We spoke to her during the last week of April, and here’s what she had to say:
The demand for futurecasters becomes ever greater during times of danger and turmoil, and these days no place is more dangerous or tumultuous than the Middle East. It’s not surprising, therefore, that astrologers should be in great demand there, despite modern religious and cultural resistance to fortunetelling, in the very land where astrology itself began several millennia ago. In the midst of war, both Baghdad and Beirut have popular radio and TV programs featuring astrologers talking about the world situation and giving readings to individual callers who are concerned with their lives and immediate futures in a strife-strewn daily environment.
We were fortunate enough to talk to Beirut’s favorite astrologer, Carmen Chammas, who has regular shows there on both radio and TV. She caught world headlines in 2005 when on February 14 she predicted a particularly bad day for Scorpio and only four hours later Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (whose Sun was in Scorpio) and his entourage were blown up on the main thoroughfare in Beirut. Like her fellow countryman Michael Hayek, known for his too-specific dire political predictions coming true, she has had to become especially wary of how she frames her forecasts, in light of the possible personal dangers that could engender. As she told us over the phone, “It’s so sensitive that it’s not wise to mention anything particular about what goes on inside Lebanon. I do talk about the situation in general, but only outside of Lebanon.”
You’re a well-known astrologer, author, radio and TV personality. Exactly where are you seen and heard in the Middle East?
I host my own daily program on national Future TV, which is also broadcast all over the world. I have been on the TV screen since June 1999. My program is a great success and I have a wonderful audience. I have published eight books already, all about yearly personal horoscopes. I am the astrologer for Kamar magazine, pan Arab magazine, sort of like Vogue magazine. I also host my weekly interactive astrology program on Radio Orient every Wednesday where I receive calls from all around the world for consultations. I also have my own private practice.
Anything in English?
No, everything so far is in Arabic, but I’d love to. [She ought to, she speaks perfect English]
You were born in Beirut?
Yes. But I left Lebanon in 1986, my husband and I went to Columbia, South America. I lived there, had my daughter there, and got into astrology there, actually.
How did you come to astrology?
It was through my husband, he’s a computer engineer and financial manager. At that time computers were popular but astrology programs were new. A friend of his called him one night and asked could you please come over, I need your help with the computer. I got a phone call from him there saying come over right here, so I went and it turned out he was installing an astrology program for his friend’s wife. He installed the program and the lady did charts for him, and my husband was so fascinated that he called me because he knew that I loved astrology and was waiting for an opportunity to get into it. And that’s how I started, with that lady. All a coincidence, if we call it that — but of course we know it’s not…
So you actually began your study of astrology with her?
Yes, I started with her, and she gave me a few books just to start me off but then I had more chances to pursue it than she had (she doesn’t speak English but I did). I had many opportunities to go over to the United States, to Miami, and there I got into a library and I bought so many books and took them back to Columbia — and that’s really how I started. I joined the American Federation of Astrologers, had to study on my own, and I soon surpassed my friend.
Who would be your favorite authors, what school of astrology would you incline toward?
I love Robert Hand, he’s my ideal. All his books are my references, especially Planets in Transit. I haven’t found a better book on transits. My copy is like in shreds now. Whatever he writes I read. I also like Liz Green, and I like Howard Sasportas, because they are psychological astrology, but I’m most into predictive astrology. I love predictions, that is my obsession.
On Valentine’s Day of 2005 you said it would be a particularly difficult day for Scorpios at just about the wrong time to say so, politically...when you said that, were you basing it just on the general sky pattern at the moment, or did you have the prime minister in mind?
It was just the daily horoscope, and that was a really bad day for Scorpio. Usually when I do horoscopes I specify advice like don’t be a hero, stay home, don’t go out, be careful. I usually warn people, like maybe it’s the worst day of the month, or one of them. It happened that day I said just that for Scorpio, and it was.
So you don’t do predictions about individuals now, at least public ones?
I do predictions for personal consultations on the phone on the radio, but I don’t talk about politics anymore. Just personal consultation.
What are the difficulties of being an astrologer in the Mideast?
The Muslim religion and also the Christian religion here in Lebanon don’t approve of it. They say it’s against religion. Usually they don’t like astrologers and don’t listen to them. But when I do astrology I always do it using computers, numbers, calculation, so they just back off, you know, because they watch how I work and see I’m not inventing things. I’m not a seer, I’m not conjuring things, I just use numbers. So at least they back off on me, they don’t get close to me. So far, I’m fine.
In the West a majority of astrologers are women, but in India there is actually discrimination against them. Is there a problem with being, specifically, a woman astrologer in the Middle East?
No, not at all.
Just before our interview, on BBC there was program on Lebanese pop music, contrasting new young people’s sound with older, more traditional artists like Om Kalsoum. Do you find astrology has a particularly following among the youth culture?
Yes. A lot, a lot, a lot. Maybe it is that in Lebanon the future is so dark and obscure that people have no idea what is waiting for them. People really want to know, they are very anxious, we live day by day. Many young people prefer to travel away to find a proper job elsewhere in the Middle East, or in Europe, or in the West. They want to know is it wise to invest, or what would tomorrow be? Will it be war, will it be fine? So there is kind of a boom, because of the anxiety. Not because of me or what I am doing or anyone else is doing, but because of the situation.
When you’re doing chart about the political situation, what charts do you use?
I use charts for Lebanon, only for Lebanon. I work with three charts for Lebanon, actually. I use the greater Lebanon that was before the independence, the independence chart, and the Taef chart [the 1989 Lebanese agreement in Taef, Saudi Arabia]. I also go back to all the incidents in recent Lebanese history and the general planetary aspects for the year. For example, I wrote in 2006 there was the square between Jupiter and Saturn, and that same square happened in 1975, the year the Lebanese war started. So I wrote that we should be careful of problems that might arise to bring conflict, and of course many such things happened including the Israeli war on Lebanon last year.
So you use cumulative, repeating aspects across the years?
Yes, of course. I also have done that for this year, I have written some predictions according to the planetary aspects for 2007.
So what’s next for this year?
Not only for this area, but globally, the important planetary secrets include the opposition between Saturn and Neptune. It’s going to happen on June 25. It happened on August 31 last year and again February 28 this year. If I go back in history, it happened in 1989 coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall, along with large-scale unemployment, gold and inflation problems. So this could happen again through the end of June — maybe these things will come again, perhaps the political walls will finally fall in Cyprus, where there has been such trouble between North and South. The second important aspect is the square between Jupiter and Uranus. This coincided in 1986 with the Chernobyl explosion, also war with Israel, the Challenger explosion, the construction of the first nuclear plant in 1951. These things are still around — right now, Iran might be constructing a nuclear plant. It also coincided with many, many revolutions — in Argentina (Peron), the Phillippines, Iran, Idi Amin, the 1958 civil riots in Lebanon. It’s happening again this year so these are some of the things we should watch out for.
The third very important factor, still a way off, is Pluto and Jupiter coming together in December. If you go back, it coincided with the Khomeini revolution in Iran 1981, the bombardment by Israel of nuclear plants in Iraq, the Chechen war, riots in the States in 1955 [Rosa Parks sit-ins, boycotts], the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and associated riots in 1968. If we take all three factors together, 2007 is not an easy year globally. It doesn’t mean all these things have to happen – it’s just that these are the patterns in the sky and it’s wise to look back and learn their lesson. Perhaps we can learn not to let them happen again — to predict is to prevent, you know?
What’s ahead for you next? New books? More TV? What are you likely to see yourself doing in the near future?
I’m working on my yearly book published here in Lebanon in November. I would like to do more right now, but my whole day is taken up by work and family. I would love to travel more, and have my own prime-time TV program, with guests and audience, not just personal on-air readings (currently I’m working on putting one together).