Before There Were Instagram Horoscopes, There Was Susan Miller

Design: Ingrid Frahm

If social media introduced a new wave of interest in astrology, then Susan Miller is its dot-com foremother. Her website, Astrology Zone, launched in 1995 as one of only 23,000 in existence and when 41 percent of people had never even heard of the Internet. Its users were still 80 percent men. And most of those men considered astrology hokey at best. For 25 years, Miller has been proving them wrong.

As a child, Miller studied astrology under her mother. Battling chronic illnesses, she spent more time at the doctor’s office than in school and was hungry to learn. At first, she was allowed only to read friends’ or families’ charts, and then only with her mother present. Her mother, who told a flabbergasted young Miller that one day she’d make her living writing, using a new technology that moved through the air, was both Miller’s oracle and muse. But she herself had been a reluctant study. It would be years before her prophecy came to fruition. And Miller wouldn’t charge for a chart reading for another 20. In the meantime, she pursued a business degree from NYU and went on to become a successful commercial photography agent. By the time she launched Astrology Zone, she’d published one astrology book on famous birthdays, as astrology then was still the provenance of books and newspaper columns. But Miller knew the Internet was the future, and she wanted in.

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Susan Miller in 2019. (Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

A meeting with Time Warner web executives changed everything. Of these men, she says, “Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale, you know what I mean?” They wanted her to pen short daily horoscopes for women, a hundred words apiece. They told her, “People want to read short and snappy online.”

Miller refused. “Short is bad,” she recalls saying. “Short is confusing. It sounds like a fortune cookie. And why leave the men out? In Mesopotamia, where astrology originated, it was once the sole provenance of kings.”

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Interest in astrology has always been there. … The Internet, social media, just democratized it.

Susan Miller

Her bosses were skeptical, but Miller met their doubt like she does all obstacles: with the indefatigable tenacity of a native New Yorker, a Piscean knack for free association, and 24-karat enthusiasm.

Time Inc. created a site for her on its landing page, Pathfinder, one of the first corporate websites on the Internet. Two and a half decades later, Miller draws 11 million unique visitors a year to, where loyal readers consume upward of 30,000 words she writes for each sign’s monthly horoscope.

Miller understood not only how hungry people are for insight into their own lives, but also what digital natives grasp intuitively: the power of the personal brand, of direct content delivered to an audience in an original voice. Verbosity has become her signature.

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“I wasn’t born with family money or connections. But, boy, did God give me energy, and that’s a great natural resource,” Miller explains from one of the eight phones in her house. She explains that she wants one always within arm’s reach, because her mother advised her “to always answer on the first ring!” And that, she does.

A garrulous standout in the age of bite-sized cosmic missives written to fit within an Instagram post and zodiac meme, Miller credits the Internet and social media for her growth but remains unmoved by trend forecasts or sweeping cultural assessments about astrology’s currency in tumultuous times. “I don’t think this time is objectively harder than any other in history,” she says. “Interest in astrology has always been there. It’s a basic human desire to understand chaos. … The Internet, social media, just democratized it.”

If you get fired on an eclipse, don’t try to get your job back.

Susan Miller

Three years after her online debut, her birthday fell on an eclipse, and she knew change was on the horizon. “If you get fired on an eclipse,” says Miller, “don’t try to get your job back.” She got the call that Time was being sold and she had until the end of 1998 to leave. “People think I had venture capital,” she says. “Not true. Business people didn’t understand astrology, and I felt I had to guard it.” By then, her website was attracting five million page views a month. “I remember those early days. … I thought, This is the center of the universe. Here I am in a covered wagon going west.”

While technology has made astrology more accessible, Miller bemoans how many online practitioners are not classically trained. “It’s not just learning the mathematical systems that’s important,” she says, “it has to marinate. You have to live with it. You have to see the cycles.”

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One of the biggest cyclical shifts of our lifetimes that astrologers old and new, trained and self-taught, are talking about is the Grand Mutation, a planetary conjunction that happens every 200 years when Jupiter and Saturn conjunct in a new element. On December 21, 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn were only 0.1 degree apart in the sky, they met in an air sign, Aquarius (also the sign of genius), for the first time since 1408, ushering in an egalitarian age when old power structures crumble and information flows freely. In turn, knowledge and community contributions become more important than rank or possessions.

Miller says the Mutation could manifest in more mutual aid, helping neighbors, and more telecommuting. It will be a period of great democratization, a leveling of the playing field like nothing we have experienced.

I know there’s a bad side to social media. But social media reflects the world. … The good side of social media is so superlative that it’s worth going through the bumpy parts.

Susan Miller

As Miller tells it, the planets are all characters in a great global play. Since 2008, Pluto has been tasked with streamlining banking worldwide. But in 2024, it will shift out of its concentration on finance. And with that, we’ll see the blooming of the Age of Aquarius. “Not only will computers blossom beautifully,” says Miller, “but robots and biomedical. You’re getting a taste of it already because of Saturn in Aquarius, and how the companies worked together [to develop the COVID-19 vaccine].”

In the same way that culture pushes forward, astrological cycles build on previous steps. “It’s not an echo of the past,” says Miller. “Each cycle is an advancement that takes us further into a pioneering mode.” That said, there is an uncanny parallel between now and 1980, when Saturn and Jupiter were briefly conjunct in an air sign (before they went back to finish their cycles through the earth signs). “Babies born in 1975 to 1985 have that in their DNA. They’re familiar with it. They’re comfortable with it. They’ll lead us into the next era,” she says.

“There’s something indigenous in people that we just don’t want to stop learning. And the Internet lets us. And social media helps us. I know there’s a bad side to social media. But social media reflects the world. … The good side of social media is so superlative that it’s worth going through the bumpy parts.”

Just as she embraced fledging technologies to meet her life’s purpose 25 years ago, we may be coming together to build a world we can’t even imagine yet. “If we use history as a guideline,” says Miller, “the Roaring Twenties followed the Spanish flu, so we’re going into an explosion of beautiful art and culture when everybody can get together again.”

This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US