what happened [under Nixon] in 1973 and '74, with the administration unraveling and the unlikelihood of a term being completed."