This Is the Zodiac Speaking

There was something in X-Communication #11 that I wanted to address here. And no, it's not the part where I thought I was supposed to review Nicholas Lawrence's Fleshlight (a disgusting crusty mess) instead of Nicholas Lawrence's Flash Flight (a cheap, fun and unique T&R routine.)

No, it was the part about astrology divination. Specifically Peter Turner's Astronomical, but it applies to any similar effect. As I wrote...

"This effect shouldn’t work. If I have you think of one of 12 things and then I have to fish around for the information and start naming letters that might be in the word and happen to name the most frequently used letters in the English language and then, after a "no," I’m kind of able to guess what your star sign is, your response should be, “Well... okay.” If you asked a non-magician to guess what your star sign is by guessing letters, they would essentially do the same thing as you’re doing here. Obviously you would be employing some subtleties that disguise the method somewhat as Peter does in this download. But essentially it would be the same thing. 

And the trick doesn’t, in fact, work for a lot of people. You’ll start naming off letters and it will be clear immediately what is going on. It will come across as a well planned guessing game to those people. 

Standard zodiac divination in progress.

Standard zodiac divination in progress.

But what I’ve found is this trick does work well with the people you are likely to perform it on, namely female spectators with some belief or interest in astrology. [Not necessarily female spectator's. But women are more likely to believe in or be interested in astrology.]There’s no reason to do this trick for anyone else. And since it does work for that group it’s a trick I recommend. I have a theory as to why it works with that group as well that I’ll be explaining in a future post on my site."

Well guys, it's the future now. Amazing, huh? Are you enjoying flying dinners and the cars you can eat in pill form? Or however that goes?

Before I get to the point of what I was driving at in that last paragraph, I want to reiterate that I don't think these types of effects are good for people who don't have an interest in astrology. "Yeah, that's obvious, Andy." You would think so, yes. But then you see Texas Hold 'Em based routines advertised as being something you can perform for people even if they don't know Texas Hold 'Em. Which seems like a bizarre way to get into an effect. "Do you play Texas Hold 'Em? You don't? Uh... yeah, well anyway, here's a trick based on something you have no familiarity with or interest in."

I've seen astrology divination routines crash and burn for people without an interest in astrology. But it's not just because you're performing something for someone without a familiarity with the subject, although that's part of it. And it's not because people who are really interested in astrology are idiots. I mean... there's a good chance they are, but it's also possible to be really intelligent and just enjoy placing the filter of astrology over the world at times. It can just be a little game people play with themselves. 

And here's the reason why even smart people who believe in astrology are susceptible to an astrological divination—even if it's not very good. I kind of figured this out as I was talking to a woman at an outdoor concert a week or so ago. We had been camped out near each other before the event and struck up a conversation. At some point in the evening astrology came up. If I'm remembering correctly, it came up because we were talking about the actual night sky above us, and how nice it was to see live music outdoors in the early fall. Then she says, "What's your star sign. No! Let me guess." And this is verbatim, because I had her repeat it and I recorded it.

"I am going to guess you are a Scorpio. I would also say Gemini but you would have to have some planets in Scorpio. So I will probably be way off and you will say you are a Virgo. Or maybe you're an Aquarian."

"I'm a Capricorn," I said.

"I thought so," she said, grabbing my forearm. "That's why you like music so much. And it's why you're into traditions and things like that."

"I'm kidding," I said. "I'm a Libra."

"I knew it!" she said.

This is why people interested in astrology make such good spectators for a standard astrological divination sequence: A lifetime belief in astrology has trained them to remember the hits and forget the misses. 

In this case she didn't even get a hit. I told her what I was. But still, that moment where she considered Libra in her mind was enough to over-ride the five other zodiac signs that were actually suggested before that. 

And of course this would be the case. Anyone who doesn't "forget the misses" when it comes to astrology will have given up on astrology long ago. 

I'm no expert. I've been doing astrological divinations for all of 10 days. I watched a friend of mine perform Astrological in a bar a dozen times and get a pretty good response, and then I had this experience with the girl at the concert. Since then I've probably performed it 20 times and I enjoy it as a quick moment with the right person. (If they don't answer "yes" to, "Do you read your horoscope at all?" then I don't bother with it.)

You might think this doesn't fit in my wheelhouse. Guessing someone's zodiac sign has a bit of a "look at me" parlor trick aspect to it. I don't disagree with that. But the weird thing I've noticed—and it's certainly something I played up once I realized it—is that spectators will often take credit for the effect. I feel like most people who are interested in astrology like to identify with the traits they supposedly possess based on their sign. So when I say, "You're a Virgo," I don't get people saying, "Oh my god! He read my mind and knew my sign!" The feeling is more like, "Oh my god! I'm such a Virgo that he could tell just by talking to me." Even though they just when through a process of me offering letters. I feel like they forget that, just like they forget all their initial guesses before you finally tell them your sign. Or, at least that's been my experience. 

Prior to this I've only done one branching anagram effect regularly. And that was one of my own design. "Who's your favorite 9/11 hijacker?" I'd ask. As if people had a "favorite" one. Then I'd show them a list of their names so they could choose one. Then I'd use that name in the effect Pale Horse and Rider from The Jerx, Volume One which is something of a meta-presentation for branching anagram effects. 

Having done this astrology one so much over the past week or so, I've developed some thoughts on the branching anagram technique in general that I will write up for my next post.