From memes, to personality quizzes, to horoscopes and birth charts, one can never seem to escape astrology these days. Although, astrology is not a new practice by any means, it has gained a massive following during the recent years due to social media. And, yes, social media may have helped to popularize it, but without people’s interest, or should I say obsession, all effort would have been fruitless, posing the question: “Why is astrology so popular?” And why now?”
According to Cambridge Dictionary astrology is “the study of the movements and positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars in the belief that they affect the character and lives of people” and as such it has existed seemingly as long as the people themselves. Astrology was built around the idea that the Sun and the stars revolved around the Earth. The earliest origins of astrology could be traced down to Ancient Babylonians who noticed the movement of stars in patterns which affected daily life. The prediction of eclipses was especially important to them because they saw them as ill-omens that would somehow harm their kings.
Astrology also had its practical uses some 500 years ago when it served as a tool for doctors to cure their patients. Doctors saw astrology as a diagnostic that help them find out about their patients’ illness and the way its timing would then foretell what was going to happen next in the disease. They did this by drawing astrological charts and using the information they gathered from them to make medical predictions. Additionally, astrology had a proven influence our biology. Dr. Russell Foster, a Circadian neuroscientist, studied how the seasons affect who we are. For instance, alcoholism is more common in people born between March and July, autism is more common in people born between March and August and bipolar disorder is more common in those born between January and April. Dr. Foster stated: “It could be changes in your mother’s physiology depending upon when you were conceived or the sort of signals that the mother gave you at after birth as a result of feeding on breast milk. There is absolutely a statistical impact on when you were born on a whole range of our different parameters.”
Although, doctors observed it from a scientific point of view, the general public connected to it through following the weekly or monthly horoscopes which originated at around the 20th century. One of the most notable astrologers at the time, R.H. Naylor who wrote for the Sunday Express made horoscopes all the more popular when he wrote an article called “Were you born in September?” that drew in huge crowds. He then began writing a monthly horoscope which turned into a weekly birthday horoscope that he ultimately tailored to star signs in order to appeal to the largest audience possible.
History marks the correlation between the interest in astrology with notable events, such as devastating wars (e.g. Civil War, Cold War, First World War) and prosperous times (e.g. The Roaring Twenties). The common theme of these peaks is the timing of their occurrence. All of them occurred during times when there was an overwhelming need for hope, or rather for something to lean on and today is no different.
Today’s society lives at a time of great uncertainty further amplified by a variety of news outlets, pressures imposed by social media and the general existential dread. With the abrupt disturbance caused by the global pandemic of 2020 particularly, everyone’s perception of reality has been twisted, shaken and turned; lives are being lost and tarnished, people are losing their jobs and their sense of security. The previous periods might have had their difficulties, but they had nothing on what is happening today. Perhaps our struggles only seem magnified because this is the only reality we know, nevertheless, the quest for comfort is present in each of us the same way it once was during the former crises. Now, not everyone chooses to seek it in astrology, but those that do usually have a firm reason for doing so.
According to my own research, their reasons varied from astrology being a bonding tool among their friends, an ego booster to being a source for predicting the future. The research also showed 69% of voters believe in astrology, whereas 31% do not, further emphasizing the popularity of astrology. When horoscopes were called into the question, the opinion was quite literally divided, 50% stated they read horoscopes and 50% do not. Those who read them, clearly read them because they believe in what it is written and those who do not, simply read them for the entertainment factor.
Nonbelievers often attribute horoscopes’ accuracy to Barnum effect, which is a term coined by Paul E. Muhl in the American Psychologist journal. Barnum effect is the phenomenon that posits only general truths are necessary for people to assign them to their personalities. Horoscopes are strategically vague and typically do not require any particular insights or skill which is why they can be applied to multiple different types of people, that is if they are written by somebody who does not take their time to fully do their research and actually provide personalized reports. But even then, you are likely to encounter a horde of snide skeptics rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.
Not everyone may be convinced, but those that are find astrology to be a calming presence in their lives. Astrology gives them an insight into who they are, what they can improve on, how to treat people who are different from them and find commonalities with just about every kind of person. It comforts them when they are upset and encourages them to pursue their dreams; it provides a sense of certainty during uncertain times. And even if what they read is not necessarily true, but brings a little bit of joy and positivity to their day, perhaps we shouldn’t judge them so harshly for it? After all, people don’t love astrology because it’s scientific, but because it’s a powerful social tool that is not going away any time soon, so why not embrace it? Who knows, you might just find the celestial connection you’ve been missing.
Sources: “Why Horoscopes Deserve More Credit”-
“Astrology isn’t science, but your horoscope is more real than you think”-
“R.N. Naylor” article- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._H._Naylor
“Astrology definition”- https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/astrology