David Roell: The Astrology Center of California
In the era when I was working for the Jackie Stallone hotline, I discovered a guy named David Roell, who had an astrology bookstore in southern California. He always had a full-page ad in The Mountain Astrologer, for which I would later be a writer.
This was during the winter of 1994-1995. I didn’t have astrology software; David had a chart casting service that I used copiously. He had every book you could imagine, and I spent most of my money casting charts and purchasing books.
I would do this by phone. Dave had a lot to say. He was lonely where he was, I think around Oxnard somewhere, in a neighborhood without a lot of people. My calls to him would turn into extensive astrology classes.
I would call his toll-free number, 1-800-475-2272, night after night, and get donated lessons the entire winter, each of which went on as long as I could keep going. I learned a lot of astrology from Dave. He explained every book he sold me, and answered my questions on many, many charts.
He had read a lot of books. I am sure he holds the unofficial world’s record in English for reading astrology books. The benefit of that among others is that he could navigate around the history of astrological ideas and traditions. This was mingled with his love of music, as a listener and as a composer. I think he may have identified as a musician first and astrologer second.
He was also a repository of knowledge about Eastern religion, various matters of psychic affairs, Blavatsky, occultism in general, ghosts, reincarnation, UFOs and numerous other subject areas, and had something intelligent to say about all of it. More than being an opinionist, which he definitely was, he was a theorist. That is what Aquarius is famous for – coming up with theories. Usually they were interesting; sometimes they were funny – he believed that Porphry houses should be banned. He would not say why.
He also warned me about some untrustworthy people in the astrological community, filled me in on backstory I would have no other way to find out, and explained the political ropes of the profession. Starting way back at the beginning, I had some vital intel and took it under advisement, paying attention but never publishing a word of it. He was the also the source of many contacts for me – he knew everyone’s email dating back to the beginning of the medium, and their phone number. Every astrology journalist should know someone like this.
Then after these conversations, all night I worked for the Jackie Stallone Psychic Circle reading tarot cards. That winter was one of the most interesting times of my life. Mars was retrograde in Leo and Virgo. Pluto was in the very last degree of Scorpio. The Uranus-Neptune conjunction was beginning to drift apart. That winter and spring is one of the few times I am actually nostalgic about.
One day at the end of a phone call, he said, “OK, you’re ready. Hang out your shingle and be an astrologer. Charge $50 an hour. And don’t undersell your tarot. Charge the same for that.” And that was it. He had graduated me. This was some time in early 1995.
I was determined to be an astrologer and clearly it was meant to be. I had seven years of prior preparation, therapy, spiritual training and esoteric studies including tarot prior to these conversations, but still, astrology is not exactly easy and it’s a big responsibility. I am not sure I would have had the confidence after just one year of focused study to do it professionally.
So I hung out my shingle, printed postcards, started writing a horoscope column in a little newspaper called Free Time, and that was pretty much that.
I have always found the astrologers I resonate with to be generous with their knowledge; I could make a long list, and it was those examples that influenced me to model my career the way that I have. But David was a little unusual and never seemed to run out of time for me. Over the past 19 years I’ve called him countless times, any time I had a difficult case or needed to get some insight on an astrological issue, especially involving horary.
When I arrived in my godmother’s hometown in Sicily, I put my feet on the ground, recorded the time, called him and gave him the data and he faxed back one of the most interesting charts I’ve ever seen to my little motel in Piazza Armerina — one of the charts that for me proves astrology.
The Moment of Astrology
This is a method called horary astrology. It is the master art of our trade. It was David who made the point that you can find out anything you need to know from horary astrology, which is the astrology “of the hour,” usually associated with the asking of a question.
He is the person who recommended that I read The Moment of Astrology, a book about horary, which is one of my favorite books, ever.
The book, by Geoffrey Cornelius, begins with the story of a magazine called The Humanist, which in the 1970s had circulated a petition that said that astrology was bullshit. Not just astrology, but horoscopes in particular. The magazine had collected the signatures of 186 scientists (including 10 Nobel laureates), who — without any use of the scientific method or any research at all — had declared astrology unscientific and therefore invalid.
My background was covering scientific fraud. As a writer in that field, my motto was, “Where’s your data?” Well, clearly these 186 scientists had none to offer; they just shared their view. As an investigative reporter, I had made clear in my writing that there is a difference between a scientific finding and the opinion of a scientist. That idea came in handy right then.
In this book, I read that the whole effort to debunk astrology had been orchestrated by the editor of The Humanist, a man named Paul Kurtz. I gasped. I was stunned.
Paul Kurtz had been my first professor on my first day of my first class when I arrived at SUNY Buffalo in 1981: Introduction to Philosophy. When I showed up for university, I walked into his classroom about five minutes late. We he was a good professor, we became friends, and I was an A student.
Paul Kurtz, said Cornelius, was pretty much the nemesis of astrology in the 20th century. In fact, the most successful agitator against our craft in several centuries. And I knew him personally — long before I had a clue what astrology even was. Once again, I felt like fate had placed its gentle hand on my shoulder.