Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 4, 2014

Awful Things Astrologers Say to Clients

©2014 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Note: I am reposting this article because of our current discussion about setting healthy boundaries in astrological sessions.  It is an excerpt from  my ebook, Counseling Principles for Astrologers.

For many years, I had a monthly advice column in Dell Horoscope Magazine, a Dear Abby type column in which readers wrote their problems and I answered based on their astrology charts. Part of the job description for that column seemed to be putting out fires that other astrologers have set, for I got many letters from readers who were devastated by the way their chart reading was handled.

These letters pointed to the need for true and responsible professional training in our field and the need, especially, for a certain amount of counseling training. Like it or not, counseling is what an astrologer does each time a client comes for a reading.

I’ve heard from any number of terrified young mothers who were told terrible things about their babies’ charts. Astrologers, please exercise extreme caution and empathy for the parents if you decide to interpret children’s charts. Nothing upsets me more than hearing about astrologers who make dire forecasts based on an infant’s chart, as they are prone to do when the outer planets are strong.

Predicting death is another area where astrologers cause a great deal of alarm–so much so that it is specifically prohibited in the codes of ethics adopted by several astrological organizations. One woman wrote to me saying that she’d been to an astrologer who said that one of her parents would die, based on a Pluto transit to the IC.

Knowing the textbook litany of POSSIBLE manifestations of astrological placements isn’t enough. While his interpretations of the woman’s transits are POSSIBLE manifestations, there are myriads of other possibilities inherent in each aspect as well.

More often, in my practice, Pluto transits to the MC/IC axis or to the Moon have corresponded to the parents retiring and moving away, a major relocation for the client, the purchase or renovation of a home, parenthood, uncovering family secrets, or the healing of old family wounds–or several of those at the same time.

Numerous times, when transiting Pluto aspects both the IC and the Midheaven simultaneously, it has accompanied a major and powerful career change. As the transit affected the MC/IC axis, some such clients started home-based businesses. Often, political struggles in the workplace like mergers and takeovers impacted the client.

These are some potential expressions of Pluto transits to the MC/IC axis, but I wouldn’t have a clue as to which outcome was foreshadowed here without questioning this woman about her situation.

It IS true that occasionally a parent dies when Pluto crosses or otherwise aspects the MC/IC axis. To discern whether that’s a possibility, I judiciously question the client about the parents’ situation and health, but do not mention death as a possibility unless the client presses. Some do press, especially when a parent is already in poor health. IF the client seems to be able to handle it, then the necessity to resolve any remaining issues around that parent does become part of our dialogue.

Possibly that’s exactly what the astrologer in question did also, but all that the client came away with was a sense of doom. Clients tend to remember selectively and focus on or even exaggerate our worst predictions–another reason it is helpful for them to have a tape of the session to listen to later.

Another Dell reader wrote to say that he had a devastating chart reading years ago. The astrologer told him never to give his birth information to anyone again, as the chart showed he would have a difficult life and meet a disastrous end because he has a Mars/Saturn conjunction in the 8th house.

Naturally, he had been extremely fearful about the future and leery of astrology ever since. My reply was that way back then, it sounds like he ran into someone whose reading began and ended with C.E.O. Carter or some of the other fatalistic oldies.

In my 40-odd years of experience with clients who have difficult charts and lives, calamity is seldom a one-time experience, apart from plane crashes or natural disasters. The calamity prone-both psychologically and astrologically-seem to have periodic upheavals and devastating experiences. These periodic eruptions correlate with transiting planets triggering exceedingly difficult aspects in the chart-aspects that portray chronic, self-defeating behavior patterns and a propensity for taking unwise risks.

In recent years, it’s been hopeful to see astrology conferences include lectures, seminars, and discussions on ethics, as well as to see articles on the topic in our organizational journals and on their web sites. Some principles are non-negotiable, like not exploiting clients. However, many other ethical questions are situational rather than absolute, and all the factors and parties involved must be considered before arriving at a conclusion as to correct behavior.

2014 CPA cvr-CunnninghamThis has been an excerpt from my ebook, Counseling Principles for Astrologers, and is part of a discussion on Skywriter of how to set healthy boundaries in astrology sessions. It was stimulated by a recent example of bad boundary breeches.  

Order Counseling Principles for Astrologers for $15.

READERS: Has an astrologer ever told you anything that scared or seriously upset you–some dire prediction, perhaps? Please tell us about it in the comment section so astrologers can understand how powerfully their words affect their clients. We’re having a great discussion there.

More Articles for Professional Astrologers


  1. it happened to me. Back in 1970, I had a high profile astrologer tell me awful things about my oldest boy’s chart. I was so traumatized with no one to talk to about it that in retrospect, at least in part, that’s why I got serious about astrology. I could not believe anyone would be so thoughtless. These days I am very aware of the power of words and what they can do. Sometimes less is more. If I’m having a difficult day I change the appointment. Better to be safe than sorry. The purpose of readings is to enlighten, uplift, and guide. We are not a cure-all, and if a client pushes me I’ve learned how to deal with
    them. I’ve been an astrologer for decades, more than I care to admit, and I see a desperation within the collective these days making people needy and anxious. So many people lack basic insight that I don’t know how they live. We are very lucky to be in the position we are in and it behooves all of us to think before we speak. With Neptune in Pisces and Saturn going into Sagittarius we don’t want to be clueless as to how we affect people. Be kind everybody.

    • Thanks for sharing that experience, Sherry. And for the suggestion of changing the client’s appointment if you’re having a tough time. I know so many of us astrologers have a hard time making a go of it financially, so it can be hard to put a session off. But clients who have bad sessions won’t refer any one else to that astrologer. And, yes, I’m retired, but I can imagine how hard the sessions are now with such turmoil in the world. Donna

  2. I was told I would never marry – that hit me to the core. Of course at 47 this may be coming to fruition. I remember when the astrologer told me this, my first thought was who is he to think he had any idea about my future! However, it hit a nerve and has always stayed with me.

    • That’s a painful one, Jewel. And when a heavily negative pronouncement like that one worms its way into our beliefs, it could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn’t even have to come from an astrologer–you could read it on a blog probably.

      However, to be fair to astrologers, when we’re faced with really tough natal aspects or transits in the marriage sectors of the chart (the 7th, Venus, or Libra, mainly), it’s hard to know what to say that would be constructive. Some of the rose colored glasses, terminally positive type of astrologer would probably rave abut how wonderful marriage will be when you get there. (“You’ll meet him in two years.” It’s always two years,isn’t it?)

      I used to toy with the idea of giving clients a discount if they didn’t ask when they would meet their soul mate. Donna

      • 🙂 I hear you on the question. And, yes it is always two years or soon! Or depending on the astrologer – NEVER. 🙂 In this case I don’t believe I asked and certainly not the soul mate question as I don’t believe in them or rather I don’t believe there is one or it necessarily is the person you marry. I’ve learned not to ask an astrologer about relationships as haven’t had a reading yet that was accurate about my relationship life. Most are contradictory. They are either doom or gloom or talk of how I lucky I am in relationships. hmmmm ok. I may not know enough about astrology, but I am not a believer in predictive astrology and I think there is something called free will. No one has a crystal ball – astrology is a map. Again, I don’t know enough about astrology, but I think it would be constructive if someone has a tough aspect to talk of that and the challenges, but to use words as never…..never, well that is a mighty long time. As you state it is possible to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if it is a deep seeded belief.

      • I think you’ve taken a very sound approach, Jewel. Donna

  3. Really appreciate your work on ethics Donna. I’m sure such structures will be a very useful guideline for many.
    It can be so frightening for people to be given a description of themselves that talks in very unequivocal language and hits on their fears in some way.
    I was told in a reading I got in my twenties that my relationship life would probably be intense and unstable and I might spend many years alone. Like jewel, in my middle years this has turned out to be the case and now I don’t see that as a ‘problem’; it just is. But at the time of the reading I was in a very difficult and lonely place in my life and to contemplate years of further difficulty ahead of me was dismal and really quite frightening. It didn’t give me any tools to help face what was painful.
    There’s a lot of power in the insights an astrologer can share. Please use wisely.

    Language is so important. Astrologers (or anyone in a similar field), please delete use of the word ‘never’; it is not helpful or accurate. As in: ‘you will never [x, y, z]’. Be as similarly wary of ‘always’.

  4. Worst thing an astrologer told me:
    She said that if I didn’t leave this location and my husband right away (like this week! In the middle if winter!)
    I’d be institutionalized. And because I live close to the Jupiter line and on the Chiron line. I have Jupiter square Saturn, Pluto and a Uranus and have Saturn conjunct Chiron. She said that because my Jupiter is negatively aspected everything to do with this planet is bad! I disagree!

    That was over 6 years ago and nothing has happened! I decided this lady was nuts for expecting someone to leave her home and family without adequate justification! She told me the climate was not good for my body, but I have since become accustomed to the cold and actually love it here.

    I studied astrology to prove her wrong – and I did! I am exactly where I need to be and am glad I did not listen to this lady who obviously has severe control issues. Her own issues, especially with men, came through loud and clear, but I did learn from her what NOT to say to clients. I was very traumatized for years expecting to end up in a mental ward anytime soon! So not fair! It was a very traumatic experience.

  5. My astrology TEACHER was, in my opinion, very irresponsible, in telling me I had passed all my chances to marry. It haunted me for Years. I could’ve married, many times since then, but never have, not for lack of suitors.

    I nearly married to prove this wrong. (Haha, not a great idea, lol).

    I’m STILL not married. A single Libra (Indecisive?) Moon in Sag (freedom loving/independant?) The relationship of my heart just hasn’t reached “there,” and no one else has had that cosmic impact. (Natal Venus conjunct Neptune, and Mars all in Scorpio). Hmmm…

    Yes, Saturn is square Venus, natally, and Saturn’s in the 5th house, and pisces rules the 7th…I did try a noble rescue-merge scenario and almost lost myself…also not good…

    But I learned not to counsel clients like that teacher did…I will report on favorable aspects, but the goal is to EMPOWER clients, and say, “well, that is completely up to YOU, no matter WHAT the planets are doing…” Same with death, and other life changing occurrences.

    Thank you for your emphasis on such ethics. I’ve likewise had to undo the work of unconscionable, immature, or inexperienced astrologers, you are not alone! ♡♡♡

    • I like this approach. Empowerment. I do believe there is a way to talk about the challenges without being so absolute. I know so many who are haunted by being told about never finding love or death and interesting it is the theme on this blog. No matter the challenges most of us want love – companionship -hearing our chart aspects won’t make this easy or even possible should be handled responsibly.

      • Thank you, Jewel,

        I am a healing worker “first.” If someone presses me for “relationship” questions, we can discuss their approach to intimacy and their magnetism, etc., and workshop their “preparation to meet someone” 😉

        If they are looking at the short term, “will I meet someone on my trip to Europe?” I can also pull some tarot cards, and tell them if I see a strong likelihood (obvious cards) or lighter flirtation s or attractions that “may be developed in the long term.”

        The point is not to predict but to help clients manifest their desires, so to identify the lifestyle and emotional patterns which may be adjusted to optimize the possibilities, which are, broadly speaking, infinite. The deeper transits help us release and refine our patterns…and our thoughts do affect our outcomes. I’ve been referring to this style of astro-work as “ascension astrology” , and would love to know your thoughts on this, (Donna, and all.) ♡♡♡

      • I Like your approach to relationship questions–good to process and improve patterns during harder transits to relationship indicators. In private emails, I’m getting some awful stories about astrologers’ negative predictions about relationship that frightened and discouraged clients for years after. Donna

  6. An astrologer told me several years ago that I would divorce when Uranus transited my seventh house. It didn’t happen! He did retire from a long time job that was stressing him out and we had to learn how to live together with this major change in our daily lives. Anyone out there who suddenly has to accommodate an all day spouse at home knows what that is like!

    This did teach me a valuable lesson about the symbolism of astrology. Every transit can symbolize a whole host of different events/actions OR nothing at all!

    I feel I am still dreadful at predictions, but I have learned so much about myself and others with this fascinating study. Thank you Donna for continuing my education!

    • Really, it’s up to astrologers to raise the standards on “counseling ethics.”

      We must do it ourselves! There are many brilliant young minds exploring astrology where I live, many colleges here…These kids many know aspects, but their people skills are underdeveloped per “advising.”

      It’s astro 101: studying celestial movements and significance is NOT “counseling. ” Most often the young folks do appreciate this. We Must Guide Them!

  7. Hi Donna,
    I was at a conference back in the early 70`s and had attended a lecture by a well know author and astrologer of the day I had her books and only had respect for her work.
    After the lecture she asked the audience to send up copies of their charts. I sent mine and my young son who was also in attendance She gave interesting mini readings of the charts and finally got to my sons where she commented that he would never know his father but that his mother would more than make up for it due to the grand water tine to the moon in his chart.

    Then she got to mine and a grey fog enveloped her and she launched an unprecedented attack on me! Saying evil things and that I had the power to create form with my thoughts! She was obviously extremely fearful and aggressive at once. It shocked the audience and I was angry that she should say this in fount of my son. It contradicted everything she said about me to him. Instead of attacking her or addressing anything she said, I told a beautiful spiritual story and this quieted the audience and some were crying softly. This closed the session.
    I thought of approaching her like the other students to see what was the matter but as soon as she saw me start towards her, her aura went grey and she backed up fearfully so I let it go and left. I was miffed by her actions because I only had respect for her. Later a psychic told me it was a past life thing and she lost that battle and remembered it. He said I didn’t remember because I won . Don`t know if I believe that , but it was the only negative experience I ever had with an astrologer.

    In your article you talk about Pluto on the nadir or MC. It just so happens the Pluto square Uranus is hitting my nadir in cap and Uranus in Aries is on my 7th house cusp. It was the beginning of moving and a law case for custody of my grand daughters .My natal Pluto in Leo 10th H. parallel Uranus/ Mars conjunction in the 9th H. Both conjunction and Pluto parallel the MC. Early on,transit Neptune is in the 5th opposing my Sun/ mercury in late Leo .
    I won with the Orders of 6 different Judges. So. Serv. definitely over stepped their authority and it was plain. Several lawyers told me they ( child protection arm of So. Serv.) were use to having their way and that it was unusual for them to keep losing no matter how many decisive tactics and lies they told. I won 3 times over and the first win should have been enough. My grand daughters are with me and doing well. However this transit is not over and makes another square this month.This has been going on for 3 years now.
    So far our new home is everything we need, so I hope we do not have to move again due to unforeseen circumstances.

    • Hi, Barehand. What an awful experience at that conference! One would have to wonder if that astrologer was altogether sane, or if there were entities attached to her. Donna

  8. Donna, concerning “…Pluto transits to the MC/IC axis or to the Moon have corresponded to the parents retiring and moving away, a major relocation for the client, the purchase or renovation of a home, parenthood, uncovering family secrets, or the healing of old family wounds–or several of those at the same time:”

    I was blown away to discover a very interesting correlation here: Pluto transited my Moon in March, 1994; on March 4th I moved from Georgia to Ohio. I’d been unable to support myself due to illness so my mother suggested I move with her–she had gotten a new job, bought a house and was moving from Florida to Ohio. So we both relocated at the same time to the same place, from distant places, into a house she’d recently bought.

    Three years previous to this, when Pluto was sextile my MC and square Uranus, I’d moved from Florida to Georgia to start a music duo with another woman. This didn’t work out (surprise — thanks Uranus square!) so I moved to Atlanta and performed solo for 2 years.

    In 1998 when Pluto was sextile my Jupiter I moved to Brazil where I lived for 8 years. In 2000 when Pluto was trine my Venus I moved from a small, isolated town into the city of Brasilia to pursue my music in earnest again (more opportunities to perform). In late 2004 when Pluto was square my MC I moved back to the small town; there’d been a downturn in the economy and it had become very hard to find gigs, plus my health had worsened after a brutal cold so it was difficult to perform.

    In late 2006 when Pluto was semisextile my Moon I moved back to the States.

    Pluto is very strong in my chart (conjunct NN, exactly opp Chiron, trine Sun/Merc, and quicunx chart-ruler Jupiter); interesting how its transits have orchestrated my life in these ways…

    • Major transits to the Moon of one kind or another often correspond with moving, but I’m more accustomed to Uranus being the trigger. For Pluto to be the trigger, I would wonder if you had a natal aspect between Pluto and the Moon or the IC. With Pluto, it’s not surprising that the move would be connected with intensely Plutonian events. Thanks for sharing, an interesting example. Donna

  9. Honestly, that’s why I’m trying to figure my chart by myself! I’m keeping records of events that make an impression on me and trying to relate things to transits, so I can build a “personal dictionary” of my chart’s dynamics. I’m thinking of taking an astrology course but not showing my chart to anyone. I’m the secretive type 😀

  10. I was very recently told that my husband and I are going to get divorced. Our composite sun is in the 6th house and it squares our moon and the combination would be extremely detrimental to our marital success in the long term. He also saw that my natal Saturn is in the 7th house and told me that in 90% of cases where the person got married before their Saturn return ended in divorce. I’m only just now in my Saturn return… Prior to this reading I had absolutely no doubts about my marriage; however, now I feel like it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I see all the inequalities that exist (he is the giver normally and I’m the taker) and I obsess over them. He says that I’ve given to him more than I realize and that his handling of many of the mundane tasks are not causing him any resentment. He’s also promised me that he would let me know if he does (he’s a Sag and has always been honest so I trust that). Still, this has stirred up my Relationship OCD and fears from past relationship trauma so I’m now obsessing about it and us all the time.

    I keep wondering, “what if this relationship doesn’t work; what if I fall out of love; what if I’ve already fallen out of love; what if he does; would we both be happier with other people?” I am constantly trying to find websites that phrase these aspects of our charts in more positive light or trying to find aspects that are more positive. I literally spend hours searching.

    I can’t say that we had no issues prior to the reading but they were minor. Prior to the reading I felt confident in us, our love, and our future but now I suddenly feel like this relationship is doomed and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s inevitable. I wish I never got that reading. I truly hope that divorce is not in my future but if it does happen I’ll never know if it was because we truly didn’t work or if it was because I sabotaged it with all my worries about our reading.

    • I am so sorry that happened to you. How irresponsible and negative! I truly wish there were some sort of certification process so people like him couldn’t advertise themselves as an astrologer. By separate email, I’m sending you information on an astrologer I think is very gifted in relationship charts–and who has a wonderful track record in a loving, happy relationship for several decades. Donna

    • Hi, Scared. I married my husband before my Saturn Return just like you did. We’ve been married for 34 years. We’re not alone, and we are definitely NOT only 10% of the population! Look around and you’ll find gazillions of couples that prove him wrong. His statement was ridiculous, not to mention mean.

      • You go, CJ! Good to hear another voice of sanity. And, if I recall, your husband has a Cap Moon. Donna

  11. When I was 18 an astrologer told me that I could not be a writer, and that I should do something else. At 27, another astrologer told me that writing wasn’t my thing. Well, it is not like they told me I would die next friday 13th, but still, writing was my biggest dream when I was young. They based the interpretation solely on a saturn in the 5th house Gemini. To be more exact, sitting on Rigel star, but they did not know anything about stars.

    Anyway, I discarded their opinions, based on what other people told me about my writing.

    Nowadays I see that my Saturn in the 5th gives me discipline and perfectionism, and it trines my Mars/Uranus conjunction in the 9th (on Libra/Spica). In my chart, Mars is the ruler of the 3rd house. Having the 3rd house ruler in the 9th is niiiiice, when you think of writing. Moreover, I still have mercury conjunct neptune in Sagitarius in the 11th (that explains why writing was my dream hehe).

    I’m against whoever says that someone has no talent for anything, based on astrology or anything else. Free will and passion always win any “talent”. In the end, hard work (that results from passion) weights more than just a gift. So many people are gifted and don’t do anything about it….

    and oh, my writing in English sucks because it’s my second language!

    • Arya, that prediction was soooo off base. I, too, have Saturn in Gemini, and an aspect between Mercury and Neptune (square), and I have been a regularly published writer for more than 40 years. I think that Saturn in Gemini shows the capacity for discipline and hard work at refining your writing. I revise everything I submit for publication at least five times. It might also indicate that the writing comes later. For me, it was just after my Saturn return, at 28. So don’t give up! Donna

  12. I’ve had astrologers tell me that I should switch sexual orientation, that I would always be tired and that I had been a bad woman in former lives. Also I was told “it’s really too bad about your unaspected Venus.” Not helpful.

    • A series of irresponsible and damaging interpretations! I’m getting to the point of almost being ashamed of my so-called profession. Donna

      • In spite of these interpretations, my love of astrology only grows. I have had misguided advice from practitioners of many disciplines. After sorting out the good from the bad I have concluded that collectively we have worked through some funky, murky stuff and have committed to proceed with as much integrity as possible.

      • Thanks, Carrie, that’s a helpful perspective on this frustrating situation. Donna

  13. I had an astrologer tell me that I would never practice the art of astrology professionally and that I shouldn’t expect to make money from it. But here I am 3 years later seeing a few clients and getting great responses. I do admit that I always feel anxious/nervous about not giving the client exactly what they need or that my interpretation isn’t good enough to warrant being paid for. I do wonder how much of that is tied into that astrologer telling me I would never practice and how much of it is my own Saturn/Mercury conjunction in Sag always feeling like there’s so much to know & I will never know it all.

    • Hi, Janelle, I’m sorry that astrologer told you that. Maybe she was trying to shoot down some competition….or maybe just projecting her own doubts about her ability to make it as an astrologer.

      As for the anxiety, it’s part of the process of becoming an astrologer, especially in the first years of practice, as there’s always going to be more to learn. You might find my ebook, Counseling Principles for Astrologers, useful as it covers so many of the situations you’ll confront in your practices. (See the tab on the front page of Skywriter marked, “Donna’s Books.”) Donna

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