Tending to stressed showbiz types one astrologer tells THEO PANAYIDES it is up to us to chose how to deal with what our birth signs give us
Christina Louka is delighted to find out that I’m a Gemini. “I’ve got one downstairs. In my bed,” she says happily. (She means her second husband, not some random Gemini.) The fact that my Moon is in Cancer – as transpires once I give the date and time of my birth, and she checks her charts – is even more encouraging. She waited five days to give birth to her son, she says tenderly, so that his Moon would be in Cancer. “I gave him a Moon in Cancer, so he can love and forgive”.
Christina is an astrologer, though not just any astrologer. “I don’t like people to recognise me all the time,” she says, to explain why she likes going on long walks in secluded places, which implies that they recognise her at least some of the time. She has a TV show on Capital, Ston Asterismo tis Imeras, that screens every weekday – except when she’s in Greece where she spends about a third of her time, and where she’s an even bigger star. She travels frequently, both for fun, especially in winter (“In wintertime I’m not an easy person, I don’t love winter so much. After spending all those years in Belgium, with the snow, I’ve had enough!”), and because she has clients all over Europe – almost all of them Greeks, “people in big positions” looking for someone to discuss their problems with, and almost all from the world of showbiz.
I assume she enjoys the attention, because she’s a Leo. Leos and Geminis are a pretty good match, she affirms (hence her 25-year relationship with the Gemini downstairs). “If I’m talking to a Gemini, I know that at least you’ll be open to hear me”; I might later go home and decide she was talking nonsense, she admits with a shrug, “but at least I communicate!”. Her only occasional problems are with signs who don’t listen: “Taurus people, they give me some trouble. Capricorn and Virgos – the Earth,” i.e. Earth signs; their minds are hard to change, “they are rooted”. Air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) are easier to talk to, more flexible; “The creative team is the Air”. As for Fire signs – which include Christina herself, with her leonine mane of blond hair – “we are for pleasure, we are for parties, we are for fights! And then we forget. I cannot change that. I accept that. But I’m not going to live my life based on what others think,” she adds quickly. “It’s up to me.”
That’s a recurring motif in our conversation, the insistence that astrology doesn’t determine our future, merely colours it. “There’s no such thing as Fate,” she says firmly. “It’s character”. It’s no myth that certain signs are more compatible, but ultimately it depends on the person; if a client asks “Can I have a Capricorn as a friend?”, says Christina, “I reply ‘First meet the person, and then we ask if he’s Capricorn’. I don’t like labels”.
Some labels stick, to be sure. “Certainly, you will not find a Taurus that doesn’t like money, doesn’t like food, doesn’t like sleeping, and doesn’t like to insist on his own opinion!” But such things are predispositions, not final results; the careful Taurus can watch his diet, or learn to become more of a listener. “We have the impression that astrology is giving us answers,” she points out. “No. Astrology is giving us directions”. It’s a kind of warning system, alerting us to possible strengths and weaknesses; whether we end up exploiting those strengths, or trying to correct those weaknesses, is a matter of choice.
This is where a large proportion of readers will roll their eyes and mutter darkly about superstitious claptrap – but in fact that proportion may be smaller than we think. Ancient rulers all consulted astrologers; so did some modern ones (Ronald Reagan, most famously), not to mention those who’ve done it on the sly. It’s a dirty little secret, claims Christina, that many politicians and business honchos (everyone whose job depends on meeting people) look to the stars for guidance; “One of the things they want to know is, for instance, if tomorrow they meet [Christine] Lagarde, what kind of person is she? It helps you to know with whom you are dealing”. It’s not just a one in 12 choice, after all; yes, there are only 12 Sun signs (Gemini, Taurus, etc) – but having someone’s date and time of birth allows for a much more extensive analysis, with rising signs and planetary aspects and so on. “If we only knew how many details we reveal to other people by giving our birthday,” muses Christina with a chuckle, “we wouldn’t do it!”.
Her clients, I assume, would do it anyway – because they want her to know every detail, that’s the point. Christina seems to work as a psychologist as much as an astrologer, giving advice as well as peering into the future: “Because readings, anybody can give you. OK? The important thing is for somebody to give you also direction”. Her background is indeed in psychology, which is what she studied in Belgium (astrology was offered as a course within the course, presumably because both deal with personality types). She worked in Greece as a state psychologist and social worker for over a decade, bringing that experience to bear on today’s distressed showbiz types.
The story of how she first found fame is significant in itself. She was at a beauty spa, she tells me, and happened to notice a young woman crying. “Why are you crying? Life is beautiful!” she implored the girl, doing her best to encourage her. The girl was impressed by Christina’s energy; she turned out to be a journalist for a well-known women’s magazine, and asked the fledgling astrologer (who was making ends meet by writing horoscopes) for an interview, which in turn led to clients and eventual TV celebrity.
Looking at the woman in front of me, it’s easy to imagine that story unfolding – the spa, the weeping girl, Christina swooping in to perk her up and set her straight. Round-faced and full-figured, cradling an enormous cup of milky coffee, she has the demeanour of a bossy auntie. The house around us, in the quiet Limassol neighbourhood of Kapsalos, is cluttered with stuffed toys and bric-a-brac, glass and china in a closet, a TV, an old dog snoring in a corner. The dog is Lily, one of her many animals. “Sometimes I hear very bad stories,” she explains soberly. “Stories about kids who are sick. Stories about betrayals. You know what I do? I go out in the garden, I pick up my cats and dogs, and I start talking with them … Or I start planting flowers. I want to have beauty around me.”
She does hear stories, all the time. Everyone wants to tell their story, like travellers to the Oracle of Delphi. Sometimes it can get a bit ridiculous – like the woman caller who gave Christina her daughter-in-law’s birthday to find out if she was cheating on her son, or the people asking for the most propitious time to spray their garden for bugs, adding that they’d already sprayed twice without success (“If it didn’t work,” she replied, “it’s not the stars’ fault, it’s your spray!”). Does astrology still have a place, I ask, in an age of spaceships and smartphones? Do people still need the help of an ancient superstition? “Tell them to ask that question when they have a sick baby,” she retorts, “or when they are losing somebody they love. We always need advice. We always need somebody … And, even if they say they don’t, the first page in the newspaper they open is the stars. If [the horoscope] is good, they feel good. If it’s bad, they say ‘Oh, it’s nonsense!’.”
She has a point, though I don’t know what it says about human nature. Maybe that’s the reasoning of those politicians who consult astrologers: what, after all, do they have to lose? People are unsure and insecure, always seeking answers or at least information. It’s like her own clients, she admits, “the artistic people” who are always the first to come calling – but “they don’t stay with you, they move on to the next astrologer. Because the insecurity forces them to go around, and check and check and check”.
Others are openly dubious, or even hostile. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?” they demand when she reveals her profession at parties – or “they become ironical: ‘Did you know that you would divorce your first husband?’”. That first marriage dates from her early 30s (she’s now 58), and was brief to the point of being negligible: they never lived together and divorced almost immediately, mostly because her ex-husband – a Libra – vanished from the lives of his family after getting into debt and losing a great deal of money (“Libras don’t take decisions and avoid responsibilities,” sighs Christina). Some might expect an astrologer to lead a very pristine personal life – they can see the problems coming, after all – but Christina’s gives the impression of being untidy, like her amiably cluttered house with its animals and bric-a-brac. Like she said, it depends on the person.
And what of astrology itself? Is it like the strange dream she used to have as a child – a recurring nightmare of sitting in a big hole and suddenly being covered in dust and sand, which invariably turned out to be a premonition of bad things to come? She shakes her head: “I studied psychology and I learned that we control so little of our minds, [so] all these things we call paranormal could be natural,” she admits – but astrology isn’t paranormal, “it’s pure mathematics”. We know the positions of the planets, so calculating the relationships between them is simple arithmetic.
Yes, but why should the planets have any effect on our personality?
In the same way that the Moon has an effect on the tides, she replies. After all, we’re 70 per cent water. “We feel the effects of the planets subconsciously.”
And why should someone born in May be the personality type known as Taurus, for instance? Who decides that?
“That I don’t know,” says Christina, holding up her hands. “You have to ask the ancient Greeks!”
It’s no good, of course: astrology is one of those subjects that’s always going to spawn a divide between cold-blooded rationalists and fuzzy mystics. To be honest, I’m not really sure what to make of Christina Louka. Beyond the confines of star signs and moon signs, her opinions are often controversial. She believes that chaos in the Middle East is being indirectly fomented by the Europeans, for instance, because of climate change: “They’re afraid of what the weather’s going to cause to Europe, and they’re looking for a way to escape to the Mediterranean”. She believes that diseases like Ebola – and even such things as dust-related allergies – are deliberately being “cultivated” as part of a secret war. She believes that Germany tried to break up the UK by encouraging Scottish independence.
“I think I’m naturally built to be a very strong person,” she says at one point, and that part is easy to believe; she radiates confidence, and has absolutely no problem speaking her mind (her astrological take on President Anastasiades – another Libra, incidentally – is probably best left unrepeated). Is it really possible, however, that if you’re born with Jupiter in your sign then “you are definitely going to have newspapers writing your name, [and] people talking about you”? Can all those born with a helpful Jupiter – millions of people each year – be destined for celebrity, even with the caveat that it’s “up to them” to make it happen? The mind boggles.
Almost time to go. Lily the dog still sits in the corner. A cat named Leo appears, opening his mouth in a mute meow. There’s a clatter and banging from next door, where builders have been building a house for the past few months. A puppy named Pluto barks madly from the garden, where he’s been tied up to stop him venturing out to the building site. A cleaning lady glides from room to room – and Christina Louka sits sipping coffee in the midst of it all, the queen of this particular jungle. My Gemini nature was open to hearing her out – though, having now gone home, I’m not sure what to make of it all. At least we communicated.