Ruth Brinker has stars in her eyes. And suns and moons and planets.
Those heavenly bodies are the tools of her trade. Brinker is an astrologer; she studies the skies to understand herself and others better.``Astrology is a language, art and science that studies relationships between cycles of celestial bodies and things that happen to people,' explained the Eden woman. ``If you understand this, the sky speaks to you. It tells you what you were born for, how you can best use your potential and how to fulfill your destiny in the universe.'
Brinker's view of astrology differs from the popular view, which regards it as having predictive powers. Brinker prefers to view astrology as explanatory, rather than predictive. For example, she likes to describe the horoscope as a ``road map to your life.' Such a map, she says, can point out a person's strong and weak points. The person can then use that knowledge to improve himself.
``One of the things I emphasize most is that when you see your strengths in character, you should work with them and use those strengths frequently,' explained Brinker, 65. ``The more you use them, the better they become. You should also try to overcome the weaknesses you see in your chart. Sometimes you'll find a way. Sometimes the chart will even tell you.'
Brinker's interest in astrology was kindled in 1973 while she was living in Florida. A friend persuaded Brinker to enroll in a course taught by professional astrologer and writer Sylvia DeLong in Orlando.
``I had some free time and was interested in getting into something new,' said Brinker, who became so enamored of astrology that she went on to take several more advanced classes.
Now the devotee is teaching an astrology class herself. Every Tuesday evening, would-be astrologers gather at Rockingham Community College to learn the ins and outs of sun signs, horoscopes and charts.
Brinker is concentrating on teaching the all-important signs and symbols - the shorthand of astrology - showing students how to make their own charts. At the end of the class each participant will receive a personalized chart made from information fed into a computer.
Although Brinker enjoys astrology, she has other interests, too. Right now she's enrolled in a computer class, and she's secretary of her high school class. She admits that because of her other interests, she does her own astrological chart only periodically.
``You should do yours at least once a month so you're not unprepared,' she said. ``I like to be prepared. I don't like surprises.'
Perhaps Brinker's emphasis on preparedness stems from an incident eight years ago when she looked in her horoscope and saw a fire. She first checked to see if anyone would be hurt (the answer was no), then checked to see whether she had sufficient insurance.
After that, she forgot about the incident. A few months later a fire engulfed her home, causing $50,000 worth of damage.
``When you see something like that, it registers,' Brinker said. ``Right after the fire it didn't occur to me because there was so much excitement. Later it occurred to me: I had actually seen that one.'
People trying to find such personal information in the brief horoscopes published in newspapers will be disappointed. Even the authors of those columns, Brinker says, will tell you they can't lump everyone in a sun sign without knowing anything else about the people. An accurate horoscope requires personal information such as date, time and exact place of birth.
``Sure, they hit some people sometimes,' she said of the newspaper horoscopes. ``But you must get more information about each individual before you can really tell anything.'
When confronted by skeptics who regard astrology as witchcraft, Brinker's reaction depends on how well she knows the person.
``If I don't know them, I don't mind saying, 'I can show you, if you take the time, some things about yourself you think nobody knows,' ' she said.
So far no skeptics have taken her up on her offer.
Brinker's devotion to astrology is strong enough to have affected the course of her first class meeting at RCC.
``You always start a new endeavor on a new moon, or as close as you can get,' she explained. Consequently, she scheduled her class to begin Sept. 18, when a new moon would appear.
Brinker wanted to start her new classroom endeavor at the exact moment the new moon would rise. But since that moment was 7:47 p.m. and the class was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., Brinker decided to fill the interim period with a skit on astrology. Joined by her daughter, Scott Gilliam, also an astrology buff, Brinker performed a humorous skit about the characteristics of the 12 sun signs.
``It's a take-off on the sun signs because we exaggerate them,' Brinker said. ``Aries is supposed to be very aggressive. So Paula S. Pushy comes in, says her name and says, 'The ``S' is for my mother's maiden name - Shove.' '
Brinker hopes the continuing education class will help lift some of the veil of secrecy which has long surrounded astrology. People can learn a lot about themselves, family and friends, even the world, through astrology, she believes.
``Your virtues and shortcomings are all shown (in astrology), but you are given 'free will' to do as you desire,' Brinker said. ``Strive to make your potentials active and strong so they will work for you and you will live a good life.'