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A visit to the dark side this weekend while the Sag sun joins forces with Pluto? Steer clear of nasty scenes and power trips or you could become tainted, not to mention bruised and battered, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the 16th, Mars shifts signs from Pisces to Aries and spirits soar. After six months water-logged, the red planet is finally in an inspired fire sign. Make the most of the transit because it'll only last seven weeks. On the 17th, Mercury, ruler of travel, communication and sales, goes retrograde and turns Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year's into the holidays of hesitations and near-misses.

Aries

On the 16th, your passionate Mars ruler finally steps out of the tepid tub it's been soaking in since mid-June. If you hadn't noticed, six months of navigating through ambiguous Piscean waters could feel like forever. Even though Mars will only spend seven weeks in Aries, imagine how much you can accomplish when you have loads of energy and clear cut goals. Just be sure to look carefully before you leap into action. Mercury turns retrograde the next day, so, despite your agenda, progress will slow down and signals will get crossed. But hey, it's party time.

Taurus

Network like mad. Coincidentally, the holidays are the best time for you to reach out to folks who may be helpful in the future, but are fun to socialize with now. The more varied the assortment of faces, the more enjoyable and valuable the experiences. This is also a good time to get away from the usual office party circuit and explore new terrain and cultures. There's something quite romantic and spiritually satisfying waiting for you as the year winds down; the call, not only of the wild, but the gorgeous as well.

Gemini

Gemini, better than most signs, know how strange things tend to get in the days before your Mercury ruler does an about-face. Since the Messenger will be stopping and starting, doing a stutter-step from the 17th on, consider putting all your plans on hold and winging it for the duration. See what happens and where you're at come Epiphany, when the Mardi Gras party season begins. If you're not being pressured to make Yuletide promises and New Year's resolutions, you can't break them. Despite a heightened sense of duty, you don't have to obey orders??? unless you're flying.

Cancer

If you're doing things by the book, observing family traditions and feeling a strong sense of obligation, blame it on strict Saturn in your sign. Better to embrace the holiday spirit so that you'll be commended rather than condemned for trying to avoid the emotional overload of the season. So much planetary attention is currently centered in your house of significant others, so many people feel connected to you this year, that you'll really disappoint them if you pull a disappearing act and please yourself instead.

Leo

Lucky Leo. This time of year your house of romance, recreation and other pleasures is lit like a Christmas tree. Make the most of the goodies and good times while you can. But if you want to be known as a useful, upstanding member of the community, be generous donating time and money to the sick and poor or to the folks who provide the services you couldn't live without. Charity begins, not at home -- they don't need it -- but at the office, the blood bank and Goodwill, the other area of your chart that is lit.

Virgo

Great expectations. Prosperous, protective Jupiter in your sign this year promises you'll have a particularly enjoyable holiday season. Don't fuck it up by insisting that everyone do what you want or share your feelings. Because your Mercury ruler will be retrograde, plans probably won't materialize the way you envision and words will be taken the wrong way. At least there'll be less overt friction; Mars, the god of slash and burn, is finally out of Pisces, where, for the past six months, it managed to irritate most of your partners.

Libra

As usual, your neighbors, friends and family, will try to orchestrate your comings and goings during the holiday season. However, you can easily make time for an off-beat admirer and his or her pursuit of whatever is new, different and thrilling. You don't have to be your compliant self, especially since retrograde Mercury will mess up arrangements without you having to make excuses. But try not to fib during the purest of spiritual connections: when your romantic Venus ruler joins idealistic, artistic Neptune for New Year's.

Scorpio

Thank the gods that your Mars co-ruler is in fiery Aries, breathing energy into your love life, instead of in watery Pisces, where it was drowning you in lethargy and waves of confusing emotions. With your Pluto co-ruler also in a fire sign, you might actually feel spirited and sexy this holiday season, eager for adventure and whatever comes your way. Money can be an on-going issue while Mercury is retrograde in your house of income and assets. Shop early, spend prudently, keep track of receipts and anticipate delivery delays.

Sagittarius

The joys of self-absorption. It's primarily during Sagittarius that you are blessed with enough opportunities to show your true colors and get away with it. You know you're supposed to be thinking of your fellow man and what he wants for Christmas, but, the truth be told: Until your/my birthday has come and gone, the holidays are all about you/me. Since Mercury will be retrograde in your Capricorn money house, take it easy with the credit cards when shopping. And watch out for identity theft.

Capricorn

How to handle having Mercury retrograde in your sign from December 17-January 6? Give up all hope of controlling the flow of anything, except maybe the eggnog. Add hours, even days to your travel plans, bring extra money for contingencies and food to sustain you while you wait to get where you're going. Or don't go. Like your Sag buddy, the holiday season is when you shine your brightest, so no matter where you spend it, you'll have an excellent time. Just ignore, don't smack, the Scrooges and grinches.

Aquarius

Who has the most friends? Who should wait until Mercury flips on the 17th before finalizing their gift lists? Who's naughty, who's nice? Who knows, because something unexpected could alter your sense of allegiance, your identification with a particular group during Mercury's turnaround. While romance might not figure into your holiday plans as yet, admit that you're attracting a new crew of admirers, an artier bunch than the folks who usually gravitate to your place. Thank Venus and her sidekick, Eros.

Pisces

Say yes. Graciously accept whatever goodies you're offered this holiday season, no matter how inappropriate they may seem at the moment. It'll be another 12 years before wise and generous Jupiter visits your Virgo house of allies again. By Xmas 2015 your self-sacrificing Neptune ruler will be in Pisces and you may already be a monk or a nun. So if there's anything on the material plane you have your eye on, drop hints to anyone remotely close. One person could be your good luck charm, another, your future guru.

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