America’s religious and spiritual landscape is changing. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the share of people who identify as religiously unaffiliated has risen nine percentage points  since 2009.

But that doesn’t mean that believing in something larger than yourself has gone out of style.

Some UMD students are finding  spirituality outside of a church or temple. Tarot cards, crystals, and astrology help them think about their lives and feel more connected to the world around them.

Pie chart showing a breakdown of zodiac signs among Diamondback staff.
According to an April survey of 42 Diamondback staffers, 19% said their sun sign was Aries. The other most common signs were Aquarius with 14.3% and Libra with 11.9%.

In this month’s question segment, assistant Offbeat editor Kimi Fleming gives a crash course on astrology and horoscopes. Learn how to find your sun, moon, and rising signs. Plus, what signs are most common among Diamondback staff?

You can also find us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. A full transcript of this month’s episode is below.

Offbeat: Mysticism and Spirituality

Neida Mbuia Joao: But I told him, I was like ‘I think maybe I can see into the future,’ and he was like ‘oh yeah, I used to have that too.’


Allison Molenkamp: Thanks for listening to Offbeat, a podcast from the Diamondback. I’m your host, Allison Mollenkamp.

America’s religious and spiritual landscape is changing. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the share of people who identify as religiously unaffiliated has risen nine percentage points  since 2009.

But that doesn’t mean that believing in something larger than yourself has gone out of style.

Some UMD students are finding  spirituality outside of a church or temple. Tarot cards, crystals, and astrology help them think about their lives and feel more connected to the world around them.

I can’t tell a sun sign from a sunburn, so I’m handing this one off to Taneen Momeni, a Diamondback photographer and enthusiast of all things mystical. She’ll be your guide from here.


[Neida shuffling]

Neida: That is okay. I just feel pulled to do it.


Neida: Yeah, so my name is Neida Mbuia Joao. I was an English major with a history and creative writing minor when I was at UMD. But now I’m just here.

Taneen Momeni: Neida graduated in 2020. She runs a blog called “The Catholic Mystic” where she offers tarot card readings.

The blog’s name is a nod to her upbringing in church, and the way it intertwines with her spiritual practice.

Neida: When you think about Catholicism it’s all just witchcraft anyway. We, like, transform wine and bread into a body in the middle of a service where people are chanting in a foreign language. So that’s really all it is.

Taneen: When she was a kid, Neida had dreams that she says would then predict actual events. She worried about how her parents would react because of their Catholic faith. But decided one day she had to tell her dad.

Neida: But I told him, I was like, ‘I think maybe I can see into the future.’ And he was like ‘Oh yeah, I used to have that too when I was a little kid. And my mom did as well. But then we got baptized and it went away.’ And I was like ‘What do you mean?’ He like didn’t care at all. He was totally fine with it. And I feel like that was kind of my green light to be like ‘okay, let me just look into all of this stuff and see what this is.’ It seemed like it was possible for it to coexist with my Catholic faith.

Taneen: Neida says astrology was her first love within the spiritual world. She taught herself palm reading from the internet in middle school.

Tarot came later, during the pandemic. She was kind enough to do a reading for Offbeat reporter Riley Brennan.

Neida: Okay so we’ll do past, present, future.

Taneen: Riley told Neida about a new romantic relationship in her life, and it became the main topic for the reading.

Neida: That is kind of the story that I’m getting with your tarot. So you, your past is the page of wands. You can see this person is like, by themselves. Getting ready to go, to go forth into the world, you know. The pages are all about like new starts, starting something, a fresh new idea. You’re like, ready.

And then your present, you have the two of cups in reverse and then the knight of wands and the four of wands. So what it feels like is like, like you said, you got into the relationship kind of like, ‘mmmm let’s do this and see where it goes.’ Because the two of cups is the relationship card. But I honestly see it going really well because you have the knight of wands and the four of wands.

The four of wands I will say is the marriage card. Doesn’t mean you’re gonna marry this person. But I do feel like you are entering kind of like a honeymoon period, a period of it just feeling like absolutely blissful.

And in your future you have the ace of pentacles and the pentacles cards represent the, the earth signs. And because, that’s why I was like ‘oh yeah, he’s a Taurus.’ Cause this popped out right before you said that. So it feels, the aces too are like gifts. It feels like this relationship, right now, is a gift from the universe. It’s what you need to be doing right now to not only have a relationship with someone and love someone and care for them and learn what that looks like for you, but also to be cared for in the way that you deserve to be cared for. To be spoiled a little bit and treated like honestly the queen that you are.

That was the message that I got. Yeah. That’s exciting. I like that.

Taneen: Riley’s reading was pretty positive. But Neida made sure to note that an ominous reading doesn’t mean a person is doomed. It might just mean they’re going down a bad path but could change course.

Neida explains how she views her craft and its core.

Neida: For me astrology and tarot and like all of this psychic stuff is really just about connecting back to the earth and like the world around us and tuning into the energies of the world around us. And I feel like part of that is the energy of God and the energy of Christ. And people might disagree with me. I’m sure if it was 1432 I would be on fire right now, but that’s just the way that I interpret it.”

Taneen: Some, like Neida, incorporate mystic rituals into their existing beliefs.

Others find a new religion entirely.

Kohner Evans is a senior Russian major with minors in Arabic and international development and conflict management. She’s also the founder and president of the Pagan and Witchcraft Council at UMD.

Kohner Evans: I wanted a community. I think it’s really important for whatever religious tradition you have, to have a community that you can celebrate and kind of talk to.

Taneen: Kohner was raised non-religious, but is now Hellenic and Gaelic polytheist. Much of her religious practice is prayer.

Kohner: There’s a lot of like little tiny historically based holidays that I kind of just celebrate individually. I bake something and I make my boyfriend try all these goofy recipes I find on the internet. Just kind of like give thanks. And a lot of prayer.

Taneen: The Pagan and Witchcraft Council hosts interfaith discussions, goes on field trips, and sometimes performs spells together. 

While COVID has cancelled some  of their activities, they’re still hosting some events online.

Kohner: Right now we’re doing a book club. So we’re reading, it’s called Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches. It’s from the 19th Century. And we’re reading that and dissecting it and kind of looking at all these historical things and symbolisms.

Taneen: Kohner recommends books as a way to learn more about paganism and spiritual practices.

It was a common theme among those we spoke with about spiritual practices.

Tania Otero Martinez practices on her own and offers guidance and tips on her own astrology and tarot instagram. She also recommends educating yourself through reading, though she acknowledges the role of social media as well. But she says to be conscious of who you follow, and whether they are conscious of cultural appropriation.

Tania Otero Martinez: Follow POC creators. That’s not to say you can’t follow white creators, but I think just be intentional about the ones that you do follow because, like I said, some people just naturally do not keep these things at the forefront of their mind. And you are going to miss out on some of that education if you don’t, if you’re not intentional about the content that you consume. And also, while I do enjoy TikTok, YouTube, Instagram –books. I think books are so wonderful because someone can only say so much in a one minute video. And in a twenty minute video people can say a lot more, right but that still doesn’t encompass everything you can learn in a book. And you can always reference it instead of skipping through a twenty-minute video or trying to rewatch a one-minute one, you can go in your book, you can highlight, you can write things down. And I feel like that’s really helpful.

Taneen: Tania is a senior majoring  in criminology & criminal justice and public policy. She is also working towards a master’s degree in public policy.

She notes that many of the online faces of spiritual practice are white.

However, some of the practices themselves have roots in Native American cultures, Hinduism and other non-Western religions.

Mindfulness is important in the practice of Hinduism  Several ancient cultures, including the Hindu tradition, have harnessed the energies of crystals and metals for healing purposes. . The concept of chakras, centers of balance and energy located in the body, also comes from India. cqall

Native American traditions include the use of sage for cleansing, a practice that has been appropriated in other spiritual rituals.

And people all over the world have looked to the stars for meaning for thousands of years.

Of course, it can be difficult to trace the roots of spiritual practices, and not all practices have a clear lineage. However, commodifying the rituals can give significant economic benefit to white creators, and not all practitioners give credit to the cultures whose spiritual beliefs have been co-opted.

For her part, Tania makes sure to look for creators who keep questions of appropriation front and center.

She also looks for LGBTQ+ practitioners.

Tania: There’s a common misconception that spirituality is like very open-minded. But there can be a lot of people in the community who are like homophobic and transphobic because of the idea of like ‘divine feminine’ and ‘divine masculine,’ which I myself don’t ascribe too. And I feel like that homophobia, transphobia, racism that can go into it gets ignored under the guise, once again, as we were saying, of ‘oh it’s just my soul, it’s just my spirit.’ But it’s like, we still live in a very real, material world. And, you know, our actions have consequences. And I think that’s something that always needs to be kept in mind.

Taneen: Tania asks critical questions of spirituality and practice. She interrogates its relationship with her own Christian upbringing. But, she says ultimately she decided to go ahead because the practices make her feel good.

Tania: I think what all of these things do is help me get a little bit closer to achieving inner peace. I don’t believe that people have to believe in anything necessarily to have some peace. But I feel like for those who either have a little bit more of existential anxiety or just anxiety in general (I myself have generalized anxiety), it kind of helps to have something to focus on. And something to kind of like care for and have that self care time. Of course you can do that in a non-spiritual, non-religious way, but that’s something that I chose to do.

Taneen: Whether as self-care, religion or a sort of spiritual therapy, UMD students looking for guidance in the spiritual world can look to books and social media to start their journey.

Up next, assistant Offbeat editor Kimi Fleming gives a crash course on astrology and horoscopes. Learn how to find your sun, moon, and rising signs. Plus, what signs are most common among Diamondback staff?


Kimi Fleming: Ever wondered how to read your birth chart and understand what your zodiac sign means? In this segment, we’re going to break it down for you. I’m Kimi Fleming, the Assistant Editor of Offbeat. 


Kimi: The Zodiac signs correspond to the 12 constellations that lie along the apparent path of the Sun, called the ecliptic

When you hear someone talking about their sign, they are normally talking about their sun sign.The sun sign is said to reflect your core essence and is determined by what zodiac constellation the sun passed through on the day you were born. 

The signs are broken down into four elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Each of these have distinct traits similar to other signs within that element. 

Here’s a breakdown of the 12 signs and what they generally mean:

Aquarius is an air sign, and applies to birthdays from January 20 to February 18. Aquarius-bornAquarians are typically progressive, original and independent, but also can be temperamental, uncompromising and unlikely to express emotion.

February 19 to March 20 defines the water sign Pisces. Pisces are generally compassionate, artistic and intuitive, but also overly trusting and fearful. 

If you’re born between March 21 and April 19, you’re an Aries. This fire sign is highly competitive, honest and direct. Aries also tend to be impulsive and impatient.

Taurus birthdays are from April 20 to May 20. This is an Earth sign, and is generally reliable, patient and responsible. Taurus can also be stubborn, possessive and uncompromising.

May 21 to June 20 defines the air sign Gemini. Geminis are gentle, affectionate and curious, while also being nervous, inconsistent and indecisive. 

Cancer is a water sign, with birthdays spanning from June 21 to July 22. Cancers are highly imaginative, persuasive and emotional, but they can also be pessimistic, suspicious and even manipulative. 

If your birthday is between July 23 and August 22, you’re a Leo. Leos are fire signs, and tend to be generous, cheerful and humorous. But, they can also be stubborn, arrogant and self-centered.

Next, we have Virgo. The birthdays for this Earth sign span from August 23 to September 22. Virgos tend to be loyal, kind and hardworking, while also being overly critical, paranoid and shy.

Libras are air signs born between September 23 and October 22. They are cooperative, gracious and social, but can be indecisive and non-confrontational.

People born from October 23 to November 21 are Scorpios. This is a water sign, and Scorpios tend to be resourceful and brave, but also distrusting and jealous at times. 

The fire sign Sagittarius defines birthdays from November 22 to December 21, and are typically generous, idealistic and humorous, while also impatient and unfiltered. 

Finally, we have Capricorn, which is an Earth sign with birthdays from December 22 to January 19. Capricorns are responsible and disciplined, but can also be unforgiving and condescending. 

That may seem like a lot, but having a basic understanding of the signs is critical to reading your chart. 

You also have a sign for every planet, depending on its location at the date, time and time zone in which you were born. Each rules a different aspect of your life. In addition to your sun sign, there are two other major indicators, making up what some call “The Big Three.” 

Your moon sign represents the subconscious side of yourself that you typically keep hidden from the world. This is the zodiac in which the moon was at your time of birth.

Your rising sign or ascendant is defined by the zodiac sign that was on the Eastern horizon when you were born and represents your physical body and outward appearance, including how others perceive you. 

To give you an example of how to put all this together, I’ll read you my chart. 

My birthday is March 5, so my Sun sign is Pisces. Based on my time and place of birth, my ascendant is in Leo and my moon is in Pisces. This means that at my core, I’m creative and in touch with my emotions, but I also tend to have my head in the clouds. Others perceive me as bright and good-natured, while internally, I am empathetic and vulnerable.

There are multiple websites and apps online that can help you determine what your main three signs are and what they say about you. Apps like Co-Star and The Pattern offer in-depth astrology readings and daily horoscopes. However, it’s important to note that they have been scrutinized in the past over privacy concerns and allegations of manipulation. 

Remember, these readings aren’t to be taken to heart. Just because your horoscope says “You’ll never find love,” or something negative, doesn’t mean that’s true. But, learning more about your own chart could help you better understand yourself and relate to others in a new way. 

Taneen: Curious about which signs are most common among Diamondback staff?

According to an April survey of 42 Diamondback staffers, 19% said their sun sign was Aries. The other most common signs were Aquarius with 14.3% and Libra with 11.9%. 

The least common sign among the staff polled was Gemini, at only 2.4% of respondents.


Allison: Thanks for listening to Offbeat. I’m your host Allison Mollenkamp. This episode was created by: Riley Brennan, Kimi Fleming, Rina Torchinsky, and Taneen Momeni, who was also in the host chair. Thanks to the whole Offbeat team for their hard work.

Our music this month is “Mystic” by Moments. If you’d like to hear your music featured on the show DM us on twitter @dbkoffbeat. And follow the Diamondback on Twitter and Instagram @thedbk.

You can find a transcript of this episode at If you like the show, make sure to tell your friends and leave us a rating and review. 

Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next month with a brand new episode.