By Emily Merrell
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been intrigued by astrology. Is my sign compatible with the kid I have a crush on? How much of me is my sign? What does Mercury in retrograde really mean? Yet with all the questions, I only had some books and the internet to lean on. Katie Sweetman is like the life version of those books. As an astrologer, she uses astrology for personal and spiritual development. Learn below how you can bring more astrology into your life.
SDS: How did you get involved in astrology and what does a day in the life of an astrologer look like?
KATIE SWEETMAN: I was always interested in astrology as a kid. This was pre-internet days, so back then it involved reading astrology books from the library or buying them from local bookstores. My dad was actually into astrology, so my first exposure was his astrology books on our bookshelf. When I was about 14, he put software on the family computer that let you calculate natal charts. Again, pre-internet! It used to be that if you wanted your birth chart, you had to calculate by hand, which took a lot of time. Now anyone can just put their info into a website or app and have their chart immediately.
I hit a huge rough patch around age 28-29. When someone mentioned at a party that I was going through the “Saturn Return”, I was like, “Huh?” I googled it and discovered that there was this astrological phenomena that happens at age 28-29 called the Saturn Return. Saturn literally returns to where it was in the sky when you were born. It described exactly what I was going through.
I wanted to cry at that moment because it gave language to why my life was falling apart and why things were so hard. In astrology, Saturn is the planet of lessons among other things.
Astrology went from party trick to full blown obsession. I realized how powerful astrology can be and how it can be used as a tool for personal and spiritual development. I felt a calling to use it to help others as I had helped myself.
Even though I started my astrological consulting practice in 2011-2012, it wasn’t until 2019 when I left my full time corporate job. My day-to-day life now is evolving, but life as an astrologer involves a lot of writing, personal promotion, social media marketing, public speaking, and of course, working one-on-one with clients.
My clients are in both the US and around the world. I use the birth chart — a circular wheel filled with symbols and lines that represent where the planets and the zodiac signs were when you were born — as a map, as well as a clock.
This chart tells me a lot about who you may be and the rhythm of how your life likely unfolds. But, it doesn’t tell me how you live it and the choices you make. That’s why it’s so important that my time together with a client is a conversation. I have to get to know you and get a feel for the person living within this chart as well as your spiritual maturity.
I’m not here to predict your life. I’m here to reconnect you with fundamental truths so that you can make the decisions that are right for you and learn to live in harmony with the birth chart.
SDS: 2019 was a very trying year for many with Mercury in retrograde for what felt like forever. What does it mean when Mercury is in retrograde and how can we prep ourselves in 2020?
KS: It’s worth noting that 2019 was a trying year for reasons beyond Mercury. We had some very challenging eclipses in January followed by July and then again in December and into the new year.
As for retrogrades, that’s something that all planets — minus the Sun and Moon — do at various points throughout the year. It’s a phenomena when the planet appears to move backwards in the sky because of an optical illusion.
What we need to learn from a retrograde is that we can’t always move forward. We have to instead find time to rest, reflect and integrate. A retrograde is the yin to life’s yang.
Mercury turns retrograde 3-4 times a year for about three weeks at a time, so it’s a relatively common event. It’s an invitation to take a second look at how we communicate, think and move. Yes, things can get super annoying, but we can’t force things when Mercury is in retrograde. We have to instead go back and revisit old choices. This includes old relationships as it’s not uncommon for an old flame to reappear during Mercury Retrograde so we can tie up loose ends and close a chapter.
Mercury is in retrograde from February 16- March 9; June 18- July 12; and October 13- November 3, 2020.
SDS: With astrology, your personality is more than the astrological sign you were born with. Can you tell us the best way to figure out your rising sign and all other signs that make up your personality?
KS: The internet and apps are making it so easy to get your chart and get your first look at what your planets mean.
If you want to see your chart (this astrological thumbprint that is unique to you), you need your birth date, birth place and your birth time. The birth time needs to be exact and is often found on the original birth certificate. By law, at least since the early 1960s, the time is officially recorded. If you don’t have your birth certificate, you can request a copy from your state vitals department. Note that you may need to get your long form birth certificate. Sometimes the copy does not have the time on it.
When you have the birth time, it allows you to discover the exact constellation of the zodiac that was rising at the moment you were born. I have Sagittarius rising, which means that the sign of Sagittarius was rising in the east. Although I’ll always be my Sun sign, the rising sign is like a second self. It talks about personality and how you go forward in life. It also draws the chart and creates a personal clock-like chart that your life runs on.
SDS: Are there current themes you see potentially happening in 2020?
KS: 2020 continues many themes that have been present in astrology over the last few years — massive transformation. I know that that may be a bit challenging for people to consider, but all you have to do is look at your life and look at the world right now. We’re in a passage of time when we can’t keep doing things the same way. Astrology is merely echoing this.
Some other big themes include tearing down old structures that are no longer working and building new ones in their place. Examining the deepest parts of ourselves. Looking at our social networks, including our friendships. Building new friendships. Finding new connections. Clearing out old friendships that no longer support us. Leaving behind old beliefs that no longer are true.
Mars and Venus are also retrograde in 2020, so this year is going to be a lot about relationships — how we do them, what’s working, what’s not working.
SDS: What is one of the bigger misconceptions about astrology that you’d like to clear up?
KS: I think there’s this old conception that astrology is something that is happening to you instead of something that’s happening in concert. You are the stars and the stars are you. Everything is one and everything is connected. The movement of the heavens — the Sun, the Moon, Saturn — merely reflect something that’s happening inside of you. “As above, so below.”
You also have free will. Yes, there are things you can’t change just like you can’t change the weather. But you can totally decide how you are going to interact with the planets. A wise person once said to me that “the future is a tree with many branches”.
Astrology also doesn’t measure consciousness. Meaning, it doesn’t tell me your level of self awareness and your ability to rise above yourself and above your fears and interact with the heavens in a different way. The more you work on yourself and grow and mature, the more you have an expanded relationship with your astrology.
SDS: Lastly, tell us about the full moon— how do you know the significance of each full moon?
KS: Every month we have a full moon. It’s a time when feelings and events are heightened. Life can feel loud or electric around a full moon.
The Moon in astrology is the well of memory and the past. It also speaks to how each month will unfold, starting with the new moon. When a full moon falls in a certain sign of the zodiac it can highlight emotions and feelings colored by the archetype of that zodiac sign.
A full moon in Aries, for example? We’re feeling rash. We’re also feeling courageous. We’re likely to strike out on our own, take command as well as leadership. These are all Aries traits. But a full moon in Aries can also be dramatic and demand that we deal with something immediately. Aries is a fire sign, so events may be colored by this fiery, impulsive, and catalytic energy.
Also, when you have the chart of the full moon (the chart that tells you where all the planets are based on the date and time of the exact full moon), you can get a clearer picture of what it will activate. In the case of an Aries Full Moon, you want to look to Mars and see what it’s doing in the sky. In astrology, we say that Aries is “ruled” by Mars. So an Aries Full Moon is pointing towards Mars, so to speak, its ruler.
The full moon is here and things feel a little “off” – is Mercury in retrograde again? Why does spring always feel so crazy? On April 7, join Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology to explain everything that is happening around this new moon and beyond! Reserve your spot here.