You might have scanned your horoscope for career guidance or relationship advice, but have you ever considered turning to the stars to help plan your next holiday? We consulted astrologer Elliot Lewis to help show us the way.
The techniques of astrology can be applied to the energies of places as well as people, and since the time of the ancient Greeks, cities and countries have been divided up between the astrological signs. Any entity that is born in some way at some time – whether animal or individual, business, city or state – has a chart for that nascent moment, describing its essential nature. To this end, consider a new way to approach travel, where your itineraries may be astrally informed. Taking the various local conditions, cultures and mythologies into question, we have elaborated an informal guide to places that resonate with one of the twelve primal tones. Simply match your sun, moon or rising sign to the place attributed to it. An easy kind of astral projection, for the skyward-looking explorer…
Aries encapsulates the spirit of the great outdoors, and nowhere in the world embodies this spirit as purely as Patagonia. As far away from anywhere as you like, this land for rugged exploration is barely populated, and the few far-flung inhabitants subsist on almost exclusively ovine industries.
These mountains are the sacred home of Taoist monks who over the years have opened their temple doors increasingly wide to visitors in search of inner peace and bodily purity. Residential courses on Taoist philosophy and kung-fu’ may be followed here, creating an ideal environment for the cultivation of self-mastery that the children of Mars so require.
The ram was the sacrificial springboard of the Abrahamic religions, and Jerusalem stands at the origins of all three. Modern-day capital of the rigorously martial state of Israel, this furiously historical and contested city offers Aries its most appropriate urban escape.
The Itria Valley is a verdant oasis amid the harsher climes of southern Italy, notable for its trulli (conical houses) and a growing trend from agri-tourism. The Taurean spirit runs rife here through rolling hills, fruit-growing hedgerows and contorted olive trees, which seem to be fixed in perpetual tangos.
The island of Crete was settled and cultivated by the Minoan civilisation, an opulent culture believed to have been matriarchal due to a goddess dominated pantheon, and from which it is believed the Greeks took everything they knew. The bull was the central figure of their spirituality and the animal featured in ritual dances, architecture and ceramics as well as inspiring a richness of expression.
A Taurus’ paradise from the mangrove swamps to the cloud forests, Guatemala is one of the world’s richest biodiversity spots, and its steamy highlands are often cited as the ancestral home of chocolate. The cacao bean and its ritual preparations afforded the Mayans a specifically sensual, Taurean kind of spirituality, in addition to which, the central star in their cosmogony was Venus.
Gemini is a highly mental sign, given to communication, ideas and airy abstraction. Coffee, the catalyst to many of our more frenetic and sociable moments, has always struck me as a peculiarly Geminian preserve, and in the airy highlands of Ethiopia, its cultivation and ritualistic consumption is at its best.
From Byzantium to Constantinople to Istanbul, the mutability of this city’s identity is Gemini through and through. But it is in the precious role the city played in preserving the literature of antiquity as Rome and the western world fell away, before sending it back a thousand years later to launch the Renaissance, that we find the pure, unadulterated spirit of the twins.
Another city with a strong communicative tradition, Hamburg was the second city of the Hanseatic League, the confederacy of merchants and market towns that dominated world trade for much of the middle ages. Today, Hamburg remains Europe’s second port, and with its myriad waterways numbers more bridges than London, Amsterdam and Venice combined.
The craggy majesty of the Welsh landscape, with its Black Mountains, coal and goldmines, ancient woodlands and ruined castles, is quintessentially Capricorn. And the early medieval druid and bard culture which persists in the mellifluous poetry of the Welsh voice, as well as its surreal imagination, evoke the more Dionysian qualities of the sign. They say one night’s sleep atop Snowdonia’s Cadair Idris and a man awakes mad, or else, a poet.
The hermit sage and the mountaintop are Capricornian themes par excellence and China’s Yellow Mountains may just offer their most absurdly perfect rendering. The fishtailed goat finds particular comfort here: as the pine-clad granite peaks pullulate skyward, they carry cliff-clinging temples and rickety bridges into the range’s so-called seas of cloud.
For a darker vision of Saturn’s sign head to Dubai, where Capricorn’s principles of accretion and isolation have raised the world’s highest skyline from simple grains of sand. The city’s towering cluster-needle crystal, the Burj Khalifa, symbolises the material luxury and aspiration so characteristic of the sign: capricornucopia.
The mother-nature archetype embedded in the sign of Cancer finds rich expression in Madagascar where the flora and fauna abound in a spectacular and unique multiplicity. Moreover, the island is proffered as the home of legendary pirate paradise Libertalia, and indeed the scurrilous independence of the sea-dog has much to do with the unbridled nature of the Cancerian soul.
Found on the surprisingly balmy southern coast of Brittany, this many-islanded inland sea of silvery waters and plump oysters is a veritable playground for the children of Cancer. The sign’s themes echo around the bays, with protective-shell walls encasing the picturesque medieval town of Vannes, and the legion of Carnac megaliths standing memorial to our primitive origins.
Long before its fearsome corsair knights, ‘fortress island’ Malta was a cradle of prehistoric civilisation with tantalising traces of an early fertility culture found in curvaceous goddess statuettes and womblike megalithic temples. The spirit of the earth mother has lived on in Maltese folklore, with its web of superstition surrounding fertility and childbirth.
Apollo the sun god was blessed with the gift of foresight, and Leo the sun sign has unparalleled instincts. The fire signs are generally lucky too, and with Leo’s flair for fun, an effective gambler is often to be found hidden beneath the mane. Macau, as the worlds premier casino city, could be recommended, its elite nature as a semi-autonomous and highly wealthy city-state also playing into the magisterial Leonine archetype.
If you were born under the sign of the lion then you should probably, at some point, see wild lions in their natural habitat. To Duba then, in the Okavango delta, where the changing river landscape has trapped a slice of the ecosystem, bringing lions and water buffalo into such close proximity that the big cats have adapted, growing stronger and wilier than in any other part of Africa, and hunting in full view, by day and beneath the burning sun.
Functionally, the sign of Leo generates the self-belief necessary to create leaders. It is the sign of royalty, of dominion, of superiority, and Rome is perhaps the city whose history most entirely encapsulates these themes. While the early Christians were fed to lions, Rome would eventually become the religion’s seat, extending an empire to all edges of the known world, before eventually collapsing in fits of Leonine decadence.
The harvest maiden presides over all contact between man and plants, and Virgo’s tendency to value function over feelings means that summer spent toiling in the fields is no bad idea. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms association is a global operation that for a small fee will put you in touch with an extensive and varied network of organic farms where you can exchange labour for lodging and meals and enjoy landscapes of a rarer and more secluded beauty than if you hit the tourist trail, which in today’s world of information, is everywhere except on working farms.
The botanical garden is one of Virgo’s most treasured idylls. Beyond the cultivation of plants, the act of naming things is a typically Virgoan act, demonstrating the sign’s sense for order, but also its more mysterious knack of understanding the essence of things. South Africa has perhaps the highest concentration of botanical gardens in the entire world, with Kirstenbosch, at the foot of the Table Mountain, the fairly undisputed jewel in its crown.
With the state itself born beneath the sign of the harvest maiden, California is an unmissable, if perhaps guilty-pleasure getaway for the serious minded Virgo. LA could, and would probably be skipped by the average Virgoan who may find greater satisfaction exploring the peculiar mystique of west-coast wellbeing with its yoga retreats, marijuana farms, meditation workshops and rolling vineyards.
The funicular railways and cable cars give an aerial quality to this Chilean city, and the Libran side of Venus would also delight in the many-coloured facades of it labyrinthine streets, painted as part of an initiative to clean up the city started by artists some decades ago. Poetry and architecture intertwine further in the Ciudad Abierto or open city, a small settlement in the dunes beyond the city limits where approaches to habitation are explored by students and teachers from around the world.
Venusian city par excellence, Vienna’s cultural history is second to none, and often its architecture has an oddly edible quality that echoes the unrivalled confections of its cafés. Nearby Willendorf is the site of discovery of one of the earliest known artworks, the palaeolithic Woman of Willendorf, formerly known as the Venus.
Venus’ Libra is the sign of love, but also of open enemies; any dual relationship comes under its rule, and so a Libran cloud hangs over Cyprus with its Turkish occupied northern republic. In addition to an illustrious ancient cultural heritage, the island’s advanced economy and comfort further earmark it as a Libran land, and then there’s the small matter of Aphrodite having emerged from the sea foam on Cypriot shores…
Hidden resources and extraction are twin themes of the Scorpio, and this lowest lying of world capitals stands exemplary of both. Here an oily sheen of incandescent wealth and international nightlife is sandwiched between a Martian landscape of mineral-rich mud volcanoes, pointing to Baku’s mysterious, if not murky depths.
Scorpio echoes through myth and fairytale in the form of the dragon, the central emblem of secretive Bhutan. A fascinatingly Scorpionic mix of nature and control, it is the first country in the world to implement an outright ban on smoking while also being carbon neutral, with laws protecting the country’s abundant forests. Fiercely protective of its native culture, Bhutan has long shied away from tourism, relinquishing only at the visitor’s significant cost.
The Yucatan Peninsula in eastern Mexico is the supposed site of the meteor impact that obliterated the dinosaurs. The arc shaped proliferation of sinkholes, or cenotes, around its apparent rim were the primary water sources of the Mayan peoples of the peninsula, but they also served a spiritual function as spaces sacred to the plumed-serpent rain god Kukulcan, in which many would be sacrificed by drowning.
The mythological centaur is generally regarded as a sort of imaginative residue from the Aegean civilisations’ first sightings of the horse-mounted Scythian archers who populated wider Asia in a nomadic empire stretching from the Black Sea into central China. The roving Sagittarian soul could find no greater solace than in the boundless horizons of these lands.
The fervent missionary spirit of the Irish led monks from Gaelic monasteries to repopulate wider Europe with Christianity after it faltered during the early-medieval period. And the Sagittarian traveller archetype resonates in the vast reach of the Irish diaspora. Sagittarius also sings through the rampant literary spirit of the Irish, honed from within the jovial amber glow of its (in)famous pubs.
As swathes of 19th-century European immigration arrived in Buenos Aires, the ruling intellectual elite clothed themselves in the idealistic nationalist identity of the Gaucho, the mate-chewing horseman/cowboy of the surrounding Pampas grasslands. But the immigration brought with it the seeds of Tango, which would rise from the streets to high society, becoming emblematic of the city, even of Argentina itself.
San Francisco’s Aquarian qualities are as exemplified by Silicon Valley’s technological wizardry as by the city’s towers and bridges enswathed in luminous sea fog. But it is as a long-held bastion of queer culture that the city really comes under the water-carrier’s influence, for Aquarius is Ganymede, the beautiful Phrygian shepherd who so excited the desire of Zeus that in the form of an eagle he carried him off to Olympus to become cup-bearer to the Gods.
The symbol for Aquarius is identical to the Egyptian hieroglyph for ‘water’, and beneath a full Aquarian moon, the Nile would burst its banks. Aquarians should find some sort of spiritual sustenance here – upon the waters and beneath the only skies to be called blue by the ancient world.
Seoul is many things: Asia’s most liveable city and the world’s most technologically developed city depending on who you speak to. But it is officially the world’s most wired city and about as futuristic as our present gets. The thousand-metre long Moonlight Rainbow Fountain that runs the length of the Banpo Bridge completes the Aquarian seal, and indeed, the zig-zag squiggles of the sign’s symbol might easily be confused for the electrical jolt of modernity.
Pisces represents the spirituality that connects us to greater wholes. Ortygia, an islet separated from Syracuse by no more than a sliver of Ionian Sea, is a baroque pearl attended to by its local deity, the river nymph Arethusa. A chaste devotee of the huntress goddess Artemis she was one day pursued by an amorous god and transformed into a cloud in the panic of flight, before dispersing as a freshwater stream that rises in her fountain on Ortygia, flowing out into the ocean just a few metres away.
This peninsula that separates the Sea of Cortez from the Pacific is home to perhaps the widest range of marine biodiversity in the world. But it’s particular boon is the variety of whales (from grey to blue to humpback) that not only can be seen here, but met, touched and hugged, in the lagoons on the western coast. There is ample opportunity for diving and underwater photography, and one could surface with a greater respect for the increasingly imperilled life of our ocean.
Pisces’ sensitivity to the world is often a source of pain or confusion with many escaping into the exalted realms of fantasy and delusion. Others make do with desert islands, psychedelic drugs and diving, and it’s invariably the Piscean who returns from South East Asia bearing tattoos, Buddha heads and assorted aquatic eclectica. So escape to Indonesia’s Gili Isles for the most impossibly cerulean slice of modern island life, head held high.
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