Getting certified, Ms. Stapleton said, “would give me the professional confidence moving forward that I’d been evaluated by the elders in my community, by my peers, and that there are these standards.”
This year’s exam was held during the United Astrology Conference (UAC), a major astrological networking event that has been hosted once every four or six years since 1986. (It remains unclear who, exactly, decides when it will be quadrennial or sextannual, or how they do so.) The conference in May was the best attended in history, attracting around 1,500 astrologers, who spent the week attending panels with names like “How to Work With the Moon,” “Eclipses: Portals of Destiny” and “The Astrology of a New Vision of Capitalism.”
The astrologers were there to share research and meet luminaries in the field. Possibly also to purchase crystals and psychedelic caftans at the pop-up marketplace, yes, but many said they were deeply invested in establishing astrology as a legitimate profession. Astrological certification is a crucial part of this last goal; throughout the weekend, a handful of people compared it to passing the bar or getting accredited as a therapist.
“It’s good that we have this standard of learning — very, very good,” said Shelley Ackerman, the official spokesperson for UAC and a diplomatic Libra. “Not that it guarantees absolute perfection in the field, but it certainly does eliminate and address a lot of mishaps that could have happened if you don’t have the training.”
“We can say things that can inspire people,” Ms. Stapleton said, “but if we’re not careful, we can say things that frighten and damage and alienate people.” (ISAR expressly forbids members from making predictions that are scary or extreme, such as prophesies about deaths or other calamities, even when they can clearly see them on someone’s chart.)
ISAR’s isn’t the only astrological certification exam in existence — there are other metaphysical organizations with certification programs of their own, most notably the National Center for Geocosmic Research (NCGR). But the ISAR CAP stands out in the astrological community for its strong emphasis on how to properly counsel clients. In addition to the bafflingly rigorous exam (446 questions longer than the nonmetaphysical SAT), students must also complete a two-and-a-half-day counseling skills training and an ethics course, which culminates in a second test. (It is, thankfully, much shorter.)