CULTURE

How Astrologer Claire Comstock-Gay Gets It Done

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Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Layer Studio

Claire Comstock-Gay has written for the Cut since 2016, reading the stars and sharing weekly horoscopes for each zodiac sign. Not that that was always the plan — after college, she worked in coffee shops, did admin for a New Jersey e-commerce company that sold mesh thongs for men, sliced deli meats at a fancy grocery store in Brooklyn, and was a case manager for homeless youth in Harlem. It was in the middle of her time at the underwear company that she started getting into astrology (thanks to some friends who talked about it constantly), never imagining it would be her job. Even after she got started writing horoscopes, she thought of it as an exciting hobby, not the beginning of a career. But since then, Comstock-Gay has become an indispensable resource to thousands of Cut readers who return week after week for her horoscopes.

Her first book, Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars, came out in 2020 and marked a turning point: “It made it possible for me to quit my nonprofit day job,” she recalls. “That job paid pennies, so it’s not like I was suddenly swimming in money. The wonderful thing was the sudden freedom to do what I wanted, to be able to read and write during the day instead of sneaking it in on lunch breaks, to fully commit to the work I wanted to be doing.” She has another book she describes as “less essayistic, more a classic guidebook to the year ahead” coming out in the summer.

Whether or not you take astrology seriously — and Comstock-Gay is quick to insist that it’s fine if you don’t, she’s not one to proselytize — she feels a deep responsibility “to do right by people, to tell the truth and offer something meaningful.” Here’s how she gets it done, from her home in Saint Paul, where she lives with her partner and their dog. 

On her “Big Three” signs:
Sagittarius sun, Capricorn moon, Cancer rising. I strongly identify with all three, though not with every part of all of them (what I wouldn’t give for the famous Capricorn work ethic). My Sag side is independent, not that bothered with the rules, an unreliable texter. Capricorn: obsessed with integrity, needlessly hard on myself. Cancer: moody, great at reading a room, the kind of person strangers are always telling their life stories to.

On what she’d say to those who roll their eyes at astrology:
First, it’s totally fine not to care about astrology. I can’t say it enough. People always expect me to proselytize or try to debate them, but it’s none of my business. Others find depth and meaning in all kinds of subjects that leave me cold, so why would I expect them to be interested in astrology? I do, though, think that the committed haters tend to underestimate how expansive astrology is. Often when someone rolls their eyes, they’re really just irritated by one particular expression of astrology: the Instagram memes or the notifications from Costar or the way their one annoying acquaintance talks about it.

On a typical workday:
The alarm is set for 6:30, but my dog usually wakes me up before it goes off, when she’s ready for some attention. I make a smoothie and then scroll on my phone, do the crossword, or read a novel while having my first cup of coffee. This time is not supposed to be productive — I start early so that I can wake up slowly and mess around. I walk the dog up the street and back. She only has three legs and isn’t supposed to go too far, but you’d be amazed by how long she can make a one-block walk last. Then I sit down to work.

I try to stick to a normal Monday to Friday, nine-to-five schedule. Within those hours, though, it’s chaos. My brain rebels against any discipline I try to impose, but it loves novelty. This means I can trick myself into productivity by constantly switching up my routines. What’s currently working best is writing longhand in fountain pen. I love refilling the little ink plunger, and in order to get that satisfaction I have to use up the ink, which means I have to actually write. There’s also an album called Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone that I’ve listened to almost every day for at least five years. I cannot explain how it gets me into the zone so quickly, but I swear it’s magic.

On her process for writing horoscopes:
Some astrological events tend to get a lot of popular attention, but there’s always a lot happening in the sky. Planets move into and out of alignment with one another, retrogrades begin and end, the moon waxes and wanes. My job is to distill all that data into a useful, interesting, concise story for each sign. One that’s based on astrological information but can be meaningful to anyone, whether or not they care what it means for Venus to be in Aquarius.

I start by writing a simple list of the big events for the week. But even though we’re all experiencing the same events, they’ll affect each sign differently, so next I write up quick notes about themes for each sign. These ideas come partly from my general knowledge, partly from astrological reference texts, partly from paying attention to the people around me. You’d be surprised how often all the Scorpios in my life, say, are dealing with similar emotional issues.

The actual writing takes the longest and is the most difficult. Though the signs appear in the same order in the final version, I write them out of order. Nobody would ever know the difference, but it would feel unfair to me if Aries was always first and Pisces always last.

On astrology-based practices she subscribes to:
Some astrologers would probably scream to hear me say this, but I’m not at all fussy about organizing my life around astrological transits — largely because it would require a level of detail-orientedness that I simply do not possess. For better or worse, I’m a Sagittarius. Let me live my life and I’ll deal with the problems as they arise! I do, however, try to take it easy during full moons and eclipses, and double-check details during Mercury retrograde. I’m not someone who thinks you should never travel or sign a contract during Mercury retrograde, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve messed up the time zones for important calls.

On an unexpected challenge of the job:
I’m grateful when people write to me to say that something I wrote helped them find answers or decide on a path forward. The stress arrives when people come to me with impossible expectations. They want me to fix their problems, to predict their future. They want clarity, an escape from the stress of not knowing what’s going to happen next. But that’s not what I do. I’m not magic, I’m just a person. I can’t make big decisions for anyone else, or promise that things will turn out a certain way. Astrology can’t (and isn’t supposed to!) offer certainty, but it can help you think more clearly and imaginatively about the possibilities in front of you.

On the people who help her get it done:
I have a network of friends and peers who have helped me out more than I can ever say. Friends have provided moral support, read drafts and offered feedback, passed my name along for gigs. It was a friend who encouraged me to start writing horoscopes in the first place. Basically anything good that’s ever happened in my career has happened thanks to the care and support of a friend. I’m almost pathologically private about my personal life, but it would be wrong not to mention my partner here, too. He’s the best. A wonderfully stabilizing presence in my life. He believes in me more than I believe in myself, I think.

Read Madame Clairevoyant’s weekly horoscopes here.

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