Astrology was never something I experienced much of before I moved to London. Deciding to go to SOAS for my undergraduate degree played a huge part in changing this. (For those of you who don’t know, SOAS is a pretty, um, alternative university).
Almost immediately, I entered into a whirlwind of women’s circles, birth charts and rising signs. To this day, I still don’t really know what any of that means, nor do I really believe in any of it, but I do have a matching star sign tattoo with two of my friends from uni. Luckily, every time I see it, I think of my friends, not of the pseudo-science the symbol represents.
These days, horoscopes and astrology are everywhere. High fashion houses like Dior have based entire collections around the zodiac signs. Even my Instagram feed is full of astrology references; I follow an account called Horoscoptic which has 5.7 million followers. It’s a lot. I remember when I was growing up, the only people that associated with astrology and star signs were ‘hippies’ who lived in Glastonbury, or Shelley Von Strunckel, The Sunday Times STYLE’s astrological columnist. Now, the majority of people I’m friends with have expressed at least a little interest in it, even if they are just debating its pros and cons. According to a study done by the US National Science Foundation, 58% of 18-24-year-old Americans believe astrology is scientific. What?
If such a large amount of people believe in the power of astrology, maybe it takes on more meaning than it appears to have. I mean, I’m a Gemini, so I’m definitely supposed to socialise way too much and be in constant communication with my friends, right? Apparently Geminis are the most hated signs, I guess that’s why the entire internet freaked out when people realised Beyonce’s twins would be Geminis. At least I’m in good company and can count Russell Brand and Angelina Jolie as fellow Geminis…(I think for now, we’ll just ignore the fact Trump shares my sign).
Maybe astrology is a useful way for our generation to express the need for something to believe in, or something to explain away the unexplainable. Although I definitely don’t believe in astrology, I can appreciate the comfort it offers to the individual. It’s easier to cope with someone being an arsehole if you can blame it on the fact they’re a Scorpio with a rising Capricorn (or some other apparently awful combination). It’s definitely also easier when you’re having a shit month, or the shit state of the world is getting you down, to be able to blame it all on something. Especially in the current global social and political climate, having a belief system to turn to must be pretty comforting.
One of the closest friends I made at SOAS was an especially big believer in astrology. Almost as soon as we met, she asked me when and where I was born, so that she could do my birth chart. Apparently a birth chart tells you exactly where the planets were in the moment you were born, and reveals all the different aspects to your personality. She says, “It helps me understand how everyone is different. Astrology covers all aspects of people’s lives. It’s a self-knowledge thing. This January was six planets in Capricorn...it was bullshit, I can’t wait for it to end. I love astrology, it gets people talking. I’m all about intimate conversations, and astrology is one of the best ways to start this.”
Even the people that I know that aren’t ‘into’ astrology still all pretty much know their star signs, and a lot of them check compatibility with people they date. I definitely do this, even though I know it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of nice if you don’t connect with someone to be able to blame it on your astral non-compatibility. After chatting with various people, it has become obvious that even though most of the people who check their compatibility or follow horoscope accounts on Instagram don’t really believe in astrology, they still take some comfort from it. One of my friends, who is a total non-believer, explained, “It’s just another comfort, like a religion isn’t it. Just a millennial religion.”
Amongst my peers, organised religion tends not to be in favour, and maybe astrology is just a replacement for this. It gives people an explanation for why things happen - supposedly, everyone knows that when Mars is in Retrograde, everything goes to shit. It is pretty nice being able to take anything life throws at you and give it meaning. It’s definitely understandable that people take comfort in decisions and events being out of their hands. Astrology is just one of many possible ways that people can understand this.