“It is magic … that idea of women supporting women and having a sacred, safe spiritual place to do that.”
Organized religion isn’t doing it for millennials these days.
The Pew Research Center shows a continuous decline in the number of religiously affiliated Americans. This is especially so for those in the millennial generation.
At the same time, other studies note that skepticism about astrology, the study of how the positions of stars and planets influence human behavior, is decreasing among Americans.
For a number of reasons, traditional religious faith is being pushed aside by young people in favor of alternative belief systems – including astrology – which can also serve as a guiding or healing force in one’s life.
Though astrology is not classified as a religion, interesting parallels exist between it and a traditional religion; both have the ability to bring people together to forge a like-minded community, facilitate personal and spiritual growth and be a source of inspiration and healing.
A deeper look into the expanding realm of millennial-driven astrology reveal insights about how young people are finding novel ways to relate to their world – no religious guidance necessary.
For MSU students Audrey Matusz and Rachel Brunhild, both seniors in the MSU Residential College of Arts and Humanities, astrology plays an important role in their personal and spiritual lives. It has also become an integral part of the growing art collective they lead.
Called the Sometimes Art House, the collective is a group of MSU students and artists who regularly meet at Matusz’s house to display and curate art shows and exhibits around members’ projects.
Matusz and Brunhild also guide the group in activities meant to inspire creativity, explore feelings and experiences, engage in discussion and connect with each other in spiritual and creative ways. Often, this involves tarot card readings and astrology-centric discussions.
In this interview, Matusz and Brunhild discuss the relationships they see between religion, astrology, art, feminism, sexuality, culture, witchcraft and more. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
On cultivating astrology-centric community
Rachel and I co-lead a group of artists, people, creatives called Sometimes Art House … Our Facebook group has 50 people in it, then I made a smaller group [for more dedicated members]. I try to limit random people being added to the group because that’s a whole thing too, we want to create a safe space. That’s the most important. Sometimes Art House is a support group.
We’re moving toward a website, though … so we’ll hopefully be a much larger community.
This is something I had been talking about for a really long time before I met Audrey, getting a group of creative women together and working on things … and then it sort of became our thing, because Audrey started saying that we were co-leading it. And I was like, ‘that’s great, yes, for sure.’
I wanted to unify women, because I feel like the art community here on campus is very divided. And women [in general] just divide themselves, too. And it’s understandable, it’s a systemic thing – we’re just trying to look out for ourselves. But, you know, that’s not always the best way.
On bonding and connecting via astrology
I never expect [new members] to be as open as they are, I think ‘cause we’re all very open. Audrey and I talk about our therapists openly all the time because it’s important that it is normalized, and other stuff like seasonal depression. We’re really open. And then random people will show up and be just as open with us … I guess our environment makes them feel comfortable talking and sharing.
We find that the best practice to get people together – a way that we always connect is through tarot cards or astrology. It’s what we’ve found works the best.
I feel like tarot readings and astrology is a language. Like, oh, what’s your rising? What’s your moon sign?… It’s a language you can form, but it’s also language to connect with people, to relate with other people.
That’s mainly how we use it – in many ways, it’s how we became friends because we’re both Geminis.
I feel like [astrology] is a good way that people can bond. Audrey and I literally became friends because we were like, oh, we’re both Geminis and we’re both so complicated, and people think we’re so fucked up.
I had been asking the universe to meet a Gemini woman. Like, the first time [Rachel and I] hung out … we got really deep, and it just felt like it was safe to do that. That was key because when I was going through my own coming-of-age story, I was like, ‘I need to be with people I can actually relate to.’ It was through race for me, like black or biracial or whatever, and also astrology – like, I need more Gemini women to connect to, someone who can understand my moods.
I think that’s what astrology does, it helps you be more self-reflective than anything.
On spiritual growth
I like to try to start off the group with a prayer. I have a book called “Sacred Woman”… I’ll read a prayer, usually a poem from that.
I kind of see [tarot and goddess cards] more like therapy than a future reading. It’s kind of like, tools that you can use in your life from mythological, powerful women to guide you and make you feel supported, and [make sure] you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
On YouTube, there is a huge community of tarot card readers – people who will do general readings for each sign, monthly. It’s a hustle, like people make money doing this. My favorite is Quietest Revolution, and she’s a Gemini … I always listen to them when too much is going on. Like, what’s my next move? And I don’t rely on it to define my next move, but it does help me reflect.
On religious oppression
The rules that were created for half of Christianity were to control sex in the Middle Ages, because there were a lot of diseases and they were trying to control syphilis and the plague … so they used Christianity as a means to do that. You know, if God is telling them not to do this, then they won’t do it, because that’s what they needed right then. It makes sense at that time that it would be necessary to control the masses – especially when you don’t have a large platform to reach everyone [besides religion].
But then those rules become outdated and misconstrued and taken as other than what they were originally meant to be. And then you get to today, where they just don’t apply to society, and restrict especially women …
It’s a completely male-driven thing. Most monotheistic religions are just about supporting men and restricting women, and that still carries over today.
I went to Bible school from age five until I graduated high school. I used to be very into Catholicism … I wasn’t preachy with my friends, I just liked the discussion because there is a lot of conversation about ethics and stuff.
But eventually I got older and didn’t like certain things they were saying…Long story short, I felt like an outsider in the church. Also my family was the only black family or biracial family there, so it was weird.
I’m very culturally Jewish, but have never really identified with the religion. I’m very agnostic – just like, the universe is really big and I am not one to say what’s real and what’s not.
I’ve always been looking for more women to connect with, and then this group came along and I was like, I’m going to embrace like this part of me now. Because I never really fit in with the Jews in high school, and definitely not in college with the Hillel House … culturally, but not necessarily socially.
And then with us, I just kind of vibe better. We’re just completely accepting of everything about each other … we really go into all the complexities that it is to be a female.
For me, I feel like I fit in better with this group of people who don’t necessarily believe in anything in specific other than, like, the magic of being a woman.
On faith and symbolism
So I was really depressed last winter.
Tarot teaches you to really pay attention to symbolism…You can look at a card and read into it like OK, water means this, sun means – just like you would read a book.
So the night this guy I was with broke up with me … I drove home, it was an hour driving home, and it was super late … all of a sudden, this storm comes up out of nowhere and I was not planning for that at all. I was driving my mom’s Jeep, it’s old and the wheels are really slick. It was such a bad storm, and the roads on the highways were semi-flooding, like there was just a lot of water and my wheels weren’t able to keep traction. I was going like 30 miles per hour on the highway, could not see shit … it was very scary. Plus I was crying, so that kind of impaired my vision.
But there was all this lightning and stuff. And then I remember that I saw this sign – it was this Sandals ad with these white people on the beach. It was a very ‘hetero’ sign. Literally, lightning struck, and the sign explodes … and I was like, fuck. I was also praying, which I don’t normally do … I was praying to my aunt and my grandma.
I took it very symbolically. I got home safe and I was like all right, I need to get some grounding. Because him breaking up with me bothered me in a way that should not have, and I was checking in on myself like, why are you so bothered by this?
On LGBTQ inclusivity
I like identifying as queer more, and not identifying as fully straight because I don’t feel fully straight all the time … I just wish I had no gender. It’s a comfortable identity for myself. I think everyone would be happy if they could just be ‘a thing’ versus ‘a gender.’
We have some trans, non-binary, gay-identifying men [in the group] – and like, alternative people who feel like they don’t really fit in, but they feel like they fit in with us. It’s primarily women, but it’s really anyone who’s looking for a group of creative and accepting people to collaborate with.
I don’t want to paint the picture that our house is like this great, multicultural ideal – like, we do have issues. Because we are both straight passing, we’re working on building a better trans-embracing community. I’ll read a poem about vaginas, and then I’ll be like, fuck, we have some people who are experiencing some trauma related to their vaginas … they don’t want their genitalia tied to them.
We’re not perfect. We’re trying to create this LGBTQ POC group, but that’s not always what it is. We’re trying to be queer-leading.
On feminism and cultural identity
I got into [feminist rapper] Princess Nokia – she’s very empowering, and she talks about witchcraft. And I was learning also about Santería, which is part of the African Diaspora, because I don’t know my heritage so I really like to think that my ancestors were slaves brought to the Caribbean. I like to think that I had a bruja as a grandma …
That connection that I had with [Princess Nokia’s] music before I knew she was a witch or anything, I felt like that really meant something.
I take what I can, I try to piece my identity in ways that I can, which is whatever I’m passionate about … Santería is born in the Yoruba culture, before we were all divided up in Yoruba or Nigeria … practices have geographical ties, and I feel like it’s a tie to Africa. So that’s how I started looking at witchcraft – looking more into it as a way that women communicated about how to protect themselves from colonizers, from men, from illnesses, all those types of things…
… And it’s women coming together to support each other and take care of each other and create a community of women practicing the same thing, as opposed to
– praying to a white Jesus.
… And feeling unsafe in any environment that can include, like, a man who maybe makes you feel uncomfortable.
I definitely don’t know as much about witchcraft as Audrey … I’ve just always kind of identified with like, not necessarily a coven, but having a group of women who are all more spiritual and who support each other. It is magic…that idea of women supporting [other] women and having a sacred, safe spiritual place to do that, and talk about mental health and physical health.
I find that a lot of women specifically in our art and spiritual community have been really affected by men – almost all of us have experienced some kind of sexual harassment or assault.
On self-driven faith
I think that with astrology, and any sort of alternative religion, it’s more self-driven. I think that’s the key.
I have a theory about millennials … it’s this whole post-war mentality. We saw counterculture as such a big thing in the 60s and 70s [because] people were realizing like, oh, people making decisions for us or telling us our path, and what we should do, they don’t actually have our best interests. And I think that’s for any sort of establishment. Catholicism – we live in a secular country, but it’s part of the establishment and people will use it as any way to get some sort of agenda across. Whereas with astrology and stuff, it’s in its purest form. There’s no policy tied to it. It’s just community.
And it’s also not something that you get brought into or convinced of. It’s just a fun thing that you pick up and you start to identify with.
At least for me, it was like ‘ah, this is fun to play around with,’ and then the more I read – especially certain horoscopes that read very accurately – they just made me feel more sane. Like oh okay, I’m not just imagining this, this is something that all Geminis are going through this week, I’m not alone…
… It’s a community.
It’s definitely something that you seek out individually, and something that brings people together.
To discover what the stars say about you, calculate and analyze your astrological birth chart here.