Decolonizing Astrology with Alice Sparkly Kat

Originally published in Kajal Magazine in 2018.

Alice Sparkly Kat is a Brooklyn based astrologer with a contemporary, cross-disciplinary practice that ranges from meticulous natal chart readings, to team building workshops, creative writing and art projects, and meme making, all with a view to decolonizing and queering astrology. Kajal staff writer Tara Kenny sat down with her to discuss the pitfalls of New Age orientalism, bringing humor to spirituality, and astrology as a vehicle to explore trauma.

Tara Kenny: Hi Alice! I’ve heard your approach described as “less mystical” than some other astrologers and I agree that you have a no-nonsense, contemporary style. Personally I appreciate that you do very rigorous, thorough natal chart readings but also actively engage with the hilarious internet astrology community. How would you locate yourself?

Alice Sparkly Kat: Hi Tara! I see myself as naturally kind of resisting New Age tropes because of who I am. If you go into the astrology section of any bookstore, a lot of the books are from the New Age movement. In that era, I think post-modern orientalism was really defined. So, because of who I am, I’m not able to engage in that without satire.

Now, astrology is such a big part of queer subculture. I guess I have a foot in collaborating and laughing with other queer people about the world and ourselves through astrology, and using it self reflexively, which is more rigorous, to critique orientalism in its own language.

Tara: In our recent interview for Mystical Sweeties you mentioned that when you were initially learning about astrology you didn’t find a single book by a queer or POC astrologer, which shook me, especially considering the queer internet astrology community is so prominent! Can you speak to the space between the astrology canon and online community, and to what it might mean to queer and decolonize astrology?

Alice: It’s true! As I mentioned, a lot of astrological literature comes from a New Age movement that was pretty problematic. There were even astrologers who tried to figure out what astrological aspect made someone gay or a race other than white. The idea was definitely that white, cis-gendered, straight people were “normal,” while everyone else was not.

The internet has brought a lot of different strains of astrology together. New Age astrology is still alive and well, but so are a lot of younger memers and content producers. On top of that, there are astrologers from non-western parts of the world building their own platforms.

Decolonizing astrology is never a process that “works” for me. There’s never a moment where it’s like “Aha! Now astrology is decolonized!” Instead, it’s a constant process of learning how orientalism works. There are long histories of orientalism that go back to the early Greek empire, and there are ironic self-orientalizing mythologies that already orientalized prosumers create for their own survival. There’s the Persian prophet in Greek imagination, there’s Alan Watts, and there’s also D.T. Suzuki.

I’m interested in liberating the people, not the culture. This means that I want to engage people in a way that allows people of color to capitalize on white culture’s obsession with karma to ask for reparations, for example. I’m also interested in people of color using mythology without reverence, which is the thing that seems to trap us, to heal what we’re allowed to imagine ourselves to be. I’m interested in using spirituality inauthentically as a tool against normalized forms of gaslighting.

Tara: Amazing! I think humor is key to dismantling reverence around spirituality, which leads into the iconic pairing of astrology and memes. Why do you think astrology meme culture is so prominent and so funny, and what do you make of it? Is it a) a gateway drug to serious astrology, b) a mockery of the dark arts, or c) something else?

Alice: It’s a bunch of queers who can’t take anything seriously trying to create a spirituality. My friend Som talked to me the other day about the difference between articulation and representation. Articulation has an inherent self critique, whereas representation is an act of faith. In order to decolonize spirituality, I think we have to articulate it and not represent it. The reason modern spirituality calls for so much faith is because the engine of capitalism needs faith to sustain its ideologies.

Meme culture is great because it articulates spirituality through mimicry. It gives us a place to be spiritual and “woo-woo” without faith. Instead, through meme culture spirituality becomes a place of creativity and collaboration. Meme culture spirituality is a relationship.

Tara: On that, you have an extremely cross-disciplinary approach to astrology and are always working with others to reimagine what astrology can be: from the video game you created for a recent show at Babycastles, to the first interview in a series of conversations with a QTPOC of each sun sign, to the upcoming creative writing course you are teaching at the Asian American Writers Workshop and later at Chinatown Soup. What can we expect from the writing course?

Alice: I taught the course at New Women Space and am so excited to do it again! In the course, we learn astrology by writing a work of fiction using our natal charts. We use western astrology, because western astrology is the matrix that holds our collective modern traumas. Through fiction and fantasy, we investigate our feelings within this matrix of meaning, which may not come out in more conscious types of discourse.

Tara: Mining the subconscious and planets for inspiration, I love it. Anything else you’re cooking up?

Alice: I’ve also just finished turning the Astrology and Storytelling course into a book! While the course is a social space, the book gives everyone the opportunity to work through the material and exercises at their own pace, or with friends. It has everything the course has to offer, except for, of course, the community aspect of meeting people and sharing your story with them.

The book will be available for pre-order in early October on my website, and for regular sales after mid-October. I’ll have a discount for those who want to get multiple copies for their group of friends, or chosen family, to work through the exercises together. I want people to take the book and run with it, creating their own weekly meet-ups, because originally the material was meant to be used to create community. Intimacy and validation for marginalized people is the goal.