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Chani Nicholas has been hooked on astrology since she was 12 years old.Illustration by Photo Illustration by The Globe and Mail

Off Duty is a series of lively conversations with influential people, from CEOs to celebrities, on life, work and the art of taking time off.

Spring means the start of gardening season, the NHL playoffs and the Met Gala. But this year for Canadian astrologer Chani Nicholas – and devout followers of astrology – the window from March 23 to June 11 marks the once-in-a-lifetime transit of Pluto entering Aquarius. According to astrology, this can be a time of radical transformation.

Nicholas has been hooked on astrology since she was 12 years old. Her dad had remarried and his new mother-in-law, who was a Reiki master, thought it would be helpful for the new family to do a group astrology reading. “It was so illuminating and I was so hungry for it. I’ve not stopped studying it,” Nicholas says from her home in Los Angeles.

Astrology gained prominence in the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s and is again having a moment with Gen Z and millennials, turning the ancient study of celestial objects into a multibillion-dollar industry.

Nicholas has harnessed her passion into a successful career: She wrote the New York Times-bestselling book You Were Born For This: Astrology For Radical Self-Acceptance, hosted celebrities Jane Fonda and Bridgerton’s Golda Rosheuvel on her Netflix show Star Power for a reading of their birth charts, and launched the Chani app, which provides personalized daily horoscopes, with her wife and business partner, Sonya Passi. But more recently, Nicholas has been turning her attention inward. She became a mother earlier this year, giving her time to pause, reflect and appreciate the joy of raising a child.

Here, Nicholas talks to The Globe and Mail about using astrology for social change, filtering potential dates via zodiac signs and why having a baby has forced a reset of her morning routine.

Why do you think people are so obsessed with astrology right now?

I think we’re really primed for it. The happenings of 2016 [with the election of Donald Trump in the U.S.] sent ripples out across the world. Then the pandemic came. When we hit a moment of crisis, we need something to help us make sense of the turbulence, the pain and the fractures. We’ve lost our faith in religious institutions, to a large degree, but we still have a deep yearning for meaning.

One of the reasons people are drawn to you is because you use astrology as a lens to understand current politics and social justice. Why is this perspective so important to you?

Because everything is political, everything is a social-justice issue. Astrology is about unification and understanding we’re part of a cosmos. But patriarchy, colonialism and corporate capitalism try to dislocate us so that we feel lonely and hopeless. I think that when we remember that we’re part of something, we feel a sense of possibility because we can’t do anything on our own. We have to do things in partnership.

The last time Pluto was in Aquarius, we were living through the Industrial Revolution. Machines changed our lives. Is there a machine out right now that is terrifyingly powerful? Are we having huge conversations about AI? I don’t think everyone should use astrology or like it or believe in it. But there are some very wild parallels.

On dating apps, people often list their zodiac signs, and there’s been a rise in dating shows related to astrological matchmaking, like Cosmic Love and Written in the Stars. Do you think astrology is a good way to find love?

I think it has the potential to illuminate what a relationship is and what it can be. It has been used for thousands of years. India has a long tradition of looking at birth charts of potential matches. It’s a deep and profound tool for connection and intimacy. But it’s also misused all the time, just like everything else that is being peddled by a giant corporation that wants to make money off of it.

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a parent?

Oh my god. That is such an existential question. I think I’ve learned that there’s so much joy to be had from being present, and a little one is easy access to that kind of joy. We’re creating a family, and as a queer person, there’s a lot of stuff that we have to contend with and work through. I grew up in a really experimental environment in Nelson, B.C. It was half rednecks, half hippies, where everyone was interested in bucking the system. In a lot of ways, it’s primed me for being able to live the life that I truly wanted to live.

Although I imagine this has changed since the baby, what is your morning routine like?

In general, my morning ritual is to meditate for 20 minutes, pull a tarot card, read about it, write for 30 minutes to an hour, and work out or go for a walk. Since becoming a parent, if I get any of that done, it’s amazing.

How do you use astrology in your own life?

As a business, it’s sometimes annoying for our team because we only launch things on good astrology times. In our personal lives, my wife and I are also very cognizant of what’s happening when. So this week, we wanted to book an Airbnb, but Mercury’s retrograde, so we’re just going to risk it and wait until the station’s direct before we actually book it.

Was your wife into astrology before meeting you?

No, but she’s Indian and her parents had a horoscope done up for when she was born. She’s from a culture that’s very accepting of astrology. But now she looks at it way more than I do. She’s obsessed! She tracks everything. When our baby was coming, she knew every chart that she wanted for the child within those weeks.

Did your wife get the chart she wanted?

No, our daughter had her own agenda and made a mockery of all of us. But that’s fine.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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