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Miller's Light: America’s Best-Loved Astrologer Tweets the Future
“We’re going to have cholera in New York if they don’t clean that park,” says Susan Miller. It’s mid-October, three weeks into the Occupy Wall Street protest, which has drawn tens of thousands to Lower Manhattan. “I mean they can’t stop. This isn’t even the beginning yet. Pluto is going to be working on the money supply until 2023, and the protestors will have to keep at it!” She continues, “But my God they have to do it somewhere else for a few days. Someone’s got to clean the house!”
They told her they wanted daily horoscopes for women. Miller, undaunted, said no way: It had to be for men and women, once a month, and long—she wanted to tell the reader everything twice. The Pathfinder team balked. “They said, ‘Why?!’” Miller recalls. “‘Won’t people come once and never come back?’ And I said, ‘I will be so detailed they will come back for the dates.’”
She then told the suits about how her mother had foretold this: That she would someday write for a yet-to-be invented form of technology, and that it would be a hit. They bought what she was selling, and soon after, Miller’s column went live on Pathfinder. In 1995, AstrologyZone was born. (Pathfinder failed to live up to the hype and dissolved in 1999.)
The moral of the story? “Always have your meetings in the morning,” says Miller, exploding into her signature cackle. “That, and don’t compromise on content. I never did, and I won’t start now.”
Her mother was right about her career—and a lot of other things, as it turns out.
Like a lot of successful people, Miller is resilient. She’s spent the better part of her life reckoning with her own health problems. She was born with a rare birth defect that causes, among other things, the unsettling sensation of thick syrup pooling in her knee. Her leg would also swell—inches at a time—causing debilitating pain. Whenever an attack would hit, she would miss school for weeks, which made it hard to build friendships.
Her parents were worried, her doctors were mystified, and she was stuck. “When I was little, if a doctor couldn’t find out what was wrong with you, you were making it up,” she says. “They didn’t have MRIs.” But the pain, she says, was unbearable.
Her mother consulted her chart and predicted that when she was 14, her illness would reach a turning point. She was right. Shortly before Susan’s 14th birthday, she had her worst attack yet. She would later learn that the problem is her veins, which are malformed, making internal bleeding a constant risk. The disease kept her bedridden throughout her 14th year, complicated the births of her two daughters, and has necessitated multiple surgeries. It’s also what led her to become an astrologer.
Miller was raised Catholic by her mother, a Gemini, and her Scorpio father, who ran a produce business. (Miller won’t reveal her own sign—“But I think it’s fairly obvious,” she says.) Her mother used astrology practically. If she had to take her daughters shopping for school clothes, she made sure to take them when the moon was in Leo. “We loved everything when the moon was in Leo!” Miller says. And if the girls were worried about a big test at school, her mother would cajole them.
“The moon is in Virgo,” she’d say. “Don’t worry about the details; your teacher just wants to make sure you understand the subject matter.” She also used astrology to guide her daughter through her illness.
Miller was barely a teenager when she announced to her mother that she wanted to be an astrologer. She was bedridden and bored, but her mother didn’t want to teach her to read charts. At least, not at first. “She said, ‘No way; in a year you’ll think you know enough to read for your friends!’” says Miller. “I said, ‘Mom I don’t have any friends! No one comes here.’ But my Italian relatives lived upstairs, so there were always people around.” Finally they came to an agreement: Miller could read for her family members, but only if her mother was in the room.
After 12 years of study, her mother agreed she was ready to read for other people. Miller took the training seriously, she says, and it would be even longer before she started reading charts for strangers as a paying job. To this day she writes with a certain heaviness that reveals the responsibility she feels. “My mother taught me: If you say the wrong thing, well, that’s bad,” she says. “But if you say the right thing the wrong way, that’s just as bad—and maybe worse.”
Much later in life, when Miller was pregnant with her second child, her doctors warned that she might not survive her daughter’s birth. She was beside herself when she studied her chart and saw a pileup of planets in the House of Death. “My mother would always remind me: Your chart shows the condition—not the outcome,” says Miller. Her mother asked her if she thought she could live through the pregnancy. Miller’s response? “I don’t buy plane tickets on airplanes if I think it’s going to crash.”
“And so you will have this baby,” her mother told her. And she did.
It’s an important point, says Miller. Astrology is not explicitly predictive. It doesn’t make things happen. It simply sets up the conditions for things to happen, and the rest is up to us.
“I just looooove Twitter!”
It’s mid-June, Internet Week in New York City, and Miller is nesting among small decorative pillows on a banquette at The Carlyle hotel. She is draped in a ladylike orange dress, picking at a salad niçoise. There is tea for two steeping before us on the table, and someone is plinking at a piano in the other room. The lights are dim, and the waiters are wearing what look to me like Halloween costumes. The scene is more socialite than social media, but Miller, it turns out, feels much more at home in the latter camp. In a few days, she’ll attend a conference at the 92nd Street Y, titled—what else?—“#140.”
The medium suits her. The limited character count forces her to get to the point. She can remind readers about important dates (“Watch for October 27 28-the best days of 2011”), offer amusing advice (“Get that wisdom tooth checked. If it hurt on a day Saturn conjuncted the Sun, Saturn rules teeth. Watch that tooth. Kisses!”), and empathize (“We all got through Oct 13, one of the hardest days of the year.”). On a particularly active day she’ll tweet more than 20 times.
Twitter helps her keep tabs on a readership that is, by any measure, huge. She encourages her followers to reach out to her with specific questions. “If you'd like to report how things are going for you, post a short tweet on my Twitter account,” she writes at the end of one of her monthly horoscopes. And her readers comply.
“Susan, I’m Virgo on Libra Cusp (9/20) born in ‘82. I've been underemployed since Jan ‘09. When can I see career change?” one tweeted at her recently. Another said, “Had a hard & necessary talk to s/o I love who is not showing up 4 me in relationship. #wakeupcall #aquariusleorising.” Miller responds to an astounding number of replies.
Gentle as her tone is, her horoscopes can deliver some tough love, too. Miller, thanks to her own hardships, is insistent on risk taking. After all, this is a woman who was told she might not survive a second pregnancy and still went through with it.
“Listen, I don’t ask my readers to do anything I wouldn’t do,” she says. “I do believe in living a courageous life. Take it by the throat and listen to your heart. I always think things go toward the good. But you have to do hard work along the way.”
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