I Can Divide My Friends Into Two Separate Groups

(Header image: Flickr and Unsplash)  

Our country is more divided than ever -- and so is my friend group.

My friends have started to make long social media updates using a bunch of terms I don’t understand, but they all seem really passionate? If I see a friend place a small velvet bag on the table, I’m never quite sure if it’s a dice bag or a tarot deck. If a friend isn’t responding to my text for three hours, I can’t tell if they’re in the midst of an emotional campaign of fellow adventurers or an emotional breakdown brought on by the invisible but certain shift of planets.

Within the past year, I’ve watched each of my friends become aligned, slowly and distinctly, into one of two groups: getting really into Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), or getting really into astrology. I’ve now set out to try to understand the lives of my friends who have dedicated themselves to two vast and complicated hobbies* that I only slightly understand.

Illustration: musterni-illustrates on Tumblr // Shitty Horoscopes series

 

The Astrologers

 

 

Popular astrology is everywhere. On social media, and especially in queer spaces, it seems nearly inescapable. Everyone is so excited to celebrate the start of Virgo season (see: szn) or Jupiter moving into the Waffle House or whatever. Everyone knows that so-and-so signs are messy b-tches who live for drama, but XYZ signs are so chill and unbothered. There’s no shortage of “___ according to your sign” posts on the internet. I can’t prove it, but I swear to the stars above that hercampus dot com posted an article for April Fool’s Day with a picture of Trump, the headline “This is what happens when you elect a Gemini as president,” and the body of the article as simply “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”. The popularity of zodiac is quickly being joined by other forms of vaguely spiritual occultism, such as Sephora’s controversial witch starter kit which, before it was pulled from the shelves, retailed at $42 for essentially some useless rocks and a bundle of white sage that had been harvested in probably unethical conditions. Don’t buy your ritual items from Sephora, friends!

 

(Quick side note -- whenever I hear the word “astrologer,” I think of my high school Latin class, when we translated a story wherein an astrologer accidentally killed a doctor’s patient because he insisted that rubbing a mouse corpse in the patient’s wound was the only way to save him. Thanks, Cambridge Latin II textbook! I will literally remember that until I die.)

You may not relate to your star sign. I personally don’t, which is one of the reasons I don’t follow astrology. One of my friends has even decided that her birthday is in October now, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Just -- the concept of deciding when your own birthday is. Just picking a whole new day to be your birthday. What?

I talked to some of my friends who have fallen on the mystical side of the veil to try to understand why they hate when Mercutio is in Gatorade (?). I have preserved the grammar and syntax they used over text messages in order to best communicate their overall aura.

 

Victoria, 21, Gemini

 

Me: So, why are you into astrology?

 

Vic: I’m not into the idea of life being predetermined or planned and that’s something that has caused me to often question the Islamic faith, especially in times of trouble, and the stars and their alignments is something so fun and so trivial and so INFALLIBLE that I can’t not love it. Like, is there a god above? Maybe? Are the stars up there? You bet your sweet ass.

 

 

Okay, so Vic is probably my friend who is most into astrology. She made me download the app Co-Star, which I think I haven’t touched since July, but is apparently very thorough and, I have to admit, very aesthetically pleasing. Vic is a GEMINI™ through-and-through, despite full awareness that Geminis get a particularly bad rap.

Victoria also admits part of her interest in astrology is probably due to the fact that she is a Classics major, which I totally get. Studying Latin was part of the reason I was a Pagan in high school. Also, I really liked candles and was going through a traumatic emotional period. (Cue “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.!)

 

Abby, 22, Taurus Sun

 

Me: Why are you into astrology?

 

Abby: i’m into astrology because I genuinely think that there is some truth to the fact that the positions of the cosmos at the very instance of your birth has to have some weight on your personhood. astrology is a way to know yourself and to demystify other’s nuances.

 

Me: How do you think your astrological beliefs factored into that one time you worked at the crystal shop?

 

Abby: for me, I’ve always felt inclined towards spirituality, but never knew how to approach it. Like with any school of thought, it felt like it took certain pretenses to correctly practice, but astrology feels super accessible, especially in the internet age, and with my limited knowledge of the zodiac, applying to work in a crystal and metaphysical store felt achievable and almost like a natural progression.

 

Wow. I feel calm just reading this. Thank you, Abby.

 

Milka, 21, Aries

 

Me: So, why are you into astrology?

 

Milka: So astrology for me is more of a fun pastime than a regular thing i lean on to ascribe meaning to life + relationships. i do think that there’s a nice element to astrology that’s self-reflective and also self-interrogating (when astrology is used correctly). i don’t think many people would engage as intimately and as freely with those concepts of reflection and interrogation if they didn’t have something to believe in, especially if it’s something seemingly higher than themselves. overall, astrology is fun and cute and is something to spark a lil hope if nothing else!

 

Milka is an actual clairvoyant genius, La Croix connoisseur, and author of such tweets as “the Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea Bear would never treat me like this.” If anyone could make me understand astrology, I think it would be Milka.

 

The Adventurers

I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons exactly once, and I fell asleep on the floor in real life. When I woke up, my character was dead.

Two summers ago, my friend Gabe from high school asked if I wanted to join a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I said I wasn’t sure how I would go about making a character, so he proceeded to tell me about the characters that already existed in the campaign. My friend Dylan had created a character who was “an undead litch who is covered in a thin veneer of sh-t and piss at all times”. I told Gabe I’d think about it.

Dungeons and Dragons has since gained popularity thanks to the show Stranger Things, and also because I think it’s nice to not be a person in 2018 America and instead be, like, a dark wizard in a cave somewhere. It’s not that Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t sound sick as hell, because it absolutely does. It’s just … so much, and I’ve only ever dipped my toe into the fantasy genre. I played Magic the Gathering in high school, but I couldn’t quite get through any Tolkien books past The Hobbit. (The plot is so slow and I already knew everything that happened from Led Zeppelin songs!)

Then, sometime last year, I was introduced to a D&D podcast called The Adventure Zone. It involves the McElroy brothers (of the podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me) and their dad playing Dungeons and Dragons together, and it’s a very beloved show with excellent characters and well-written arcs and fans that love it so much they cosplay the characters for live shows and… for some reason I still could not get into it. I listened in order and somewhere around episode 30-something I realized I had no idea what was going on. So I gave up, too, on my dream of being a D&D nerd. Thankfully my friends have plenty of thoughts on this tabletop tradition.

Photo: Anna Carnes

 

Danny, 24, DM (dungeon master)

 

Me: Are you just the Dungeon Master or do you have any other character, uh… class?

 

Danny: Sometimes they call me a vindictive and vengeful god

 

Me: great thanks

 

Danny: lol but seriously I’m just the DM

 

Me: So, Danny. Why are you into D&D?

 

Danny: That’s a big question. I think it started with me just wanting to join this cool community I saw growing in my little pockets of nerd and queer culture. Then it evolved into a vehicle for creative storytelling. Obviously the community aspects of it are still important to me but now when I think of what draws me to D&D, I think of it as a creative storytelling outlet that I get to share with my friends and allows me to create these really interesting worlds and characters that all my friends seem to enjoy as well.

 

Since Danny is the DM, they spend a lot of time writing stories for their D&D campaign, which I think is awesome, even though I don’t understand it at all. They also seem to really like to make their friends cry with these stories, which I solemnly respect.

 

Anna, 21, Half-Elf Paladin

 

Anna is a rare creature in that she is into both astrology and D&D.

 

Me: Do you consider yourself to be more into D&D or astrology?

 

Anna: hm, that’s a hard question. I’ve known of astrology since I was a kid, but never knew much about it beyond a surface level -- like my sun sign or the horoscopes in the back of like tiger beat magazine. I just started learning about D&D a year ago when I started listening to a podcast about it, but now I’m playing a campaign so I’d say I’m more into D&D right now.

 

Me: Can you tell me a little about your character?

 

Anna: yeah lol. she’s a half-elf paladin (which means she’s a warrior that fights in the name of a god) only she’s only fighting in her god’s name to get their attention bc she wants to get with the god.

 

Seems like a pretty solid motive, Anna.

 

Kaite, 22, Dark Elf Bard

 

Kaite is also into astrology and D&D, but tells me she’s definitely more into D&D right now.

 

Me: So how did you get into D&D?

 

Kaite: I got into it in middle school when my friends showed me a web cartoon, [Unforgotten Realms,] parodying [the D&D campaign] Forgotten Realms. From there I played D&D for a while at comic book stores until I moved away. I got back into Unforgotten Realms a few years ago, then started listening to D&D podcasts. Then I decided I missed actually playing and now I'm a bard.

 

Me: Awesome! Can you tell me a little about your character?

 

Kaite: My character is a dark elf bard named Bartleby. She was a wealthy merchant’s daughter who wanted nothing to do with her father's business, so she took up the stage name Bartleby and became a traveling bard. After the Underdark became boring she moved to the world above where she is suddenly meeting the many races and seeing a lot of things for the first time. Now she has made friends and they are being targeted by someone called "The Captain" so they're all trying to figure out that mystery together.

 

I don’t know what the Underdark is. You could tell me Venus is moving into the Underdark and I’d believe you.

An official wikia defines the Underdark as “the vast network of underground caverns and tunnels underneath the surface of Abeir-Toril.” Great. Thanks.

It looks like I may never truly understand my friends’ interests again, but at least they’re having fun. Perhaps the real magick is the friends we made along the way.

 

*Some people follow astrology as a religion and I do not mean to demean anyone’s religious beliefs.