Why Nancy Reagan Became Obsessed With Astrology

As The New York Times remembered in 2018, Ronald Reagan, former Hollywood actor and former governor of California, was an unlikely choice for white evangelicals when he won the presidency over Jimmy Carter — a self-described born-again Sunday school teacher — in 1980. Reagan's anti-Communist and limited government ideals successfully eclipsed the fact that he was "twice-married, alienated from his children, [and] almost never attended church." Even so, it might come as a surprise to learn that Ronald and his second wife, Nancy, made many decisions after consulting not an all-powerful, all-knowing God, but rather the messages hidden in the stars overhead.

One of a number of first ladies who could be described as somewhat eccentric, Nancy Reagan was much more Hollywood starlet than middle American housewife. According to Timeline, the Reagans' image as clean-cut, upstanding Christians almost endured through his two terms as president. The Iran-Contra affair, however, exposed some duplicity underneath the clean exterior. That's when his administration sold weapons to Iran in flagrant violation of an arms embargo imposed by the very country he was running, according to the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. That, in turn, would lead to exposure of another quirk about the Reagans. After being ousted in fallout of the Iran-Contra affair, Reagan's former chief of staff, Donald Regan, published his 1988 tell-all book For The Record, in which he revealed "the most closely guarded domestic secret of the Reagan White House."

Nancy Reagan hoped the mumbo jumbo of astrology would keep her husband safe

As journalist Allen McDuffe wrote in the aforementioned Timeline piece, Regan said that "virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in favorable alignment for the enterprise." It soon came out that Nancy and Ronald Reagan's personal astrologer was a woman named Joan Quigley.

Nancy's faith in the zodiac (notably not Jesus Christ – just sayin') was strengthened after her husband barely survived an assassination attempt. Afterward, she called up Quigley in search of astral advice on how to plan out the president's every move. As the Los Angeles Times reported after Mrs. Reagan's death in 2016, Nancy told Joan, "I'm scared every time he leaves the house." Apparently, neither the Secret Service nor the hand of an Almighty God were enough to protect the prez.

Quigley would go on to give cosmic counsel to Nancy and Ron in exchange for what was possibly taxpayer money for the next seven years. But that advice went beyond just how to safely schedule the president's events. As the LA Times noted, she consulted the stars on "matters of diplomacy, Cold War politics and even the timing of the president's cancer surgery."

The Reagans lied about Nancy's obsession with astrology

Nancy Reagan would try to downplay Quigley's role in her husband's presidency after the news came out, which spurred tons of jokes and accusations of hypocrisy and silliness. As the LA Times would also report, President Reagan himself shamelessly bore false witness after the news was made public, saying that "no policy or decision in my mind has ever been influenced by astrology." But they should have known you never anger a hard-headed Aries like that. Quigley quickly struck back in her 1990 book What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan. "I was responsible for timing all press conferences, most speeches, the State of the Union addresses, the takeoffs and landings of Air Force One," she wrote. Although she only met face-to-face with the president on one occasion, she said in a TV interview in 1990 that "through Nancy, I really had a direct line to the president."

Revelations from Quigley and Regan about the Reagans' eccentricities reveal how empty their public images truly were. Perhaps it's not really surprising — both Ron and Nancy spent a number of years laboring as performers in the Hollywood dream factory. Politicians and actors always tell the truth. Right?