For over 35 years, Johanna Mitchell has practiced astrology in Eugene. One tradition is to give a public talk with an astrological preview of the coming year. But now, a terminal disease is beginning to limit what the well-known astrologer can do and say.
This is Johanna Mitchell as a guest on KLCC’s Sunday at Noon on the Eve of the New Year in 2008.
“The planet that has to do with optimism and the planet that has to do with faith are ‘gonna be together all year long. The thing I wrote down was ‘beyond forgiveness, the celestial poetry of reconciliation.’ So here’s the good part, Jupiter and Neptune say, there is a real benefit to sacrifice. If you are willing to sacrifice, something really good will happen.”
That was ten years ago. This is Johanna Mitchell today.
“I have a diagnosis of ALS. So my voice is a little different than it has been in the past.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease progressively limits voluntary movements and muscle control until, often, the patient is unable to move at all. According to the ALS Association, about 20,000 Americans live with the disease at any given time.
As a senior in high school, 50 years ago, Mitchell learned of astrology from her world literature teacher.
“Of course when you’re 17 you know everything,” says Mitchell. “And I said she’s an Aries and I’m an Aries and she’s an astrologer so I’ll be that.”
In very simple terms, astrology is the study of the position of the planets, their relationship to the earth and where they were relative to the horizon when you were born.
“And it’s old old old,” says Mitchell. “I’ve said that I don’t know how it works but as long as it keeps helping people I will keep studying and talking to people.”
One person astrology helped is Lauren Silver. She went to
“I used to be a hardcore scientist and I thought astrology was bull@!*#.”
That sentiment changed in a matter of minutes.
“She looked at my chart and she said things to me about who I am right off the bat,” Silver says. “And I just started weeping because nobody knew any of that about me.”
The two women forged a bond that remains strong to this day. They laugh and cry together. Silver is emotional seeing the toll ALS is taking on her friend.
“I’m heart broken.”
Back in 2015, Johanna fell down. She says it started with a drop foot. She had trouble walking.
“So I got a brace, Mitchell says. “First I used one cane, then I used two canes and then I used a walker and then I finally had to use a wheelchair.”
Mitchell underwent tests. She says somewhere deep inside she feared the truth.
“Oh Tiffany, you know I’m pretty intuitive. When I went to the first neurologist I said, ‘Ok I know what it’s going to be but I just don’t want it to be ALS.’”
But it was. Last March, Mitchell learned she has sporadic ALS, meaning the cause of the disease is unknown. Only about 10% of ALS cases are hereditary.
Reporter: “Have you ever known anyone who has ALS?”
“Well I Knew Rooster from KLCC,” Mitchell replied.
Blues Historian Gavin “Rooster” Fox, whose voice graced the KLCC airwaves, died of ALS in 1999.
Until recently, Mitchell made a living interpreting people’s astrological charts. She practiced the ancient philosophy to give guidance and insight to any who sought it. But did she ever predict her own future?
“When I first fell, I saw all these things in my chart that had to do with muscles, Mitchell says. “And then I saw this big cycle coming and it’s a cycle that has to do with shock and awakening and a new sense of self.”
There is no cure for ALS but there are some treatments to try to suppress symptoms. Mitchell is currently undergoing a new infusion therapy called Raticava. Her arms are dotted with bruises from daily IVs.
Mitchell’s overall treatment is monitored by Providence ALS Center in Portland.
“Jo is one of those patients that comes in and everybody feels loved.”
Lauren Brown is a Registered Nurse at the ALS Center. She has a personal connection to patients like Johanna Mitchell.
“My father actually had ALS when I was younger. And it was really hard to get great healthcare,” Brown says. So I have decided that I don’t want anyone with ALS, especially their families, to feel that same way. I want them to know that there’s someone fighting in their corner with them.”
ALS creates a list of losses. For Mitchell, she’s lost the ability to stand and walk. Her hands continue to grow weaker. But the toughest thing to lose is her voice.
“Now it’s hard to speak,” Mitchell says. “My mind is very clear and I would love to keep on talking to people about their charts. But it’s very difficult for me to talk.”
If the time comes that Mitchell can no longer speak, she will have a back-up. She has a speech generating device that pronounces typed words. Mitchell has begun cataloging phrases in her own voice.
(Hear recorder play) “Hi, I’m Johanna. I can hear and understand everything that you say. I have ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease…”
“If I can’t use my hands I’ll be able to use it with my eyes,” Mitchell say. “That’s what Steven Hawking did. Whew, it’s intense.”
In the very near future, Mitchell and her husband will need to retrofit the ground floor of her home for accessibility. She understands the prognosis of this disease.
“I want to die in this room where we are right now,” Mitchell says. “I hope I can die well. That I have the courage to die well.”
Johanna Mitchell still leans on the foundation of astrology. She summons up a joyful smile and gives everyone a jar of homemade jam. Each one is named for an ALS acronym. Mine says: Anyone Loves Strawberry.
“What I also hope is that I will be able to somehow give back for all I’m receiving,” Mitchell says. “People are so incredible. I feel so blessed. Even with ALS. I feel so blessed.”
THERE WILL BE A BENEFIT FOR JOHANNA (JO-ANN-UH) MITCHELL AT TSUNAMI BOOKS IN EUGENE ON SEPTEMBER 15TH.
2018 ASTROLOGICAL KEYWORDS
Eclipses ~ Jupiter ~ Saturn ~ Uranus ~ Neptune ~ Pluto
ARIES ~ artistic explorations/relatives appear~ expanded intimacy/journeys of hope ~ is the promotion worth the
stress? ~ground your stunning breakthroughs~ dwell within your dreams ~reinforce your position
TAURUS ~ you get known/emotional attachment to ideas~ discover commonality/rose-colored liabilities ~
discernment heals judgement ~ adjust to your new tempo ~spirit friends ~what are your laws?
GEMINI ~ your stories matter/growth income ~ relinquish addiction /inward joy of union ~ IOU’s come due ~
nourish your ancestral seeds ~ promote worldwide imagination ~ delve into the mysteries of composting
CANCER ~ generous motives/you are not alone~ rehearse a new story/your job improves ~relationship
boundaries ~how quirky are your conservative friends? ~ let peace begin with you ~ demand integrity
LEO~ be a light bearer/ancestral lineage stories ~ regenerate at home/celebrate all you love ~work out to earn
your health ~what was personal now becomes global ~enchanting secrets ~honor your body’s limitations
VIRGO~ dream images emerge/you make the team ~ideas hibernate/gain freedom at home ~serious love is
rewarded~is your philosophy passe? ~question relationship uncertainty ~intense creative experiences
LIBRA ~ create risk/identify your professional comfort zone~ research pays off/neighborhood travel ~ anchor your
root stock ~unique monetary collaborations ~visualize your way to healthfulness ~renew your anchors
SCORPIO ~ shake-up your reputation/explore your tribe ~ obsess for something/extra cash promotes indulgent
spending ~ crystallized ideas ~work out innovations~open your heart to play ~ ideas await regeneration
SAGITTARIUS~ innovative ideas surface/family inheritance~ potent dreams/hope brings luck ~commit to your
budget~creative ideas shake up your work~encourage silence at home ~ consolidate your assets
CAPRICORN ~ economic creativity/others soothe your weary soul ~powerful friendships/dreams lighten your
load ~ you are the rule maker ~role play for fun ~trust your curiosity ~endurance enhances success
AQUARIUS ~ collaborate in quirky experiments/body nourishment ~ be part of something bigger/friendships
thrive ~ work behind the scenes ~ keep changing your mind ~ $$ anxiety melts away ~ utilize your dream journal
PISCES ~ sacrifice with courage/nourish your inner child~press the publish button/we mimic your ideals ~
focused goals resolve ~abstract thoughts sprout ~grant yourself empathy ~ relinquish authoritarian rules
Saturn in Capricorn - December 19, 2017 to March 21, 2020
“This beautiful occupation I must treat as extra work, even though it hurts , because I do not have the time that I need.
(I have to work at other things in order to survive.)”
Humberto Ak’abal , Guatemalan poet
Responsibility, dedication, clear boundaries and discipline are required ~ patience, hard work and thoughtful planning are rewarded
proportionally to the effort and intelligence invested ~ doing what you did in 2017 isn’t going to be sufficient ~ roll up your sleeves
Mars Conjunct Jupiter January 6 2018 17°Scorpio55'
Is it OK to coerce people into acts of generosity? ~ power comes from the shadows ~ fighting for fairness and equality ~ risky victories
Jupiter Sextile Pluto January 15 2018 19°Scorpio/Capricorn17' (repeats April 14 & September 12)
The unveiling of opportunities to explore throughout the year ~ evidence-based research ~ areas of subtle yet substantial victories appear ~ efforts
are not futile ~ seemingly small steps are the building blocks of “pyramids” ~ celestial help in order to keep reaching toward your goals
Mars Enters Sagittarius January 26 2018 4:57 am PST
Battles about truth and “fake news” continue ~ with only slight provocation, ideological fervor turns into hostility ~ action can embody
understanding and tolerance ~ being overwhelmed about all there is yet to accomplish ~ will you apologize if you put your foot in your mouth?
Lunar Eclipse January 31 2018 5:27 am PST 11°Leo/Aquarius37'
Changes rise to the surface, both predicted and unexpected ~ avoid experiencing oppression ~ celebrate innovation in the arts ~ the
seduction that controlling circumstances will ensure victory ~ which rules do you follow, which rules do you break?
Solar Eclipse February 15 2018 1:05 pm PST 27°Aquarius 07'
Did you really think that you could hide out indefinitely? ~ there may be no better time than the present to bring your innovations to light ~
synthesize and invent and leap ~ continued provoking questions concerning the summer of 2017: this is the culmination season
Mars Square Neptune February 17 2018 13°Sagittarius/Pisces21'
Confusing attacks about reality ~ shooting arrows into fog is unlikely to be effective ~ create quiet places in order to hear your intuition
Mars Enters Capricorn March 17 2018
The push to do your most important work ~ the opportunity to dedicate oneself to the accomplishment of formidable difficult tasks ~ strength and
fortitude are encouraged and rewarded ~ battles invite uncompromising participants ~ reinforces this year of necessary disciplined action
Mercury turns Retrograde March 22 2018 16°Aries 54' R
It seems so easy to push for a personal agenda with wanton disregard for the consequences ~ having a point of view is different from always being
correct, no one is always correct ~ delay is not surrender or defeat ~ watch carefully for the traps of impulsive arguments ~ “wait a minute!”
Mars Conjunct Saturn April 2 2018 08°Capricorn57'
Persistent stability ~ being held accountable to commitments ~ push beyond your current constraints ~ constructive dissatisfaction
Jupiter Sextile Pluto April 14 2018 21°Scorpio/Capricorn16'
The remnants of the past are composted for new growth ~ investigations into the underworld ~ continued opportunities for
compelling research ~ power isn't as important as productivity ~ what is dying in your life that needs to die in order for rebirth to occur?
Mercury turns direct April 15 2018 04°Aries46'
Ease deliberatley into the fast lane ~ make certain your ideas have a solid foundation: start small yet start now
Mars Conjunct Pluto April 26 2018 21° Capricorn1 17'
Jolts of energy ~ which of your projects require fierce powerful action and merciless intensity? ~ ignore whatever is not helping you
achieve your goals ~ there are no shortcuts ~ define and then utilize your super powers ~ forced hostility and demanding tyranny
Uranus Enters Taurus May 15 2018 8:23 am PDT
How can slowing down be any fun at all? ~ the future depends on investing in, finding and building new methods for evolution ~ real
change is the result of focused persistence ~ stability is challenged ~ the necessity to continually adapt to avoid an “earthquake”
Mars Enters Aquarius May 15 2018 9:55 pm PDT until August 12 and then again September 10
This cycle regenerates the Mars rebellion that was energized on US election day November 6, 2016 ~ “the rage of the alienated” ~
innovation is essential and requires action ~ insight and patience and experience are necessary to bring new solutions to old problems
Mars Square Uranus May 16 2018 (repeats August 1 & September 18 ) 00°Aquarius/Taurus02' D
The push for freedom using unconventional aggression ~ conflict as a real life video game ~ impatient change equals a stressful journey
Jupiter Trine Neptune May 25 2018 16°Scorpio/Pisces19'
Giving without the expectation of a give back ~ calm is accessed through the imaginal or mythic realms ~ empathetic appeals for humanitarian aid
yield generous support ~ elixirs of compassion and forgiveness help to soothe your angst & sore muscles ~ anyone for a glass of Merlot?
2018 ASTROLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS
Mars turns retrograde June 26 2018 - 9° Aquarius 12' 2:05 pm PDT ends August 27 7:05 am PDT
Times of depleted and disconnected energy ~ erratic power shifts ~ discover solutions after August 27 ~ what can you postpone until the fervor abates?
Solar Eclipse July 12 2018 7:48 pm PDT 20°Cancer41'
To combat another summer of stress: nourish your body with good food and rest ~ nationalistic fervor ~ longing for support and safety can be
expressed as hostility against whatever or whomever prompts individual or collective fear and/or anxiety ~ holding on to traditions for dear life
Mercury turns Retrograde July 25 2018 10:02 pm PDT 23°Leo27'
Creative projects get a do-over ~ stay as focused as possible on the present moment so the way forward can be full of stimulating detours ~ why didn’t I imagine
that before? ~ who is misinterpreting your words? ~ hype and outrage dominate the conversation ~ tendencies to miscalculate over-reactions
Lunar Eclipse July 27 2018 1:20 pm PDT 4°Aquarius/Leo44'
Hot tempers, high temperatures, irritability ~ emotional overload ~ wear your body armor to protect your sensitive spirit ~ remember the
world you long to create ~ attempts to live amidst chaos are helped by focusing on the best you could hope for under the circumstances
Mars Square Uranus August 1 2018 2°Aquarius/Taurus32' R
Rebellion against obeying the rules ~ unpredictable arguments that can't be ignored ~ efforts to confront the status quo
Solar Eclipse August 11 2018 2:57 am PDT 18°Leo41'
What is new just can’t get going ~ notice your reaction to being stalled ~ myriad opportunities to over-react ~ the creative challenge to
choose between "risky" and what "feels risky" ~ what happens if we walk away from vengeance and make something magical instead?
Mars retrograde re-enters Capricorn August 12 2018
Challenging rules about behavior, transparency and accountability ~ magnified reverence for the orthodox and conventional
Mercury turns Direct August 18 2018 11°Leo31'
Manifest creative endeavors ~ hopeful plans can move forward in the next two weeks ~ take time to have a party
Jupiter Trine Neptune August 19 2018 15°Scopio/Pisces36'
Meditation and spiritual practice open paths through disbelief and confusion ~ the flow of imagination and vision pervail
Mars turns Direct in Capricorn August 27 7:05 am PDT
Achievement can happen when we act even if we don't know for sure the final result ~ almost everything important matters more than results
Mars re-Enters Aquarius September 10 2018
Back to the future ~ if you're seeking to create positive change in your community, it's almost certain you'll be creating discomfort as well
Jupiter Sextile Pluto September 12 2018 18°Scorpio/Caprocorn50'
What is it that you hope to accomplish? ~ the remnants of the past composted for new growth ~ move through resistance in order
to manifest inevitable change ~ growth is often obtained through the process of ordeal ~ look for wisdom in dark places
Mars Square Uranus September 18 2018 01°Aquarius/Taurus52'
Autocratic temper tantrums ~ dynamic competition ~ innovation fights against stability ~ technology pushed to the limits hits a wall
Venus turns retrograde October 5 2018 12:05 pm PDT 10°Scorpio50' R
Questions, delays, tests, frustrations and misunderstandings in love and relationship ~ the bitter sweetness of revenge can be poisonous ~ a heart that is breaking is
but opening again ~ discovering the treasures of the dark opens the heart to the depth of erotic ecstasy~ release old relationship regret
Venus retrogrades back into Libra October 31 2018 12:42 pm PDT
Classic themes of relational balance and romance ~ is this a shared vision or your projected fantasy of love? ~
an opportunity to re-examine your core values and discover what you hold most dear
Uranus retrogrades back into Aries November 6 2018 10:15 am PST
Over the last 7 years we have become familiar with these raucous firestorms and those who love excitement without boundaries have reason
to celebrate until March of 2019 when the Taurus cycle solidifies ~ unpredictable excitement ~ individual rights and the cult of narcissism
Jupiter Enters Sagittarius November 8 2018 to December 2, 2019
A manifestation of optimistic flavoring amidst all the hard work of walking and climbing over rocks in what often seems like a barren desert
Mars Enters Pisces November 15 2018 2:21 pm PST
It’s cold, it’s dark, and probably raining ~ life is exhausting ~ find a way to hibernate by dreaming ~ be alert to passive anger expressed as self-sacrifice,
self-sabotage and self-blame ~ compassionate action helps to lift our spirits and avoid dreary pessimism ~ fighting is so tiresome
Venus turns direct in Libra November 16 2:50 am PST
Make agreements with those you care about ~ consider new friendships ~ sweet days and nights of connection ~ read and write love poetry
Mercury turns Retrograde November 16 2018 13°Sagittarius29' R
Uncertainty in negotiations ~ actual shortcuts often appear to be detours ~ a map doesn't automatically get you home, but it will
probably make you less lost ~ are you speaking in a way that can be understood? ~ consider silence as a means of communication
Mars Square Jupiter November 19 2018 2°Pisces/Sagittarius33'
The audacity of hope ~ holding open the possibility that darkness will not win the battle ~ the courage to release suffering
Mercury turns direct December 6 2018 27°Scorpio 16'
Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath and decide to try again ~ apply the results of your research ~ act upon your hidden knowing
Mars Conjunct Neptune December 7 2018 13°Pisces 44'
Uncertainty promotes anxiety ~ anger is defused by compassionate understanding ~ there is no limit to empathy ~ trust your intuition
Mars Enters Aries December 31 2018
Cosmic caffeine ~ this year ends with new beginnings ~ personal enthusiasm to “get to it” ~ why can’t I have a personal agenda?