Traders turning to stars for answers

I’M sitting in an opulent suite at the Four Seasons Hampshire with about 20 other people, sipping tea and nibbling cakes. We’re here in deepest darkest Dogmersfield, a former hunting park of Henry VIII, to find out what the future holds – and what the chaotic present means – from one of the world’s most famous astrologers, Shelley Von Strunkel.

We may be tucking into shortbread and fondant fancies, but there is an air of puzzlement and concern in the room – a sense of weightiness and unease that Von Strunkel is seeking to address with a lecture called Astrological First Aid. The day she was speaking the economic outlook still looked uncertain, the political future unclear and the first aftershocks of Haiti were being felt.

Von Strunkel believes that we’re in dire need of answers to help us through this transitional stage. In astrological terms, we are in moving from the age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius – astrological ages last about 2,000 years. The Piscean age was dominated by a hierarchical structure, with God and kings on top, followed by men and at the very bottom, women.

The onset of the Age of Aquarius signals an even-ing out (she mimes this movement with a soothing hand motion – a pyramid followed by a bridge constructed of her fingertips touching). It’s a change from the pyramid of hierarchy to the flatness of meritocracy – a new state that includes the rise of women.

If the broad reason for the tumult is the changing of the ages and the reshaping of society, the more particular explanation is the tussling of Pluto and Saturn – naturally. Saturn is all about organised structure – businesses, banks, families and government – while Pluto is a messenger of truth, transformation and equilibrium. In 2009, Pluto came into ascendance. “And that’s why we’ve been having the odd revelation recently, in the government and the banks,” says Von Strunkel.

As somebody who has hitherto believed that the financial crisis was caused by a failure of regulation and over-complicated financial products, hearing that it is actually to do with the planets is something of a shock. Nevertheless, people have been turning to astrology to make sense of these confusing times. Wendy Stacey, a property developer and astrologer, reports a sharp increase in clients. “When recession hits, people start asking why,” she says. “It’s not just about finance and economics, but about their direction in life, where
they’re going.

“We have a lot of businesspeople as clients,” Stacey says. “JP Morgan millionaires don’t necessarily use astrology, but billionaires do. That’s because they tend to think outside the box more.”

Indeed, astrological analysis is not alien to the City. “Traders are quite familiar with the analysis of cycles. A lot of their software has been based on astrology,” Stacey points out, referring to Gann angles, the technical analysis tool that uses geometry, astrology, and ancient mathematics to make forecasts. Gann’s methods are not mainstream, but they have adherents.

The cynic might ask why, if it was all there is the stars, nobody predicted the financial crisis. Stacey herself was “not at all shocked” by the recession. “The last time that Pluto went into Capricorn – in 1770 – the industrial revolution began. This time, Pluto moving into Capricorn corresponded almost exactly to the fall of Lehman Brothers. This,” she concludes, “is going to be a very long cycle, with quite a lot of gloom ahead.”

We might need a little help from our zodiac friends, then. Or, as Von Strunkel purrs: “In times of flux like these, what with the recession and everything else, people often realise they need something more metaphysical. Astrology can help explain things in a way that nothing
else can.”

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