Contribution to the history of Sun sign astrology: Katia
– September 7th-8th, 2010
Unless you are a French-speaking astrologer or otherwise an individual with an interest in French-language astrological literature, this particular article might mean little, but for those who are:
There has been a tradition now spanning more than half a century in France to produce sets of substantial separate books, each typically over 100 pages in length, offering detailed guidance on each of the twelve tropical Sun signs. The first example of its kind was probably André Barbault’s series, first published by Seuil in 1958 and reprinted several times since.
It must be conceded that about ten years after André Barbault’s work first went to press, the American astrologer Linda Goodman in her turn also produced a substantial single-volume work on the sun signs in the English language (although, at 537 pages, it clocks in at only about 45 pages per sun sign, so it hardly qualifies as a true example of the genre in terms of the sheer quantity of text).
However, the equivalent type of in-depth sun-sign-focused publication in separate volumes seems to have been very much a French trend in its origins and successive permutations, and did not catch on in the English speaking world of astrologers until Jane Ridder-Patrick’s recent set of ‘Zodiac Enigma’ books, published in the early part of the 21st century, although Douglas Baker also authored a set of somewhat shorter sun sign guides in separate volumes a little earlier.
After Barbault’s lead, the second major example of this type of twelve-volume publication of which I am aware was authored pseudonymously by a ‘Katia’. Her series was published in 1960 by Éditions Ferenczi, entitled “Le Livre de l’Horoscope et du Destin”.
Each of the twelve separate softcover volumes authored by this ‘Katia’ has about 126 pages. Eye-catching design was an aim with this series, as manifested in the choice of a differently coloured cover for each volume, and a ‘split-screen’ effect central circular panel on the front cover, one half of which is given over to a monochrome photograph of a celebrity born under the Sun sign concerned, and the other half to an original, fanciful piece of brightly coloured artwork representing the sign.
One of the notable features of Katia’s books is that, while they are marketed clearly at the wide public, they go into a surprising number of additional details largely foreign to typical perceptions of the sun sign writing genre today. For instance, the book on “Vierge” (Virgo) discusses not only the Sun in Virgo but also all the Moon and all planets from Mercury to Uranus, with the curious omission of Neptune as well as Pluto. Further, it delineates Virgo on the cusp of each of the twelve houses of the zodiac. And it also delineates Mercury (as ruler of Virgo) in each of the signs and in each of the houses, briefly. Some other features will be familiar from the later works of Linda Goodman: analysis of children born under the sun sign, and analysis of sun-sign synastry potentials.
Katia commences her work with the following declared agenda:
“Cet ouvrage n’est pas un traité de vulgarisation astrologique.
“En réalisant cet opuscule, nous n’avons eu qu’un seul désir: apporter à tous ceux, toutes celles qui les recherchent obscurément, certains éclaircissements sur leurs possibilités intimes, sur leurs véritables aspirations, sur les mystérieux ressort de leur personnalité.
“Que, parmi toutes les sciences ésotériques, l’astrologie soit la première à pouvoir aussi scrupuleusement disséquer le mécanisme psychologique d’un individu, n’est plus à prouver désormais.
“Les plus incrédules se doivent de reconnaître que de mystérieuses affinités astrales régissent le comportement psychologique et pathologique d’un individu, au même titre qu’elles influencent le rythme saisonnier, la vie de la flore et de la faune, le cycle des marées[….]
“Cette série d’analyses astrologiques ne poursuit donc qu’un objectif: permettre à nos lecteurs de se mieux connaître, être, dans certain cas, le signal “stop” de l’embûche propre, le clignotant du carrefour dangereux leur permettant l’indispensable coup de frein qui évitera l’accident, ou la catastrophe.
“… Pas tout à fait “l’astrologie à la portée de tous”, mais “un peu d’astrologie avec les mots de tous les jours… “.”
It seems that essentially the author is holding fast to the notion that her work is not one of astrology dumbed-down to be within the reach of ordinary people, but rather one of real astrology albeit using everyday language. The distinction may be a little subtle and elusive, but clearly Katia did not want to be identified as a populist diluter of astrology!
So who was she?
The only possible clue I can find online is in an entry for copyright records in the United States.
It appears that either she, or at least the rights holder, was one Gilberte Gautier. A total unknown in all other literary respects within the field of astrology. The question of why she would have chosen to use a pseudonym remains to me a mystery. Perhaps simply as a marketing tool; perhaps to avoid difficulties in her professional and personal life from those lacking her convictions in (to paraphrase her words quoted above) the astrological governance of human behaviour.
Perhaps Mme. Gautier, like Monsieur Barbault, might still be with us today, in which case, will she kindly step forward to tell us more of her story?
I was extremely fortunate to chance on a French eBay seller offering the complete set at a very reasonable Buy-it-now price earlier this year. Buying them piecemeal is not so easy, especially from outside France, with prices and availability varying widely and fixed international shipping charges per book applying through most of the bookselling sites.