This is a scholarly book for practicing astrologers and students of astrology, written in a friendly accessible way. It’s a fun read about one of astrology’s most important foremothers.
Evangeline Adams was a leading figure in the revival of astrology in the United States in the early 20th century. She was famous for her large consulting practice, her several books and, mostly, because she was arrested for “fortune-telling” and ultimately acquitted.
Karen Christino is a life-long astrologer and author of eight books. She’s written about astrology for a slew of popular, mainstream magazine. In that respect, she’s like Evangeline Adams, in that she has helped to keep astrology thriving. She published an earlier biography of Adams.
This follow-on book, Christino writes, “is intended as an astrologer’s handbook, covering the astrological techniques that made Evangeline Adams one of the most important astrologers of modern times.” It’s mostly a book of chart interpretations and historical storytelling about Adams, her colleagues and others who influenced the late 19th century and early 20th century astrological revival.
We’re now in a new century, and the astrological world is awash in so many techniques and niche specialties that it’s hard for practitioners, let alone clients, to keep it all straight. Christino shows how Adams’ tool kit was simple and streamlined. She practiced before the discovery of Pluto, before there was such a thing as “evolutionary astrology,” before the discovery of a cache of Greek astrological texts spawned the revival of the use of Hellenistic techniques, before the internet and social media. Adams’ books were designed primarily for beginners. She used electional astrology to choose auspicious dates for clients, especially surgical dates. She elected the date for her own marriage and the date to draw up her own will.
Adams had many illustrious clients, and Christino tells their colorful stories. One was actress Tallulah Bankhead who hadn’t had much success until she consulted with Adams in 1922. Adams looked at the coming transits to Bankhead’s natal chart and gave her an accurate timeline for a fortunate meeting with a London producer. Based on Adams’ advice, Bankhead landed an acting gig that launched her stage career.
In 1925, Adams was visited by a 21-year-old man named Joseph Campbell who was searching to know what his life’s work would be. Adams told him that he’d make a good actor, journalist, or playwright, and that he had a mystical bent. Based on Campbell’s upcoming Saturn transits, Adams forecast when he’d be making important career decisions. Campbell, of course, became a prolific, beloved, and world-renowned author and scholar of comparative world mythology.
Like any astrologer, Adams often worked with clients who knew their date of birth but not the time, which makes it impossible to construct a precise natal chart. In such cases, Adam used a technique she called a “new horary,” which she considered her main contribution to astrological forecasting. She’d combine the planetary placements of the client’s own date of birth with an Ascendant sign and degree based on the time of the consultation. It was not the classical horary method of making a unique chart based on the moment a client asks an astrologer a question. It was, though, a simple method that worked well for answering a client’s current quandaries.
What garnered Adams her greatest fame was her 1914 trial—and exoneration—for “fortune telling.” Here Christino notes that no audio recordings of Adams’ radio show, nor her personal letters, survive. What does remain is the court reporter’s transcript and some newspaper clippings from the time. Adam was watching her own transits during the trial and was quoted in the New York World to the effect that her planets were in such an “auspicious position” that she felt she would win her case even if she had to appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.
The trial was about whether Adams had violated a statute that was particularly worded: Did she “pretend to tell fortunes?” Adams proved that what she was doing was not pretending anything. She showed that she had drafted the horoscope of the complainant based on well-known techniques based on the science of astronomy. She had violated no law, and by winning her case, she struck a victory for astrology’s reputation as a credible metaphysical practice.
In What Evangeline Adams Knew, Christino has preserved a trove of data about Adams’ teachers, clients, friends and the astrological milieu of the early 20th century. Many public records of birth data and life events still exist, but personal data recorded in places like family Bibles is disappearing, as are many old newspaper collections in the electronic age. Christino has done the world of astrology a major service by compiling, and presenting in such a lively way, a lot of valuable information that would otherwise fall by the wayside. This book is vital scholarship for the safeguarding of astrological history.
~review by Sara R. Diamond
Author: Karen Christino
2023, self-published by Karen Christino
245 pp., $13.11