If you’re a queer person with an internet connection, then you’ve surely heard of astrologer Chani Nicholas. Known for her inclusive and self-reflective approach to understanding the stars, the Los Angeles-based astro expert and New York Times bestselling author of 2020’s You Were Born for This counts Tourmaline and Phillip Picardi among her many famous fans.
Late last December, Nicholas and her wife-slash-CEO of Chani Nicholas Inc., Sonya Passi, unveiled the CHANI app, an iPhone app billed as the “most personalized astrology app out there.” The free version of the app includes basic weekly horoscopes, a weekly podcast narrated by Nicholas, and brief explanations of what the current sky means for you based on your natal chart. Astro-lovers can pay an additional $15.99/month for in-depth analysis of their birth chart and the planetary transits du jour, plus guided meditations and journal prompts. Five percent of all proceeds from the CHANI app will benefit BIPOC, Latinx, and LGBTQ survivors of gender-based violence via FreeFrom.org, a nonprofit helmed by Passi.
NewNowNext caught up with Nicholas to chat about developing her namesake app, comparing the astrology of 2020 (remember her?) vs. 2021, and unpacking the birth charts of the exact moments when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office.
Hi Chani! Congrats on the app launch. How long was it in the works?
Well, the app’s been in the works most of my life, because it’s really a summation of everything that I’ve done and that we’ve done as a company. Technically, it took us a solid two years to build out.
Can you walk me through some of the distinct features? Because I’ve used a lot of different astrology apps, but this one feels very different.
One of the things that’s really different about this app is that I folded the workshops that I’ve done for the past six years with folks into the app. So there’s a workshop section, and every week, you get a reading, a recording of my voice going through the astrology, and how it’s impacting you that week. Every week, there’s also journal prompts. If you are a journaler, you can go in there and answer any of the journal prompts that feel resonant with you, and they are all related to the ways in which the astrology is impacting you that week. I’m trying to create a space where people can, if they want and when they want, create rituals in their lives that help them to feel like there’s a space and a place in their life where they can reflect and heal and have a moment to digest what’s going on.
I love how ritual-oriented it is.
Right. One of the things that’s unique about this app is that it’s not a social media piece of technology. It’s a sanctuary for you. So it’s not about what everybody else is doing or saying, or any of that stuff. This is where you come to take a break from all of those other apps, and this is where you come to reflect and dig in. And it’s here when you need it.
Have you looked at the CHANI app’s birth chart yet?
I mean, we’re astrologers. We picked the exact launch time on purpose. [Laughs] I know the chart of the app very well. We launched it right as Jupiter entered Aquarius on a really auspicious time of that day. Right before the Great Conjunction — we caught that energy in the app.
I want to ask you about queerness and astrology. Why do you think so many LGBTQ people gravitate toward astrology?
Because we’re magic. Astrology, especially for most of history, even though it has a lot of moments of severe popularity like it’s having right now, it’s still something that’s on the periphery of culture. It still lives and exists on the margins. And for all of recent history, at least — not everywhere and not in every culture, but within especially white supremacist patriarchal culture — queers and queer culture are peripheral. So I think queer folks naturally gravitate to what’s also been held in the margins. And that’s something that we can engage in. Astrology is really hated by the church, so queers might find a resonance with that. But also, it’s a place where it’s like, astrology isn’t judging you. It’s helping you to specify what your life is about, and so you can come as you are, and astrology will speak to you as you are.
It’s no secret that 2020 was…well, a total shitshow. Is there any astrological explanation for all of the upheaval?
So, the biggest thing that happened in 2020 was the Saturn-Pluto conjunction that happened in Capricorn — that also happened while Jupiter was there, while the South Node was there, while there were eclipses there. So the Pluto-Saturn conjunction happens every 34-ish years, 34 or 36 years. And the last time it happened… we were coming to understand what the AIDS epidemic was. So it is a mark, an astrological mark, that usually mars humanity. You can scan a century and look for the two times that will happen, and those will probably be really tough times. This one happened in Capricorn, which gave it an extra emphasis of restrictions and downturns and confinement, and denial, because Saturn was super potent. It’s the kind of astrology that you’re like, “How are we going to talk about this in public without freaking everybody out?” Because it looks really hard. I didn’t think pandemic, but when it happened, I was like, “Oh, yeah, the economy goes down. People are restrained and restricted from each other. Movement is restricted.” We were literally, physically, still confined, even though we’re hopefully moving toward more freedom.
How does the astrology of 2021 differ?
2021 is very different in tone. We’re still talking about Saturn. We’re still talking about structures and the ways in which things govern us and hold us, and Saturn is making these squares to the planet of destruction and chaos and change, and also innovation. So there’s a lot of radicalism to 2021, and there’s a lot of disruption. It’s disturbing the status quo, or disturbing what has always been the order of things, and also innovating the structures that we have existed within. … It’s these big conflicts around, “This is how we do things, and this is how we need to do things.” But as we’ve seen in January in the U.S. at least, there’s also this whole thing about the radicalization of white supremacists and white nationalists. And so, who’s getting radical? What forms and structures are being shaken up, and for what reason?
That sounds intense but different than 2020. I do worry about who is being radicalized, though.
Right. We need to get to canceling student debt; we need to get to dealing with the climate crisis. We have real problems. We have real threats to our existence, and white supremacy is one of them. But it also ends up disturbing everything, and stealing our energy and time away from actually addressing the systemic physical threats that we have to existence because of what we’ve done to the planet and how we’ve lived. So you’re just like, “How much is the bully in the schoolyard going to keep pulling focus and disrupting everything?”
Mercury stations retrograde on January 30. Do you have any advice for how to approach this period?
Mercury retrogrades are annoying, and things go bananas and all that stuff. But on a deeper level, I think they always get us to circle back around something. It’s like when you have to go back inside because you’re like, “Oh, I have my sunglasses,” and then you realize, “Oh my God, I almost left the most important document I needed today at home.” You get sidetracked when you’ve got to go get that thing, and then you can go forward.
On Inauguration Day last week, you retweeted screenshots of the “birth charts” of when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office, respectively. Do you have thoughts on these charts?
Oh, I could talk about them for hours! But in short, they both have a very loud, disruptive, rule-breaking mark on the ascendant, and that is Mars and Uranus, that conjunction that happens. President Biden and Vice President Harris have this mark of disrupting the status quo baked into their terms as president and vice president. Now, we know that Kamala Harris is the first Black woman, the first Indian woman, and the first woman in the role of vice president. So the fact that she has the mark of destructing the institution that she’s walking into on the chart of her saying, “Yes, I will do this job,” is like, yeah. Her very being, unfortunately, is disruptive because white supremacy is so deep and intense, and so concentrated, especially within the halls of power. Biden, of course, is the oldest, whitest man to ever be president. So his very being, his makeup, is not at all radical for the institutions he’s walking into, but he chose Kamala Harris. He chose Deb Haaland. He chose Rachel Levine. He is disrupting in certain ways the institution that he’s also walking into and inhabiting. So, we’ll see.
The CHANI app is out now.