Katharine Merlin, renowned astrologer with four decades of experience, shares her wealth of cosmic knowledge in The Private Lives of the Sun Signs (Glitterati Incorporated). From Aries to Pisces, Merlin presents in-depth analyses of each of the twelve zodiac signs, illustrating their unique characteristics with astonishing accuracy and depth. Drawing upon wisdom gleaned over the course of her extensive career, Merlin provides invaluable insight and understanding into the idiosyncrasies of each sign—the way they process emotions, communicate, find motivation, relate to one other, fall in love, and more.
Through Merlin’s illuminating descriptions, each astrological sign is understood more deeply—in an effort for each sign to learn to harness the potential of their own nascent gifts and take control of their lives. And, by becoming familiarized with the signs of friends and partners, readers can develop understanding and appreciation for their distinctive qualities, finding ways that different signs can complement each other and allow relationships to blossom. The book is not a predictor of future events to come, but instead a tool that will allow people to understand themselves and their loved ones more deeply. In addition to the profoundly thorough astrological profiles, the book is festooned with gorgeous vintage illustration from A Celestial Atlas.
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Merlin speaks about her life in astrology with The Chic. She recalls, “I’m not entirely sure how it came to be but I was always interested in astrology. I began asking friends their birth signs when I was in first grade. My best friend at that time was a Libra born on October 14, and even though I lost touch with her when we moved away when I was seven years old, I remember how Libra-like she was: very sweet, very good at sharing, and fun. In fact, I remember all my friend’s signs (including boyfriends of course) from my childhood and adolescence. Maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated by the Sun signs themselves. They were so accurate.”
Astrology would become Merlin’s calling when she began practicing professionally at the age of 27. But it was only recently that she found a thread that drew her back to her own family. She observes, “About two years ago, I discovered that my great-great grandfather had practiced astrology. I’d known he’d emigrated from England, lived in New York City and that he was a physician. He was my mother’s great-grandfather. My mother’s parents had died young and she never was able to tell me much about him. I knew that his son, my great-grandfather, was a homeopathic physician, but didn’t know anything really about his parents except the above.
“In 2012, I found out from some research I did on Ancestry.com that my great-great grandmother was named Katharine G. Winterburn (I’m named Katharine G. Merlin) and that she was born in Rhode Island which intrigued me since I was planning to relocate to Rhode Island from France. But I couldn’t seem to find out any more about her or her husband from Ancestry’s records. I Googled both of them and got nothing clear about her but when I Googled my great-great grandfather, I stumbled upon a really amazing entry.
“It was titled ‘Astrology Verified’, by William Q. Judge and it went on to talk about my great-great grandfather who was described as ‘one Dr. Charles Winterburn [of New York] who practiced medicine and incidentally Horary Astrology.’ The article also outlined examples of how accurate he always was although he refused remuneration for his astrological work.
“It really meant a lot to me to find this out. The article was written in 1882, a year after my great-great grandfather’s death, and gave me a wonderful glimpse into his character. It also helped explain my powerful pull towards astrology, which wasn’t really consonant with my academically inclined parents’ expectations. Seeing astrology as part of my lineage somehow seemed to legitimize my choice to pursue it and it also prompted me to begin to delve in to that particular branch of astrology that he specialized in—Horary, which involves setting up charts to answer questions.”
Merlin began her study of astrology at the age of 19. As she recalls, “When some friends took me to the studio of Isabel Hickey a Boston astrologer, not only was she as magical as I’d hoped—she taught classes which I started attending immediately. Isabel was my most important teacher. She was the first professional astrologer I ever met and she an impressive person—regal, earthy and highly spiritual.
“In the 1960s and 70s, it was Isabel whose influence shifted astrology out of the fatalistic modality it had occupied prior to that time. She wrote her well known book, Astrology: A Cosmic Science, during the period when I was studying with her and it brought this ancient art into a new realm that was far more positive and inspiring than the one it had previously occupied. I learned a lot about chart interpretation from her and how to zero in on essentials.”
Merlin went on to study at the Jung Foundation in New York. She notes, “The classes I took at the Jung Foundation enriched my understanding of the human psyche in a way that very strongly informed my astrological technique. Jung himself used astrology in his practice because a chart can be seen as a mandala and the planets as aspects of the self. In this view, fate is very much a manifestation of our own internal energy. Psychological astrology was just emerging in the early 1970s and it was quite a revelation to approach chart interpretation in this way.
“Today, new techniques have emerged—many as a result of research into recently translated texts from ancient Greece. There are a number of astrologers who now follow these so-called ‘traditional’ practices and they do add more richness to the whole picture. The ‘traditionalists’, though, have a tendency to look down on ‘modern’ astrologers and to believe that the old techniques are superior to those that began to be formalized around the turn of the twentieth century, but so far from my own studies of them, I’m not inclined to agree. It’s a general rule that astrologers do tend to be very opinionated and individualistic and to believe that whatever methods they use are better than those of others.
“When astrology first began it was an aspect of astronomy. Tracing back to Babylonia, the ancients began tracking the stars and studying their positions while also interpreting their movements in terms of events. With the onset of the scientific era, astronomy evolved and astrology was discredited because divination was not considered a rational pursuit.
“Astrology has an observable basis in the movement of the planets through the zodiac along the plane of the ecliptic and charts are set up according to the degree of the zodiac that ascends on the eastern horizon at a specific time, but it is an art of interpretation, not a science. The value of astrology, in this sense, is that it relates man to the cosmos according to the Hermetic doctrine, ‘As above, so below.’ It’s innately human to look to the stars to navigate through events, just as the stars are used to navigate ships through the sea. In fact, the ancients described the chart as a vessel, the ascendant (the rising sign) being the helm.
“Looking up at the stars and using them as a navigation device goes back to some basic instinct or need that exists in our natures. And astrology evolved as a result of this instinct. It offers a special perspective that can enhance of understanding of our natures by its relatedness to the cosmos.
It is this relatedness that makes Merlin’s work so insightful, inspiring, and accessible and reveals her own growth in the field of astrology. As she recalls, “As a serious astrologer, I had always looked down on the superficiality of magazine column horoscopes based on Sun Signs, but when I accepted the opportunity to actually write one myself in 1989, my attitude underwent a slow and profound transformation. I recognized more than ever that the Sun Signs are archetypal, classic and truly fascinating and I wanted to delve into their characteristics in a way that would communicate something of my deepening understanding of them.
“When Glitterati Incorporated publisher Marta Hallett got involved in the project, it evolved even more. She urged me to write more about and include myself in the text which in turn led to the anecdotal approach I adopted. Getting to know Marta was one of the real highlights of writing this book because her enthusiasm and support gave me the freedom to write in this personal, confiding way that developed under her influence.”
As Merlin writes in the book’s introduction, “In working on this book, I’ve delved into my experiences with people I’ve known over the years and have tried to delineate the characteristics of each of the twelve signs by showing how they come through in real-life situations. And, along the way, I found that I kept making eye-opening discoveries about the Sun signs. The more I think about them and try to locate the little pearl of meaning within each one, the more they seem to come alive and reveal themselves to me.”
As a Libra, Merlin possesses an integral sense of harmony, style, and balance that manifests in an innate urge to create beauty in whatever way she can. As she observes, “To me, chic is generally au courant but real chic doesn’t have to be: it just has to be a look that strikes exactly the right note at any given time. Chic is immediately recognizable: on target, delightful, and full of an almost visceral impact. Some have a talent for appearing chic—innate, wonderful, spot-on great taste.”