zodiac seasons

Your Guide to Aquarius Season

Illustration: Sunny Wu

By the end of January, you have likely become totally sick of Capricorn season with its emphasis on hard work, personal discipline, and respecting tradition. Although it can be powerful to look at the world through Capricorn’s practical and realistic lens, at a certain point it just begins to feel oppressive. This is when Aquarius season arrives to lift you from despair, to reignite your imagination, and to give free rein to the parts of your mind that are rebellious, joyful, and strange.

The sun usually moves from Capricorn into Aquarius around January 20 and stays there until around February 18. Every sign builds on and responds to the one that comes before it, and Aquarius responds to Capricorn’s seriousness with an invitation to get weird. Rather than encouraging us to focus on tangible achievements and material successes, Aquarius invites us to be utopian in our thinking and defiant in our idealism. Capricorn season is about learning from the past, while Aquarius season is about looking toward the future. Capricorn promises that you can succeed by following the rules, but Aquarius wants you to imagine new rules altogether.

Part of this energy comes from Aquarius’s air-sign traits of intellect, imagination, and open-minded sociability. (Despite its name, the element associated with Aquarius isn’t water but air.) And like all air signs, Aquarius often has a friendly, likable sociability. But for all its charm, Aquarius energy is also eccentric. In modern astrology, the sign’s planetary ruler is Uranus, the planet of change and revolution. On the more practical side, this means Aquarius is linked to progress and technological innovation; on the weirder side, it’s the sign of hippies (forever linked, for better or worse, with that song from Hair) and rebels and geniuses whose creativity has nothing to do with being “useful.”

See, for example, the wild and challenging modernism of Gertrude Stein (from Tender Buttons, 1914: “The care with which there is incredible justice and likeness, all this makes a magnificent asparagus, and also a fountain.”) See, too, Yoko Ono’s conceptual video art of the sky (Sky TV) and naked butts (Bottoms). But Aquarian art doesn’t have to be avant-garde: Toni Morrison’s clear-eyed refusal to center white audiences in her work is a kind of Aquarian project too.

During Aquarius season, you may grow tired of the conventional ways of doing things. You may feel an urge to press beyond the edges of what’s easy or normal or routine. Aquarius season is the time to stop feeling restricted by the opinions and judgments of your neighbors, co-workers, or Instagram followers. You don’t have to care! You’ve got more interesting things to think about. You can spend your time researching UFOs or getting deep into experimental cinema. You can rabble-rouse at City Council meetings on Zoom or show up to defend your unhoused neighbors against encampment evictions. The world is so big, and you don’t have to live the same way as everyone else.

The trouble is that a certain amount of humdrum, everyday labor is unavoidable. In Aquarius season, these kinds of tasks — doing the dishes or the laundry or grocery shopping — may seem unbearable. Even necessary activities like eating and sleeping can strike you as unpleasant chores. But while you’re imagining new futures or working out a theory of the universe, don’t neglect your physical body. Eating well, taking a nap, getting outside for a walk in the fresh air: These things won’t distract you from your big ideas; they’ll only make your brain work better.

Similarly, in your social life, you may find yourself with less patience than usual for people you find small-minded, boring, or simply wrong. Although Aquarius season encourages unconventionality, it can also, paradoxically, lead to rigidity — to the certainty that your style of thinking is the only true one, your unique vision of the future the only one worth pursuing. Do your best this month to stay generous and open hearted. You can follow your wild ideas, and you can continue to invest in your friendships and communities. Have faith in your singular spark while remembering that, ultimately, we all depend on one another.

At its worst, this Aquarian insistence on individualism can manifest in a disastrous brand of libertarianism (Sarah Palin), but it’s just as likely to blossom into a radical, generous concern for humanity more broadly and for our collective future together (Ono’s antiwar activism, Angela Davis’s staunch solidarity with Palestine).

With all its sharp, creative, revolutionary energy, Aquarius season may make you feel invigorated and alive. Conversely, it could make you feel a little lost: Traditions can, after all, be stabilizing. Sometimes the rules are necessary, but other times they really aren’t. Aquarius season is as good a time as any to practice breaking some.

Your Guide to Aquarius Season