The Age of Aquarius
He is already a kind of celebrity in his hometown. People who read his column in the local newspaper swear by him. They send anxious letters when at crossroads in both their professional and personal lives and he is always the one to give the best of advice.
Hundreds of readers will readily tell you that he is just the most skilled astrologer the drowsy southern town of Pazardzhik, 109km of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, has ever seen.
However, what is the most striking about this local adept is the fact that he is only seventeen. The boy goes to the local maths school and looks no different than any other Bulgarian teenager. When I meet him, he seems a bit shy but determined to leave a good impression "for the media."
He prefers to be called Slavey (Nightingale) - the name he uses for his column. It was selected carefully so that it can bring him lots of professional success according to the mysterious laws of numerology. Slavey tells me he is taking one of the Internet-based courses thought by a famous Bulgarian astrologer with a vastly popular TV show. He has only the first year behind him but the whole affair has already begun to yield results especially after he started the newspaper column.
Slavey, who in spite of his young age seems to be just the man to know what he wants in life, says he is going to become a lawyer. However, (he tells me in a calculated tone) he thinks of astrology as an occupation he would not abandon and - yes, as the best way for him to make money.
At the end of our conversation, I ask him about his star sign to learn he is a Capricorn. After having consulted some books on the subject, I find Capricorns are career-driven people - often ladder-climbers who pursue success tenaciously year after year. Well, well, there must be something here!
It is natural the boy does not count on popularity alone after the substantial investment I know his family has made in the astrology course. Slavey himself told me the lady who teaches him through weekly exchange of e-mails does not offer a cheap service. The horoscopes that she compiles for customers start from BGN 500 and those who seek her advice are usually upper-end business people and even vastly rich tycoons.
Her competitors who besides personal horoscope readings offer courses to would-be astrologers do not come cheap as well. My research showed that one-month astrology panel is no less than the half of average monthly pay in Bulgaria. It also turned out that astrology is not an easy art - it takes years of studying before you can produce a full-size horoscope reading.
Just as I found myself deep into that intriguing matter, I happened to ride in a cab whose driver chatted me up and inquired about my star sign. He proved totally fascinated by the particular time of year I was born at and, as he had just finished an astrology course (am I not lucky?), offered to make me a horoscope reading in exchange for a good sum.
This entrepreneurial spirit surprised me a great deal - you know, the communist rule from which Bulgaria emerged not so long ago suppressed both private initiative and non-materialistic ideas. It looks like a whole army of astrologers is still alive after the grand but short-lived boom of the paranormal craze, which followed the fall of communism. However, these people appear very different from the fortune-tellers who ruled the time when one of the best-selling newspapers in the country told the stories of UFO abductions and encounters with the ghost of Lenin. Bulgaria's astrologers of today are busy people carrying laptops and using cash registers.
Recently astrology was the subjects of the popular Bulgarian TV talk show Sblasak (Clash) that amuses audiences with red-hot discussions and even fights between opponents on topics as wide ranging as Bulgaria's position on Iraq and "who is to pay the bills - men or women?" This time, however, the dispute was quiet to a degree to make the two hosts look utterly disappointed. A astrology pundit - otherwise a medical doctor who have specialized at Cambridge - defended his cause against skeptical radio anchor and psychologist visibly stricken with respect for him and therefore helpless to support their all-astrologers-are-charlatans point.
The good doctor presented strikingly insightful horoscope readings of his opponents and performed other attractive tricks to win the audiences. What could not escape me though was the only argument of the skeptics he failed to refute - namely that the profession of astrologers lacks proper regulation in Bulgaria. He was not able to answer why the Astrology Association does not certify "true professionals" and fails to unmask swindlers although it admits there are some "pseudos." It seems if you need to have your horoscope interpreted in Bulgaria, you must count on your own nose to sniff out the bad apples among the rapidly growing number of star-tellers.
You probably remember that famous song from the Hair Movie about the dawning Age of Aquarius. They say when this era finally descends upon mankind, it would bring peace, wisdom and progress. But first it would give us a lot of astrologers to guide our lives.
Considering this symptom, the Age of Aquarius must be taking over Bulgaria in full vigor. I just wonder when the other promises about that blessed era will begin to come true for the country.
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