There are about a million walking tours you can take in New York City.
But there's only one (that we know of) that's tailored to your astrological birth chart.
That's the premise of the expedition around the city that Bess Matassa will plot out just for you. The astrologer and urban cultural geographer plans expeditions that take her clients to sites that embody qualities expressed in and absent from their charts, which document the position of the sun, the moon and the planets at the time of and in relation to the place of their birth.
Astrologists believe that a person's birth chart reveals a good deal about his or her personality.
"I’ve taken people to sites not only that I think symbolize parts of their chart, but also that can bring them into that sort of equilibrium with things that aren’t in their chart necessarily," said Matassa, who sees healing potential in her work and charges $150 per tour.
"I recently took a guy to Roosevelt Island, who was very fiery, very airy, and we talked a lot about the more hidden watery components in his chart."
The walking tours reveal as much about their guide as their patrons.
Matassa, 34, who has a master's degree in cultural geography and a doctorate in American Studies, gravitated toward astrology as a little girl.
"I was just fascinated by this language of thinking about the self," one that predated psychology by thousands of years, she said.
The urban astrologer has been interested in physical places as a reflection of human experience since she took an undergraduate class on cultural geography. When she began using astrology as a therapeutic means of bringing people "into balance," she said it seemed intuitive "to use a landscape both as metaphor for people’s charts ... but also as kind of an interactive, active kind of point of intersection between interior landscapes and exterior landscapes."
She makes her living, for now, doing administrative work at a yoga studio and adjuncting at Pace University and John Jay College, but she hopes to make the management of her 2-year-old business, Street Signs Urban Astrology, a full-time job.
We asked the Bay Ridge resident to craft tours for each of the 12 sun signs; they're not as personalized as the ones she offers, but then again, they're also free.
We present them below, in her words.
Aries (March 21 - April 19): Go big and bold as you set out to circumnavigate Manhattan’s entire perimeter, or travel Broadway from Yonkers to the Battery. If that proves too much for your little lamb chops, reactivate your sense of innocent courage by walking on subway grates or riding the ferry to Ellis Island and back as you imagine glimpsing our fair city as if for the very first time.
Taurus (April 20 - May 20): Savor the grounded sensuality of the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue Retail Market and the olfactory abundance of the New York Botanical Garden. Discover the restorative properties of luxurious physical comfort by booking a suite at the Plaza Hotel, or maybe just by sampling the wares at Bergdorf’s fragrance counter.
Gemini (May 21 - June 20): Experiment with fast-paced local voyaging and unexpected collisions at Grand Central Terminal. Choose a train line at random and revel in the journey rather than the destination. Celebrate the Gemini marketplace of language and wares in Chinatown, and finish off your day with a walk over the Manhattan Bridge that speaks to your sign’s capacity to connect seemingly disparate landscapes, concepts and people.
On the Manhattan Bridge (Flickr/gigi_nyc)
Cancer (June 21 - July 22): Explore your attraction to fantastical pasts at Williamsburg’s City Reliquary or tap into your fierce sentimentalism while rifling through the wares at Brooklyn Flea. Connect to the loonier side of your nature and your capacity for wildly creative generation at Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore.
Leo (July 23 - Aug. 22): Rediscover your sense of the playful present at Pier 40’s Trapeze School, and make sure to pick up some Mister Softee with sprinkles post circus-ing as you wander in the sun. End your journey by sharing your generous heart in Union Square with some “Free Hugs.”
Virgo (Aug. 23 - Sept. 22): Connect to your subtle healing capacities and soothe frayed nerves at College Point’s Spa Castle, or celebrate everyday alchemy at the Walter De Maria Earth Room. Honor your body with a trip to a local farmer’s market, and tap into your sign’s ability to quietly transform the mundane into pure magic as you prepare a feast for friends.
Libra (Sept. 23 - Oct. 22): Seek out some harmonious order amidst all this urban madness by visiting the Beaux-Arts elegance of the New York Public Library’s map room. Weave along the Brooklyn-Queens border on your way to Ridgewood’s Arbitration Rock as you access your sign’s desire to see both sides of any issue. Find your ultimate equilibrium at the city’s geographic center on Stockholm Street between Wyckoff and St. Nicholas.
Scorpio (Oct. 23 - Nov. 21): Activate powerful energies of decay and regeneration as you saunter along the High Line’s industrial greenway, and then descend into the underworld as you search for the abandoned City Hall subway station. Ponder what endures beyond physical death in Woodlawn’s sprawling cemetery or wander the mysteries of the Met’s Egyptian wing.
Inside the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Flickr/Wally Gobetz)
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21): Sample intercultural snacks along the 7 train’s route through Queens and head to Planeview Park for prime LaGuardia aircraft viewing as you plan real and imaginary getaways. Ride your spiritual seeker’s gypsy ponies from the Claremont Riding Academy all the way to the Cloisters, and recapture your untamed wildness in the woods of Inwood Hill Park.
Capricorn (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19): Ponder your sign’s resourceful builder archetype at the Skyscraper Museum or along Long Island City’s construction-laden waterfront. Wander through the labyrinthine streets of Lower Manhattan and along Wall Street as you consider the deeply joyful potentials of material pragmatism and “value” in all its incarnations.
Aquarius (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18): Reinvigorate your urban perspective and activate your sign’s far-reaching futuristic vision with a ride on the Roosevelt Island tram. As you come back down to earth, tap into utopian possibilities at Four Freedoms Park or connect to histories of radicalism in the East Village.
Pisces (Feb. 19 - March 20): Surrender to the infinitely magical complexity of this urban landscape with a trip to the Queens Panorama or practice losing the boundaries between self and others by standing motionless in the center of Times Square. After that exercise in delirious chaos, dream your mystical dreams anew by retreating to Staten Island’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto.